Friday, June 12, 2015

Interview Sessions: Garry

It has been a while since I've posted an interview with one of my triathlete friends, but I'm here with my friend, Garry.  Garry is a lovely, inspiring man.  He has a kind soul and relentlessly pursues his goals, despite setbacks along the way, with passion and courage. I met Garry when I first joined the Ottawa Triathlon Club's triathlon training program.  During the winter of 2014, I would stop in to the Monday night TTP class for an extra ride, since back then I basically refused to use my trainer.  Garry kept us all entertained and I quickly learned that he was a really special person.

At the moment, he is working on recovering from a few different injuries with the goal of completing an Ironman next summer.  I'm always inspired by Garry and I am certain that you will be too!

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? Typical race distance?Background in athletics? Whatever you think we should know...

Hello everyone, nice to meet you! My name is Garry and I'm a work in progress!

I was born in Fort Rucker, Alabama; my father was in the Canadian military doing helicopter training at the time. I spent the first 10 days of my life in a dresser drawer because my parents didn't have a crib for me. To this day, I believe they kept the dresser drawer shut most of the time. To those who know me I think this explains a few things, wouldn't you agree?

Professionally, I became intimately involved with the internet around 1990 when I lost the capability to speak. At the time I was working for the Royal Bank of Canada. After months of self directed internet research, and 23 specialists later, a doctor confirmed my findings. I was given a diagnosis of Laryngeal Dystonia, a rare neuromuscular disorder which affects less than 50,000 individuals in North America.

And so my journey and passion for the internet began........

I had to find a way to support myself that didn't require speech. So I turned to the internet and taught myself to code. I also completed my Masters degree online. Along the way I've developed websites and web applications reaching users in 19 countries and 14 languages. Today I'm the Founder & CEO of QuickSilk, an Ottawa based Software as a Service (SaaS) Content Management System (CMS).

Growing up I played a lot of recreational sports, along with competitive volleyball (Canadian Juvenile National level) and rugby (Regional level). I basically did every sport you could imagine that didn't require excessive amounts of running, swimming or biking - d*mn those endurance sports.

In my thirties I became passionate with the sport of power lifting ('cause power lifters can have bellies!).

Three weeks away from my first competition, and after 18 months of intensive training, my right foot slipped off a platform while I was lifting 805lbs, doing standing toe raises. I tore a muscle along my spine and sublimated 10 discs (4 in my neck and 6 in my back) which prevented me from competing. My doctor asked "Why are you lifting such heavy weight at 38 years of age," because I can I replied. "Not anymore," he said. And that was that. The recovery process took more than three years.

After my recovery, and a self-imposed hiatus from exercise, I needed a new sport. I started triathlons as a young man at the age of 52. I don't have a typical race or distance, though I seem hell bent on completing an Ironman distance race. I blame all my inspirational friends at the Ottawa Triathlon Club, regardless of the distances they race, for my triathlon related obsession.

How did you get into the sport of triathlon?

I'm passionate about and thoroughly enjoy my career, but it involves a lot of time in front of the computer. As a result, I had poor eating habits, poor sleeping habits, was lethargic and wasn't doing any form of exercise. I gained a lot of weight over the years and found myself at a body weight of 292 pounds. Having been a power lifter for many years, weighing in at 252, I have to admit I wasn't initially phased at a weight gain of 40 pounds.

I made a decision to start my journey back to health in 2011, and started working out at Greco (Kanata).

I quickly dropped 30 pounds. During my time at Greco I started working with a personal trainer (Adam Bracken) and met Natalie Cayer Pilon and Brent Pilon when we used to share a room during our personal training sessions.

I hold Natalie and Brent personally responsible for introducing me to the sport of triathlon, and
introducing me to the most wonderfully amazing group of amateur athletes I've ever met at the Ottawa Triathlon Club.

What advice would you give to a new triathlete or someone considering signing up for their first triathlon?

You have nothing to prove to anyone!

Don't measure or compare yourself to others. We all have different physical and psychological makeups. We all come into the sport with varying levels of experience, or no experience at all, with swimming, biking and running. As a first time triathlete none of this matters. What matters is that you enjoy your first race and the training leading up to your first race.

Enjoy being present in the moment and fully embrace the spirit with which fellow participants (pros and amateurs), volunteers and event organizers will support you through simple words and acts of kindness and encouragement. Triathlons really are a unique and rich personal experience.

Being a triathlete is a journey not an event!

What has been your greatest / proudest moment as a triathlete?

My proudest moments are watching my friends and fellow triathletes realize incredible mental and physical outcomes, in pursuit of their individual journeys.

The back story of so many triathletes is simply amazing, and there are so many sources of strength and inspiration to be found in this sport - it's infectious!

What has been the biggest challenge for you in the sport?
Well, there've been a few challenges, to date. :-)

The first challenge was health related. Although I was working out religiously I had stopped losing weight and I sensed something was out of whack. Blood work and a battery of tests confirmed my suspicions. Three months into the sport I was given a diagnosis of intermediate to advanced prostate cancer. I was told to stop my triathlon training.

I made a decision to continue with my training and further improved my eating habits and sleep patterns. I chose a completely natural course of treatment with an amazing Naturopathic doctor (Dr. Maureen MacDonald), and did a lot of spiritual healing, energy healing and Reiki with Kelly Sabara. I spent 20-30 hours a week hooked up to an IV of high dose vitamin C and did my work and training in between. In six months there was no further indication of a tumor.

I'm deeply grateful and feel blessed for this experience as it opened my eyes and my heart to so many

wonderful aspects of my life and spiritual being. No one at the OTC knew what was going on at the time, aside from Coach Geordie who had been sworn to secrecy. My fellow triathletes at the OTC unknowingly played a huge role and were accomplices in my recovery, for which I'm forever grateful. The OTC, my triathlete friends, and the experiences we share help ground me!

My second challenge centers around my weight. Having done a significant amount of power lifting in the years prior to starting triathlons, I have a lot of muscle mass. I had a body composition done in 2014, weighing 238 pounds, and was told I had 195 pounds of lean muscle mass. Obviously a goal of 190 pounds is not currently a realistic short term goal, as I need to significantly change my body
composition. It's no longer about a specific number for me, it's about a healthy weight that supports my goals.

Running is a challenge for me, as I suspect it is for most individuals of a larger frame. Psychologically, it's the discipline that challenges me the most. My self-talk now centers around running as the discipline where I can realize the most growth.

Finding balance between my triathlon training, family and work is another challenge. This remains a
work in progress for me, as I don't tend to do anything half-hearted. In 2014, my second full year in the sport) I over trained preparing for the Kona half ironman and Ironman Mont Tremblant; as a result I had severe muscle cramping throughout the season, which impacted my participation at both races. As a result I've had to take a step back in order to recover and take the next step forward.

As I am writing this profile, a quotation appeared on my Facebook wall that perfectly describes my understanding of the many challenges we each face in our lives:
Sometimes you have to fall down because there is something down there that you are supposed to find. - Unknown
In that light, I feel it's important to state that I don't regret a single challenge that has been gifted to me, for there was a lesson to be learned. Each challenge has made my life rich beyond compare and reflects that I remain a work in progress.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the sport?

Those who have known me the longest (prior to my tri days), know me as quiet, reserved, introverted, and shy. I can hear all my OTC friends now saying yeah, right! Were calling bullsh*t on that one! But it's true. When combined with my speech disorder, that I've always been deeply self conscious of, I tend to enjoy my own company.

My triathlete friends seem to have a knack for pulling me out of my shell; and today I'm a willing participant. I still not super comfortable talking in public, but I'm growing past that self-imposed limitation.

So, it's the people that fill with my journey with friendship, laughter, encouragement and support that make this sport so rewarding.

How does life as a triathlete translate to other areas of your life?

It's only in the past two years that I've started talking openly about my life experiences. I've come to
realize that if sharing my personal journey helps even a single person, than I am grateful for the
opportunity to pay-it-forward and be of service.

Today I act as a mentor with Imerman Angels, an organization that provides free one-on-one support to individuals and families dealing with cancer. I made this connection through a new and dear friendship I made with Brent Smyth, a member of the OTC. Brent recently became the Ottawa Ambassador for Imerman, because of his tireless efforts for others. He is a gift!

I am also deeply inspired by many friends from the OTC who have shared their personal stories with me. Their stories are not mine to tell, but they have made a lasting impact on me and those around them - whether they realize it or not.

In that light, I want thank Kelsey for this opportunity. She truly is a gifted athlete, and we all gain inspiration from watching her work ethic and the amazing results she has achieved as a result of her

What is your dream race?

Any race, and every race, I do with friends!

What is your favorite pre-race meal? Any other pre-race rituals?

1. Favorite pre-race meal: Food! Ok, I'm still working on this one! :-).

2. Favorite pre-race ritual: Chill'in with friends and fellow participants.

Swim, bike, or run?

When I first started in the sport, I would have said Bike, Swim, Run.

Since then I've become completely enamored with outdoor (open water) swims, especially my training swims at Meech Lake. Nothing replaces being embraced by the natural beauty of the open water swim and the connection to nature.. .... so today I'll say Swim, Bike, Run.

Favorite motivational quote?

As you can likely tell by now, I have a few.

We can start with a few that I've personally created for myself over the years ......

1. Any day I wake up is a good day! - Garry Brownrigg

2. We don't always control what happens to us, but we can ALWAYS control how we respond! - Garry Brownrigg

3. Yeah, it's tough right now, but this is when I can grow and get better ! - Garry Brownrigg

4. Will it hurt more to do nothing, or to do something. - Garry Brownrigg

5. I'd rather feel the pain of progress, than regret! - Garry Brownrigg

And a few of many inspirational quotes from others that keep me going when needed.....

1. Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough - Og Mandino

2. It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop - Confucius

3. Always do your best. What you plant now will harvest later - Og Mandino

4. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others - Ayn Rand

5. Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines - Robert H Schuller

6. Either I will find a way, or I will make one - Philip Sidney

7. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. - Arthur Ashe

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