CCIL Veterans Scholarship

The Canadian Council on International Law is fundraising for a new scholarship.  The CCIL Veterans Scholarship will provide tuition support to a Canadian Forces veteran entering or pursuing legal studies at the JD or LL.B. level in a Canadian law school.  As president of the CCIL, I am actively fundraising in support of this scholarship.  To this end, I am completing a series of endurance events through 2012.  Please support my efforts!

Learn more about my efforts here.  Learn more about the scholarship and the Canadian Council on International Law here.  The CCIL is a registered Canadian charity and donations are tax creditable.

Support the Scholarship!

Donate Now Through!

By Craig Forcese

In 2012, I will try to complete the following endurance events in aid of a campaign to raise funds for a scholarship in law for Canadian Forces veterans: 

Winterlude Triathlon

Gatineau Loppet (50k edition)

Boston Marathon

Rideau Lakes Tour, Classic Route;

Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant (a half-ironman event)

Ironman Mont Tremblant (a full ironman event)

Army Run (half-marathon).

This blog will follow my "four seasons of moving vigorously", with hopefully worthwhile reflections on the world of endurance athletics.  I hope it will also encourage you and all my readers to support my cause.

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Four Seasons of Moving Vigorously

Follow my efforts in 2012 to complete a series of endurance events in support of the Canadian Council on International Law Veterans Scholarship.  I do so in the company of a team of others, assembled as Citizen Athlete.  Click on the banner to the immediate right for more information about our team and how to join.


Crime and Punishment

The week before last, Sommit Luangpakham was sentenced to two years less a day for his actions in his horrific collision with five cyclists in 2009.  As summarized by the CBC, "[t]he five cyclists were riding single file in the bike lane on March Road in the west Ottawa neighbourhood of Kanata in July 2009 when they were struck by a van that moved into the bike lane. All five were hurt and four were seriously injured." 

Mr. Luangpakham was sentenced after having been found guilty in late 2011 on "10 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and leaving the scene of an accident".

I happen to working on a consumer-oriented book project with a colleague on cycling and the law.  In light of this recent sentencing, I thought it worth summarizing here some of the standards applicable in these two criminal offences.  The following does not, of course, constitute legal advice.

A.  Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Most people have heard of the obligation that those involved in an accident have to remain on the scene.  Failure to do so is a criminal offence.  Specifically, a person may be convicted if, while having care, charge or control of a vehicle that is involved in an accident with another person or vehicle, fails to stop and give name and address and, when someone has been injured, offer assistance, if the failure to stop is one with the intent to avoid liability.[1]   In everyday language, we call this failure to stop a “hit and run”.

The criminal offence has several key elements.  First, and obviously, there has to be an “accident”.  But the accident does not have to be accidental – it can include both intentional and unintentional occurrences.[2] Moreover, while an accident obviously includes an outright collision, a collision is not a necessary ingredient: there need not be actual contact between a vehicle and a bike for there to be an accident.  For instance, where a motorist knows he or she has forced a cyclist off the road, and nevertheless fails to stop and leaves the scene, that motorist may be guilty of a hit and run.[3]   In fact, there need not be an injury or damage for an accident to arise.[4]

Third, the failure to stop must be done with the intent of avoiding liability, whether criminal or civil.  On this issue, there is a presumption that a motorist acts to escape liability where they fail to perform one of their obligations; that is: stop; offer assistance where there is an injury; or give name and address.[5]

B. Dangerous Driving

A motorist colliding with a cyclist is potentially culpable under the criminal offence of “dangerous driving”.  The relevant Criminal Code provision makes it an offence to operate a motor vehicle “in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place”.[6]

More than this, to be convicted of this offence, the driver’s behaviour must constitute “a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the same situation”.[7]  Obviously, the range of behaviour violating this standard is variable and the caselaw contains a host of examples of sometimes deadly use of motor vehicles.  The danger and risk posed on these cases tends to be obvious.  For instance, dangerous driving may also exist where a motorist operates a vehicle without clearing away condensation that obscures vision through the front windshield.[8]  It is also dangerous driving to deliberately drive a vehicle slowly towards a curb, knowing that a cyclist is on the curbside of the vehicle.[9]  More than that, the motorist acts criminally in driving at a speed that is excessive in the circumstances.[10] This may true even if it is never proven how the accident actually occurred; all that is necessary is that the prosecutor shows that the motorist was driving too fast to deal with any emergency.[11] 


[1]           Criminal Code, s.252.

[2]           R. v. Hansen (1988), 46 C.C.C. (3d) 504 (BCCA).

[3]           R. v. Robson, [2004] OTC 25 (On SCJ).

[4]           R v. Chase, 2006 BCCA 275.

[5]           R. v. Roche, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 491.

[6]           Criminal Code, s. 249.

[7]           R. v. Hundal (1993), 79 C.C.C. (3d) 97 (S.C.C.); R. v Beatty, [2008] 1 S.C.R. 49.

[8]           R v. Song, 2009 BCCA 470.

[9]           R. v. Robson, [2004] OTC 25 (On SCJ).

[10]         R v. Richards, [2003] O.J. No. 1042 at para. 11 (O.C.A.); R. v. Weldon, 2008 ONCJ 67 at para. 13.

[11]         R v. M.K.M., [1998] O.J. No. 1606 (O.C.A.); R. v. Weldon, 2008 ONCJ 67 at para. 13.


Two skis and four paws

Snow finally came to the Ottawa area just before Christmas.  And just in time: the Gatineau Loppet looms.  I have discovered, to my relief, that skate skiing on a nicely compacted trail is much easier than roller-skiing, with speed reducers engaged.  The roller skiing along the bike paths in September and October left me terrified of the Loppet's distance.  It's still terrifying, but not quite as much.  Lately, I have been skate skiing in the local dog-friendly forest.  My ultimate ambition (beyond surviving the Loppet) is to train my 1.5 year old golden retriever to skijor.  If you've never heard of skijoring, check it out on Youtube.  My personal favourite is Mendel, the skijoring golden retriever (breed bias showing here).  It is something to behold.

For those inclined to strap themselves to a dog and ski at high velocity, a recent study by William Henton in Behavioural Processes (January 2011), 86 (1), pg. 149-151 analyzes the performance of six different species of dogs in weight-pulling competitions,  including skijoring.  The breeds were divided into two classes: brachycephalic breeds (American Pit-Bull Terriers, American Bull Dogs, and Bernese Mountain Dogs) and dolichocephalic breeds (Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes).  The latter are dogs with "a head in proportion to body size with a longer muzzle also in proportion to skull size" while the former are dogs with "a massive and very broad head relative to body size with a relatively short and broad muzzle".

The study found that the brachycephalic breeds can actually pull more than their dolichocephalic counterparts, despite being less heavy on average.  This means, of course, that at an equivalent weight, brachycephalic breeds are simply better pullers that dolichocephalic dogs.  But pulling is only one component in skijoring or other winter dog-powered sports.  One is hard pressed to imagine an American Bull Dog hauling a sled in the Iditarod, for instance.  Thus leads the author to speculate that there is a trade off between hauling strength and running endurance, a hypothesis supported by other studies. 

The author ends by extrapolating from his findings to the question of human evolution, noting that the more gracile (and less powerful) human build relative to other hominids may reflect human adaptation to endurance running as a means of hunting prey.  This, of course, is a notion popularized by, among other things, Born to Run.

For my part, I'll just conclude that my dog, with a head in proportion to body size and a long muzzle relative to his skull size, will happily join his evolved-to-run master on a few energetic skiing romps this winter.


The Telltale Limp

As night follows day, so does an injury follow tinkering with one's running form.  And it was going so well!  In my experience, the single greatest peril in being an A-type, self-coached age group athlete is refusing to stop when you know you should.  So when the twinge began, there were still some intervals left to complete.  And complete them I did.  I have been limping with a much mangled calf for four days now, and what was supposed to be my first week of true Boston training has instead been a week of ice packs and extra time on the bike.  (In truth, given the location of the ache, I suspect this may have more to do with miles pounded out on the treadmill at an unvarying 3% grade than the change in form.)

On the positive side, the Adamo saddle arrived and for the first time in history, staying on the aerobars seems natural.  There is definitely a period of adjustment -- one perches differently on this saddle than on conventional seats.  But I was very heartened when my first instinct was to lower the aero bars to make the new arrangement even more comfortable.  (The Adamo pitches one forward and more weight is placed in the arms and shoulders.  I found that lowering the bars height created more support for the upper body.)

In other news, the Citizen Athlete initiative is nearing lauch -- and we are eliciting participants.  See for more details.


Putting Wings on the Feet: Technique

From time to time in this blog, I have and shall discuss how I see my career as an educator and as a dabbler in endurance sports as intertwined.  The latest manifestation of that linkage has been registration in a serious of coaching courses, and ideally an eventual move to full NCCP certification.  As a result of all of this, I have become increasingly interested in the "theory" as much as the "doing" of multisport.  Accordingly, this off-season, I committed to re-thinking technique, using a sample of one (myself).  N=1, with 1 = myself, may not make a real science out of playing with form, but it has the virtue of enlisting a highly compliant subject on which to experiment.  I thought it worthwhile to record initial impressions.


My focus on technique comes in three guises, as befits multi-sport.  First, I am making an active effort to moved from speed shuffler to proper runner.  A few years ago as I returned to serious running, I consciously changed my technique from heel-striker to forefoot runner, an effort inspired by lingering injuries of various sorts and a brief chapter on technique by Dean Karnazes' in Ultramarathon Man.  This evolution was then reaffirmed by Chris McDougall's now ubiquitous Born to Run, and its near-evangelism in favour of barefoot running(Both of these books were consumed, literally, on the run -- thank you 

But I overdid it. Focusing purely on foot strike, lean and cadence, I moved to a model of extremely high-cadence short striding. From an injury perspective, this has proven quite advantageous, producing a very low-impact stride.  But with stride length held constant, increased speed comes only with an increased cadence, and since I am driving that stride from the hips, there are some natural limits on what more can be done with such a running technique.  It's a stride that looks more like race walking than the long-limbed striding of full, technically graceful running.

This became apparent to me in November when I invested in an HD webcam, hooked up to a laptop to record my stride on a treadmill.  Using the extremely useful (and free) Kinovea sports video analysis software, I have been able to conduct gait analyses and juxtapose those against video of elites.  Another, extremely useful resource has been Brian Martin's insightful and timely e-book project, Running Technique

Fcusing on leg lift, front and back, I am now about two weeks into migrating my stride, while maintaining the intensity-focused Endurance Nation out-season program.  Overall volume in this program is low (although intensity is high), and so my hope is that it will help me transition to a stride that will improve speed by engaging a fuller suite of leg muscles (not least hamstrings) and improving stride length (although not with a reversion to heel striking of course), with cardiovascular stress held constant.  Time will tell.  A final tool I am using is a ridiculously monotonous percussion piece created on my Mac's Garageband, set at 180 bpm -- the seemingly universal cadence of biomechnically efficient running.  Downloaded onto my iPod, this serves as a sort of footstrike metronome.  And drives my family crazy, as it echoes from the basement.


I am less far along in tinkering with cycling form.  However, the same webcam setup and Kinovea software analysis has prompted me to nudge up my saddle height, with an impression of improved power per unit effort.  I continue, however, to ride high on the front.  Lowering the aerobars is the obvious solution, but at the expense of turning discomfort into something closer to torture.  I am now speculating that a partial solution will be to improve hamstring flexibility.  But in the spirit of Christmas consumer quick-fixes, I have also finally shelled out for an Adamo saddle.  I will report on the utility of the latter when it arrives and I have had a chance to put it through its paces.  I also have a suspicion, based on my running gait analysis, that I have one leg weaker than the other.  Better symmetry will also likely be in my cycling form plan.


Swimming hangs over me, as it does so many others. My race philosophy for the swim is to avoid a) death and b) an insurmountable time deficit, in that order.  So my strategy this Fall in relation to swimming has been: to not swim at all.  Not a length.  This follows the Endurance Nation "return on investment" maxim: the value-added of an hour of swimming, as opposed to hour of cycling and running, is extremely low, especially given the logistical headaches of pool hour dependency.  The EN coaches observe that one can return to close to PB swim times even when swims are reintroduced relatively late in the year. 

This may reflect the fact that technique rather than conditioning is the most common limiter on improved swim times.  My sample N=1 is proof of this. Despite a significantly stepped-up amount of swimming last winter, my 70.3 swim times last summer were basically identical to the year before.  I am postulating this year that with an equivalent training time expenditure, I could extract a lot more speed out of the bike and the run.

I have, however, not abandoned all hope on improved swimming. In keeping with my technique focus, Julia Aimers and I have been experimenting with a homemade video swim analysis system for Julia's Team Triumph group.  Basically, this consists of a GoPro Hero camera attached to a modified extendable paint brush pole, which can then be submerged to film swimming.  See the image to the left.  A video is worth well more than a 1000 words, and while I have not yet myself taken the literal plunge, our trial run with others last week provided proof of concept.  I'm hoping that regular video recording will finally give me the constant feedback required to imprint a technique that actually makes me swim faster (rather than simply harder).  And if it doesn't work for me, I hope it is at least useful for others on the team, some of whom are shooting for Kona.

In other news...

Finally, a note on developments on the raison d'etre for this blog.  As 2012 approaches, we are on the cusp of formally launching a stepped-up fundraising efforts for the CCIL veteran's scholarship.  We have begun to develop a separate website -- Citizen Athlete -- which will assemble all the people who are starting to come forward to join our effort.  If you are interested in adding your efforts in the 2012 season to our fundraising effort, a reminder to contact me at 

And as year end approaches, please do consider making a donation via the secure donation portal.  Donations are tax creditable in Canada.  Your support is much appreciated.  The CCIL has a lot of experience managing a very successful scholarship that exist because of a large endowments from John Humphrey, one of Canada's most famed international lawyers (and the author of the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).  It may be that the veteran's scholarship will also receive such large-scale support.  It is more likely, however, that this will work because of the financial contributions of hundreds of small contributors.  In other words, this is a scholarship that will reflect the wisdom of crowds!  But big or small, whether it lasts a year or a generation, we will be awarding a scholarship to a deserving veteran.  I'd be grateful if you'd considered being a part of that.


Into the winter groove

Winter is almost here. A dusting of snow -- not enough to bring out the real skis but enough to drive the roller skis into the shed. And so I've been capitalizing on the investment I've made over the years in the basement. The single best thing I have done since catching the multi-sport bug is acquiring a Computrainer. It makes indoor cycling more than tolerable -- with Real Course Videos and their other software it is almost enjoyable. More than that, it is incredibly efficient. An hour on the Computrainer, dialed into the precise watts in a training plan, easily equals much more time spent stop-go outside getting to decent training roads.  No junk miles. And Paul Smeulder's Ergvideo (an Ottawa entreprise) takes a good thing and makes it an absolute science.

There are some people -- including some of the best tri pros -- who now are riding mostly on these machines.