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.


The Wealth of a Career

It is often said, and I believe it to be true, that the measure of any teacher's success is his or her students. I am at that point in my career where many of my former students are now established and increasingly eminent professionals and members of the community. I take no credit for their successes, but I relish these nevertheless. So it was especially great to receive a call a few weeks ago from Ernesto Caceres, now with the Department of Justice in Toronto. Ernesto is a triathlete and he is going the full distance at IM Mont Tremblant in 2012, his second Ironman. And he has single-handedly galvanized buzz around the scholarship project. We will building a team of triathletes and acquaintances in the legal community, dedicating their sporting or other efforts to raising money for the scholarship.  My next task by December will be to put up an umbrella webpage housing this collective effort.  And then we will begin fundraising (and training!) with gusto.  If you're interested, drop me an email:

The lonely road and pool lengths just got a little less lonely.  Thank you Ernesto!


November 11

It is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the United States.  At a little over 11 am, the aircraft flew over my Ottawa home (just after we wrapped up a conference call to observe a moment of silence).  Somewhat fittingly, I have been struggling today with complicated issues relating to Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, as well as reading an excellent article on rules of attribution to states of the actions of non-state actors in armed conflict situations.

This week also represents the first week in the build towards the new season.  In practice, that means an upward tick in the running and time in the basement on the indoor bike trainer.  Today, naturally, my mind turned to two members of the military whose athletic achievements have inspired me this last year. 

The first is Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic runner, U.S. WWII vet and PoW whose life story was featured in Laura Hillenbrand's fabulous book, UnbrokenHis trials and ultimate triumph leave one breathless at the shear enormity of his story.

The second is a more contemporary figure: Canadian Forces Lt. Col. Tony O'Keeffe, a wonderful triathlete and veteran of the unbelievably arduous Race Across America (RAAM).  That race, and O'Keeffe's endeavours in the 2009 version, are featured in Amy Snyder's sobering book, Hell on Two WheelsO'Keeffe returned to the race in 2010 and finished the 3005 mile, basically non-stop cycling race in 10 days, 8 hours, 21 minutes, placing him 4th in the under 50 category.

I shall never met Louis Zamperini, but someday I would like to shake hands with Lt. Col. O'Keeffe, just before he trounces me in a triathlon.


On detraining and the post-season transition

For most northern hemisphere runners, cyclists and triathletes, October marks the beginning (or perhaps the mid-point) of the "off-season", a period of diminished training. 

A quick cruise around the internet reveals some endurance athletes who dispute the virtues of an "off season" or, more technically, a period of transition from the final A-priority race of the season and the formal beginning of a new training season.  By far the dominant view is, however, a formal "standing down" during this transition period -- training is abandoned in favour of more unstructured "exercise" or, in the most extreme instances, a renewed relationship with the living-room sofa.  

The justifications for a transition boil down to the need for a mental release and physical recovery from the rigours of regimented training.  However, as one study recently observed, "the consequences that typical post-season breaks of 4-6 wk could have on physiological and performance markers of top-level athletes are not completely understood" (García-Pallarés et al 2009: 622).  The literature does show that detraining during the post-season transition produces diminished fitness, as measured by such indicators as VO2max.  But not every transition period strategy is equal.

In their study of elite kayakers, García-Pallarés et al 2009 compared two post-season 5 week transition strategies: one described a "complete training cessation" (TC) and the other as "reduced training" (RC).  The RC strategy involved one resistance training and two endurance training sessions per week.  The latter "consisted of only two 40-min moderate-intensity (~80% VO2max) running (Monday) and paddling sessions
(Friday), respectively. On the four remaining week days no physical training of any kind was performed" (2009: 623).  This training pattern represented approximately 20% of these athletes' mean weekly in-season training volume. 

The study concluded that the RC strategy was insufficient to prevent significant reductions in aerobic performance.  However, these reductions were much more modest that those observed in the TC group.  The authors conclude that: "With the ever-increasing number of competitions and rigorous demands of modern
sport at the elite level, performing a minimal maintenance training program in the layoff between seasons seem to be an appropriate measure to prevent athletes from experiencing an excessive loss of aerobic performance, as well as to be able to regain fitness more easily in subsequent training cycles" (2009: 626).

It stands to reason that these results apply equally to non-elite, age group athletes, although perhaps not to the same degree (declines may be less dramatic if the starting peak of fitness is not as high).  Age may also be a variable.  Wright and Perricelli report that "[r]eductions in the VO2 max are believed to be the primary reason for a decline in functional endurance with aging. The decline in VO2 max is cut in half by intense habitual exercise" (2008: 448).  Put another way, losing VO2 max is both costly to older athletes, but may be stalled by intense, regular exercise.

The off-season lesson I draw from these materials, as a self-trained masters athlete, is to reduce but not abandon training.  Moreover, in the period of reduced inter-season training, training sessions should include high intensity efforts, limiting the hill that needs to be climbed again to regain competitive season fitness. 


Jesús García-Pallarés, Luis Carrasco, Arturo Díaz and Luis Sánchez-Medina, "Post-season detraining effects on physiological and performance parameters in top-level kayakers: comparison of two recovery strategies," Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2009) 8, 622-628.

Vonda J. Wright and Brett C. Perricelli, "Age-Related Rates of Decline in Performance Among Elite Senior Athletes," The American Journal of Sports Medicine (2008) 36(3), 443-450.


Why I have chosen a Veteran's Scholarship as my cause

Why am I skiing, skating, swimming, cycling and running in support of a Canadian Forces veteran’s scholarship?  I am not a veteran myself.  I have never been to a conflict zone.   I am, instead, a career legal academic.  In that role, I have written and lectured and studied a great deal about law and armed conflict.  And I have had the privilege of instructing a considerable number of Canadian Forces active service members and veterans.

I have found these people to be amongst the most focused and reflective of my students.  They often come with vast life experience and I hazard I may have learned more from them than they have from me.

I believe that being a military lawyer is among the hardest jobs in law.  I also believe that international humanitarian law – and more generally the law of armed conflict – is amongst the most important and difficult areas of law.

This is the law that determines how military force can be used, how civilians and other non-combatants are to be protected and treated and what sorts of weapons can be used.  Lives literally depend on the answers to these questions -- law is not silent in times of armed conflict.  It speaks loudly.  In the last decade, it should have spoken even louder.

I believe Canada is and should be a centre of excellence in refining international humanitarian law.  I also believe we need more excellent minds dedicated to this task, and none more than the minds of those who have served in the armed forces themselves.  These people bring a practical experience to the abstractions of law.  We have also asked a lot of those who have served in the Canadian Forces over the years, and especially over the last decade.  They might reasonably ask something of us.

As a legal educator and currently president of a venerable international law organization, the Canadian Council on International Law (CCIL), I am in a position to act on these beliefs.  And so I have proposed the creation by the CCIL of a scholarship for a Canadian Forces veteran to study law, with a focus on international humanitarian law.

And now, I am trying to raise the funds for this award.  Among other things, I hope to attract donations through participating in a series of endurance sporting events.

This is a rather unconventional approach to raising money for a legal scholarship.  My focus in doing so is obviously very different from the important, classic, health-oriented causes typically advanced by millions of athletes every year. 

My goal is both limited and perhaps also extremely ambitious.  The CCIL scholarship will likely be a modest one – maybe no more than what is required for one person to go to law school.  But I am trying to raise money to put that skilled and deserving mind through law school in the hope that that individual, later sitting at the shoulders of a tactical officer, or advising a prime minister on whether to deploy military force, or providing excellent legal analysis to a humanitarian group, will save lives that might otherwise be lost.  Put another way, I want to give a talented veteran a chance to study law in the hope that he or she can help give us wisdom on some of the weightiest questions any society can ever ask.

This is my way of supporting the troops.  It may not appeal to everyone.  I hope it entices you, and that you will consider making a financial contribution to the scholarship.

If you want to learn more about the Canadian Council on International Law and donate to the scholarship fund, visit here.  Follow my efforts at

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