BEN: Which when I played, the gym was always an ends to mean. I wasn’t really a gym guy, but I did it because it helps with hockey. And so when I retired, that was when I just like completely cut out. And I was like no more gym and then you know, three and a half years on I was like I kind of missed the gym. So, this last month I’ve been working out again.
JESSE: It’s different, it’s like you know you have your main sport and then yeah, like you said, you go to the gym and you do box jumps or squats or you know, whatever it is you need to do in the gym, because you’re like, all right, this is going to make me faster, more agile. I’m going to be a better player, a better athlete. But then I find now doing it some days because often for me, it’s like I’ve just got done with the hard hour of swimming and now I have to do my weight stuff.
I find the days I’m not exhausted, it’s almost like a personal meditation because it’s a different kind of difficult, than you know, going out and playing or in my case, I’m going running or cycling or swimming. And it kind of gives me almost like an easy moment with myself, with my own mind where it’s like, obviously it’s tough and it hurts. But it doesn’t take quite the same kind of focus. So, I at least imagine like field hockey [??? 01:29] where you have to pay attention to everything in your peripherals and the movement, all the players and ball and all that kind of stuff.
BEN: Yeah yeah. It is nice and– But it’s fun, but it’s also like, I’ve been enjoying being back in it. But without that extra purpose of like, why am I doing this, sometimes I’m a bit lost. I’m a bit like okay, I’m gonna go lift some weights. And like, I don’t have a reason other than that for why I’m doing it. But yeah, but it’s nice to be back in there.
JESSE: Yeah, I think the why like, is something to struggle with definitely. Where it’s like for you the why for a long time could be I want to be on the Olympic team. Like that’s a pretty big why, it’s a pretty big motivator and then without that, it’s like, I know I should stay in shape. But I kinda feel like at least for me, the human nature like the slothfulness catches up with you.
You’re like, well, I don’t really have to do this. It’s just as if I want to do this. And then what I really want is to take a nap. So, do I go to the gym or do I take a nap. But then you know when you go like you feel better after having been there, but it’s like getting over that hurdle since you don’t have that big why anymore.
BEN: Yeah. Yeah, I think what it’s– what I’ve realized recently is that it’s been long enough that even playing socially, I’m starting to notice the lack of strength when I play hockey. And so I’ve come to terms with the fact that over time already now and in the future, I won’t be able to do what I remember being able to do. You know like, “Oh, I can just do that. Oh, no, I can’t do that anymore.” But I figured if I can just do a little bit of gym work, so I’m a bit stronger, that I can just slow that decline a little bit.
JESSE: Right. We’re of similar age. I think you’re older than me, but it’s especially prevalent as an endurance athlete like your peak, I’m right in that kind of area where you’re supposed to peak but at the same time, I’m already past kind of that really high power phase in your early 20s. And kind of looking forward the next however many decades, it’s just like, this is just a battle against decline in age. Like you get past the point of being like, all right, I’m gonna be the best I’ve ever been. It’s just like, I just don’t want to be worse than I have to be, which isn’t quite the same motivation.
BEN: Yeah. Yeah, I joke about it with the guys I play with now. I’m like, oh, you know what, today, the best all– like it only goes down from today. Because next year I’ll be worse and the year after I’ll be worse again. But yeah, so for you, are you– you transitioned from running to triathlons?
JESSE: Yeah. So, I ran in college, and then I transitioned trying to become a professional triathlete. So, I spent about eight years doing that and I kind of gave up the ghost after a crash in a race where I probably would have qualified that shattered my collarbone. I had to have surgery. I was out for several months, and I was just broken mentally. I’d worked, worked my body in my mind so hard for so long that I just couldn’t keep up with anymore.
Like it would have been– I would have needed such a large force of will after that event to try to get back to it. Because I mean, I was spending, you know, running the two businesses and then also spending like 17-18 hours a week training. Sunday would be my big day where I go out for a bike ride for five hours and then go run for half hour afterwards. So, it’s a six hour block. And it just, it just got to be too much.
And to be fair, I always knew that it was a long shot for me to do it, But it was something that I wanted to do so, you know, I persisted. And then it was a matter of, okay, well, like it didn’t quite happen. It’s like you’re like right on the cusp. But it’s not a matter of– Like, I’m friends with people that are now pros or have qualified and decided not to become pros.
And it’s just, I’ve kind of want to say, come to– not come to the realization, but just– I’m losing my term of phrase here. But basically, I know that, like my genetic potential is not high enough to make it easily an attainable task. So, it’s like, yes, I probably could make it happen, but at what cost?
So, that’s the kind of transition I’ve been dealing with for the last, I think 18 months now. [??? 06:50] think about the timeline, it seems like it’s been longer than it has. But sounds like I’m still doing triathlons, still trying to stay in shape, and do all that stuff, but definitely struggling with the like, well now why am I doing that? Like, why am I waking up at 6 am to go to the pool and beat myself up? So, yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at. And it’s not quite the same as you know, retiring from an Olympic team but some similarities in terms of like giving up that identity a little bit.
BEN: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, it’s big– Yeah very similar thought process on my end. Yeah, like when– it’s the– For me, it was like hockey like there’s lots of really good highs like you play these tournaments all over the world and like just these amazing games. But the whole protest is, is it can be such a grind. Like you know, it’s a lot of your training in Vancouver, where it’s like just above freezing and raining and windy and you’re doing this day after day after day, and going through that you have to have kind of that fire, that love for it and I had that through my career.
But then you know also getting pulled other ways. Then after 2016, I was like I don’t think I have that anymore. I don’t think I have the need to be like to re-enter that grind and to keep going.
JESSE: Yeah, motivation always seems like this, I don’t know like fleeting mystery. I’ve had an abundance and then I’ve always wondered why other people around me didn’t have it. Because it’s like it didn’t seem like I had anything particularly special. But then I also noticed over time like that motivation waned, where it’s like part of the motivation was fueled by my desire to be a pro. Well, that’s not really a factor anymore. So, then some of that fires die down. And I’ve had to kind of like refocus and think about what do I have fun doing instead of just grinding.
Like, am I having fun when I get up and go to the pool at 6 am. And deciding I’m doing this because I want to not because I’m trying to attain something but because I enjoy it. And that seems to be from like, everybody I’ve talked to on the podcast from amateurs to pros to those people that could be pros and decide not to be. Fun seems to be the like, underlying current of why people continue long term.
BEN: Absolutely. Yeah, and that’s exactly right I think. At least for me, it’s– I always told myself like if you’re– like for field hockey for me if I was doing it just to try and go to the Olympics, there’s no way you survive. There’s no way you do it but there’s also no way that you enjoy– like that you like your life at the end of that four years of that. You have to– Even when it’s Sunday, it does kind of suck. There’s still some part of me that just loved those early morning trainings in the middle of winter being with the guys and all the rest of it.
JESSE: Yeah. So, but before we move on to your research, tell me a little bit about the Olympics experience. So, I mean, it’s a long flight from Canada to Brazil. I have a friend who does that because he lives in Canada, he’s from Brazil. So, I know it takes a little bit of time to get down there. Take me through you’re getting on the plane, and then kind of a, I guess, a bridge timeline from leaving Canada to you know, you’re on the field.
BEN: Yeah, no, it was the Olympics– it was– I say this and I think it sounds silly, but it captures kind of like, you know that it’s a big, big event. Like it’s bigger than anything else you’ve done. You know, like okay, I prepared myself. I know it’s going to be big. And then you go and it’s just so much, like to live that is so different than to know it going in. And so I was pretty blown away by just how much bigger an event it was. But yeah, so like the flight is, it’s very long. It’s been a long build-up, like the team was announced, probably like three, four weeks before the Olympics.
So, you’ve got confirmation we’re going. We had like a test series against the United States in Vancouver, played some games, all these different send-off things. The Canadian Olympic committee did this whole like video around us. You know, you’re just prepping, prepping, prepping, when is this actually going to happen? And then the board the flight and you know, it’s– we go from Vancouver to Toronto and then Toronto to Rio which is like 16 hour.
JESSE: Yeah, it’s this long.
BEN: You’re pretty exhausted, but then you arrive and like they’ve got everyone’s decked out in like their Olympic stuff. And you know, it’s all very exciting and then you realize that a lot of the Olympics, like the logistics of the Olympics, are a lot of hurry up and wait. And like that’s every trip, but like much– the Olympics [??? 12:29] scale of hurry up and wait.
So, then, you know, you’re at the airport waiting for the bus but then there’s like all these things that you and the and when you thought about for so many years, and then when you do them, it’s like, oh, this is actually happening like– And so you come into the Olympic village and you start looking around, and you see all the other athletes. All these people who are just like unbelievable at whatever sport it is that they do. Yeah, and then you know, and then we kind of have to buckle down again and kind of get together. We were there like a week or two before the game started, and you know, it’s a big tournament, we’re playing very good teams.
And so then it’s okay. We kind of enjoyed that moment. And now it’s back to work. And then you kind of get into training and prepping. And then kind of my, the purest like Olympic moment for me was the opening ceremonies. It was because like for us, for field hockey, we weren’t really supposed to qualify that cycle. Like we hadn’t qualified for London and our funding was pretty much all was like a lot of it was cut. And so we’re just like on a bare-bones budget.
We went to this qualifying tournament that like we had some confidence but we weren’t supposed to qualify from and we did. And so then it was like, you’re walking in– you walk into the Olympic Stadium, the whole crowd is cheering my parents are somewhere up in the stands. And you’re surrounded by you know, 15 of, like 15 close friends who you’ve kind of gone on this journey with. So, that was [??? 14:17]. This really has happened. And then the hockey happened and we didn’t do as well as we wanted.
So, it’s kind of– it’s interesting because like, on many levels, [??? 14:33] an unbelievable experience…you know, hold with me the rest of my life. But we didn’t do as well as we wanted. Like we went in there, we thought we could win some games and upset some teams. And the end of the day we came 11th out 12th which is where we were ranked going in, but we kind of– it felt like a missed opportunity.
So, there’s going to be that little, a little bit of oh, should have, would have, could have like you know, close moments [??? 15:01] and all the rest of it. But then after that was done we– our tournament finished after the group stages and so we then had like a week and a half left where we were– we went from being like when you’re in tournament mode, every moment is scheduled pretty much like in your off days you have so much scheduled around meetings and you know, activation and all the rest of it and then we finished.
And we went for a week and a half in the Olympics in the village but absolutely no schedule, just do whatever you want. Which it was disappointing to not still be playing but it was also really fun because we could get with our athlete passes, we could pretty much get into every event. We weren’t that supposed to but they’d mostly let you in. So, you just take the shuttles and you go okay, we’re going to go to canoe kayak, and you just kind of walk in the athletes’ entering and hanging out and watch all the athletes cheer on with other Canadians and– Yeah, so that’s a bit disjointed, but that was kind of my Olympic experience.
JESSE: That’s what I was kind of wondering about where it’s like, I mean you went and even if it doesn’t matter if say, this obviously is an exaggeration, but there’s 12 teams and say you’re ranked 20th like, you’re still like we’re going to go try to win. Like you’re not going to be like I wanna place last. Like that’s not the evision in your head. So, it’s like, I just wondered how that mentality goes was like, you’re out.
And you’re like, well, that’s it, but we’re here so like there’s so many things to experience. And like you said, dealing with that disjointed nature of like, we wish we were still doing it, but we could also do all these other incredible things at the same time. So, did you, like I said I just didn’t pay enough attention to the Olympics as I should have. Did you get to cheer any Canadians on to victory in the other stuff that you watched?
BEN: Yeah. I mean, we– I went and watched the– not quite to victory but to a medal. We saw the 4 by 100 relay, the final for the men. And so that Canadian got bronze. And that’s so that was awesome like those athletes are just incredible.
JESSE: Yeah, those guys are I’ll assume it’s the men’s team I [??? 17:38] say but that relay’s ridiculous. The four by one, the four by two and the four by four; all just like, how are you running that fast? Especially the four by one guys, they’re enormous.
JESSE: So, that, just like the stature of the 100-meter guys always, it surprises me a little bit, I guess. But like at the same time, I’m like you need a ton of power. They’re almost like muscle cars. [??? 18:12] just like huge beefy, they can only do a short little sprint, but they’re gonna like really hold down the track the whole way. So, tell me a little bit about your research.
I read I think in a different interview done a couple of years ago, one of the things you liked about your research, was its flexibility to allow you to compete. So, I guess before you tell me about your research, I have to ask if the perfect project had come along, that was not flexible; would you have passed on it?
BEN: So, I think when I was making that sort of choice, I was entirely driven by hockey because I was playing hockey before I started my grad school. And so it kind of like the lab that I wanted to join was the one that I did on like scientific basis. And so I was– it wasn’t really much of a decision for me. It was like, yes, this is who I want to join, and they tend to be flexible. But I think even before I started looking at labs, I did kind of like, okay, what sort of research are they doing? What sort of model system are we working with? How easy is it to pick up and put down as travel demands?