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Me, Obama and the HIV Travel Ban

By Scott Simpson

December 8, 2009

I have got to confess -- it's a huge relief knowing that the United States, with President Obama's push, is going to lift its travel ban on HIV positive people from entering their country. Definitely a major reason I was finally willing to start this blog. What I found particularly insightful was his acknowledgement of the negative impact the travel ban had on the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Colour me paranoid, but I had felt that publicizing on the net that I was going to be travelling to the US for an ironman triathlon could potentially have had me placed on some sort of HIV blacklist by an official or an AIDSphobic individual and stopped me at the border. Training 20 hours a week for 10 months for ironman is a huge time, physical and emotional commitment. Add in equipment expenses, entry fee, travel and accommodation costs and it could all come to naught if I was blacklisted.

Overreacting you say? Consider this: In early 2008, Canadian Judge Jon-Jo Douglas, upon learning that a witness in the courtroom was HIV positive, forced the witness to wear a face mask, moved the proceedings to a larger courtroom in an effort to distance himself from the witness, and as court transcripts attest, Douglas proclaimed, "The HIV virus will live in a dried state for year after year after year and only needs moisture to reactivate itself". His AIDSphobia infected (couldn't resist) his co-workers; "court staff returned after a recess wearing rubber gloves and placed documents touched by the witness in plastic bags". Hmmm -- me thinks this is unchecked power expressed by an ignorant intelligentsia wannabe. So there.

All together now -- and a one, and a two:
The weather outside is frightful.
Riding the trainer indoors delightful.
Since there's no place to go.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

OK, I'm a liar. Riding the indoor trainer isn't delightful. With less sunlight and dropping temperatures its time has come again. I have friends that will be doing their weekly long ride of 4, 5 or more hours on their indoor trainers -- in a single workout!!! -- this winter to get ready for IM Brazil in May. Unfathomable. The most I've ever managed is 2.5 hours -- once -- and even then I was suicidal. I find it torturous beyond the 2 hour mark and this may be my greatest challenge to getting proper base training. So I better take my own advice that I so easily dispense to others in my deepest Drill Sergeant voice: "Suck it up, Buttercup".

So how much training should I be doing? According to, participants at IM Hawaii -- the World Champs for which you have to qualify, usually by placing top 5 in your age group at an earlier ironman -- have average weekly training volume for the 7 months preceding the race of:
11.3 kms (7 miles) of swimming
373.3 kms (232 miles) of cycling
77.2 kms (24 miles) of running

Mind you these are the cream of the crop and Type AAA personalities. Nevertheless, that is what it takes to get to the very top of age group ironman races. And a whole whack of being genetically gifted. That cannot be overstated -- it is the single most contributing factor to athletic success. Alas I'm not athletically gifted. Rather, a delicate flower from sturdy peasant stock.

Let's see -- my last week of training has consisted of 2 swims (perhaps 4 kms total), 3 bikes (maybe 75 kms) and 4 runs (about 54 kms).

Giddy up, Buttercup.

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HIV+ Triathlete: Til I Drop

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson is an HIV+ triathlete, student and inspirational speaker avoiding real work so he can find more time to train and learn. A former party boy, Scott has gone from the fictional national drinking team to the real Canadian national triathlon team and is current provincial long course champion in his age group. Scott is also founder of, and inspiration for, the Race for Dignity, which is both an annual spinathon in Toronto and annual school campus events coordinated by Dignitas Youth chapters. Cumulatively, they have raised almost a million dollars for the medical humanitarian NGO Dignitas International, contributing to over 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS gaining access to ARVs in Malawi. Scott is currently training for Ironman Louisville 2010.

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