Take a Hike: He is iron man

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Brian Skabar is a competitor.

I realized this as we turned the corner onto Havelock Street. The MLA had a volunteer waiting for him with a tall paper cup of water. As our brisk walking tempo brought us even with the woman, Skabar grabbed the cup from her, then dumped its contents over his own head. Then the politician threw the cup out into the street and sped up.

“You falling asleep back there, Sparling?” he called over his shoulder.

The cup cool-off is an old habit from his triathloning days. That’s right, triathlon. You thought his moniker, Brian “The Crusher” Skabar came from his passion for recycling pop cans, but it actually dates back to his long spell as an athlete.

When I met up with Brian at his office, he drew ‘exercise/fitness’ as the topic we’d discuss on our walk. It turns out, Skabar has more in common with Mitt Romney’s conservative running mate Paul Ryan than I thought. I knew about their shared passion for hunting endangered big cats with nothing but wits and a sharp stick, but our MLA has also completed two marathons – the last one, in 2002, in three hours, 39 minutes.

Then there are the triathlons, a dozen or more. And his participation in the Cabot Trail Relay Race, in which teams of 19 people complete the entire trail. I’m not sure I even believe people do that. I think I’d rather remove my knee caps with a spoon.

Eleven years later, Skabar’s hoping to shed some of the 20 extra pounds he figures he’s carrying around. I offered him a few tips. For example, Three Musketeers is much lower in calories than Snickers, and a sour-cream glaze donut has more protein (thanks to the dairy content) than a chocolate dip.

He’s competing with a friend to see who can take off the most over the next month. He’ll be using his YMCA membership and an extensive collection of Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS tapes to burn calories and build muscle.

It’s all about moderation, he said. Brian doesn’t believe in short-term diets, nor does he think someone needs to radically alter their lifestyle to improve their health.

There was nothing moderate, though, about the way he earned his nickname, Crusher.

The Annapolis Invitational, 1996. One kilometre swim, 40-k bike, 10-k run. Skabar was neck-in-neck through the swim with Nesbitt Buckle, a rival. Buckle emerged from the water barely 20 metres ahead of Skabar and sprinted for his bike.

“It was right beside mine,” said Skabar. “I clearly saw him reach over and use his bike tool to slash my tire.”

Skabar isn’t proud of his response. Even today, it pains him to recount the incident.

“I saw red,” he said. “Orange, really. I saw orange. I ran up to Nesbitt and head-butted him. The doctor said if he hadn’t been wearing a bike helmet, he would have been decapitated.”

Skabar was disqualified, but a nickname was born.


Disclaimer: Take a Hike is a mix of fact and fiction. Eric’s guest may or may not have said what appears in this column. It’s probably best you assume s/he didn’t.

Organizations: YMCA

Geographic location: Havelock Street, Annapolis

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