"I'm just sitting in here, looking out and I'm in Scotland, I'm at the Commonwealth Games playing a sport that I didn't even know existed 10 years ago," said Tim Mason, on the phone from Glasgow last Thursday.
Mason, a multiple-title winning lawn bowler from West Vancouver, arrived just a day before to participate in his first Commonwealth Games. Years of competing, including winning gold at the 2014 B.C. Indoor Championships in March, winning pairs at last year's B.C. Championships and being an alternate in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, among others, have led Mason to this point.
"It's my first crack at the Common games and it's pretty cool," he said. "First time in Scotland but it's pretty amazing, just the hype around the games and watching everything, (to) see all the clips and the videos that they sent us of what they've built and how all the energy is in the community, it's pretty awesome."
The games don't start for another 10 days, but for Mason and his team, this is an opportunity to not only get to know the Scottish greens, but also each other.
"Especially with having the amount of time that we do, we can gel as a team because it's difficult, it's players from all across the country," said Mason. Members reside from as close as Victoria, to as distant as Queensland, Australia. "And with the way the distance is, it's not easy to practise and play with each other constantly, where a lot of the other countries they have access to that, where they take trips and they're practising together so they have a lot of team bonding and communication."
Mason said the time they have given themselves before the games will allow them to focus on drills and practise together, "compared to jumping off a plane, taking two days and going out on the greens and trying to win a medal."
The team has exhibition games first with Scotland and England, both of which will be some of their toughest competition.
"Scotland's assembled one of the best teams they've ever had. They've been ranked No. 1 in the world, they're all pro guys," said Mason. "Same with Australia, they basically bowl for a living, that's their jobs."
The games run from July 23 to Aug. 3 in Glasgow, Scotland, and attract approximately 6,500 athletes and officials from 70 countries. Team Canada rounds out at about 265 athletes and close to 100 coaches.
Trying to stay focused with the roar of the crowd and multiple events won't be hard for Mason.
"For me it's nothing really new, it's just from my background, my sports background," he said.
"When you get in a certain area... and playing, you focus on what you're doing compared to what's going on around you."
Mason's background in multiple sports, including hockey, tennis and skiing to name a few, has also played an important role in his training.
"I still take the same approach as I did when I was playing hockey," he said. "I'm in the gym quite a bit and practise constantly."
Mason hits the gym six days a week, working on everything from cross training and cardio, to core exercises. In the winter he hits the slopes, all to stay in shape.
"The games are about 2½ hours, almost three hours and you're constantly lunging," said Mason. "I always look at it (like) if we can beat somebody in physical fitness right off the top, I'll take that check mark because it doesn't cost anything. It's a lot of muscle memory, it's a lot of core but it's also a lot of thinking. You're drained at the end."
Lawn bowling is a combination of multiple sports, said Mason, mixing skills required in curling, bocce and darts as well as the strategic prowess used in chess and checkers.
"So it's a lot of communicating, a lot of talking," he said. "Sometimes we play three games in a day, so I mean by the time you're up in the morning, routines and stretching and getting ready, right to the end of the day, it could be 12-, 13-hour days."
Mason trains at the West Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club and he is also the club's director.
"The members have been fantastic for me, they've given me a lot of support to come on out here and the community as well," he said.
Mason started playing at the club when he took a wrong turn on the way to the gym.
"I didn't even know what they were doing, didn't know what it was, just walked through the gate and said, 'You've got to tell me what it is,' and sort of got hooked," he said. "Then (I) won my first Canadian title a year in and was all of a sudden travelling around the world.. .. So it's been kind of neat."
Mason has been working to promote the sport, even hosting a charity tournament every July 19 for the past seven years.
"I'm not even going to be there this year, so I've got my committee that's running it," said Mason. "We've done it for seven years and we've raised money for Canuck Place and the cancer society, but the last four years have been with the YMCA Strong Kids program, so we've sent over 2,000 kids to camp for a week, so it's been good, but it's just tough to be on the move and not be there."
Mason and his team will play their first game on July 24, the day after the opening ceremonies where he will be joined by a host of fellow North Shore athletes, including Taylor Curran, men's field hockey; Emily Overholt 400-metre swimming; Emma Friesen, one-and three-metre diving; Harry Jones, men's rugby; Jessica Smith, women's 800-m running; and boxing coach Kevin Howard.
For more information on Canada's athletes and the games, visit commonwealthgames.ca.