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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Racing (errr... Riding?) the Tour de Zwift

For those who Zwift - you will know that the Tour de Zwift is as much a race as a ride.

Sure, there's the odd message saying "it's not a race"... but there are standings, your position is displayed, and at the front it's 100% a race!

I've been watching some YouTube videos of people racing, like Don't Get Dropped guy Erik, and was inspired to give it another try - really hit it and see what I could do.

I'm currently in Category D (demoted from last year, womp womp) - so anything in the top 50% usually makes me pretty happy.

The Course

Richmond Rollercoaster... ugh! So much hill.

From (click link) 

I'm big - 98kg right now (over 215lbs) so those hills are scary steep.

First rule of Zwift "racing" is to know the course, and have a plan. Mine was to give it stink out of the gate, get into the lead group, hang on for dear life up 23rd and KOM Reverse then hopefully find a big old blob to carry me through the rest of the ride.

I learned a few tricks from some of the videos... 

  • If you join the event early, then leave, you can warm up somewhere else but "reserve" a spot near the front for when you join back
  • Don't accelerate until about 2s before the start for the biggest "bump" out of the gate
I did both of these... and I was still swarmed and passed early! But I got into a big enough group downhill at a zillion kilometers an hour that we caught back up - in fact I ended up blasting through the entire group and into 1st place!

Definitely not the plan.

Fortunately others again pushed forward and I drafted my way into 23rd street - and watched as the lighter riders scampered off, which was expected.

Topped the hill and managed to tag onto the back of a few riders downhill, got a feather power-up (yay!)... everything was going great!  Held my own up the KOM Reverse and went way into the red, further than I really ever would normally go so early... 

Recovering in the Draft!

... but it all worked out famously, I ended up in a nice sized group at the crest of the hill.

I was able to do a bit of recovery at this point, but I knew there were more climbs ahead.  Main Street is much lower gradient (3-6%) so there is some drafting which helped.

From there on it was hang in with the draft and don't get dropped.

Unfortunately I didn't have anything for the final sprint... ended up in 41st place on ZwiftPower of the 121 ZP riders, best in my finishing "group" was 30th - so still have a few lessons to learn about all of this.

All in all it was a blast, and nice to have the legs again to be able to do something like this!

It's a great workout, really forces you into the red when you maybe don't feel like it - but you can see the wheel in front getting away and that extra blast is there!

Will definitely do this again.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Ready for a Rucking Great Year!

Pic stolen from
A friend of mine was posting his Rucks on Strava, and I was like "What the Ruck is that?".

"Carrying a heavy backpack"... is about the best description you'll ever need!  That's really it - hiking around with weight - which turns a light cardio workout into something serious. 

A stronger core!  Stronger bones!  Enjoying the outdoors!  

Here's Dr. Peter Attia talking about it (jump to 12 minutes)

Rucking appealed to me instantly for a few reasons...
  1. The races I'm planning involve carrying stuff while hiking. Adventure Races aren't just simple running, you have a pack with supplies on your back and you're in rough terrain that requires some degree of core strength... and the canoe race I'm doing will definitely include portaging.
  2. It's super easy to start (assuming you have weights and a sturdy backpack)
  3. I can turn a normal activity like walking my dog into a better workout by adding the weight!


I wanted to make sure it was something I would stick with before over investing, so I started with a backpack I already owned, put some weight plates from barbells we have into it, made it comfortable, and went! It's good enough for now.

If I keep going with it, there is an opportunity to spend a lot of money on $200-300+ GoRuck branded rucksacks and weight plates - I'm a firm believer that the right tool for the activity helps you stick to it. But for now I'm good.


I read on the internet (the source of all things factual and not as factual) that the army standard is 15 minutes per mile.  That works out to something like 9:20/km, so trying to keep it in that low 9's as a target.  I don't think going a bunch faster is a very worthwhile goal, I already run and bike for cardio after all!


Dr. Attia says to work up to 1/3 your body weight, but I'm pretty big so that's a lot! Even at my ideal BMI that is 60lbs... I can't quite get my head around that.

I started at 25lbs, then 30lbs, and was able to go very long without trouble at that weight - so will progress to 35lbs next. I'm starting to doubt my little starter backpack can handle much more than that.


I'm not to fussed about increasing this much beyond an hour - and I'll probably settle in closer to half an hour.  I would rather get the weight increased than the time, seems like it would better align to my strength goals (I already have a ton of endurance).


I only just started, but I definitely feel the workout in my lower back and abs.  Also gave a bit of soreness in the glutes.  Hopefully it's doing all the good things load bearing exercise is supposed to do under the covers - bone density, increased resilience to injury, etc etc etc...

Will keep everyone posted!

Hello 2024!


Hi! I have let this blog go for awhile now, and I feel bad.

I actually let it go because I felt bad... my level of athleticism took a steep nosedive for a pretty long time now.

But I'm finally back.  Back in control of my health, starting to get a handle on my weight, and feeling like myself again on the bike!

A few new things I'm going to post about eventually...

... Storm Adventure Race 2024!

... Muskoka River X 2024!

... Rucking!?

It's going to be a great year, buckle up!

Monday, May 29, 2023

Race Report: Storm Adventure Race 2023 (Long Course)

What a tough day.  This race involved running/hiking, mountain biking, and paddling.

And... orienteering.  A new organizer has taken over the race, so we weren't sure exactly what to expect - he's a tough dude in the Adventure Racing world! And it was tough. 

The Start

Actually even before the start, I just wanted to mention how bad my spring has been... I've had recurring hamstring trouble when running that has kept me from doing much more than 5km. And 2 weeks ago I had a respiratory illness that hasn't entirely passed.

So I was not really looking forward to 5 hours of this, it was really uncertain how I'd manage...

Run/Hike #1

The start was 3km of hiking/running within the Albion Hills conservation area.  We ran/hiked as much as I could tolerate through the first two checkpoints, navigation was reasonably easy (had a couple of minor snafus but nothing terrible).  There were detailed trail maps, numbered markers, this was the easiest orienteering of the day!

My heart rate was through the roof, even at mild efforts... I had seen this on some of my last runs before this thing, but just crappy to be in trouble so early.

Bike #1

The bike a marked course, still at Albion mostly, and was glorious - very much like the 24h course we had done years ago. A mix of double and single track around the property, much more trail than expected!

I had two problems at this point - I was in the red (high HR!). And trail kilometers take a lot longer than road kilometers! So by the time we finished this segment, we were a couple hours in and had a lot to go.

Finished on a long asphalt section which gave me a chance to cool down (it was getting steamy!) and recover a bit on some of the downhills.


Portaging is always miserable but 600m downhill and I just couldn't get a decent grip on the boat, kept slipping. And by now we were in the full sun and it was getting hotttt. We managed to finally get into the boat but I was just cooked.

The paddle was ... something else. Previous years it has been on a lake, so we could really rock, always a place we make up time. This time was the twisty and shallow upper Humber River and it was more just steering and hoping we didn't bang into rocks or get beached! I felt a bit better by the end of the canoe, though, heart rate was back into a more reasonable place.

The final portage out of the river my arms felt like they were going to fall off.

Run/Hike #2

This is where it got very tricky. VERY tricky. We didn't expect this level of orienteering. Only one of the checkpoints was even close to a formal trail - the rest were ... not.

Fortunately we've done enough of these things to be able to read the maps well - clearings, contour lines, creeks, fences, it was all marked - and being able to generally take a bearing and go in the right direction.

The maps were really great and detailed, though, and we pretty much nailed each one, taking close to the shortest path between them (using trails where they existed!).

Other than going pretty well straight(ish) from CP to CP (orange stars), we made a few big decisions that really helped (in pink).

The first was to take two river crossings and bushwhack between the 4th and 5th CP. This was a bit risky and the terrain was dicey at times, but we would have had to bushwhack back to the trail anyway so I'm pretty sure we saved big time here - and it was much longer to use the trail.

The second was even better - after the last CP, to get back to the transition, crossing the field instead of taking the trail. We had seen a lot of people returning on the trail, but that saved us a huge amount of distance.

The bad part about all if this was that I was completely gassed. I was running out of fluids (my partner helped me out, thankfully he was well stocked!) and all the breathing trouble caught up to me. And the heat. By the end of the run I was stopping and gasping even when we were just hiking (it was hilly, though, but yeah). Just an all around not great athletic performance from me. I only stay on the team because I can read maps!

Bike #2

I didn't know how much I had left in me to do another 3 checkpoints around Albion Hills - it would have been a very similar distance to what we had already covered.

But I was kind of saved... by the cut-off. We had to be back at the Finish by 4:30pm. So we hit one checkpoint then headed back, missing the last 2 checkpoints.

That's the first time at Storm we've ever missed checkpoints - but this course was longer and tougher than the previous organizer's! I think he overestimated our ability somewhat... only 7 teams managed to get to all of the checkpoints in the allotted time.


We finished 3rd in Masters and 18th overall (of 65 teams). Not terrible, but we could have done so much better if it weren't for my athletic inability. I was slow, and slowed us down as a result, by a lot.

Almost 7 hours. I was not expecting that, at all, looking at the distances! Last year we finished in 5h41 and completed everything (and I wasn't in allll that much better shape, but definitely better).

Everything just took time... lots of slower more technical trails, tough hills/terrain, even the portage was hellish. And the 9km of bushwhacking wasn't fast!! It was a much tougher course in every respect (except less mud).

I'm sore and tired and didn't have fun... but I'm ready to put it behind me and do it again.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Race Preview: Storm Adventure Race 2023


The Race

Storm is back! (yay!).

This is one of the more fun Adventure Races out there - new organizer (with a lot of experience though), new location.  Albion Hills.

We've biked there in the 24 Hour race which was great, lots of amazing trails! 25% "paved roads" though, so I'm still going to stick with my 29" hardtail rather than the full suspension fancy (but heavy and squishy) bike.

The paddle looks... different. Normally we've paddled small lakes or wide slow rivers, but this time it's a windy narrow section of the Humber that will be quite shallow. I expect we'll be running aground a bit and having to use our savvy creekin' skills (honed on Duffin's Creek in Ajax!) rather than super efficient stroke and brute strength. Looking kind of forward to it. Even a few portages!


I'm a mess and have been for while. My running is a disaster, had a recurring hamstring thing that's really bugged me throughout the spring.

Then a couple weeks ago I got a respiratory illness that shall not be named, again. I'm mostly recovered but in the last couple weeks I haven't done much. Lingering fatigue and snot and such.

I might be OK? I might not be. I don't know.

Oh and it's going to be super hot, +27C. Definitely not acclimated for that! 

Let's see, I guess? Sometimes things go better than expected.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Race Report: Storm the Trent 2022 (Trek)

Let's jump to the finish.........

2nd in our division! Team of 2 Male, Masters.

In any year, this would be super exciting for us, but this year has been hell.

More on that... now.  Feel free to skip to the Race Stuff.

My 2022

I haven't been right, at all, all year.  I had COVID twice (yes I was vaccinated, don't judge me!) and a serious blood clot in my leg likely from the first COVID infection.

Despite that, I've pushed and pushed and trained and trained - but at just a lower level of intensity than ever.  Any bump in intensity, especially on the run, and I'm left gasping.

Biking has got better and better to the point that I'm closer to normal

Running still not.

So I was not looking forward to this race until about a week ago. In fact I was dreading being the "slow guy" holding us back all day, it's a terrible feeling.

Last weekend we had a great ride, though. My riding hasn't been terrible and this one just felt great start to finish... back in the forest, lots of energy, so I started thinking maaaaybe it'll be OK???

The Race - Storm the Trent

I have to also say a bit about this race, and the series - it has been a big part of our lives and goals since we first tried the Hike Course in 2015.  Every year we'd line up with maps and a desire to improve on what we did the year before.  Get better at orienteering, faster transitions, etc.

This is the "Final Edition"... for now! But it was announced at the race that "Storm Racing" will have a new owner, so hopefully something emerges from the ashes that's equally awesome!

Thank-you to Sean for all the years of really fun and challenging courses and races!

Our Race - Storm The Trent - Trek

The Prep

Unlike pre-pandemic, the course maps and instructions were published ahead of time. This takes some of the fun out of the race to be perfectly honest... I used to love getting those maps on race day and having an hour to strategize and mark things before hitting the course!

We met a few days earlier and went through all the instructions, meticulously marking distances and directions and points of interest / possible confusion / etc.  

In the years of doing this race, we knew mistakes kill, and even obvious checkpoints can be overlooked if you're not careful!  Knowing "it's at the end of this lake" or "at the top of the hill" based on the elevation lines is really key, no chances taken.

There's also just general strategy on the free runs - what order you hit the checkpoints in, for example. Generally better to hit a checkpoint within a short distance of some obvious landmark (ie. a trail junction) than go the other way and have to figure out which boulder they mean 2.5km later - it can be pretty ambiguous and confusing.

Race Day

Did the normal check-in, dropped off the boat and bikes, everything ready to go... now it was time to carry the canoe down to the start.

And... disaster strikes. Where are my run maps???  I had my meticulously planned run maps in a separate bag to easily hold them during the runs.  Couldn't find them anywhere.

Panic. Freak-out. Thankfully we had maps the organizers had given us the day of and very good memories......... but with no time left to get ourselves down to the water, we had to make the painful decision to somewhat wing it. 

I was gutted - I figured I would let down my partner due to my conditioning, but here I was screwing up something I had control over!!!  

The Start - Canoe

The paddle was pretty simple, but I hadn't paddled a single stroke all year so I wasn't sure how that would go.  Fortunately it went great, we hit the two checkpoints and passed a few teams (and were passed by a few others).

We were using our cedar strip canoe, it's pretty heavy but with the new coat of epoxy it glided through the water really nicely!

The worst part was the portage... carrying that heavy thing up a steep hill, I was gassed within a few hundred meters. My partner took his turn and I managed to recover, then take another short stint at the end of the portage to the transition zone.

Bike 1

We dumped the canoe and hit the bikes - fast transition, no fuss no muss. Easy bike on roads to the first run.

Run 1

This was the longest run, and used a lot of the trails we had seen the previous year.

We used the not-zoomed-in-map for this and our memories - fortunately obsessing about the course for a week before paid off. All the checkpoints were pretty easy to find (although somehow we saw teams doubling back who had missed them?? - I don't get it).

We alternated running and hiking/walking across some of the hills and tough terrain, but overall it wasn't as muddy as last year and just went fine!

Bike 2

This was another easy on-road bike to the next run. Other than hill after hill. After hill.

Run 2

There were two checkpoints to get to (CP40 and CP41), each on what looked like significant trails on the map, with a not significant trail connecting them. We weren't sure how obvious that less significant trail would be... but it ended up being very obvious.

We took a less popular clockwise route to CP41, taking on the worst climbs at the start of the run.  This was probably the right call, as the decent down the other trail was more runnable this way?  Hard to know for certain, but it worked out alright, felt really good and strong at the end of it!

The climbs made these "runs" much more like "hikes", though... so steep, very hard to actually "run" up them.

Bike 3

Finally, a lot of biking! This was the meat of the bike route, a bunch of checkpoints across a long distance with climbs and trails before the next run.

We're cyclists, not runners, and once we hit this bike section it really paid off. We were picking off earlier starting teams one by one, up hills, down hills, on more technical trails - it was awesome.

The first segment was mostly road with some big sweeping kind of sketchy at times descents - it was so much fun. Easily found the next checkpoint at a bridge, then it was onto the trail.

This was the section that had kept me up at night before the race... last year, we had trudged up "Outlook Trail" on a run section, and it was horrible. Steep, rocky, muddy, hellish.

So when I saw "Lookout Trail" was on the bike route, I was thinking this was going to be several kilometers of "pushing a bike".

Fortunately... most of it was rideable!  There was one long climb section that I just couldn't do (nobody around us could either). And we missed the little lollipop section that went to the top, so all in all it was alright. We flew pretty quickly down the "Rugged Descent", again being capable mountain bike guys paid off.

I forgot to mention - due to all the road, I chose my hardtail 29'er instead of my full suspension Enduro bike. That was the right call, I think I paid a big price last year with the heavier bike, for not much technical stuff.

From there we made our way to "Greg Trail", which was pretty mixed - some sections were a hoot, some had water literally flowing across the trail making a muddy/soupy mess. We passed a co-ed team in there who had passed us previously on the first run, which was great! (But temporary)

Run 3

This one had reasonably simple navigation of road-then-trail, but we managed to first go down the wrong road (fortunately for only about 100m).  The co-ed team that we passed passed us during that oopsie, then we passed them on foot (I think the guy had an injury - guy if you're reading this, you can confirm!)

We went up the road... up... UP... then hit the trail and it was just a wall ahead of us. Rocky, steep, no way to run most of it, straight up to a lookout.

Ran most of the way back down and to the checkpoint - and the co-ed team passed us again! For those keeping score that's the 3rd time. 

Bike To Finish!

We passed the co-ed team in transition, because we do that really fast and most teams... don't! We don't fiddle with anything, just punch out and go... lessons learned over the years.

I had a huge second wind here and felt really strong on the last bike, first from being chased but even as we distanced the other teams I just felt really good! At 5h in that's a big win, right??

Then... we missed a turn. Somehow. It was a really strange trail junction, unmarked, but going straight looked right - until it petered out to nothing. It was only a 50-100m mistake, but in the process another team caught right up to us.

Fortunately we had enough to fend them off and get to the finish!



In the end, the missing maps maybe cost us that one miscue on the run, but not much else. We still had maps, just not annotated, so it wasn't the end of the world.

Then we get back to the van, and what is sitting on the ground?  The run maps.

How. HOW!? We looked everywhere and they were definitely NOT on the ground next to the van!!!

The only thing I can think of is maybe I set them on the roof, and they blew off???  Or someone else found them? But how would they know they were ours?

Mysteries of life.

I'm incredibly happy with finishing 2nd in the division - it was a brutal year, and just overcoming it all to have any kind of athletic achievement blows me away.  I'm 100% reenergized for next year - ready to start training now and kick ass!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Zwift: Completing All the Routes - COMPLETE! - Part 2 - Route Ranking

Part 2!

Before I started trying to do all of the routes, I didn't really use... routes. Which is kind of a shame, given the really do give you a great overview of all that the worlds have to offer!

So without further ado, here are the Best and Worst Routes of each world, according to... me! 


Best: The Mega Pretzel 

I am going to confess right now - I love the Jungle, and the Mega Pretzel hits it twice. Switch to the mountain bike, pass everyone, weeeeeee!

This route also avoids the dreadfully boring Tempus Fugit, has plenty of climbing (but nothing silly like the Alpe!), and is constantly throwing different things at you.  A great tour of the world.

This one is so popular I'm surely the odd one out, but gawd how do people stand doing mind-numbing flat laps on repeat.  Zzzzz.  

If you love riding in a pack through deathly boring terrain and never having to get out of the saddle, this is the route I guess. Good for tallying up a lot of miles, not much else.

Makuri Islands

A new addition and longer route (22.4km) that spans Neokyo and Yumezi (the countryside) - with a decent climb and lots of riders around to mingle and draft off.  Showcases the world well, without the gravely bits that can be a bit annoying (not long enough to switch bikes, long enough to slow you down). 

A 3.2km route to nowhere, not even a loop, why does this exist?


Lovely tour of the flat parts of London and, of course, Box Hill!

No, it's not the PRL Full - that at least has a purpose (to be really long) and a vibe (loops!).

The London Pretzel meanders without purpose, duplicating flat sections for no apparent reason other than to maybe beef up the mileage?

New York

Stays on the ground, where New York looks like New York! Always lots of traffic, enough hills and terrain changes to keep a person interested.  Timed loop if you want to challenge yourself.

Worst: Most Of Them

Most of the NYC routes are indifferentiable from each other - just some silly doodle with the KOM in one direction or the other, or both.  I intensely dislike the skyway thing, and they almost all use it.

Stick with Park Perimeter Loop or Astoria 8 Line IMO.


Not really worth ranking - there are 2 routes, both flat and not terribly interesting.


Best: R.G.V.

This is one of my favourite routes in the entire game - flat and fast, but still fun! When you ride it in an Event it's a challenge to stay with the pack, with the little tough climb mid-lap and some quick accelerations when you may not expect it as you blast through little ups and downs and S-bends near the end of the lap.

It's not terrible, but the 3km uphill lead-in is annoying. 


Best: 2015 UCI Worlds Course

Lots of fun on this one!  A great little varied course, some stiff climbs, quick descents and fast flats.


It's short, it's fast, and it has a wicked "Leg Snapper" climb to separate the men from the boys! A lot of fun in a race (except for fatties like me!) as the group gets blown apart and re-assembles in time for the next loop of getting blown apart again!

Whose brilliant idea was it to have a huge climb and over 10km Lead In???

Dumb. If you do it as a meet-up you can skip that, but for some reason the regular route includes this silliness. 


You're here, might as well do all the roads in both directions, right?  Nice climbs and little town roads.

3km? 1.7km Lead-in?? Why bother?