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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Northumberland County Forest

For a change, we decided to drive a little further out to the amazing Northumberland County Forest.  It was about an hour drive from Whitby, and well worth it.
Start of the Northumblerland Humbler

I had been out here once before for a 30km race I did called the Northumberland Humbler, and I had always meant to return.  Finally made it back.

What a blast!  The singletrack in here is so much fun.  Lots of fast, flowy trails.

Trail Maps

Link to a high res version here.

Stuff we did:

Red Loop - this was a really fun flowy section near the parking lot, a good loop to do a the end to get the juices flowing before you go to the car

Green Loop... kind of - it's less of a loop and more of  bunch of trails.  We started by going to the far south, climbing the really challenging "Hog's Back" climb, then going to the north sections to play around a bit.  Lots of great trails.  Did I mention singletrack?

Dragonfly and Elderberry - Dragonfly was my favourite part - really great singletrack, totally designed for mountain biking.  Lots of banking, flowy stuff, some challenging climbs, just awesome.  Elderberry was much rougher - lots of sticks and leaves on the ground, still fun but more wild.  Lots of poison ivy - we wore long socks, I wouldn't go up that far without them!  In fact I'd stay out of this forest period, it was everywhere, bring socks.

Motorized Singletrack - south of Dunbar, east of Beagle is a chunk of singletrack that dirt bikes can use.  It's really hilly, which wouldn't be so bad but the dirt bikes beat the hell out of the trails... it's all very loose.  It's cool they have an area to go, but I'd generally avoid it while mountain biking.  Oh and they're terrifying when they fly up, even though you hear them coming the speed is something else.

We managed all of that in 2 1/2 hours, despite my buddy being restricted to single speed after a rear derailleur got funky on him - so it's not the hugest property, but definitely enough to keep a person busy for a solid day.

They knocked it out of the park on a few fronts:
  • Fast flowy trails
  • Awesome marking on-trail and maps everywhere
  • Pretty minor sand, considering where we were (compare to Ganaraska for example!)
  • Single-direction trails - so much less stopping, and there's less people in there to begin with
  • Separate area for motorized vehicles (other than having to cross those trails - you could avoid them entirely)
And most of all everyone was super friendly - it was amazing, even when we first pulled in a guy came up and asked us if it was our first time there and started giving us advice about which trails to check out!  That doesn't happen closer to the city, very nice.

Well done, Northumberland, thanks for the great day!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Race Report: Rockstar Adventure Race (4 hour)

My buddy and I did the 4 hour version of the Rockstar Adventure Race.

Great race, lots of fun.

Edit: We Won!  Top team of 2 male!  Results

Stage 1: Short Run + Mountain Bike

The race started with about a 1.5km run, before heading out on bikes.  This was presumably to spread out the bikes before hitting the trails - very good idea indeed!

By the time we got biking the skies had really opened up.  I was quickly into the red, badly... just the heat, humidity, and fast start really kicked me in the nuts.  I pushed to keep up with my buddy but a few times had to slow us down.

Stage 2:  Running and canoeing and random weird stuff

After this point we had over 3 hours left to visit as many checkpoints as possible.  We were given a map of all the checkpoints with brief descriptions of each.  You could paddle (canoe) or run to all of them, your choice.

A few of them were goofy challenge things - like you had to go out on a rubber inner tube to a flag in the middle of a pond, or dive to the bottom of the lake to retrieve a CD, or use a slingshot...

Each was worth a certain amount of points (30/40/50/60/80).

The first problem was our plan had been to canoe first - but because of the storm we weren't allowed on the water.  Instead we did one of the running loops to pick up two 50 and two 40 point checkpoints.  That went pretty well and fast.

After that we did the canoe to the paddleboard station, where we had to use the stand-up paddle board to retrieve a flag from a buoy.  My buddy did that one, went well.

Next we paddled to everything we had intended to paddle to.  Our big mistake was in our planning we thought we could hit them all, so we didn't spend a whole lot of time strategizing on which to put the highest priority on.  Sometimes you could nail off a bunch of 30/40 pointers in quick succession (ie. on the boat) but other ones like the inner tube just took way too much time.  We had to run about a kilometer each way, carrying an inner tube, plus the time to swim out - it took way too long for 60 points!

As a result we missed out on the 80 point one, just ran out of time.

At the end we had a choice to nail off a 30 and 40 point one one by running or to canoe back to the finish and try the goofy ones near there.  We chose to do the run - which I think was the right choice!  Except the skis opened up - massive terrifying lightning and thunder.  Some of the flashes were so close, there was nothing between the flash and the thunder.  Freaky!

Because of the storm we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere and couldn't paddle back to the finish in time.  It's supposed to be a 10 point penalty every minute you're late, we were very very late.  But they stayed true to not penalizing people for being stuck off the lake, so what would have been a 290 point penalty was reversed.


We won!  I know we weren't the fastest team, but I think we made best of our 4 hours.  Maybe not perfectly, but well enough to win.

It was a really good time.  The format was cool, lots of thinking and even the navigation was pretty darn cool.  Other than my being in the red for half the race I thought we did really well, learned a few things for next time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Race Preview: RockstAR Adventure Race

Race website

Adventure Race - mostly adventure from the sound of it.

Marked mountain bike course, then run/canoe through woods and water to as many checkpoints as possible before 4 hours is up.  8 hours for the brave!

This race is put on by the same folks who run Storm the Trent. We had a great time, it was well run, so why not try another one?

I've heard rumours of having to dive to the bottom of lakes, paddle inner tubes... and other nonsense.  OK calling it nonsense is a little strong - I'm sure it's "fun" but I like racing more than fooling around!  Hopefully that goofy stuff doesn't take up too much of the 4 hours and the rest will be more of an endurance and orienteering test.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rail Trails: Uxbridge to Lindsay, Beaver River Wetland Trail

Had a great ride today!

This is the route:

Uxbridge to Blackwater Junction: 0km-15km

We drove to Uxbridge and started in this park, which had a little linking trail over to the Rail Trail.

Kilometers 1-15 were on the Uxbridge-Lindsay rail trail.  This section followed the Beaver River Wetlands, very pretty and natural.

Blackwater Junction to Sunderland/Cannington/Woodville: 15km - 32km

Blackwater used to be a real railway junction - at this point you can either travel north up to Cannington/Woodville or east toward Lindsay.

We followed the Beaver River Wetland Trail north first.  This trail has been massively improved since I last rode it - all but about 5km is nice hardpacked small gravel, very well groomed and flat.  The other 5km is the old rail bed, which has suffered from some serious frost heave... we were on mountain bikes so no trouble at all, really not that bad.

Sunderland is the only tricky part - the trail sends you off onto Highway 7 and you have to go through the Esso/Co-op parking lot to get back on it.  Poor sign-age to tell you how to do this, so bring Google or just poke around...

The other somewhat annoying thing is the north end of the trail ends abruptly before you get to Woodville... you're punted out to roads as the trail is fenced off (private property apparently).  You can choose to go north Woodville to refuel, or skip it like we did.  Sorry Woodville, fix your trail.

Woodville area to Oakwood (road): 32km-52km

This isn't trail, it's just a road link we made to get to the other rail trail... but gave the opportunity to restock on Gatorade and ice cream at the corner store in Oakwood.  Mmm, Kawartha ice cream!  Roads were generally not too busy and nice country (if you like farms).

Oakwood to Uxbridge: 52km-84km

This stretch of rail trail runs all the way to Lindsay, but we picked it up mid-route just south of Oakwood.

Back to very well groomed rail trail, really nice.  I thought this part was just going to be us out in the open surrounded by farmland - I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of variety.  Farms gave way to forest which eventually turned back to the marsh, as we returned to the Blackwater-to-Uxbridge section we had started on.

Review and Unsolicited Advice

The trails were mostly really good.  We rode mountain bikes this time, but a cyclocross or hybrid would be more than capable.

I was struck by how removed all of these rail corridors are from humanity.  You pass the odd house or farm and cross roads here and there, but there are very long stretches when it was just us, the bikes, and nature.  Serene!

They do slow you down more than you might expect.  I can usually keep around 30km/h on the road bike solo over a long ride, but we averaged just 22km/h.  We weren't hammering it, but I honestly don't think we'd have gone that much faster - the trails are sometimes a bit soft and it really slows things down.  Not to mention mountain bikes aren't that fast to begin with!

I'd say the Blackwater up to Woodville part was probably the most interesting, followed by Uxbridge to Blackwater.  The Blackwater-Lindsay stretch was better than expected but nothing too exciting.

Finally if you like rail trails I would highly recommend the Victoria Rail Trail, especially starting up in Fenlon Falls and heading to Kinmount - that is even better IMO!  And if I ever get the time I really want to follow it up to Haliburton.  Next adventure, maybe.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cycling - Headwind in Every Direction! Here's why.

I came up with the simple explanation.

Stick your head out of the window next time you're driving on the highway.  That 100km/h (60 mph?) gust you feel is not really wind, but you moving through the air at 100km/h.

And that is why you feel a headwind on the bike.

If the air is completely still and you are moving 30km/h through it - the amount of air hitting you is exactly what it would be if you were standing around in a 30km/h wind! 

The only way you'll feel like there isn't a headwind?  If the air is moving faster than you in the direction you are moving.

So really, next time you feel the headwind where you don't think it should be, just remember it's your reward for going so darn fast.  Congrats!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Breaking the Stupid 10% Running Rule

There's this old adage in running that says never increase your mileage more than 10% in a week.  EVER.


She even refers to it as "one of the most important and time-proven principles in running"

Wow.  Serious business.  Surely that 10% must come from some very rigorous science to be so strongly entrenched!

Nope.  Someone pulled it out of their butt, other people repeated it, and it became running gospel. 

This kind of anti-scientific stuff drives me crazy.  I've frequently broken this so-called rule - in fact this year I've run once a week as many times as I've managed twice a week.  And guess what... 

... nothing bad happened.  I got to run more.  It was great.

A Better Rule

What rule do I follow instead?  It's the "listen to your body" rule.  If something doesn't feel right, give it attention.  If everything feels fine, give 'er.  It's worked way better than arbitrary percentages pulled out of people's butts.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Paddling Conditions - Wind and Water Flow (Canada)

As I do more paddling, I've found it increasingly important to know the conditions.  This is especially true on large bodies of water (wind!) and up/down rivers and creeks (water flow).

Water Flow (Hydrometric Data)


This is an invaluable resource.  Live updated water flow data from stations across Canada, telling you in very near real time just what rivers/creeks are doing.

The water levels and discharge usually track each other pretty closely, but if you're going into a river/creek that has shallow areas it's good to know when the levels are high enough for you to have clearance.

This weekend I paddled the Big East River as part of a race - I had heard the currents can be very strong, so I compared last year's data to this year's and realized the flow was about 50% of what it had been, so it was going to be fine.


Screenshot from Windfinder
Android App (Pro)
There are two forecasts - the so-called "Superforecast" seems more reliable generally (apparently it uses more data sources).  And it has the word "super", so it goes without saying it would be great, right?  Who do you trust more, "man", or "superman"?

There is also a WindFinder phone app - I bought the Android version, it's handy, lets you save favourite locations and such.

My wisdom about wind on a large body of water:  the more water the wind travels over to get to you, the bigger the waves.  So if you have a wind out of the north but you also have shore to your north, you'll have protection... if you are on the south shore and have an entire lake to your north, look out!

Also wind can really impact the boat's handling, tends to spin you ways you're not trying to go.  You often end up paddling on one side what seems to be forever just to go straight...