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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Biking in the Snow 2: the Snow Strikes Back

This was the scene today in Durham Forest.

This week: 0C, wet, mud

It rained all night in town, so to pull up and see snow was a bit surprising.

It was ALSO surprising to see Whitby's own Emily Batty, one of the world's best women's mountain bikers (top 5 if you believe in Olympic results), and her husband (who was doing pretty impressive wheelies through the parking lot)... and about a dozen other cars parked with bike racks!

So we went for it.

Fortunately the temperature was right around zero... still a bit of mud, but not too terrible (and nothing that would do too much damage to the trails I hope - always have to think about that!).  By the end the ice pellets and snow had built up enough that the mud was a non-factor (but not cold enough to freeze up the moisture).  It was pretty perfect.

Last week was deeper snow, about 2 inches on the ground, and colder:

Last Week: -5C, 2" snow

Last week it hadn't rained, so it being below zero wasn't a problem - there wasn't any standing water to freeze up under the snow.  The roots were very very slippery, but the traction on the snow was perfect.

That's the real trick with snow riding - fat bike, 29'er, CX - none of them can deal with ice.  None of them can actually deal with a lot of unpacked snow (despite the fat bike hype, they really can't).

There's a sweet spot, and when you get it?  Ride on, baby.

Ride.  On.


Everything is slippery.  Roots especially.

I had my back wheel fly out on me and had a "moment" on what would barely register as a curve... just a tiny little wet/cold root and whoooosh.

Angle of attack is everything.  Perpendicular.  Don't rely on grip on roots - not for traction to move forward, not for steering, it's just not there.  Speed is your friend - use your momentum.  It's also your enemy if you crash... but mostly it's your friend.

Be careful.  Enjoy.  It's fun.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Paris to Ancaster: No Race Day Plate Pick-up

I registered for what will be my 12th Paris to Ancaster.  Early, to get both the discount and ensure I was in a decent wave (which last year, I wasn't!).

... and was met with this message on confirmation.

Race Kit/Plate pick up:
Saturday, April 29 2018 – Ancaster Community Centre - 12 to 5pm.

Wait, what?  

A race with people coming from all over the GTA (and beyond), and now you expect them to come to Ancaster twice?

For me, that's about 3 extra hours of driving.  For some an extra hour, 2 hours, 4 hours.  Or, if you believe their comments on social media - they're going to just not come out at all.

Not cool, P2A.  Not.  Cool.

I hope they reconsider - the reaction on-line has been pretty swift.  I get that race-day pick-up is a pain in the ass for them, but it's a pain in the ass for hundreds of people if they don't offer it (not to mention the wastefulness of people driving out twice).

Honestly, if this stays this way, it could quite easily be my 12th and last P2A.  It's really not worth it for me to drive out twice. I hope enough people vote with their feet on this one, if the RD doesn't reconsider.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Halloween Candy as Fuel

I have a lot of left-over Halloween candy, so it occurred to me - why pay for more sugar (Gatorade) when I can just gobble some Halloween goodies?

Rockets?  Or Smarties?
Referencing the information I got from the Velonews FastTalk Podcast, the answer is pretty much "go for it".

... as long as the primary sugar is glucose, not fructose.

Fortunately here in Canada, most of our candy is either made from real sugar (sucrose contains 50/50 glucose/fructose), or from glucose/sugar mix (ie. dextrose). 

In the U.S. it's a bit tougher to find candy not made from high-fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose), which can contain more fructose than you really want for exercise.

Rockets are one of my favourites (or "Smarties" in the U.S., which are entirely different from our "Smarties" which are made of chocolate!).  30 calories of Dextrose (glucose) goodness per roll.

Also Swedish Berries... glucose syrup, yummmm! 


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cold Rainy Biking - What To Wear

Wet.  Cold.  Dreary.  Brr.

I just did a race where the bike was shortened due to participants getting too cold.

The temperature was about +8C (+46F) - which in fall in Ontario is not particularly unusual - a bit on the low side, but it happens.

What made it so much worse, though, was the rain.  It wasn't pouring, but sprinkling just enough to keep you soaked to the bone the entire ride.

I've done a lot of bad weather racing (off-road/spring crazy Paris to Ancaster stuff) but this one stung.  Road bikes are fast, which creates........


Cyclists make their own wind.  Going 30km/h on a still day is like standing in a 30km/h wind - when you're wet, it gets miserable, fast.  The evaporation of the water sucks heat away from your body and leaves you ice cold.

The main strategy, then, is to block the wind.  Wear layers that don't let the air through.

Torso and arms and legs

I think we all know how to block wind here, don't we?  Yet I saw so many people wearing just cycling jerseys with arm/leg warmers that didn't look very wind blocky.  Crazy!


The folks officiating the race said people's hands became so cold they couldn't operate their gears or brakes.

Completely avoidable... I was wearing Head Cross-Country ski gloves, didn't have any trouble at all!  They're designed to be wet in cold temperature but keep your hands warm.  There are lots of options like this - I'd imagine most people didn't really think of winter-oriented gloves for a fall race, but that's what it takes.


This is where I suffered - I could have used feet covers to keep the wind off my feet, but it was a duathlon and those transitions need to be fast.  I stupidly skipped out on them, and as a result my feet were freeeezing.  It even caused some cramping at one point.

Bottom line - wear coverings that keep your feet dry as possible, but most of all block the wind.

... Or Stay Home

Seriously, go for a run instead (significantly reduces the wind issue, as long as it's not windy!), use the indoor trainer... if it wasn't a race, I wouldn't have been out there.  It was pretty miserable, even reasonably well prepared and appropriately dressed.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Race Report: Overdrive Race & Relay Series Duathlon (Standard Distance)

The Track.  Wet.  This is the only flat part.
I have so much to say.

What a wild ride this race was.

I showed up at the race site with a lot of trepedation - I knew sign-ups were low, and the weather was going to be awful.  Maybe +8C, and raining the entire race.  I didn't know what to expect, at all.

The Venue: Mosport (aka Canadian Tire Motorsport Park)

The venue was really excellent, spectacular.  I've done a lot of races where everything was tents and porta-potties - here we had a first class building, washrooms, even a change room area. 

Not only that - the building looks out over the Grand Prix circuit, where the race would be taking place.  Great for spectators who didn't want to brave the weather!  And because the race was laps, you would see the racers pass over and over.


The Grand Prix circuit was wonderful too - it's one of the original natural terrain race circuits, with plenty of elevation change (more on that later) - and surrounded by trees.  Fall colours, very pretty!

Race organizers had everything sorted out top notch - lots of room to rack bikes, porta-potties, lots of parking.  Nice bibs, chip timing.  All top notch.

Run #1 (10.5km)

We did the pre-race briefing in the rain, sprinkling, but constant.

I looked around and was struck by just how good everyone looked... caught some bits of conversation, and it was clear most of the folks here were braving the weather to get qualifying spots for the World Duathlon Championships. 

This was pretty much confirmed when the race started and everyone took off, leaving me in the dust!  Of the 20-25 participants I was 4th from last (and dead last of the men!).

(This seems like a good time to note that my goal was "ride the Grand Prix circuit at Mosport" - I wasn't really "racing" as such, and I'm pretty mired in off-season not-training right now!!!)

The run course started with a short hilly/rough 2.5km loop of the infield, followed by two 4km laps of the full Grand Prix circuit. 

The 2.5km was tough - steep climbs, some gravel.  I tried to just keep within myself and not get left entirely in the dust.

The 4km Grand Prix circuit was amazing, but there's about 100m of the 4km that are flat (I may be overestimating).  The rest of the time you're going either up or down.  The first half of the track is mostly downhill, then you get to Turn 5 at the far end and it's allllll uphill to the start/finish straight.

I really enjoyed the run, just stayed within myself, didn't get too fussed about my position.

Ride (40km)

The ride consisted of 10 laps of the 4km Grand Prix circuit.

I was pretty tentative at first - we'd been warned it was slick out there, and last thing I wanted to do was crash.  I do enough of that on my mountain bike!

The climb on the backstraight... oh my gawd, it was tough.  The first time through I was in a bit of a not good place, and my low gear didn't seem spinny enough for it.  It hurt! 

Second lap I had gained a lot of confidence.  I noticed my descending was awesome compared to most of the people I found around me.  Guys who flew by me up the hill couldn't match my pace descending - I had a road set-up (not a TT set-up) and the bike just felt awesome under me.  I barely braked at all on the lap, used my momentum downhill to get up the other side as much as I could!

My lap times:
9:09 (shorter due to where the mount line was)
9:26 (???)

During my 6th lap, someone passed me and made a comment about how tough it was.  I said "if I never go up this hill again it would be too soon!"

So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the 6th lap, they were diverting us into the transition!  I told them "I haven't finished 10 laps yet"... but apparently the race director and the Triathlon Ontario folks had decided it was too dangerous due to the cold.  Some folks had hypothermia or something.

My immediate reaction was to be a little pissed... the weather was not unexpected, if people didn't dress for it, isn't that on them?

But on the other hand it's pretty unusual to run duathlons this late - the crowd wasn't like the hardened Paris to Ancaster crowd that expects snow and what have you. 

So I get it.  Frankly in that weather I'd pretty much had my fill anyway.

Run #2 (5km)

This run was two more loops of the infield circuit. 

I hadn't really finished my nutrition plan, and my pacing was assuming 4 more bike laps, so I was kind of thrown off at first.  I figured I'd drank enough to just forgo any more liquids and finish - so that's what I did.

It was a little weird - I had no idea at this point who I was racing and who I wasn't.  Was the person catching up to me someone who had done the same number of bike laps?  More?  Fewer?  There was just no way to know.

As I started my last lap, I caught up to one lady and passed her - and spotted another lady about 400m behind me.  I knew she'd been catching me steadily as she hadn't been there before... so I got some fire in my belly.  I wanted to hold her off, this became my new goal.

Less than 1km from the end I could hear someone behind me.  Footsteps, getting louder.  CRAP.

... except it wasn't her, it was some dude, one that clearly had a LOT of pace, so not someone I was really racing against!  Whew.  Except at that moment I looked over my shoulder - and there she was. 

We were going uphill, she was closing in.  I could hear her getting closer.  I tried to find another gear, it wasn't there. 


Closer still.

As we finally got to the top of the hill I could tell she was right behind me... but now we were close enough I could tap into that anerobic stuff that I had left and finish strong!  So I did - I put it all out there and sprinted to the finish.

Whew.  Tired, wet.  Gross.


Totally cool medal - the Grand Prix circuit map!
The medal is so awesome.   At least for me - as someone who loved the circuit before I ever arrived, having gone to a bunch of car races there... really neat!

This race was perfect except for one thing...

The Date.

Triathletes wrap up in September - this was just too late to draw a decent crowd.  I heard guys talking about it after, they had a hard time keeping their training going to hit this race with anything. 

And the weather can be awful - in this case, it was really, really awful. 

It made it memorable and epic - but not everyone likes this kind of memorable and epic.

An evening in June or July that doesn't conflict with another multisport event and it could work.  The venue is great, the event well organized.  Exceeded my expectations.

And best of all I finally got to ride the Grand Prix circuit at Mosport!  I've wanted to do that since I first saw it.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Race Preview: Overdrive Race & Relay Series Duathlon

Tomorrow I'm racing the Overdrive Race & Relay Series Duathlon.

Me at Mosport, 2004
This will be a chance to ride/run the awesome Mosport race circuit in Bowmanville (now called Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

The Race

10.5km run, 40km bike, 5k run

The run includes 2 laps of the Grand Prix circuit, the bike is 10 laps!  Should be really cool.

Racers Ready?

In the last email there were only about 25 people signed up, split between Sprint/Standard distances.  That's a shockingly low number in a province where triathlons/duathlons get hundreds pretty routinely.

So it's going to be a little weird.

I have a bunch of thoughts, but the Cole's Notes version - October is late and could be cold, not everyone has a draft-legal bike, and the number of events initially on the calendar was really confusing... it wasn't clear who the event was meant to be for, who the target audience was.  There's so much potential here, the venue is really neat - but again, not sure how much of the triathlon/running/cycling community really knows about it. 

The Weather

We're looking at almost certain rain and temperatures around +10C ... so it's going to be a pretty crap day.

I'll gut it out, because I really want to ride the Grand Prix circuit.  I have wanted to since the first time I saw it attending a race there.  It's just so cool.

It will likely be lonely out there though!  Draft-legal race, with nobody to draft.  Sniff.  Drafting in the rain kind of sucks anyway.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mountain Biking Hardwood Ski & Bike, near Barrie, Ontario

Hardwood Ski and Bike is a private mountain biking facility near Barrie, Ontario.

This is my second time riding here, but the first was at an 8h event and we did a 10k loop over and over - so I haven't really experienced riding here properly.

We are very spoiled to have Durham Forest and the other free trails near our place... so driving 1.5h and paying $15 to ride was a tough sell.

... but is it ever worth it!


The singletrack is purely for mountain biking. 

No dogs.
No hikers.
NO DOGS!!! (sorry for the obsession, but had some recent off-leash dog experiences I'd rather avoid!)

Just mountain biking.

Oh and all the trails are single direction only - so you can bomb down the trails without worrying about riders coming the other way.


The trails are categorized by difficulty - Easy, Medium, Advanced, Very Advanced.

Lots of obstacles - log-overs, man-made bridge things, rock piles/gardens.  They all had bail-out options, so if you're feeling brave you hit it, if you're not you go around easily.

Only complaint - there were a lot of branches down - I guess from the recent wind storms?  They claim to keep them clear, but they weren't... my only minor beef, and it's one that's probably not a problem most of the time.

We started with a "Medium to Advanced" trail called Serious.  It was really cool, except my buddy bit it on a rock within the first 10 minutes!  Just one of those things, we were new to the area and a bit tentative, and mountain biking doesn't reward the tentative. 

After that we took on the "Advanced" trail Gnarly - which lived up to its name.  It had everything - roots, rocks, man-made obstacles (bridges/etc), and really tough sharp climbs.  Really beat me up!  My legs were burning by the end, especially the climbing down in the south-west section near the end of the loop. I think the section was called "Hill and Dale"... it was brutal.

Stopped for lunch - another benefit of the place is there are actual (gasp!) facilities!  You can buy food, replenish water, hit the washroom... all very civilized. 

After lunch we took some faster easier trails - Crank'd and Fun.  Both were fun, but I really loved Fun.  Not technical but there are things you can choose to do (Parry's Planks?) and some fast flowy really fun stuff along the way.

All in all a great day, and well worth the $15.  Definitely worth a few trips up next year!