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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...


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Race Report: Big East River X (40km solo)

The Race

40km of paddling, starting in Huntsville (Ontario).  Mostly river paddling, first up-river, then down-river... with  small lake thrown in.

Really well run event - great people, and how can you beat a $12 pub voucher for the post-race meal?  You can't!

My Race

This was my first time in a canoe race this long (previous longest was 20km!), and also my first solo.  Seems like a bad combination.

I used my Wenonah Wilderness canoe, which is not a racing boat really... so this was more just about racing myself than everyone else.  I ended up 4th in category, which was a little disappointing... I didn't see any other boats out there ahead of me that looked like C1 "stock" - turns out it includes some really narrow fancy boats!  Mine's almost 30" at the waterline, some of the other stock C1s are 22"... I thought they were proboats but guess not!

Things I Found Out

  • 5 hours and 25 minutes of paddling is hell on the butt.  Why the butt!?  I don't completely know.  It's almost like the bending over stretches out the muscles that connect through it, combined with sitting for that long... I mean it seriously hurts, like can't sit on uncushioned chair hurts!
  • 5 hours and 25 minute s of paddling is blister inducing.  Both hands, blisters everywhere, 8 in all.  One popped near the end, that hurt until it was over
  • I can maintain a pretty steady pace for 5 hours and 25 minutes!  Other than the aforementioned butt/blisters, I actually felt remarkably good through the whole thing.  
On to My Race In More Detail Than You Probably Care About... Feel Free to Skip!

The Start and Up the Muskoka River

It was a mass start, not sure how many boats but 50 or more.

Given my lack of competitive ambition and knowledge that my solo stock canoe would be slow, I lingered a bit farther back at the start.  

Gun went off, I started in clean water, and just looked for boats that were about my speed.  All in all it was a pretty clean start (although one kayaker managed to find his way into the drink - oops!)

After awhile I managed to tag onto the back of a C2 (2-person) canoe paddled by two rather exceptional teenage girls.  I bit awkward being a 40 year old dude drafting off teenagers, but I got over it when I felt that headwind - yikes!  

The Lake Part 1

About 3.5km in you stop going up the Muskoka River and dump into a lake.  This was a little choppy, but nothing compared to the way back... I'll get to that though!  My speed to this point was pretty good, wind was at our backs, felt great.

Big East River - Upstream With a Paddle

The river started out quite wide and with a slow current, so at first I figured this was a piece of cake!  I was holding my own against a few of the C2s anyway, live was good.

As we went further and further the current got trickier and trickier.  At times it was quite strong, and lots of corners.

My boat corners really well, and doing all the time I do in Duffins Creek in Ajax I'm pretty good at knowing where to stick the boat.  Passed a few floundering C2's on the way up, and generally felt OK... although I was very ready to turn around by the turn-around point!  That was almost 3 hours into my race, more than I'd ever paddled, and it was only halfway.  

Big East River - Downstream 

At first the river was fast, and again my ability to read currents and get my boat in the right places had me keeping up with the boats around me.  But as it slowed down and the currents eased off, it got harder and harder... I didn't really run out of energy, but my advantages slipped away and I got passed by two of the C2s that I'd passed going the other way (including those teenage girls - the horror!)

The Lake Part 2

The wind had really picked up, so there was a fair bit of chop on the lake.  I had kind of hoped this would work to my favour but I watched as the C2 teams pulled away, and one from behind caught up (to the point I could hear them doing their "huts").  This was my toughest section, my little boat got tossed around pretty good, hard to keep momentum.

Muskoka River and Finish Line!

Finally we turned back onto the Muskoka River.  The 3.5km that had gone by so quickly on the way up felt like forever, even with the nice tailwind...

Midway back I felt a blister in my hand pop.  Between that pain and my butt pain I was really ready to be done!

I hustled to make sure I stayed ahead of the aforementioned C2, and finished just shy of my 7km/h goal (6.9km/h... so close!)

All in all a good day, did about as well as I'd expected I could.  Not sure how eager I am to do another solo canoe race, having a partner is a nice advantage!