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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!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Race Preview: Big East River X

Race Website

I'm doing the 40km solo in my Wenonah Wilderness... it's in the "stock C1" class.

My Boat... so pretty
This one is more just for experience and enjoyment than competitive.  I don't have a racing boat, just a fun little solo ultralight.

Water Flow

I have recently found a great site for river flows, it's the Canada Water Office.

We haven't had massive rain this week, and the flow has reduced since the rain last week... looking good for the up-river portions.


I recently bought the WindFinder Android app, which includes what they call a "Superforecast".  It is pretty super, reasonably accurate from my experience!  It's predicting winds out of the south, which is OK news for the lake portion (headwind on the way back, though).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Race Report: Moraine Relay 2015

Great race, great weather!

First off I just want to thank Mazda for letting me be part of their corporate team, but more importantly for their sponsorship of the Moraine Relay.  It's huge for this organization to have that kind of support, does a lot to make sure the trails stay amazing.

We didn't form our own team this year, so I was a refugee and joined Mazda for a single stage (stage 8).

I parked at the stage finish, then biked back to the start.  During that journey I encountered these guys... pretty sure they have the right of way?  Best to stop and take a picture either way.

Stage 8 is mostly roads, asphault and gravel, and super fast.  Last year I did it in 35 minutes, so that was the bar.  It was a bad headwind, so figured this year it couldn't be any worse.

It was much better.  Wind was out of the south, stage goes west/north, so little bits of tailwind and some very tolerable cross-wind.

I hammered it right from the start - only doing one short stage means you can go all out!  I don't need these legs again, so kill it!

In the end I finished in just over 31 minutes, so killed my 2015 time.  I might win the stage - should be in the running anyway!  Their timing isn't very sophisticated (rounded to the minute) so a bit of a coin toss if it's close.

Edit: I had the fastest time of the day for Stage 8!  Who00t! 

In any case it was nice to be a part of a really great event and a great organization that does great work.  Hope to be back in 2016!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Race Preview: Moraine Adventure Relay 2015

My History At the Moraine Relay

This race is a 14 stage relay, starting with a canoe stage, then a series of mountain bike and trail running stages across the top of Toronto.  You can have teams of 15 or fewer (depending on how many stages each team member is willing to take on!).

We have done it as:

  • 2010 - Trail Pythons
  • 2011 and 2012 - Blood of the Ridge
  • 2013 - Ridge Racers (joined existing team)
  • 2014 - Four Guys Walk Into A Bar

Last year was really great, with only 4 of us it came together really easily, minimal logistics.


This year we couldn't pull the same people together, so it was a choice of actively recruiting or just letting it go for the year.  So we decided to take 2015 off.

... until a few days ago, when a team looking for a cyclist reached out and I signed up!  So I'll be doing Stage 8 again this year, a short fast bike stage.  I have done it a few times, it's mostly roads and fast, the only difficulty being the wind if it's from the West (it almost always is!).  As well there's one rocky/sandy off-road section near the end, but it's short.

Still also have feelers out to see  if anyone needs a canoe team, just to make a full day of it.  Probably not by this point, but who knows!