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Friday, September 25, 2020

Race Report: Fall Epic 8h - COVID edition


The Start

Normally the start at these races is crowded and horrible... hundreds of people in a giant bunch, storming up some double track and eventually all getting to singletrack and having to wait if they're not in the first dozen or so riders.

I didn't miss that!

Today, instead, you could start whenever you wanted.  Peaceful.

The First Lap and The Course

I literally had the entire course to myself - I was the second person to start today, didn't catch the guy in front of me and nobody caught up to me.

Very nice "recon" lap - and it also ended up being my fastest lap. 

One thing I noticed straight away - lots of singletrack, right from the hop.  Since they didn't have a mass start, I guess they didn't have to worry about spreading people out.  Climbing on real trails was kind of nice, better than trudging up the lonnnnnng double track climb at Hardwood Hills!

There was still one steep double track climb, and I dreaded it every lap - but far better.

The theme of this course seemed to be "very doable singetrack" - there really wasn't any feature you HAD to take that was particularily difficult.  I had difficulty with one log-over, it was right on a turn and you had to really heave your front end - my back has been bugging me and first lap it screamed "don't do that again", so I didn't.  Other than that I was able to ride everything.

The other things I wasn't quite ready for - the last km in the previous race I did was easy peasy.  This time they threw us onto the Pan Am course!  It was not easy peasy.  Rideable, but in that closing km I wanted to just bomb down a hill and be done!

All in all a beautiful course that takes in a lot of the best of Hardwood Hills, really enjoyed it.

Lap 2

This lap was scrappy as hell for me and I'm not sure why.  Just never quite got a rhythm.

Lap 3, 4, 5

... in fact the entire first half was scrappy as hell!  Finally settled in a bit near the 4th hour, but before that I was overcooking the climbs, dying, back was hurting, hamstrings, just everything.

Ultra Endurance Events

I haven't done anything like this in awhile, and I forget just how much your mind messes with you.

"You can stop after this lap, grab lunch and be home with a beer in a few hours..... rather than torturing yourself....."

I was pretty gassed at times, joyful and fine at others.  The pains come, they go.  

But the mental part of it is the toughest.

I mentioned I had some back problems - so the key for me was to keep loose and smooth, not clench up.  I managed to finally find that happy place, and then things got better.

Lap 6, 7, 8, 9, 10...

I want to say I "mailed them in" and I kind of did.  Call it pacing, but I really needed to manage myself today to make sure I could endure...

I never had a lights-out lap but I was pretty steady, laps were within a few minutes of each other from lap 3 on.  A few minutes under 50 for the most part.  Not lighting the world on fire by any stretch!

Ultimately I finished strong and with a smile on my face.

I did 100km which was my main goal.

My back didn't get screwed up.

All good!


Pulse Racing did a great job pulling together an event in a year when events were almost non-existent.  It was awesome being out there, on the course it barely felt different (except way less TRAFFIC which I didn't really miss haha!)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Race Preview: Epic Fall 8h - COVID edition

Personal Update (feel free to skip)

Haven't blogged much this year, so quick update.  COVID has been actually... pretty good for me.

I've lost 20lbs so far, biked more than usual, and just generally enjoyed exploring the world on my gravel bike.  Working from home means hitting the bike at 4 or 5, hours to enjoy the world all summer!

Alberta Gravel Farmland
Took a road trip to visit family in Alberta so hit some new gravel roads there, it was a hoot exploring my home town.

Then a crash at Hardwood Hills took me out a few weeks ago - it was a bad one, from height (clipped a tree entering a bridge feature thing).  X-rays negative, but lots of pain for a couple weeks.  Just emerging now.

But enough about me... the race! 


A race!  Finally!

The format is simple - you have 8h to do as many laps as you can.  Most laps wins

I've done this one once before solo, way back in 2013.

That was before COVID... so there was a mass start, course crowding (especially on lap 1!) and a party atmosphere.

With COVID the race has already started - in fact this is the last weekend to do it!  Every day has a cap of 100 riders total, start whenever you want, keep track of your own lap times... it's on the honour system.

I assume most people will be honourable, but I'm not fighting for podiums so not anything I need to get too fussed about either way.

My Readiness and Plan

The crash from a few weeks ago set me back a little, but not tooooo much.  I was able to bike pretty much a week after, and last weekend put 200km on my gravel bike over 8h - so I'm back in business.  Did a quick mountain bike yesterday just to make sure the back was OK, it was.

Last time I did this I took a bottle per lap and that worked out well.  I don't have 10+ bottles that fit in the cage of my new bike though, so I might have to stop and refill at some point from a jug.  I toyed with chugging a litre of fluid between laps and not keeping anything on the bike, maybe that's still an option.

There is a 100km pin award if you can get 10 laps in - so that's the goal.  The course will really dictate more than anything how feasible that is, I should know after lap 1 whether I can do it!  The last lap has to be done by 8h30m so that is a 51 minute lap max, including the time spent stopped.

I just remember how shredded my body was after 11 laps in 7h50m last time... not sure I would be even able to mail in a late lap if it would put me over 8h... but I guess we'll see?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Ride Report: Simcoe County Loop Trail - 160km of gravelly goodness

Simcoe County Loop Trail

I'm back for a Ride Report!

The Simcoe County Loop Trail is a 160km loop, mostly on rail trail, and mostly gravel.

Most people seem to start/finish in Barrie and travel clockwise, but we chose Orillia instead as it was closer to home.

We did it in one day, although lots of people split it up to enjoy what's along the trail.

Main site with GPX/etc:

My Strava:

Hot Tips

OK so before I dig into the segment by segment report... here's my advice.  Take it or leave it!

  • Direction: Clockwise vs Counterclockwise - I think Clockwise was the right call - otherwise the sloggiest gravel is in your last third of the ride (if you start/end in Barrie).  Nobody wants that.
  • Day of Week:  Even on a weekday in mid-June, the waterfront in Barrie and Midland were pretty busy.  On a weekend in July, it would be annoying... they aren't super long sections, so it's not a deal breaker if you can only do a weekend, but just be ready to pack some patience
  • Bike: I did it on a pretty typical Cyclocross/Gravel bike, with 700x33 tires. There were a few parts I could have used something wider, others I could have used something narrower, I think if you're comfortable generally on 700x33 you'll be fine. I'd use the same if doing it again tomorrow.
  • Water: Free spring water in Elmvale!  That was the only stop we made in our 7h ride.  There are a several major/minor towns you could stop in along the way.
  • Parking: Orillia had free parking by the waterfront, easy peasy if you're not parking overnight. Not sure about Barrie or other start/finish points, or overnight parking - see the main site maybe for advice on that.

Orillia to Barrie

We started at the Orillia waterfront, and made our way through town to the start of the rail trail.

This was probably the best rail trail surface, packed and consistely good gravel all the way to Barrie.  Not a lot to see - despite the map looking like it's along the water, it's really not, until you arrive in town.


Waterfront was fairly busy, but we made our way through easily enough.

Then ... the trail ends, and it's through town.  Busy town, no real bike infrastructure, not all that pleasant.  Would be great if the town realized what an asset they have in these trails and this loop and fixed this!

Finally leaving town - you exit on a paved country road, which seems like it's going nowhere... until boom, you continue past a T intersection into a charming bit of woods!  Really nice little trail.

Then.. more pavement. I was getting pretty sick of the Barrie area by this point (and certainly wouldn't want this to be my closing kilometers of the ride, so don't go counter-clockwise from Barrie!!!)

There is one section along a road called Snow Valley Road where there is a trail, but it's not clear whether you are "supposed" to take it.  We took it, it's slower but pleasant.  It ends and you're back on road.

Rail Trail!

Finally back onto rail trail!  Yay. 
Water Stop in Elmvale!

The surface of this one alternates, sometimes it was great, other times not so much.  There are some pretty loose and sandy sections here, and it's a sloggy grind at times.  Still fun and rideable, but sloggy.

We stopped at the spring water in Elmvale - cold, refreshing, allegedly the cleanest water in the world!  It's just south of the trail on 27 at the top of the town, don't miss it, little red barn thing.

The trail continues to alternate between good and bad to Wyevale, after which it's good!


My favourite trails of the loop were the forest blast into Penetanguishene and out of it.

The way in - the trail seems to still follow some kind of rail trail, but the bridges have been replaced and it dips and turns and dives through the forest.  So much fun!  Be careful when wet, those bridges can be sketchy...

The waterfront section was short, and then there are some killer in-town climbs to remind your legs what climbing is all about...

Finally there's a blast out of town on some awesome paved trails, winds down a hill through forest, so much fun.  Seems to be some side trails worth exploring on a mountain bike too??

Eventually you emerge from forest and into...


Pavement continues along the shore.

The shore is lined with homes and apartments, with the beach on the other side of the trail from the properties... this could be pretty sketchy if it's busy, be cautious!

There is industry and lake and stuff.  It's nice.

From here you're on pavement for a good long stretch.  It's nice, but there are a lot of road crossings to slow down for.

Waubaushene to Orillia via Coldwater

Finally the pavement comes to an end, and it's back to the gravel we know you all love!

Eventually you're on the Uhthoff Trail, which takes you into Orillia.  This section was a bit boring to be honest, long stretches of straight former railway with fields or kind of repetitive trees.  They did a great job replacing some old bridges though, mostly well maintianed (a couple sections weren't but they were still fast and good).


Finally back at the finish, 160km later.

Overall Impression

It's an interesting enough loop.  The best parts are at the top along the Georgia Bay communities.  The rest is pretty typical Ontario Rail Trail - gravel, fields, trees, flat.

Not sure I'd be in a rush to do it again but worth doing once.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Leftover Halloween Candy as Fuel

Day After Halloween Shame
Worth revisiting every Halloween - my post on Halloween Candy As Fuel!

It links to a really informative podcast about fuel and candy, and how so much of the sugar in candy isn't materially different from what is in your sports drink.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Race Preview #1: Muskoka River X Classic (130km canoe)

What Is It?

Muskoka River X, Ferry Lake 2017
The Muskoka River X is a 130km canoe race, going down one branch of the Muskoka River and up the other!

It starts and finishes near Huntsville ... crosses lakes, features 20 portages around dams and waterfalls... it's adventure and a half.

My Muskoka River X's

We first did the 80km "Sprint" in 2016 then again in 2017...  figured this was the year to step up to the 130km "Classic".

2016 was a bit of a disaster.  It rained, the wind made Lake of Bays a complete beast.  We messed up most of the portages, getting out at the wrong place or on the wrong side, dropping the boat, I even gashed open my knee falling on rock.  And we flipped after hitting a rock in some rapids/swifts!

It couldn't have gone much worse.

2017 we went out before the race and scouted the sections we'd messed up - and it made a huge difference.  Every portage was on point.  Weather was fine, we didn't flip in the rapids (stay right!).

... but our portaging still needed work.  We shouldered the boat, which we'd seen other teams do, but it didn't really work that well.  We had to stop a few times on the longer portages.

2019 Preparation!


So first off, we finally figured out portaging.  We went to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park yesterday and portaged like crazy people - many kilometers between lakes.
Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park - Portaging Practice

We're going lean and mean on equipment/water, and taking it out of the boat every portage.

Water for example - in previous years we each had a couple 2L jugs.  8L of water weighs 8kg, which is 17 pounds!  That's a lot of extra weight to carry.

We also noticed carrying the boat with the handles is much easier when everything is out of it, as is shouldering the boat! 

So we'll be using a combination of yoke (one person carrying), shouldering (two people) or the handles - depending on the situation.

The Dark

130km will take us well into the night.  We think we'll finish around 3am!

We did a paddle at night on Duffin's Creek in Ajax to test out our lighting - and I'm glad we did.

I'm at the stern - and my light would reflect off my buddy's life jacket back in my face, leaving me completely blind!  It sucked.  We'll put black tape over his reflective strips, and I'm going to use a less powerful light, just enough to see my maps and compass, and let the lighting on the boat show the way.

We also had the front light too low, so it would light up the trees but not the water.


We also pre-paddled Lake of Bays to make sure we had the right compass bearings - lucky we did, as the compass in our boat was off by 20 degrees from reality.  Some of that is down to declination, but some of it is just the compass.  In daylight that would be annoying, but in the dark it would be a complete nightmare.


I'm still trying to figure this one out.  We think it'll take us about 20 hours, basically the entire day.  Normally I'd eat 2500kCal just doing nothing, so it'd be weird to consume less while exerting myself.  I'm going to take a can of Gatorade powder for sure, that's about 2100kCal.  I'll scarf down some food before we start (protein/fat heavy so it digests over the entire race).  Still need to figure out something not too heavy/bulky for some solid food, maybe a bar or something.


We need to treat water as we go.

I used a hydration pack over the weekend, as well as two other bottles (one strapped into the hydration backpack, the other clicked on).  It worked fine.  I just don't know if I want to mess around with refilling the hydration pack, it's a bit of a pain in the ass... I'm thinking a 3x750mL bottle system might be better, where I am drinking one, treating the other two.


I think we're good to go!  Hopefully the weather cooperates.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Race Report: El Bandito (Gravel Race, I think. 70k)

The Race

This race is part of Substance Project's Cannondale Gravel Series.  They had 140k/70k/40k options - I did the middle one (also the most popular).

It's billed as a "gravel race" but it's more of a hodge-podge of everything - an absolute hoot.

I'm working from memory/Garmin but here's a bit of an inventory...

Ski Hill - The race started with this insane ski hill climb - I guess if you're starting at a ski hill, might as well use the ski hill?  It was too steep for me to ride for sure, and everyone I saw.  Maybe guys at the front did it.

Unassumed Road #1 - Immediately after that was an unassumed road - which was a road in name only.  Rutted, broken up, steep, you couldn't possibly traverse this with a vehicle.  It was a bit sketchy, I had to walk a little due to people around me walking more than anything.

Short on-road section - short, paved, hilly

Unassumed Road #2 (@3k) - Another rutted, broken up, steep "road".

Paved Road - this went on for a lonnnnng time.  Roadie stuff, drafting and trying to stick with the pack.  Lots of hills.  I had a hard time keeping up on the hills, but kept managing to get back on the descents.  At least until...

Monster Starkville Climb (@15k) - lonnnnnng monster climb.  Straight up, steep, long, high.  Paved.  I lost everyone I had been with and found myself alone.  Shortly after I managed to catch up with one guy (gravel for a bit), but lost him pretty quickly after.

Unassumed Road #3 (@21k)  - this one was in better shape and quite fast, but sandy.  I saw some folks ahead of me finally, they struggled while I excelled, managed to catch up and get some draft on the road sections after.

Paved Road ... until.......

Unassumed Road #4 (@28k) - this was described as a "walk up" on the map.  25% grade, so yeah. Walk up.  Long, almost 10 minute trudge up a rocky hilly trail.

Paved Road for a pretty long time - a super fast and fun descent, followed by a lot of paved road.  I didn't have much help until a guy who had been changing a flat caught me.  I took his wheel, and together we bridged up to the group ahead!  This was huge, it was such a long section, having folks around really helped.

Unassumed Road #5 (@37k) - this went straight from high speed drafting into a sand pit.  I was lucky I was near the front, I was able to glide through it while the other half dozen in our group floundered and walked and stuff!

Paved Road ... a stiff climb right after the beach, all by myself.  A couple guys passed me but I didn't sweat it, I knew there were more folks behind that would hopefully catch up and help.  Except they didn't, other than one dude - so we took turns (mostly me wheel sucking) until the aid station.

I stopped quickly at the aid station and then got going again really quickly - figuring the group  would catch up.  They didn't.

At 49k was another monster climb.  Apparently only averaged 7%, but man, it was wicked.  I had to dodge back and forth just to keep momentum.  One person caught and passed me, but that was it.

Ganaraska Forest (@50k) - this was proper double/single track!  I passed the one person near me and left everyone in the dust.  Lots of sand had others tentative I expect, but I was slippin' and slidin' and loving it. 

Best of all I still felt strong.  Legs were sore but not tired.  Properly hydrated.  Just strong.  Caught one other guy near the exit of the forest.

Paved Road Again (@57k) - lots of hills, some pretty tough.  At the top of one of the tough ones I looked back and saw 2 people at the bottom... ack!  I knew they saw me, so I was the rabbit.  Next crazy hill, same thing. 

The last 8.5k were the same as the first 8.5k... except I totally forgot about Unassumed Road #2, so I thought I was on the last section!  It was not a good surprise to exit to more paved road and hills.  Also you forget the hills you go down, they seem much bigger on the way up.  Looked back, the two people were there again (I was at top of hill, they were at bottom) - so they were at least keeping up... gave me some motivation to finish strong.

I killed it on Unassumed Road #1 in reverse, road the whole thing.  Then back up and down the ski hill... a little walking, but road a lot more than I'd have expected.

Finished - 68.5k - done!


Great race, fun, well organized.  A little heavy on the paved roads, but enough sections of other stuff that it didn't bother me too much.  Also they were so tough with the hills.

I always forget the crowd this guy's races attract.  Very few anklers, mostly people on teams.  Makes it tough for an unaffiliated hack like me sometimes!

Definitely will do this one again.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice 2019

What Is It

24 hour race - teams do as many laps of a 15km mountain bike course as they can in 24 hours (25, actually!).

Most laps wins.

We were back from our 2018 effort for a 2nd shot at 24h glory in the "Tag Team 2 Person" category.

Our Setup

That's about it... last year we put up a tent as well, but we didn't even really use it.

Big addition this year was electricity - we noticed a team last year running a a cable out to some service by the road.  This would be useful for re-charging light batteries and such, although not critical.


Ride until the end and do more laps than last year (6 for me last year, 11 for our team).


Last year I messed up my food - didn't have enough solid food, sugar put my stomach in twists, heartburn - it sucked.

This year - Sausage & Egg McMuffins.

Note to everyone: when you go through McDonald's drive-thru and ask for 4 Sausage & Egg McMuffins and that's everything, they ask you "that's everything?" at least 2 times.

The nutritional breakdown is probably not something most people would think of, but I was already hitting carbs hard on the bike - sports drinks and stuff.  The muffin is full of carbs, the egg is packed with nutrients, there's protein, fat, and most importantly...

... salt.

And I didn't cramp at all this year, whereas last year I did.

So there you go.  Science.

I also had the never-popular V8.  Slammed back a can after every lap - potassium and shit-ton of salt.

Beef jerkey.  Salt water taffy.  Pretzels.  Babybel cheese ball things.  Chocolate covered raisins.

24 cups of lukewarm coffee in a jug (2 batches in the coffee maker, brought to room temperature, and consumed a bit at a time all night).

The more "typical" sports food - bananas, Gatorade on the bike.

Yes, it's all weird, but damn it was good.  And my stomach put up with it, and I had energy on my last lap, so I figure it worked?

(When I did Ironman that was the wisdom I received too - treat it like an eating contest as much as an athletic one.  When you are burning 8000-10000 calories you need to get as much in as your stomach will take, and variety helps that!)

My Race - Early Laps

My teammate did Lap 1 again.  He commented on how awesome the start is, with the cheering crowd roaring as you charge up the first hill.  I should do it one year, if we ever do this again, which we won't.

Lap 2 was my turn.  My buddy said "you're going to hate this course!" - but I didn't.  It was technical but not a single part was un-ride-able.  The hills were sometimes gruelling but again, always ride-able (except when others around me fell or whatever, which happened a few times, but that's OK).  I really enjoyed that first lap, came to the finish smiling after about 1h 7 minutes.

Only bummer - we forgot to exchange the timing chip, so I didn't have it at the end of my lap!  My teammate had to meet me down there at the end of my lap, which wasn't great from his being able to rest perspective.

Lap 4 (my 2nd) was my turn again - and again we forgot the stupid timing chip!!!  So again, my teammate had to wait at the end.  I saw a large deer right next to the course on the singletrack, so that was cool.

All was good so far.  Ate and ate and ate.

My thumbs started to get blisters from holding the handlebar grips - so from this point on I duct taped them.  First try the duct tape actually came loose and slid off, even from under my glove - second try I secured it to my palm and it held and did the trick.

Lap 6 was still in light, still felt great.  No cramping!  No fatigue in the legs.  Just felt solid.

Lap 8 started mostly in the light, but the sun set during the lap and in the woods it got very dark.  Lighting helped but every so often the sun would shine at the wrong angle and my pupils would respond, leaving me blind to the course.  It was harder to ride then than in the pitch dark, even with the lighting.

My Race - Night Lap

Lap 10 (my 5th), things came apart.  I can't pinpoint exactly why, but the fatigue accumulated and showed up all at once.  It was really hard to get going, it was now after 11pm.

I screwed up my clothing - standing around it felt cold, but once I got going I was drenched in sweat.  I stopped and took off my jacket, that helped a lot.

But later in the lap I found myself pushing the bike up some of the hills I had no trouble with earlier (the sharp singletrack rooted climbs mostly).  Just kind of lost my mental focus, not so much the dark but rather the fatigue.

That lap was about 12 minutes off my earlier pace.  Partly the dark but more the rest of it.

When I got back it was about 1:30am.  I told my buddy I would take a break and do another one at 4:30am (I was still hoping to do 8 laps!)

The Night

It was cold and I was ill prepared.  Had a really hard time getting any sleep at all, when 4:30am came around I missed my time to get on my bike.  My brain just didn't have any interest.

Finally both me and my teammate got up at around 6am.  I was ready to go but it was his turn, so out he went and we were back in business.

Looking back I'm not sure if I could have done a 4:30am lap or not, and if I had I'm not sure I'd have done 2 more after it.  So I don't know if it cost us anything, I was pretty bagged.

Good Morning!

I felt good again, the sun was shining, it was a gorgeous morning when I set out on Lap 12 (my 6th)!

It was 7:30am so I had been off the bike for 6h straight.  About 1h15 of that was my teammate's lap, but the other ~5h was just us taking a break.

I had a lot of energy, almost no fatigue in the legs - sure I wasn't 100% but this is after like 20 hours of this nonsense and very little sleep!  I felt like a million bucks.  My lap time for my last 2 laps were 1h13 and 1h14, only 6 minutes off my best laps at the start, so that's a pretty good deal.

Lap 15 (my 7th) was about the same - a lot of fun, took it easy(ish) and just enjoyed it.  Finished just before noon and put a bow on it.


Technically we could have squeezed in one more lap (you have until 1pm to finish) but we were at 7 each at that point and out of gas.

I felt a lot better about this race - last year we left early due to pending storms in the morning and the race was actually called off before 24h, so this year we made it to that final hour. 

I think there are a few things I could have done better, but not much!  It was horrible at times, fun at times, and all in all a pretty great and epic thing to be a part of.

Team of 2 is tough.  1-1.5h isn't a very long break and you end up doing so many laps.  Larger teams end up being as much about partying as riding, not sure if that's my cup of tea though.  Solo is ridiculous.

Team of 3 would be ideal maybe.  Anyone want to join for 2020? :)