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Monday, April 28, 2008

Ride for Heart - Toronto

The Ride for Heart is a ride in Toronto for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

There are 3 distances - 25K/50K/75K.

I've done this ride for most of the 10 years I've lived in Toronto. I started with the 50K, and more recently have been doing the 75K.

Date: June 1, 2008

What makes this ride cool?
  • 15,000 riders!!!
  • Riding on The Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway... 6-lane highways through the core of the city, winding through ravines and right through downtown Toronto... all closed to traffic during the ride.
  • Raising money for a good cause
This year, I'll be doing the 50K with my oldest daughter. We have a trail-behind bike, so she'll be helping pedal... hopefully a LOT of help! :) Between her and the bike, it adds about 60 -80 pounds, so will make it a bit more of a challenge!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Limit - Cramping

Every endurance event teaches me something.

At the half marathon, I kept a faster pace than I was used to over the distance, and the new intensity drained my energy. I bonked, was very close to the wall.

Lesson: fuel up, keep the gels and energy drinks going!

During Paris to Ancaster, I had major cramping, to the point that my quad was absolutely locked and wouldn't release. I've had this once before, when I came back and did a 65K ride after being injured for 2 months and not training... so I already pretty much know the answer to this one!

Causes of Cramps (source: here and

1. Undertraining

The most common cause is under-training. I haven't had much time on the bike this spring, it was colder later and it was tough to get out, plus I was battling a knee injury. So the 3-4 times I got out just weren't enough. This was probably the reason for my case.

2. Hydration

This might have played a role. I didn't bring that much water - two big water bottles, and one little one that I almost finished before the race even started. I managed to grab a bottled water along the way, too, but only about half of it made it into my mouth.

3. Electrolytes

I read a few theories here, but most point to salt, potassium, calcium, or magnesium. Sports drinks cover salt and potassium, but I might just carry Rolaids next time for calcium and magnesium.

Endurolytes sounds like a way to go - everything in a pill.

So I'll start carrying some of this stuff as back-up, but I'm pretty confident the issue was just a training thing. I've done harder rides without problems, but not usually so early in the season.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Race Report: Paris to Ancaster

Another great Paris to Ancaster!

Weather: 18C and sunny... beautiful!

We started near the front of the second wave, maybe 100 riders back. This made a huge difference... as we went from the wide road to the narrow rail trail, there was a lot less traffic up there than there is further back. Most of the really slow people were dropped, so we were with mostly experienced riders, who signal what they're going to do, announce "on your left" or "on your right" when they're passing you, etc. Great!

The off-road sections were muddy as usual, but not as bad as previous years. My skinnier cross tires had no problem bombing through there.

The other benefit of being further up in the pack: experienced riders know how to draft. I worked with a lot of different people throughout the race, and it was fantastic. We had some really good lines going, took some turns at the front but mostly benefited from getting sucked along.

The organizers did a nice job as usual. They responded to some rider feedback and made the 35K start time a little later... in previous years they fed in with the 60K and made a real mess of things, big traffic jams and such with so many riders on the narrow trails. This year they were later so most of the 60K would have been through before they joined the course.

As far as my ride went, the first 58K or so were just awesome. Left the last mud chute and readied myself for the last hill... but by now my quads were starting to cramp up. It had been going on for a few kilometers, but was getting a little worse.

As I started the big final climb, I was overwhelmed with a massive cramp. I mean MASSIVE. My legs were completely locked, I could not get my quad to release, I just fell to the ground. The funny thing was that 2 other riders had the exact same problem, right near me! So in about a 20 foot stretch there were 3 of us lying on the ground trying desperately to stretch out our quads to get them to stop cramping. I'm sure it would have been hilarious to see, if I wasn't in agony.

I got things under control, got about halfway up the hill, and then bam, it cramped up again. So once again I stopped, massaged my legs, stretched, just did everything I could... I knew the finish was so bloody close at this point, I just had to get there!

After about 5 minutes I was able to get back on the bike and suffer through the last 500 feet...

Final time: 2:48:07, for 513th of 1064 riders. I cracked the top 50%!

And I was on pace for a sizzler! :) Too bad I didn't close it out... but it's an early season race, and with the knee problems keeping me from training I can't be too disappointed or surprised. I'm still really happy with my pace throughout the race, I've got a good base now to work with, and I can't wait to build to some great events this year.

And I'll be back in 2009! :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Paris to Ancaster: 60km of pain and mud

Spring is here! And the surest sign is the annual mountain bike race from Paris to Ancaster.

It's hard to describe this race... it throws everything at you and then some.

- Roads - paved (8K) and gravel (20K)
- Rail trails - some groomed gravel, others more like dirt/mud (18K)
- Off-road single track - including some nasty nasty mud chutes (13K)

What's a mud chute? It's basically a cut line or path that is about 6-8" deep mud. It's ridiculous... most riders around me were walking them, very tricky to ride. I lost my shoe in it the first year (and then found it!).

If the first 57K and the mud chutes don't kill you, the last 3K are straight up the escarpment on a dirt trail...

Sound like fun? It's an acquired taste... the first year I did it, I hated it... I was pissed off, vowed never to do it again. Then I started thinking of what I could have done differently, how I could have gone faster, how I could have trained differently... and next thing I knew it was a year later and I was lining up at the start.

My time the first year was a dismal 3:54... I gave up, barely finished. I was miserable and totally unprepared for the challenge. Next year the conditions were dryer and I was well prepared, knocked the time down to 2:56. This year, they've changed the course slightly, so tough to make predictions/goals, but I think under-3:00 is reasonable, despite my lack of training due to knee problems and the wet conditions I'm anticipating. I'd really like to crack the top 50%, that would be fantastic.

So you've read about it and are thinking of doing it? OK, here's some tips:

Registration: It sells out, so register early!

Bike: Mountain bike, hybrid, or cyclocross - I've seen them all out there. I ride a hybrid with narrower tires, puts me at a disadvantage on the single track and through the mud, but I make up a lot of time on the road and rail trail sections. Most people are on mountain bikes, and the handful of cross bikes round out the field.

The Start: Try to be near the front and stay there for the first 20 minutes or so... there are so many riders that at the first single-track people were actually waiting in line to go up one of the hills! If you want to avoid that, you need to get to the front during the first rail trail section and stay there. You're pretty much OK after you cross the highway, good time to take a breath and settle in to your normal pace.

The Mud: Most of the early mud is OK, you can get through it without trouble. But in the last 1/3 of the race you'll come to the mud chutes... I suggest you carry your bike down them! The first year I walked down like 90% of the riders around me, but I rolled my bike along... HUGE mistake, it gunked up with mud. So last year I tossed it on my shoulder and at the bottom popped right back on, perfect! Zipped right by the riders who were at the bottom with sticks trying to get the mud from out of their brakes and chains.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ironman Pace

I wanted to understand just how fast one needs to be to do Ironman. So I looked at the rules, the cut-offs, and put together a rough estimate of how quick you need to be in each.

So without further ado... 17 hours of pain!

The Swim

Time allowed:
Worst Pace Allowable:
3:38/100m, about 0:54s/25m.

This is really not that fast. To put it in perspective, at the local pool the "fast" lane pace is 0:35s/25m or faster. I'm early in my swimming career, and I can do a length under 0:35s/25m, obviously with distance and time that's going to go slower, but I think it's not going to be a serious difficulty to find that pace.

The Bike

Time allowed (from start): 10:30:00
Time allowed (bike only, assuming 2:30 for swim + transition):
Worst pace allowable:

Drafting isn't allowed, so my 30km/h pace in a pack over a century ride isn't going to do me much good.

Without the draft, I'm usually around 27km/h over a long ride (80-100k). That's with a normal road bike, so there's probably some untapped pace just from getting the tri bike. I'll also lose some pace stopping for food and bathroom breaks along the way, not to mention emergencies like flat tires or such... but I'm pretty comfortable that my bike pace is already there.

The Run

Time allowed (from start): 17:00:00
Time allowed (run only, assuming full 10:30 was used for bike + swim): 6:30:00
Worst Pace Allowable: Approx 9:00/km

9:00/km sounds so easy! I'm sure I could walk out the door right now and do a 9:00/km marathon.

But... :)

I've watched Ironman on TV, and the people finishing near the 17 hour limit are suffering. They're massaging their legs, eating whatever they can, and limping (or crawling!) to the finish. I've been told that very few people actually run the full marathon, so expect to walk. And suffer. I browsed the times from last year's Ironman, it's clear that nobody is doing this anywhere near their normal marathon pace.

So I'm not even going to guess how easy or hard that 9:00/km pace is going to be until I have more experience with both running and triathlons. It sounds achievable... so I'm determined to achieve it!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Back on the Bike


Hit the bike for the first ride of the season on Sunday. It was awesome!

My buddy and I do this ride a lot in a typical season. It starts on flat asphalt, then turns to gravel, and a big climb on gravel roads to the half-way point. It's a little more than 400 feet, vertically speaking. Put another way - we end up at the top of a ski hill! It's a great hill and burn, and being on loose gravel makes it that much more challenging.

I had a bit of lactic acid build-up by the end of the 2-hour ride, muscles were burning and wanted to cramp up. Hope to get out a few more times at least before Paris to Ancaster! Only a couple weeks away!


I'm back in the triathlon swimming lessons, and feeling a lot better about it. Lots of progress since I started... just need to find a pace and breathing pattern that lets me swim longer distances without stopping.


I'm sidelined with by ITBS. Stretching, icing, etc... and will probably end up with orthodics to correct some pronation issues. I really hope to get back to this soon, but patience is the key.


There is a great show called "The Human Body: Pushing the Limits" on Discovery Channel. They use 3D animation to show the human body with the skin removed while performing tasks, both athletic and not. It's fascinating! Highly recommend it, especially the one on "Strength".