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Sunday, December 18, 2011

There's no biking like snow biking

The days are too short, it's too grey, and where I live there isn't any snow... so it's all a bit dreary.  Worse, my knee has been pooched so no running.

What better relief than hitting the trails a few miles north where they've got the white stuff??  So up we went to Durham Forest in Uxbridge, Ontario.

Temperature was near zero, sun was out, and the snow is everywhere!

It was an amazing day, quite a few people had been through already so the trails were packed down really nicely.

No special equipment (other than a bunch of extra layers of clothing!).  Normal mountain bike tires got the job done.  I've tried going after a large dump of snow - then it gets really tough, but when there's not all that much it's kind of like wet sand.

Best of all - next week looks like more of the same!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Knee pain = Mileage drop-off

I'm still having some knee trouble...

Runs since marathon 3 weeks ago: 2
Mileage since marathon: 4.5km


It was bothering me while biking at first, but that has subsided.  I was out for 2.5 hours yesterday without much trouble from the knee (a whisper at the end, but other than that OK).

I should get it looked at... but since it's been going in the right directly (ie. getting better) I have put that off.  I'm reasonably confident that my tight hamstrings are still at the root of the problem, so I'm working on that a lot.  At this point it's the end of the season so I can afford to be a bit patient with it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top Posts From This Blog

I'm a bit surprised at just how many hits my little old blog gets... over 36,000 since inception.  

Top blog posts from this blog (based on traffic):

  1. How to build a Wood Bike Rack (1,852 views)
  2. Calories Burned per Stair while Stairclimbing (1,107 views)
  3. Did Lance Armstrong Dope?  (857 views)
  4. Homemade Energy Gel (802 views)
  5. Ironman Tattoo (775 views)
Kind of a funny mix of topics, no real connection between them other than they probably do well as Google search terms!

I try my best to make the blog interesting to people who stumble on it.  I know most people don't really care about how many miles I ran on any given week or what I had for dinner, so I try to speak more generally in the hopes someone learn something from either what I did right - or (more often) wrong!

It also serves as a bit of a diary for myself, so I can keep fresh the memory of various events and experiences.  

See, now I'm just being narcissistic again... very easy trap to fall into in a blog post, enjoying hearing the sound of your own voice.  I'll shut up now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hello Off-Season

Post-Marathon Blues

With the NYC marathon in the books, I'm officially in "off-season" mode.

My knee is still out of commission after the damage I did during the marathon... I pushed through the pain for over 10km, which did some pretty good damage.  It's getting better every day, but it will be a few days before I can bike or run.

6 days so far without any biking or running... I'm going insane.  It's such a big part of my life, it feels weird to not be doing it.  I'm going to go for a swim today just to get myself feeling active again.

Looking Ahead

Next weekend there is a 10 miler in Whitby, if I can get in a run or two next week I might do it.  I won't be racing it by any stretch, but as long as I'm not hobbling I might go for it... or go mountain biking instead!  Probably the latter.

The rest of November and December are going to be goofing around months. No training goals, just keeping active doing whatever feels fun.  I'll keep up a 15km long run every couple weeks, do some mountain biking, trail running, whatever I feel like!


So much to look forward to, I can hardly contain my excitement!  Paris to Ancaster, Whitby 1/2, Moraine Adventure Relay, then Adventure Racing in July/August/September, maybe another off-road duathlon/X-terra... who knows!

I still have to get my sub-20 5k and my sub-1:35 1/2, those are two goals I didn't manage to achieve this year. Other than that, it's mostly going to be an off-road kind of year.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Race Report: ING New York City Marathon

Incredible experience... I don't know how I could ever top that at a marathon, it was just so overwhelmingly awesome!  The crowds lining every street cheering (roaring!), the immense and awesome city of New York, amazing.  Worth the 4 year wait!

The downside - my time was way off expectations due to an issue with my knee.  Really disappointing, I trained and trained and my pacing seemed to be going so well.

Things I Learned That Might Be Useful To Others

  • The assigned ferry time was really more of a suggestion... you could take any one you want.  Guess I didn't have to wake up at 5am!  
  • The ferry terminals are far more comfortable that sitting on the ground at the start, so I crossed over and hung out in the Statten Island terminal.  Don't cut it too close, though - there's still a pretty lengthy bus ride to the site.
  • They stick the wave 1 folks in their corrals waaaay before 9:40... I almost missed the announcement because it seemed too early, around 9:00.  
  • Use the washrooms in the corrals early, because they move everyone up to the start line when you least expect it
  • I was on the lower deck of the first bridge, and my Garmin 305 went all whacky right from the start... and one other time too, also on a bridge.  Use manual laps and a pace band, I'm glad I did!
  • I don't know if this is a rumour or real... but other folks were saying not to go too close to the edge of the bridge if you're on the lower deck, as the runners on the upper deck pee off the side!!!  I didn't notice it, but didn't risk the edges either, so... who knows!  Better safe than sorry!
My Race

I was in wave 1, somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I took it pretty easy in the first mile as it's a fairly steep incline.

Other than the fact we were running in Brooklyn, there wasn't much to my early race - everything went as planned.  I ate my gels, drank the occasional Gatorade, and held a very easy-feeling pace (about 5:10/km).  Things were looking good.  

One funny moment - a group of Hasidic Jews ran across the road in front of me.  Quite the contrast, us in our little shorts and tight lycra, them with their traditional hats and hair things.  

I got jostled now and then by other runners, seemed hard to avoid in the crowds.  It wasn't a huge problem mostly, I always seemed to be able to go my pace and find room when I needed it.

Then we hit the climb on the Queensboro bridge, and my first twinge hit... hamstring started to feel sore and tight, followed by knee pain.  Not good!  This wasn't an unfamiliar pain to me, it was much like the ITBS I suffered with a few years ago, and every so often I've had some soreness... but why now?

It switched to downhill and the pain seemed to subside somewhat, I figured I could probably run through it.

When we emerged from the bridge, it was to the thunderous roar of a huge crowd!  It gave me goosebumps... several times actually!  The entire way up First Ave was just amazing, so many people cheering. I started to feel a bit of fatigue, and the knee pain was just there - didn't get worse.

... until we hit the next climb on the bridge over to the Bronx.  The pain got really bad.  I managed to keep my pace a bit longer just hoping it would go away, but then it started really impacting my gait and I just couldn't hold it.  I tried to back off to a 5:30/km, but even that became impossible.  From there on it was a death-limp-march to the end, and it was miserable... I scanned the crowds for my family, not wanting to embarrass myself by walking up to them was the only thing that kept me going!  My pace was awful.

I finally saw them at 25.5 miles - it was awesome!  I ran over and kissed my wife and girls, since my time was way over anyway it no longer mattered.  Lurched to the end in 3:55.

3:55!  I was thinking 3:35, 3:40 at worst, so this really sucked.  Nothing I could do about it, it's done and unlike shorter races that's it for the year.

After the finish line they make you walk another 4-5 blocks for some inexplicable reason... seemed to mostly have to do with bag check, but having not checked a bag this was a real irritation. 

Got home, went to check my time - didn't get picked up at all!  Not a single time split the entire race.  Hopefully they have the info and it was a glitch, although really it doesn't matter that much... it was bad.

Marathons and Me 

Even before this race, I had it in my head this would be my last one for awhile.  Next year I'd like to spend my fall with other things, probably more adventure racing and trail running.  The marathon is a big investment of time, and when it doesn't go right it's pretty tough to take.  Still, this experience will stick with me a long time, it was amazing... the lure of the marathon will get me back someday I'm sure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Race Preview: ING New York City Marathon

The only thing cooler than doing the New York Marathon:  doing the New York Marathon the same year as Mark Messier!!!

An Oiler forever (sorry Rangers fans)!

This will be my only marathon in 2011, and likely my last for quite some time, so I really want to do well.  I have put in the miles, I got in all my planned long runs, I'm ready.

The Goal

First off - I want to beat Mark Messier.  No way I'm slower than a 50-year-old moose!

Second - I want a personal best, which means better than 3:44.  This should be very possible... I'm planning for a race pace around 5:05/km, for a finishing time of about 3:34.  I would be happy with anything sub-3:40, especially after last year's rather grim finish.

What happened last year?

First 32km: 5:07/km
Last 10km: 6:01/km

Guess how I felt in those last 10km..!

This year I'm definitely faster and more prepared, but I want to stick with last year's goal pace rather than try to be more aggressive.  I would rather finish in 3:35 and feel like I had more in the tank than finish the first 32km in 5:00/km and crash again.


I want to get in as close to 250 calories an hour as I can stomach, about half from gels and the other half from Gatorade on course.

I am also going to use these eLoad tablets I have for an electrolyte boost - they seemed to help delay or eliminate cramping in other races.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Race Report: Hearth Place 5k on the Runway

Sooooo close... 20:05.

5 seconds between me and sub-20:00... and as the picture above taken just after the finish shows, I don't think I had an ounce left to give.  I hammered the finishing kick but crossed the line 5 seconds too late.

Results posted here.

5 seconds!  Gah!  When I look back, I will probably think I could have gone just a little faster, but it took a strong finishing kick to even get it this close... I was averaging 4:01/km for most of the race, and any time I pushed faster I got into that place you can't recover from.  I knew I was within seconds, but just couldn't find it.

The Race

Overall the race was excellent!

Me and kids, ready to rock
The kids did the 1k (with my wife), I did the 5k.

There was tonnes of loot in the race kits, lots of food at the finish (BBQ, fruit, drinks, everything!).  They did a great job organizing the start, putting the "racers" first, then "recreational runners", "speed walkers" and finally "walkers".  That was wonderful!  And on our second lap, they made sure the walkers kept right so we could run the shortest line without interference.  They thought of everything, and the result was a fantastic experience for all abilities and speeds.

The runway itself was really cool too... almost like running at the track.  Pancake flat and smooth, with only a handful of corners.

If you're looking for a fast and fun 5k, this one should be top of the list!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Race Preview: Hearth Place 5k on the Runway

5k on the runway at the Oshawa airport, tomorrow.

Added bonus: it will be closed to air traffic!  (Whew!!!)

Added bonus #2:  my  kids - all three of them - are going to be doing the 1km race while I'm killing myself trying to do the 5km in under 20 minutes.  Cool!

My race preparation is what you'd probably call "stupid"...

  • Thursday - did CN Tower Stair Climb
  • Friday - 22km long run
  • Saturday - almost 3 hours of mountain biking
  • Sunday - 5k race!
Stupid.  But it was soooo nice out there, I couldn't have possibly skipped a wonderful fall mountain bike, could I?  In my head I was planning on about a 1 1/2 hour ride, but once we got out there we got a bit carried away (and lost!).  It was amazing and worth it, though!

I will do my best to go sub-20, this is really my last kick at that cat for 2011.  I've been close... managed 20:12 on a hilly one in the spring.  I haven't been doing enough intervals lately though, as my focus has been on the marathon distance and biking, so not expecting it.  I'll go out at 4:00/km and hold it as long as I can - if that's 5km, great, if not then I'll try again in 2012.

Give 'er!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Climb Report: CN Tower Stair Climb

I did it!

14:40... waaaay faster than I ever thought I could, my previous best was 19:15... but that was quite some time ago, I was heavier and had barely started running.  I figured I'd be around 17:00, but felt good the whole way up and just kept going.

Results are here

I was the 37th fastest of the day out of 2,318 climbers.  Wowsah!  Gotta be proud of that one!

As for technique - I did a few of the first flights 2-steps-at-a-time, but that went from feeling easy to not-very-easy really fast... so I went to 1-step-at-a-time.  I did lap counting every 10 stories, mostly I was around 1:03 every 10, so a tad over 6 seconds per flight.  


I really need to call out the organizers, because the way this event was run was really awful.

It was supposed to start at 6pm, we lined up a bit early (around 5:15ish) and were in the front 1/3 or so.  By the time people actually started going, they were at least 20 minutes late, and even then just a smattering of people were allowed to go.

Despite being that early, we didn't climb until 7:30pm.  Over two hours??? Unacceptable... one o f the people climbing with us actually left and missed the entire thing.  About 2/3 of the people were behind us in line!  I can't imagine how long they waited.  There was a wait in the convention center, another wait for security checkpoint #1, then unbelievably another wait for security checkpoint #2. 

And then you got to the top... and the tower was packed.  Nobody seemed to know where the lines started for the elevators, people were accusing each other of cutting in line, it was chaos - and took forever.  

So for a 14 minute climb, I was there from 5:15 to 8:30pm.  Totally ridiculous, they should be ashamed of the way they ran this thing, amateurish.  This is the United Way - a large organization with well paid executives that should be held to a higher standard, and they didn't even meet the standard of the tiniest charities that run events every weekend.  

I will not be back for their climb ever again, if I decide to do this it will be with the WWF charity instead. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Climb Preview: CN Tower Stair Climb

 Look up... waaaay up...

This isn't a race, but rather a climb for charity.  Walk up the stairs of the CN tower to the main observation deck!

1,776 steps.  144 stories.  Piece of cake!  It's only the tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere (formerly the entire world, until that Burj monstrosity in Dubai was built!).

My best time is 19:15, but I'm not sure what year that was... I'm pretty sure it was before I was running though, and probably a fair bit heavier.  I have another shirt from a previous year, 21:08.  I did it one other time, I think I was in the low 20's that time as well.

Goal?  Sub-18:00.  I don't know where I get that, I don't regularly climb stairs, but I need something to target, and that's as good of a goal as any!

To the top!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Race Report: Durham Cyclocross Classic 2011

Temporary picture until I get a real one from this race
I don't suck at Cyclocross!

That was one of my goals this year... not to suck at cyclocross, and today I didn't.  I wasn't amazing or anything, but I held my own, did a pretty adequate job over the barriers and didn't get lapped.  Result!

The Race

45 minutes (which in this case meant 5 laps) of go-time.  This is super-short for a cycling event, I'm used to spending hours out there, so way more lactic acid and red zone than what normal cycling entails.

This course is cool - I heard several people saying "best cross course ever!" and everyone was grinning after.  Lots of natural terrain mixed in with a killer climb (that you get to do 5 times!) and a sketchy sandy downhill.  Every so often he'd pitch us off the trail onto some little bypass just for fun... I live in the area so I've done the sketchy sandy downhill a bunch of times, but it's much worse on race day after a few dozen bikes go through and dig it all up... but I really attacked it.

This year they had two different man-made barrier sections, my practice mostly paid off there.  I still stink at the re-mount, but my dismounts were all awesome!  I hopped the barriers no problem at all.  Still some work to do here, but far better than last year.

All in all an incredibly fun time.  I'm strongly considering taking a pass on a fall marathon next year to focus more on cross and do a bunch of races rather than just a couple of one-offs.  It's just so much fun.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Glen Major Forest and Brock Tract - Some Pictures

I was out mountain biking today, and for once took a camera with me to take some pictures. This area is in the Durham Forest area, on the West side of the road.  Information can be found here... lots of awesome trails in here, but for fall colours you can't beat the hills around Glen Major!

It was a little early for fall colours, though, the brilliant reds weren't quite out... but anyway, enjoy.

Glen Major

The above picture is my favourite spot... the picture doesn't quite do it justice though!  So to get there, grab this map.  Park at the southern-most parking lot on Concession 7 and head toward signpost 25... then hang a right.  You'll come to a bench, and this view! 

This is the reclaimed gravel pit, looking south... around signpost 39.

Brock Tract

The Brock Tract is way quieter, most people don't bother with it... but they're missing a few cool things!  This is from the southern area.

The above picture is from between signposts 41 and 42/43, as you leave the open area and enter the forest.

This is the "spooky forest"... again, the picture doesn't do it justice, the forest floor is all pine needles and it's whisper quiet in there.  Very neat surface to ride on, amazing!  It lies between signposts 43 and 45 on the southern trail option.

Here is the map, just in case that link ever stops working!


A Moment of Inattention...

It was near the end of my 30km long run this week... I was paying attention to traffic rather than where I was going, and my foot slipped off the side of the sidewalk.

Immediate flare of pain in my ankle.  I kept running, and it seemed OK.  In the following days, I noticed it now and then, but seemed pretty trivial (and us runners are used to trivial aches and pains!)

Went out to do a 20km marathon pace run yesterday, and I didn't make it more than 500m before I had to turn back... @#$%!

NYC Marathon is 4 weeks away.  Next week is supposed to be my biggest training week, with my last 32km run.

The only good news in all of this is that I can bike fine, no pain, so at least I can do my cross training while I patiently wait for this thing to heal.  Some people do a 4 week taper, but it's a tapering off - not running is not tapering!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Race Preview: Durham Cyclocross Classic 2011

I did this race last year, very shortly after buying my first cyclocross bike...

The race itself was great - neat natural terrain course and barriers, mix of everything.  Challenging climb, sketchy technical sandy descent, lots of fun!  And free beer.

I can only describe my result and performance as poor... but that was pretty much what I expected.  I had the bike for 3 weeks, didn't have the power for the hill, hadn't done any practice on the dismount/mount (a key skill in cyclocross) and was terrified all the way down the sandy hill.  Thank goodness for the free beer.

I was going to skip it this year, but it's a 5 minute bike ride up the road from my house, so I figured "what the hell".

Areas I've improved:

  • Powering up hills - the cross gearing doesn't give you the low gears a mountain bike has, took me awhile to get used to it.  These are 40 minute races, so it's all about bursts of power and quick recoveries - something I've never been all that good at!  But having this bike has forced me to get good at it.
  • Dismounts - I tried dismounting from a moving bike the proper cyclocross way for the first time today, and shocker - it was actually pretty easy!  I did it over and over to make sure I got it, and it's a piece of cake.  Youtube videos helped.  I won't be the fastest guy over the barriers, but I'm not going to repeat last year's rather embarrassing performance (it involved a complete stop - need I say more?)
  • Re-mounts - this one is still tricky, not sure exactly what I'm missing, but I can mount and keep moving now so it won't be too bad.  In the video, they do it in one smooth motion, but I'm still doing a little double-hop with one foot... but at least I'm moving!
Here is the video I referenced, he's a good teacher:

As for goals, I don't really have one this year either... other than "not suck".  I don't think I'll be in the same league as a lot of the other riders, but hopefully I do a little better, and maybe won't get lapped??  That'd be a start!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Race Report: Tour de King

I believe I have a new favourite race... what an awesome time.  Going to go into a lot of detail because I want to capture all of it so I remember next year!

The Race

This race is around 45km of ... well, of everything.  A mix of cyclocross and mountain bikes, a mix of roads and single-track, this race threw a lot at you!

The Start

We got there early and it was cold... around 4C.  I almost didn't want to get out of the car.  Did a very short warm-up and took my first quick look at some of the trails, then headed to the start.

I chose the cyclocross bike rather than the mountain bike, but it was a complete guess as we'd never been on these trails before.  More about that later!

The start was chaos... for some reason they did a neutral start, which meant everyone got to the first non-neutral point in a huge bunch and had to basically wait in a line.  Then we had to wait again when we got to the first singletrack about 5 minutes in... argh!  Hopefully they sort that out next year - a few hot laps of the field would have spread people out enough I suspect.

Singletrack Cyclocross Style

The first singletrack section was on the Seneca property, and it was pretty classic singletrack - lots of turns, sharp little hills, some dodgy terrain.  I didn't feel I lost much to the mountain bike guys, and in fact got a bit frustrated getting stuck behind some people with nowhere to pass.  Eventually this opened up into a field and then our first road section.

I thought the road would be my place to shine, but instead I found myself staring at a pretty wicked uphill!  I wanted to spin out the lactic acid, but with the cross gearing and the hill there just was no chance, and before I knew it we were back into singletrack.

This property was fantastic... beautiful trails, nice climbs you could really hammer, banked corners, the works!  Again, I didn't have any trouble with the cross bike from a handling point of view, but then I felt my first few twinges of cramping/lactic acid... the smallest gear on the cross bike is made for powering up hills, which is great for a ~1 hour race, but as I got futher into this one it started to take its toll.

Right at the end of this section was a bunch of grass riding, which was bumpy as all heck.  I did pretty well, passed a few people before the roads.

Roads, bloody roads!

The next stretch of road was great for the cross bike - got into the drops and found a rhythm, and felt the bike choice really paying off.  Finally I could do some spinning! 

That lead us smoking into another off-road, a short connector trail that was a bit dodgy at times.  I entered it with some mountain bike guys on my wheel, but lost them pretty early, so again I think the bike was not holding me back (or they really sucked?).

The next road was brutal... started with a windy steep climb, then a fast downhill, and then it turned into something that looked like a road right-of-way but wasn't a road at all.  This was my most terrifying moment of the race, there was this long downhill in what could best be described as a bumpy loose sandy trench... I was trying to scrub off as much speed as I could, but just kept going faster and faster.  The guy in front of me bailed up the trench wall, I blew by and very nearly found God... and very nearly visited him!  Just got a little too brave I think, but in the end I made it unscathed.  Still not sure how, really wish I could see a replay!

After that it was easy roads to the next off-road.  By now it was spitting rain, but that didn't really phase me as I was really in the zone!

Offroad Again - Grassy Climbing

The next one was tough - the trails were not as well used as previous ones, as it's on private property, so they were mostly grass-covered.  By this point the rain had made it all quite slick, and several of the climbs were steep - I had a tough time getting up some of them.  My legs felt much worse now, the lactic acid boiling over every time I got out of the saddle to power up a hill... so I ended up walking a few (and wasn't alone in this!).  This was the one point where mountain bikes were passing me - they were able to spin in their low gears and likely had more traction on the grass.

Everyone walked this one long steep hill, briefly took in the view from the top, then it was back to the road.

Country Roads, Take me Home

Mostly gravel and asphault from here, and so I started to really push it.  I was near my limit on the powering-up-hills stuff, but still had a lot for a more time-trial type of effort.  Picked off at least a half dozen other riders in this section, probably more, as people were fading and the rain was coming down pretty good.

(Just as I was feeling pretty good about it - some dude blew by me like was barely moving!  Must have been one of the 20+ people I saw changing flats at the start of the race?)

Finally we came to the Cold Creek area, which was the finish... only to go right past the entrance and find more off-road!  1km of bumpy grassy off-road... with a finish that was very cyclocross-ish, taped off big turn.

I finished the race very satisfied, at 2:21:00.  This was good enough for 94th of the ~200+ first wave starters, and considering this was a pretty experienced crowd generally I'll take it!

The Bike Debate - Cyclocross or Mountain Bike

This is a tough one.  I finished thinking I had made the right choice, but my buddy finished on his cross bike as well and thought he had made the wrong one!  I think at this race it's actually quite close.

There were very few points in the race where I felt like my handling was comprimised all that much compared to the mountain bike folks.  Personally, I climb a lot better on my cross bike, so for me I think this was the right choice.

Where I lost out was the gearing.  The cross bike doesn't have the low gears that the mountain bike does, so while they were spinning easily up a hill, I was out of the saddle powering up it.  Over the course of 2+ hours that takes its toll, and by the end there was stuff that I could have powered up in the 1st hour that left me wimpering in the last hour.

So in my opinion, the best bike for this race is a cross bike with some low gears!  Mine is a 36/46 on the front with a 12-25 on the back, and by the end it was all just a little much... I would have liked at least a 12-27, and maybe something even more moutain bike-ish.  One guy on a cross bike span by me up a hill, he had some really low gears and it looked much more comfortable!

After the Race

The food was fantastic, Emily Batty was there, free beer... all of it would have been wonderful - if I wasn't soaking wet and it was only +4C!  I've never been so happy to see a big yellow schoolbus in my life.

Paris to Ancaster II?

They billed this race as being like a Paris to Ancaster for the fall.  It sort-of was, but Paris to Ancaster has a lot more road sections, and the rail trails are so smooth they're almost like road.  They have the killer mud chutes and the final climb, but most of what leads up to it is easier.  There is no bike debate at Paris to Ancaster - cyclocross is the right bike for sure there!

I find Paris to Ancaster to be like "going from one place to another using the stuff you find in between to get there and make it fun".  This race was more like a bike race that used a lot of purpose-built mountain bike trails and such.  Just a bit different vibe.

Anyway, they're both amazing and make fantastic bookends to the cycling season!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

When Races Turn Epic

Checked the weather for tomorrow's Tour de King...

Around 4C.  Rainy.  Windy.  Even a possibility of snow overnight.

On one hand, I'm not looking all that forward to those conditions... slopping through muddy trails in the cold can be pretty miserable!

On the other hand, the races I remember the most are the ones where the conditions weren't perfect.  Like Paris to Ancaster this year...

I can't remember all of the times I've done that race, but I do remember the year with the brutal headwind, or the year I got a sunburn.  This year was snow flurries and craaaazy mud, worst ever (see accompanying picture of people in winter jackets and me covered in mud!)

I remember the time I ran Around the Bay and it was single digits and poured rain for the first half.  I did it in shorts!  Epic.

I remember the sweltering heat at the Gravenhurst Triathlon one year, where most of the field was doing a death march through the "run"...

As JFK said:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard

To the moon!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Race Preview: Tour de King

I was going to try to describe this race in my own words, but I gave up trying, so here's what the organizers said it was:
An event for everyone from the first-time rider to the seasoned pro taking you for a ride on some of the best back-roads, trails and terrain that Southern Ontario has to offer. This is a great course for mountain bikes, and cyclo-cross bikes with about 10% paved road, 40% gravel road and 50% trail - which equals a 100% fun (less trail for the 35 km)! At the finish line a cycling festival with an amazing kid’s race, band, climbing wall, expo area and barbeque await

So basically it's a 52km bike race that throws a little bit of everything at you, modeled after the immensely successful (and fun!) Paris to Ancaster.  Hopefully minus the mud chutes!

What Bike?

I'm a bit confused on this... at first, the description suggested cyclocross, but late details referring to some of the road allowances as "knarly" and the amount of single-track made me consider using my mountain bike.  When mountain bike guys use words like "knarly", they often mean something pretty dire!

But... I love my cyclocross bike, and I'm doing this more for fun and to check it out than anything.

Also we went out a couple of weeks ago and hit the singletrack in Durham Forest on the cross bikes just to check it out... it was hugely fun, and I was shocked how comfortable I felt in there.  As long as it's not too "knarly", it should be the right choice, and whatever I give up on the "knarly" and single track I should be able to get back on the roads.

Wait... Aren't You Training for a Marathon?

Yes, but I've built cross-training into my plan from the start.  I did my long run mid-week (yesterday) to give lots of time to recover, so a couple more short runs this week before the race.

That being said, I'm not really in peak cycling shape right now... my biking has fallen off late in the year as the focus has shifted to running.  This will be more of a "B" or "C" race.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Race Report: Run Ajax 1/2 Marathon

I am always eager to write up my race report when everything goes well, but when things go off the rails it's a bit more like work!  But there are more lessons in a humbling result than in an ego-booster, so here we go.

Day Before

I pre-rode the course on my bike yesterday, and found it was a lot hillier than I had remembered.  These aren't long arduous climbs, but rather short little steep ups and downs.  I knew it would be a tough day, and getting a personal best would be challenging... but I decided to try anyway.

In fact, I biked just shy of 40km yesterday... not really that long, but not what you typically want to do the day before a race.  I don't know if this was a factor in how things went, but not the smartest thing to do any way you cut it!

Race Day

I started the race feeling pretty good.  I was easily holding the 4:30/km I needed, assisted partially by going net downhill.  The little rollers on this first section weren't that bad, and I was still fresh.

I got to the 6km mark still on my pace, but my heart rate was creeping up on me... from the 170bpm I try to hold to 175ish.  Probably partly due to the headwind, partly due to the hills. I had a choice, either back off and nurse it down or keep going at the target pace... I chose to hold the pace, which was probably pretty stupid, but I really was out to PB and anything less would be a fail!

By the time I got to 10km, things were starting to falter... I got there at 45:00, almost bang-on 4:30/km pace, but now it was really feeling like work.

There is an out-and-back on Lakeridge, somehow it felt uphill both ways.  I'm still not sure which way was downhill, but by this point I felt awful and I knew sub-1:35 was not happening.  From then on I pretty much mailed it in, dropping way off to something closer to 5:00/km pace... this coincided with getting a tail-wind, which sounds good - but in the hot sun, it proved to be miserable!

At about 19km, there is one last long hill.  It's not steep, but it just goes on and on.  Miserable stuff!

Finally, mercifully, I came to the short downhill that lead to the finish.  One guy who had just passed me was within striking distance, so somehow I managed to find enough for a finishing kick and blew by him.  An ounce of satisfaction to go with my pound of disappointment.

Final result - 1:40:30 (21/261, 9/33 M30-39)

What Happened?

I burned too many matches early on trying to hold an overly ambitious 4:30/km pace and bombed out.  This course was tough and I didn't give it enough respect, bit me.  Lessor factors - the wind and heat in the second half, maybe the lack of taper.

The weird thing is - as my pace dropped from 4:30/km to 5:00+/km, very few people passed me.  I even stopped to tie my shoes - not once, but twice.  I think this course humbled a lot of people today.


Enjoyed a beer with a couple I met on the RunningMania forums - nice to meet in person and put some faces to the names.  Even better when it involves a much needed beer! :)

Next up... Tour de King, cyclocross race (sort-of) next weekend.  Probably shouldn't be doing it during marathon training, but it's going to be fun, so........

Thursday, September 22, 2011

100 Pushups - Attempt #2

The goal - 100 consecutive push-ups.

This site has a plan to get there.  Pretty simple - you increase the number each session until eventually you can do it!  They alter the amount of rest between sets and such, but really all it is is repetition and incremental increase.

I originally tried this 3 years ago... but I felt some aches and pains that were impacting my swimming right at the start of Ironman training, so I stopped.  Now I'm off the swimming, so there's really no excuse! 

In the initial test I was only able to do 12... pretty sad.  First day was tough - I barely got through all the sets, and I'm really sore today.  Lots of work to do here, but hey, I was a pretty crappy runner when I started that too...

Update #1:  OK so it really didn't go that great for the first few weeks... I don't know why they have you doing 12 push-up sets when your initial test was 12???  It makes no sense.  I figure I'll be better off if I drop the number in each set and actually do it, so instead of column 3 as they suggested, I'm using column 2 and starting over.  Today I did 6-6-4-4-8, and it felt really good (although those numbers look so pathetic!).  I would rather feel good and actually achieve this thing than strain myself and never get there!  More updates to come...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Race Preview: Run Ajax Waterfront 1/2 Marathon

Back when there was still snow on the ground, I decided to join this 5k/10k/21k speed challenge.

It's nothing formal, just setting goals for the year in each distance.

My goals:
5k: <20:00 (2011 best: 20:12)
10k: <42:00 (2011 best: 40:53 - done!)
21.1k: <1:35:00 (2011 best: 1:36:05)

The goal for the Ajax 1/2 is simple: sub-1:35:00!  4:30/km.  Go big or go home. 

Pacing plan is easy since there is no plan B!  Start at 4:30/km and hold 4:30/km until I either triumphantly cross the finish or collapse into a ball of goo (or is that Gu?).

As for the course, I have run the Ajax waterfront a few times, it's a recreational trail with some small hills.  The east end of course is the same as the Whitby marathon course so I know it, and it's not that easy.   Waterfront is pretty, but can be windy.

Not an ideal race to be trying to set a PB, but it's the only half that fit nicely into my NYC marathon training.  I set the 1:36:05 at the Whitby 1/2, which isn't a great PB course either, so there's no reason it shouldn't be possible.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Race Report: Logs Rocks & Steel

What an experience... lots of fun!  Finished 4th of the male pairs, which we're really happy with (especially given our lack of canoe prowess!).

The Course

Adventure racing is definitely a different kettle of fish from my usual race.  It's tough stuff - more "adventure" than "race"!  We did the "Pinecrest Course", which featured a 4k canoe, 21km mountain bike, and 5k trail run.

The canoe course was just a big lake - nothing tricky about it other than our lack of experience.  We finished around where we hoped, in just over 30 minutes, but when you can see a bunch of boats ahead of you and not so many behind it doesn't feel great! .

The bike course started with some easy gravel road, but then we went off that and into the trails.

The trails were not your typical well groomed mountain bike trails - it was a more natural surface, which in the Barrens means lots of rock and a generous dose of mud.  Lots of people walking their bikes, including me at times... I had a tough time with this course, the rocks just bounced me around like crazy.  I wiped out a couple of times, low-speed but still confidence-shakers (but certainly not as badly as the guy claiming he broke his arm!)  I held us up while I mucked through the thing, but we were still passing people as everyone struggled with the same conditions.

Then there's a long paved road section back to the camp... this was our time to shine, we really put the hammer down and I felt really good again.   One team offered to work with us, but it was clear they really meant "we're going to sit on your wheel for the next 10km"... forget that, I put the hammer down and we pulled away from them.

The run was diabolical... I guess technically they were trails, but in some sections I would certainly debate that.  Climbing on top of large boulders, sharp climbs, very tricky and technical.  I got some pretty awesome scratches on my legs (if you don't bleed it wasn't much of an adventure, right?) from the foliage.  Challenging stuff!  We almost got lost a few times, but fortunately between my teammate and I one of us always noticed any mistakes.  I'm pretty sure the course was short by a bit, but my GPS might have lost some distance in the twisty bits, and I was gassed enough that I didn't mind at all when we came out and heard the finish!

The craziest thing about the course is that there is a longer version... it's staggering to think of doing a 14km canoe with portages, 50km on that terrain of mountain biking, then having to run 16km of insanity!  Kudos to anyone who got through that.

Other Things About the Race

I really liked the post-race meal, it was a fantastic spread of sandwich stuff, salads, fruits, veggies, deserts... mmm!

The location was spectacular.  Beautiful lake, trees, rock, Muskoka at its best.  The facilities at the camp were also spot on.

The attitude is much less anal-retentive than the triathlon crowd I'm used to.  The lack of organization in transition was a bit frustrating, as people had put their bikes all on one side of the rack and left no space... but whatever, not a big deal.  The start was also a bit ambiguous... where's the start line?  Who knows?  We just kind of lined up and went when they told us to go!  Mostly it was refreshing rather than frustrating though.

The course was mostly well marked, but there were a few confusing points where we could have gotten lost... and listening in on other people's conversations after the race, several did.  I did an off-road tri a couple of weeks ago that used a more generous amount of plastic ribbon to make it very very clear where to go at every turn, that would have helped.  But honestly, I didn't mind other people getting lost! ;)

The shirts are awesome - T-shirts made of really soft bamboo material.  Guats is the brand (they also sponsored the race) -  I didn't even know this existed, it's excellent.  I'm not affiliated with them in any way BTW!

All in all a great time, it's on my short-list to do again next year!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Race Preview: Logs Rocks & Steel

What is it?

Canoe 4k, mountain bike 22k, and finish it off with a 5k run.  I will be participating in the team category with a buddy of mine.

There is also a more challenging "Championship Course" that features a 14k paddle, 50k mountain bike, and 16k trail run... maybe next year!

Race website

Race Preparation

I have been doing a lot more off-road biking than usual this year, and throwing some trail running into my run training as well.  I did pretty well in my recent off-road duathlon (Mine over Matter), so I'm feeling good about those two portions of the race.

The canoe is a different matter - neither of us has all that much experience.  We got out a few times to practice and mostly have the hang of keeping the boat straight, which is half the battle.  We managed to complete a few 4km loops in a comparable time to some of the top times from last year (around 30 minutes), but that was according to GPS... navigating a 4k course won't be quite as straight and perfect, we'll probably cover more than 4k!  Hopefully we don't lose too much time here and can make it up later.

The Goal

It's our first adventure race, so goal is just to have fun and push hard!  I don't quite know what to expect in terms of results, hopefully we're high up there, but if we're not then there will be some work to do for 2012.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Setting a Marathon Goal Pace

Anticipating your race pace is never easy, and with only two marathons under my belt it's that much more complicated.  Add to that the fact that my shorter race distances are still getting faster and it's a bit of a crap-shoot what my target race pace should be.

Rewind back to 2010...

I used the McMillan Running Calculator with a 1/2 marathon time of 1:41:10.  This predicted a marathon time of around 3:33, so I set my goal at 3:35.

Result: 3:44:06.  Ouch.  I faded badly at the end.

I can only guess why... bad day?  Not enough mileage?  Or was the calculator just too optimistic??  All of the above?


This year I plugged my new 1/2 marathon PB of 1:36:05 into McMillan.  It is now predicting a marathon time of 3:22:38 (4:49/km pace).

If I assume the calculator is optimistic by 11 minutes, that leaves me shooting for the 3:33 I didn't get last year.  This works out to a pace of 5:03/km, which sounds more achievable.

I have a marathon race pace 21km LSD tomorrow, I'll test out the 5:03/km and see just how it feels.  Hope to see a low heart rate and feel like a million bucks at the end!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Race Report: Mind over Matter (off-road duathlon)

First off - I finished 6th overall, 3rd in my age group.  Cooler still - I was fastest in the first run, so I entered transition as the duathlon race leader!  That's never happened before, it was an awesome feeling.

1:56:39 (6/25, 3/9 M30-30)

OK, so there were only 25 people in the duathlon... still counts!

Trail Run (3k)

13:23 (4:11/km - 1/25!)

The opening run... I knew from a dry run I did a couple weeks ago that I could hit this one hard and still be OK for the bike, so that's what I did.

About 1k in, I was in a pack of 4, a few seconds behind the lead pack of 4.  Then we hit the downhill... this is something I've practiced a lot, and I always seem to pass a whack of people downhill.  They hit the brakes, I keep my legs going and fly by... so I found myself up with the lead group at the turn-around.

At this point I just wanted to try take the lead and see if anyone would respond.  I did, they didn't, so I decided I might as well finish 1st at something... rest of the race be damned!  The adrenaline of leading made the job seem easy, and I entered transition in 1st place.



I thought it went OK, but I left transition a few spots down from where I'd entered it, so I guess it didn't... I don't really practice this much, and I spent some time monkeying around with my watch that I really shouldn't have.

The Mountain Bike

1:03:08 (9/25)

The problem with being near the front of the race is the pressure to stay there... I'm used to having a slow swim, then spending the bike passing dozens of people.  Instead I was the one getting passed, mostly by the top competitors in the triathlon who fed in with us after their swim.

My heart rate was through the roof early on in the bike, so I dialed it back a bit.  

The course was far more technical than I'd expected - not that it was all that technical, but based on descriptions I'd read and pictures from other years, I thought it would be dead simple.  It wasn't!  There were a few logs to jump over, a few rocky sections to navigate, roots, all of which made more difficult in race conditions because you're pushing for time.

I made a really dumb mistake because of this - I'd locked out my fork not expecting much to bump over, and forgot I'd done that for the entire first lap.  I felt like I was getting bumped around a lot but with so much else on my mind (dealing with traffic, heart rate, etc) it didn't click.  I also had never ridden the course, or even in Kelso, so the first lap was tentative as I figured it all out.  

Near the end we got to the ski hill... woah.  It was steep, granny gear steep, and worst of all it featured a false top!  I thought I was cresting the top, but it was only about 2/3rd with some of the steepest climbing to the top of the chairlift still to go.  All I could think of on the way up was "oh man, I have to do this again!?".

Second lap I felt much better - I was no longer being passed and was well into my groove.  Also my fork was unlocked (duh!) so my bike was handling much better through the bumpy stuff.  The hill didn't phase me, I knew what to expect this time... finished it off strong on the descent.

Transition 2


Racked bike, changed shoes, started to go... then my buddy and a volunteer watching both yelled at me "your helmet!".  Oops!  Took off my helmet, probably didn't help my transition time any but made me laugh which is its own reward, right?

Trail Run (8.5k)

39:03 (4:44/km, 4/25)

The goal on this run was to keep my heart rate in check and not blow up!  I started out a bit pokey, as you have to re-climb the hill we climbed previously on the opening run.  Then it dodges into what I'd call "real" trail - windy twisty trails around trees, elevation changes, rocks and root.  Very pretty in there!  

I caught up to another duathlete who was stretching out his calf muscle, and as I passed him he immediately got going again... I could hear him right behind me, stalking me, so figured it was time to lay down some hurt!  I brought the pace up just a little, and within a minute or so the sound went away.  With all the little switchbacks I could peak over to see if anyone was gaining on me, nobody was, so I just concentrated on holding my pace.

The final few kilometers go around the lake, which is flat as a pancake (but windy) and you can see exactly where everyone ahead and behind you are.  I was close to one other person (who ended up being the women's triathlon winner) but other than that there was nobody.  Gave it a final finishing kick and felt very satisfied with a job well done!

Post-race Navel-Gazing

Super-fun race!  Can't wait to try another off-road duathlon (or tri) next year, it was far more entertaining than regular triathlons.

A bit surprised that my runs went so much better than my bikes (1st and 4th on runs, 9th on the bike)... but that might speak more to the crowd than my personal abilities.  There were some hard-core mountain bike folks there, who probably weren't such great runners, and some of them really nailed that bike.  Regular triathlons seem to be more about runners who got bored and started biking!

I was first on the 1st run!  I win the prize for "went out too hardest".  Although honestly, I didn't feel like it cost me anything on the bike or the last run.  This strategy seemed to work out really well for me, and it felt good to be leading a race.

Next up: Logs Rocks and Steel Adventure Race!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marathon Training for the Easily Distracted

Between now and the NYC marathon, I have:
  • Off-road duathlon (trail run + mountain bike)
  • Adventure race (canoe + mountain bike + trail run)
  • 1/2 marathon
  • Cyclocross race
  • 5k
Yes, I know, I lack focus... but hey, I'm in this all first and foremost to be healthy and have fun!  All of these will be fun, so here we are.

My training plan for NYC has thus far been 3 runs per week (LSD, Tempo, Recovery) and 2 bikes (Tempo/Hammerfest/Hills and LSD).  Once I get through the last bike events, this will become 4 runs per week before I taper off for the marathon.

 It's not exactly what marathon training plans call for, but the biking fitness does carry over somewhat into the running.  Having those long 4+ hour bike efforts under your belt when you line up for a marathon helps!  There is also the intensity you can achieve on a bike without nearly as much injury risk as running intensity.

Hopefully it all works out and I coast to a new marathon PB!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ironman Reminiscing

Two years ago today, I became inmate #487 in the insane asylum that is Ironman Canada.  You really do have to be a little bit crazy to look at 3800m of swimming, 180km of biking and a full 42.2km marathon and think "that sounds like a good idea!".

The days my kids were born and my wedding were all special days... but the day I became an Ironman was the greatest day of my life.  It wasn't just the overwhelming experience of the day, but the immense sense of accomplishment of all the dedication and training it took to get there.  It was especially meaningful as I had never really been an athletic type growing up, and having come from being a pretty tubby "marshmallow man" it was the exclamation point on my transformation to a healthy guy.

Two Years On...

I am keeping my eyes on the prize, and that is to stay fit and healthy.  That was the goal when I started the journey, and it will be the goal until I die (hopefully of old age!).  I actually weigh less than I did when I did Ironman, my running times are quite a bit improved, and I feel like I'm a better all-around athlete (and I feel I can actually call myself an athlete!).

Will I do Ironman again?  Yes, someday.  But I want to do it right, with a real performance goal, not just "to finish".  That means even more training than the first time, and with young kids I just can't do it right now.  So I'm concentrating on all the other things I enjoy - mountain biking, cyclocross, adventure racing, marathons... that takes up plenty of time as it is!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Race Preview: Mine over Matter

Mine over Matter is like an X-terra event, minus the brand name.  Off-road triathlon - swim, mountain bike, trail run.  It takes place at the Kelso Conservation Area in Milton, Ontario.

Check out this awesome video of the 2010 race... this is a must-do!!!

I was hoping to get out there at least once to check it out, but it hasn't really come together, so I'm going in a bit blind.  All I know is that there are some very long climbs on the bike course (goes up a ski hill) and it's two loops... I don't imagine the rest of it is flat either.  Should be a good challenge.

I haven't had my "swimming mojo" this year, so I am doing the duathlon (trail run - mountain bike - trail run).  I did a mock duathlon in training this weekend of similar distances just to get a feel for the transitions, it went well.  Seems that I can go pretty hard on the first run without hurting my bike and second run excessively, so that will be the plan.

Can't wait!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Race Report: Kyle's Run

Kyle's Run is a 5k/10k trail race in Whitby, Ontario to raise money for the Canadian Liver Foundation.  It takes place in Cullen Gardens and Heber Down, both full of trails and trees - perfect for a trail race!

I did the 10k, and my son Jack did his first ever race, the kid's 1k!

He totally rocked it... I was a bit anxious about how he'd handle running an entire kilometer, but he didn't slow down at all - just ran right through it.  I was shocked and delighted!  A natural?

You bet!

My Race

The 10k started late as someone had vandalized the signage overnight - grrr, who sabotages a charity race??? Punks.  By the time we got going it had heated up a fair bit, and with the humidity I knew it was going to be a tough one.

There were some super-quick looking younger runners, presumably cross-country kids, so I decided before we even started not to even try keep up with them... good call, as the winner beat me by a lot!  I settled into a pretty quick start across the grass and onto the opening trail.

The first 3km or so were flat and easy, and there was a fair bit of shade to keep cool.  I passed a few of the young guns, got passed by a couple who were behind me, but settled into a pretty good rhythm.

Soon after we turned on to another trail, which was more muddy and a bit slower... but still very easy compared to the hills.

Oh, the hills!  I run here all the time, so I knew they were coming, but they still smacked me around.  Very steep, I could barely run up them and found myself slowing to a walk up the biggest of them.  By now I was pouring sweat and my pace was dropping, but I kept pushing to try keep my position.

No dice - the guy that was chasing me for about the closing 4km or so finally caught me and I just didn't have anything to respond with.  I managed a finishing sprint just to keep my time under 50:00, finished in 49:55 or so.  There was no official timing or placing, but I think I was something like 7th or 8th of the 35 or so runners who braved the 10km (the 5km was the more popular option by a long shot!)

The Course

The 5km is flat and not technical at all, suitable for anyone who can put one foot in front of the other!  The 10km uses the 5km course but the middle 5km is very challenging, there are steep uphills, downhills, rock, sand, if it rains there'd be mud... lots of fun to some of us who are a bit more sadistic, your mileage may vary!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Cycling Community is Full of Nice Folks

I had a flat today.  More accurately, I had two flats today... and only one tube.

While I was pulled over by the side of the road, at least 30 cyclists went by.  At least one from every single group yelled out "everything OK?" or "got everything you need?".  Every one.

Ultimately I learned three things:

  • Don't let your tire get worn down so thin that a minor flat becomes a calamity... I had two holes in my tire, presumably from running over some glass or something, but they would have been nothing if not for the state of my tire!  The second tube didn't stand a chance, lasted about 10km before it too went kaboom!
  • Cyclists are a nice bunch of people
  • Don't leave the phone where your wife can't hear it if you expect her to answer it... oops... but she eventually answered and picked me up (thanks honey)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cycling: Are Cars Your Biggest Worry?

I was just browsing this article from the Toronto Star that contains some statistics on cycling injuries.

This part stood out:

Only about one in four of the overall cycling-related hospitalizations involved a collision with a motor vehicle

“For three out of four, something else is going on. It could be just a crash on a trail or a collision with another cyclist or a pedestrian,” Webster said.

Personally, I've only been in the hospital once for a cycling-related incident, and it was when I was hit by a truck... but some of my other crashes:
  • Hit an off-leash dog on a trail, went flying over the handlebars - bruised ribs
  • On two different occasions, my friend and I managed to misread each others intentions while on our road bikes and wiped each other out
  • Multiple mountain biking spills, some of which were minor bruising, others were pretty bloody painful... my buddy cracked a helmet once on an endo
Incidents with cars are probably more likely to cause death, but it's worth thinking of other ways to make your ride safer.

Speaking of which - to nobody's surprise, helmets work!
While the numbers point to a positive trend, they also show the message about helmets hasn’t reached some. Of those who still ended up in hospital trauma units because of head injuries, 78 per cent were not wearing helmets.
When I was hit by a truck, it cracked my helmet.  I did not sustain a head injury.

Shouldn't that be enough?  Wear a lid!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Race Preview: Kyle's Run

What is it?

A 5k or 10k trail race in Whitby, Ontario, supporting the Canadian Liver Foundation.

Race website


A rather wonderful conservation area near my house!  I've written about Cullen Central Park and Heber Down on this blog - they're really nice park and wilderness area butted right up against the town of Whitby in suburban Toronto.

What kind of course?

Trails, but other than that I don't know the actual route... most of the trails are well groomed gravel or dirt, a tiny bit of asphault.  At this time of year should be dry.  There are a few monster hills up and down the valley in the conservation area, but I'm not certain they will be part of the race (but I suspect they will!).

Should be a fun and interesting race, the price is right, see you there!  Right?  Riiiiight!???

Monday, July 11, 2011

Race Report: Peterborough Sprint Triathlon

Defining characteristics of this race:

  • The heat
  • Weedy swim
  • The heat
  • Dull bike course
  • The heat
  • Running on grass
  • The heat
... so while I had a good time, that was more a function of it being a triathlon and me loving the sport than this race!

The one thing it has going for it is the race site, it's in a nice park by a lake.  And it's pretty close to my house... which may or may not help you any!


As I mentioned here before, I haven't done much swimming this year... I got in about a half dozen swims in the last few weeks and nothing before that for months.  My swim time was pretty bad, but that was expected.

19:58 (334/439) 

(Worth noting - they include the long run from the beach in the swim time... but still, I sucked)

Transition 1

Got out of my wet suit quicker than expected, fumbled a bit with shoes and socks.  1:50.  Not fast, will practice before my next "real" race.


Heart rate was sky high at the start of the bike, mostly from my bad swimming technique.  Got myself into a rhythm though and started to pick off some of the people who had slipped ahead of me in the swim.  I really needed more hills, seemed like every  time we hit a long flat section I got passed by the fancy bikes with aero bars... but I'd pay it back on the hills.  All in all I was pretty happy with it.

Oh, and triathletes - learn some bike handling skills!  The turn-around was embarrassing to watch - riders down, crashing, just trying to make a U-turn.  A guy almost wiped me out and ended up in the gravel, two others were already down... it was a sad sight!  Lean in, pushing through your outside pedal (which should be down!).  Practice it in a parking lot! 

38:11 (117/439, 31.4km/h average)

Transition 2

0:49 - pretty good.  Shoes on, helmet off, go!

Run... did I mention the heat?

I didn't really notice the heat until the run, and then it smoked me... it was so hot, the sun was out, and the shade was sparse.  I tried to get under 5:00/km but at the start it was next to impossible, I just couldn't push through it.  The course is mostly on grass, which didn't help either!

I pretty much struggled through the first 3km or so, then finally found something extra.  The last kilometer and a bit was in the shade, I salvaged a sub-25:00 at least and charged past a dozen or so people in the last few hundred meters.  That at least felt good!

24:24 (137/439, 4:53/km pace)


1:25:10, 157/439, 20/38 M35-39

Not great, not horrible.  The competition at this race was stiff... it was a qualifier for the Sprint championships, so my placing is lower than usual.  My goal was to do more of a shake-down for my off-road tri in August, so accomplished that.  Hopefully I can get my swimming clicking a little at least before then, as usual it was a mess!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Canoe for Dummies

Still basking in the glow of our reasonably successful attack on the Moraine Adventure Relay, I have been roped into yet another adventure race.

This one is Logs, Rocks and Steel.

We'll be doing the shorter of the two options - the Pine Crest Course.

  • 4km paddle 
  • 22km mountain bike
  • 5km trail run
All to be completed in its entirety by both members of our team of two.  No problem... except for that pesky paddle!

Caution: Newbie on the Lake!

I took advantage of a week spent at a cottage and the canoe I had available to me to do some preliminary training.  It took some getting used to, especially keeping the bloody thing pointing in the right direction!  But once I figured out which way to lean and what side of the boat to stroke on, it all came together.

I managed an average speed of 6km/h over my trip around the lake, which I think is pretty OK for a single person in a canoe.  I don't know quite how it would translate with two people - is it double the power, double the speed?  Being a canoe newbie I can't say for sure... but looking at results from last year, I think we can be in the ballpark of the middle of the pack without too much trouble, then make things up on the bike and run.

Things I learned:
  • Life jacket wasn't just bulky but also caused me to sweat a lot 
  • Reaching for water bottles is impossible without stopping paddling, so a camelback will be more of a necessity than it is on the bike
  • Leaning helps when the boat is swinging on you in the wind/current
Verdict: I enjoyed my time on the water, and can't wait to train more for this!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Race Preview: Peterborough Sprint Triathlon

The Race

Peterborough Triathlon.  Two main options are the half Iron distance and the Sprint.

This race is part of the Subaru Triathlon Series in Ontario.

Sprint?  Why not the Half Iron?

I have been neglecting triathlon.

I went to the pool for the first time in 4 months the other day.  My aero bars are collecting dust on the shelf.  I've just been having too much fun doing off-road stuff, and when you're having fun getting healthy it's best to keep doing what you're doing!

I have a off-road triathlon coming up in August, so I need to get back into swimming and remember how the whole transition thing goes.  So this race is about getting sharp and back into that triathlon mindset.  Swim, transition, bike, transition, run.  Got it!

This Race...

Honestly, I don't really like it that much... although they've changed the course since I last did it (2009), it's still in the searing July heat!  Not much they can do about that.  I'll report back on the new bike course, but the map looks pretty ... straight.

My Goal

Not suck too bad at the swim (always a challenge for me!), have reasonable transitions, hammer the bike and smoke the run!  Oh and don't melt.

Back in the Pool

Secret triathlete confession: I haven't been swimming.  The closest I've been to a pool in 4 months is taking my kids to their swim lessons.

I wasn't enjoying the trudge to the pool or the monotony of doing laps without seeing much improvement... and without any substantial triathlon goals this year, I decided it was a good time to just take a break from it and reset.

But I'm planning to do the Mine over Matter off-road triathlon, so I need to get back to it...

Back to the pool!  I retained most of my form (unfortunately - my form is terrible!) but lost a fair bit of my muscle fitness.  My triceps, shoulder and back were all a bit sore after my first swim.  Yesterday was my 2nd swim back, I managed to do 400m straight again without any trouble.  So I'm back!

The break did me some good, I felt like I was able to break some old habits and really think through my stroke again.

I've signed up for the Peterborough Sprint Triathlon in a few weeks as a refresher for triathlon.  The swim is only 750m so shouldn't be any trouble, but I won't be setting any records... just get through it and hammer the bike!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Race Report: Moraine Adventure Relay 2011

This race is amazing!
14 stages - 1 canoe, 6 bike, and 7 runs. You can bring anything from a team of 15 (2 for canoe) or a team of 2 - you just need someone for every stage, and any member can do as many stages as they want. It covers 160km of Oak Ridges Moraine from Rice Lake to Aurora!

This year there were around 30 teams ready to rock it out. Our team was "Blood of the Ridge"... we were "Trail Pythons" last year, but needed a new name to reflect our being ready for battle this year!!! :)

The Canoe

This year we recruited some very experienced canoeists to compliment our effort, and as luck would have it they were fast and great guys too! :) They started in the 2nd wave and overtook all but 2 boats from the first wave... they almost certainly had the fastest time on the water. We were off to a great start!

Ganaraska Forest

This area is beautiful but very sandy. It starts with a long mountain bike that fast riders do in about an hour, but the sand takes a lot out of you. It's followed by two runs that are also quite sandy. We had some navigational challenges and by the time we exited the forest we were down in 7th or 8th... that's the nature of this kind of race, a few mistakes can really nail you.

Another run and Long Sault

After one more run leaving Ganaraska, we finally transitioned to the bike stages. This is our real strength as myself and one other guy are solid cyclists, we can finish in the top handful on all of these stages and we pretty much did. We flew through Long Sault and the next very sandy (again!) bike stage, then I nailed down a nice fast ride on my cyclocross bike on a mostly road stage to get us to Durham Forest in pretty good shape!

Durham Forest and beyond

The run through Durham Forest is hilly and scenic, really beautiful wilderness. We had a few more navigational issues but our runner still held his own and turned in a decent time. Things were looking up! I then did my first run of the day through Stage 10... this one has to be the toughest run, it's the longest at 11km, the hills are steep, and the trail goes from pretty good to downright awful by the end... trudging through a marsh and tip-toeing across rotting bridges - ouch! 

Musselman Lake and York Regional Forest

After this we hit a bike stage, which my buddy nailed. Then it's a trail run through the really wonderful York Regional Forest - anyone who lives in Markham or Aurora should really check it out, it's very nice in there. Then it was my turn to shine - I absolutely smoked the next bike stage thanks to my cyclocross bike and experience of having done the stage before! It was my forth stage of the day (had to fill in for a teammate who had a family emergency) so I was a bit tired, but since I had nothing left to do after it was just put the hammer down and suck it up time! Flew through the forest, then hammered it on the roads, I'll be disappointed if I'm not the #1 time on that stage - it really was my best!

The Finish

The last stage is mostly on roads with a bit of trail at the end... and then finally, the finish! Oh glorious finish.

Final results - although we crossed the line 5th, teams rested enough between stages that in the final accounting we ended up 7th... but our time (11:28) is over 2 hours ahead of last year (13:31).  It's a bit disappointing, but the good news is we won two stages!  Our canoe team was the fastest, and one of my bike stages was #1 as well.  We had a couple of 3rd place finishes and a few top 5's, so we really had some solid efforts.  We fell short of the goal of finishing top 5, but we demonstrated the pace to pull it off... so I'm encouraged for next year.

Now accepting applications for 2012!!! :D Seriously, if anyone is interested in joining our team we could use the help! Or if you want any advice or have questions about forming your own team, fire away. It's an awesome event that I can't recommend highly enough - great organizers, great volunteers, wonderful.