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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!