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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Race Preview: XCMansfield Marathon

I always hate when people use the term "marathon" to describe things that aren't marathons... "John and Kate Plus Eight Marathon", "Star Wars Marathon", etc.

... yet here I am, participating in a mountain bike race that calls itself a "marathon".  Crap!  My principles will have to take a back seat for a day, because this event looks cool.

What it is

Race website

60-65km mountain bike race.  There are also shorter options - a 30km option they call a "half marathon", and a 12-15km called a "microthon".

You will likely notice no actual resemblance to an actual marathon distance (42.2km) which is based on the distance from Marathon to Athens in Greece... but I digress!

The race takes place in Mansfield

Neat things about this race

It isn't loops, nor does it re-use trails you've already been on in any way - it's 60km of unique trail.

Map is below - as you can see they've chosen on World Cup Finals day to do a tribute to Italy by making a map that looks like spaghetti!

I'm pretty sure it starts with the red trail, then yellow, then purple, then light blue.

60km on a mountain bike on actual mountain bike trails is not the trivial distance it sounds... I can pound out 125km on my road bike in around 4 hours, and I'm expecting this to take about the same amount of time!  Lots of windy singletrack on the map and Mansfield is a pretty hilly place.  Lots of short steep hills, which they say they've tried to keep to a minimum, but we shall see!  It's all relative!


I dunno, this is new to me, I have never been on the mountain bike that long so I really don't know how that last hour will feel.  I'm guessing it will feel a bit like crap, especially in the high heat of the early afternoon!  I'm just going to take in as much fluids as I can stomach and try to stay on top of my energy needs, pretty much like any other race.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How I Lost 3 Pounds This Week

The goal:  Lose 3 pounds in a week

The math:

1 pound = 3,500 calories
3 pounds = 10,500 calories

Daily calorie requirements for me (185 pounds, not including workouts) = 2850  (see the calculator here)

Calories per day consumed = 2,200

2850-2200 = 650cal/day deficit
650 x 7 = 4,550 calories over the week!

So far so good.  Now let's add in exercise.

10 hours x 700cal/hr = 7,000.  (700 is a ballpark for me, subtracting any consumed Gatorade/food during workouts)

7000 calories... minus 400 calories for recovery (I give myself 200cal for a 2+ hour effort) = 6,600.

Total deficit for the week = 6,600+4,550 = 11,100 calories
Projected weight loss=11,100 / 3,500 = 3.17 pounds

... but then I hosted a poker night on Friday and ate about 1000 calories more than I was supposed to.  Still works out to 10,150, and right on my 3 pound goal.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weight Loss and the Myth of the "Fat-Burning Zone"

I was reading Bicycling Magazine the other day, and they had an article about metabolism.  It referenced this study which showed that cyclists burned almost 200 extra calories in the 14 hours after a vigorous 45 minute work-out.

These aren't biking calories - these are resting calories!  Free!

I was immediately reminded of the cardio equipment in the gym which advertised a "fat burning zone".  It was always at a lower heart rate, the theory being that at that rate the percentage of energy coming from fat was higher.

This is obviously true... but calories per minute at the lower intensity is also lower!  So if you have a certain amount of time to exercise, you will burn just as much fat at a higher intensity, plus more calories from other energy sources.  As long as you don't increase your intake, you will lose more weight.

Just as an example:
1 hour vigorous cycling = 1000 calories
1 hour light cycling = 700 calories

Both might use 400 calories from fat, but overall the vigorous cycling creates a bigger calorie deficit.  Ultimately, regardless of the source of the calories during exercise, a calorie deficit means weight loss!

There is also the known fact that muscle tissue takes more calories to maintain at rest than other types of tissue, especially fat, resulting in a higher metabolism.  Those vigorous workouts are more likely to build more muscle than the long "fat-burning zone" workouts.

So don't be fooled into going easy to lose weight - going harder, faster, longer is ultimately the way to get the results!  And nicer muscles!  And the glory of kicking someone else's butt!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Race Report: Moraine for Life Adventure Relay 2012

What a day!  Great weather, good times, and we finally pulled it all together for a great result.

Update: We were declared part of a 3-way tie as winners of the race!  Timing is to the minute per stage so I don't think organizers knew for sure exactly who won... we'll take it!  9:52 overall time, much faster than last year's 11:28 or the prior year's 13:31.

The Team: Blood of the Ridge

We have had people come and go each year so far, and this year was no different!  But we have a really strong line-up now, our strongest yet.

Stage 1: The Canoe

We started off on the right foot (paddle?) - and then some!  Our canoe pairing smoked out a good 5 minute lead on the next closest boat.  They were just awesome, a real treat to watch.  The shoreline was buzzing - who are these guys?  Best of all, they were using the boat me and my buddy bought... proving that it really is a fast boat, and we're the problem!

Stage 2:  Bike (me)

I waited a bit before starting, probably about 5-10 minutes, since there were no other teams who had come to the start yet.  There is no penalty for this (transition time does not count against you) so it seemed like a good strategy.

Unfortunately when we did start, the guys around me were just too strong to hang with.  I tried, but just didn't have it in me.  I resigned myself to aiming for my target time, and managed to shave a minute off of last year's by the end of it.

This stage is very sandy - the first year I did it we didn't know that and I had the wrong tires (cyclocross tires).  The wider tires definitely helped, I was about 10 minutes faster than my first go at this stage.

Stage 3 is a run, our runner rocked it out, besting last year's time by a lot (last year we got lost!) and the year before's by at least 5 minutes.  A big improvement for us!  It's a tough stage - net uphill with lots of sand - but he really stuck it out.

Stage 4 is yet another pretty sandy run, a bit shorter.  Our guy again shaved time off of both our 2010/2011 times.

Stage 5 winds through some very rough overgrown sections... it's the one stage I've never really seen that much of myself, but our runner said it was very ingrown!  And the part I saw looked really rough, I don't think that trail sees many people outside of race day.  He smoked it though, cutting time off of both our 2010/2011 times again!

So at this point we were sitting pretty, with the worst of the navigationally challenging stages behind us!  This was shaping up to be a great year...

... and then Stage 6 hit.  A straight-forward bike, the guy doing it had done it in 2010, we had no concerns at all.  He headed up the first hill, and I left to the next checkpoint in the van.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.... now I'm getting worried!  Then we get a call that someone broke a chain!  Ohhhh crap.  I asked the organizers if he needed us to go back and help, they said they didn't think so, so I hung tight and waited for news.  Thanks to some very helpful other teams, he got the chain fixed and re-started the stage.  We're still not sure if they're going to give us the original start time or the second start time for the stage, hopefully the later since he did start at the start and complete the whole thing, but we'll see!  If not we'll be out about 25 minutes, which would be a real shame.

Stage 7 our guy rocked out.  I don't know how he went that fast, it was crazy!  It's a sandy rutted tough "road" allowance.  Took at least 10 minutes off of our 2011 time.

Stage 8 and our "wicked awesome roadie" came along.  I always feel like I'm pretty good on the bike, but then there's this whole other level I can only envy... he was just so fast.  I won this stage last year, and he killed my time by several minutes.

Stage 9 (me)!

This stage is an 11km running stage (advertised as 10.5, but Garmin wouldn't lie, would it?).  It was midday and super hot, near 30C.  I started out at about a tempo pace, trying to really pace myself through the hills.  When I reached the first corner, I realized someone was right behind me... "red shirt"!  He was from the Flying Squirrels team, and the last thing I wanted to see when trying to keep from blowing up!  I told myself to keep my pace and ignore him, if he's faster then he's faster, let him go...

After the first forest section, I looked back - he was still there, about the same distance back.  Through the next forest section I just kept my head down and didn't look... but I could feel him stalking me!  We hit the road, back out in the full sun - I was drenched in sweat and really feeling the heat, but he must have been too as he still was about the same distance back.

Somewhere in the next forest section I lost him.  There was a series of switchbacks where you loop back to where you just were, and I didn't see him - he was gone.  This was a relief, now I could just focus on kicking out the last half of the stage at my pace!

Once again, out on the road, and the sun cooked me.  I clung to any hint of a wind, lifted my shirt a bit, but it was really hell.  Finally we went back into the forest for the last section before the checkpoint... then it got all sandy and tricky with the footing, but at least most of the hills were now behind me!  I flew down the final trail and emerged from the forest having taken at least 5 minutes off of our 2010 and 2011 times.  Yay!

Stage 10 and our guy rocked it out again!  This stage starts out quite nice, but as you go the trail gets more and more rough and the terrain gets tougher and tougher.  First 1/3: nice, good trails.  Second 1/3: hilly, trail gets rougher.  Third 1/3:  swampy!  He earned us yet another ~5 minutes off our previous years time... these are starting to add up!

Stage 11 and our "wicked awesome roadie" was back... he hammered it, somehow finding 4-5 minutes over last year's time over a 25 minute stage.  Stunning.  I would really hate him if he were on anyone else's team.

Stage 12 (me)!

I had gulped down enough Gatorade to recover from my previous sauna stage... and actually felt really good at the start of this stage.  The first 1/2 is mostly downhill and very fast, I was flying.  The second 1/2 is flatter but sandy - that was really the only obstacle, the sand.  It sucks some of your pace, but all in all I really had an easy go.  Nobody around me the entire time, just push push push!  I think I took about 10 minutes off of our 2010 or 2011 times, I was around 5:15/km pace vs previous years I know we were over 6.

Stage 13 and it's "wicked awesome roadie" again for his last mini-prologue.  Once again he hammered it, flying out of the forest at the end like a bat out of hell!  At this point we were actually 1st overall on the road, which doesn't necessarily mean anything as other teams could have rested long between their stages (and we knew at least a few had).  But it was really nice being way up there, easy to get parking at the checkpoints!

Stage 14 and the final run stage... it's been a lonnnng day, but our runner still matched his time from the previous year.  He was one long traffic light away from beating his time, so really we were bang on.

What can I say?  I'm delighted!  Nobody got lost, and other than the chain calamity we were all just so fast, faster than I ever would have imagined.  Everyone - including me - found time over last year that I didn't always expect was there to be found.  It was just a fantastic day and our team was really on it.

Results will be posted in the next day or two, but I already have the result I wanted - we finished around 7pm, which was well into the 10 hour range.  Fast fast stuff.  Yay!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Race Preview: Moraine Adventure Relay 2012

It's that time of year again!

Our team (Blood of the Ridge) did this race in 2011, and in 2010 a few of us did it as Trail Pythons.  We're back in 2012 for another kick at the cat!

A lot can go wrong when you have 14 stages and 10+ hours of racing... and for us it has gone wrong.  We have had everything from losing team members the day before race day to losing them in the forest on race day!  Or not realizing the "roads" on the map are in fact beaches (see my 2010 report for more on that one!).  Or having a couple of guys in the canoe who had never been in a canoe together before race day (note: canoeing is harder than it sounds!)

This year we've done our homework - we know the route, we've pre-run the tricky stages with new team members, we have the right people for the job, and we're motivated to rock it out!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing

I would be lying if I said I didn't find this study a tad disturbing!

The good news: running is associated with a 19% decrease in mortality over non-runners.  Hurray!

The bad news: if you run a lot or really fast, those gains evaporate to the point where you are statistically just as likely to die as non-runners again.

individuals who ran six and seven miles per hour had a significant 21% and 27% lower risk of all-cause mortality, whereas those who ran eight or more miles per hour had a nonsignificant 7% lower risk of all-cause mortality 


Running up to 20 miles per week was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death, with the largest benefit observed in those who ran between 10 to 15 miles weekly (HR 0.73; 95% CI 0.60-0.89). For those who ran 20 to 25 miles and more than 25 miles per week, however, there was a nonsignificant 10% and 5% reduction in all-cause mortality 

What does this all mean?  Maybe pushing yourself to new levels of performance excellence is fun and great for goal-setting, great to keep you motivated... but might not be doing your health any good!

I don't like to change my behaviour on a single study, but I'm glad they are at least looking at it.  It will be interesting to see where this lands as they dig deeper - what accounts for the difference?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ride Report: Ride for Heart 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Jack did a great job at his first Ride for Heart!  4 years old, 25km (ok, he had a little bit of help...).

I started doing this ride pretty much when I first got to Toronto, and it's a big part of what convinced me to go longer and further.  Now my kids have embraced it and love it, so hopefully it keeps them active as well!

Now someone fix that kid's helmet...