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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 ... bye!

2013 was a pretty good year.


Had a good time at Around the Bay 30km.  Set a best time for myself, and held a solid pace.  Beat my personal best marathon time at the Toronto Marathon.  3:39:24... I had loftier goals, but it was better than I'd ever run 42.2km before.


DNF'd at Paris to Ancaster due to a mechanical.  It was pretty spectacular - ended up having to replace my chain, rear derailleur (and hanger)... go big or go home!

Bought a new mountain bike, then did a 30km MTB race in the spring, and an 8 hour solo race in the fall.  It's been just a joy to ride, I fell in love with the sport all over again.  Also had the chance to bike in Canmore, Alberta, in the Rockie Mountains... that was cool.

On the road, I did the 130km Tour de Waterloo and the 160km Ride 4 United Way.  Both were a lot of fun!

Adventure Racing

We won the team category of the Logs, Rocks and Steel Adventure Race.  Highlight of the year!  I've never really legitimately won something like that - we put together the best paddle of the day along with some steady solid biking and running, just all came together.


We did two races - the Canoe the Nonquon and the Muskoka Adventure.  Both were a lot of fun, even though we got our butts handed to us (and then some!). 

Looking Ahead

Ironman in 2014.  Back to triathlons, and the raison d'etre for this blog.  5 years since I did it the first time, hard to believe it's been that long.  Can't wait.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Back in the Pool

I haven't been in the pool regularly for a few years.  In fact this is my first swim of 2013... (for those keeping track, 2013 ends Tuesday!)

Got back in today with a slow easy swim, focusing primarily on technique.  It came back quickly, and I felt really quite good.  Found my balance and rotation quite nicely.

Before I went, I read this passage from Total Immersion (page 55 of the edition I have, "This Fireside Edition 2004"):

Face the wall and reach up with, say, your right hand, sliding it as far up as you can.  Now rotate and lift your elbow slightly off the surface.  You'll feel a stretch in the muscles surrounding your armpit.  Turn your left hip and shoulder about 45 degrees away from the wall and you'll feel tension building in the powerful latissimus muscle (in your back, below your armpit) - not on the weak should muscles.
This really clicked for me... trying it got my head around one thing in particular - rotation should come before the stroke starts.  I seem to rely on my stroke to rotate me, which is wrong wrong wrong... so just that little pause where my rotation started before the stroke really helped me mentally.

Also I can visualize this building up some elastic power that will snap when the stroke starts and power me forward.  It'll take awhile to do this habitually, but this year my sole focus will be technique.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fake Bike Trip - Progress Report #2

My fake bike trip from Toronto to Edmonton is going a little faster after a 43km ride today out in the snow... not to often I spend over 2 hours on a bike and only cover 43km!

The roads were covered in snow, though, really treacherous at times and a full body work-out.  There was also the small matter of ice falling from trees on my head... fortunately nothing too huge.

Combined with the 35km I did on the trainer I'm now just past Orillia, Ontario.

I also put a map up in my home gym... it's of southern Ontario, the other side has the rest of Ontario, and when I finally leave Ontario I'll replace it with a full map of Canada to track my progress!

Next up: Port Sevren, Ontario.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Fake Bike Trip - Progress Report #1

My fake bike trip from Toronto to Edmonton started yesterday with me leaving Whitby. 

I biked 30km (on the stationary trainer) which took me from Whitby to Greenbank, Ontario. 

Greenbank is best known for being one of the many little places you have to slow down to 50km/h along Highway 7/12, or you might get a massive ticket. 

On the way I fake passed through Brooklyn, a nice little town that's now part of Whitby.  Also through Myrtle Station, which once was home to a train station way back in the day... trains still run through it, but I don't think the station itself is still standing.

30km down, 3339km to go.

Next up: Beaverton, ON. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bike Toronto to Edmonton

Whitby (Toronto suburb) to Edmonton: 3369 km.

Inspired by Phil on "Modern Family" (who "walked" to Canada on his elliptical trainer!), I will track my rides as if I were covering the trip from Whitby to Edmonton.

The Route

All I need now is a map and some stick pins.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mountain Biking in the Snow! Some Tips.

There's something just awesome about flying through a forest covered in snow.

Most of the time. 

Snow is tricky.  Sometimes it behaves like sand, you sink in and slide around.  Other times it's hard packed and feels like a fast trail... only to find if you go a bit off-centre you sink in and down you go!   Corners that were firm and fast in the summer can be icy and dicey.

But riding in snow is how I got used to that feeling of not having the bike completely planted under me, and that being OK.  So if you take it slow at first, you can really improve your bike handling just from the experience.

Things to watch out for:
  1. Roots/logs/etc are slippery as heck in the snow, always wet/icy.  Attack them as close to perpendicular as possible, anything else and your wheels can easily slide sideways under you.
  2. Snow is unpredictable, be ready for it.  Where people have done a lot of braking, the hard pack deteriorates into loose slippy snow.  And it's usually at the worst possible time, ie. that sharp turn at the bottom of the hill!  So be careful and alert to what's ahead, even more than normal.
  3. Use what you've got.  You don't need a "Fat Bike" (below) - I'm sure they're fun, get one if you want, but you can do a heck of a lot with your regular bike and tires (which I do!)
  4. Follow the Crowd.  It's hard to even know where the trail is in the snow, so best to stick to trails that have had traffic and some good hard pack.
  5. Bundle up and have fun!

Fat Bike

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ironman Training Plan

This is more for my own bookkeeping than anything, but if you read it and care, enjoy.


Swim ... get back into the pool and try remember how to swim. 
Run 15km once a week, and some other runs just to keep a decent base.
Bike a bit, mostly for fun.  Use the trainer for some spins, but keep it not to serious.


Start training in earnest.
Swim focus on technique.  Maybe get a bit of coaching.
Run building LSD for the Peterborough 1/2 (Feb) and Around the Bay (March).  Alternate tempo/interval workouts on the other days.
Bike intense indoors trainer workouts.  Endurance rides outdoor when possible, but other than that it's all about super killer indoor workouts that are short (1 to 1.5 hours) but intense and purposeful. 


Get ready to race a 1/2 Ironman in late June/early July.

Swim focus on technique, start to do a few long continuous swims (esp in June)
Run maintain a decent long run, tempo runs, favour biking over running
Bike miles miles miles!  And race Paris to Ancaster in April.  Get in some hill sessions outside of a long ride.


Swim focus on technique (notice a pattern?).  Trial 3800m swim.  Get into a lake when possible with wetsuit just to re-familiarize
Run get the long run back up to 2.5h (30km or so), longer tempo runs than previously
Bike do 180km at some point, and lots of long rides and miles.  Keep up the hill sessions.


Taper and Race.  During taper focus on technique and comfort with the swim, everything else is easy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Epic 8 Hour 100+ Club

I think I'm in there somewhere?

Oops, wrong club.

Did the 2013 Fall Epic 8 Hour this year.  Lap after lap for 8 hours, as many laps as you can manage.

I ended up doing 11 laps, 10km each, so 110km total.

To mark the achievement, the good people at Pulse Racing reward you with a pin:

Very cool!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why SRAM Shifters are (Probably) Better than Shimano for Small Handed People

I have small hands.  There, I said it.

More specifically, I have shorter stubbier fingers.

I have also always ridden bikes with Shimano shifters, and it has always been tough for me to reach the far lever to move to a bigger cog when I'm in the drops (the bottom curvy part of your road bike handlebars).

Smaller cog, no problem, it's nice and close and easy to click.  But that big lever has never worked for me from the drops.  So most of the time I end up going up onto the hood to go up cogs, which stinks.

Then I bought a new bike with SRAM Rival shifters.  As many of you will know, they have "double tap" technology, so that little closer paddle does both the up AND down-shifting.  

If you move it one click, it shifts down a cog, if you move it two clicks it shifts up a cog.  Here's a video that shows how it works.

Lo and behold, I can stay in the drops and shift!  Both ways!  Comfortably!

Debate Over?

Ha ha of course not.  If it were, what would all the Shimano and SRAM fanboys on cycling forums do with their spare time?

Some people don't like the double tap thing, and it certainly is a bit different to get used to.  Some people have big hands and don't have the same problem.  And there are a myriad of points made out there on the forums trying to show one is better than the other...

Ultimately I think it's just personal preference.  From a usability perspective, SRAM seems to work best for me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Race Report: The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience

Beautiful day!  20C, sunny skies, fall colours, how can you ask for anything more?

Muskoka was a beautiful backdrop for this race.  We were doing the 18km canoe race in our 18 foot Jensen-style canoe.

The Race

The race started at the foot of Bracebridge Falls in the town of Bracebridge Ontario, using the Muskoka River.

The kayaks started first, the canoes one minute behind.  We lined up and from the start we noticed we were going to be in tough!  Everyone else had carbon paddles and super rigged out boats, we were the only ones rocking wood paddles in the 18km.  Serious crowd!  We might have been more competitive in the 10km, but there were some pretty hard-core folks in that one too, so who knows.

Race starts and we find ourselves in last.  There's a sinking feeling (so to speak) as you watch other boats leave you in their wake!  But our goal was to experience, learn and enjoy, compete with who we could.

Soon after the start we were passed by the two "North Canoe" boats... these are giant boats with crews of 6+ people on them - they can really move!

Finally we managed to catch up on a few of the kayaks, so started to feel a little better.  Some of the canoes that had left us in the dust started to come back to us as well, or at the very least we weren't losing more ground.  We just kept paddling, hoping to keep catching folks as the race went on.

The Lake

We finally emerged from the Muskoka River and into Lake Muskoka for what was to be a quick run around the islands, then back up the river.

But... it was not at all clear which way to go!  The glut of boats we had been chasing went straight out into the lake, but perpendicular to where the island actually was.  During the briefing they implied the rescue boat would be there to guide us, but it was way over by the islands (and it wasn't clear that it was the right boat from afar!).
The green line is where our competitors went, the red line is where we went, and the blue line is where we probably should have gone to take the shortest path...

In the end it didn't trouble us too much, and actually allowed us to catch up to the glut of boats we'd been chasing.

Shortly after, there was more confusion - were we supposed to turn left or right?  (near the top of the map).  My partner correctly said "we are supposed to go around 3 islands" so we guessed left, correctly.  But again, the lead boats in our group went the wrong way a bit and had to double back.

River Part 2

The rest of the race was back in the Muskoka River, now heading up-stream.  This was tough at times but the dangling carrot of boats in front of us kept us motivated.  We passed one kayak, but there was a white canoe just ahead of us that we really really really wanted to catch.  They were so close most of the way up the river, at one point we were right in their wake... but when we pulled out to pass we just couldn't do it.  Eventually we got caught up in some traffic (10km racers on their return leg) and they took off on us.

A bit later the kayak we'd passed last caught back up to us and passed us.  Since they started 1 minute ahead of us, we figured we just had to keep him and the other kayak within sight to beat their time.  It's apples to oranges anyway, kayaks and canoes are much different beasts!  But just something to shoot for.  In the end that worked out OK.


Cool keychain as a momento!

Great "Experience", beautiful river setting, amazing volunteers and competitors, just a fantastic day all around.  The weather was the piece de resistance.

Only small complaints it the lack of clarity on where the course went once we hit the lake, but if we'd done our due diligence with the map beforehand that shouldn't have been a problem... and ultimately didn't cost us that much time.

It is funny that at Logs Rocks & Steel we were the top canoe with some of the best equipment, then we come to a canoe race and we're the bottom canoe with some of the worst!  There's a whole other level of excellence people who dedicate themselves to something can achieve compared to those who dabble.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Race Preview: Great Muskoka Paddling Experience

Not Actually Muskoka
With a name like the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience how can you possibly go wrong?


You can't!

Great is great.
Muskoka is great.
Paddling is great.
Experiences are often great.

Race Website

10km or 18km.  Of course we choose the 18km, not because it will be more fun at the time, but because theoretically it will be more rewarding!  And we want to see all those top guys kicking our butts to see what they're doing that we're not.

Oh and it's a pretty long drive, so gotta get one's money's worth.

Enough said!  Paddle on.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Race Report: Fall Epic 8 Hour Mountain Bike

I had been planning to do this as a 2-man relay, but my buddy decided not to do it so I did what any insane Ironman-type person would do - I signed up anyway for the solo category.

8 hours of mountain biking, straight, solo.

The Race

Beautiful setting up in Harwood Ski and Bike in Ontario.  Each lap consisted of a 10km loop through mostly singletrack trails (with some doubletrack connecting the pieces).  Most laps in 8 hours wins, and if it's a tie then it's whoever completed their last counted lap first.

My Race - Lap 1

I lined up somewhere in the middle of the 200+ riders.  We started on doubletrack, and it thinned out a little, but then we got to the first singletrack and there was literally a line-up to get in.  Lost a few minutes, but this was an 8 hour event and I was playing the very long game.

First time through the singletrack was a bit daunting, having not seen it before.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, despite the names "Gnarly" and "Radical" everything was very rideable.  Challenging, but rideable.

Then I wiped out.  Stupid stupid stupid, just one moment of inattention and I caught the handlebar on a little tree.  My shoulder hurt quite a lot as I got up, I was so pissed at myself.  On lap 1?  Really??

Got going again quick enough, the pain in my shoulder would subside in a few laps (but my pride hurt forever!).

Lap 2, 3, 4, 5...

It's all a bit of a blur, pretty much found a rhythm and kept on it.  The fatigue and even a bit of cramping set in awfully early, but that's hardly a surprise given I didn't really train for this kind of thing!

Traffic was a bit of a problem pretty much the whole race.  As a solo my pace was reasonably consistent, but by lap 3 or 4 the faster teams started lapping me.  They were switching off, so they're fresh as a daisy and hammering it - meanwhile I'm pacing for 8 long hours!  So a lot of my race was spent trying to let people by without screwing myself.  The other side was me catching up to slower traffic, but I didn't mind slowing down for a bit if I had to.

That being said - most people were awesome about it.  I found that especially true of the more experienced guys - they would always yell "great job solo", "keep it up solo", very supportive.

Of course that's 95%, not 100%...  some people are pricks.  One guy in particular tried to squeeze by me without calling out what side he was going on, and I ended up off the trail and on my ass!  Boo.

Lap 6

There was one little spot where the roots were brutal and the dirt got worn away badly, you had to hit it with speed to get over it as you exitted the single track and got back on double track.

I had managed it the first 5 laps, but it was getting worse and worse... I messed up the angle, my wheel slid, and I went down hard.  I'm pretty sure I landed on my bike, because my ribs hurt very badly.  Took the wind right out of me.  I popped up and assessed... I could breathe OK, but wasn't sure at all whether I was intact or not.  Got back on the bike and just tried to get back at it.

But the pain was pretty bad, every bump was excruciating.  It never entirely subsided for the rest of the race, only got manageable after awhile.

Lap 7, 8, 9, 10...

After that my pace dropped quite a bit.  It was hard to attack the single-track due to pain and fatigue in my arms.  There were some dark moments, some fun moments, times I wanted to stop and times I wanted to giggle like a schoolgirl.  That's just the nature of endurance events, it reminded me a lot of Ironman actually!  Good times, good times.

Nutrition-wise, I had a bottle every single lap, with one scoop of Heed, one scoop of Gatorade.  Also had a couple of bananas, figured some solid food and potassium were important to keep the tummy happy.  Worked out great.

I finished lap 10 with about 55 minutes to spare, which meant I had time for another lap.  At this point I was cooked, the last thing I wanted to do was another lap!  But another competitor I had met up with said "if you don't do it you'll regret it later!", those words resonated with me.  My laps to this point had been in the 44-46 minute range, so I knew I could mail it in for 10km and get the 11th done.

Lap 11

This lap went pretty well, except I bit it again.  Yes, another crash.  @#$%!  It was really mild, but with the bruised ribs and pain everywhere already it just sucked.

But I did it - finished lap 11 in plenty of time.


11 laps (110km), 7:49:57.  14/29 Men Solo 39 & under.

Whew!  What a challenge.  That was the second longest I've ever been on a bike, and to do it on singletrack mountain bike trails was tough.  Full body pain.

Best of all - when I looked at the results, a bunch of guys had stopped at 10 laps, with times faster than what I had done laps in.  By mailing in the 11th I picked up at least 5 spots!  I don't blame them, it's tough, but to quote Tosh.0: "I'm better than you, nah nah nah nah boo boo, stick your head in doo doo"!

Not sure I will ever do this again without a teammate - stopping to eat/rest/chill sounds amazing.  I'll savour this one for awhile, it was awesome and way beyond what I thought I could do when I signed up.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Race Report: Logs Rocks & Steel

We won!!!

Well more specifically, we finished first out of all of the teams.  Winning!!!

I have done a lot of races, and rarely have I come even close to getting a sniff of a win.  Closest was a local 5k with a small field that I finished 2nd in... so this is really special!


We were the fastest canoe - in fact not only did no other canoe beat us, only one kayak managed to.  That was the product of a lot of work this year, we got out on the water quite a bit and did a canoe race early in the season (Canoe the Nonquon).  I get the impression the canoe is something most people just suffer through before getting to the stuff they're good at - for us it ends up being a place to make up minutes.

From that point on we were the rabbits out in front for everyone else to catch.  I would guess the nearest team was at least 2 minutes back, maybe more at that point.

Run #1

This year there was a run from the canoe to transition - about 1.5km.  My buddy was in hammer mode, I was in "holy crap my heart rate is through the roof" mode.  I slowed us down a bit, but that's the nature of the team event, you're only ever as fast as the slowest guy!  Having a partner with a similar ability level is key.  Oh and one you won't kill in the canoe.


Rocks and roots, which would have been challenging enough without the rain.  But it rained all night and all race - everything was soaked, there were huge puddles of standing water everywhere on the bike course.  Streams, even!  Several of them!

But my buddy and I have done Paris to Ancaster year after year, so mud is no stranger... we hiked the bike when we had to, plowed through what we could, and hammered the rest.  I doubt we had the fastest bike of the day, but we were steady and most of all didn't let the conditions bother us.  Just another challenge to add to the "Adventure".

The team dynamic kicked in - he's faster in the technical stuff, I'm faster on the road sections, so he waited for me a bit and I waited for him a bit.


I loved this run - the trails were great, and very runnable (unlike the previous course where you literally climbed up portions!).  The first half was the more challenging of the two - I slipped on a bridge that was soaked and slimy - but the second half was an almost flat run to the finish.

With about 2km to go I was still expecting some sub-4:00/km runners to blow through... it happened last year!  I knew we had a pretty good lead going into the run (no other bikes were visible when we went into transition) but you never really know how good the folks behind you are.  But then I dared to say "I think we could win this thing!".

We upped the pace in the closing kilometers as my buddy found his extra gear.  Finally we came out to a road section - I kept looking over my shoulder expecting someone to pop out of the woods and chase us down, but it never happened.  One last nasty puddle and we cross the finish line as the fastest team.

We Won!

We had definitely won the all-male team category, the only question left was whether we were the top team overall.   There were wave starts, so some of the teams that weren't all-male teams (co-ed, masters, parent+child) started in other waves.  There was still a chance someone would finish behind us on the road but pip our time.  One team looked close - but when the results were finally posted we were right there in black and white at the top!

Winning is awesome!  I have a niggling feeling that the teams that beat us last year didn't show up, but you can't ever control who shows and who doesn't.  We put together a great race that drew on our experience and lots of time in the canoe targeting this race, and ultimately we were rewarded.  Feels great!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is Chris Horner Doping?

Umm, yeah.

Having never done anything of much significance in a previous Grand Tour, suddenly he's a beast, capable of handing 28-year-old Niabli his butt.

At the age of 41.

The evidence against the guy is admittedly far more circumstantial than against his ex-teammate and friend Lance (who had actually tested positive and such).  So it's possible a 41-year-old who never accomplished much at the pointy end of cycling suddenly peaked and could burn away from everyone like he never could throughout his career.

I guess.

For me, between Wiggins, Froome, and now Horner, it's painfully obvious cycling is still in the doping toilet.  The UCI is more interested in appearing clean for those not paying close attention than to actually being clean.


Maybe that's why, at the age of 25, having completed his first Tour de France, David Veilleux is retiring.  Who retires at 25 from a sport they're just getting the hang of?  Maybe a guy who sees what it takes to go further and didn't want to do it.

Food for thought.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Race Report: MEC 10k

This is one of the new Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) races, the 6th of their Toronto series.  There was a 21.1k, 10k and 5k.

Most compelling feature of these races: the price.  $15!

For that I got a race kit (in a pretty nice reusable bag), chip timing and some course support.  Not bad.

On the negative side, there was no Gatorade at the aide stations, the 10km was actually 9.5km, and the course markings were pretty confusing.  Also because they're doing it on the cheap, they use trails rather than roads, and they are entirely open to the public - so some competition for space.

Still, at that price, it's hard to complain too much (although I want to complain enough that they fix the course measurement - I always find that irritating!!!).

My Race

I had no expectations at all for this one, my running has taken a backseat to other pursuits, and I'm far from my lightest weight.  Really I just wanted to keep it at my tempo pace (around 4:30/km) and push more if I could.

I pretty much did that, although a stiff headwind on the way back kept me from my 4:30/km pace.  The course was about 500m short, though, so my time is deceiving... looks like I did pretty darn good!  I didn't, just hung in there.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Race Preview: MEC 10k

MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) is organizing races now, so I'm going to try one.

$15 for a 10k - how can you go wrong?  Supposedly it's manual timing (not chip) but they do publish results and otherwise take care of folks.

Race website.

My Plan

I'm not in great run shape right now, emphasis has been on cycling, so not sure what to expect.  Anything under a 4:30/km pace would be lovely, I'll go out around that and play it by ear.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ride Report: Ride 4 United Way 2013 (160km)

I did the Ride 4 United Way today, 160km.

Started out in the main pack, nearer the front.  This may have saved my butt as there was a pretty good crash behind us, all we heard was the sound of bikes hitting asphalt - badness!  Hope all were OK (especially the bikes).

My challenge at this ride has always been the ferocious hills, and right now I'm far from my optimal weight so that challenge was magnified.  The first big hill is at Solina, and as usual I was dropped from the front pack.  That was not entirely unexpected, and fortunately this year there were a couple guys that I teamed up with and took on the next 10km or so with.  But then we hit some steep rollers and I couldn't stick with them... pop!

I rode on my own for a little bit, then was swallowed up by a larger group from a local bike store.  I didn't really enjoy it, I was the only one not from their store in the group, and they didn't seem to want me there very much.  I stuck with them anyway for about 30km (since the other option was tackle the headwind on my own) but at some point we met up with a couple other guys and I hung with them instead.

After the halfway rest stop, I knew the hills got much worse, and there was little hope of sticking with any group. Went out on my own, which wasn't that big a deal since mostly it was tail/cross wind and lots of climbing.  I descend pretty fast on my own, being 20lbs over my ideal weight!  The only time it comes in handy.

At about the 100km mark is "Heartbreak Hill", very very steep climb.  Even with the triple (sacrilege!) my cadence went to nothing and I struggled up...

One other guy caught me when I stopped to fill my bottle, so we rode together for 20km or so.  That was great, nice to have someone to work with and chat with a bit.

Then we got stopped by a train.  That train then stopped, blocking the crossing, while another train came from the other direction.  Then the first train finally started moving.  I don't know how long we were there, seemed like an eternity!

After that people kind of spread out, and I was on my own for the last 30km.  By that point I didn't mind.

Felt really good at the end.  I really stayed on top of my nutrition - close to 10 bottles of Gatorade/Heed by the finish, which should have been good for ~1500 calories or so (probably more, I mixed them pretty strong!).   Also had a full caffeine coffee beforehand, which I don't normally have, but allegedly if your body isn't desensitized to caffeine it can have endurance performance benefits.

Average speed was nothing to write home about, but the hills really are killer on this route.  28.3km/h vs 26.7km/h last year.  Like I said, nothing to write home about, but nice to improve.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Where The Singletrack is At - Glen Major and Walkers Woods

First off - the map.  Use their map as the official version.

Next, my maps!  I've labeled the best singletrack (in my opinion of course) with little polka dots on top of the trails.

Walkers Woods

This area has probably the least interesting singletrack of the Durham Forest properties on the whole, but then it's got one of the best sections so it kind of redeems itself.

Click to Enlarge!

The section north of post 12 used to be called "Snakes & Ladders"... before my time, it used to have ladders.  Now it just snakes.  Very flowy, somewhat technical and fun.  I find it best in the direction my arrows indicate, but you can do it either way.

The rest isn't very technical, but is mostly fast and fun.

Glen Major

Several of the sections on this map are fun, but my favourite is the stuff at the north.

Find post 21, go south and hang your first left.  Then go south for awhile - eventually you'll come to an intersection and on your very leftmost there should be a "Singletrack" sign.  The fun begins!

If you pop out again at 21, that's OK - just go back in and stay left, you can do the more challenging lower section down to post 20.

Click to Enlarge!

From post 19 to 18 used to be a lot of fun - there's still nice banking, but the jumps aren't what they once were, and it's been pretty sandy lately (this changes depending on season).  Still cool.

Durham Forest

The best bang for one's singletrack buck is Durham Forest, but once you've done those a million times there's still a lot to explore.

Here's Mike Sweet's Durham Forest map with all the singletrack shown.

I love the Burnt Toast / Bowe's / Bowes II combination - you are on singletrack for a long time, uninterrupted!  The Maze is cool, and Maple Gravy / The Pines are classic taken together.  Superflly Alley is challenging, but more fun if taken West to East (ie. from the radio tower side).  The other way sucks.  And I love climbing Tower Hill, then coming down on the far west side - there's a cool valley descent that's a hoot.

Have Fun!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ironman Mont Tremblant 2014

I'm registered.  Yikes!

I have always wanted to go back to Ironman - my experience in 2009 was just incredible.

It's a huge commitment, though, of both time and money.  There were other things I wanted to focus on, especially off-road (mountain biking, adventure racing, etc!).

But I've been growing listless without a firm goal, so what better motivator than Ironman?  And it will be the 5 year anniversary of my first one - figure I can do it every 5 years until I'm dead!

The Plan

I don't have one yet, just a few ideas.

Swim - sharper focus on technique, less on laps.  The swim won't make or break my day, I just want to do it smooth and without incident.  In 2009 my swim was slow but comfortable, with pretty terrible technique.  A bit of work here should speed things up.

Bike - miles and intensity.  Last time I did the miles, but not enough intensity.  I've trained better in recent years, putting in both the miles and interval/hill training when I've had something to target.

Run - more mileage and intensity.  Last time I was probably too conservative on mileage, and didn't do any tempo/speedwork.  My most recent marathon training had two speed sessions a week (one intervals, one tempo) - I will incorporate more of this in my Ironman training.  Obviously I will be nowhere close to tempo pace on race day, but intensity seems to help a lot in every aspect of my running.

I'll get more specific later... for now I'm just mulling it all over!  Can't wait.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mountain Biking at Canmore Nordic Centre

I was on a trip back home to Alberta, so had a chance to rent a mountain bike and check out the Canmore Nordic Centre trails.  

The Trails

A fair amount of singletrack with lots of variety, from nicely groomed somewhat flowy trails to nasty awful rocky/rooted borderline unrideable trails.  
The Meadows
One of my favourites was the long downhill section called "Killerbees" (and before it, the slightly less fun but still entertaining "Backdoor").  Awesome banking, some neat little bridges, and fast downhill!  Mostly smooth, packed and fast - the flowiest trail of the day.  
Wicked banking on some great downhill "Killerbees" trail

The only downside - the trails to get up to the start of Backdoor (the Albertan and Nector Noodle) were the worst ones of the day... lots of rocks, roots, sharp climbs, just unpleasant.

"The Albertan", one of the less fun climbs on the day
The "Long Road To Ruin" was also very cool.   As the name suggests, it's a long uninterrupted singletrack.  Nice trail, ridiculously beautiful views.  Some really neat sections going along a steep valley, too.

"Long Road to Ruin" - valley section

A stunning view from the "Long Road to Ruin" trail
Again, there's a downside... if you go east to west on "Long Road to Ruin", you are mostly descending and end up at the bottom of the bottom - no way to get anywhere but to climb!  I used the "Georgetown Climb", which was just a long steep arduous climb.  A better option might be to take the "Georgetown Interpretive" route, it's doubletrack and the climb out at the end doesn't seem as bad (but I only went down it, so... good luck!).


It was a cool experience mountain biking in the actual mountains!  The views were stunning.

The trails were mostly not quite as groomed/nice as what I'm used to back home in Ontario - lots more roots and rock, it's left in a more natural state, which I don't find quite as fun to ride.  It's just different, probably folks prefer whichever they're used to.

Lots of climbing, as you'd expect!  At 4800 feet above sea level, I was not ready for it and was left gasping a lot.  Still, I spent 5 1/2 hours there, mostly with a smile on my face.

If you go, buy the trail map.  The signposts are almost entirely useless - they show only the immediate vicinity of the sign, rather than the full trail system!  I spent a lot of time pulling out the map.  There's also a relatively up to date version here.

I rented from Trail Sports right at the mountain.  $55 for the day - not bad.  The guy on the phone said not to bother reserving, there were lots of bikes in all sizes all the time - except when I got there I got the last Large (and this was at 9am)!  So if you really want to make sure you get a bike, reserve it.  There was also a bit of a snafu with the pedals - the guy installed them wrong (I suspect) and one snapped off on me!  Fortunately I was only 1km from the place, they swapped out the bike and I was good to go.

Oh and there are bears.  I didn't have bear spray, didn't see bears, but they do rent it at Trail Sports for $5/day if you want insurance.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Race Report: Northhumberland Humbler (30km MTB)

That was a blast!  Thanks to the race organizers... (link to their web site).

Just when I thought I'd found almost everything there was to find in this part of Ontario, I'm introduced to yet another amazing forest, with yet another amazing trail system.

25/49, 2:01:40

My Race

I watched the 60km guys start, took a few pictures.  It was already stinky hot, even standing in the shade I was sweating.

Started about mid-pack.  Last time I did one of these races, I had a really bad day, so in my head I was thinking "back of pack".  I was pleasantly surprised not to get passed much in the early going, and felt pretty good.  Found a group of about 4 people (it changed a few times!) that I was hanging with in the early going, tried to keep within myself.

The first 15km flew by.  The trails were beautiful, singletrack mostly but very flowy and fast.  Rumours of sand were greatly exaggerated - there was the odd bit, but mostly on the wide double-track parts, and even then it was easy going.

I managed to get by a guy I had been chasing for some time, just as we got to the water station.  Good thing - there was only one jug to refill your bottle from!  He had to wait while I refilled...


The coursed change significantly, from fast and flowy to tricky and tight.  The trails weren't as well groomed in this section, and maintaining a good pace was tougher.

Worse, there were lots of steep climbs, some short, some longer.  I was cooking in the heat, and when you climb you slow right down and put in your biggest effort.  Top effort + no wind = bad mojo!!!  I really started to suffer in this section, the heat took it's toll.

I got passed by a girl, too... she passed me and took off, fast.  Not good!  But more on that to come...


Crossed the road back to the original section where we had started, and voila!  Fast and flowy again.  Quite a few climbs, and by now I was really feeling it.

Not too long in, I saw the girl who had passed me again.  That was a surprise, I'd thought she was long gone, but I guess we were all suffering by now.  I stayed back a bit, scared to push too much with around 4 or 5km to go and the hottest part of the day baking me.

Until... I noticed a guy was catching me.  There was a bit of a switchback, and I could see him - in fact we made eye contact!  I knew he would immediately get a rush from that and want to catch, so it was time to throw some caution to the wind and push.

There was a series of short steep climbs, I managed to catch up to the girl and pass her.  Never saw either of them again - now it was on!  Ended up catching one other person (but I don't think he did the whole race, based on his pace...) and then flew by the 1km to go sign.

And then - yet another rider popped up in front of me!  With the end close I had to go for it... I pushed and pushed, closing the gap a little at a time.  Just as I caught him there it was... the finish line!  I had about 50m to go, and no room to pass... so I moved slightly off the course into the grass and sprinted like mad, pipping him at the line!  Winner!!!

Well, more specifically I was probably mid-pack, but hey, I beat that guy.  Felt like a win.  Don't take it from me!


I was cooked.  It was just too hot for me, pouring sweat.  Good thing I got it done in 2 hours, any longer and I'm sure I would have found myself in some pretty dark places.

Not sure exactly where I finished, but just being among people and getting to race a bit is a huge improvement over last year's disaster.

Northumberland Forest

If you get a chance, check it out.  It's a bit of a drive from the GTA, but worth it.


My Garmin Data from the Race - if you go, I'd suggest sticking to the west side of Beagle Club Road.  Nicer trails.  And try stick with the singletrack over the doubletrack if you don't like sand.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Race Preview: Northumberland Humbler

The Race

This is one of the XC Marthon Mountain Bike events. 30km or 60km of mountain biking on mostly single-track trails.

Last year I had a rather awful time at the XCMarathon Mansfield race.  I DNF'd the 60km with a mechanical, then scrambled to fix my bike in time for the 30km start... which went horribly.  It was hot, hilly and sandy and by the end I had just ran out of gas entirely.  Took me 2:37 - I wasn't in the results, but I would have been way at the back of the pack.

Why it Will be Different This Year

It's certainly not the course... it's going to be sandy and hilly, this much I know!  And the forecast is calling for a hot one.

So why do I expect things to be different?
#1 - Hydration.  Last time I started off only quasi-hydrated and ran low pretty early on.  There was one aide station, I gulped down what I could but by the end had run out of water.  This year I'm going to drink up before and bring lots of water for during - no reason to cut it even a little fine.

#2 - I'm not going to start one race, have a mechanical, scramble back to the start, fix it, then scramble to start the next race.  I was sweaty and hot before we even started!

I don't think I'm in significantly better shape this year - I have done more long rides, but my power is a bit down.  But I do have a better mindset and understanding of what is involved in a race like this.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Race Report: Tour de Waterloo

This race is a 130km Gran Fondo in Waterloo, Ontario.

Race website

A friend of mine suggested this one earlier this week, so on a whim I decided to go for it.  YOLO!  This was a bit of a first for me - I've done charity rides and such, Paris to Ancaster, but never a road race.

My Race - Part 1 - Drafting in a Big Pack

I had pretty low expectations for this race, as 130km would be my longest ride so far this year, and the pack looked mostly like experienced folks.  My strategy at the start was "don't get dropped", followed closely by "conserve as much energy as possible".

After the neutral start, the race was on.  I stuck with the main pack for a few kilometers after that, but soon the two split and I was in the back one.  Still, we had very big numbers and some very strong riders with us, so I didn't sweat it, stuck to my plan.

I sat on every wheel I could find, trying to find nice pockets where the wind wasn't on me.  At times we were doing 40km/h+ into a head wind on flat roads - it was crazy, but felt pretty easy for the most part!

Our group kept splintering, though.  We'd get to a climb, scatter a bit, but then when it re-formed we'd be in a bunch of smaller groups rather than one big one.

At one point, I got behind a girl who I thought was about to bridge the gap up to the folks in front of us.  Except she didn't.  I watched as a few others passed us on the left, not really bothering much about it, figuring I could grab a wheel eventually... then looked over my shoulder and oops!  Nobody left!  Just me and the girl, now many bike lengths behind.  Burned a few matches getting back to the group (and inadvertently dropping her).

I spent 77km in some form of group, and it was awesome fun.  Averaged 36.8km/h to that point, net uphill, it was a hoot.

Unfortunately, it was a 130km race, not a 77km race.

My Race - Part 2 - Lonely... so lonely

After awhile, our group widdled down to 4 guys.  We hit a hill, and I got dropped.  I busted my ass getting back to them, which was great, except there were only 2 left (the other guy had gone ahead somehow).  Then we got to the rest stop and one guy stopped to pee... and at the very next corner the other guy went wide in the corner and off the road into the long grass!  He had to stop to clean it out of his bike, so I kept on, now solo.

15km of solo, some of it with a pretty tough headwind and a bunch of little climbs.  The heat was now really bad, too - hot and very humid.  So this was very un-fun.

Eventually I saw a group coming up behind me, so I dialed it back to make sure I had enough juice to keep up with them once they caught me.  I did, and live was good again!

My Race - Part 3 - Misery Loves Company

The folks I was with now were all in various states of distress, but any wheel looked good!  At first I had trouble holding with them on hills, but as the kilometers ticked away it became easier and easier.  By the last big hill, I was the one dropping most of them!  After the descent (which I excel at, being a big boy!) I was by myself again - decided that was a bad idea so waited for a bit of a group to re-form.

Now we were down to 4, and then one guy stopped for some reason, so we were down to 3.

(Sidebar - They could definitely use one more rest stop with about 20-30km to go!)

We were all in a bit of trouble, but shared the load and chit-chatted as we closed out the kilometers.  By now I was out of water/Gatorade, my saliva was like maple syrup, it was really awful.  Still had some energy, but our pace wasn't good... headwind was tough, too.

Saw the 1km to go sign, which was at the bottom of another climb.  Buggers!  That last kilometer went on forever, but I pushed it to at least try to look respectable as I crossed the finish.


3h 55m 56"... average of 33.1km/h, 153rd of 256.  Kind of middle of the back, if I'm being optimistic!  Definitely the fastest I've ever covered a distance like that, but the group just helps so much it's hard to compare it to anything else.

Next time I would definitely grab extra bottles at the rest stop, knowing there aren't that many.  Other than that, I pretty much stuck to my plan and finished as quickly as I think I could have.  Good times.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bike Review: 2012 Norco Nitro 9.3

My new wheels!

The Norco Nitro 9.3.

Growing up, Norco was synonymous with "cheap department store bike".  No longer.  Norco makes some amazing bikes, both for on and off road.

This is slightly above an entry-level bike.  It has air shocks and hydraulic disk brakes, rather than coil and mechanical, which is definitely worth the extra few hundred bucks.  Everything is SRAM X5, also a step up (but a less significant one).

Nothing is Finer than a 29'er

This is a 29'er hardtail.  I have been riding a 26'er for the last few years.

Everyone has an opinion on 26-vs-29'er, and I certainly won't claim this is the right way to go for everyone.  But at 6 feet tall and doing the kind of riding I do, this is the right choice.

I instantly noticed just how much easier the bike rolled over just about everything.  Roots that used to chatter my brain were barely noticeable.  One of the 26'er crowd's complaints about 29'ers is they don't have the same trail feel - this is almost certainly true.  I felt like the bike was dealing with everything for me!

The larger wheels do have some disadvantages - when I had to take very tight turns, I felt like I really had to muscle the front wheel to get it pointed where I wanted to go.  This was rarely an issue, I mostly did singletrack with lots of tight turns, and there were maybe a couple of times where it was noticeable.

SRAM vs Shimano

This is my first bike with SRAM shifters.

It may not seem like a big deal, but their lever layout is different.

With Shimano, you click with your thumb toward the front of the bike to shift to a larger sprocket, and then pull with your finger from the other side to shift to a smaller one.

With SRAM, the shift to the larger sprocket is the same, but the smaller one is a separate lever just below it that you again use your thumb for.  This took a bit of getting used to, but within 15 minutes I had it down.

The side effect is that it is easier to feather the brake while shifting, if you ever need to, as you don't need to use your fingers to get to the shifter.  With mountain biking, you never know when you have to grab that brake unexpectedly, nice to have your hand on it all the time.

Bottom Line

For the price I paid (about $1000, 2012 purchased in 2013) this is a heck of a lot of bike!  Great value (about $300 off retail).

The only downside is the weight - it's a pretty heavy bike.  20" frame, 29-er, everything just is bigger and the weight is the penalty.  It's comparable with the other bikes in this range (ie. the Trek Cobia). I would have to spend a heck of a lot more to rectify that, though, and I am not really willing to do that for what I need it for.

Very happy with my purchase!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Race Preview: Tour de Waterloo

This race (ride?) is a 130km Gran Fondo in Waterloo, Ontario.

It's kind of a race, in that there are timing chips and prizes.  It's also kind of a ride, in that there are recreational folks just out there to tour around Waterloo.

Having never done a true cycling race, my plan is to try to stick with the "racers" as long as I can, until I get spit out the back and have to find other groups to work with.  Then I predict I will spend an hour or two hating life until 130km is done and I can go home.

Obviously my goals are a bit loose here!  Really, I just want to not embarass myself.  I'm not that used to having the pace dictated to me by circumstance, usually I have the luxury of pacing myself according to me!  That's true on solo rides, but also in triathlons, and most of the other little racey things I've done.

So we'll see! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Race Report: Moraine Relay 2013

Beautiful day!

This race is a 160km cross-country adventure through the Oak Ridges Moraine near Toronto, Ontario.  It's a true gem that we have so much conservation land in this province, and great volunteers that keep the trails maintained.

This is my 4th year doing this race, but the first where I haven't been the captain of a team.  It was a bit more relaxing not having to worry about the logistics!  Our team was the Ridge Racers, an established team from years ago that needed a few extra bodies, which we gladly provided.

Stage 4: Run (6km)

My first run was stage 4, one I had never done before (although we'd scouted part of it by bike once).

We were in 3rd place overall at this point.  I wasn't sure how far back 4th was, but we seemed to have a pretty good cushion.

This one starts out in some nice wide trails, but with all the rain we've had there was a fair bit of mud.  Thankfully I had on some decent trail running shoes, which made a very big difference - lots of grip.  A few hills, some challenging.

Soon after, it diverts to a very narrow winding single-track trail.  It's quite overgrown and tricky, had to keep a close eye on the trail blazes to not go off-course.

At 2.5km it opens up onto some road sections - first gravel, then paved.  These were hilly but managed to get a pretty good pace through this section.  Only problem was there was little protection from the sun, which started to take it's toll!

At 4.75km you can see the finish across the highway... my kingdom for a bridge!  Instead, you have 1.25km of really tough trail ahead.  The first part seems like it should go downhill, like the highway does, but instead it mysteriously takes you UP.  Then down.  Then UP again!  Finally you get the big downhill... but it's so steep you can't really run it, just survive it.  At the bottom is the tunnel, and then...

The last 500m are brutal.  Uphill, loose rocks, in the blazing sun.  My heart rate was well into the high 180's, which for a 37-year-old is near-death-experience zone (my max is around 195bpm!).  I dialed it back a little, then gave it a final charge when I finally (mercifully!) saw the finish line.

Only 6km, but tough stuff!

Stage 11: Bike (12km)

It had been a few hours since my run (about 4) so I was feeling very recovered.  Had lunch, drank fluids, and got myself ready to hammer a bike.

Had my cyclocross bike, which is the right tool for the job.  Mostly roads and packed trails, no reason for a big heavy mountain bike with shocks and stuff.

We had just dropped to 4th as my bike started, and the team now in 3rd had a good 8 minute lead when I started.  Not sure how far back 5th was at this point, but no way I was letting them catch me anyway, so it was moot!

Saw our runner and hammered it from the start.  First challenge is a long paved climb, I was pretty eager at this point so flew up it.

At 2km you turn onto the first off-road weirdness of the day... this is a rocky steep weird trail.  I hesitate to call it a trail, because it's really more just a right-of-way that you can kind-of bike through.  I flew through it anyway, throwing caution to the wind and letting my bike absorb the bumps (which, being a cross bike without shocks, it doesn't do very well - hang on!!!)

Thankfully this only lasts about a kilometer, then it's paved until the 9km mark.  I got down into the drops and powered it as best as I could.  This section was mostly uneventful (other than some @#$%ing guy in a minivan cutting me off while talking on his @#$%ing phone!).  Slight headwind, but that just made the cross bike that much more of an advantage over MTB.

At 9km this fires into the York Regional Forest.  Beautiful trails, well maintained, wide, I absolutely love this section.  It always feels longer than I expect, but with the scenery and fast speeds through the forest it's just exhilarating.

I kept hoping to see the team in front of us, but 8 minutes was just too much to make up.  In the end I took 5 minutes out of them, reducing their lead to 3mins, so hopefully that closed the gap enough for us to finish on the podium!

Biked back to my car along the trail.  Didn't see any other teams in the forest section (although I did see two chimpmunks doing it... umm, weird).  Finally saw some teams coming through on the road sections, but none were elite, so I don't think we were in any danger of losing 4th.

All in all a great day!  I love this race, everyone involved is just really positive and awesome.  Volunteers are amazing, participants are chatty and social, it's like a day-long party with a bit of racing thrown in.

2014 - see you there!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Race Preview: Moraine for Life Adventure Relay 2013

This is probably the coolest race in Ontario.  Before it even starts, it's epic!

160km relay.  14 stages.  Canoe, bike, trail run.

And the neatest feature?  It's a stone's throw from the largest city in Canada.  All that wilderness, wildlife, and natural beauty, just a short drive from Toronto.

I've captained a team the last 3 years.  This year we had some difficulty getting the group together, so a few of us have joined another team!  We're still in the "Elite" category and we will bring our A game!

I'm doing two stages, a 6km train run (stage 4) and a 12km bike (stage 11).  I have never done either in the race, so I'm pretty excited about it.  And not having to have the stress of organizing a team is a nice relief - all I have to do is run and bike?  Easy peasy.

Volunteers - awesome!  Course - awesome!  A day to remember every single year - awesome!

If you're even slightly inclined to enter a team, do it... see you in 2014.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Race Report: Alfie Shrubb 8k

Result: 33:43 (4:13/km per results, 4:18/km per Garmin)

6th of 48.

I had no expectations for this race, and no real goal, other than the idea I would be around 4:20/km.  So yesterday I went for a 65km bike ride (and a moderate pace), drank a few beers, and just didn't really prepare for the race at all.

Seemed to have worked out pretty well for me, bang on my target.

The Course

Out 4km, back 4km.  Tough steep hill right at the turn-around.  A few minor rollers in between, going up on the way out, down on the way back.  Quite pleasant.

My Race

I settled into a pace a little above my target near the start, but soon realized we were going slightly uphill so backed it off a bit more by 1km.  At this point I was in 4th and feeling pretty good.  I could hear a couple of guys behind me talking about their pacing, so I pretty much gleaned they would be faster by the end... put them out of my head and kept my pace up.

Just before halfway a couple of buddies showed up on their bikes!  They had been out for a ride, stumbled on the race, and were looking to find anyone they knew.  They paced along side up the brutal hill, with a few  words of encouragement (and poking some fun).  Funny how those little things can help with the mind games.

The two guys that had been chatting passed me after the bottom of the hill, and looked pretty fresh, so I put them out of my mind.  But there was another guy that I thought I had a chance to beat... I matched his pace for the next few kilometers, just a few steps behind, hoping he'd crumble or I'd find something special.

Instead, with about 1km to go, he started to pull away... I could feel that if I tried to match his pace it wouldn't end well, so I stuck to my own and let him go a bit.  Near the end it was actually pretty close, I don't think he beat me by more than 4-5 seconds, but just didn't have the oomph to get there.

Felt pretty good about the result, about in line with where I figured I was (and at my current weight).  Heart rate was about where I'd expect (mid 170's in the first half, 180's in the second).  Just felt like a good race.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Race Preview: Alfie Shrubb 8k

This is a local race I've been meaning to do for a long time, but it's never really jived with my schedule.  Found out today that surprise - it jives!

The race is a tribute to Alfie Shrubb, who set a bunch of records in the early 1900's.

This year, they've expanded from just the 8k to a bunch of distances... too many IMO!  Do you reaaaally need a 5k, 8k and a 10k?  No, you don't.  But whatever, I'll be doing the classic 8k distance and will ignore all the other goofiness.

Am I ready to run 8k?  A little.  I did the marathon 4 weeks ago, my training has been pretty spotty and inconsistent since - lots of biking, with a few runs sprinkled in.  I'll try hold a 4:20/km as long as I can.  This is supposedly a pretty hilly course, so best to just wing it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ride Report: Ride for Heart 2013

The Ride

A 25, 50 or 75km bike on the (closed) freeways in Toronto.

This was the first time my kids were doing it on their own bikes (other than my youngest) - so we chose the 25km and I crossed my fingers they'd be able to make it!

The weather was dreadful on the way there, pouring rain, so it was looking like a tough day...

... but it dried up, and miraculously stayed clear the entire ride!  Then poured rain again after we finished... whew.

Kids did great - almost no complaints, just peddled their hearts out (so to speak) and finished smiling.  Great day!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Race Report: Canoe the Nonquon

The Race

Canoe the Nonquon is a 26km canoe race in and around Port Perry, Ontario.

The race is in it's 45th year!  So we're quite late to the party...

Our Race

We were in the "recreational" men's class, which basically means you don't have one of those C1/C2 missles made of carbon fiber!

Twisty River Bits

The race starts on the Nonquon River.  The first 8km or so are very twisty and have the potential to be quite shallow.  Fortunately there had been a lot of rain in the week before, so water was nice and high.

Our boat is a flat-bottom 17.5' canoe, which is great in a straight line - not so great in curves.  Still, we've done a lot of work to practice our cornering skills, and I'd say we held our own.  Certainly the current helped, and we were averaging something north of 8km/h through this section.

There was a canoe that had started a minute or two in front of us that we caught up to in this section, but we couldn't quite get close enough to pass.  But keeping them in sight proved motivational!

Straight(er) River Bits

The river widens significantly as you near the village of Seagrave.  We thought our pace would increase at this point, but it didn't quite turn out that way... in fact our pace slowed.  I think this was partially due to the slower current, partially to the weeds, and partially we were starting to get a little bit of fatigue creeping in.

Fortunately there was that same boat in front of us... we got as close to them as we would all day early in this section, before they crept away from us and widened the gap.

The Lake

We were looking forward to going fast in a straight line.  Not quite how it turned out.

There was a very strong headwind directly in our face the entire way back.  Worse yet, the water was very choppy when we first enterred the lake... this killed our speed, and we watched helplessly as the boat we'd been chasing pulled waaaay off into the distance.  We could still see them the entire time, being a lake and all, but they soon became a speck on the horizon rather than a target we felt we could catch!

After awhile that headwind wore us right down.  It felt like we weren't moving at all... I kept looking at my GPS watch just to make sure we still were!  Our pace went from around 8km/h way down to the 4-6km/h range, I think we averaged 5 and change.  Sad.  But it was our longest ever canoe by 10km, and by far the longest we'd ever paddled straight, so not entirely unexpected.


3 hours 17 minues... still not sure on how we placed, we left before everyone had finished (and at the time we were 4th in our category).  We were hoping to go quicker, but didn't expect that bad of a headwind either!  Glad to have done it, great experience and learned a bunch.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Paddling the Rouge

We kind of did this by accident, as the north winds let us get out on Lake Ontario and make our way further west than planned!

The bottom line with the Rouge - it's a nice little add-on if you happen to be on Lake Ontario anyway, but otherwise it's not navigable far enough to make it worth it's own trip.

Up to the 401, it's actually very wide and deep, not obstacles.  But as you approach the 401 that depth just vanishes and it's pretty useless.

There were a few little interesting things, like a spot where it looks like an old home had burnt down (or been torn down?) but the original chimney remained as a BBQ pit type thing.  People had paddled up and were cooking something there.

As for Lake Ontario itself - it's hit and miss!  Today the wind was from the north, so the lake was pretty good along the shore.  We got out a bit too far on the way back (you can see it on the map) and it got dicey in a hurry... it's an unpredictable beast.

Somewhat surprisingly, Frenchman's Bay was the toughest water of the day!  Wind was strong and from the NorthWest, so it really whipped up some waves in there.  Especially true in the channel between Frenchman's and the lake.

Next week: Canoe the Nonquon!  First ever canoe race, should be... something.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Paddling Duffins Creek

Went canoe'ing on Duffins Creek in Ajax, Ontario.

Despite being called a "creek", it's actually wide and quite perfect for a canoe trip.  We started at Rotary Park in Ajax at the boat launch, near Lake Ontario, and went up stream.

The bottom was very calm, wide and the current was light.

Once we got to Bailey and went under the bridge, the current picked up a bit, and it was much tougher to paddle upstream.  There was one particularly tough section where the water flow was fast, we almost didn't make it up - took 3 tries! 

Hazard of note - golf course.  Golf balls flying over our heads... a tad dangerous!  Not much you can do except paddle like hell.

We made it up to north of the 401, a total of about 6km, before heading back for 12km round trip.  All in all a very pleasant paddle, much of it away from civilization (while being surrounded by it!).  You can likely go further north, we just ran out of gas!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Toronto Marathon

Result: 3:39:24

Overall: 362/1695
Men: 297/1004
Men 35-39: 61/177

Why Marathoners Live Longer

Want to extend your life by 10 years?  Run a marathon.  In the last 10km, time slows to the point where it feels as though 10 years have passed.  Hey, I didn't say they'd be good years!

My Race

Settled into a comfortable pace, kept my heart rate low.

Ate a bazillion calories (4 gels, a 5oz gel bottle, a 300cal bottle I carried of liquids, and as much course Gatorade as I could drink without barfing...)

Felt good up to about 30km.

Last 10km still smoked me.  Realized I couldn't hold my target pace, backed off, then backed way off... held on to at least break 3:40 and set a new personal best (previous was 3:44+).

Heat may have been a small factor, certainly felt it in the closing kilometers as we were in full sun and temps were up to 20C.

But ultimately I think the bigger factor is still weight... I don't think I can pull off a 3:35 without dropping some pounds, as I really trained hard and by the book for this one.  Not much more to do on that front, without quitting my day job!

Negative/Even Split?  Yeaaaaah Right!

I really noticed the rest of the crowd slowed down with me... my pace went off by 30-40s per kilometer, yet not that many people were passing me, and surprisingly I was still passing other people!

I've read before that the vast majority of marathon runners fade at the end.  There seems to be the assumption that they didn't pace it right, but I think if you can't put in mega mileage then you can pretty much expect the heart rate to creep higher and the muscles to stop doing what you're telling them in those last few kilometers.

Maybe it'll be different for me at a lower weight, we'll see!  I'll have to try it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Race Preview: Toronto Marathon 2013

My Marathon History

I've yet to get it right.

2008 Toronto Marathon was my first ever marathon.  Goal was to finish, I finished, 3h56.  It was all very exciting at the time, but faded badly by the end.

2010 Toronto Marathon was my second ever marathon.  Goal was 3h35, but I fell apart at the end (again) and rolled in at 3h44 - pretty disappointing.

Then I did the 2011 NYC Marathon, where I ended up with a knee injury causing me to limp to the end.  3h55, ouch.

I spent 2012 working out what caused my injury (hip rotation issue) and spent the year sucking, but adapted to a new running style that has really worked for me.

2013... here we go! 

2013 Goal and Preparation

Goal pace is 5:05/km for a 3h35 finish.
This year I followed the 3h35 Furhman "FIRST" plan.  I have stuck to it nearly 100% and things have felt great. 
The plan was tough.  An interval session, tempo run, and a long run every week.  Intensity on every run, intensity on all the cross-training.  Hammer hammer hammer.  Even the long runs gradually sped up, to within about 10s/km of target marathon pace by the end of the plan.  It was relentless, but I enjoyed it more than I dreaded it (generally). 

Injuries - none!  Nagging pains - none!  With all that speedwork, I figured I'd be in trouble, but no problems.

I also did Around the Bay (30km) this year, which went well.  Managed a 5:01/km pace on a much tougher course... so the only question in my mind is how I hang in there for that extra 12.2km! 

2013 Course

It's changed since I did this race last back in 2010 - the last 2-3km used to be a gradual uphill, now it's flat.  That can't hurt!

Give 'er!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Race Report: Paris to Ancaster 2013

My 8th P2A ended in a DNF due to mechanical.  Spoiler alert!

Race Day

After a week of soggy chilly weather, we actually ended up with a pretty nice day.  Single digit temperatures (Celsius) but sunny and the wind was coming from the West (ie. from Paris to Ancaster)!. 

I expected the conditions to be attrocious... the organizers were cutting out sections, and after last year I could only imagine the absolute worst.

The Race

I felt pretty OK at the start, but not enough to really push.  I picked up some good wheels for most of the long opening rail trail, tried not to lead whenever possible. 

They had cut out one of the first single-track sections - usually it's the first real test of the leg with a few steep short climbs. Can't say I missed it that much!

We crossed the first major road and into a section that goes through what is little more than a ditch. This was the first sign of mud, and it was pretty bad, but not as bad as last year. Last year I'd walked almost all of it, this year I rode most of it. Also felt pretty good riding past others walking... having an extra low gear helped there, my wheel spin was dramatically improved (even though my tires were pretty bald).
After leaving that we hit the road, and I was still feeling pretty good!
New section followed around an apple orchard. Mostly gravelled road, a bit of mud and a little hill on the back end. Nice addition!
Back on the road, grabbed a few wheels here and there, but with the tail wind it wasn't as critical. Still felt pretty strong.
Next up was the muddy rail trail, which again was entirely rideable compared to last year. So despite the fears of mud, it wasn't actually that bad...
After that, back on the road... and I found myself alone going into a headwind. There was a group quite for ahead of me and another quite far behind, just couldn't link up with either. After awhile a few riders caught me, but they were moving a bit too quick for me to hold on... not a great part of my day!
Passed halfway feeling pretty OK.  Pretty much where I had expected to be.

Another rail trail followed, no issues, straight-forward.  But just as I left it and hit the road again, I heard a rather loud clunk from my bike - not sure what caused it, and everything felt OK after, so didn't give it much thought.

Final challenge of my day was the horse field... it was squishy and barely rideable.  Had to walk a few parts.  I don't remember what it was like last year, but it was brutal today, zapped any energy.


Shortly after this, after a brief stint on the road, I was on a muddy farm lane when boom, my rear derailleur hanger snapped.

This has happened to me previously on my mountain bike, so I thought I might have a spare.  Frantically looked through my saddle bag, nothing.

Tried "Plan B" which is to turn the bike into a single-speed - by-pass the rear derailleur and shorten the chain.  Not exactly what you want at P2A, but could get me to the finish.

Unfortunately my chain was badly bent, presumably what caused the failure in the first place.  I had one SRAM powerlink, but to remove the section with the bad link would require two, and I didn't have them.  Also didn't have a chain tool - a guy who had suffered the same fate stopped to try help, but it was clear I was cooked.

(I later learned you can re-use a pin in a pinch... might have worked!)

After the Failure

Walked back to a very nice volunteer, who was very helpful in keeping me warm but had no phone or anything to contact the race organizers.

Surreal moment - she gave me her race volunteer shirt when she went off to talk to a local farmer to get him to keep me warm in his truck!  So there I was in a volunteer shirt directing cyclists - certainly not how I had envisioned spending my day.  I'm happy to report that the participants are extremely nice to volunteers, many thanked me for my time (which was only inadvertently donated).

Found my way back to another checkpoint, where I met a local HAM radio operator who was also donating his time.  He radio'd organizers, organized a pick-up, and after freezing my butt off for the better part of an hour I finally found myself in a van on the way to the finish.

Haven't had much opportunity to meet the volunteers at this race, as usually I'm preoccupied with racing... I have a whole new appreciation for them, lots of smiles and generosity.

What Next?

Well, I have a chain and rear derrailleur to fix... but now I have to get back to focusing on the Toronto Marathon in 3 weeks.  Next year I'll be back and ready to rock.