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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Race Report: Tour de Waterloo 2014 (130km)

Passed a few of these today - owned!!!
Well that was pretty eventful!

My Race

I had no expectations, and a large Indian buffet and a few pints last night at a wedding didn't exactly set me up for success.

As soon as we got to the "race on" point, the front guys hammered it... and the group splintered.  There were a few climbs, too, which landed me waaaay in the red.  Not a good start, I was very worried I'd be riding 133km solo.

In fact I ended up in a very small group, just 4 of us.  We took turns but if this was it, this was going to be a pretty long day.

Fortunately we began to collect people, from both ends - some large faster groups caught us, and some folks getting popped came back to us.  It ended up being really great - this would be the group I'd be with the rest of the day.

My buddy gave me some advice - to be at the front at the hills so if my climbing pace wasn't up to snuff I would not lose touch by the top.  This helped a lot, I managed to stick with the group on every climb.  In fact by the end I was leading us over the hills!

Big moment #1 - a guy swerved into me and our handlebars locked together.  I thought I was going down, fortunately neither of us overreacted and we managed to stay up and get separated.  Whew!

Big moment #2 - on a climb my chain popped off!  This was at a horrible time - things were just kind of gearing up for the finish.  I was near the front but even so, in the time it took me to stop and get it back on, everyone had passed... I killed myself going up the hill, and then on the downhill, even going so far as to draft the car that was trailing us!  But I made it back to the group... whew.

Coolest moment - sprint finish!  We got to the final 1km as a big bunch, I managed to get myself near the front, flew down the final descent and then absolutely hammered it Cavendish-style to the finish... as we battled for the very coveted 143rd place.  Still, it was cool.  Felt awesome.

Result: 3:46:27 (35.2km/h) - 148/258.

Thing I Did Right - it was a hot day, probably hottest so far this year... I brought 3 bottles with me but that was not enough, so had to depend on the aid stations.  At about the half-way point I saw one ahead, so I got myself to the very front of the group - managed to get two bottles of Gatorade and stuff them in my jersey.  A guy joked that it looked like I was "running a convenience store"... I bet by the end he wished he'd thought of it though!  Grabbed another bottle at a later aid station, so 6 bottles total - and I drank every drip of them.


Despite the cool moment, I didn't actually enjoy most of the race.  I felt tense for most of it, always having to anticipate what the people around me were about to do (and sometimes that was impossible as they did some craaaaazy things!).

Worse than the unpredictable people were the self-appointed group leaders, with their little unwritten rules... and instead of sharing those rules with the obvious newbies in the group, they just bitch at them.

I had one female rider get pissy at me because the pace line (that only existed in her head) didn't go the way she thought it should... I didn't go as far forward and take a pull like she thought I should.  Except there was no pace line, it had fallen apart several kilometers ago.  Besides, I was in this group to suck wheels, not to pull!  P.S. if you're reading this (you're probably not) - I beat you in the sprint for 143rd.  Suck it.

So that was my big realization today - I don't really like this group road riding with random strangers thing.  I'm more suited to the lone wolf triathlon training, or the off-road stuff.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Race Preview: Tour de Waterloo 2014

This is a 130km road race in the spirit of a Grand Fondo.  It's a race for some, a ride for others.

Race website

I did this one last year with very little road mileage under my belt, on my old Trek 1200.  Managed to stick with a good large pack of riders for the first 77km, but from there to the end I was mostly solo or with one or two others.

Result: 33.1km/h average, 153rd of 256

The average really demonstrates the benefit of being in a pack!  In fact I was almost 37km/h in the first 77km... way above what my normal speed would be for that distance.

This year I have my fancy new bike (Cervelo S2) and probably double the miles in my legs.  My average speeds on my solo rides have been good, and I'm climbing much better.

My biggest problem is always the hills - when we hit them, other guys jump out of the saddle and hammer it, and I find myself spit out the back.  I'm really hoping to avoid that this time... planning to get myself closer to the front whenever we approach a hill, so if I do fade back I can catch back on easier.

Should be fun!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Race Report: Moraine Adventure Relay 2014

Our 5th time at this 14-stage race, and we finished a very solid 3rd place with a team of just 4 people!  Very pleased.

This is a fundraiser for the Oak Ridges Trail Association - they maintain about 300km of trails in the Moraine area surrounding Toronto. 

Stage 1 - The Canoe

Total carnage.

We started with the elite and corporate teams (Golder & Associates, Mercedes and Mazda - big shout out to them for supporting the Moraine!)

From the start we were in 3rd, keeping good contact with the boats we knew we had to stay with.

But then we rounded the corner, and straight into a headwind.  The waves were coming right across the lake, almost 8km, and wow did they build up some steam.  The boat was bouncing all over the place, several times waves broke over the front.  If I am being totally honest - it was terrifying!

We kept our cool as best we could and kept paddling.  Two teams were pulling away a bit, when suddenly one flipped.  We paddled up to them, all had life vests and said they had to wait for the power boats to help - so we continued on our way, now totally freaked out!

Our boat had taken on a fair bit of water, and when we listed to either side it would slosh and almost pitch us over - very bad mojo.  I had to stop paddling and bail, there was just no choice... we lost a bit of time, but better than going over.

Meanwhile the boat in 1st place went over to the shore and got out entirely.  We figured we were leading!  Good lord!  Except they were just dumping water, soon they were back in and ahead.

A few boats caught up to us from behind at this point, with all the bailing and freaking out we were doing, but the water started to calm a little as we got further along.  Settled into a rhythm and things got better.  We weren't able to close the gap to 1st but we put a good chunk of time into everyone else - in the end we finished 2nd by about 5 minutes.  Felt amazing to overcome all of that and put in a result!

Stage 2

Our cyclist did a great job to catch the team that had finished the canoe ahead of us - only to be pipped at the very end by the team that had flipped!  They had some crazy amazing mountain bike kid.  Fortunately they weren't ready for the run, so we started Stage 3 with a bit of a lead.

Stages 4 and 5

My teammates did these runs valiantly, but this is where we tend to start losing touch with the top 2 teams, and this year was no exception... they have some gazelles.  Solid results from our guys, right on expectations.

From this point on, we were in 3rd.  Solidly.  Nobody catching us from behind, nobody we could catch in front, as long as we avoided disaster our day was pretty much cast.

Stage 6

I was back for my first run on a stage I have never done before. 

On the map this one looks like a bunch of straight roads with a few trails.  In reality there is a lot of trail, and it is not all that straight!  It was more challenging than I had expected, plus a few pretty healthy hills for good measure. 

There is one really pretty section, too, where you run along a bubbling creek for a few kilometers - very nice.

Stages 7 and 8

Two bike stages, our guys nailed both.  

Stage 9

My stage - this is a bike I have done before, it is almost all roads - mostly gravel, some pavement to start.  Then at the end there is a loose rock and sand section that is almost unrideable, just to keep you on your toes.

The big challenge was the wind... it was out of the Northwest, and I was going north and west!  Really had to dig deep on this one.

Stage 10

Nice run through Durham Forest, our guy was like clockwork again, bang on our estimates.

Stage 11

My stage.  I don`t know why I always take this one... I think it`s because it is so awful I feel bad giving it to anyone else - there`s only one year I let someone else feel the pain.

It starts out on road, then onto a nicely groomed trail.  But as you go further and further west, the nicely groomed trail turns into a weedy trail, and by the end you`re running on mushy muddy swampy nastiness... it`s a trail in name only at that point!

I did OK, but with 4 stages in me I was starting to really fatigue.  Finished as strong as I could and my day was done.

Stage 12, 13, 14, 15

The guys did great jobs on the remaining stages, closing out our race.  We weren't really racing anyone by this point, which wasn't as much fun as some previous years when we were neck-and-neck with other teams... but that`s just how things go sometimes.  Other than a very quick fix on a flat tire, everything went great and on target.


Another year in the books!  Lots of absolutely amazing volunteers and some great competitors out there, this race is just full of positive people.  I love it, and it is a great organization to help support.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Race Preview: Moraine Relay 2014

This race has become a staple of my season - year 5!

2010 - Our rookie year - "Trail Pythons" was our team.  We had a lot of fun, finished in the dark!  Got lost a bunch.
2011 - First year of "Blood of the Ridge" - showed promise but a few glitches kept us from the podium...
2012 - "Blood of the Ridge" returned with the right people to rock out a 3-way tie for first place!
2013 - Joined someone else's team - the "Ridge Racers",  only did two stages

2014 and we're back with a team of our own:  "Four Guys Walk Into a Bar". 

Why a new team? 

My buddy and I organized teams for 4 years, and it's a lot of work.  Getting everyone to commit, collect money, make sure they're where they are supposed to be on race day... I found it a lot to take on, especially when I had to race 3-4 stages.  Hard to focus on racing and managing everything at the same time.

By using only 4 people (2 of whom are us!) it's much easier.  Well, organizing is easier, doing 4 stages each... not so much.

We've always wanted to do the canoe as well, but with a large team it's never quite worked out.  This year we're doing it.

Also 4 guys sounds a little crazy.  I like crazy.

To the Moraine!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fake Bike Trip Report #14 - Saskatchewan!

Maidstone, Saskatchewan.

They appear to have literally made a stone.  In Maidstone.  Wild.

I am now 3056km into my fake bike trip from Whitby to Edmonton (and beyond!), which puts me just 313km from my original goal.

Last few weeks have been pretty good.  188km, 193km, and this week 275km!  My legs seem to be taking the mileage very well, I did a 130km ride today the fastest I've ever done anything over 30km without a draft.

As a bonus, my weight has been dropping (finally!)... so the hills are a bit easier.

No post about Saskatchewan would be complete without Pil.  If you like really awful beer, this Pil's for you!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Race Report: Canoe the Nonquon 2014

Updated June 12: We won our division!  First place in "Men".   We're both thrilled and a bit surprised!  Since everyone starts at different times, we had no idea until yesterday.  Really rewarding, we have put some time into it and we have come a long way!  Still a long way to go to compete with the real top dogs out there, but feels pretty good!

This was the 46th (!) annual Canoe the Nonquon event.  And my 2nd... here's the report from our first.

Last year - we had really just got into the whole canoe thing.  We had our 17'6" Jenson canoe, but we were total newbies.  Worst of all, once we left the Nonquon River, we entered the lake and hit the worst headwind we'd ever paddled against.  The last 8km felt like an eternity.

This year... no wind!  Beautiful day.

And - they cut 5km from the Nonquon river due to unspecified "river conditions".

So a much easier day.

There was still a pretty twisty river portion included, and this year it featured waaaay worse algae/weeds/lilly paddies.  The channel of clear water was really narrow, so an 17' foot canoe was far from ideal to navigate it!  We used our old wooden paddles to avoid breaking carbon on logs/rocks... it was a bit tough.  We were definitely faster last year through this section.

Then it opens into a wider river section, where we could switch to carbon fibre paddles.  What a difference - our speed went from the 7's up to the 8's and 9's (km/h) immediately.

We had less traffic to deal with generally, having started a bit earlier.  Picked off a few people early on.

As we exited to the lake, we caught "white canoe"... two really strong looking young paddlers, one man, one woman.  Hate to generalize (ok, I don't hate it that much!) but they looked like gym folk.  Strong.

We took a shorter line through some algae just after we caught them, fully expecting to emerge ahead and never see them again.  Wrong!  They busted their butts to keep just in front of us.  We ducked into their wake for a little, caught some draught... but then they seemed to run out of gas.  We moved to one side, passed them, and then put some serious distance between us and them in very short order!  It was rewarding, they had a good boat (but shite paddles)... but ultimately we'll have to wait for results to see how we stacked up against allll of the hard-core canoe crowd.

Ultimately it felt good.  The carbon paddles made a big difference, and it was interesting over the 2+ hours that my arms didn't fatigue at all - suggests I'm paddling with the "right" bits, ie. the core, not the arms.  We're getting better - by the time we're as old as the average marathon paddler, we should have this thing licked!

Next week we're paddling in the Moraine Relay, can't wait to see how we measure up against the really awesome guys!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

You will be fat forever. Give up now.

This is what obesity research allegedly confirms in this CBC article.

There's a disturbing truth that is emerging from the science of obesity. After years of study, it's becoming apparent that it's nearly impossible to permanently lose weight.
As incredible as it sounds, that's what the evidence is showing. For psychologist Traci Mann, who has spent 20 years running an eating lab at the University of Minnesota, the evidence is clear. "It couldn't be easier to see," she says. "Long-term weight loss happens to only the smallest minority of people."
Watch Kelly Crowe's report on the myth of losing weight tonight on The National
We all think we know someone in that rare group. They become the legends — the friend of a friend, the brother-in-law, the neighbour — the ones who really did it.
But if we check back after five or 10 years, there's a good chance they will have put the weight back on. Only about five per cent of people who try to lose weight ultimately succeed, according to the research. Those people are the outliers, but we cling to their stories as proof that losing weight is possible.

I'm a few years over that 10 year mark now, so that makes me the "outlier", one of the 5% who have kept the weight off.

I would humbly suggest that the reason 95% fail is not that it is "impossible", but rather that they didn't make a full lifestyle change.  Anyone can dump weight fast, but if you don't do it by means you can sustain for life?  Forget it, it's coming back (and it might bring friends!).

I'm a fat man living in a (reasonably) skinny body.  My weight is a constant struggle for me, and it will be until my last day.  Even when I am in full Ironman training, 10+ hours a week, losing weight is very hard.  And I know if I go back to lots of eating out, take out, and sitting on the couch... well, I'll go back to my old fat self, quickly.

Weigh yourself daily.  Exercise.  Eat healthy food.  Be an outlier.