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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Year In Review


Warning: There Will be Navel-Gazing

2016 was pretty great - well, the first 10 months of it anyway!

  • Finished another marathon - I didn't really expect to do one again, but I felt the desire and did it!  Then remembered at about 30km why I left them behind for so long... 
  • Paris to Ancaster finally went well - after mechanicals year after year and some bad fitness I finally hit the start line feeling good and got a result I'm proud of
  • 8 hour Adventure Race (Rockstar) - that was a first, and wow it was quite a day.  Tough but really rewarding
Best of all, though... September's Muskoka River X.

80km of paddling adventure, took us over 12 hours battling through some very beautiful country down the Muskoka River.  Challenging and amazing stuff, the cherry on the top of my 2016.  

The Fall, The Weight, The Misery

But since then it's been rough.  November and December especially, I've been fighting some kind of illness/fatigue/pain for 2 months now and I'm very ready for it to go away!

To make matters worse I reversed any weight loss I had achieved, back to about 205 pounds after the holidays (vs the ~185lbs I've been holding for years and years). 

2017...Forward, Captain!

So 2017 leaves me with some work to do, but also a lot of the same cool events to look forward to.  Going back to Around the Bay in March for the first time in many years.  My 12th (!) Paris to Ancaster... registered and ready to rock.  And of course we'll be back at the Muskoka River X - that was just too amazing not to try another kick at it.  And some adventure racing and stuff.

Should be fun!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Weight Loss... Check-in....


I haven't checked in awhile, mostly because my weight loss has pretty much gone off the rails.  I've been battling something for weeks now, I'm guessing it's a virus but the lethargy that goes with it has been really awful.

Managed to get in some workouts despite this, though, but my eating has been all over the place.  Weight is still pretty much the same, around 200lbs, so initial loss is mostly intact... once I feel better I'll get back at it in earnest.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Emergency Mountain Bike Repair


Houston, we have a problem.


During a ride, my rear derailleur had a piece that bent, and chipped out a part of the hanger.  Nothing I could do to fix it... it wouldn't stay put with any force at all on it.  It's toast.

We had just started our ride, though, and missing a weekend of fall mountain biking wasn't an option.

So to salvage the day... we removed the rear derailleur (entire thing, including hanger).  Picked a gear that would get the job done for the day.  Shortened the chain to fit that gear perfectly... and converted the bike to a temporary single speed.

Look ma, no gears!

It worked out really, really well. With no tension it had to be pretty snug on the gear it was on - we had it very, very snug... maybe too snug, even, I noticed the wheel was being pulled a tad off center... but still worked!

As with any single speed, I was grinding at very low cadence sometimes, other times spinning like a gerbil in a cage... but it was solid and fine, even set a few PRs on Strava segments out there.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Weight Weekly Check-in


Check-in
Starting Point: 209lbs
Last Week: 200lbs
This Week: 200lbs (-9lbs)
To Go: 20lbs

No progress.  Had a houseguest, which meant we went out a lot and ate/drank in celebration.  Funny how that's such a big thing with humans, eating and drinking as entertainment rather than just sustenance.  

Back on track now, though, lots of exercise this week, it's coming off again. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Weight Weekly Check-in


Check-in
Starting Point: 209lbs
Last Week: 200lbs (-9lbs)
To Go: 20lbs

... unfortunately I've slipped a lot over the weekend so when I check in this week's weight, it probably won't be good news... but still doing this thing!  Ya!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Weight Loss - 2016 edition


Gained weight, again.  This summer was really bad - lots of beer, blue jays, and just a general lack of willpower.

I blame the craft beer industry.  Good lord there is a lot of delicious beer to try.

But summer is over, vacations are over, and it's time to get serious.  Especially when I saw 209 on the schedule.

TWO-OH-NINE.

Holy crap.

My BMI "overweight" point is 185lbs, and I feel most at home in the low 180's, so that's where I need to be.  But I want more, I want to do well at my races and be light and nimble... so 175lbs is the goal.

ONE-SEVENTY-FIVE.

That's about 30 pounds... daunting.

The plan is the same plan I've used with success before.

  • Drink less - and not at home.  Even the odd beer/glass of wine at home seems to lead to me over-eating, so I'm cutting it out.  When I'm out with friends I'll still hoist a pint, but that's it
  • Intermittent Fasting - I slipped... it's not hard to stick to, but in the summer I almost entirely abandoned it.  I'm back to it now, and it feels good again
  • Caloric Restriction - 2000-2400/day
  • Exercise - 6-8 hours / week
  • Target loss: 1-2lbs/week
  • Weekly check-in
Check-in
Starting Point: 209lbs
Today: 202lbs (-7lbs)
To Go: 22lbs

I'll talk about the after loss plan at some point, because I think that's key.  I had a few years of real success keeping it off, but it's clearly gone off the rails so I need a reboot on that.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Race Report: Muskoka River X (Sprint - 80km)


Wow, what a race.
Just Started - we're the bottom left boat, I'm in yellow!
80km of paddling and portaging through Muskoka.  A series of lakes followed by the great Muskoka River, over a dozen portages (some as long as 2km!) around waterfalls and dams... 12 and a half hours... oh and that's just the "sprint" distance!  There's a longer version that continues back upriver throughout the night.  Oh and an even longer version that starts the day before!

Whew.  Here goes.  Warning: very long race report!

Preparation

Before you even start, there is all of the preparation.

Equipment:  There is a list of about 20 items you need to have with you throughout the day.  Most of this is for safety (fire, water, warmth, first aid, etc).  Lighting for night paddling.  Nothing in the list seemed particularly heavy, but once we had it all assembled and in the boat... whew!

Navigation:  The day before we were given a series of maps and course notes, detailing where we'd find the portages, checkpoints, and waypoints.  We used the coordinates to mark up our maps with all the notes we thought we'd need throughout the day to find our way, as well as bearings for the lake.

Food:  I made a batch of my homemade energy gel, then watered it down into a single water bottle.  This was most of my calories for the day - that's it.  I know solid food causes me trouble, and I didn't want to frig around with mixing Gatorade mid-race!  That one bottle had over 1000 calories.

Hydration:  I brought a full 2L jug of Gatorade.  Mid-race I mixed up another 2L but just lake water (purified using tabs).  And I ended up finishing up my partner's Gatorade at the end rather than mixing up more water...

Maps:  As you can see in the picture - there's some work to do with maps.  Written instructions for waypoints and portages need to be plotted onto maps.  Compass bearings need to be figured out.  A pint of Muskoka Detour needs to be drunk (optional but highly recommended).

The Start

7:10am - just after sunrise, we all showed up just outside the Algonquin Outfitters store in Huntsville.

It was a really large field starting in the tandem group, and we all had to funnel into the Muskoka River within about 50 feet of the startline... so we were a bit nervous.  Especially after some of our adventure racing starts in large fields, where boats are going sideways and smashing into each other like crazy!

We started on the outside and a bit back.  It ended up being completely fine, we had just a good wide line and stayed out of trouble.  It was going to be a long day, no sense blowing it into turn 1.

Huntsville from the Lookout - not raining!  Nice.

The Early Lakes

From the short river section we dumped out into Fairy Lake, a smaller but beautiful lake (they're all beautiful up there!).

Aaaaand the rain started in earnest.  We knew it would rain most of the day, but by the time we found ourselves in Penninsula Lake it was really dumping.  The water sloshing on the bottom of the boat threatened to dump us right over... fortunately we were close to the first portage!

At this point we were doing OK.  12km in, there were a bunch of teams ahead of us and a bunch behind - we were kind of mid pack, and keeping up with a lot of the boats we felt we should be keeping up with.

Portage #1 (1.7km)

This is the beast... a long portage, primarily uphill from Penn Lake up to Lake of Bays.  The only saving grace is that it's paved road, but it's a big hill.

We had learned a hot tip (or so we thought!) that using a shoulder strap was the way to go.  It had worked OK the weekend before... but we weren't racing, and I don't think we really realized how slow we were.  But when you have teams flying by you, you realize in a hurry you're not going quick enough!

Problem #1 - I had fastened my strap to the wrong part of the boat, and it was too short.  About halfway I just had to stop and fix it, that cost a minute or two.

Problem #2 - when the strap is over your right shoulder, your left back does all the work.  When you switch, your right back does all the work.  We had to switch a lot just to keep from seizing up - it didn't work at all.

Problem #3 - our boat was heavy... with all the water and gear, it just was too much to carry the way we were doing it.

Next year we'll likely go with one guy carrying the boat in the traditional way (shoulder using yoke above head) and the other guy carrying the gear.   And we definitely need to get the overall boat/gear weight down.

At least there were only a dozen portages to go!  Haha gah.

Lake of Bays

The good news is the rain stopped.  The bad news is the wind didn't.
Start of our Lake of Bays Hell Adventure
This lake is big, and with the strong wind the waves were something else.  It was a beast.  And we would be on it for 22km...

We can usually average above 8km/h on flatwater, all things being equal.  Instead we averaged 6.6km... with the headwind and waves, it was a struggle the entire time.  I'm actually surprised we're even that fast - at times I'd look down and see 4km/h!  We have come a long way in bad conditions (we're no longer petrified to even move), but other teams seem to have been able to keep better momentum despite the conditions.  Still some things to learn, always!

Near the end of the lake, we were finally finding some shelter from the wind and getting some speed when wummmmp we got beached on a rock.  We weren't all that close to shore, but just below the surface was this large rounded rock.  We wiggled and used our paddle, finally got free... I wonder how many boats have knocked that one?

Finally the end of Lake of Bays came, and we emptied out into a small narrow section, protected from the wind.  The waves died down and we were able to finish off the lake and paddle into Baysville...  almost 3 and a half hours later.

Baysville Portage

Ugh.

Muskoka River

We went through the checkpoint reasonably quickly and around the first of the Muskoka River dams.

The river is spectacular, especially the north end of it.  It's hard to really do it justice in words, and we were racing so sadly, no pictures.  But it's really wonderful.  True wilderness for most of it, no cottages, no people (other than the gaggle of paddlers one Saturday a year!).  I would love to have taken time to check out the waterfalls and rapids, the rock, the trees... but we had a race to win.

(Haha @ win...)

Portages, Bloody Portages

The portages... oh, the portages.... somehow I was expecting something more like a nice take-out area, a pretty obvious trail, and a nice place to put-in.  I was very much disappointed - most of the early ones especially were really rough.  We really struggled getting in and out of the boat, getting it up and keeping moving.  Every portage we lost time.

After a particularly nice waterfall, there was a section that the race directors had identified as "rocky and fast".  The water really sped up, and we were whisked down river... it was great!

The Flip

... until we saw a rock much too late... we were carried side-on into it and whoooop, over we went.

SCARY!!!  Yep.
Note to self - when you write "SCARY" on your map because the race director says so, it's best to pay very very very very close attention!

I couldn't touch the bottom consistently, and when I could the current was just too strong to stop.  We were carried down the river, while watching some of our gear go faster down river - including my $300 carbon paddle!  COME BACK!!!

We finally got over to the shore, righted the canoe, got back into it with what gear we had and the chase was on to our stuff.  Fortunately it all had collected in this little bay sort of thing where the river turned.  We recovered everything we actually needed (including my paddle) and were back on our way.

The Missing Map

Somehow I managed to lose track of where we were on our maps.  I'm not sure if I skipped one of the maps (they were numbered) or what happened, but there was a period of about 3 portages where I just didn't know what to do.  We stupidly followed other teams or tried to follow signs, but we never seemed to make the right choices.

One was particularly bad... we had seen two other teams go left, so we went left.  The trail split, one way having a "private property" sign (and it was blocked further up by trees).  The other way lead to a really slippery rocky put-in... we chose that.

 (Edit: after comparing our GPS to the map, we actually were on the correct side!!!  I'm not sure if we were supposed to maybe go further down the trail??  But the teams we saw on the other bank, river right, had a much easier time of it... next year, we're doing that!)

The rock shelf was at an angle and slippery as all hell, and lead to a put-in right at the swirling pool at the bottom of a waterfall.

Shin ouchie
So of course in all of this crazy stuff, I managed to slip and smoke my shin, hard on the rock.  As I fell my armpit caught the edge of the boat, have a nice bruise there now... war wounds!  The shin was bleeding pretty bad, but I figured it would stop on its own (which it eventually did).  So yeah, that sucked, but it was pretty consistent with how all of our portages went.

At some point (I can't remember when) the skies opened up again and soaked us.  Well, soaked us more, we were already pretty bloody wet... the rain actually stopped bothering me pretty early on, it was easy enough to ignore when the boat wasn't full of water!

Downriver and Dams

When we finally got a bit further downstream, there was a break in the portages and we could just paddle for about an hour.  That was where we started passing some teams that had overtaken us during our portage nightmares!  We could hold our own paddling at least.

One team in particular passed us twice on portages - finally we went by them on the water and put some distance between us and them.  I figured we'd need it, since we'd give it back at the next portage!

We got to the first of 3 dams (Mattiasville).  This was one of the few that actually went well, we made reasonably quick work of it.

The next dam, though... ugh!  The instructions said signed portage on the left.  We got out at the signed portage at the left.  The team behind us went past the sign, right up to the bridge/dam and got out there instead - passing us, while we farted around bushwacking for a few minutes.

This was just how things went for us, all "dam" day (see what I did there?).  We couldn't get it right, whether we were following other teams or the instructions, it just went wrong time after time.

Last Portage...

Back in the water, life was good, we were not only pulling away from some teams but started to see a few ahead of us!  We had no way of knowing if we were actually racing them (ie. if they were doing the 80k), but it was encouraging to have good pace late in the race.

... and then we came to the last dam.  It's huge, and had a 1.4km portage to go with it.
Muskoka Falls.  Looks nice.  We didn't see it, too busy racing!!!

We were still struggling with our strap set-up, now more than ever.  We had to keep stopping to switch... but we noticed despite our trouble, we actually were making up time on one team.  As we got closer we realized it was a team we had raced against before, in other races - a team that had beaten us!

But any warm feelings were immediately gone when, during one of our bumbling stops, the team that had been waaaay behind us caught up and passed by.  It was so frustrating, but we couldn't do anything about it... they just had their portaging down perfect.

Eventually we did pass the other team, so we kind of broke even on the deal.

Back into the water and a strong current to the finish.  This was now hour 12, and I felt totally fine.  It's kind of how it goes with endurance sports - there comes a point where your muscles don't hurt any more than they did before, and as long as you keep feeding the engine you keep going!  It was dusky - we'd been very literally paddling and portaging from dawn to dusk with no breaks of any significance - but I still felt good.

The Finish

We didn't manage to catch anyone in our race before the finish, but rolled in 4th in our division (of 7 teams I think).

12 hours, 14 minutes, 3 seconds.  That's a long day at the office, especially battling waves and rain all day... very proud of it.

Just off the podium, by only about 3 minutes - a lot of could-have should-have would-have.  On the bright side (so to speak) it was still light out!  Beating sundown was a big win!

Reflections

What a day.  This was more of a back-country adventure than we'd really bargained for - the portages were tough, both to find and to execute!  We messed up our canoe carrying plan, and we really should have pre-paddled the Muskoka River just to know where everything was... that would have been a huge advantage (and one we later found out the guys that pipped us had!).

I really loved seeing those parts of the river, too - largely unpopulated, beautiful, peaceful.  Waterfalls, rapids, rocks, it was all just really stunning.  So if we go back next year (WHEN we go back next year!) we would definitely want to pre-paddle and soak it in prior to race day...

Simon Whitfield accepting his 1st place
Oh it was also cool that Simon Whitfield was there - I really admire the guy from his triathlon career, he had two stand-out finishes (one for a gold medal, the other for $200,000!) where he came from behind to win races, gritted it out.  Always an inspiration for me, and he's also a super nice guy.  He won the stand-up paddleboard category of our race (80k).  Also cool that people didn't bug him too much, he was just another competitor.  One with a gold medal, but hey.

The race organization was great... excepppppt the bus after the sprint.  It was 2 hours from finishing to getting back to our car and into dry clothes - it was just too long.  Most of that was spent getting eaten by mosquitos and shivering.  I don't know exactly how they can fix that, it was their first year having the distance at all, so hopefully they figure something out.  Otherwise it's better to just be self-supporting and have a vehicle of your own waiting for you.

Prizes were amazing - they gave away several thousand dollars worth of canoe and kayak, as well as a bunch of Alonguin Outfitter supplied gear.

Banquet was great.  Food was great.  Beer was great.  Atmosphere was great.  Paddling community is great.

Overall it was just awesome, almost overwhelmingly epic, even for this old Ironman.  Really cool vibe.

Our Performance

I thought we paddled really well and strong throughout the day, certainly better at the end than I'd have expected.

We really bombed the portages, though, something we can fix next year.  I think on portage performance alone we have a good half hour we could shave off our time.  If we don't flip?  45 minutes maybe?  I think we can really improve, if just a few little things go right!

So this is officially my longest ever blog post.  It was just that kind of day, lots to talk about, great new experience.  I highly recommend this to anyone - it hurts, it's long, it's a mad crazy adventure and it's all worth it.

See you in 2017!

Additional Content: Post-Race Navel-Gazing 

After I posted this I crunched the number on our portages.

The good news - we followed the instructions (accidentally in some cases!) on every one of them except one.  We should have used the island rather than follow another team... the instructions were pretty clear, but there were "no trespassing" signs on the island and a yellow sign that looked like a portage sign on the other side (which upon arriving there was actually yet another no trespassing sign!).

The bad news........... we spent 2 hours, 18 minutes portaging.

That's an eternity!!!

The second bit of good news?  We should be able to cut a lot of time from that.  I don't think a full hour is out of the question, but it will take some practice so we're out of the boat quick, traveling light, moving briskly, and back in quickly.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Paddling (and Portaging) the Kawartha Highlands


Ratbun lake portage dock
We needed a place to do a dry run before the Muskoka River X - something that would mix up some long lake paddling and some portaging.  What better place than the Kawartha Highlands?

Canoe, portage to very private quiet lakes, then camp... that's the idea at this park.

Note that there is a very good map available for purchase... it's $8 and has a lot more detail than the one on the web site, as well as other portages and routes!!!

We were going to do it all, except the camping.  Who wants to sleep with bugs, when you can just pass through?

Wolf Lake 

We parked the car at the far Northeast end of Wolf Lake, at the parking lot there.  Another option would have been Anstruther Lake, but that sounded too easy.

Wolf Lake is pretty well inhabited by cottagers, so it's not exactly an escape from everything - but still very pretty.  Rock, trees, water.

Portage #1: Wolf Lake to Anstruther Lake (600m)

After paddling the length of Wolf Lake, we hit a portage over Anstruther.  This was where near calamity #1 took place - we each have these shoulder straps we snatched off of luggage to really help shoulder the canoe, a trick we learned from a canoe guy.

Except my buddy's plastic clasp snapped, and boom, down went the canoe...

Fortunately no damage (that we could see)... so whew!

All in all the portage was pretty rough, lots of rock and very hilly.  This was pretty much par for the course the rest of the day.

Anstruther Lake

We started in a tiny little channel, into a headwind... but it wasn't too bad until we got out of that little channel and into the big lake.

Yikes.  The wind was strong, but the waves really were serious business... rocked and rolled, trying to keep at good angles, but it was really sketchy at times.

Finally we rounded the corner toward the far north end of the lake, and things calmed down.

Portage #2: Anstruther Lake to Rathbun Lake (200m)

This portage was right uphill... rocky.

I'm pretty sure this is where my shoulder belt gave out... my buddy's was plastic so I was all smug with my metal ones, but it didn't matter - it still cracked.  GRRR!  I tied it, the strap being stronger than the clasps, but this time we did get a little damage on the boat.  Nothing a little epoxy can't fix, though.

Interesting point - at the top there was this boat graveyard.  I don't know the story, only that there are about 20 abandoned (presumably?) boats at the top of the portage.

Boat Graveyard on Rathbun Lake


Rathbun Lake

Whew, we'd made it to a nice small lake, the waves couldn't possibly bother us now!

Ummmmm wrong!  They were so strong, and coming left to right across where we needed to be.  Really sketchy!!!

Fortunately we didn't have far to go, and soon found ourselves at the portage heading east-northeast.

Portage #3: Rathbun Lake to Unnamed River Thing (200m)

It probably had a name, but no idea what it was.  Another hilly rocky portage.  This time made a little more interesting as there were several other paddlers emerging from their weekend camping trips going the other way.

Unnamed River Thing

This was a short little weedy channel between Copper Lake and Rathbun.  On the map it looked straight, but in reality the weeds and clumps of dirt made it so you had to go back and forth, snaking through.

On the bright side, it was plenty deep for paddling, so no issues.

Portage #4: Unnamed River Thing to Copper Lake (370m)

Rocky and hilly.

Copper Lake

Emerging onto Copper Lake was like a dream.  I've never had a lake like that to myself - but we did.  A fairly sizeable lake, with no cottages, a handful of (now empty) campsites, it was just beautiful.

This would be a very wonderful place to camp, once you got there with all your stuff!  Which is no mean feat... we were traveling lean and mean, and it was still a pretty good slog to this point.

Portage #5:  Copper Lake to Tiny River (10m?  Maybe?)

This one wasn't listed on the map - it was really just a quick out and in to get around a small waterfall.

We lucked out here as a group of about 9 teens were coming the other way, and they warned us about a wasps next in the ground at the next portage!  Stay left, they said...

Tiny River

It was tiny, and a river.  Easily paddle-able.

Portage #6:  Tiny River to Serpentine Lake (200m)

WASPS!!!  I could see them just above the ground... and it's exactly where we'd have landed our canoe if not for those kids.  Whew!

Serpentine Lake

I'm not sure if Cooper or Serpentine was my favourite, but they were both just glorious.  Scenery, the peace and quiet, amazing.  Someday I'd like to come back here, check out Andersen Lake and Rock Lake as well.

Portage #7:  Serpentine Lake to North Rathbun Lake (1400m)

Whoooooey this was a slog!

We stopped at the sign and found ourselves looking straight up ... the trail was the steepest of the day, and the longest!

Fortunately that didn't last, after the first hill it was more rolling and reasonable, and ultimately downhill to the lake.

Along the way we met a group of people who had hiked up for a picnic, without boats.  I believe that's called "cheating"!

North Rathbun Lake

This was another nice quiet lake, with no cottages to mess with you getting your nature on.  Very pretty, and very secluded for much less portaging/paddling than some of the others

Portage #8:  North Rathbun Lake to Rathbun Lake (160m)

160m?  Is that all you've got?

Downhill mostly, still rocky, not bad.

Rathbun Lake... again....

This time the waves had subsided dramatically, so easy peasy.  We barely looked at the map thinking we knew the way since we'd been there, then almost landed at a cottager's dock thinking it was the boat graveyard!  Whoops.

Portage #9:  Rathbun Lake back to Anstruther Lake (200m)

This time we did a small detour to check out the pretty waterfall we could hear.  Very pretty.  Very.  Pretty.

Anstruther Lake Part II

We caught up to the teens who had warned us about the wasps and thanked them... they were coming back the other way, through the shorter portages we'd already done.

After that we found more wind and waves, but nothing compared to the previous crossing.  Found the little channel back to the Wolf Lake portage.

Portage #10:  Anstruther Lake to Wolf Lake (600m)

Same as before, in reverse.  Nothing too terribly interesting, other than it seemed way longer in this direction...

Wolf Lake Part II

Still really pretty!

Done!

Just short of 36km total, paddling and portaging.  We weren't exactly killing it out there, mostly just trying to figure our way around the whole portaging thing, and enjoying the surroundings.

Here's the Garmin Activity Link.

Lessons Learned:

  • Portaging is slow, even with a light boat and gear
  • A shoulder strap for portaging is awesome, but make sure the clips will hold!
  • Aquatabs for purification - seemed to work fine (I'm not dead yet!) and for Gatorade they tasted completely normal, didn't notice any undue chlorine taste.  Tried my buddy's straight water, it was a little chloriny, but not terrible at all


Next up... MUSKOKA RIVER X!  Sprint distance .. only 80km and about 10-12 hours.  Paddling, portaging.  Should be a hoot!  Preview forthcoming.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cycling the Cabot Trail (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada)


As part of a family vacation, I had some really grand plans to cycle the Cabot Trail.

The plan was to split it into 3 days of riding.

Day 1: Baddeck to Cheticamp
Day 2: Cheticamp to Igonish
Day 3: Igonish to Baddeck

I would bike each leg, while my family would drive (and take all of my stuff with them).

Problem #1 - my wife hated driving the Cabot Trail.  Like really, really hated it.  It's curvy, pretty narrow, and she almost went off the road (with my kids in the van).

Problem #2 - the weather went from lovely on Day 1 to pouring rain that evening and for all of days 2 and 3.

Problem #3 - road construction was crazy - long stretches on mountain roads of gravel (which in the rain was a disgusting mess).

Long story short, I only biked on Day 1, and drove the rest, enjoying all that the Cabot Trail has to offer from the warmth and dryness of the family minivan.

Day 1: Baddeck to Cheticamp (85km)

I started out mid-day in Baddeck.  There is a small stretch along the Trans Canada that people had warned me was busy with highway traffic, but the shoulder was wide and it didn't strike me as particularly dangerous.

At the big Red Barn the Cabot Trail adventure truly begins.

First is the big climb of the day - Hunter's Mountain.  It was a bit tough, but nothing compared to what Day 2 brings... I did OK on it, but already was questioning my sanity a little.

After that there's a great descent, which was welcome but unwelcome - for every down, there's inevitably some up, and this was no exception.  Most of the day was spent going up or down, nothing too serious and generally a pleasant ride.

There is one decision to make at about kilometer 50 - you can either go with Cabot Trail or use East Margaree Road.  I went with the later as suggested by this website,  It was a quiet road, although quite broken up in spots (but I was able to use smooth parts of it, motorists gave me lots of room generally).

Finally at about 65km in you break out into the ocean view.  I was very lucky to get a wicked tailwind from there to Cheticamp!  It was glorious.

Day 2:  Cheticamp to Igonish (Planned 115km)

The views are stunning.  Simply amazing.

Like I said, I ended up driving this section, but wow those climbs are solid challenges.  Long and curvy, some very steep sections.  I really want to go back someday and give it a go.


Day 3:  Igonish to Baddeck (Planned 85km)

The final significant climb on this section is not as high as the others, but I'd imagine by day 3 it's a leg buster.

Again, I drove, so.... I'm sucky.

We passed some cyclists clearly on an organized tour sticking it out.  They were climbing in the pelting rain, looking like they wanted to die.  I'm sure they appreciated their accomplishment by the end, but in the moment... well we've all been there!

Overall Impressions

The roads are narrow and very little shoulder to speak of most of the route.  I wouldn't say this is the safest place to bike... I had a few people pass me at pretty questionable times (ie. when they couldn't see around the corner we were arriving at!).  But mostly the cars were considerate and good.

Stunning views.  Challenging terrain.

One thing I would have likely regretted if I'd ridden it was missing all the stops along the way - there were a lot of places to snap a picture, go for a hike, hit a small local shop, etc.  If you're putting in big miles it's pretty unlikely you'd get a chance to stop and smell the roses.  But you could always spend an extra day and drive the whole thing too!

I would like to go back and do it someday, without forcing my poor wife to drive.  And hopefully without the rain.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Race Report: EB 2.0 - Eager Beaver 100 - DNS


I didn't start the race.  Wasn't feeling well, sore throat (which ended up exploding into a full blown head/chest cold).

So that's that.  It looked really cool from what pics I saw.  Next year.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Race Preview: EB 2.0 - Eager Beaver 100


This race looks cool... race website

Gravel, gravel, gravel.  A little pavement (not much) and some "sections" - difficult to ride stuff, apparently.  Oh and hills, lots of hills.

Flashback: Tour de Creemore...

... a long time ago, there was a ride called the "Tour de Creemore".  It started and finished at the brewery in Creemore.  It was gravel, hills, and the odd right of way with rocks and stuff that you'd never think of driving in a vehicle.

It was the first thing I did longer than the Ride for Heart.  It was hard.

Sadly, it morphed into a road ride eventually, all asphault, so I stopped doing it.

It was hard, fun, and ahead of its time!

Flashforward: Eager Beaver!

Some of the roads and climbs are from the original Tour de Creemore course!  I'm delighted.

I signed up for this months ago when I was in much better shape and much lighter.  Now I'm in pretty terrible shape and weight a good 15-20 pounds more than I should.

What could go wrong?  I'm going to mostly just mail this one in I figure, suffer, and hope to finish the 100km before the 160km guys finish their race.

I did a test gravel ride last week, it was +32C and I died horribly.  If it was going to be that hot I was going to bail on this one, but it won't be, so I'm in.  Oh August, why are you so cruel?

I'm doing the 100km.  100 miles of gravel just sounded too ambitious - epic, but too ambitious.  Another year I might try it.

Here goes nothing!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Race Report: Rockstar Adventure Relay (8 hour)


Whew.  That was tough.

Run to the Start

This race started with a short run to the start line, presumably to separate the bikes out a little.  It was about 1.5km, got the juices flowing.  We held back pretty well, especially on the hills... 8 hours was going to be a long day, no use blowing up in the first 10 minutes!

The Bike

This year was interesting - there were three separate parts to the bike.  On each part you had to get a poker chip of a different colour, then present all 3 to prove you'd gotten them all.  You could get the chips in any order.

We realized early on that the singletrack trails would be a pain if they were crowded... but we decided to do that one first anyway, as it flowed nicely into the second trail for the next chip.  It wasn't too bad, but we did get held up for a few seconds here and there with traffic.

After that we took a little shortcut road into the next chip, and finally popped out and did the paved road section.  When we got back to the bike racks there weren't many bikes there - so we were feeling pretty good.

Trekking and Paddling

The next roughly 7 hours were completely freestyle - you had a map with a bunch of checkpoints, each having different point values, and you had to get to as many as possible using only your boat or your feet.

We decided to go for the big point value checkpoints, which looked like they were mostly near trails with a little bit of bushwacking.

But first we had to canoe to that area - which was no problem.  We snagged a high value island checkpoint along the way, they just for fun did this weird inner tube checkpoint (use an inner tube to go out to the checkpoint, about 150m or so, then return to shore).

Then it got less fun.

Day after - scratched up legs
We missed what on the map was supposed to be an intersection of several trails... we looked for it - but we didn't see a trail.  By the time we realized it, we had to figure out another plan - so we again trusted the map and tried to follow the "Maka Ina" trail.

Apparently "Maka Ina" translated to english means "not actually a trail".  We saw several signs suggesting we were on a trail - but each time there was absolutely no sign of a trail.  In some cases we were perched up on cliffs, where a trail couldn't have ever existed... but it insisted we were on a trail.

It ended up being pure drudgery.  Bushwacking and cliff scaling for about an hour, while confoundedly looking at our map trying to figure out where the hell we were...while getting eaten alive by deer flies... until finally, mercifully, we found a checkpoint.  It was supposed to be at a beaver dam - ended up being the 3rd beaver dam we found - ugh!

That one was worth 80 points, from there we knocked off the 90 and two 100 point checkpoints in relatively short order.  But again, this was all bushwacking, with about a kilometer between each one - so it was a long long slog.  My legs can attest to the conditions!  My eye is puffy from a deer fly bite, my hand too, it was really hellish.

We finally got the last of the big scores - a 100 point checkpoint - only to have the realization that we were very far from anything.  It was literally another hour before we managed to get back to the road and civilization... all told we had spent 3 hours hitting just 4 checkpoints.

Ugh.

Fortunately we popped out near an easy 40 pointer, which we snagged before starting the relatively long (but unimpeded) run back to our canoe!

Better Days

Once we got back to the canoe things got a bit better.  We hit a bunch of the lower value but easy scores on the lake - 60 in the middle of the lake, a 40 and 50 at the top of it, and the 40 point paddleboard challenge.

Somewhere in all of this, though, I managed to lose a bag with our medical kit in it.  I had it fastened with the bungee cords on my hydration kit - as I drank they must have loosened, because it had popped right out.

Gear Check...

There was a mandatory check-in back at the start/finish, which we knew would include a gear check - hopefully it wouldn't be something I had lost!  Unfortunately it was the flashlight, and that had been in my medical kit.

Crap.  20 minute penalty.

The only bright side was during the penalty we were able to rehydrate and refuel, and plan out what we'd do until the end.  After the penalty we'd have only about an hour to go.

Last Hour

We decided we were in for a penny, in for a pound - and went for the highest value checkpoint left, a 70 pointer near the main trails we'd used on the bike.  On the way we hit an easy 20, then a ridiculously tricky 30 pointer (we actually missed it at first, picked it up on the way back thanks to some help!).

The 70 point checkpoint was out by a marsh, and through brambles and awful crap again.  But we were great with our navigation and found ourselves within about 50m of it when we emerged by the pond.

On the way out I lost my footing and hit the deck - leg right onto a branch.  I was lucky not to pierce myself entirely, got away with what will surely be a bad bruise.

Result

We were about mid-pack, which was pretty satisfying for our first 8 hour attempt.  We learned a little more about these races, and the area it's run in... so we'll be ready to rock next year.

We also got some intel that the other areas weren't nearly as bad... the trails were rough ATV trails, but they were real trails.  So good to know for next year (and don't tip off anyone else!)



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Race Preview: Rockstar Adventure Race (8 hour)


We did the 4 hour version last year.  It went well.  Very well, in fact!

How do you follow that up?  The 8 hour version of course!

The race starts like a normal race - you follow a marked mountain bike course.

But once that's done everything changes - there is no "course", just a map showing the location of a bunch of checkpoints.  You can get to them by canoe or foot, taking whatever route you choose.  Each one has a specified point value, and the team with the most points at the end wins.

It isn't always about being the fastest - last year we definitely weren't, but we won our category.  The strategy around what order you do things in to maximize the checkpoints you can get to is the real key.

Some are far and are worth a lot of points - but if they're too far and take too much time then it may be better to hit a bunch that are clustered together and worth less!  Some involve weird challenges - last year I had to go out into some swampy pond on an inner tube to get to the checkpoint, another my buddy had to use a stand-up paddle board around a course.

Should be a lot of fun - it was last year anyway!

Only downside.... the weather.  July in Ontario is just stinky hot, and this weekend will be worse than normal - well into the 30's.  8 hours is going to be tough.





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dog Days of Summer


This has been my worst summer for training in many many years.  We've just been so busy as a family, too much going on!  I've managed to squeeze in a ride a week and a spotty run, but that's about it.

At least I don't have any races coming.  Oh other than an 8 hour adventure race... whoooops!  That should be fun.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Race Report: Big East River X 2016


Interesting race.

Big East River X is a 40km canoe race.  This year we did it in the stock C2 category (two people canoe).

The start went well - we managed to tag on to the back of the biggest glut of boats.  Water was calm as we went through the "narrows" and into the lake.

There was some confusion - we were supposed to go around an orange buoy, but there was also an orange windsock... most people went around it, even though it was out of the way!  We didn't, and someone called us cheaters... but I assume they would retract that when they found the later actual buoy.

Up River

Then we got to the river.  It starts out wide and deep with minimal current.  At that point we were going neck and neck with another boat, we seemed to be able to match their pace pretty well.  First we were leading, then we were drafting.

But as the river became more complicated, it became clear their ability to control the boat far surpassed ours... we could muscle through things reasonably enough, but wildly off course while they held really nice lines.  Before long a small gap turned into a large gap turned into them being out of touch entirely.

Most of the difficulty was finding the channel in the river - there were a lot of sandbars, and it wasn't always obvious where the deep part was (if there was one at all!).  Really slowed us down.

Down River

We should have been able to make up time - but when I look at our speed, we didn't.  Again, our ability to read the river just wasn't good enough... we kept getting ourselves into places where you couldn't paddle, or taking bad lines. Traffic had a bit to do with that, lots of boats going up while we were going down, some of them doing some pretty wild things!

Overtaking people was a bit of a challenge too - the main channel is narrow, and people didn't seem to want to budge.  These were C1s that had a 10 minute head start, so we weren't really racing them - they should have been more generous in my opinion!  One lady parked her boat right in the middle and didn't acknowledge us at all... she was just fast enough that when we got out of the main channel it was hard to get ahead of her.  Finally I used a corner to throw it down the inside and give her no choice but to go wide to make the corner without contact.  Not ideal, but hey, that's racing.

There was one boat behind us pretty much the entire race - they would get closer, we'd hear their voices, increase the pace... only to have them catch up again.  This went on and on!  We just couldn't lose them.

The Lake

When we exited the river to the lake it was a shock - the wind had whipped up some rockin' and rollin' waves.  Pretty serious business - we had a hard time just keeping the boat moving forward!  At least it felt like that, in the end our pace was pretty OK... except the guys behind us caught up to us.

We tried to hold them off, but just couldn't close the gap.

Then the crazy happened - a motorboat passed us on the left, then immediately cut right in front of us, nearly swamping us in massive wake.  @#$%!!!  By law you are responsible for your wake!  Even just as a courtesy you'd think you'd be more aware of canoes, but NOPE.  We managed to collect ourselves and keep plowing ahead, but that was pretty damn scary.

We made one final push to the end but couldn't catch the boat in front - couldn't have been more than 15 or 20s gap.  Ah well.

Results

We were 10/15 in C2 Stock all male.  4:47:33, about 32 minutes behind the winners.

From my GPS:
Start to mouth of river (5.4km): 8.8km/h
Upstream (13.9km): 7.4km/h
Downstream (13.7km): 8.4km/h
Mouth to finish (5.4km): 8.4km/h

Our overall average was only 8.0km/h, which isn't great - but our pace is pretty normal for us in all of the sections.  Except downstream... I would have expected that to have gone better.  But the river was tricky, and it seems to have cost us.  (Also I'm not sure how great the GPS is at capturing distance over all those twists and turns!).

So all in all a pretty good outing and a reminder that we still have a lot to learn in this sport!










Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Race Preview: Big East River X 2016


Lonely... I'm so lonely....
Ahhhh beautiful Muskoka!

40km canoe race, starting in Huntsville and eventually making it's way up the Big East River.

I did this race last year as a solo.  This was both a great and terrible idea... I'm glad I did it, but man that was a tough haul.

This year I'll be back but with my canoe partner in a tandem effort.

The Course

It's all really beautiful, really enjoyed it.

It's an out in back, starting on the very wide Muskoka River.

This is followed by Lake Vernon, which was pretty choppy last year (at least on the return leg).  Hopefully the winds cooperate.

Then you get to the star of the show - the Big East River.  You start off upstream, which at first seems pretty easy - but the current gets stronger as you go, and the river narrower and curvy!  By the top the current is really working against you.

Oh and you start to encounter boats coming the other way, first the boats that are beating you, then after the turn-around all the boats you are beating.  It was a bit chaotic and I had a few near misses last year - have to be really on it to predict what everyone is about to do!  Especially with the current and corners, not everyone is fully in control of their path...

The advantage of flying downstream gives way to slower current and eventually it feels like work again.  Then you have to tackle the lake (which was rough last year!) - it's only a few kilometers but by then I was ready for it to be over... and finally the Muskoka River.  Pretty sure it's downstream, but the current is slow, any advantage is minimal.

And that's the race!  Looking forward to it.  I think.




Sunday, June 12, 2016

Paddling the Grand River: The Oxbow (Brantford)


Great day!  We had previously paddled the Grand River last year between Paris and Brantford, it was a windy day so we decided to hit it again and check out another section.

The neat thing about the Oxbow is you can do a 14km downstream paddle, and end up only about 1km from were you started!  See the map below.

If you only have one vehicle this helps with some of the logistics of paddling downstream and ending up dozens of kilometers from your start point!

Our Trip

We parked on the north east side of the Erie Avenue bridge over the Grand River in Brantford (see the map below).  There is a rocky but accessible put-in area.

The water starts out with a reasonably strong current, with a few pretty quick parts - but nothing compared to what the Grand River offers upstream.  This is a good route for paddling, not resting - the current slows right down shortly after that.

Most of the route was easy paddling, secluded and quiet.  Just a nice paddle, you don't have to think too much after the first few kilometers.

I didn't really see any points of interest worth calling out, just some turtles, herons, and quiet time.  If that sounds like your bag, check out the Oxbow!  If you want mild rapids, faster water, head further upstream on the Grand... (see my report about the Cambridge to Brantford via Paris section).

Upstream?

We had read other reports that said not to try paddle upstream due to the current - it probably depends when you go, and how good of a paddler you are.  Those first few kilometers of Oxbow would be really tough, if not impossible.  But the rest had a slow enough current it's possible.  If you're thinking of paddling up back to Erie Ave, you're probably out of luck.

We tested it before we committed to it, and found we could go up into a headwind in the current at about 5-6km/h - not fast, but we're just out for a workout.  So we went a little further downstream (4km) and back upstream (for a total of 8km of bonus).

Here is the map from our trip.  From green dot to checkered flag are the Oxbow part of it, about 14.5km.  The rest is our bonus down-and-up adventure we did just for fun.
Click to Enlarge!  It's worth it I promise.  

Finally, after all the paddling, our poor boat waited by the side of the road for my friend to take the "short walk" back to get the car.  He didn't think it was as "short", and muttered something about a hill.  I didn't catch it, was still a bit groggy from my short nap.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Race Report: Moraine Relay 2016


What a great day!  Actually it isn't over yet - but my stages are done and I'm in the comfort of home so why not a race report?

It's The People!

I've done a lot of races, but none warms my heart quite like the Moraine Relay.  It's not just about getting from point A to B the quickest, at every checkpoint there are smiling faces, war stories, wonderful volunteers.  Most other races we zip through, finish, and we're outta there... here you get to be absorbed for a day in the Moraine Family.

It's really special.

Beyond that you're always part of a team - and I've been lucky to have joined several, each time getting to know a few more people out there.  This time I joined a friend of mine on their Dracula's Shtafengers - one of the longest consistently running teams (7 years if I'm not mistaken!).

So enough with all my lovey dovey happy stuff - to the race report!

Stage #1 - The Canoe

4 a.m. I awake to the crack of thunder... uh-oh...

I decided to get up, just in case there wouldn't be many windows when I could put the canoe up on the roof!  Fortunately the rain stopped for about a half hour at 4:30am, manged to get the boat up and ready to go.

(Sorry neighbours)

The whole drive there, rain, right up until about 15 minutes before the race... then....... the clouds parted............. the sun came out........................ and what followed was the nicest weather you could have asked for!

Calm lake, minimal wind, it was wonderful.

My buddy and I cracked out a really good effort - he's not my usual canoe partner, but we got a rhythm down really well and kept it straight and fast.  We ended up being the 3rd canoe in... it's astonishing how fast the #1 team is, but someday, with age, wisdom, and paddling technique... we'll get them!  No we wont.

Stage #3 - Ganaraska Forest Run

I've pre-run this before, so I knew a bit about it... I actually feel like I've raced it once too, but I can't find any evidence of that, so maybe not.

I started too fast, and paid almost immediately - the hills on this one are tough.  But what really creamed me was the humidity... some people can deal with it, I can't.  I was pouring sweat and overheating from about 2km on.  It got especially bad during the long, long, long gradual ascent from about 2.5km to 4.5km... it is relentless, with the trees I wasn't getting any wind, and I just felt zapped.

I tried to keep up some kind of pace but after that it was really just keep it going zone.  My average heart rate was a staggering 178bpm... I mean that's nuts!

At the finish I was pouring sweat.  The humidity was so high I could see my breath... in +25C or whatever.  Crazy humidity.

Toughest Run?

It's a tough stage - tougher than I remembered.  My buddy and I were debating whether this one was tougher or stage 10... I think before they shortened it, stage 10 was still worse - really tough climbs and crazy swamp thing, and longest stage of the race.  But since it's been shortened to 8km, Stage 3 gets my vote.  Sandy, hilly, unforgiving.

The Team!

When I left we were in 3rd place, with about 5 stages to go.  Pretty decent result in the making, stay tuned...

Next Year?

Yes, definitely!



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Race Preview: Moraine Adventure Relay


Moraine Relay Again!

Hard to believe this will be my 7th year at this race - wow have we come a long way, baby!

I have organized teams, joined other teams, and filled in... every year it's a crap-shoot, but I always seem to end up racing.

This year a friend of mine needed a paddler, and I'm a paddler, so I'm back!  Then the team had a cancellation so I took on a run stage as well... in for a penny, in for a pound.

Stage 1 - Paddling

The last time I paddled was 2014 and it was crazy... ferocious waves crashing over the bow, other boats flipping, me bailing like a crazy SOB just to keep us afloat...

This year we have a new boat with much taller sides, so that shouldn't happen regardless of the weather.  It might be rough but I intend to stay dry!

I will be paddling with a buddy I haven't paddled with, other than a test run (which went fine!).  Should be pretty exciting/interesting.

Stage 3 - Running

I swear I've raced this stage before, but I can't really find any record of it... I've definitely pre-run it one year.  I remember it as one of the prettier stages - all in the Ganaraska Forest.  Lots of sand and hills make it challenging... and the odd dirt bike flying by makes it slightly terrifying at times!

Most important though is not getting lost - many have, there are a lot of turns and trails that shoot off in various directions.  Important to follow those blazes...


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why a tandem canoe isn't twice as fast as a solo


This has always bugged me.  Solo I can paddle in the 6-7km/h range, tandem we're between 8-9km/h.

Why aren't we 12-14km/h?  We have twice as much power!

I figured it was due to the weight of two paddlers displacing more water, which was a good thought - but it's not the whole story.  In fact it only accounts for a small part of the story.

Then I found this article on the Science of Paddling.

The real answer is, in my opinion, far more disheartening.  In fact it's a bit of a drag.

From some kayaking site but basic principle is the same... 


Drag And the Law of Diminishing Returns

The main force on a canoe is water - you are punching a hole and sliding through it.  This creates drag.

Unfortunately the faster you go, the more the drag increases... but it's non-linear!  In other words, you need a bigger increase in force to go from 8km/h to 9km/h than you do to go from 2km/h to 3km/h.

Now if we were a motorboat we would eventually get to a sufficient speed to lift most of the boat out of the water and reduce the drag to near zero...

Weeeeeeee!!!

  ... but sadly that isn't going to happen at 9km/h in our canoe.  We are stuck forcing our way through the water, and every tenth of a kilometer per hour of speed is harder to obtain than the previous tenth.

Weight

The other factor I alluded to is weight.  More weight means more of the boat under the waterline, and more drag.  Two paddlers weigh more than one, thus more boat is under the waterline causing drag.

The article I referenced above does some serious math and comes up with a 5% gain in weight resulting in a 1% speed difference, 10% gain results in 2%.

So it's significant... to a point.  If you're in a C2/tandem and you have a combined weight of, say, 350lbs, you'd have to gain a combined 15lbs or so to cost yourself 1%...

What This All Means

The most important take-away is that because the power/speed relationship is non-linear, a steady pace is the most efficient strategy (all things being equal).

And weight is important - if you can drop it, either from your butt or your gear, then do it!





Saturday, June 4, 2016

Race Report: Canoe the Nonquon 2016


A tale of muck and weeds.  And more weeds.  And more muck.

Navigation Note for Next Year

When trying to spot Port Perry - aim for the larger apartment buildings, not the brick building to the left (that's the grocery store).  And when you get to Port Perry the finish line is past the furthest dock where the boats are moored.

Sorry, that's for me so I don't forget (and I'm pretty sure I'll read this next year before I do this again!).

Shallow Narrow River

The water levels on the river were low... much lower than the previous years we've done this one.  Made for a very narrow at the start, and lots of paddles hitting muck in the bottom - this was more like a creek than a river!  No current to help us out, either...

Had some trouble overtaking slower boats - thankfully there weren't many as we started very early, but the ones we did encounter were tricky.  On one, we tried to go inside a corner to pass them - only to get completely beached in muck!  The narrowness and low water levels made this especially challenging.

Finally we got out of the narrowest winding part and into some clear water...

The Flip

And then it happened - we flipped.  This is such a sleepy no-current river, you'd think there was no chance... you'd be wrong!  Murky water, stump/branch looming below the surface, we caught it at full speed on the left side of the boat and it tossed us right over.  We were in the water before we knew what hit us - no chance.

Turns out the Nonquon is not a pleasant place to swim.  In fact it's downright disgusting... I could touch the bottom, but sunk into the disgusting muck... we managed to get the boat flipped over and generally free of water, chase down our belongings (which stayed close due to the lack of current!).

Everything stunk to hell but at least we were back going again!

Rest of The River

The rest was wider, but still gross - weeds and lilypads everywhere, it was pretty tough slogging at times.  I don't remember it being quite so bad, presumably low water levels just make it that much worse.

The Lake

Lake Scugog can be a beast - one year we had a killer headwind that knocked our speed by 30-40%.  This year it was still, even a slight tail-wind!  So that part went great, once we got out of the weeds at the mouth of the river.  Which again, went on forever.

Result

Don't know the official time but we were definitely slower than previous years by about 5 minutes or so.  The lake part was faster than 2015 (which is surprising as we had a decent tailwind last year) but the river was much slower (not surprising at all given the lack of current and flip!).

Next Up... 

... Moraine Relay next weekend!  I'm doing the canoe stage with a buddy (not my usual paddling partner though), should be fun.




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Race Preview: Canoe the Nonquon 2016


This is a small and long-running canoe race that we've done for a few years now.

2013... 2014... 2015... man, where does the time go!  I can't believe we've been at this for 4 years already.

Total distance is about 25km.  We'll be doing it in our new HCC Grand Huron, which so far has been fairly kind to us (I'll post more about it someday).

The race starts on the winding Nonquon River, which can be a bit of a chore in an 18 foot canoe... but we're better at it than we once were, that's for sure.

The winding eventually lets up and the end of the river is quite wide.

Finally there's a slog across Lake Scugog, which can be dicey as heck (big waves some years!).  How much fun this part is entirely depends on the wind - some years it's been pure hell, others not bad at all.  Being a large lake you get that sensation of barely moving, even when you're clipping along OK.

Anyway it should be fun, a good workout and test before the Big East River X in a few weeks time!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Still Sick. Exercised. Questionable Idea.


Still have a lingering chest cold, lots of phlegm and stuff (use your imagination).

Energy level comes and goes.

Curious thing, though, when I hit the bike or run, I feel good.  Not great, but I have energy and feel almost normal.

Even after I feel good for awhile... energy is back, breathing feels good!

... then late evening comes, and the stupid cough comes back, can't sleep well, wake up feeling groggy and lethargic.  My muscles and joints get all achy, and the morning is awful.

Then afternoon rolls around and life feels OK again.

This has gone on for about a week, so almost time to go to the doctor I guess.  Stupid.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What Happens When You Get Sick


I'm sick.  Just in time for the long weekend, too.  Hope this is a quick one.

Somehow, reading this article about what happens when you're sick inside your body made me feel better.  Not physically, but mentally maybe?

I had a sore throat - now I know why.  The body encountered the infection and sent blood and antibodies to fight it... which caused pain.  So it wasn't actually the invader that hurt my throat - it was my own body.

Ugh.

That went away after one day, and now it's more of a chest cold, muscle aches, headache, and lethargy.  Interesting thing about the muscle aches...

This happens because of chemicals released to fight the invader tend to cause inflammation in muscles and joints, and often muscle enzyme levels are elevated in the blood as a result of this. Ow. When antibodies bind to the virus or bacteria they deactivate it and make it more easily digestible to white cells. However, this process causes inflammation and tissue irritation

Whelp that sounds about right.

Should I Exercise?

I've always pushed through regardless, but it never felt helpful.  It probably isn't - when you think about all your body is doing to fight off the invader, inflame itself, create antibodies and white blood cells... it's under a lot of stress as it is.  The last thing it needs is me going balls-out on a run or bike.

That being said, I'm not one to sit still.  It's too nice out.  Maybe I'll go for a walk or do some light gardening or something.  Restraint (which I lack) is key I think.

What About Alcohol?

This one I'm less sure of.  Presumably dehydration would be a negative, but the odd nip makes me feel better.  Not my throat, though, but the rest of me... I don't think it lengthens the illness, so I won't abstain.

What Else Can You Do?

Nothing.  Lots of people are willing to sell you shit anyway, but how do I put this nicely... they're bullshit.

People take stuff, get better, then feel like they worked.  No scientific basis for this, though - illnesses get better on their own most of the time (90%+), that's what they do.  Your body is good at this stuff, and other than antibiotics for a bacterial infection there's nothing you can do but rest and feed.




Saturday, May 14, 2016

Race Report: Storm the Trent Trek 2016


Whew tough day!  Rain, rain, rain... mud, mud, mud.... wind........

Canoe
I'm pretty sure this is us!  So far behind... horrible start!  Although you can't
see all the people behind us... we're probably mid-pack by this point, 30s or so
after the start... 

Inexplicably they started with the canoe... which meant something like a hundred boats bashing into each other.  To make matters worse - we were supposed to start at this dock, which I confirmed with one of the race people... but then other people went past the dock.  We were assured they would be told to move back, but then the race organizer showed up and... didn't do that.  So we were stuck behind loads of Canadian Tire specials and such... it was a nightmare.

They also shortened the canoe from 9km to much less... my GPS puts it at about 4km.

So after working damn hard to get some clear water, when we all got to the 3 floating checkpoints it was yet another smash-up derby as everyone clamoured and clashed trying to get to the checkpoint.  We were rammed 3 separate times trying to get it!  Line it up perfect... ram.  Line it up again... ram.

So yeah, not a great start, and I really have to implore the organizer not to do something that dumb again.  Spread folks out before you throw them in boats.

Even more frustrating was our performance, which was pretty lackluster... we just didn't get it done today, this is our strong leg, and without much spring practice (we've only been in the boat once this season) we just sucked.

Bike

We held our own on all the bike sections.  Lots of mud, some technical rocky sections, it really was a hoot.  Didn't care allll that much for the long road sections, especially near the end with the headwind!  But some that I thought were roads from the map ended up being fun ATV trails, so I'll call it a win.

Running and Navigating

This was one cool thing they did differently this year.  We got a map of one of the later running areas, but the checkpoints weren't on the map.  You had to look at map boards during the previous running section to get the locations and fill in your own map!

Figuring out where they were wasn't that hard, putting them on the map wasn't that hard, but figuring out how you'd navigate to them in the middle of the race?  That was tricky!  Usually you get the map beforehand so you can do a bit of planning, but not this time..., had to think on your feet.

We managed to get to the first 2 checkpoints easily enough, but then we had a minor calamity... trying to cut across to the furthest one, we got lost in these caves.  Not literally in the caves, but amongst the caves... there were families there going from cave to cave, asking us "do you know where cave 5 is?" and we're like "no, do you know where the road is!?".  It was awful... cost us about 4-5 minutes I figure based on GPS after the fact.  Not entirely sure where I got it wrong - there's a trail on the map, but we ended up on numerous trails that I guess weren't THAT trail... oh well.

We decided to run on the road from the last bridge checkpoint back - since the trails were pretty gnarly, figured this would save time (even if slightly longer).  I think that was the right call.

Results...

... I don't know.  We saw a lot of people ahead of us, so presumably we didn't podium or anything.  Definitely a more challenging crowd than the "Hike" we did last year (shorter distance).  But I think we held our own, finished in 4:45 which was decent.

Edit: 7th out of 30 male teams of 2.  Not bad!  It'll be interesting to see the splits when posted... 

Finish

BBQ ... outdoors, freezing, in the rain... ate quickly and left, just wasn't fun to hang around.  Could have used an indoor contingency plan.  I'm a little grumpy about the organization today in case you hadn't noticed!  It wasn't what I've come to expect with these guys - their races are usually spot on.






Thursday, May 12, 2016

Homemade Energy Gel - Second Try


My first try at Homemade Energy Gel went reasonably well, but in the end it was just too sweet/gross and cost too much.

1/2 cup Brown Rice Syrup (purchased at Bulk Barn in Canada) (300 calories, 81mg sodium)
1/2 cup sugar (400 calories)
1 scoop orange gatorade (90 calories, 160mg sodium, 45mg potassium)
1 tsp blackstrap molassas (also from Bulk Barn) (10 calories, 300mg potassium +/-)
1/4 tsp table salt (575mg sodium)
squirt of lemon

Put it on the stove with enough heat to get things to dissolve and mix up and bam.  Energy Gel.

Yields a cup and change of liquid, or about 9 ounces, 800kcal.

About 600mg of potassium, 800mg sodium.

Brown Rice Syrup is composed of the complex carbs maltose and maltotriose - both of which have surprisingly high Glycemic Indexes (higher than sugar!).  They break down into glucose without going through the liver - and whoooosh into the bloodstream.  (Note that there is contradictory GI information on the internet - some say it's only a GI of 25, but these seem to be wrong).

Sugar is made of sucrose, which contains one glucose and one fructose molecule.

Gatorade Powder is mostly sugar.

Sugar Profile

We end up with most of our calories coming from glucose, with not very much fructose... this is probably a mistake, we usually want pretty close to a 50/50 balance.  But it's not that far different from commercial gels... they typically under-represent fructose.  We could swap out regular sugar for Fructose (available in most grocery stores, inexpensive) if we want.

Potassium/Sodium

Commercial gels come in around 50mg each of the two, or less (generally).  This is about 60mg of K, 80mg of Na.  So should be good for a hot day!

Cost

For a batch (makes around 10 gels worth) we're talking about $3 or so.  Most expensive is the brown rice syrup at $7 for 450mL, everything else is pennies.

Taste?

Great!  Less sweet than normal crap.  Runny gel that went easily into a bottle and delivers a lot of energy in a hurry.




Race Preview: Storm the Trent 2016


We did this race last year and it was awesome... so this year we're back for the longer version (the "Trek" distance).

42km of mountain biking
9km of "hiking"/running
9km of paddling

They don't tell us in advance how it's all split up... last year for the shorter "hike" and "trek" distances, it was run/bike/run/bike/paddle.  The short distances to the first run checkpoints lead to long line-ups early on, especially for the first one.  So I'm hoping we either bike or paddle first!

Looks like the last time this was in Warsaw, they did bike/run/bike/paddle/run/paddle... but no guarantees at all, need to be ready for anything.

It looks like a cold and rainy day, which could prove horrible... or amazing.

I expect we won't be quite as competitive in the longer race, as the competition tends to get stiffer as distances get longer.  But looking to have fun, pace it right, finish ahead of who we can and finish behind who we can't (and try not to get lost).