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Monday, November 6, 2017

Halloween Candy as Fuel


I have a lot of left-over Halloween candy, so it occurred to me - why pay for more sugar (Gatorade) when I can just gobble some Halloween goodies?

Rockets?  Or Smarties?
Referencing the information I got from the Velonews FastTalk Podcast, the answer is pretty much "go for it".

... as long as the primary sugar is glucose, not fructose.

Fortunately here in Canada, most of our candy is either made from real sugar (sucrose contains 50/50 glucose/fructose), or from glucose/sugar mix (ie. dextrose). 

In the U.S. it's a bit tougher to find candy not made from high-fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose), which can contain more fructose than you really want for exercise.

Rockets are one of my favourites (or "Smarties" in the U.S., which are entirely different from our "Smarties" which are made of chocolate!).  30 calories of Dextrose (glucose) goodness per roll.

Also Swedish Berries... glucose syrup, yummmm! 

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cold Rainy Biking - What To Wear

Wet.  Cold.  Dreary.  Brr.

I just did a race where the bike was shortened due to participants getting too cold.

The temperature was about +8C (+46F) - which in fall in Ontario is not particularly unusual - a bit on the low side, but it happens.

What made it so much worse, though, was the rain.  It wasn't pouring, but sprinkling just enough to keep you soaked to the bone the entire ride.

I've done a lot of bad weather racing (off-road/spring crazy Paris to Ancaster stuff) but this one stung.  Road bikes are fast, which creates........

Wind

Cyclists make their own wind.  Going 30km/h on a still day is like standing in a 30km/h wind - when you're wet, it gets miserable, fast.  The evaporation of the water sucks heat away from your body and leaves you ice cold.

The main strategy, then, is to block the wind.  Wear layers that don't let the air through.

Torso and arms and legs

I think we all know how to block wind here, don't we?  Yet I saw so many people wearing just cycling jerseys with arm/leg warmers that didn't look very wind blocky.  Crazy!

Hands

The folks officiating the race said people's hands became so cold they couldn't operate their gears or brakes.

Completely avoidable... I was wearing Head Cross-Country ski gloves, didn't have any trouble at all!  They're designed to be wet in cold temperature but keep your hands warm.  There are lots of options like this - I'd imagine most people didn't really think of winter-oriented gloves for a fall race, but that's what it takes.

Feet

This is where I suffered - I could have used feet covers to keep the wind off my feet, but it was a duathlon and those transitions need to be fast.  I stupidly skipped out on them, and as a result my feet were freeeezing.  It even caused some cramping at one point.

Bottom line - wear coverings that keep your feet dry as possible, but most of all block the wind.

... Or Stay Home

Seriously, go for a run instead (significantly reduces the wind issue, as long as it's not windy!), use the indoor trainer... if it wasn't a race, I wouldn't have been out there.  It was pretty miserable, even reasonably well prepared and appropriately dressed.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Race Report: Overdrive Race & Relay Series Duathlon (Standard Distance)


The Track.  Wet.  This is the only flat part.
I have so much to say.

What a wild ride this race was.

I showed up at the race site with a lot of trepedation - I knew sign-ups were low, and the weather was going to be awful.  Maybe +8C, and raining the entire race.  I didn't know what to expect, at all.

The Venue: Mosport (aka Canadian Tire Motorsport Park)

The venue was really excellent, spectacular.  I've done a lot of races where everything was tents and porta-potties - here we had a first class building, washrooms, even a change room area. 

Not only that - the building looks out over the Grand Prix circuit, where the race would be taking place.  Great for spectators who didn't want to brave the weather!  And because the race was laps, you would see the racers pass over and over.

Brilliant.

The Grand Prix circuit was wonderful too - it's one of the original natural terrain race circuits, with plenty of elevation change (more on that later) - and surrounded by trees.  Fall colours, very pretty!

Race organizers had everything sorted out top notch - lots of room to rack bikes, porta-potties, lots of parking.  Nice bibs, chip timing.  All top notch.

Run #1 (10.5km)

We did the pre-race briefing in the rain, sprinkling, but constant.

I looked around and was struck by just how good everyone looked... caught some bits of conversation, and it was clear most of the folks here were braving the weather to get qualifying spots for the World Duathlon Championships. 

This was pretty much confirmed when the race started and everyone took off, leaving me in the dust!  Of the 20-25 participants I was 4th from last (and dead last of the men!).

(This seems like a good time to note that my goal was "ride the Grand Prix circuit at Mosport" - I wasn't really "racing" as such, and I'm pretty mired in off-season not-training right now!!!)

The run course started with a short hilly/rough 2.5km loop of the infield, followed by two 4km laps of the full Grand Prix circuit. 

The 2.5km was tough - steep climbs, some gravel.  I tried to just keep within myself and not get left entirely in the dust.

The 4km Grand Prix circuit was amazing, but there's about 100m of the 4km that are flat (I may be overestimating).  The rest of the time you're going either up or down.  The first half of the track is mostly downhill, then you get to Turn 5 at the far end and it's allllll uphill to the start/finish straight.

I really enjoyed the run, just stayed within myself, didn't get too fussed about my position.

Ride (40km)

The ride consisted of 10 laps of the 4km Grand Prix circuit.

I was pretty tentative at first - we'd been warned it was slick out there, and last thing I wanted to do was crash.  I do enough of that on my mountain bike!

The climb on the backstraight... oh my gawd, it was tough.  The first time through I was in a bit of a not good place, and my low gear didn't seem spinny enough for it.  It hurt! 

Second lap I had gained a lot of confidence.  I noticed my descending was awesome compared to most of the people I found around me.  Guys who flew by me up the hill couldn't match my pace descending - I had a road set-up (not a TT set-up) and the bike just felt awesome under me.  I barely braked at all on the lap, used my momentum downhill to get up the other side as much as I could!

My lap times:
9:09 (shorter due to where the mount line was)
9:10
9:26 (???)
9:14
9:05
9:16...

During my 6th lap, someone passed me and made a comment about how tough it was.  I said "if I never go up this hill again it would be too soon!"

So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the 6th lap, they were diverting us into the transition!  I told them "I haven't finished 10 laps yet"... but apparently the race director and the Triathlon Ontario folks had decided it was too dangerous due to the cold.  Some folks had hypothermia or something.

My immediate reaction was to be a little pissed... the weather was not unexpected, if people didn't dress for it, isn't that on them?

But on the other hand it's pretty unusual to run duathlons this late - the crowd wasn't like the hardened Paris to Ancaster crowd that expects snow and what have you. 

So I get it.  Frankly in that weather I'd pretty much had my fill anyway.

Run #2 (5km)

This run was two more loops of the infield circuit. 

I hadn't really finished my nutrition plan, and my pacing was assuming 4 more bike laps, so I was kind of thrown off at first.  I figured I'd drank enough to just forgo any more liquids and finish - so that's what I did.

It was a little weird - I had no idea at this point who I was racing and who I wasn't.  Was the person catching up to me someone who had done the same number of bike laps?  More?  Fewer?  There was just no way to know.

As I started my last lap, I caught up to one lady and passed her - and spotted another lady about 400m behind me.  I knew she'd been catching me steadily as she hadn't been there before... so I got some fire in my belly.  I wanted to hold her off, this became my new goal.

Less than 1km from the end I could hear someone behind me.  Footsteps, getting louder.  CRAP.

... except it wasn't her, it was some dude, one that clearly had a LOT of pace, so not someone I was really racing against!  Whew.  Except at that moment I looked over my shoulder - and there she was. 

We were going uphill, she was closing in.  I could hear her getting closer.  I tried to find another gear, it wasn't there. 

Closer.

Closer still.

As we finally got to the top of the hill I could tell she was right behind me... but now we were close enough I could tap into that anerobic stuff that I had left and finish strong!  So I did - I put it all out there and sprinted to the finish.

Whew.  Tired, wet.  Gross.

Finished!

Totally cool medal - the Grand Prix circuit map!
The medal is so awesome.   At least for me - as someone who loved the circuit before I ever arrived, having gone to a bunch of car races there... really neat!

This race was perfect except for one thing...

The Date.

Triathletes wrap up in September - this was just too late to draw a decent crowd.  I heard guys talking about it after, they had a hard time keeping their training going to hit this race with anything. 

And the weather can be awful - in this case, it was really, really awful. 

It made it memorable and epic - but not everyone likes this kind of memorable and epic.

An evening in June or July that doesn't conflict with another multisport event and it could work.  The venue is great, the event well organized.  Exceeded my expectations.

And best of all I finally got to ride the Grand Prix circuit at Mosport!  I've wanted to do that since I first saw it.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Race Preview: Overdrive Race & Relay Series Duathlon


Tomorrow I'm racing the Overdrive Race & Relay Series Duathlon.

Me at Mosport, 2004
This will be a chance to ride/run the awesome Mosport race circuit in Bowmanville (now called Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

The Race

10.5km run, 40km bike, 5k run

The run includes 2 laps of the Grand Prix circuit, the bike is 10 laps!  Should be really cool.

Racers Ready?

In the last email there were only about 25 people signed up, split between Sprint/Standard distances.  That's a shockingly low number in a province where triathlons/duathlons get hundreds pretty routinely.

So it's going to be a little weird.

I have a bunch of thoughts, but the Cole's Notes version - October is late and could be cold, not everyone has a draft-legal bike, and the number of events initially on the calendar was really confusing... it wasn't clear who the event was meant to be for, who the target audience was.  There's so much potential here, the venue is really neat - but again, not sure how much of the triathlon/running/cycling community really knows about it. 

The Weather

We're looking at almost certain rain and temperatures around +10C ... so it's going to be a pretty crap day.

I'll gut it out, because I really want to ride the Grand Prix circuit.  I have wanted to since the first time I saw it attending a race there.  It's just so cool.

It will likely be lonely out there though!  Draft-legal race, with nobody to draft.  Sniff.  Drafting in the rain kind of sucks anyway.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mountain Biking Hardwood Ski & Bike, near Barrie, Ontario


Hardwood Ski and Bike is a private mountain biking facility near Barrie, Ontario.

This is my second time riding here, but the first was at an 8h event and we did a 10k loop over and over - so I haven't really experienced riding here properly.

We are very spoiled to have Durham Forest and the other free trails near our place... so driving 1.5h and paying $15 to ride was a tough sell.

... but is it ever worth it!

Trails!

The singletrack is purely for mountain biking. 

No dogs.
No hikers.
NO DOGS!!! (sorry for the obsession, but had some recent off-leash dog experiences I'd rather avoid!)

Just mountain biking.

Oh and all the trails are single direction only - so you can bomb down the trails without worrying about riders coming the other way.

Glorious!

The trails are categorized by difficulty - Easy, Medium, Advanced, Very Advanced.

Lots of obstacles - log-overs, man-made bridge things, rock piles/gardens.  They all had bail-out options, so if you're feeling brave you hit it, if you're not you go around easily.

Only complaint - there were a lot of branches down - I guess from the recent wind storms?  They claim to keep them clear, but they weren't... my only minor beef, and it's one that's probably not a problem most of the time.

We started with a "Medium to Advanced" trail called Serious.  It was really cool, except my buddy bit it on a rock within the first 10 minutes!  Just one of those things, we were new to the area and a bit tentative, and mountain biking doesn't reward the tentative. 

After that we took on the "Advanced" trail Gnarly - which lived up to its name.  It had everything - roots, rocks, man-made obstacles (bridges/etc), and really tough sharp climbs.  Really beat me up!  My legs were burning by the end, especially the climbing down in the south-west section near the end of the loop. I think the section was called "Hill and Dale"... it was brutal.

Stopped for lunch - another benefit of the place is there are actual (gasp!) facilities!  You can buy food, replenish water, hit the washroom... all very civilized. 

After lunch we took some faster easier trails - Crank'd and Fun.  Both were fun, but I really loved Fun.  Not technical but there are things you can choose to do (Parry's Planks?) and some fast flowy really fun stuff along the way.

All in all a great day, and well worth the $15.  Definitely worth a few trips up next year!




Monday, October 16, 2017

Weight Loss (Again)


The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

So with that in mind... I'm going back to a few things that have worked for me in the past, and a few new ideas.

1)  Weight Loss During the Off-Season

One I picked up from the Velonews podcasts is to do your weight loss during the off-season.

When you're doing full-blown training, creating calorie deficits may seem easier - burn a few thousand calories on a ride, pretty easy to create a big caloric deficit!

... but without the calories things will just go sour, fast.  It's a recipe for not being able to recover properly, burning out, and just generally failing at weight loss.

2)  Crash Dieting Works

This one is more controversial...

According to this study, participants who lost weight quickly were more likely to stick to the plan, and less likely to put weight on again after.

"Across the world, guidelines recommend gradual weight loss for the treatment of obesity, reflecting the widely held belief that fast weight loss is more quickly regained,” said Katrina Purcell, dietician and the first author on the paper from the University of Melbourne

“However, our results show that achieving a weight loss target of 12.5 per cent is more likely, and drop-out is lower, if losing weight is done quickly." 
The number of people who regained weight after three years was also the same in both groups, 71 per cent, suggesting that crash dieting is better than gradual weight loss in the short term and no worse in the long term 

This flies in the face of a lot of conventional wisdom (as they note).  I find this happens a lot in nutrition and obesity, it just seems like no matter how much research is done, it's a tough nut to crack - and too much is taken on faith rather than actual study.

I'm going to revert to the old adage "know thyself".  I am not a gradual steady-as-she-goes kind of person - I like extreme solutions, and I like to see results.

I'm not going crazy with it - 1800kCal/day is low, but it's not that extreme...

3)  Intermittent Fasting

I have used 16:8 with a lot of success.

This helps curb hunger, counter-intuitively.  I found it much easier to stick to a low calorie diet if I compress the calories into an 8 hour period than if I try spread that out.  Lunch, dinner, very little snacking, and cut-off early in the evening.  Feel full a couple of times a day rather than be hungry all the time.

The Plan and The Math

Daily caloric requirement (based on 192lbs, average weight during weight loss): 2628kCal

Calculator here: http://www.marshmallowman2ironman.com/2011/02/daily-calorie-requirement-calculator.html

Exercise burn per hour (low intensity / base mileage) - 800kCal (estimated)
Exercise hours per week - 5
Add in some walking and other daily activities - 100kCal/day
Total daily requirement - 3300kCal

Target weight loss - 3lbs/week = 10,500kCal
Deficit per day - 1500kCal

3300kCal - 1500kCal = 1800kCal/day

Easy peasy!

Goal weight: 180lbs. 
Current weight: 203lbs. 

9 weeks = 27lbs ... a few cheat days in there, should be able to lose 23lbs, right? YAY!

Today, the work begins.




Saturday, October 14, 2017

Race Report: Vulture Bait (50km trail run) - DNF


DNF!  In fact I barely made it through 25km. 

The Course

Before I moan about my horrible race, I wanted to make some course notes while it's still fresh in my mind.

In my previous report I said the second half is more technical - this isn't really the case!

First 6km

This is a mix of single/double track, and it's all very non-technical.  There's even a kilometer or more of road.

The only thing kind of crappy was the volume of runners - we ended up single file with some really slow people at the front.  This was OK though, as it kept my pace in check.

Oh and at 5km there's a pretty wicked hill up to the dam. 

6km - 11km

This part is pretty technical - a lot of little sharp rises, sharp downhills, roots, rocks.  Definitely tougher than I remembered it (and it was wet, which added a bit more sketchiness).  I'd say this was probably the toughest part actually.

11km - 12.5km

Road.  Paved.  Easy.  Aid Station.

12.5km-17km

More trails, winding.  Not as many sharp/technical things, but still not entirely trivial.

17km-17.5km

Short road section

17.5km-18.5km

Tough little trail section, up and down and stuff.

18.5km-19km

Road, bridge.

19km-25km

Almost all trail, up and down.  Short reprieve through the golf course parking lot, then double track to the end...

Moaning About My Race

I slept like crap, but that's not unusual for me the day of a race.

Woke up, had a normal race-day breakfast (about 4 hours before race start - lots of digestion time!).

I felt tired on the drive.  Could have used a nap.  But again, this isn't that unusual...

Rain stopped, got my kit.  Chilled out in the van.  Lined up at the start, normal start-line jitters. 

Start - paced myself with the crowd, backing off, letting people past.  Legs felt great, felt like I was setting up for a good day.

... except my heart rate was out of whack early.  160s, then 170s, at a really easy pace.  What the hell?  I had an average heart rate of 157bpm in my last training run - and when I was this easy, it was under 150 consistently.  I couldn't figure it out!

It only got worse from there.  I tried to reason that it must be the warmth or something, and I must surely have the energy for this slow pace.

... and I felt fine!  My perceived effort was reasonable, consistently.  I walked the steep hills, I ran at a gentle pace.  But my heart rate just kept going haywire.

I ate my Cliff Blocks (which I'd tried in training).  They went down well.  Life should have been good.

Just shy of halfway into the first loop, fatigue set in.  Complete energy crash.  I pushed through, occasionally walking now - but this was looking grim, and I wasn't even 1/4 of the distance.

Somewhere around kilometer 14 or 15 I decided to walk, to really get the heart rate down.  Even walking, I just couldn't get the heart rate to drop much... nursed it under 150bpm, but as soon as I'd start running it'd shoot back up over 170bpm!!!

Frustrating.

By the time I got to the aid station around kilometer 17 I was done.  I figured I'd walk the 8km back on the course and DNF.

I did manage to mix in a bit of running after awhile, but heart rate was still silly, and if I ran too long I'd crash again.

I even managed to wipe out on a downhill... I think my brain was out of juice too at that point, went sprawling.  Cramped up.

Then the weirdest thing of all - my ear got plugged up, like when you're in the shower or pool and accidentally get water in it.  Then it unplugged... and a little later, plugged again!  Then unplugged... then plugged. 

Still, something in me wanted to keep going.  I knew the cut-off was based on 8:30/km pace ... I had run the first 17km at 7:00/km, and even with all the crap going wrong I had still managed 8:41/km pace!

But when that ear thing started I got freaked out.  I figure I'm sick with something, it was really weird.  No point in pushing and doing real harm here - I chose to live to fight another day.

Sheepishly pulled out after 25km, went to the medical folks.  They checked my blood pressure and heart rate - all pretty normal.  They didn't seem too concerned about the ear thing, just said if it doesn't clear then get it checked out.  It cleared.

I'm still feeling exhausted now, as if I really did 50km (I assume this is what that would feel like, having not completed one!). 

Really sucks!  All that training, suffering through taper madness... to have it go so bad when it mattered the most... gah!

I know I can do the 50km - I'm sure of it.  My legs felt great, even after 25km.  I'll do it.

Just not today.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Race Preview: Vulture Bait (50km trail run)

My first "Ultramarathon"!

Exciting!  And ... slightly terrifying.

I signed up for this while keeping track of the insanely insane Barkley Marathons.  Specifically, Gary Robbins's heart-breaking non-finish.  I don't know what about that level of pain/suffering compelled me to jump on board, but there's some instinct there about figuring out just how far you can go...... I've always had it, now I'll take my first shot at it with running.

Vulture Bait

A 25km/50km race around Fenshaw Lake near London, Ontario.  Almost all trails.

I ran the 25km version of this race in 2009 after my first Ironman - the 50km is two loops of that same course.  8 years have passed so my memory is a bit fuzzy on the course, good thing I have a blog to refer back to!

It wasn't massively technical.  I even ran it in regular running shoes (didn't own trail shoes back then), and I don't recall having an issue with the terrain.  I remember the second half being winding with little sharp climbs now and then, and having to cross a creek.

It also isn't massively hilly - it pretty much follows the lake, so there's some little hills carrying you away from it and back toward it at times.  Nothing that stuck out as particularly tricky - not sure I can trust the GPS elevation, but my watch had it at half the elevation gain of my training runs.

My Preparation

I've been biking about my normal amount, although I've tapered that off into September to be fresher for my runs.

Running - hills and trails. 

For my short runs, hills near my house (regular road running). 

For my long runs I literally ran up a mountain in Banff in August... but that was a bit special!  Mostly I've been heading up to the hilly and technical trails in the Durham Forest area.  My last couple of runs were ~3 hours.

I'm a bit worried.  It's been a hot September, really unusual.  Anything over +10C or so and my running has suffered. 

I had one cooler run (my last long one) and lo and behold, it went amazingly well. 3 hours, 26k, under 7:00/km (on some tough trails/hills) - and at the end I felt like I could have kept going.

So a lot will depend on the conditions....

The Race - Temperatures

Right now the forecast is not looking good - low of +14C in the morning, +21C and sunny in the afternoon.  Very little chance of rain.

I know it doesn't sound all that hot - but for fall running, that's hot!  Any research on marathon performance backs that up - for example, this study shows a significant drop in performance as temperatures exceed +10C. 

The maximal average speeds were performed at an optimal temperature comprised between 3.8°C and 9.9°C depending on the performance level

I'm particularly vulnerable to heat - I sweat a lot. 

Do I sound paranoid yet?

The Race - Pacing

My weight is a lot higher than 2009, but my overall fitness is a lot better.  But I'm older.

I averaged 6:03/km for 25km back then... 50km is a totally different beast.  I'm thinking something around 7:00/km would be decent, but frankly I'm not going to obsess about my pace - it's more about managing the effort.

Bottom line is that I need to really take it easy, nurse the heart rate, and think about the long game.  It's so easy on race day to get caught up in the excitement and blow one's wad - in a 6+ hour race that would be catastrophic.

Walk the steep stuff.  Keep the heart rate low. 

The Race - Nutrition

Last time I relied on the race nutrition, which was a disaster.  I didn't consume enough, couldn't really measure it, rookie mistake.

This time I'm taking my own Cliff Blocks - 200kcal/package, one per hour, plus some water or whatever sport drink they have.  Should do the trick.

Did I Mention Temperature?

Still parnoid.





Monday, October 9, 2017

Velonews Fast Talk Episode 21: How to ride better in the hot hot heat


My notes:
Me After a Really Hot Ride Feeling Awful

Fact: On hot days you'll be slower.  

Dissipating Heat Takes Energy

Your body first tries to cool itself - it moves blood to the skin, sweats, and all of that takes energy.  This is "cardiovascular strain" - shows up as cardiac drift (higher heart rate in heat).

Core Temperature

There's a point where you can't keep up and your core temperature starts increasing.  Once it gets high enough, your body will intentionally slow you down to produce less heat so as not to risk overheating.

So that shitty fatigue you feel is mostly your body trying to protect you.  Thank it.

What can you do?


  • There are ways to trick your body/mind into thinking you're cooler than you are.  This is probably a bad idea... it's doing everything it can to keep you safe, don't trick it into not doing that.  Unless you hate your organs functioning.


  • Evaporation of water dissipates more heat than drinking it!  Dumping water on your head can work - if it's dry.  If it's humid (ie. around my place, gahhh) then it's useless (or worse)  It won't evaporate well, it'll just drip off and not cool you much at all.


  • Some cyclists use women's nylons full of ice, stuff it down their jersey, and let it melt and keep them cool.  Ice vests, too!  Wild.  Some people use pre-cooling too - drink a slushie, swallow ice cubes.
  • Dehydration is actually not as big of a deal as people think... it's more important to lower your core (cold drinks or ice slushies!) rather than just consume luke-warm water.
  • Clothing ... light colours are maybe not even better - hard to say. 
    Base layers when it's hot - this is something people do.  For moderate heat this might be ok - we can spread out the sweat better.  But if we're going to be soaking, it's not helping.

What can I do?

I'm going to make more of an effort to have cold / frozen beverages in the heat, but it's tough.

I have a 50km trail run coming up this week - and the high is about +19C - not crazy hot, but uncomfortable for running.  I'm thinking of taking an ice bottle with me (it's 2 loops, so maybe I'll put it somewhere and pick it up on the 2nd lap??  If that's allowed - I'll check first).



Saturday, October 7, 2017

Velonews Fast Talk Episode 15: Nutrition!


I loved this one.  Blew apart so many nutrition myths.

Link to the Podcast (or find it on Google Play Music)

My summary from the notes I made (and it's worth listening to the whole thing for the full explanations behind these things).

It's (almost) all about the Sugar

There's really only two kinds of sugar in the end - glucose, and fructose.  No matter what you eat, that's all it ends up as in your bloodstream for use. 

Maltodextrin, etc, is just a bunch of glucose bonded together that is ultimately broken down into glucose and absorbed into your bloodstream.  It's not different. 

Maple syrup is sugar.  Honey is sugar.  Natural, organic, none of it ultimately matters (much) when we talk about energy - it's sugar.  Some of it tastes sweeter, some of it is digested quicker/slower, but those are subtle things and less important than the glucose/fructose ratio...

Before The Ride

Avoid eating an hour before an event!

Eating causes an insulin response that tells our body's cells "start taking glucose out of the bloodstream, there's too much". 

When you start exercising, your muscles now want to gobble up glucose that isn't there - and your blood sugar levels will drop before your body can adjust.

On The Bike

Keep it simple.  

You need sugar in a good glucose/fructose ratio (3:1), and some electrolytes (not tons).

Your body can use up to:
60-90g of glucose per hour
20-30g of fructose per hour

Nutrition guy on the podcast eats Swedish Fish (from Canada though - so better glucose/fructose balance than American versions which have too much fructose).  Another guy uses Twizzlers.  Not in a race... but for longer training rides, you just don't need much more than a bunch of sugar.

Anything beyond that will put a strain on your gut, especially as you go longer/harder.

Right After the Ride:

Sugar it up, baby!  Immediately after a ride (~15 minutes) you want simple sugar to replenish your glycogen.  Wolf it down.

Protein - about 15-20 minutes later, along with a bit more sugar.  Now you need electrolytes - more important now than before or during!  Helps your body re-hydrate.  Chocolate milk, for example.

Rest Of Your Day

You DON'T need much sugar - spiking of insulin causes health issues irrespective of your exercise load.  Diabetes, obesity, etc etc etc - lots of bad things.

Eat regular people healthy food.

What About Electolytes?

You don't need nearly as much as you think. You lose more fluid than sodium in your sweat, your blood actually gets saltier - but you actually want to replenish more water than sodium.  And you lose more sodium than potassium.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Velonews "Fast Talk" Podcasts


I've turned to these as a pretty nice resource - lots of interesting topics, and they generally bring in some real experts/pro coaches, etc.  Not to mention a decent dose of science (most of the time).

Check them out:
http://www.velonews.com/tag/fast-talk-podcast

Episode 26 - Cramping Myths Debunked

This one was amazing.  Imagine, real science about cramping, not just urban legends!

It's not electrolytes, so stop wasting money on salt pills.  It's not hydration.  It's nothing you can fix by purchasing a product.

No, it's something much harder to fix - it's your conditioning.  If you don't train enough or you push too hard training the week of a race, you're at risk for cramping.

Don't show up for a 3+ hour event where you plan to race hard having not done the miles/intensity in training.

I've had serious cramping problems but it's always early season at Paris to Ancaster.  Long race at a time I haven't done much that long or that hard... in years I have, no cramping!

Episode 10 - Hit Race Weight The Right Way

Garbage science - and they knew it, but they posted it anyway.  They warned up front that the science was garbage (not in so many words).  Dr. Philip Goglia is not a guy I'd line up to hear again - he can stick to telling the stars nonsense fad diet advice.

The one thing I did get out of this one - it's better to leave weight loss to the off-season and base building periods, not during the race/training season.  Trying to lose weight when you're in race season is counter-productive, you'll just feel like hell (and have the results to match).

I think I already knew that, because no matter how many calories I burn I manage to not lose weight during the summer... food tastes good, exercise prompts appetite.  And when I have created large caloric deficits, it's lead to lethargy and crappy workouts.

As for the milk-bashing and stuff, give me a break.  The nonsense about  heat ... heat is a by-product of caloric expenditure, it's not the cause.  A calorie is not a measure of heat, it's a measure of energy.

But I digress.

Episode 2 & 3 - High vs Low Intensity

This one was excellent.  I learned two key things (but the entire podcast is worth a listen):

  1. The body can't handle more than 2 high intensity workouts per week - you burn out.  And this is true for both amateurs (me!) and pros alike - the stress it puts on your system isn't something you can train to take more of.  
  2. High intensity work isn't a substitute for piling on base miles... but if you're not a pro with 5 hours a day to spend on the bike, it's probably fine (but taking into account point #1
They talked a bit about reverse periodization  - conclusion: nobody is really doing reverse periodization (ie. intensity early and base miles later).  What they are doing is introducing intensity throughout their training, rather than only doing base miles at the start.  For pros this is partly about being ready for their early races.

What should a week look like for a time-crunched cyclist?

  • 2 intense workouts per week. Short intervals with little rest (ie. 20s all out, 10s rest, repeat for 4-5mins) have best results.  
  • 1 long ride, 4-5h at "talking pace".  In the season this can be made more intense, but not crazy.
  • Alternative to long ride - 95% of threhold for 20 minute intervals - not nearly as good, and not a real substitute for the long ride (but could work in the winter to some degree)

Happy 'casting.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Vulture Bait 50k Training Update #2


Just an update to my earlier post on my 50km trail run training.

This is a bit of navel-gazing so feel free to skip!!!

The Heat

The temperatures have finally subsided here in the Toronto area - from around +30C (in late September - whyyyyy???) to something more seasonal - +10-15C.

I got in my last long run yesterday in a bit of sprinkling rain and cool weather.

It was fantastic.

It's amazing how much of a difference cool weather can make - I finished over 26km in about 3 hours, and felt like I could have gone a lot longer (finally!).  Not dying at the end of my long training runs is a big plus, my confidence is finally there!

Just in time.

The Terrain

The other thing I did was to try better match the race day terrain.  This is a bit difficult as everything with a trail around here is also very hilly - not much I could do about that.  But I did throw in a bit of road (just like the race) and some gravel, and cut back on the winding single-track.

It was still quite a bit more difficult than Vulture Bait... 521m of elevation gain yesterday over 26km vs 218m of elevation gain I recorded when I did the 25km Vulture Bait.  But at least a bit easier/closer.

The Pace

I'm much more confident now that I can be in the 7:00/km range, maybe quicker.

I ran the 25km Vulture Bait in just over 6:00/km pace back in 2009... I was lighter, so add 20 seconds per km for weight, another 30 or so for pacing for 50km instead of 25km.  I'm also in much better run shape than I was back then (I had just done my first marathon and Ironman, but was a noob).

Ran 6:47/km in my last training run, which I wasn't pushing much and it was harder than the race (as noted above).

So everything is finally lining up for a good day!  Just hope the weather cooperates.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mountain Biking Crash


My colourful bicep.

Knees bloody.  Right hand was puffy and super painful at night...

Dumb accident - clipped a little sapling with my handlebar at the end of a long ride.  Sent me straight off the trail into a log/tree/bushes - no chance to stop (or even slow down).

Not sure what hit where, I just went over and everything kind of hit stuff at once.  Found myself and my bike entangled in branches and stuff.

Ouch.

Worst crash I've had in a lonnnnng time.  Maybe ever.  I fell earlier this year and bruised my ribs quite badly, but it was just on the trail, straight fall... this one was way freakier.

The bright side - I didn't hurt anything so bad that I can't run.  My hands hurt quite a bit but should be back to biking in the next day or two.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Vulture Bait - 50km Trail Race - Training


I signed up for this months ago in the excitement of following Gary Robbins and his Barkely Marathon attempt.

I don't know why his agony and pain would inspire me to want to do an Ultramarathon, but it did.  I figured 50km would be a good introduction.  It's not so crazy, right?  Just a touch longer than a marathon!

My Training

I have been trying to do a lot of hill running when I'm on the roads, and getting in the trail runs as much as I can.

Unfortunately the conditions just aren't similar enough to Vulture Bait.  It's been stinky hot and humid, which really shouldn't be even close to the race conditions in mid-October in Ontario Canada.  When I did the 25km version of this it was barely above zero.

Last night I ran 24km in Durham Forest.  At least I think I did... I don't have much confidence in GPS in the forest, it doesn't seem to capture all the curves and hills as distance!

It was hot, humid, and hilly.  Vulture Bait will likely be cool.  And the course is nowhere near as hilly as what I'm doing in training.

Vulture Bait 25km - Elevation Gain (per Garmin 305): 218m
Last night's 24km - Elevation Gain (per Garmin 910xt): 487m

I don't really have flatter trails around me, although I could make a more conscious effort to avoid some of the steeper stuff... but I figure training harder terrain than race day is probably of benefit, not detriment.

... but it's not helping my confidence so far!  I'm struggling with these 3 hour runs.  Yesterday I only managed 7:21/km pace - that is with walking some of the steeper hills and such.  And I'm still thinking the distance isn't right, so the speed probably isn't either...

Vulture Bait 25km in 2009 I did in 6:03/km.  So I think it's quite a bit easier.

I'm going to keep plugging away - running the trails, the hills, and just keep trying to find that "go all day" pacing.

Weight

When I signed up, I figured I'd be dropping weight through the season.  I haven't been - or at least not much.  I'm maybe down about 5 pounds, just a touch under 200.  I'd love to be in the 170's, but at LEAST I want to be in the 180's!!!  I won't be.  So that's an extra burden - like carrying around a few extra sacks of potatoes.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Race Report: Muskoka River X 80k (Canoe Race) 2017

We were back for our second year of Muskoka River X - the hilariously named "Sprint" distance of 80km.

This race is amazing - it's a true paddling adventure, with some remoteness and just stunning beauty throughout.
2017 start on Fairy Lake at sunrise

Revenge!

Our 2016 attempt was pretty much hell.  Awesome adventure hell, but still hell.  It poured rain, the lake was rockin' and rollin' from strong wind, and we screwed up pretty much every portage.  We spent a staggering 2h18m portaging.. oh and we flipped in the rapids... I don't use the term "shit show" lightly - it was a shit show.

The Start

This year we thought we did what we did last year - hang back a bit and avoid the chaos.

Except we didn't avoid the chaos - instead we found ourselves in the swirling wash that follows the lead boats when they all make wake at the same time... we kept our whits about us and managed to get to the bridge in one piece (and with the boat right-side-up!).

... and then someone smoked us from behind.  Completely spun our boat so we were now pointing across the river instead of up it... at which point we collided with another boat trying to shoot up the gut.

Fortunately neither of us went over, but the boat we hit had a little spazz (presumably assuming we had steered there incompetently!?).

So that was the start.  I don't know what to do differently last year other than hang on and hope we don't flip, again.  You can't win the race in the first 5 minutes but you sure can mess it up!

Fairy and Pen Lakes

These lakes we knew well, and just settled into our normal stroke rate.  Other than being beautiful there was nothing all that remarkable about our trip across the lake - passed a bunch of boats.

Portage #1

This one is long - 1.7km, the majority of which is uphill.

One of the things we messed up last year was we tried an experimental strap approach to carrying the boat.  Basically we had luggage straps on either end of the boat to carry it.

It was horrible, the boat kept smacking in, the strap didn't distribute the weight well, and we were both struggling the whole day with it (especially on the long portages).

This year we attached pads with bungee cords to the bottom of the boat and shouldered it.  It worked much, much better... we still got passed, though, by boats using the yoke (where the partner carried the contents).  But the top teams seem to carry it on their shoulder without removing anything from the boat... so I'm not 100% sure what the right way to go is.

It was definitely an improvement - we went from 24+ minutes to 19 minutes.

Lake of Bays

Last year this was a bubbling cauldron of frothy hell.  The wind was so strong, the waves were huge, we were fighting the boat and chop the entire lake (3h25m to cover the ~24km!).

This year - calm!  Perfect!  I think we even had a tailwind at the start.  We easily navigated in and out of the mandatory bay checkpoints, and could actually soak in the surroundings.  Remarkable.

We actually caught and passed the team in 3rd in our division - on track for a podium!  Yay us!

... except we eventually had to stop for our planned water replenishment break.  I don't think we saw them again the rest of the race (and they ended up beating us by 7 minutes - damn).
Leaving Baysville, feeling great!

2 hours and 43 minutes, we were in Baysville for the Portage #2 - we had shaved 42 minutes off of last year's Lake of Bays misadventure (and 53 minutes overall time quicker to this point).

Muskoka River - Portage-a-palooza

Portage #2 we did in 5 minutes rather than 9 minutes - and that was a straight-forward portage (that one was more about our confidence than route knowledge!).  Last year we were so dainty about getting our feet wet - this year we charged right in.

The portages are rough.  These aren't your provincial park marked take-outs and put-ins, all cleared and pretty.  There is the odd trail, but mostly it's just where people have trudged enough to make a path.  The put-ins are often rocky or muddy, sometimes in water still moving quick.

So our brilliant plan after the Disastrous Portaging of 2016 was to paddle the river beforehand to familiarize ourselves with the portages- really think them through and have a plan.

Route knowledge made a huge difference.
Muskoka River - Fall Colours Already!?

Now I wasn't religious enough about hitting my lap button on my Garmin, but I'll go back and check them all out at some point... I know for sure we shaved a massive amount of time off here.  No messing around, no choosing the wrong side of the river... I didn't slip and bash my shin on a rock.  We didn't flip the boat on the fast rapid section.

Everything we screwed up in 2016 we nailed in 2017.

Portaging Technique

We shouldered the boat, using home-made padding on longer portages.  This worked well - mostly because you don't have to empty it and flip it over.

But... we got passed.  A lot.  Some teams were using the yoke, some shouldering it (but managing to find speed we couldn't).  I still think we are carrying just too much weight - when we looked at the top 2 teams in the 130km, they were lean and mean with the water - one small bottle?  Or a 2L each.  We were carrying about 4L each - that's 8kg, or almost 20 pounds - in addition to all the other mandatory equipment (and non-mandatory).  It's too much, getting weight down is going to be a big thing for next year.

River Continued

The only bummer this year was the current.  We had been out the weekend before as I said, but the current had dropped significantly since then.  Where last weekend we'd averaged 10+km/h without any effort, now we were averaging 8.5 even with trying... and near the end the headwind definitely made a difference, it mostly canceled out the current on the longer stretches.

Early River Portages

These are mostly short, quickly in and out.  We made pretty quick work of them (unlike last year!).

After the first river portage there's a swift river section - last year we hit a rock and flipped, then were carried downstream... so this year we stayed closer to the center/center-right, and no trouble at all.

Portage #8

This is where things went really bad last year... it's longer and around a waterfall - and last year I slipped, dropped the boat, and crashed my shin into a rock opening a huge gash.  Oh and before that we went too far down a trail, missed the put-in.

It took us over 15 minutes last year - this year it took us just 7m30.  No calamities, we had the right route down to the put-in, yay!

Portage #9

This one is on an island and it's remarkably straightforward... for some reason last year we took out on the right bank instead last year (stupidly following another team) - and screwing around there cost us 16+ minutes.

This year - closer to 8 minutes (and that included several minutes to make some extra water!).

Portage #10

2016 - 9m42s
2017 - 6m30s

This improvement was mostly technique... I remember we had trouble getting out at the take-out last time, this time we didn't - and our carrying technique was great.  Oh and I stopped to pee, otherwise we'd have been even faster.

Portage #11 - Matthiasville Dam

2016 - 9m45s
2017 - 7m

The put-in here is rocky and to get down to it requires a crazy back and forth twisty motion - which 18 foot canoes don't exactly excel at.  It would have saved us a minute or two if it were on our head, but not sure that's the best overall strategy for all the portages... gah.

Portage #12 - Threthewey Dam

Last year we got out too early and had to bushwack!  This year we went right up to the bridge (which is where the sign actually is).

(I think in general last year we were too tentative around the dams - they're actually very well marked as far as where the danger lies, this year we knew where to get out so no tentativeness)

2016 - 9m08s
2017 - 6m20s

Portage #13 - Muskoka Falls

This is a big one - 1.4km

2016 - 20:14
2017 - 17:30

I'm surprised we didn't make up more time on this one... we were fast, efficient, didn't have to put the boat down.  But last year we were fighting for position right through this portage - we lost a place and made one up!  So I think we had the bit between our teeth more and pushed, this year we strolled along purposefully but not race-fully.  We knew everyone was too far ahead to catch, or too far behind to catch up.

The Finish!

Fast final half hour downstream (in great current and no headwind!) and we were done!

10h27, compared to last year's 12h14!  7th fastest overall for the 80k (out of 29).  Our team of 2 male stock category we finished 4th (again).

Wow.

Most of our time saving was NOT conditioning... we're not any faster at paddling (and we paddled less this year).  It was the weather on the lake, and the awesome improvement in our portaging skill.  We were just smarter and better prepared this year.

Reflections

Cramping - I had some problems with cramping wrists/fingers - at points it was so bad I could barely unclench my fist... it passed, though.  I have to focus more (and sooner) on keeping a lighter grip on the paddle.  I tend to really clench it, especially when we're paddling harder - this isn't the right thing to do!

My abs also cramped up at one point quite badly, just being in that paddling position (sitting) for so long seems to eventually catch up with me.  That's mostly conditioning I figure, just need to paddle more.

Nutrition - I drank a lot of Gatorade (8L!) and ate some Cliff Gel block things.  I felt flush with energy, even when my muscles started to fatigue I felt good.  So that was spot on.

Weight - we need to get the boat lean and mean.  The boat is fine - it's light!  All the stuff in it though needs to be trimmed right down.

Water - related to weight - I want to get the water carrying down, which means figuring out a better way to quickly purify water.  I'm thinking using just regular water bottles might be the way to go... quickly refill one with a purification tablet / Gatorade that's ready to go while drinking from another, then switch.  I'm just not sure how to get this quick, or how to drink without taking too long of a break from paddling.  Currently we use 2L jugs with straws all hooked up- it's easy to drink from, but so very heavy.

The right technique???  Where's your partner, bro?
Portaging Technique - I really want to figure out what's fastest - we saw everything.  Top teams were shouldering the boat, but some flipped it over and put it on their heads (the winning team did this - with both carrying it, not using a yoke!!!).

To flip it over everything in the boat has to be completely firmly fastened, no tolerance for things to fall out at all.

Other teams had one person carrying gear, the other with the boat on the head.  Again - everything has to be fastened or carried... I'm just not sure which is the best, could be some trial and error (and most of all, practice!).

2018

I was trying to figure out what we could do to challenge ourselves in 2018 - I wouldn't say we've mastered it, but doing the 80km tandem again would be a bit same-old same-old.

My first thought was to do the "Classice" 130km, but somewhere around 50km I realized that was crazy.  At 80km I definitely wasn't thinking "boy I wish there were 6 or 7 more hours of this!".  I'm sure we could do it, but there's a certain level of suffering/exhaustion that seems one portage too far.

My second thought was solo.  It would take longer and introduce some paddling in the dark by the end - something we haven't had to deal with.  More of a challenge, and a different kind of challenge.  Exciting idea.

Then they solved my problem at the closing banquet... they're running the race in the opposite direction next year!

They didn't have full details - but this would mean we would be on the North Branch of the Muskoka River instead of the South Branch for most of the race!  As 80k paddlers we've never seen that part - totally intriguing.  Not only that, it would take out almost all the lake paddling (which can be horrible in the wrong conditions, ie. 2016).  And we'd have to paddle up-river most likely, portaging UP past Muskoka Falls, and the other dams.

Finishing where?  Who knows?  I trust the organizers will come up with something brilliantly exciting and diabolical.

See you next year!










Sunday, September 10, 2017

Paddling the Muskoka River (South Branch)


We're doing the Muskoka River X race on this river next week, so we took the day and did some recon (so as not to have a repeat of 2016's fiasco of portage hell).

DAAAAAMMMMM!!! (Matthiasville)
Safety Notes

(1) This is not  a quiet gentle river paddle.  There are several waterfalls, there are rapids, and there are dams.  All of these things are life-threateningly dangerous if you don't know what you are doing or where you are going!!!

So while I'm giving a few notes here and some high level musings, get real maps and real guide of some sort before you set off.

(2) Parts of this river are pretty remote... we're not talking Alonquin remote, but long stretches have to cottages or visible civilization.  We followed the Muskoka River X gear list just to make sure we had what we needed - but that's for a race where people are looking out for you (to some degree).  So do whatever you need to to make sure you have what you need and people know to look for you if you go missing (and where to look).

Baysville

We started at the dam in Baysville, at the south end of Lake of Bays.  There is a little parking lot there, very handy.

About 20 seconds after we started we almost flipped - it was very close.  Why?  Eddies!  I barely noticed them (not being a super-skilled river paddler) - and we had one on one side of the canoe... it was like the side dropped off, and there was no water under my paddle.  Crazy.  We encountered hundreds of them, but after that we were smarter about what to expect!

Waterfalls and Rapids

I'm not going to go through every single portage - suffice to say that between Baysville and Bracebridge we portaged 11 times.  You can usually hear the rushing water and it's time to start looking for the exit.

The added complexity is that some are listed as Private Property, or No Trespassing.  On race day they get special permission, so we had to get a little creative (sometimes with our interpretation of the law, for example).

One section about 3.5km from Baysville is really fast, and there are rocks lingering below the surface.  You could probably portage it, but we didn't look for a trail (since in the race we're allowed to run it!).  We flipped last year on a hidden rock (left side) - so this time we stuck to the middle/right and it was great.  But the water level was higher, so I'm not sure if that was just dumb luck or skill.

Dam!

The last few portages are at hydro dams - Matthiasville, Trethewey, and the two dams at Muskoka Falls.

They are all pretty impressive when the water is roaring through, as it was on Saturday!  Stay well clear of the buoys - the take-outs are pretty obvious and easy for all of them.  Matthiasville you want to take out on the left near the concrete structure (again, away from the yellow buoys), Trethewey before the bridge.  Muskoka Falls I think it's on the left - but if you don't take out there, you can also paddle into Spence Lake.  (Warning: it's a LONNNNNNG portage.)

The good thing about this section - more paddling between portages, especially before Matthiasville (almost 10km without having to portage), then almost 7km to Trethewey.

We ended at Matthiasville this time, knowing the rest are pretty easy (and we didn't need that long of a day).

Bracebridge

The South Branch of the Muskoka River ultimately joins the north branch in Bracebridge.  From there it's portage-free out to the lake if you continue downstream (west), or if you hang a right you can go upstream on the North Branch until you're right smack in the middle of the town.

Big East

One other paddling option worth mentioning - if you go downstream to the lake, you can then hook up with the Big East River.  It's portage-free all the way up for a ways - we paddled it in another area race all the way up past Highway 11.  Pretty and worth checking out!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Paddling the Trent Severn (Beaverton area upstream toward Lake Balsam)


We were looking for a place to paddle on a windy day - wanted to avoid lakes, so we settled on this section of the Trent-Severn.

For those not familiar, the Trent Severn is almost 400km long and connects Lake Huron to Lake Ontario via a system of canals, lakes, and rivers.  It's a pretty incredible engineering feat, originally for industrial use - but it was almost instantly obsolete.  Now it's used by recreational boats, because it's amazingly cool.

Our Route
We started in the town of Gamebridge, then headed North-East (upstream) along the man-made canal.

There are three locks in quick succession - we portaged them all, trying a new technique out (which we are trying to master for Muskoka River X in a couple of weeks).  Basically it involves hoisting the boat onto your shoulder.  It worked reasonably well, certainly better than what we've tried before - and you don't have to empty the boat to flip it.

After this you enter the Talbot River, which is wider and has cottages along it.  Boat traffic was OK at this point...

... until we got to Canal Lake.  A cloudy/rainy/windy day at the end of summer, and by late afternoon it was still teeming with jetskis and motorboats.  We dealt with it, but takes a lot of the joy of paddling and being out in nature out of the equation!

The wind on Canal Lake had whipped it up into a lather - pretty sketchy, but we needed some rough water practice.  We did a loop around the island (bridges you can pass under in a canoe on either end of it).

Bridge to Island!
After this we went back the way we came.

At one of the big locks, we happened to get there at the same time as a motor boat - the staff welcomed us in, so we skipped a portage and went down the easy way...

In the lock, going down!
The water was within a foot of the top of those gates to start!  It was pretty freaky.  That's why my face is like that.
Hold on to the ropes! 

After that it was an easy paddle to the end.  We decided to try an extended portage around two locks instead of one, just to see if our technique was OK.  800m long, all worked well.

All in all an enjoyable paddle, and there were definitely options to keep sheltered from the wind.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Sulphur Mountain Loop (Banff, Alberta)


I was planning this as a run, but the 15-20% grades had other ideas.  I think I ran maybe 10-15% of the trail on the way up (and fast hiked the rest).

Very pretty, and a very tough challenge!

Going UP!

I parked at the Spray River Trailhead - basically you drive to Banff Springs Hotel, then keep going past the parkade.  There's a small parking lot for trail users there.

From there I took the trail up the mountain (not the Spray River Trail - this one goes UP from the other side of the parking lot).  I kind of meandered up, there were a few options, I took the ones that went up and eventually came out at Mountain Ave.

At the end of Mountain Ave is another parking lot - this is where folks park to take the gondola up.

We call those folks "wusses".

This is where the REAL work began... up to this point the trail was reasonably runnable and not crazy steep (although it was steep...).

But from the Sulphur Mountain parking lot up, that changed... at first it was reasonably OK, but the further up I went the less running I could do.  I don't think I ran at all for the top 50% of the trail.

Click here for the Strava Segment.  Strava says it's 4.6km, 14% average grade (seems low! ha!), and 658m of climbing total.  The peak is about 7350 feet above sea level... it's just an awesome adventure.  Whether you hike it or run it, it's worth doing.

This 4.6km took me just over an hour.  The course record is 32:42 - that's insanely impressive.

The Top
Waterfall on the way up (trickle this day)
The top!  There's town!  The people look like ants!
Looking out over the descent valley on the other side
Going DOWN!

There are two options - go back from whence you came, or go down the backside of the mountain.  I hate out-and-backs, so of course I went down the other side.

I was shocked at just how much this hurt.  My quads were absolutely exploding by the end - the grade is just so much.  I usually pride myself in my descending, I can up the cadence and fly down.  But that didn't work at all, it was just too long and steep...

Back to the Start

I followed the trail over to the Cave and Basin area - follows a little road.

From there there were a bunch of trail and road options to get back to the start.  The initial plan had been to follow the river then to come back up from Bow Falls to the parking lot - but I was so cooked I just followed the road back to Banff Springs.

Total run length was 18km - but it was so much harder than a normal 18km run.  The air was thin, the climbs were tough, it really killed me!  But I'm so glad I did it... such is the odd nature of running and stuff.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

It was also my first crack at a "real" mountain run.  Respect to those who do this stuff often, it's really tough stuff.





Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sugarloaf Loop (George S. Mickelson Trail) - South Dakota Rail Trail


I was vacationing near Lead, South Dakota, and headed out for a run on the Mickelson Trail.

Kirk Road Trail head!  
This particular part is a loop up and down a really big hill.  It's a rail trail so it's theoretically not too steep - but we later went on a 1880's steam train, and they explained these were some of the most severe rail grades around.


Rough Map - I started at the Kirk Road trailhead

The trail - near top of mountain

The George S. Mickelson Trail is 175km long!  So I barely scratched the surface here - and it was amazing.

The trail was really nice - gravel, firm surface, very suitable for trail running and biking.  I really wish I had my cyclocross bike with me!  Someday I'll come back and experience the rest of it.  The Black Hills area is just so beautiful - hills, wildlife, and a really cool sub-culture Wild West feel.

A trestle

View from the top of Lead, SD

Elevation (Counter-Clockwise, Starting @ Kirk)
One of about 20 deer I saw - most scurried off, this one was nice enough to pose
1880 Steam Train
1880s steam train you can take from Hill City to Keystone.
We did.  It was awesome.
If you're a rail buff... this is a must-do.  It's an 1880's steam train that runs on similar tracks to the one the rail trail follows.  2 hour journey, it's just an impressive piece of business.

I've always pictured in my head what it must have looked like when these trains occupied the rail trails - this brought that to life.  The train struggled up those same kinds of grades I did!  And screeched as it braked down the other side... all just awesome.

Book early though - it sells out!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Rockstar Adventure Race (8 hour)


That was fun!  I think.

Me before the race, ready to rock!
The Race - Start

This year was a little bit different.  We were bused out to a starting point outside of the property, then had to do a trail run back to the start.

School Busing Like a Rockstar!
I was honestly a little disappointed!  When I heard we were starting somewhere remote, we thought for all that extra expense/effort we'd be doing something kick-ass cool.  Most of the trail we'd run before, so we only really did about 1.5-2km that we hadn't seen before.  But that's OK!

The run was good - rutted ATV trails, muddy sections, pretty hilly.  There were a couple of bridges out, so we had to bypass them by wading through the lake.  We were told "knee high water", then found ourselves emerged up to our belly buttons!

Good stuff.

We held back for the most part, I was in my "I can do this all day" pace (not sure about my partner but he kept saying he was OK so I kept it up!).  It's a long day, nobody gets a ribbon for winning the opening run!

Rogaine-Style Checkpoints

After the run we had about 7.5 hours left to get to as many checkpoints as we could.

If you're not familiar with this kind of race - you're basically given a map and an instruction sheet detailing the location of numerous checkpoints.  Each has a point value.  You can take any route you want, with the goal of getting the most points of any teams.  If there's a tie, the team that got to the finish first wins.

In past years we were allowed to canoe and run only (and the opening stage was mountain biking).

This year we were allowed to use the bike, canoe or run!  It was a fantastic change, the strategy was quite a bit different as you could bike to some far-flung places before running.

We split up the checkpoints into three sections - bike, canoe, bike.

Bike #1

We started by biking down this long road and picking up the checkpoints along it.

The first checkpoint was at the top of a giant rock hill/cliff.  We found it pretty easily.  The second one we had seen from the road - it was a tough slog to get to it, but still pretty easy.

The third one was problematic... it was listed as being near a creek, and when we got off the bike we were near a water thing and what looked like a creek... but no checkpoint.  A bunch of teams wandered around with us looking lost/confused, until finally we found a much larger creek quite far into the bush from where we'd started!  Ugh.  Took us about 15 minutes of screwing around in the bush to find it.

The next one was reasonably straightforward, although I made a small mistake and we came at it from the wrong end - I overshot it a little.  Maybe 5 minutes added.

We skipped the next one.  CP62.  We knew the "trail" it was on (no longer much of a trail) from previous years, and we figured it would be time consuming... this was under the assumption that clearing the course was impossible - we'd never been even close... more on this later, but we really made a mistake not going for it!!!

One other rule change for this year - we weren't allowed to do any of the "staffed" checkpoints until 2pm... we realized all of a sudden we were way ahead of schedule!  Our plan had assumed we would hit those checkpoints as part of getting other ones.  So we made a game-time decision to go for this one along an ATV trail (CP63).  We were able to bike all the way up to it - it was rough at times, but I remembered the trails from a previous time and I it really paid off.  There was one deep creek crossing, but other than that it was easy peasy.

Canoe

The next set of checkpoints were accessible from the boat.

The first one was in the middle of the lake - you could see it from shore, so easy 60 points!  We had to skip the staffed checkpoint as we were still too early... but other than that we went according to plan, hitting the checkpoints along the lake without much trouble.

There were two that were inland that we had to bush-wack to.  The first we had planned to get to - it was along a rocky creek and up to a marsh.  No trouble finding it.

The second one we hadn't planned, but we were now realizing that clearing the course was a distinct possibility!  This was on a beaver dam between two swamps.  We took a rough bearing, found the creek we needed to follow, and nailed that one off too.

Island checkpoint has been a staple of the race, easy one.  Then the first staffed checkpoint...

Inner tube.  You have to sit in it, paddle out to a buoy thing with the timing checkpoint punch about 100m out.  By "paddle" I really mean "flail your arms uncomfortably trying to move yourself in an inner tube"... I get to do this one every year, and I hate it every year - but I finally got positioned right and managed to do it pretty quickly.

Paddled back to the start/finish and that was the end of the canoe for the race!

Bike #2

This ended up being a bit of a mess.

First we nailed off a stand-up paddleboard stage.  My partner killed it, it was super impressive (but he's been practicing since we first did this one a few years ago!).

Then there were three checkpoints up in this marshy area... it was utter drudgery.  We biked as far as we could (which wasn't far) and then trudged through heavy heavy bush for the next hour and a half.

Devoured by deer flies (DEET is a scam!), scratched to hell by brush... trudging through all kinds of nasty marsh... this is what we hated last year, and this year we were back at it!

Our navigating was on point - looking at the map we were very direct for the most part, getting to the checkpoints.  But it was just very tough going.

One other rule we had to deal with - you had to visit the start/finish checkpoint between 4pm-6pm (5-7h into the race) and tell them what checkpoints you'd be attempting from then on.  We had hoped to complete our full bike loop then check in, but it was clear we wouldn't be able to get there by 6pm... so we had no choice but to abandon our loop and go back to the start.  This cost us more time, another 10-15mins of backtracking probably.

Unanticipated Bike #3

There were two major checkpoints left, both reachable by bike.

The first was a trail building checkpoint.  This, again, ended up being a mess!

We got there, and ended up having to run a lonnnng way off the main trail to get to the point where they were building.  Unbeknownst to us - we were running on trail that had been built that day, by people who did this checkpoint earlier than us!  If we had hit this one earlier we'd have saved ourselves a good kilometer of running... UGH!!!

Then more bad news - the 80 point "bonus" checkpoint you got for trailbuilding was back the way we'd already gone (Bike #1)... so we'd have to double back later.

Then even MORE bad news - on the way out, on a giant rocky ledge, I managed to stub my toe hard on a stump I didn't see at all... I went flying and hit the deck.  My toe is a very nice shade of purple now... it hurt like hell!!!

It hurts more than it looks like it should - that toenail is history!
After the trail build we went to the far bike checkpoint - it was easy to find, 80 points, we felt pretty good about that one.  By this point we were starting to fade pretty badly (my partner especially!) so our pace was pretty bad...

We doubled back on the road to the bonus checkpoint, then came back to the start/finish.

There were two last staffed checkpoints.  The first was one we have always avoided.... you have to find a CD on the bottom of the lake at a depth of about 8 feet.  I can't get down to the bottom - I don't know what it is, I get my head under water, but I just can't get down deep.  Fortunately a helper kid was there to do it for me.  Yay!  Still counts!

The last one was we had to drink a small amount of beer.  We drank the small amount of beer.  It was delicious.

FINISHED!

And that was all she wrote for us!  We finished with about half an hour to spare.  We had missed just one checkpoint... we were kicking ourselves, but there just wasn't time to go back and get it.  It wasn't completely impossible, but it would have been a risk, and we were pretty done.

On further reflection - when we went back to get that bonus checkpoint, we were pretty close to the one we'd missed... but in the moment it wasn't even a flicker in my mind.

We ended up finishing 8th in our division (team of 2 male) - the top 7 teams all ran the table, the top team actually got some bonus checkpoints available to those who got all the other checkpoints.  Amazing.

I'm reasonably sure we could have run the table... I'm not quite as sure we'd have improved on our result, we'd still have had to have finished sooner than the other teams that ran the table, and I think we'd have just squeaked in under 8 hours.  We would have had to have a few other things go right for us - like not having to double back for the mid-race check-in at the start/finish, or not having to go so far down the trail for the trail build, or after that not having to double back to get the bonus checkpoint... mostly just unlucky, though, you can't anticipate everything!

Next Year

This race is so well done, it's just awesome fun.

What isn't that fun is the bushwacking in some of the areas... there's some pretty passable brush in some areas, but others are marshy hell.  It becomes drudgery... I'm sure some folks like it, but neither of us do.  We didn't have to deal with that in the 4 hour version a couple of years ago - seems to only be a feature of the 8 hour!

So we'll likely go back down to the 4 hour next year.  Later start (get to sleep in!), less horrible bush-wacking, just as much fun (more fun?).  I think we can rock it.