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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.


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.


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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Race Preview: Rockstar Adventure Race (8 hour) 2017

We're back!

This race is so much fun.  Unlike a traditional race that follows a set course, this is a points race - you are given maps detailing the location of various checkpoints, each worth a certain amount of points.  Get as many points as you can in 8 hours!

Paddling, running, and mountain biking.

It's designed so that getting to all of them is not really feasible, so you have to strategize a lot - which checkpoints to go for, what route to take, etc.  That's part of the fun.  Oh and some navigation.

The Past

In 2015 we actually won our category in the 4 hour.  Managed to plan a pretty smart route and had a little luck while other teams faltered!

We did the 8 hour in 2016 thinking it would be a lot of the same, just at a slower overall pace... but we got lost in some really nasty brush areas and spent hours and hours bushwacking.  It was not fun.

So we have some revenge on our minds as we line up again.


Usually this race starts with a marked mountain bike course, then you have only the canoe and running in your toolbox for the rest of the race.

This year they will still start with a marked course - but they're not telling us the discipline until race day.  And then the rest of the race for the first time we can use our bikes!

This adds a whole new dimension to things.  Some of the trails in the area are very bikeable, some are very not bikeable... we don't know the whole system, so it's going to be a bit of guesswork at times.  We want to maximize the time in the boat or biking, as running for 8 hours is not something we're looking to do.

Should be a hoot trying to figure it all out!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Race Report: Lindsay Milk Run (21.1k)

Most races need more cowbell... not this one!  Check out the cool finisher's medal.

Coolest Medal Ever?
Really great race - well organized, I was a little concerned the 21.1k wouldn't go off quite as planned but it was perfect.  As advertised there were aid stations every 2-3km, it was really awesome.  Only small quibble - not all had Gatorade...... some just had water.  But it was OK.

Course was mostly flat - there's elevation change but it's subtle, being about 80% on rail trail.  Rail trail was mostly hard packed gravel/sand, it was a decent surface for the most part.

Best of all - Kawartha Lakes Dairy provided FREE ICE CREAM (and milk!) at the finish!  Mmmmmm that hit the spot (especially in the heat and sun).  Highly recommend this race - 5k/10k/21.1k options.

My Race

For the half marathon, we had to be there at 6:15am for the bus to the start (it's point to point) - so from Whitby that meant a 4.30am wake up.  Ouch.  Extra coffee and some rockin' tunes to wake me up on the drive up and I showed up ready to rock.

I lined up with the pretty serious looking half marathon crowd.  Running Free had pacers there - which was great, except I had no idea what pace I wanted.

We started with a short downhill, which always messes me up a little with pacing.  I let it fly then tried to settle back into something near 5:00/km.

I was pretty unsure of how I'd feel today, so my pacing plan was "whatever my legs were telling me".  And at the start they were saying "we feel good, let's go!".  I held back a little but was managing pretty close to a 5:00/km pace at the start.

After a short climb we hit the rail trail.  The surface is gravel/sand and mostly pretty well packed - maybe a little slower than asphalt, but not by much.  Certainly it's softer and more forgiving.

At the halfway point my pace was 5:02/km - and it felt like we'd gained some elevation.  I was thinking 5:05/km would be a reasonable goal time.  Stupidly, though, I hadn't checked the elevation of the finish to compare... so we actually weren't going to be going downhill much after this point, and the overall course is slightly net uphill!

There's a bridge over the lake at 12k - this is the lowest point in the course, and from there my pace started to die as we went back up.  It's not steep (being a rail trail and all) but it's noticeable.  I tried to ignore my pace and just watch heart rate and go by feel.

By the time we joined the other races (5k/10k) I was really starting to suffer.  Dripping sweat, my shirt and shorts were soaked through.  Then we left the rail trail and the last vestiges of shade...

One lady commented that she had "never seen someone sweat so much they left wet footprints" as I went by.  HAHAHA that gave me a chuckle.  But I was seriously dripping sweat, I'm bad for it at the best of times, but I probably lost several pounds of fluid.  Hard to make up with those little cups of Gatorade!

I managed to find some pace for the finish but even with the net downhill I was only managing 5:07/km at this point... for a final pace of 5:11/km (1:49:42 finishing time).

Considering I biked 200km just 36 hours before this race, I'm pretty happy with that.  It is what it is!

I was completely wiped at the finish - chugged down a couple of chocolate milks to try get some salt back in me, water, and of course two bowls of delicious Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream!  (I'm not affiliated with them, other than enjoying their ice cream).

Not a bad race for me, and as an event it was really excellent.  I'll be back for sure!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Race Preview: Lindsay Milk Run (21.1k)

Race website

I've meant to do this race for awhile (heard great things), but this year they added a 21.1k so I figured it was the year.

The regular milk run is a 5k/10k up in Lindsay around town.

Half Marathon

This race is point-to-point, starting at Daytonia Beach (not to be confused with Daytona) and mostly following the Victoria Rail Trail.

Lots of gravel but very flat... should be interesting.

There is actually a bus that takes participants from the finish to the start, leaving 45 minutes before the race starts... this wasn't alllll that well communicated, and neither was the race kit pickup (leading to some confusion on whether there was race day pick-up or not).  It's their first year offering the distance so I'm anticipating some "growing pains"!  Hopefully not too bad, but I'll bet a carton of milk a bunch of folks miss the bus to the start.  Point to point races are always a little challenging for organizers, hope they're up to the challenge!

My Preparation

I biked 200km Friday, so I'm in ridiculously bad shape for this race.  It was always going to be "just for fun" so i'm not that worried, I'll just go out and do what I can.  I did a 21.1k long run on Monday (again, bad preparation!) not knowing I'd be doing this race at 5:23/km... I think 5:15/km is probably a reasonable goal pace.  I'll try it out and back off if it's not going well.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ride Report: Tour de GTA

Description and route are here.

What a great day!  194km of riding from Whitby to Burlington.

Whitby to Musselman Lake (0km-50km)

Started off in my hometown of Whitby.  The route technically starts at the GO station, but I didn't want to go down there and back up so I just started at my house.  (I did the part from the GO station back home after, so I'm at peace with it).

From 0 to 37.5km it's net uphill, starting at about 300feet and climbing to 1200feet.  Two climbs of note - Country Lane from Columbus to Brawley is pretty tough, and Concession 7 going south out of Uxbridge is steep.

After that it got very zippy - rollers, and I might have even had a tailwind.

Musselman Lake to Yonge Street Aurora (50km-75km)

This was a really fast section, EXCEPT... St. John's Sideroad was closed at Highway 404!  This added 5km of detouring.  It would have only been 4km, but I thought it would be open west of Leslie and it wasn't... so had another detour to finally get back on it.

St. John's Sideroad got pretty busy through Aurora, but it wasn't too horrible.  Wide road.

Yonge Street Aurora to Schomberg (75km-95km)

Immediately after Yonge things got tough... some steep climbs along 18th Sideroad.  But there's a hell of a reward on the other side!  The descent from Dufferin to Keele was awesome!

Kettleby looked like a really pretty town - but a heck of a climb leaving, and it was under construction so got a dose of gravel.  Nothing too bad (and fortunately it wasn't raining badly so not a mud pit).

After Kettleby is a long exposed flat-ish section until Schomberg.  Several gas stations along this road if you need to refuel!

Hit the convenience store at Schomberg.

Schomberg to Mono Road (95km-119km)

Quite a few climbs here and there, and encountered a bit more construction (gravel again!).  Really pretty.

Mono Road to Hurontario (119km-128km)

Boring mostly flat exposed fields.  I was heard to retort "this is boring".  WHY DID I SAY THAT...?

Hurontario to Mississauga Rd (128km-132km)

HUGE hill.  Steep.  Long.  Oh and under construction.  I span and span but man, what a challenge... and I was starting to feel some fatigue at this point.

Mississauga Road to Glen Williams (via Terra Cotta) (132km-147km)

This section was fantastically pretty - beautiful road, lots of downhill.  Nice looking communities and the Credit River roiling below.  I'd like to go back and check it out sometime.

Refueled at the convenience store at Confederation & Wildwood Road... then.....

Glen Williams to Nassagaweya (147km-167km)

HILL.  Of course.  Steeeeep climb out of Glen Williams.  Just lots of climbing here, and I was really feeling it... sun was out (where was the rain I was promised!?).

15th Side Road was really pretty, enjoyable ride.  More hills.

Nassageway (6th Line) south to Appleby Line (167km-173km)

WEEEEEEEEEE!!!  Downhill!  I hit 80km/h - not a word of a lie.  Terrifying.  But WEEEEEEE!!!!

I really needed that.

Appleby Line to Burlington (173km-195km)

I had an inkling I wasn't out of the woods... I vaguely remembered a climb on this road, before the nice downhill.

And wow, what a climb.  So steep... it's not as long as going up the escarpment from the other side, but it's not short either!  I had a hard time just keeping the pedals going with 175km+ in my legs...

After that it's Rattlesnake Point, and the switchbacks down the escarpment.  That was a hoot.

The rest of Appleby Line is net downhill and pretty fast.  A few little climbs (which I really felt) but mostly fast.  In town there's a bike lane - it's a bit sketchy at times with cars blasting out of parking lots, and it was rush hour... I would avoid rush hour if possible!

Words of Wisdom

The climbs on the west end are way tougher than the east end... I think if you can find a day where the wind is blowing West to East, that's the way to go.  There's still a few climbs that will get you in the last ~50km, but nothing nearly as serious.

I don't know if I have any more wisdom than that really!  I'll try this ride again in the opposite direction next year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tour de GTA (Greater Toronto Area)

***Updated after I actually did it with some new notes!!!***

I want to do something epic and I have always had this one in mind, but haven't found a day to pull it off.

Friday is the day!

The Concept

Bike from Whitby to Burlington (or the reverse).
Use the GO train to get back (or to the start).

Note: after actually doing it - the hills west of Yonge are much, much harder than the hills east of Yonge!  I prefer having fresh legs to tackle the worst stuff and have a progressively easier ride as the miles add up - so next time I will find a day with favourable winds and go Burlington to Whitby.  It should be easier!

The Route

196km of awesomeness. link (warning: takes time to load)

Note: St. John's Sideroad is closed at Highway 404 until December 2017 - actually it's a longer stretch than that.  I added 5km messing with detours - check for construction updates before using this route!!!

There are probably shorter routes, but would they be as cool?  I.  Think. Not.

I used a bunch of sources, mostly Strava Heatmaps to figure out where people ride a lot.  I'm hoping that has yielded a safe route without too much traffic!

Potential Rest Stops

0.1km - on the east side of Brock are a bunch of food options, McDonald's and some other stuff near the gas station.

~20km - Ashburn General Store at Ashburn and Myrtle (SW corner)

39km - turn north and go into Uxbridge, lots of stores etc to refuel (and a nice little town)

56km - turn south onto Ninth Line, just before Musselman Lake on the right side there is a little store where lots of cyclists congregate to refuel

58km - at the corner of Aurora Road and Highway 48 there's a convenience store right on the route (but I highly recommend Musselman Lake because it's pretty)

Pottageville - there's a gas station, presumably with stuff.

94km - right at the intersection of Main and Church in Schomberg is a little convenience store.  How convenient!  Edit: I stopped here, had everything I needed.

119km - Mono Road - I think there's a store here, but not 100% Edit: I noticed a gas station, but didn't stop.

147.5km - Confederation and Wildwood/Prince near Georgetown.  Edit: SW corner has a convenience store, fully stocked.

193km to the end - lots of stuff along Appleby Line.

Other Route Notes

If you go Burlington to Whitby - you get to go up the infamous Rattlenake Point climb.  It's steep and a good way to warm up the legs!  In the opposite direction it's a sketchy downhill instead.

There are actually quite a few climbs end to end, no matter which way you go.  I suspect East to West is easier (EDIT: NO IT ISN'T!!!), but it could be about the same?  Either way the start and end are at about the same elevation.

Pick a day when the wind is blowing the right direction, because 195km of headwind is a lonnnng day at the office.  I'm planning to go westward as that's the way things are shaping up for Friday.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Off The Hooch - Day 17

Time flies when you're not having fun!

Ha I'm being overdramatic.  Actually social life without alcohol has been pretty good - I've substituted my usual beer/wine with non-alcoholic beer or virgin girly drinks.

At the baseball game they have a "designated driver" program - if you agree not to consume alcohol, you get a coupon for a free Prohibition Brew by Budweiser.  It's not bad!  It's not good, but it's not bad!

The Benefits

I usually veg out after dinner - but without a beer or two (or wine or whatever) I find I have more energy to actually do stuff.

My training hours have increased for sure - over 10h the last couple of weeks.  Just have less inclination to put off the run or ride.  I'm already really active, but the extra couple of hours a week has helped.

I don't snack as much - but I still snack.  And I'm still hungry after dinner, that kind of surprised me.  I used to blame the alcohol for that.

My weight is down considerably - I was losing weight but very slowly, now it's coming off at about a pound a week.  Maybe more, it's too early to really know for sure.

My mood is improved.

Just in general it's for the best, I know it's healthier.  I do miss a good pint, though!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Haliburton County Rail Trail (Kinmount to Haliburton)

I've been trying to get out to do this section of the old Victoria Railway (aka CN Haliburton Subdivision) for years, and today was finally the day!

If you dig rail history, check out:

Victoria Rail Trail - Burnt River to Kinmount (15km)

Kinmount Railway Station (looking south)
We wanted to make the trip 50km each way, 100km out and back - so we actually started in Burnt River.  We parked at the community center (big public parking lot) and hit the trails.

The Victoria Rail Trail runs from Bethany to Kinmount (via Lindsay), we did the northernmost section from Burnt River to Kinmount.  

It was MUCH improved from the last time I used it - sandy sections had been replaced by a really beautiful wide well maintain path.  It was in excellent condition, one of the finest rail trails I've ever been on.

Haliburton Country Rail Trail - Kinmount to Haliburton (35km)

Switching house thing for IB&O
This section was the main focus of the ride - and it was a bit wild. Information on this trail here.

As we left Kinmount, it was immediately clear this was not going to be a picnic... the trail was bumpy, sandy, rocky, and just generally tough to ride.  We got a bit worried - if this is how bad it is close to town, how much worse is it going to get?

4km from Kinmount was this cool relic in a place called "Howland".  This is the former switching house between the Victoria Rail line and the IB&O railway (Irondale Bancroft & Ottawa).  Unfortunately IB&O is mostly long gone, no trail to speak of (at this end) - but neat to see some of the history there.

This guy stopped and found the old turntable that used to be there (for turning the engines around).

We noticed at the next bridge you could look down and see the old IB&O right of way, where it once crossed Kendrick's Creek.  Very neat as well!

Along the way there are a few bridge crossings, waterfalls, really nice forest, swamps... just generally a lot of natural beauty.  Rocky outcroppings.

The trail surface was rough, though, until about 10km out of Haliburton... we were on our cyclocross bikes, which without suspension was a pretty rough ride.  If you are trying this, prepare for a tough slog... and if you don't like a tough slog, do the sections south of Kinmount on the Victoria Rail Trail!

Haliburton At Last!

A few pics from Haliburton...

In the end it was almost exactly 50km.  After a quick Subway lunch, we doubled back to Burnt River for a 100km gravel and rail trail day!

A Few Cautionary Notes

ATVs are allowed to use these trails.  It wasn't a problem at all, though, we encountered about a dozen over the ride and every single one of them slowed down as we passed and was extraordinarily courteous.

Kinmount and Haliburton are well serviced, but there didn't seem to be anywhere in between to stop to refuel/etc.  Most of the towns along the way relied on the rail (and some terrible farmland) so they're really not towns anymore.... almost Ghost Towns?  So make sure you're self-sufficient - it's pretty remote at times, for some longer stretches.

We encountered a few off-leash dogs being walked, so I think that's just something the locals do.  At least one was fairly ill-behaved.  Your mileage may vary.

Did I mention it's bumpy/sandy/rocky?