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Monday, June 24, 2019

Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice 2019

What Is It

24 hour race - teams do as many laps of a 15km mountain bike course as they can in 24 hours (25, actually!).

Most laps wins.

We were back from our 2018 effort for a 2nd shot at 24h glory in the "Tag Team 2 Person" category.

Our Setup

That's about it... last year we put up a tent as well, but we didn't even really use it.

Big addition this year was electricity - we noticed a team last year running a a cable out to some service by the road.  This would be useful for re-charging light batteries and such, although not critical.


Ride until the end and do more laps than last year (6 for me last year, 11 for our team).


Last year I messed up my food - didn't have enough solid food, sugar put my stomach in twists, heartburn - it sucked.

This year - Sausage & Egg McMuffins.

Note to everyone: when you go through McDonald's drive-thru and ask for 4 Sausage & Egg McMuffins and that's everything, they ask you "that's everything?" at least 2 times.

The nutritional breakdown is probably not something most people would think of, but I was already hitting carbs hard on the bike - sports drinks and stuff.  The muffin is full of carbs, the egg is packed with nutrients, there's protein, fat, and most importantly...

... salt.

And I didn't cramp at all this year, whereas last year I did.

So there you go.  Science.

I also had the never-popular V8.  Slammed back a can after every lap - potassium and shit-ton of salt.

Beef jerkey.  Salt water taffy.  Pretzels.  Babybel cheese ball things.  Chocolate covered raisins.

24 cups of lukewarm coffee in a jug (2 batches in the coffee maker, brought to room temperature, and consumed a bit at a time all night).

The more "typical" sports food - bananas, Gatorade on the bike.

Yes, it's all weird, but damn it was good.  And my stomach put up with it, and I had energy on my last lap, so I figure it worked?

(When I did Ironman that was the wisdom I received too - treat it like an eating contest as much as an athletic one.  When you are burning 8000-10000 calories you need to get as much in as your stomach will take, and variety helps that!)

My Race - Early Laps

My teammate did Lap 1 again.  He commented on how awesome the start is, with the cheering crowd roaring as you charge up the first hill.  I should do it one year, if we ever do this again, which we won't.

Lap 2 was my turn.  My buddy said "you're going to hate this course!" - but I didn't.  It was technical but not a single part was un-ride-able.  The hills were sometimes gruelling but again, always ride-able (except when others around me fell or whatever, which happened a few times, but that's OK).  I really enjoyed that first lap, came to the finish smiling after about 1h 7 minutes.

Only bummer - we forgot to exchange the timing chip, so I didn't have it at the end of my lap!  My teammate had to meet me down there at the end of my lap, which wasn't great from his being able to rest perspective.

Lap 4 (my 2nd) was my turn again - and again we forgot the stupid timing chip!!!  So again, my teammate had to wait at the end.  I saw a large deer right next to the course on the singletrack, so that was cool.

All was good so far.  Ate and ate and ate.

My thumbs started to get blisters from holding the handlebar grips - so from this point on I duct taped them.  First try the duct tape actually came loose and slid off, even from under my glove - second try I secured it to my palm and it held and did the trick.

Lap 6 was still in light, still felt great.  No cramping!  No fatigue in the legs.  Just felt solid.

Lap 8 started mostly in the light, but the sun set during the lap and in the woods it got very dark.  Lighting helped but every so often the sun would shine at the wrong angle and my pupils would respond, leaving me blind to the course.  It was harder to ride then than in the pitch dark, even with the lighting.

My Race - Night Lap

Lap 10 (my 5th), things came apart.  I can't pinpoint exactly why, but the fatigue accumulated and showed up all at once.  It was really hard to get going, it was now after 11pm.

I screwed up my clothing - standing around it felt cold, but once I got going I was drenched in sweat.  I stopped and took off my jacket, that helped a lot.

But later in the lap I found myself pushing the bike up some of the hills I had no trouble with earlier (the sharp singletrack rooted climbs mostly).  Just kind of lost my mental focus, not so much the dark but rather the fatigue.

That lap was about 12 minutes off my earlier pace.  Partly the dark but more the rest of it.

When I got back it was about 1:30am.  I told my buddy I would take a break and do another one at 4:30am (I was still hoping to do 8 laps!)

The Night

It was cold and I was ill prepared.  Had a really hard time getting any sleep at all, when 4:30am came around I missed my time to get on my bike.  My brain just didn't have any interest.

Finally both me and my teammate got up at around 6am.  I was ready to go but it was his turn, so out he went and we were back in business.

Looking back I'm not sure if I could have done a 4:30am lap or not, and if I had I'm not sure I'd have done 2 more after it.  So I don't know if it cost us anything, I was pretty bagged.

Good Morning!

I felt good again, the sun was shining, it was a gorgeous morning when I set out on Lap 12 (my 6th)!

It was 7:30am so I had been off the bike for 6h straight.  About 1h15 of that was my teammate's lap, but the other ~5h was just us taking a break.

I had a lot of energy, almost no fatigue in the legs - sure I wasn't 100% but this is after like 20 hours of this nonsense and very little sleep!  I felt like a million bucks.  My lap time for my last 2 laps were 1h13 and 1h14, only 6 minutes off my best laps at the start, so that's a pretty good deal.

Lap 15 (my 7th) was about the same - a lot of fun, took it easy(ish) and just enjoyed it.  Finished just before noon and put a bow on it.


Technically we could have squeezed in one more lap (you have until 1pm to finish) but we were at 7 each at that point and out of gas.

I felt a lot better about this race - last year we left early due to pending storms in the morning and the race was actually called off before 24h, so this year we made it to that final hour. 

I think there are a few things I could have done better, but not much!  It was horrible at times, fun at times, and all in all a pretty great and epic thing to be a part of.

Team of 2 is tough.  1-1.5h isn't a very long break and you end up doing so many laps.  Larger teams end up being as much about partying as riding, not sure if that's my cup of tea though.  Solo is ridiculous.

Team of 3 would be ideal maybe.  Anyone want to join for 2020? :) 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Race Report: Storm the Trent 2019 (Trek)

The Race

Storm the Trent – we’ve done this every year for the last few, finally got the green “5 year” bibs!

It’s a mix of paddling, mountain biking and running/trekking across marked and unmarked sections.  Some modest navigation, but nothing too serious (although people’s ability to get lost is remarkable).

We stepped up to the Trek distance from Hike.

The Forecast

Rain.  All Day.  Storms.  Yikes.

Our Race

We started off strong with the paddling – although it’s always remarkable just how many people are faster than us!  We have a killer boat but only paddled once this year before the race, and some guys have the strength, it’s amazing.

Water was calm, it was a pretty easy paddle.  My arms were c-o-o-k-e-d by the end, could barely carry the boat back to transition.

Run #1

This was pretty long - from the boats we went upppppp a sharp long climb, then doowwwwwwn back to lake level - and we still weren't at the checkpoint!

Finally reached Glebe Park and did the 3 checkpoints there.  We found them pretty straightforward, which which means people who can run fast passed us pretty easily.
We tend to excel at out-smarting those who can out-run us, so more complicated would have been helpful!

Tough running up and down and up and down.

Bike #1

Finally transitioned to bike - and it was a mess for me.

I have two bikes - a hardtail and a full suspension.  I chose the later - but especially on the road it was the wrong choice.  Even when the trails were tougher I don't think I benefitted that much from the suspension, and it's so much heavier and plush - just hard to really hammer.

Worse, my rear skewer was loose - not sure how the hell that happened!  Realized it about 10km into the bike.

The course started on gravel, then a lonnnnng paved section.  Finally some gravel roads, then horrible horrible horrible gunky mud. I was really hating life at that point - we still had 10km to go, and if it was going to be 10km of that?  Uggggh.

But then we transitioned to a much better ATV road - 7.5km of that.  It was hilly and rough but very rideable, lots of fun at times.  Hills were eating me up though!!!

Then ... disaster.  Near disaster, anyway!

There was supposed to be a checkpoint (unmanned) at the trail junction.  We flew by a trail junction, there were a couple cars there, and my partner heard someone who was stopped on their bike say it wasn't the checkpoint...

Of course, it was.  I looked at the map and our direction and finally convinced myself 100% about 5 minutes later... so that cost us 9 minutes round trip back.

Disaster - except almost everyone missed it!  I couldn't believe how many people we saw circling back - some from far, far further away.  So what cost us about 9 minutes cost other teams 20, 30, etc.

The bike ended on some singletrack at Sir Sam's, which was kind of fun, but so muddy still from the extended spring and rain.  Too bad, it looked like it could have been a hoot.  I think a lot of the plans the organizer had were squashed by conditions, unfortunately.

Run #2

This was at Sir Sam's - 3 checkpoints, up the ski hill to the very top and back down in a big loop.

The only weird part here was when we saw another team of 2 men at the last checkpoint... they came down the hill just like us, and we assumed it was their last checkpoint too, so we were a little disheartened when they got their first!

... except as we sprinted to the finish downhill, they went uphill!  So they had clearly messed up the order of their checkpoints somehow, ended up going up, down, up... whoops!


At the finish they said were the 5th team to cross of over 20, so we were really delighted with that.  Navigation matters, we learn that every year... sometimes the hard way!

(Official results pending)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Race Report: Epic 8 Hour 2019 (Chico Racing)

Another really great event by Chico!  Always a good time, always challenging.

This was a warm-up for the 24h for us again, just like last year.  I was in better shape this year and had a new bike to attack the course with.

The Race

8 hours, go as far as you can.  Each lap is about 30-50 minutes depending on ability (or even shorter/longer for the really talented/not people).

We were in the "Team of 2" category - so one of us on the course at any given time, swapping laps.

Others do it solo (I did the fall 8h solo in 2014, crazytown) or in larger teams... but I think Team of 2 is rather perfect.

The Course

10km of alternating single and double track through beautiful forest at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre.

It's weird there - not matter how wet it is, it's fine.  And it's sandy, but not beach-like (except ONE spot which was annoying, but tolerable).  It holds together surprisingly well with 200 cyclists doing ~10 laps each!

This year was slightly longer by time than last year - mostly on account of the climbs. 

The opening climb is always there, it's long and spinny, not a big deal.

But from 5km on there were 4 really tough ones.

  • Singletrack switchback climb with roots at 5km
  • Straight shot up a hill that I feel could be avoided by adding some switchback to make it less steep, get on it someone!!!
  • Last 2 climbs - 2 climbs in the last ~7minutes up to the last descent - one doubletrack that's just steep, the other singletrack that's rooted and tricky
Apart from the climbs, the course was fast, fun, and rideable!  

My Race - Lap 1 (Team Lap 2)

My buddy took the first lap (he said it was traffic jam hell) but by the time I started my lap things had spread out a bit, and everyone near me was reasonably similar ability.

I had a pretty tough time keeping an even pace on the 1st lap - blew up a few times.  This was especially true at the singletrack switchback climb at 5km mentioned above.  My heart rate flew into the 180bpm+ range - which is like sprinting fast for me.  I had a really tough time nursing it back down... I just hadn't expected the climb so didn't pace well before it, so went from pushing to screwed.

Oops.  Score one for knowing the course ahead of time I guess.

There were rooted sections from the previous year that my new full suspension bike had no trouble at all with - big change from last year on the hardtail!  It was a hoot.

The last 2 climbs killed me again, I didn't even bother trying the first one, just walked it every time.  Going into the red with a hard low cadence effort just isn't worth it for me - it leads to cramping and horribleness.  The second one I managed most of the first lap (and some of the subsequent laps) but always walked at least a little.

Lap 2 (Team Lap 4)

I felt like complete ass during my "recovery".  Fatigued and just not good.  Ate as much food as I could stomach but my body was just not loving it.

The second lap though went much better - I was able to smooth out my effort, knew what was coming so was smarter going into the big climbs, and just mentally came to terms with not riding some of the gnarly climbs.

The singletrack switchback climb still sent my heart rate flying, but at least going into it I eased off and was good and fresh!  And I knew better how to recover on the other end of it.

Lap 3/4/5 (Team Laps 6/8/10)

There really isn't a lot to say - fortunately they were uneventful, and each lap felt a little better than the last!  My recoveries were more useful and I hit the course each lap feeling a little better than the one before it.  

I had a V8.  Is that interesting?  Maybe a little.  650mg of sodium in one can!  And some potassium too - and even some carbs.  I was a bit worried about the fiber but stomach liked it well enough - so I'll use it in the 24h as well.

There was a small chance we'd have enough time for an 11th lap... my teammate said he didn't want to do another, and I was feeling so good I briefly flirted with the idea of doing a double.  I talked myself out of it (and in the end we ran out of time anyway).  But that's how good I felt later vs earlier.

It's weird.  But that's just me.  Bodes well for the 24h!

Overall my laps were 47:37, 47:46, 48:19, 49:00, 48:51... so I was getting a bit slower I guess, but not a precipitous drop-off.  

Next Up

Storm the Trent!  Padding, Biking, Running.  Should be a hoot.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Race Report: Sausage Suit ITT (XCMarathon/Substance Projects)

I did the "half".  I literally noticed this race was even a thing last night, on Facebook, when they posted some stuff about it... so a few beers in, I stopped drinking abruptly and bravely readied myself to ... race.
Race Bib.  Helpful Emergency Numbers.  Not that it's dangerous, but you know.

And it was hard.

The Race

This race is part of the XCMarathon series - basically a bunch of lonnnnng mountain bike races.

24km or 48km doesn't sound long - but this is mountain biking, single track, and trust me - it's long.  I can hammer out 60km in a couple hours (and change) on my road bike, but it took me just as long to finish the 24km!

The format of this one is an "Individual Time Trial".  Riders started 30 seconds apart from a start "hut" (a trailer) with a ramp - it was very authentic-ish.

It was self-seeded - but past participants were the first to go, based on their results.  I was really planning to mail this one in, so I seeded myself pretty far back...

My Race

The forecast was terrible - but the organizer convinced me on Facebook that the Dufferin County Forest we'd be riding in drained very well, and it wouldn't be muddy.

He was mostly right - it was really incredible that everywhere else in Ontario there's standing water everywhere, but these trails were 97% mud free.  Awesome!

It actually wasn't raining at all at first - but right as the half marathon folks were going it started to pour.  I ducked under the little tent, and then fortunately it let up... which lead me to make a kind of dubious decision to go a bit earlier than I maybe should have.

My plan was originally to go pretty close to the back - but sizing up the crowd I figured I could go after about 75% of them had started.  Also I was worried it'd start to rain again before I got a chance to start and get a little warm.

That was... wrong.  The thing about people who do mountain bike races in the rain in early April is that they're pretty bloody hardcore.

I'm hardcore in that I'm resilient to weather - but I'm certainly not a hardcore mountain bike racer!!!  I can't really hold a candle to these folks...

Guy in puffy jacket?  Passed me.
Lady with grey hair?  Passed me.
Lots of other ladies, passed me.  Dudes fatter than me, passed me.
I didn't see the guy in pants.  Literally wearing street pants.  So I'm calling that a win.

Oh one other thing - this was my first mountain bike ride of the year, other than one snow ride in Feb.  It's amazing how different it is.  The sharp climbs destroyed me, my confidence in the corners just wasn't there... all the time in the world on the trainer and roads just doesn't prepare for it.

So I sucked.  Deep.  I chugged along though, just happy to be out on the trails.

The map showed two loops, one big, then a return to near the Start/Finish, then a second smaller loop.

... although I think I may have read it wrong, because on Strava now I can see the second loop was actually longer, and much much tougher!!!  So after finishing the "long" first loop in 45 minutes I was thinking I was at least halfway, maybe more!

I was not.

My total time was 2h19.  I didn't even have the distance showing on my Garmin - I just kept expecting to round the next corner and see the road to the finish... but it just never happened.

Worse, the last hour was really wet.  Rain coming down, not pouring but steady enough that I was soaked.

Worse, the sharp little climbs destroyed me.  I'm really good at steady road efforts, and total shit at punchy stuff without much recovery - which pretty much describes mountain bike racing. 

So it was a tough day. 
Great workout. 
Learned a bit. 
Got wet.
Accomplished something.

All's well that ends well.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Fat as Fuel for Endurance Activities

I have been dabbling in the "low carb" world in recent months.

It all started with Intermittent Fasting and the Jason Fung theory that insulin resistance is the key factor that leads to obesity.

I'm not 100% convinced that he is correct - but at the same time I have been losing weight with Intermittent Fasting and reducing carbohydrate (especially refined and sugar).

Next question was - can you perform athletically without carbs?

This is where life gets difficult.

Evangelists like Timothy Noakes emphatically say "yes".  There are athletes like Zack Bitter who are running Ultramarathons on High-Fat-Low-Carb diets.

Finally I found a very good summary in this article.

Adapting to Fat over Carbs

This was interesting to me, because it implies you can train your body to prefer fat longer.
Maximal fat oxidation has been reported to occur between 47 and 75% of VO2max, and varies between trained and untrained men and women [1, 5, 6]. Nonetheless, MFO has been observed to range from 0.17–1.27 g/min [7], where ketogenic adapted individuals can exceed ≥1.5 g/min
This is from the article, it shows the concept:


So that MFO point is not static - you can move the point to the right (ie. to higher intensities) with fat adaption.

... But There Is a Limit

Back to the article:
However, during sustained high intensity exercise (>70% VO2max) which is common during competition, CHO is the primary substrate relied upon despite short and long term fat acclimation
In other words - fat adapt all you want, if intensity gets too high, you're going to need carbs (CHO).

The Bottom Line

It seems entirely possible to perform at medium intensity on fat - but once the intensity ratchets up, you need carbs.

How I'm Applying This

Day to day, I'm using Intermittent Fasting, avoiding processed carbohydrate, and generally eating a higher fat lower carbohydrate diet.  It has resulted in weight loss and I generally have felt better.

In training, though - I tinkered with fasted runs and with not supplementing with carbs.

It works OK, but since re-introducing sugar to my high intensity workouts I've felt a whole lot better.  It is like rocket fuel!  When I race I will certain use carbs to enhance performance.

Is that the end of fasted runs/rides?  Certainly not!  I will continue to use the no-carb run/ride when intensity is low, to teach my body to use fat more efficiently and not rely on "rocket fuel".  I have some very long endurance events planned this year, the only way they will go well is to become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine!

All things in moderation.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Weight Loss at 4 Months

Stoopid Christmas.

... so basically I'm where I was early December.

Pre-Christmas office parties and get togethers, followed by Christmas week and change of being way off plan.

Didn't do much fasting, and certainly wan't low carb.

Back at it post-Christmas.  Tried to do it abruptly but that failed.  Now back to the gradual process that was working.

Intermittent Fasting

16-24h fasts daily.  Fit around life events.

Low Carb

I was trying very low carb with a goal of ketosis - but this wasn't working well for me.

Instead I'm doing very low processed carbs.  It's been better for my overall energy levels, my mental health, and it's made my runs/bikes more effective.

I have to write a blog post about this wonderful study that I found.  Long story short, though - for endurance activity, you need carbs to do higher intensity workouts... and there's good reason to do some fasted workouts as well.

Low Alcohol

After the holidays I had to re-re-adjust my alcohol intake back to guideline levels.  This hasn't been tough, just stopped buying the IPAs I've grown to love, as they have higher alcohol levels... back to 4-5% beer.  I don't feel compelled to drink any more 4-5% beer than I do 6-8% beer!

There are a lot of good Session Ales, some of them pretty hoppy and flavourful, and mostly around 4-5%.


I mention exercise last as it feels like it has the least impact on weight.


I've managed to start pushing some pace, though.  I'm still heavy (204lbs-ish) so I'm not lightning fast, but building the speed at this weight should pay dividends once I manage to drop it!


... just running, biking, doing the odd row / core workout... eating right... losing weight