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Monday, November 4, 2019

Leftover Halloween Candy as Fuel

Day After Halloween Shame
Worth revisiting every Halloween - my post on Halloween Candy As Fuel!

It links to a really informative podcast about fuel and candy, and how so much of the sugar in candy isn't materially different from what is in your sports drink.



Sunday, September 15, 2019

Race Report: Muskoka River X Classic (130km)

I don't really know where to start, except at the end.

We DNF'd.  We flipped.  We got to the finish in a van instead of a canoe.

Race Morning. The last picture
my cel phone would ever take.
Who knew?
Race Morning

We had been obsessing about wind and weather all week, and finally on race day it all looked... OK.

Sure there were some gusts in the forecast, and heavy winds... but we hoped to be well clear of the early lakes by then.

We'd scouted.
We'd plotted.
We'd practiced every aspect of the race - portaging, orienteering, night vision / lighting.

We were ready.

Peninsula and Fairy Lakes

The start was a short run to the boats (presumably to get us all spread out and avoid bumping too many boats and flips and what not).  We got in and started what we expected to be about a 20 hour day of straight paddling/portaging.

Peninsula Lake was dead calm - beautiful flat water paddling.  We quickly entered the short canal connecting to Fairy Lake.

As we exited the canal we were hit with a headwind - this slowed us down a bit, and the water was a touch choppy, but nothing serious.

Huntsville
Muskoka River / Huntsville

From there we made our way a short haul up the Muskoka River to Huntsville.

Portaging at Brunel Locks.
Such Grace.
Feeling great.  Looking great!  We knew we needed to be around 7km/h including portages, and at this point we were in the 7.6km/h or so range - with the headwind, nothing to be too fussed about.  Tail winds and downriver were ahead!

We flew through our return to Fairy Lake and into the first portage.

Muskoka River

The first portage was a piece of cake - short enough to just carry the boat by the handles.  A little traffic got in our way, but we're talking seconds, not minutes.

We popped into the Muskoka River and we were off, now getting easily into the 8km/h+ range.  Our average was looking up, we were picking off boats, things were going wonderfully.

But then...

Mary Lake

This lake had barely registered when we were planning.  Straight shot, a few islands, easy to find the river on the other side.

Well, it's seared into my memory forever now.

Before we'd even left the river we encountered waves, and we knew it was going to be a rough ride.

But we've paddled in some pretty rough stuff in Lake Ontario - how bad could it be!?

Our "original plan" was simple - follow the east shore then take the straightest path to the river.


Flip #1

In the briefing it was suggested the west shore would provide superior wind protection.

This made sense, given the forecast was for winds out of the west.

The problem was getting there.  As soon as we exited the river we were in a cauldron of high waves - it was baaaad.  The wind was as much out of the south as the west, it was blasting across the lake and producing giant swells.

We struggle on at 4km/h thinking this sucked but we'd power through and then life would be calm and peaceful as we went south.

But the wind was horrific, and pretty much everywhere across the entire mouth of the river was horrible.  There was no obvious plan.  We decided to stick to the "endure this for 15 minutes then breathe easy" plan.

Then we started taking on water - it would crash over the front of the boat.  Our front is HIGH, but in these waves it was getting pitched like crazy.  Our boat is also WIDE, so it caught every bloody drop that splashed up... so within a minute or less we had water sloshing back and forth...

Then a wave hit us, pitched us left, several kilograms of water sloshed left - and it was over.  We were in the water.

We panicked, we swam, we collected what we could, we tried to get the boat back up.  We were a long way from shore - I started kind of swimming us in that direction but it was pretty futile.

Saved by Another Competitor!

Another team saw us and came along to try help... it was unbelievable.  They knew how to do a rescue, so we followed their instructions.  Our boat was lifted onto theirs, then flipped over and voila - dry and upright!

Getting in was another matter... they were awesome, bracing the boats together while we got in.  It took us about 10 minutes I'd say, but we somehow managed.  I didn't see them again to thank them and I don't actually know who they were - but they really helped us out.

We recovered my backpack which was still somehow floating.  At that point I realized I had lost my cell phone and the maps... but there wasn't time to think about that just yet...

Back Upright, still Bobbing, Flip #2

They headed to the east shore, which we probably should have done too... but at this point we were just trying to again stay upright in the choppy water, strategizing on the fly was the least of our worries.  Priority was getting close to shore - so we chose the closest one, which also happened to be the one on the west (where we'd originally been trying to get to).

Once again we started taking on water, once again the boat became ridiculously unstable... we tried to get to a dock around a rocky point, but it was impossible - once the water sloshed we were over again.

Breezy Point

We got to the point, and it was about as inhospitable of a place as you could possibly end up.

There was nowhere you could stand, the depth dropped immediately into deep water, and the land was a steep slippery rock hill.

It was a f**king nightmare.

We knew the only way out was to try to get back into the boat, with waves crashing and bouncing around off the rocks.  Somehow - I don't know how - we did it.  We banged around on the rocks but I got us off the one we were wedged on and we were free!

Flip #3

... for about 10 seconds.  The waves knocked us over almost instantly.

And that is when we gave up.

It was just impossible at this point, we had to face that fact.  We were stuck.

In retrospect about the only thing we maybe could have done was swim for a bit?  It was hundreds of meters to the next dock though, and my partner doesn't swim at all... maybe he could have hiked across the slippery rocks while I swam??

Hard to say.  But in any case, this is where our race ended.

We pushed the red button on the GPS that notifies the cavalry that we were in an emergency situation, and waited.

Breezy Point - So Very Breezy...

This race isn't a local 5k, it's not a triathlon, it's a back-country canoe race where you spend a lot of time away from civilization.

As such you carry supplies so that you can weather out an emergency.  Emergency clothing changes, water resistant clothing, waterproof matches, first aid kits, etc etc etc...

... and for the first time, it wasn't just "a bunch of heavy crap to carry around" - it was useful, used, and appreciated!  I used by warm toque that I had scoffed at in previous years, the rain jacket, even a bit of emergency food I'd carried.  I could have really used my emergency cell phone, but by this point it was probably at the bottom of the lake...

We waited for what seemed to be forever - I'm sure it wasn't, and the organizers were really busy plucking people out of the lake.

While we were waiting a big wave caught the boat, slammed it into me - I was standing in the water on the precarious rocks, and fell hard into them.  Blood streamed down by leg - but hey, just a flesh wound, everything still worked.  I took that moment to get my ass up to dry land though, even though I was colder out of the water than in it!

We saw a few other teams attempt the lake - some survived (the stand-up paddle boards did remarkably well!), some didn't (another team of 2 was left stranded at a dock in the bay we capsized in).

Rescue

Finally the rescue boat arrived.  We had to swim out to it, they couldn't get up to the rocks obviously - and the wind had actually gotten worse in the meantime.

Once plucked out of the water we let our wives (who were watching our GPS!) know we weren't dead.  They were happy, which is good.  When we got back to shore, there were 3 other boats of people who had given up and were already gone, plus 2 other teams that had flipped and were headed back with us.

So that was the end of our Muskoka River X - a ride in the Algonquin Outfitters van back to the Hidden Valley Resort.

Post-Mortem

There is so much I have on my mind right now.

I'm crushed that we weren't able to finish.  In the end nobody did - they cancelled the last leg of the race across Lake of Bays due to high wind and the general chaos of the day.  We talked to others that had learned, as we had, from previous years and had scouted, planned, trained... everyone was pretty gutted not to have been able to do the full course.

Such is life, and weather.

What we found out, though, is that a lot of teams did make it through Mary Lake.

It was terrible.  Some flipped.  But many made it.

Our Canoe
HCC Grand Huron

We started wondering what it was about the boat that made it so tippy.

Our boat is an oddball of oddballs.  I don't know how many were made, but I suspect less than 10, and possibly much less.  It was made by the now defunct "Handcrafted Canoes", it's called the "Grand Huron".

It's over 18 feet long, carbon, 48lbs... at the waterline it's as narrow as the Susquehana (which is kind of the standard "fast marathon C2 boat that's not a pro boat").

Allegedly it was made for this race - but it has several flaws that make it unsuitable.

There were two major problems:

  • It took on water
  • It was tippy as hell
Taking On Water

The taking on water was/is confusing - this is a very high sided boat, higher than other marathon C2s.  It is also very high at the front.

But when the waves crashed, they went right over and into the boat.  Not only that the nose dove way into them, under the water!

I think the worst part is that because has sides that flare OUT (rather than tumblehome) it caught everything thing that went into the air!  It basically acted as a giant catcher's mitt for water.

The main solution to this is to use some kind of skirt/cover to keep the water out, not in.  As well some boats had built in things at the front and back to cover the open parts that were most vulnerable.  

Our boat was wiiiiiide open.

We talked to several teams - the H20 Slingshot 222 took on almost no water, likewise the rental boats from Algonquin (16 foot Prospectors).  The Susquahana's weren't so lucky if they didn't have good covers... 

Tippy

This one we figured out thanks to this explanation from Wenonah.

Our boat has a very flat bottom.  We walked around the parking lot - nothing was as flat as ours.

Stability is basically made up of initial stability and final stability (or "secondary").  


Initial stability means that on nice flat perfect water and when you get into the boat, it is stable.  Great.

Final stability means when you tip the thing over, it will tend to resist tipping.

Flat bottom boats have little to no "final stability" - the side that is out of the water loses contact with the water and you're going over without corrective action.  So we've managed to paddle in some pretty serious waves, but it was in spite of the boat...

What we really want is a "Shallow Arch" design, which is what our old boat had... the Jensen 18.  It was really heavy, but so well designed.

The Route We Took

The teams that went to the east shore still had waves, and some flipped.

But they also had convenient docks at cottages that they could use to right themselves and keep going...

We were trying to get to the sheltered shore but just couldn't get there, conditions were too bad.  And where we ended up was dreadful.

Next Year?

You know it.




Monday, September 2, 2019

Race Preview #1: Muskoka River X Classic (130km canoe)


What Is It?

Muskoka River X, Ferry Lake 2017
The Muskoka River X is a 130km canoe race, going down one branch of the Muskoka River and up the other!

It starts and finishes near Huntsville ... crosses lakes, features 20 portages around dams and waterfalls... it's adventure and a half.

My Muskoka River X's

We first did the 80km "Sprint" in 2016 then again in 2017...  figured this was the year to step up to the 130km "Classic".

2016 was a bit of a disaster.  It rained, the wind made Lake of Bays a complete beast.  We messed up most of the portages, getting out at the wrong place or on the wrong side, dropping the boat, I even gashed open my knee falling on rock.  And we flipped after hitting a rock in some rapids/swifts!

It couldn't have gone much worse.

Baysville
2017 we went out before the race and scouted the sections we'd messed up - and it made a huge difference.  Every portage was on point.  Weather was fine, we didn't flip in the rapids (stay right!).

... but our portaging still needed work.  We shouldered the boat, which we'd seen other teams do, but it didn't really work that well.  We had to stop a few times on the longer portages.

2019 Preparation!

Portaging

So first off, we finally figured out portaging.  We went to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park yesterday and portaged like crazy people - many kilometers between lakes.
Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park - Portaging Practice

We're going lean and mean on equipment/water, and taking it out of the boat every portage.

Water for example - in previous years we each had a couple 2L jugs.  8L of water weighs 8kg, which is 17 pounds!  That's a lot of extra weight to carry.

We also noticed carrying the boat with the handles is much easier when everything is out of it, as is shouldering the boat! 

So we'll be using a combination of yoke (one person carrying), shouldering (two people) or the handles - depending on the situation.

The Dark

130km will take us well into the night.  We think we'll finish around 3am!

We did a paddle at night on Duffin's Creek in Ajax to test out our lighting - and I'm glad we did.

I'm at the stern - and my light would reflect off my buddy's life jacket back in my face, leaving me completely blind!  It sucked.  We'll put black tape over his reflective strips, and I'm going to use a less powerful light, just enough to see my maps and compass, and let the lighting on the boat show the way.

We also had the front light too low, so it would light up the trees but not the water.

Navigation

We also pre-paddled Lake of Bays to make sure we had the right compass bearings - lucky we did, as the compass in our boat was off by 20 degrees from reality.  Some of that is down to declination, but some of it is just the compass.  In daylight that would be annoying, but in the dark it would be a complete nightmare.

Nutrition

I'm still trying to figure this one out.  We think it'll take us about 20 hours, basically the entire day.  Normally I'd eat 2500kCal just doing nothing, so it'd be weird to consume less while exerting myself.  I'm going to take a can of Gatorade powder for sure, that's about 2100kCal.  I'll scarf down some food before we start (protein/fat heavy so it digests over the entire race).  Still need to figure out something not too heavy/bulky for some solid food, maybe a bar or something.

Water

We need to treat water as we go.

I used a hydration pack over the weekend, as well as two other bottles (one strapped into the hydration backpack, the other clicked on).  It worked fine.  I just don't know if I want to mess around with refilling the hydration pack, it's a bit of a pain in the ass... I'm thinking a 3x750mL bottle system might be better, where I am drinking one, treating the other two.

Ready?

I think we're good to go!  Hopefully the weather cooperates.




Monday, August 26, 2019

Race Report: El Bandito (Gravel Race, I think. 70k)


The Race

This race is part of Substance Project's Cannondale Gravel Series.  They had 140k/70k/40k options - I did the middle one (also the most popular).

It's billed as a "gravel race" but it's more of a hodge-podge of everything - an absolute hoot.

I'm working from memory/Garmin but here's a bit of an inventory...

Ski Hill - The race started with this insane ski hill climb - I guess if you're starting at a ski hill, might as well use the ski hill?  It was too steep for me to ride for sure, and everyone I saw.  Maybe guys at the front did it.

Unassumed Road #1 - Immediately after that was an unassumed road - which was a road in name only.  Rutted, broken up, steep, you couldn't possibly traverse this with a vehicle.  It was a bit sketchy, I had to walk a little due to people around me walking more than anything.

Short on-road section - short, paved, hilly

Unassumed Road #2 (@3k) - Another rutted, broken up, steep "road".

Paved Road - this went on for a lonnnnng time.  Roadie stuff, drafting and trying to stick with the pack.  Lots of hills.  I had a hard time keeping up on the hills, but kept managing to get back on the descents.  At least until...

Monster Starkville Climb (@15k) - lonnnnnng monster climb.  Straight up, steep, long, high.  Paved.  I lost everyone I had been with and found myself alone.  Shortly after I managed to catch up with one guy (gravel for a bit), but lost him pretty quickly after.

Unassumed Road #3 (@21k)  - this one was in better shape and quite fast, but sandy.  I saw some folks ahead of me finally, they struggled while I excelled, managed to catch up and get some draft on the road sections after.

Paved Road ... until.......

Unassumed Road #4 (@28k) - this was described as a "walk up" on the map.  25% grade, so yeah. Walk up.  Long, almost 10 minute trudge up a rocky hilly trail.

Paved Road for a pretty long time - a super fast and fun descent, followed by a lot of paved road.  I didn't have much help until a guy who had been changing a flat caught me.  I took his wheel, and together we bridged up to the group ahead!  This was huge, it was such a long section, having folks around really helped.

Unassumed Road #5 (@37k) - this went straight from high speed drafting into a sand pit.  I was lucky I was near the front, I was able to glide through it while the other half dozen in our group floundered and walked and stuff!

Paved Road ... a stiff climb right after the beach, all by myself.  A couple guys passed me but I didn't sweat it, I knew there were more folks behind that would hopefully catch up and help.  Except they didn't, other than one dude - so we took turns (mostly me wheel sucking) until the aid station.

I stopped quickly at the aid station and then got going again really quickly - figuring the group  would catch up.  They didn't.

At 49k was another monster climb.  Apparently only averaged 7%, but man, it was wicked.  I had to dodge back and forth just to keep momentum.  One person caught and passed me, but that was it.

Ganaraska Forest (@50k) - this was proper double/single track!  I passed the one person near me and left everyone in the dust.  Lots of sand had others tentative I expect, but I was slippin' and slidin' and loving it. 

Best of all I still felt strong.  Legs were sore but not tired.  Properly hydrated.  Just strong.  Caught one other guy near the exit of the forest.

Paved Road Again (@57k) - lots of hills, some pretty tough.  At the top of one of the tough ones I looked back and saw 2 people at the bottom... ack!  I knew they saw me, so I was the rabbit.  Next crazy hill, same thing. 

The last 8.5k were the same as the first 8.5k... except I totally forgot about Unassumed Road #2, so I thought I was on the last section!  It was not a good surprise to exit to more paved road and hills.  Also you forget the hills you go down, they seem much bigger on the way up.  Looked back, the two people were there again (I was at top of hill, they were at bottom) - so they were at least keeping up... gave me some motivation to finish strong.

I killed it on Unassumed Road #1 in reverse, road the whole thing.  Then back up and down the ski hill... a little walking, but road a lot more than I'd have expected.

Finished - 68.5k - done!

Thoughts

Great race, fun, well organized.  A little heavy on the paved roads, but enough sections of other stuff that it didn't bother me too much.  Also they were so tough with the hills.

I always forget the crowd this guy's races attract.  Very few anklers, mostly people on teams.  Makes it tough for an unaffiliated hack like me sometimes!

Definitely will do this one again.












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.

Goal

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

"Nutrition"

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
Brrrr

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.

Done!

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!

Finished!

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:

image

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.