Race Report: Levac Attack!

The third annual Levac Attack is in the books!  While we are still awaiting some final donations, it looks like this year’s total will be in the order of $30,000!  But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  Let me tell you the whole story for the day of Saturday, August 25th, 2012.

We got up on time for once, and were able to get the Chariot packed in the car, along with Shark Boy’s glider bike and various and sundry baby items.  The Lightning Kid was wearing a onesy from last year’s event, and I had my morning coffee in a mug that was my finisher’s “medal” for last year.  We made our way to Brampton and parked at a high school a couple of blocks away.  As we rounded the corner we could see a crowd with an electric energy, as everyone had been looking forward to this for some time.  My mother-in-law greeted us, wearing this year’s t-shirt a bib, and raring to go.  She was going to tackle the 5.6 ‘Diet Coke’ Event, though she was flirting with the idea of walking the 11.2 km (Coke Zero) instead – that kind of crazy can be found on both sides of our family, I’m afraid.  She ended up taking care of Shark Boy mostly for the day.  More on that later, but take note of how the different generations are all able to participate in this event; it’s pretty special.

The race had 59 Adult participants, 11 kids/babies, and 21 volunteers.  Almost everyone changed into this year’s race t-shirt in a show of solidarity.  Unfortunately, racing in black cotton on a hot summer day was a recipe for extra suffering, but at least we were all in it together!

Lorna is sporting the T-Shirt from the 1st Levac Attack

As John and Lorna (race founders and directors) addressed the crowd pre-race, I started trying to get our final setup ready.  The Lightning Kid was feeling tired and fussy since it was right around his usual morning nap time… and we had left the soother in the car.  Nothing like a quick sprint prior to the race to get warmed up, right?  I missed some of the giveaways/door prizes (including Toronto Raptors tickets, and mall gift cards), and the race had started without me as I neared the starting line, soother in hand.  The good news is I think LK was asleep by the time the Chariot had completed one revolution of its wheels!

We soon caught up with Shark Boy and his Omi.  Thanks to his stubborn independent streak, they’d end up short-cutting the first lap, and eating Timbits (doughnut holes to you non-Canadians) at the starting line (in fact: doughnuts are race director and Ironman John’s favourite mid-race fuel, so Shark Boy is in good company).  I was annoyed at first, not because I expect a toddler to finish the race, but because I want him to understand that if you want to reap the rewards of any offered opportunity, you have to participate in all of it.  I was pleased to find out they went out for a second lap after that, and we’re going to credit them 5km, OK?

The race course is a 2.8km ‘loop’ that does a lot of doubling back on itself to stay on the small residential streets so no-one has to close a major intersection.  It might seem a little confusing, but every turn has a marker and we had volunteers biking and rollerblading the course.  The great part is you end up running across (i.e. in the opposite direction of) other runners who are doing a greater/lesser distance, who are faster or slower the entirety of the race, giving everyone plenty of opportunity to cheer each other and share smiles, high-fives, whatever.

Taking water and walk breaks and keeping an eye out for Shark Boy every possible juncture did not make us the fastest racers (I think we might have been last to finish the 11.2 km course), but we finished with big smiles on our faces.  The Lightning Kid woke up around the 8km mark, but did not make a peep of complaint the entire race.  He’s got a promising future as an endurance athlete – part of the Iron Rogue Junior Brigade – The Scoundrels of Steel!

My wife referred to him as the youngest person with Down Syndrome to complete a  11km race.  I know we can’ t prove that, but why not?

There were a few participants who did the 22.4km (Coke Classic) event which is on the order of a half-marathon.  Some of these were pretty special as they had competed at Iron Man Mont Tremblant only the week before!

Levac Attack prides itself on having the best possible post-race food.  Your post-race drink, of course you could drink out of your finisher’s ‘medal’:  this gorgeous glass stein.

Burgers (including veggie), chicken, hot dogs, salad, Kraft Dinner – a full on barbecue! And if you’re a sweet-tooth like me, the deserts are the main attraction.

And that includes Ironman cupcakes and cookies!

Other special things that bear mentioning is that we were paid a visit by Miss Teen Brampton, Katherine Kenny.  Not only was she doing her duty to support community events and charity, but she benefited from Mount Sinai’s care when she was born pre-maturely.  Way to give back!

N.B. She did not run in those heels.

And our friends Paul and Leslie show up every year.  Paul is an accomplished triathlete, but that’s not what we’re going to focus on.  Let’s talk about Leslie, and I’ll borrow my wife’s words here to tell the story:

One of our star participants this year was Leslie Rogers!! Leslie walked 2.8 km for the first time since she suffered a massive stroke over 10 years ago. Here’s a video of her crossing the finish line! WAY TO GO LES!!!

That’s Paul’s voice you hear cheering on his wife, and generally being awesome.

If you haven’t picked up on it through reading the post, I am immensely proud to have been part of this event that not only helps a good cause, and helps families like the Levacs become what they are meant to be but includes young and old, people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.   I know we’re going to do it even bigger and better next year, and I hope to meet a lot of new faces when that time comes!

The Things Trail Running Has Taught Me

I’m not sure if I can call myself a ‘trail runner’. I always liked the idea that as soon as you run, you’re a runner, so according to that logic, I can. I run on trails during training and I’ve completed a trail race. I prefer being under shady trees to being beside houses and buildings, and the natural earth is easier on my Achilles’ tendons than pavement or concrete.

Through running on trails, I’ve changed as a runner, both mentally and physically.

  • Pay attention to the environment.  Both trail races and triathlons disallow headphones while running, so it pays to get used to running without music.  Instead, you listen to the birds, the wind through the trees, and potential threats too (fitmomintraining has a great series on running safely here and here; being able to spot potential threats is part of it).

  • Pay attention to the terrain.  When you’re on an uneven trail, every step counts, so you end up taking in what your next 5-10 steps are going to be.  I found this paying off on inclines and declines.  Not the big steep monsters you fear (though trail running helps with these physically), but the subtle ones you tend not to notice.  The inclines have you slowing down and wondering how this got so hard if you don’t notice them; when you do notice, you can accommodate or compensate for them.  The declines give you a chance to get a free speed boost, if you know how to run downhill (which trail running gives you lots of practice for) and again, if you notice the decline. 
  • Be ‘present’/’in the moment’.  Running is an opportunity for us to let our minds wander – every runner I know tends to use it as a form of meditation.  Still, most new age/zen wisdom preaches the idea of  being ‘present’.  If we start thinking of all the things we have to get done next week (the future) or beat ourselves up in regret of things that have already happened, we miss the wonder of  now. 

If you want to read more about trail running (maybe from a ‘real’ trail runner 😉 ), then head over to Mountain Kait‘s post here.

The No Show

This past weekend was somewhat of a misadventure. On Sunday, I was supposed to do the Bracebridge Olympic Distance Triathlon; the Sprint Distance had been held the day before, and was (according to the reports I read) very challenging due to the rainy weather, but ultimately successful.

Keeping the kids happy at the race site for the duration of an Olympic is always challenging, so this time we made the safe bet of having my wife stay at the cottage with them while I went onto the race in Bracebridge. The plan was for her to have extra help with the kids in the form of their grandmother; but after grandmother #1 and #2 both cancelled. My wife resolved to muddle through a Sunday with the kids as best she could…trapped in the cottage due to the continuing rain and the fact that our only vehicle at the cottage would be with me.

We’d called on friends with nearby cottages who might lend a hand to no avail.  On Saturday night, the Lightning Kid required three feedings; our best explanation at the time was that he was teething, I’m not so sure any more since he developed a bit of fever by Monday.  Still when it was time for me to get up, my wife said she wanted to come along merely for the opportunity to have a nap in the car.  It was still raining heavily, and showed no signs of stopping, and we tried to imagine how she could keep the kids happy in the rain.  Even nearby Santa’s Village wouldn’t open till 10AM, and it’s outdoors too, so no reprieve from the rain.  I didn’t want her to feel forced to come along, yet what kind of man would abandon his wife to fend for herself against a baby and a toddler within a non-baby-proofed environment sure to bring on cabin fever? I didn’t have much choice, and I believe I did what was right – I stayed with my family and no showed the race.

Of course, I was in a real funk the rest of the day.  The kids did things to delight me, but the smiles didn’t last.  With hours freed up, and the rain giving way to occasional bursts of clearer weather, I had opportunities to go shopping in Huntsville, maybe a swim or a run.  I didn’t feel like doing anything; I honestly think I was mildly depressed.  And ashamed of feeling that way to boot – Awww, so the triathlete didn’t get to run his little race, poor baby.  That might seem to have been my problem on the surface, but I had enough time to think about why it really bothered me.

In this life, we are not rewarded for failure, in fact, it is often treated as unacceptable.  A salesman can’t simply say: “The client didn’t want to buy” – they’re expected to close the sale through persuasion or whatever trick they can pull.  It’s the same in almost any work or academic environment – you don’t just get to throw up your hands and say “oh well” when things don’t go your way; you’re expected to have contingency plans, work-arounds, etc.. And I’m one of the kinds of people that likes thinking things through and visualizing before hand so that I’ll have a solution to a problem that might come my way, yet I’m not really very organized at executing a plan.  I should have been better prepared for inclement weather and had ways that the kids could be managed within the limited space of the cottage, and I should have sold my wife on those ideas, and I was going to beat myself up about those short-comings until I was too tired to do it any more.  And I did feel strangely tired; probably the depression at work.  I couldn’t believe I had planned on doing a tri that day; I felt too sluggish to go up and down stairs.

Though I love it up there, on that Sunday, I couldn’t wait to leave.  By the time we had the car packed and ready, we had somehow managed to get in some of the worst cottage-country traffic that day had to offer.  It was a long drive home, but luckily, the kids behaved very well, and being stuck in the car was enough to get me craving a little physical activity.  I had promised my wife that she would not get short-changed on her opportunity to get in a training run.  When we got back, I set up the Chariot and got Shark Boy onto his glider bike.  We went out on a 4km run as a family in preparation for the Levac Attack, which we will also be doing as a family in the same way.

Shark Boy rode nearly 2.5 km on the way out

… but opted for the luxurious route home.

It was a lot of fun, and a good proof of concept for what we can do as a family.  It made me feel better because my goal is not to race in a particular event, but to enjoy an active, multisport lifestyle that is compatible with my family.  Failing at a particular task happens to us all, the act of picking oneself up again is what’s important and that can be to try the same thing again or to fight another battle in the war (pardon the mixed metaphors).

Have you ever no-showed a race?  How did it make you feel?

Bracebridge Tri Preview

The (Recharge With Milk) MultiSport Canada Triathlon Series is hosting Sprint and Olympic Distance Duathlon and Triathlons this weekend.  I’m signed up for the Olympic, as indicated in the good old Race Calendar.  This series has been constantly evolving and improving, so it’s not just the promise of Chocolate Milk and Hero Burgers that entices me.

Bracebridge used to be the home of a half-Iron distance event, but it seems like that’s gone this year.  Still the venue is in Muskoka and I’ve been interested in doing this one for years.  I haven’t had enough time to really improve performance since Muskoka 5150, and I expect this to be challenging so I don’t have much in the way of expectation or strategy going into this one, I’m just there to enjoy myself.  Let’s look at the different stages…


The Muskoka River being used for the swim course is going to guarantee some current to slow us down, but at least the course is simple.  It’s a single loop which is always good, having different people either exiting or continuing on a swim course always creates chaos.  What intrigues me most is the start; they’re going to release a swimmer every 5 seconds… can’t wait to see how that works out.


In sharp contrast to the swim, the bike course looks complicated.  Just after 10km there’s a hairpin turn.  Then after the 20km mark is a small loop for the first out and back segment.  After that, you don’t take the same way home, because there’s a shortcut after 30km which takes you back to transition.  This is still Muskoka, so hills are the rule, not the exception; anything around a 90 minute ride would be fine by me.


The run course is a fairly simple out and back that follows the river.  I hope that means it’s flat.  My achilles tendons have been stiff in the mornings even though I’ve taken it easy this week.  I will probably wear my Salomon trainers rather than the Zoot racing flats to give myself some more cushioning.  That will cost me a little in transition and the heavier shoes may make me slower.

Other Considerations

It looks like the family won’t be joining me on the race which makes things lonely, but at least a little more straightforward in terms of getting to and from the race site.  I’ll try to concentrate solely on getting the race done.  The weather forecast does not look promising, and storm weather could cancel the swim, converting the event to a duathlon.  I love the swim part, so this is not something I look forward to; the run has become something I do and let it all hang out because it represents the end.  Having a run first where I have to carefully manage my pace for the subsequent bike and run (again), is the kiss of death to me.  Still I know the countryside will be beautiful, and I have a great post-race experience to look forward to.  Wish me luck!

The Rollerblade Commute

Recently circumstances led us to become a 1 car family, and I wanted to use the opportunity to commute to work by bike; our overall schedule will only allow this twice a week, but still, better than nothing.

It was Friday the 13th, and I found a flat tire on my morning ride. My attempts to patch it didn’t really take. And without my own car to run errands, I still haven’t replaced the inner tube. No problem, I found another way to keep my commute active.

Inline skating! a.k.a. Rollerblading. I’ve always wanted to do more of this, especially once triathlon season is over to start to get in shape for cross-country skiing.  It’s been fun, and I’m lucky that my way home is more downhill than my way to work, so that getting home is less of a slog.

Here’s a few tips I’ve picked it up if you want to try inline skating to work.

  • Don’t underestimate hills.  Going up is harder than you think, and a decline will get you going faster than you want.  The better your ability to break, the happier you’ll be.
  • Sidewalks are navigable, but some of the cracks are nastier than others, so be alert, and prepare to step over the uneven parts that might make you stumble.  You can time your strides so that the foot you want to put down for the next stride clears the discontinuity and lands on the flat part of the sidewalk tile.
  • When passing other pedestrians, stop striding and start gliding.  You can pass slowly with your hands at your sides this way, taking up less room.
  • When crossing intersections, even when you have the green light or right of way, try to make eye contact with motorists.  That way you’ll know they’ve seen you; it’s a good practice on a bike too, but on skates you’re even less anticipated by drivers.
  • Pack your shoes near the top of your bag so they’re accessible when you want to change into them at your work’s front doorstep.

Rollerblading to work has been a great way to cross-train.  It’s a moderate workout, yet I know I’m working my glutes and a lot of lateral muscles in my legs that might get short shrift during running and biking.  Have you ever used inline skates or another non-conventional way to commute?

Gear Corner: Garmin Forerunner 910XT Review: Bike, Run, and Quick Release Attachment

This is the long awaited follow up to my review of the Swim portions of the Garmin 910XT.  One caveat: I had paired it with the heart rate monitor belt from previous Garmins; at first I thought the battery needed replacing, but even after that, it seemed to only pick up half my heartbeats (making me think I might be some kind of zombie) until failing to be detected altogether.  I ended up springing for the Premium Heart Rate Monitor (Soft Strap).  The (improved) results reflect that accessory, as opposed to the typical default model.

Navigating the interfaces on all Garmin Forerunners I’ve had has always been a learning curve, but I think it was shorter on this model, and the fact that I seem to remember how to do the things I want with it between uses speaks to the fact that it may be more intuitive than before.

Selecting the sport you are doing falls under ‘Training’, and once selected, the display a goes to appropriate data fields which can be customized.  I like that each sport has 4 different dedicated screens you can scroll through.  If you want to look at different kinds of data, you’re not forced to overcrowd a single screen, or dedicate space to data that isn’t useful to that particular sport (for example, you may want your bike cadence, but that won’t show up when you’re running).

My main screens for biking/running have time, distance and speed/pace (respectively).  I keep heart-rate, cadence on secondary screens which also (by default) have things like elevation, previous lap times, and average speed/pace.

I was able to use the Multisport functionality successfully at Muskoka 5150; the first time I’ve gotten that to work on any previous product.  I had Swim, Bike then Run set up prior to the event, I hit Start at the swim start, and lap at the entry and exit of every transition.  The only disagreement with official race times comes from me not knowing exactly where the chip sensors are on the race site.

As for Garmin Accessories, the 910XT seems to be working well with the cadence sensor, but not the speed sensor.  As long as I’m outdoors, that’s OK, but when I’ve got the bike back on the trainer for the off-season, I’m disappointed that I might have to re-purchase a speed sensor for reasons unknown to me.

I invested in the Quick Release Kit; looking at my wrist while cycling was always a little bit dangerously distracting, and it’s even worse if you want to push buttons to see different data fields.  The quick release kit replaces the original wrist strap – an adapter backing is mounted on the actual electronic hardware (the watch part) that lets you move it from your wrist (a new strap with the other half of the adapter clip) and your bike mount (with a similar adapter clip).  It works great and I was able to check my stats during the ride by simply glancing down, and it moves off and on the wrist in a second.  The only problem, is the installation itself.  The kit comes with everything you need, including tiny watch screwdrivers needed to remove and re-attach the wrist strap, but the parts are so small (and black) that I would recommend the following procedure for installation.

  1. Spend a year studying with a Zen monk
  2. Build a completely white room.  White walls, white floor, bright halogen lights, no holes, vents or air currents. 
  3. Barricade yourself in the room with your Garmin, the kit, and your bike.  Cut off all contact from family, friends and pets.  DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO INTERRUPT YOUR INSTALLATION
  4. Read the instructions enough times that you can repeat them from memory and translate them into any other languages you know.
  5. You are ready to begin.
All kidding aside, I was able to install it successfully, but I do think the stress of it cost me months off my lifespan.
In summary, the 910XT isn’t perfect, but it’s a great improvement over predecessors that weren’t too bad in the first place.  I think it’s the best option for Tri-geeks who love everything recorded and quantified.

Map of Pain: My 5 Worst Injuries

This post is once again part of Fitness Cheerleader’s August Healthy Living Blogger Challenge.  I took a little break for the long weekend, but I decided to come back for this topic.  It’s a dangerous post to make, because once you start cataloguing everything that’s gone wrong in your body, it gets hard to think of yourself as a healthy person, and the next thing you know, you’re depressed and you stop acting like a healthy person.  Still, you can do the reverse and pat yourself on the back for overcoming all the adversity.

  1. Malignant Melanoma.  I don’t really label myself as a ‘Cancer Survivor’ because I haven’t done the kinds of things that Cancer Survivors have: chemotherapy, radiation, hair loss, etc. but the facts are:
    1. I had a Stage 1 Malignant Melanoma of 0.2mm diameter in my right leg
    2. My father passed away of Malignant melanoma in 2000.
    3. Treating it meant taking a chunk of surrounding lymph nodes out to make sure the cancer didn’t spread.
There are 2 kinds of skin cancer, Basal Cell Carcinoma (more common, more survivable) and Malignant Melanoma.  The surgery to remove the lymph nodes was out-patient with a local anesthetic, and I was able to go hiking in Spain a couple of weeks later, but I did have to limp until then.  I also have to take time out to get my moles checked twice a year (for a while there, it was 4 times a year), and I tend to think about going out to exercise in the sunshine as a life or death experience.

  1. Herniated Disc in the C6-C7 Vertebrae.  Though Jiu-Jitsu is largely about learning to fall properly accidents can happen, even when you’re just in practice.  This is what happened to me during my grading for my light blue belt (I still passed).  I landed on the back of my neck from an elevated position.  I’d had issues in and all around my thoracic spine for ages, but nothing like this.  It had to be identified with an MRI, which is not a fun experience if you have as much trouble sitting still as I do (plus there’s getting up at 4 in the morning).  There was pain for months, but the most nagging problem was a tingling in the tip of my index finger.  I got treated by a Sport Medicine doctor, a massage therapist, a physiotherapist, and a chiropractor (who included accupuncture in the treatment) and they brought me a lot of relief to a lot of the pain symptoms – I recommend Athlete’s Care if you want to get a comprehensive suite of services under the care of a medical doctor.  Still the very tip of my right index finger felt like it was asleep all the time until I finally got Active Release Therapy which I continue almost weekly to this very day, though the symptoms seem to be more toward my shoulder blade now.  Like I said, the upper back/thoracic spine has been a bit of an issue.  This injury made me quit jiu-jitsu indefinitely, I still visit sporadically, but the doctor’s recommendation is to avoid.  I still get misty thinking about it; you wouldn’t imagine a grown man could be brought to tears by his inability to practice breaking bones, but I guess I’m just a softy.

  1. Shoulder Impingement.  This injury is actually pretty common to those who work in front of a computer all day.  It crept up somewhere in my mid to late twenties, and limited my range of motion.  Strengthening the rotator cuff through physiotherapy and exercise got rid of the pain, but I always have to watch it when I do any heavy resistance work with arms overhead.  I’m not sure I can ever get to do pull-ups, because every time I start on a program involving that kind of movement, I get the pains again.  At least I can swim!

  1. Achilles Tendonitis.  This one affects runners, especially those with high arches who supinate (roll outward) like me.  One of the ways to avoid it is not to do hills – not a good option for me, unless I want to never run on weekends when I’m in Muskoka.  I’ve been trying to do more mid-foot landing according to barefoot/minimalist/chi running technique, but I don’t always manage it when my concentration isn’t 100% and I’m back to the ever maligned heel-strike. I have a compression band that I can wear (I used to have 2, one for each leg, but I lost one), and I’ve tried a pair of compression socks that did nothing. It’s been bothering me lately, and for my next race, I’ll probably wear my more cushioned Salomon training shoes rather than my Zoot racing flats.

  1. Lower Back Pain. This one’s not as bad, even though so many people suffer from it chronically. For me, it comes from my pelvis being mis-aligned by my hip muscles (psoas) being too tight. As long as I remember to do the right stretches (usually some kind of lunge or Yoga Warrior pose) I’m fine.

You can get injured through physical activity, but you can get injured through lack of physical activity, so I’d rather have my fun. Like they said in the Princess Bride: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Where Will You Be in 10 Years?

As part of Fitness Cheerleader’s August blog Challenge I’m using her suggested blog topic: Where Do You Want To Be In 10 Years?

Exactly where I am now. The End. Seriously, I’m happily married, with two beautiful boys, a rewarding job I’m reasonably good at (and even enjoy occasionally!). I get around travelling and spend time outdoors exercising and playing (then I blog about it). I eat and drink well (by my own definition, which means variety above all else). Why would I want to be anywhere else? Even less metaphorically, I love my house and hometown.

I guess there could be tweaks.

-I’d like to expand my horizons in multisport to include things like off-road tris and adventure races.
-In that vein, within 10 years there should be opportunities to knock a few off the Race Bucket List
-Which brings up travel. We do fairly well for a family with small children, but I read blogs like Raising Rippers and I know we can do more on the camping and adventure front. The kids’ swimming ability and toilet training will allow us to go on canoe trips and a lot of other adventures.

These few minor tweaks doesn’t seem too daunting over a ten year span does it? The elephant I probably need to address is the Lightning Kid‘s Down Syndrome. Will there be delays that impose limits on his lifestyle, and by extension our family’s? Right or wrong we don’t think about that anymore than we plan on slowing down to accommodate for aging bodies and new aches and pains. You’ve got to shoot for the moon; now, and in 10 years too!