Race Recap: 5 Peaks Championship at Albion Hills – Strictly for the Hardcore!

Another 5 Peaks Trail Run in the bag!  The final race of the season is also the Southern Ontario Championship for all those who acquired points in the series during the season, but it also has a nice ‘Everyone is a Champion’ open event.  It took place at Albion Hills.

Due to the pre-Hurricane Sandy weather, I think the organizers cancelled a lot of the extras that made April’s Season Opener so attractive – there were no kids races, exhibitors, etc. (not that I blame them), but the main event was on like Voltron.

Racers all gathered under the only real shelter available – a roofed picnic area.  I had expected rain, but the icy wind made the weather extra nasty – getting right into the thick of the crowd was the only option.  I found I was dressed a little warmer than some – I saw plenty of shorts!  Sign #1 that trail running is masochistic.
One of the race directors, Erin Sheard, announced the course would be 9km (it had been described as being 7-9km; that big a variability might seem intimidating, but since you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get in terms of terrain, it’s good to be trained for something beyond the maximum).  I groaned inwardly, as I had been somewhat hopeful that I could just get the thing over with as soon as possible and get home, dry and warm.  She went on to explain that some of the early feedback they had gotten showed that some people felt that Albion Hills would not be ‘technical enough’ terrain wise, so they had done their best to compensate i.e. through the length, and also, according to her, the weather.  Sign #2 that trail running is masochistic.

They divided up the crowd into four waves: 1.) Competitive Men (i.e. shooting for a podium finish) 2.) Competive Women 3.) Age Group Competitors (looking for a top 3 in their age group) 4.) Average Joes/Everyone Else.  Definitely Wave #4 for me… due to work schedule and injury I hadn’t been killing it in training, and I was not confident.

Waves 1 through 3 went off about 3-5 minutes apart, then it was our turn.  Racers were asked to seed themselves according to their own estimation of their relative speed; always important, because so much of the course is too narrow for passing, and it should be kept to a minimum.  Off we went!

I slid in some mud within the first 100m, so that was my warning.  The wet terrain (not to mention fallen leaves and mud) made for slippery conditions, but not only did I not take any serious falls (only once – I had to put my hands down on the ground, but didn’t leave my feet), I didn’t see anyone else do so either.  Obviously a course like this has a lot of ups and downs, but I was still surprised to notice that my lungs were burning early on.  I checked my pace and it was slower than 7 min/km closer to 8 or even 9 for most of the time.  I was already almost 3km in before I thought to check my heart rate instead of my pace – 90% maximum.  Oops.

I still got the first 3km (i.e. the first third of the race) done without thinking I had been too aggressive, and I settled in for the middle third.  I had opted for a baseball-style hat which I never wear because I think it makes me look like a dork, but it was a better choice than my winter hat I use for winter running: I was warm soon enough, and the baseball brim kept rain out of my eyes and face.  In fact, I hardly felt wet at all, as long as I was running.

Somewhere near the 5km mark, I noticed I was doing more stepping on/over obstacles rather than leaping or bounding over them.  There just wasn’t enough ‘spring in my step’ and though I was able to keep moving, it lost the dynamic appeal for me.  I’d been doing more strength training lately, so it was a little unexpected, but maybe I didn’t have enough pre-race calories, or my cardio capacity should have been better.

The 5km area was just a crazy web criss-crossing the same ridge; in a road race, seeing other racers coming your way means a turnaround is near and you may be reaching a significant milestone (like the halfway or at least quarter-way point), but here, it just got confusing and disheartening: “I’m just going to keep seeing this same ridge again and again from slightly different angles!”.  Still, the mountain bike trail based course offered a lot of fun, especially on downhills.  I found myself banking into turns as if I was on a roller coaster!

I heard some complaints afterwards that the last aid station was not where it was supposed to be (it was supposed to be at 5km, it might have been closer to 3km).  I was wearing my Salomon hydration pack, so I didn’t really notice.

Near the end of the middle third, I stopped to take off my hat for a bit.  I noticed I was struggling more and more to keep a pace, and I realized I was overheating.  Some cool raindrops on my scalp was enough for me to put the hat back on and pick up the pace.  Obviously I was more tired than ever before, but after about the 7.5km mark, I realized the course was taking us back, and from the noise levels, I must be close to the finish.   I started to pour it on, and had another racer within site and made it my mission to catch her.  The last marshal said “Get in there!” or something like that, and it was good encouragement… I was getting really close, and it was going to be a tough call as to wheter I would catch her or not.  Suddenly, we both cried out “WHOA!” because we both hit the same patch of slippery mud at the same time and did a little surfing.  The last 10m of running switched to a kind of tentative ‘walk on eggshells’ stride and she finished the race just in front of me.  We shared a low five and went to get our recovery food.

Another finisher crosses the line!

I was smiling from the fun I’d just had and my smile would only widen as I helped myself to watermelon, bananas, cookies, bagels (with jam, cream cheese or Nutella available). The best thing I saw though… was JELLY BEANS!

They’re under the jube-jubes… you can’t trick me!

Once the high (and warmth) of having finished the race was wearing off, I looked to figure out if the race kits/swag would be handed out. Some people asked and were told “soon”. I think they wanted everyone to finish, and hand out all the awards at the same time as the finisher packages. I’m sorry to say, I lost patience; I had dry clothes in the car, but not a rain jacket to stay that way should I decide to walk back to the race site. Once I found myself shivering, I headed back to the car, changed, then drove away. This is my only real criticism of the race, making it hard to get the swag, but I understand that they don’t exactly have a ton volunteers to handle this kind of thing.  

I’ll happily do this series again next year!

Motivation Monday

I always see these motivational images on blogs and Pinterest.  I don’t always like them… so I decided to make a few of my own.  I’m not much of an artist, I hope it’s the thought that counts.

Too many of these motivational images praise pain over common sense.  Remember, He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

As part of a deal on Fitness Cheerleader’s blog that we get a link up by posting the past week’s activities so here goes:

  1. Monday: Bupkis
  2. Tuesday: Gravity Machine
  3. Wednesday: Nada
  4. Thursday: Dumbell Decathlon*
  5. Friday: Resting?
  6. Saturday: 5 Peaks Trail Run**
  7. Sunday: Home sick 🙁
*Here’s a link to this workout.  As a kid in school I had to do a report on a hero… I picked Bruce Jenner (gold medal decathlete and unfortunately now part of that whole Kardashian thing).  Still Decathlon is like, multi-sport before there was multi-sport, so the workout was up my alley.
**This was a lot of fun despite the lousy pre-Hurricane Sandy weather.  I’ll have a report up later in the week.  It must have torn down my immune system though, as I’ve been sick (head cold, achey bones) ever since.  Today, in fact, I’m posting this from my basement.  Hopefully I’ll bounce back and have another week of exercise to report on soon enough!

How I Rolled This Weekend

So many ideas for new posts, so few opportunities to get them done.  Some of these ideas will take a little research, so for now, I thought I’d just tell you about the weekend, or at least the fitness/active parts.

We celebrated both boys’ birthdays with a kids party this weekend, and for some of the parts of the weekend, we did a little divide and conquer with the boys.  That (and the beautiful weather) gave me my first opportunity to go for a run with Shark Boy in the Chariot.

I hadn’t been doing a lot of running these past weeks due to 1.) work schedule 2.) trying to manage my Achilles tendonitis, but I do have the end of season 5 Peaks Trail Run coming up, so it was good to get out there again.  Taking it easy, and not a long distance, but at least I was running.

Getting Shark Boy to ride in the Chariot involves stopping at a park so he can play a bit, it’s just part of the deal.  It had rained that morning, so the equipment was wet, and I had done a little upper body strength work the day before, but I got some squat and lunge variations (and a few inverted rows) done on the playground equipment.  No one was there to see, but Shark Boy seemed intrigued… maybe I can rope him into doing workouts with me in the future!

I also found out that he would have preferred to ride behind the bike instead of being pushed while running, which set us up to go biking the next day!

While I’m still annoyed at how Bike Trails in Mississauga can dead end or even worse, spit you out onto busy roads without a means of connecting back onto a bike network, I managed to put a small ride together in limited time.  That time was subtracted from with, you guessed it, another playground visit.

Hope you had a good weekend too…  Days are getting shorter and colder, so get out there while you can!

Matrix Reloaded

I made some changes to the blog design… I wish I could do more, but visuals are not my forte.  Still, I hope you like it; it’s wider for bigger pictures now.

On Sunday I took another crack at a Matrix Workout.  For my warm-up, I did kettlebell swings, 1 minute of mountain climbers, 10 burpees and 25 pushups.

Sorry about the orange… as if you weren’t sick of pumpkin themed stuff already.

Remember the structure?  Here it is again, at least, the current draft:

And here’s how I varied it this time…

Here’s me doing the Single-Leg Bent-Over Rear Shoulder Flys…not perfectly graceful, but whatever.

I used a pair of 8lb pyramid shaped weights I have, instead of 12lbs on this exercise, so I ended up doing more (15) reps instead.  At home, I did the pull-ups in more of an inverted row position; putting my feet on the bench takes weight off, and being closer to diagonal makes it easier on my shoulders. 15 reps done.

Some support on my lower body plus a less punishing angle for the lift.

For pushups this time, I managed 40 in one minute – I’m proud of that.
I found the resistance band I have at home is not quite as tight as the one in the gym – even if I placed my feet (see below) further apart, I still couldn’t get a lot of resistance from it.  I’m considering scrapping this as my endurance/back exercise, but I like how the continuously increasing resistance during the motion feels.  It’s different (better?) than using a free weight – I just need the magnitude of force used to be bigger.

Rows with the resistance band

I managed 2 circuits this time, and the second circuit was done in 10 minutes.  I want to get a little more used to the load and the current exercises (maybe make it to 3 circuits) then switch things up a little.

Strength Lab: Enter the Matrix

I am not a personal trainer (certified or otherwise) and I have no professional fitness training. Consult a doctor before engaging in an exercise program and follow my actions at your own risk.

I had a chance to think about Strength Training lately.  I haven’t had a chance to do it, but for the purposes of this post (and not beyond that), it’s the thought that counts.  With my fitness ADD, I’d like to try something new; no problem… people post workout routines every day, I’m sure I could find something cool; in fact I do every day, sometimes I pin them to my Pinterest Board.
I would, however, like to exercise my own creativity and knowledge and try to make something original that suits me, my needs and goals.

Here are some important considerations:

  • No machines.  I have lots of fitness equipment at home, where I’d like to be able to do this workout and I prefer exercises that promote functional movement.
  • Speaking of functional movement, strength training for me needs to incorporate elements that will improve core stability as well as balance, which get neglected a little in a triathlete’s other 3 disciplines.
  • I’m primarily an endurance athlete, I’m not looking to bulk up or achieve any explicit strength goals, I just want to reap benefits like lean body mass (and the enhanced calorie burn that results) and injury proofing.  In other words, hopefully I get more power and better muscular endurance in my swim/bike/run – I don’t care how much I can lift.
  • I have injuries that I don’t want to aggravate.

Doing functional movements tends to mean exercises that recruit multiple muscle groups at the same time rather than complete isolation.  A push-up works your chest, but also your shoulders and triceps.  So do most exercises that resemble a “Pushing” motion, and following that logic, I could divide my exercises by muscle groups as:

  1. Chest – a.k.a Push, includes shoulders and triceps
  2. Back – a.k.a Pull, includes biceps and trapezius
  3. Legs

I figure these would cover 95% of the exercises I would like to do.  In terms of goals/benefits to be achieved by strength training:

  1. Power/Strength.  The raw force I can instantaneously generate… fast twitch muscles. Hopefully I increase the bang for my buck I get out of each stroke, pedal revolution, or stride.
  2. Core/Balance.  Being able to do load bearing/resistance using my (mostly) own body for support means being able to recruit more from my core while I’m swimming/biking/running.
  3. Endurance.  Being able to hold a pose, or do lots of reps for a long time.  Lighter load, more reps.

Now take the red pill with me… and step into… THE MATRIX (workout)!

Matrix: 1.) a rectangular array of numbers, symbols or expressions
2.) a mold for casting letters

If I arrange the muscle groups as columns and the strength types as rows, I get a Matrix, with different exercises to fill in according to how they fit the criteria of the rows and columns.  Let’s take a look with what I came up with so far:

Already some questions/challenges: There seems to be a bit of overlap between Core/Balance and Endurance – some of the exercises could easily trade rows.  Furthermore, What order should I do them in?  I figured I shouldn’t start with the heaviest and allow myself to get a little more warmed up, so I didn’t put Power in the first row.  I also don’t really like the idea of two upper body exercises back-to-back.  Even though push-pull complement each other, I think some of the secondary muscles might object to the abuse.  I’m looking at you, shoulders.  So I think I’ll do them left to right, top to bottom, same as you’re probably reading the table.. I mean, matrix.  Finally, how many reps and how much weight (for non-bodyweight exercises)?  That’s where the experimentation starts… To the lab!

Plan A was to get up early and run through these in my basement; the kids have been sleeping a little better, so I thought a 5AM or so wake-up was feasible.  Well, I forgot to set the alarm and ended up having to soothe the Lightning Kid at 5 and 5:30 anyway.  

At the office gym,I don’t have time for full lunchtime workouts on Thursdays, but I figured I could manage once through before having to eat and go to a meeting.  Here’s how it worked out.

Chest/Push Legs Back/Pull
Core/Balance Bosu Pushups
20 reps
Single Leg Squats with Toe Touch
10 reps per leg
Single-Leg Bent-Over Rear Shoulder Flys
10 reps per leg with 12lb dumbbells
Power/Strength Bench Press
12 reps 30lb dumbbells
10 reps with 30lb dumbbells on shoulders
1 full pull-up, 8 reps of negative phase*
Endurance Pushups
For 1 minute (36 reps)
Wall Sit with Medicine Ball Squeeze
For 1 minute
Band Rows
For 1 minute


  • I warmed up with 3 minutes on a rowing machine.  As I mentioned, I was pressed for time.
  • I could probably go a little heavier on the bench press.
  • I knew I couldn’t do pull-ups well (or at all, really), but I’m going to have to get inventive with cheats/workarounds.  For the negative phase reps, I used a step to jump up to the top of the movement (with my chin at the bar) and lowered down slowly.  Even then, the latter reps were a little weak.  I could use a machine assist in the gym, or maybe resistance bands at home.  This will need some work.
  • The band rows were done with an extra cross-over compared to the pic in the link, i.e. my right foot was anchoring the end being pulled by my left hand and vice versa.  It seemed a little easy at first, but by the time a minute was closing out, I could feel some burn deep in my rhomboids and rear deltoids.  I think I’ll keep this one in the mix, though I need to be careful with consistency if the band I use (or my foot positioning) changes.

Not including the warm-up, getting through the circuit took me 14-15 minutes with the only rest between stations being the time it took to get setup with the right equipment. Not a long workout, but I want this thing to be scaleable; if I want a longer workout, I can work my way through the matrix/table again.  I’ll be looking for different exercises to drop into the various slots, either from workout to workout or even within the workout (from circuit to circuit).  Any suggestions for  that meet the Core/Balance | Power/Strength | Endurance vs. Chest/Push | Legs | Back/Pull intersection criteria? REMEMBER: NO MACHINES! You know what the machines did in the Matrix…

Boot Camp Sunday

I’m not entirely satisfied with my current ‘Off-Season’ schedule yet.  So far, I have my running club (with structured speed, tempo, hill workouts) on Mondays and Wednesdays.  On Tuesdays, if I can, I go to Gravity Machine at Goodlife, and I do a spin class to keep my biking muscles in shape on Fridays.  Thursdays I have meetings too close to lunch to fit a workout in, and the kids still aren’t letting us sleep enough for me to plan a morning or evening workout.

I usually fit in something good on the weekend though I don’t have anything dedicated yet.   Like I said, I’m not satisfied with the structure yet, but it’s not terrible either.  This Sunday I decided to visit my friend Peter (from Fit2Touch, which I’ve mentioned before here) at one of his Boot Camps.

Peter does a good job of mixing exercise disciplines, so you don’t know what you’re going to get.  The warm-up had some boxercise elements, and the cool-down had its fair share of Yoga.  That Sunday’s class worked our core muscles more than anything else, and the circuits got progressively harder with muscle groups being hit with supersets (2 or 3 different exercises that hit the same muscle group without stopping).  Compound exercises like lunges with a bicep curl were favoured, and he hit some weak areas (especially for me) like the rear deltoids.  After whipping us good with the strength circuit, he hit us with some more cardio centric work in the last circuits including jogging laps around a pool… which was a welcome relief to cardio junkies like me, actually.

Peter’s Boot Camp (a.k.a. FitBlitz) was a great way to make sure I’d gotten my entire body workout for the end of the week.

Peter and Edna have been featured on Dragon’s Den, and Steven and Chris.  Visit their site Fit2Touch or Edna’s Healthy Couples Blog here.