Friday Five: Tips For Active Family Living

If you’ve spent any time on this blog at all, you’ll have notice that our family life is an active one.  We run races (with a Chariot stroller) as a family.  We take ski vacations, as a family (yes, toddlers on skis).  Triathlons and duathlons are not just for adults.  Bike rides, cross-country skiing with both kids in tow.  One of my earliest posts (and one of my favourites) is about combining training time with family time – that might be one of the central themes of the Iron Rogue Blog in its entire 7 year history.  I say all this in the preface, so you’ll take me at my word when I say might know a thing or two about keeping whole family moving.

I was inspired to write this post after a crazy weekend in Collingwood full of skiing (downhill and cross-country),  and swimming too.  It took some time for me to crystalize the most important things I’ve learned into a list of 5 lessons, but here goes.

  1. Leave it to the last minute.

This one sounds counter-intuitive, as planning and organization are the keys to stress-free living, right?  And when it comes to races (and booking travel, etc.) earlier means cheaper.  Still, nothing is more expensive than paying for an event you can’t attend at all.  I once DNS’ed (did not start) the Bracebridge Triathlon because the Lightning Kid got sick.  This year, we wanted to go to Collingwood for a weekend, and I wanted to do the Tubbs Romp 2 Stomp snowshoe race, but with it being a brutal winter (that might make the drive difficult, or be too cold for outdoor fun), with a brutal cold/flu season to go with it, we knew it might not happen, so we waited till a couple of days before where it seemed like it was going to be OK to leave home, then we booked the hotel and I registered at the race site (online registration was already closed) and hoped for the best (see #4).
  1. Be Flexible (WYCWYC*)

Why are you out there?  Fresh air, fun, and exercise.  Those are the reasons, those are the goals, and the actual activity/sport you are trying to do are just the means to an end.  When we put the Lightning Kid on skis, we only hope he’ll try to move his feet a little, or if we’re at the hill, one single run (him riding between my legs) is a victory. (WYCWYC=What You Can, When You Can)

My wife and I used to volunteer with the Ontario Track 3 Ski program for children with special needs (everything from cognitive/developmental delays like autism to physical impairments like cerebral palsy), and the motto was always “first safety, then fun, then learning.”  While we ostensibly there to teach the kids to ski, sometimes you couldn’t really get that far with them, and if rolling down a snowbank was what they wanted to do, then that’s what would take place that day.  You would be connecting with them, and they with physical activity in the outdoors, and sometimes that would lead to better chances at learning the actual sport later on.  It’s not really different for any children, especially when they’re very young.  You have to take what you can get today, and hope it pays off tomorrow, which brings me to point #3…
  1. Consider the Long Game

I’ve taken the Lightning Kid out in the Kayak, and traversed a total distance of about 200m.  It was still worth it, because he got exposed to boating, and I got a little, tiny bit of exercise.

When we went cross-country skiing last year, we had some outings where the time spent on skis was all of 30 minutes, and that’s with about 90 minutes of driving each way; I don’t even want to get into the time spent packing the car, unpacking at the trail-head, re-packing at the trail-head, and unpacking at home.  This year, though, we’re lasting longer (especially Shark Boy who’s gotten faster and stronger, completing some 2 km trails himself).

At very young ages, it’s hard to know how much they remember, but somehow the routine of getting out of the regular routine pays dividends and sticks into their character makeup later on.  

It goes for more than just the kids, it goes for you too.  It takes a second to lose your patience; how long does it take to find your patience.  Fairly long, I’ll bet.  Being patient has never been a strong suit of mine, and when I found out one of my children was going to have special needs, it became a real fear that my lack of patience would keep me from being a good father to him.  I honestly think I’m getting better at waiting for the kids to learn what I’m trying to teach (manners, reading, physical education).  You just have to believe that it will pay off; you have to…

  1. Use Your Optimism Muscle

This past weekend, I had to take care of both boys myself.  Well, like any red-blooded adult who is in control of their life, I ran to my mother for help.  We went to her place on Saturday afternoon and spent the night as well as all day Sunday there.  There are two ways I can relate the events of the weekend.

      • Both boys were sick with nasty colds, and I had one too, feeling feverish and being nearly unable to swallow on Friday night, meaning…
      • I barely slept between taking care of their various discomforts and my own
      • We didn’t get outside much
      • The kids demonstrated that they still don’t listen no matter how many times they’re told, to the point that their doting grandmother even noticed that their behaviour was lousy


      • I got the Lightning Kid to his soccer program and Shark Boy to his dance lesson on time.
      • The kids and their grandmother got to spend time together/I got to see my mother.
      • The kids and Shark Boy’s Godfather got to spend time together
      • We got to enjoy my mother’s wonderful cooking
      • I got to do a favour for my wife, who totally deserved the weekend away from the kids
      • I got more bonding time with the kids, especially cuddling up with the Lightning Kid during his nap (while I read a few chapters on my e-reader)
      • It honestly gave me a sense of achievement to have gotten through it all (parenting is the ultimate endurance sport)

While the weekend doesn’t typify one of our family outdoor adventures (we only got outside long enough to shovel her driveway), it’s a good demonstration of how your attitude re-frames the experience.

  1. Sacrifice

There have been many times we’ve come back from an outing, tuckered out, and the day waning, and I’ve thought: “I guess I’m not going to clean the garage again”, or whatever random task I’ve equated with being a real adult who is in control of their life.  On balance, though, those tasks are unlikely to cause me any deathbed regrets.  Taking care of yourself, getting outside and spending time with your family are the things you’ll regret not doing.  And again, this is a two way street – your kids might not make it to that classmate’s birthday party that they were invited to, because they were out with you.  It might not have been their first choice to go out biking/skiing/spelunking with you, but as parents, we make healthier choices for their diets, activities (both mental and physical), and everything else; what are they going to remember more fondly on their deathbed (sorry to be morbid… let’s just say they live to be 999), fun times in the great outdoors, moving their young, healthy bodies with loved ones, or a bunch of cake and wrapping paper to spoil a classmate whose name they won’t remember anyway.

Between increases in youth obesity, and wanting to limit ‘screen time’, many families are looking to make fitness a family affair, as Victoria Freile writes.  As I discussed the topic of this post with my wife, she pointed out how much more we have to learn; smart cookie.  Forging an active family life is an on-going, iterative process.  Some, like Katie Arnold of Outside Magazine’s column Raising Rippers are at the more extreme end of the spectrum, while some families would probably be happy to take regular family walks.  When you start early with your children, they absorb it easily and fitness becomes part of their lifestyle; inactive adults need to learn this like a new skill.  While how well my pants fit has fluctuated, I’m lucky in that I never had to figure out how to get active.  I was raised in such a way that exercise was as natural a habit as washing.  It’s a gift I hope to pass on to my kids, and hopefully the generations that come after I’m long gone.

Hopefully, some of you reading this will be able to use it to make your family life more active, and then I’ll have passed on the gift even further.

How does your family get active together today?  Are you looking to do better?

Swim Workout: Thursday 300s

I did this swim workout 2 weeks ago, and I thought it might be worth sharing.  The general idea (especially the main set) is from Gale Bernhardt’s Training Plans for Multisport Athletes.  The idea is a time trial test to determine race pace and other paces that are needed for tempo-type work etc.

  1. Warm-up for 300m
  2. Do 300m of power work with hand paddles
  3. Do 3 intervals of 300m.  Try to finish each of these with completion times that are within 15 seconds of each other.  Effort should be hard, but not so hard that you’re blown up in the third set and the times are inconsistent.  Rest 30s to 1 min between intervals
  4. Do 3 sprint intervals of 50m.  Rest 30s to 1 min between intervals
  5. Cool-down for 150m
Total distance: 1800m

If you average the  time of your main set 300m intervals and divide by 3, you get a benchmark time for 100m.  Slower than this for aerobic work, faster for speed work…

Looking at the stats from my test 2 weeks ago, it seems my Garmin 910XT and I don’t agree on interval lengths. If I look at the average 100m pace for Intervals 3, 4, 5 (the main set), rather than the total times of the intervals, we see I’m not quite consistent enough; the times vary by almost a minute, when the paces should vary by about 5 seconds or less (5 seconds=15 seconds/3).

Oh well, I’ll be doing this time trial several times during the 27 week training plan, which starts soon enough…

Tri-ed It Tuesday: The Doctor’s Diet (STAT and RESTORE plans)

As of this writing I weigh 193 lbs down from 207 on New Years Day for a loss of 14 pounds.  The credit goes to the Doctor’s Diet by Travis Stork.  While I’m not a nutritionist, dietitian or any kind of health professional, I could see that the “diet” (I don’t like the word, as it implies the fad, temporary/transient kind of change) wasn’t eliminating anything healthy or necessary, and would work for an omnivore like me who likes most kinds of food.

The Doctor’s Diet has 3 phases: STAT, RESTORE and MAINTAIN.  Obviously the MAINTAIN plan is not a diet but more of a way to install healthy eating habits for the rest of your life, and it uses the same principles, it’s just that the other two phases are more restrictive and have a weight loss goal.  STAT and RESTORE are 2 weeks each, and you’re supposed to alternate between them (STAT first) until you reach your goal weight.  N.B. all I’m doing is summarizing the general principles of the plans, to actually implement them, you’ll need the book.

The STAT plan defines foods you can eat by single portions (in general) of the following categories, though there are some cross-overs.  The list of examples is not exhaustive, but reflective of what we used.

  • Healthy Fats – Nut butters, Avocado, Hummus, Oils, Nuts
  • Protein – Lean Meats like chicken breast (though we sometimes used thighs), ground beef, eggs
  • Vegetables – Name a vegetable (except the high-density ones listed below)
  • High Density Vegetables – Sweet potato, Yam, Corn, Lima beans, black-eyed peas.
  • Fruit – Apples, Berries and Grapefruit
  • Whole Grains – whole wheat bread, whole wheat English muffins, oatmeal.

The tough parts of the first two weeks were probably getting used to smaller portions, even when eating healthy foods (no pigging out) and ditching sugar.  The STAT plan is restrictive in order to kick start the recovery process of being dependent on simple carbohydrates.  We used the meal plans provided and stuck to them fairly strictly, though we continued our practice of using the previous night’s dinner as the current day’s lunch.  I think we were able to do this without unbalancing any of the equations.  The equations are as follows:
  • Breakfast: 1 Breakfast Protein + 1 STAT Fruit
  • Lunch: 1 Main-Dish Protein + 2 or more Anytime Vegetables
  • Dinner: 1 Main-Dish Protein + 2 or more Anytime Vegetables
  • Snack: 1 Snack Protein + 1 STAT Fruit + 1 or more Anytime Vegetables. Have the snack when you need it – mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or after dinner
  • Daily flex-time foods: Each day (at the meal or snack of your choice ) enjoy these additional foods: 1 Healthy Fat, 1 Whole Grain, 1 High-Density Vegetable.
The RESTORE plan has an extra whole grain per day, and occasional alcoholic beverages allowed.  It also widens the selections of fruit.  I’m still getting familiar with the RESTORE plan, and I have to finish other chapters on “Food Prescriptions” where certain foods (and the nutrients they are rich in) are used to address needs that the general North American diet doesn’t cover well.
Here are some of my observations after using both the STAT and RESTORE plans –

  • Water.  The prescription is to drink a big glass of water before the meal.  We often used big pint glasses at home, though I don’t think they needed to be that big.  The benefits of staying hydrated are well documented, and habitually drinking before eating was a simple way to make sure we got more water into ourselves without having to remember to do it during the course of the day
  • Fruits and vegetables.  My wife likes fruit, but not vegetables and I’m the opposite.  Being on the structured plan forced us to get portions of each every day, so our shopping list ended up looking like a compromise of what we both would hold as the ideal.  The last time (before undertaking the Doctor’s Diet) I asked for vegetable snacks like peppers, cucumbers, etc. I would eat them once, then the rest would rot in the fridge.  Eating veggies (and similarly fruit) every day meant they got used up and didn’t spoil.
  • Rapid weight loss.  While losing weight quickly isn’t an ideal goal, it did help me stay motivated to weigh myself every day (also a general no-no) and see the numbers drop.  It reminded me that what I was doing was working.
  • Flavour.  Dr. Stork advocates food that tastes good, quite simply.  Salsa, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric  are  good examples of something he pushes as a way to keep food as tasty as possible, while adding nutritional value and without harmful stuff like sugars.  Making healthy fats a part of every day helps too.

  • I’m a little concerned about the lack of carbohydrates, especially going forward.  At first, my exercise regimen was more strength-based, with most cardio sessions being less than 45 minutes a day.  As I ramp up my training for the Half-Iron triathlon, I’m pretty sure my carb intake needs to go up.  In fact, maybe my calorie intake overall needs to go up so my body doesn’t start burning muscle.  It’s going to be a fine-tuning process, but it is notable that the book doesn’t discuss exercise much beyond encouraging people to get that 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily; this might not be an “athlete’s” diet, but it is a healthy one in principle, so it’s a great start.
  • Deprivation.  While Dr. Stork is anti-deprivation in terms of long term lifestyle, the STAT plan is pretty strict for 14 days.  I think 14 days of discipline is good for you, but in two weeks, it’s easy to have a day (or more) where you could really use a glass of w(h)ine, or a beer, or chocolate.  It does get better as you go along, and you break your dependence on sinful food as a reward system.  Bacon seems to be out altogether, and that’s hard (for a guy like me) too.

We’re moving forward with the Doctor’s Diet (although the Valentine’s Day/Family Day weekend cracked the foundation), as the guiding principle for healthy living.  I have a goal weight of 187 pounds, which I’m looking forward to meeting soon.

While a lifestyle with healthy eating with a general, long-term and sustainable implementation is always preferable, do you feel there is a place for a short-term “diet” go kick-start weight loss and good habits?

Collingwood Madness (Part 2)

In case you missed Part 1, here it is!

Having completed our snowshoe races, it was time for the main event, as far as spending time together as a family is concerned.  Cross-country skiing!  We’d eaten our lunch in the chalet, and we were hoping our legs (that is, Shark Boy and I’s legs) were well rested.  As I mentioned in the race recap, trails at Scenic Caves start with a climb, so it can be tough going.  The nice part was that they had regroomed the parts of the ski trails that had been traversed by snowshoe racers, so we had a nice track to follow.

We started by following the ‘Easy Peasy’ 2km trail, which links up to the more extensive trail network where you can add mileage as you see fit.  On some ski outings, the Lightning Kid has been a little fussy in the Chariot; he seems to want his mom around which doesn’t work well since I tend to speed ahead while she helps coach Shark Boy on his own skis.  This time, it seemed I was in luck – the race meant getting a late start on skis, so that he was in the Chariot around his midday nap and quickly fell asleep.   Somehow, the camera on my phone wasn’t working and I couldn’t get any pictures, but this blog already has plenty of family cross-country ski photos.   I had made up my mind to tack at least an extra 1.1km on by myself, but I waited by the crucial fork for my wife and Shark Boy to arrive to make sure that they took the right branch to complete Easy Peasy and get back to the chalet.  While there, I had to engage in the usual banter with passers-by who always ask if they can hitch a ride on the Chariot too.  I think the conversation got too loud, or it’s possible that the Lightning Kid’s damp socks were a problem in the cold, but he woke up and started crying, so I took Easy Peasy back as quickly as I could.  I would have liked more mileage that day, but what can you do? He did settle down once I got him inside.

Apparently Shark Boy really struggled to finish the trail with legs that must have been tired from the snowshoe race.  We packed it in, and headed to the Day’s Inn where my wife had booked the last available room earlier in the week.  It has a pool, but we were sorely tempted to check out a water park found in Blue Mountain Village that we’d heard good things about.  It’s called Plunge! and we gave into temptation and took it.  We were a little worried because it seems like the Lightning Kid gets sick every time he goes swimming.  I hoped that he’d spend more time with the splash pads than immersed in deeper water and that it might make the difference.

The boys chilling before we went to the Aquatic Centre

We arrived a little after 4PM, and it turns out that’s a popular time to arrive since families that have since left the ski hills at Blue Mountain are looking for their next activity.  The pool was filled to capacity, but they were expecting some exits soon.  The cashier explained the situation to everyone standing in line and pointed to the expected cutoff, where the wait would be conceivably much longer.  That cutoff point was right behind me. This was to be one of many examples of what some might call a guardian angel looking over us, or having horseshoes where the sun don’t shine, whatever your preference.

Once we were in, I found myself a little disappointed by the size of it, which I had assumed would be much bigger.  Still there was a swimming pool with some splash features and toys like pool noodles, mats, life jackets in addition to a splash pad with a small water slide and some fountains which were loved by the Lightning Kid.  Shark Boy and I went through the pool doorway to the outdoor pools which had additional (and larger) water slides; I didn’t want him getting out of the water in below freezing temperatures, so we headed back inside.  We let them have fun till nearly 5:30 and then decided to get out, change and head to dinner.

Through the Days’ Inn we got a 10% discount at Boston Pizza, and that restaurant was on a short list of places we’d try with the kids; it has a good selection of food (and beer), and is quite kid friendly.  I considered ordering a chicken pecan salad, to try and stay on track nutritionally, but I was simply too hungry so I ended up with a huge bowl of Butter Chicken Linguine (I substituted in their whole wheat linguine for the regular fettuccine at least).  The real highlight of the dinner, though, was seeing a young man named Kevin as part of the staff.  Kevin (like the Lightning Kid) happens to have Down syndrome, and according to his co-workers, is a great, friendly, professional and welcome recent addition to their team.  Apparently this isn’t uncommon at Boston Pizza locations…if we liked Boston Pizza before, that sealed the deal for us!

With a King size bed and a pull-out couch, and two boys who roll all around their beds at night, we opted to put the Lightning Kid on couch cushions on the floor, while my wife slept next to him on the pull-out couch.  Shark Boy and I shared the King size bed where I could plug in my CPAP machine.  Around midnight, the Lightning Kid woke up with very wheezy breathing.  Having dealt with bronchiolitis and pneumonia in the past, we opted to take him to the hospital to get his oxygen levels checked (N.B. I deal with plenty of armchair diagnosis in real life and on Facebook, so I don’t want to get into those kinds of discussions in this space).  I stayed at the hotel with Shark Boy, though of course I couldn’t sleep (though I did whine about it on Facebook).  We must have found more horseshoes, since the problems were limited to his upper respiratory tract; the doctor figured it might be from dust in the room – I blame the couch cushions.  I switched to the pull-out (no more CPAP) and my wife had to share the King size with both boys – resulting in sleeping perched on the edge of the bed.  Still, it did improve the Lightning Kid’s breathing and he was well enough to ski the next day.

We had a delicious breakfast at the Westside Diner, and returned to the hotel to pack up and check out.  Then it was over to Blue Mountain to try and get the kids to find their ski legs.  I generally find Blue Mountain over-priced and over-crowded, but I have to say, guest services hooked us up with the minimum price of tickets we needed to get the kids on the magic carpet (and down the bunny hill).  A beginner ticket for me, a free pedestrian ticket for my wife (she didn’t put on equipment, just stayed on foot for coaching), and free kids tickets.  Shark Boy seemed to remember enough from last year to ride the magic carpet up without a problem, and he needed very little intervention after the first couple of runs where he fell a few times.  The Lightning Kid was eager to ride up, but a little fussy about riding down.  A few times we got him to take a few steps independently, and I tried holding him between my knees with a ski pole acting as a kind of safety bar.  Frankly, it was a bit of a struggle for me – he’s so small I found it awkward to bend down enough.  I did get a couple of short bursts where he’d sort of stride and flap his feet like a walk or strut as we slid down the bunny hill.  The problem was when he’d cross his skis I’d have to lift him up in the air long enough to uncross them.  One time I pulled up on my ski pole and ended up giving him a fat lip.  He screamed and cried, but somehow I talked him into one more run (if only for the chance to go up the magic carpet again).  This time we both managed to get good bent knees with low centres of gravity and we zoomed down the hill… to the squeals of delight of my wife.  Being able to ski as a family seemed doubtful when we first got his diagnosis, even though we’d skied with kids with special needs when we used to volunteer with the Ontario Track 3 Ski Program.

It was only few runs, but we called it a victory before my wife took him inside to warm up.  Shark Boy and I continued a few runs where I gave him a turning exercise by planting a ski pole in front of him (ambush!).  I find I’m never dressed warm enough for the outdoors when I’m with the kids; it’s a slower activity than I plan for so I get cold.  We did 3 more runs and re-joined the rest of our family for lunch.

After lunch it was time to head home.  Shark Boy wanted to know what else was on tap for the day!  I guess, it’s just never enough.  Or rather, it is, because the cranky attitude was reflective of the fatigue.  He fell asleep in about 2 minutes of driving, which meant he missed another example of our horseshoe angels’ help.  I must not have tightened the ski rack enough before leaving, and it opened on the country road heading from the ski hill into Collingwood proper.  My wife and I’s cross-country skis and poles flew off the car and landed on the road behind us! The downhill skis were heavier and stayed put.  What could have been a disaster ended up being a shining example of how generous people can be.  Cars behind us stopped (without running our equipment over) and even helped me get everything off the road so we could all get moving again as quickly as possible.  The skis didn’t take any significant damage (a few nicks and scuffs), and I tightened and locked the rack as best as I could.

The snow continued to fall, as it had all day, so I was extremely nervous about the drive home.  Luckily, although it was slow going, visibility was good enough and everyone seemed to be driving sensibly, so we got home safe and sound, had dinner as a family, put the kids to bed, and unpacked.  By the time we crawled into bed, my wife and I could do nothing but smile at each other, both awed by all the craziness we’d experienced in 48 hours, and proud of our accomplishments.

Tri-ed It Tuesday – Race Recap: Romp 2 Stomp Snowshoe Race

I typed the first part of this post on a Saturday night in a hotel business centre in Collingwood, Ontario.  I was intending to finish writing about the entirety of the Saturday, but the slow net connection and my own exhaustion made it impossible.  As I type this now with borderline frostbitten fingertips, I know I have to break the tale of our crazy Collingwood weekend up into more than one post.  For now, you’ll have to settle for my contribution to the Lakeshore Runner Tri-ed It Tuesday linkup: a recap of our first snowshoe race.

I’ve wanted to take part in a snowshoe race for some time now.  I’ve owned my own snowshoes for over a year, but I haven’t gotten many chances to get proficient with them. This year I missed two chances to take part in snowshoeing events run by Personal Best at Albion Hills.  Not only was the venue close, but vendors were allowing you to try on snowshoes for demonstration purposes, and they had children’s sizes, so I ended up getting Shark Boy all psyched up to, only for us to miss our shot by a few minutes each time.  As a family, we made cross-country skiing the top priority weekend outdoor activity, and snowshoeing kept getting punted.

Before we were married, my wife and I used to love coming up to Collingwood for both cross-country and downhill skiing, and even with two kids, we still try to make the effort.  Knowing that we wanted to make such a weekend happen, and since I found the Romp To Stomp Snowshoe Race (benefitting the fight against Breast Cancer), I had a way to kill two birds with one stone.  All I had to do was pack cross-country ski gear for four people, downhill gear for four people, the Chariot, my snowshoes, plus swimsuits and clothes for an overnight stay into my car…

We’ve had to deal with enough chaos in our life (e.g. the Lightning Kid getting sick in the last minute) that I was unwilling to pre-register; I just have to live with having every plan be tentative.  I had packed the car the night before, but when I got outside on Saturday morning to pull the car out of the garage, I saw it was snowing.  Heavily.  This was going to impact the ideal schedule… not catastrophic, but chaotic as the norm.  After a 2 hour drive, we were passing through Collingwood on the way to Scenic Caves, where the event was being held, and we saw that there was parking for the event in town with shuttles to Scenic Caves.  This didn’t bode well, since we knew we wanted to park there so we’d have access to both the snowshoe event and cross-country ski trails afterwards.  Luckily, the staff let us park in their lot, even though it was off-limits to race participants.

The building housing the registration desk was far from just about everything else, but luckily (again) Shark Boy and I made it in time.  It was a bit of an ordeal filling out at least 3 different forms, and the network connection was too spotty to make a credit card authorization for my $42 (plus tax) registration fee.  Somehow, we still got out with our race bibs pinned to our jackets and I got a demo pair of Tubbs (the main sponsor) snowshoes for Shark Boy, and I still had time to change into my Salomon trail runners and grab my own snowshoes.

The ‘Lil Rompers’ race took place first.  It was a very short out and back of only a few hundred meters; a nice little sprint for the little ones to get their energy out and try out what it was like to run in snowshoes.  Shark Boy did great, and took to snowshoes like a Shark to water (where do you think we get that nickname from?).  He was actually last to cross the finish line, but he was one of the smallest/youngest kids, and there were several who gave up crying.  He always puts on a brave face, but I found out later that he was actually a little upset at coming in ‘last’ and when I spoke to him about it on Sunday night, he also complained of getting snow kicked into his face (which I would also experience at the start of my own race).  I explained about how his not giving up and crossing the finish line made him a hero to me, and it’s one of the things I love about him most.  I hope that’s worth a gold medal to him…

Starting Line

Shark Boy is in the green jacket back there…

Look at the snow fly!

If you see a lot of pink in these pictures it’s because the Romp To Stomp Snowshoe series benefits the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.  So in addition to being a lot of fun, they’re also helping out a great cause.

As I lined up for my own race, of course a few nerves kicked in.  I asked some of my fellow participants if they knew what colour our trail (3 km race, there was also a 5 km race and 3 km walk available) was blazed.  Someone pointed out to me that I was wearing a Walk bib as opposed to a race bib.  I needn’t have worried, as there were pink and blue arrows spray painted into the snowbanks and marshals at every possible fork to keep anyone from getting lost.  As we took off, I had only 3 people running in front of me, but their intensity was enough to kick up a good cloud of powder.  As I settled into a pace I thought I could maintain, we got a little spaced out on the trail and I stayed firmly in fourth place.  Scenic Caves is on the Niagara Escarpment, and as such the trails are made to start with a lot of climbing (which is better than ending with a lot of climbing).  I’m familiar with the terrain from cross-country skiing here over the years, but I’m not as competent at pacing myself on snowshoes, and try as I might to climb slowly while still ‘running’ I found myself taking it back to a walk.  I blame peer-pressure, as the other front runners were doing it too, so it only seemed sensible.  The snowshoes have little teeth that make traction a non issue, so every step was efficient and meaningful.

What I noticed about the snowshoe trails (when they deviated from the ski trails) is that they can go into much denser vegetation since there’s less chance of quickly careening off trail into a tree.

Whoever was in first had left the rest behind, but I kept seeing racers 2 and 3 a little ahead, and some of the volunteers even egged me on to try and catch them.  On uphills I felt like I was gaining ground, but on every descent they’d seem to disappear.  I eventually learned that I can lean into a downhill on snowshoes much like when I run normally.

Another way I might have been losing ground was that I stopped to take pictures.  When it came to crossing the big suspension bridge, I simply had to.  It has a great view, and luckily I’m not afraid of heights…
The bridge is 25m above a stream below…

…and 300m above Georgian Bay.

On the final kilometre of the race, I finally began to gain ground on racers 2 and 3 who seemed to be sticking together, with one always a little ahead of the other.  There was one last big climb that I managed to maintain enough intensity on to pass them both.  I still needed to drop back into a walk before the top, but I figure my longer legs kept me ahead on a stride by stride basis.  My only regret about this race was not wearing my heart rate monitor strap; I think it would have been interesting to know exactly how hard I was going.

Once I crossed the finish line, they let me know I came in second place!  Not bad for someone racing in snowshoes for the first time!  I think I heard them announcing some of the podium places for both 3km and 5km racers later on, but I was busy with the family at the time.  We might have been chowing down on Maple Lodge Chicken Dogs which were available for nothing but a donation to Breast Cancer awareness.  They were tasty!  If it wasn’t the chicken dogs, then we were out continuing our adventures on the cross-country ski trails, which will be the first part of Chapter 2 of our Collingwood Adventure. So I’m leaving you with a bit of a cliff hanger… see you next time!

Friday Five: February Goals

I was inspired by Krysten over at Darwinian Fail to write up a series of fitness goals for February (and also, though not as recently, Robyn Baldwin’s Winter Bucket List).  I guess I’m really feeling the flow fitness wise.  Let’s see if I can round this out to the standard Five for Friday, though I expect some inter-dependence in these, if not out-right recursion (that’s a reference for any programming geeks out there).

  • Start implementing the structure of my Half-Iron training plan.  Though I haven’t thoroughly outlined it in this space yet, you might have caught a glimpse of the training plan last weekend.  In the early stages, I’m allowed 30-60 minute spin classes for bike rides (even when more in specified) and some workouts are marked with an asterisk which means I can cross-train in other activities instead of biking or running.  The important thing for me before the official plan kicks off in March, is getting used to the logistics of over an hour of strength training on Mondays and Wednesdays, as well as making Tuesdays and Thursdays both Swim and Run days.

  • Snowshoe.  Not only is this a valid form of cross-training mentioned above, but having bought a pair of snowshoes last year, it’s a return on investment.  I’m hoping to do the Tubbs Romp To Stomp this weekend.  I wanted to continue my commute series by snowshoeing to work after the last snowstorm, but it was too cold.  Still, with some initiative, I should be able to fit some snowshoeing in.  (Update: I did 20 minutes worth on Thursday morning… it’s exhausting, especially if you’re doing it on unbroken fresh snow).

  • Combine Weight-lifting and Yoga for Strength.  One of the things I’ve noticed about the training plan is that there’s no room for yoga, and the other is that strength workouts are timed for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I rarely lift weights for more than an hour – in my defence, I tend to structure whole body workouts and execute them in circuits.  Maybe I could learn to space out the sets, do more sets, and make bigger gains, but the truth is I also get bored.  I figure if I stay close to my basic structure which includes split squats, deadlifts, lat pull-downs and bench presses (or my dumbbell doubles time-saver) and vary things by throwing in some extra exercises that I see here and there, especially functional ones like pistol squat modifications, negative phase pull-ups, and handstands, I’ll get good variability and gains.  And of course, I’ll cap the workout off with some yoga flows that will include strength/balance work (crow pose is one I’d like to master).

  • Continue with the Doctor’s Diet I still haven’t written up a comprehensive review of this yet.  Since I’d like to continue the weight loss, I’ll be alternating between the STAT and RESTORE plans which are similar, but the RESTORE is more permissive in its list of fruits and has more (complex, not simple) carbs.  The longer we stick with this the more natural it becomes to adapt our lifestyle to it.  We still lean heavily on the meal plans, but we’ve had (and will continue to have) on the fly substitutions when we’re out and about.  

  • Enjoy the outdoors as a family  I think I can give us an ‘A’ grade on this for the winter season so far, we’ve gone cross-country skiing, I’ve taken Shark Boy skating, and the boys have even fooled around in the snow while I shovel the driveway (they even help shovel for a few minutes before a better offer comes along in the form of the neighbours’ snowbanks).   Not only do I want to keep it up though,  I also want to do even better than we have done.  So far there have been 2 factors that keep us from enjoying the winter outdoors on some days: 1.) No snow.  Snow is what makes winter fun especially for kids; we need it for cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, tobogganing, snowmen, and general fooling around.  There’s not a lot we can do about the actual weather, which brings me to factor number 2.) The cold.  While we do have to think safety first, and some of the days have simply been too cold to avoid frostbite or hypothermia, there have been days where the kids are seemingly fine, but the adults give up the ghost first? Why? Simple, we just put on coats, hats and gloves, whereas the kids have long underwear and more importantly snow-pants on.  Obviously, the answer is for us to put on snow-pants and get down to their level; we’ll probably be warmer playing along than standing there supervising anyway.  We can use our ski-pants, but I’m curious if they have snow-pants for adults…
Do you have any goals for February? Are you getting the most out of winter so far?