A Long Bike Ride: Tour De Lake Of Bays

You might say I crossed an item off my bucket list this weekend – the odd part is that I forgot that it was on my bucket list (insofar as I have one).  You see, when I was little, my father and a friend rode their bicycles around Lake of Bays over the course of a day.  He’d repeated the feat with my mother a few years later, though I had forgotten that little factoid.  At any rate, he told me that it was a challenge worth taking on, and I always thought I would do it one day “when I was grown up”.

A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

I was trying to come up with a good long, training ride to do at the cottage when I remembered all this, so it fell to me and Sable to get the job done.  I called it “Tour De Lake of Bays” #TourDeLakeOfBays.

The first 24-25 km of the route were very familiar to me, as I had rode them last week.  It was a lot hotter and sunnier this time, though.  There is bridge construction in Dorset, which made for a good time to text a status update and take a CLIF Shot (chocolate flavour) gel.

After Dorset came the Highway 117 leg, which probably caused me more suffering than any other part.  It was very long and unfamiliar, and though I hoped that it would be flatter thanks to how it hewed close to the lakeshore, I was confronted with the same kind of hills I’d been climbing the whole time in my own backyard parts of Muskoka.  It must have gotten monotonous and seemed worse than it was, because the Garmin analysis shows I kept up a speed average of over 25 km/h for over an hour.

A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

When I rolled into Baysville, I was seeing familiar sites.  I’ve heard stories of people on long bike rides stopping for Starbucks, or Tim Horton’s or whatnot, but stopping at a brewery would take the cake.  I didn’t though, since I knew I wasn’t going to be keeping to my projected 3 hour schedule, and I didn’t want to shirk child-minding duties entirely.  I doubt the alcohol would have done much for my safety or performance, but it would have tasted SOOOO good.
A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

While being familar ground, the final stretch of Brunel Road followed by South Portage were the toughest. For starters, there was construction on Brunel Road for the first 3-4 km. I had been forewarned about it, but I figured it would be a closed lane or some narrowing; the road was as good as gone!

I didn’t like taking my brand new bike over that gravelly road, but I didn’t have much choice, and taking it easy for safety was a good excuse to take it easy, and give my legs a rest. When I reached the end of the construction zone, I saw a sign that put me a little on the defensive…

The last part of the ride along Brunel takes you by some very pretty lakes; there’s Shewfelt – which is nearly a pond, and Axel Lake (!) which isn’t too visible from the road. I stopped to take a pic of North Tooke Lake (I think) and it’s one of the nicer landscape pictures I’ve ever taken (at least with the help of an Instagram filter).
A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

I finished the ride back at my starting point with a time of 3:17 and texted for a pick-up. I was pretty spent, and even laid down in the dirt for a bit. Being attacked by bugs made me realize that at least I’m in good enough shape to recovery quickly from when I think I’m all tapped out.
A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

I’ve still got some time before Barrelman, so I may use this route again (with some add-ons, probably).

It would be great to be able to get it under 3 hours.

Do you have a training ride that is like a dragon that you have yet to slay?

Introducing My New Bike: Sable

sable (countable and uncountable, plural sables)
  1. A small carnivorous mammal of the Old World that resembles a weasel, Martes zibellina, from cold regions in Eurasia and theNorth Pacific islands, valued for its dark brown fur (Wikipedia).
  2. The marten, especially Mustela americana.
  3. A black colour, resembling the fur of some sables.

My new bike is an Argon18 E-80.  I’m not an expert on bike technology, but this is a solid bike with a combination carbon/aluminium frame, with an aerodynamic design that has been fully validated in a wind tunnel.  One thing I noticed in some research I did, is that for example, the front brakes are behind the fork to benefit from their aerodynamic shape; some bikes put the brakes in front of the fork where they only spoil the effect of the aero fork.  And of course, it fit my budget of $2000.00.

Argon18 is a Canadian company, which doesn’t hurt, and I’ve been playing around with red and black as an aesthetic; these things shouldn’t matter, but I can’t help myself.

So, back to the introduction, the bike is not only black, but named after a swift predator that relies on guile and skill more than raw power.  That’s why I picked the name.

Sadly, as of this writing, I won’t have ridden her yet.  I put on new SPD pedals, and when I wanted to switch my shoes to the correct adapters (I had bought both the pedals and the adapters over a year ago from a different store), it appears there were parts missing, so it couldn’t be done on the spot, and they didn’t have any more in stock.  There are some other complicating factors which I can’t go into right here, right now, but I do like the store where I bought the bike, Bike Zone Mississauga.

Between getting a proper fit, and accessories (like water bottles), I’m sure I’ll be spending more money…

Have you named your bike? What’s the silliest bike name you’ve heard?

Motivation Monday: My Vision Board

Vision Boards are a way to maintain motivation and maintain focus on your life goals.  It’s one of those new-age semi-hokey things that I’m guilty of rolling my eyes at when I’ve read or heard of them, but I’m nothing if not open minded, and when I started making goals for this year, some of them loomed a little large, so a little extra help staying focused might be a good idea.

I made a Vision Board of the things I don’t want to lose sight of.

Let’s break this thing down

  1. Barrelman Triathlon – My first Half-Iron distance triathlon, and the biggest goal for the year.  It’ll be just after my 42nd birthday, and if you’re a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (like I am), you’ll know 42 is an auspicious number, so it feels good to commemorate that birthday with something big.  It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get ready for that race, so it’s important to keep it in the forefront of my thoughts.
  2. 187.  That’s my goal weight in pounds;  back in the 90’s it was passed around as a kind of gangsta symbol (let’s not go too deep into the darker meaning of it… it’s a good weight for me and it sounds badass).  I’ve kissed that line, and moved back up a pound or two only to return to close to it.  I need to hold to the principles of the Doctor’s Diet for the majority of the time.  I think my increasing training schedule will help me even travel below that line but I need to make sure that I don’t start burning muscle by not allowing my calorie deficit to get too big on bigger training days.  And those calories, of course, need to come from the right (i.e. healthy) sources.
  3. Monetizing the blog (or at least making it a little more professional). This is the least serious of my goals both in priority and in defining what the goal is. The truth (or at least what I tell myself) is, I just like writing and I would do this even if no-one read. Still, I do get a kick when I get engagement from readers, and I enjoy when the blog generates an opportunity to try new things, and I get a wee bit envious when I see other bloggers get opportunities that have passed me by. Because writing is the part of blogging I enjoy most, when I get time to devote to the blog, I write a post. If I want to capture more opportunities (reviews, events, sponsorship), I know things have to change a little. Self-hosting the blog (on its own domain) and re-design could potentially generate things like brand ambassadorship or other opportunities. The driver is more recognition and/or status than actual money, however, I do need to keep in mind the fact that this blog is a hobby about my hobby, and will always be prioritized as such; i.e. way down the line from some of the other items on this vision board.
  4. Bicycle. A half-iron is serious enough mileage that a new bike is called for. My old bike (with aero-bars I put on myself) is not going to cut it; it’s at least 14 years old and I’ll bet the frame is a bit fatigued – I can see lateral motion in the lower parts of the frame when I pedal on the trainer. The bike in the pic is a the Trek Speed Concept, and while I haven’t decided necessarily on that particular one, I do have to admit both the old steed I’m thinking of putting out to pasture and my mountain bike are by Trek, they’ve served me well, and the Speed Concept is available at price points in the kind of range I was imagining myself spending. Plus, there’s that whole ‘Trek’ name that gets a rise out of my inner geek, you’ve seen me show the Live Long and Prosper (RIP Leonard Nimoy) next to the Rock Devil Horns… I mean it ‘Live Long and Rock On”.
  5. Resolve. My word of the year. There are bound to be challenges to all these goals, so central to achieving them is RESOLVE. I can either find a way around an obstacle (RESOLVE the problem) or show grit and determination to power through it (using my RESOLVE).
  6. Reading. Shark Boy has learned to read independently (simple words, but he does get them on his own) and obviously we want him to progress. I’m reading him a few pages from The Hobbit every night too, and it’s great seeing him get engaged by longer form story-telling (and dragons and wizards etc. too). We need him to improve his printing, and I hope I can get him do to a little writing of his own. The Lightning Kid needs to work on letter recognition and some of the basic precursor skills that feed into reading; it’s early yet, but we know it will take him longer so it’s great if we can get a head start. I’m proud of how we get outside and active as a family (and looking back at the February goals, I know we rocked them), but the more academic stuff can’t get left behind either. I’m also happier myself if I can get at least a little book reading (sorry, blogs and articles on the web don’t count) done every day.
  7. Walk The Line. I’m proud of my kids, which means I’m proud of my family which means I’m proud of our marriage. For a marriage to withstand raising children, never mind rambunctious, dynamic ones like ours, never mind if one has special needs, never mind if you’re constantly out and about as a family, it needs resilience. Resilience is built into a marriage in a similar way to how it is built into a body: it takes a variety of factors. For the body, it’s the right mix of nutritional ingredients and varieties of exercise. A resilient marriage has a similar variety of necessary components – and I probably haven’t learned them all yet, to be honest. I know respect, time for meaningful communication, affection, quality time and actual adult date nights are in there for sure. I’m proud of how well we’ve been able to stick to those things during the past 7 years. Training for a longer distance triathlon will impact all those things, I can’t deny it. What is important is that I keep to that line as closely as I can, even if I wander off it a little. I mustn’t, as Joey Tribianni might put it, let the line become a dot to me. I was going to call it Holding the Line, but then I couldn’t make a Johnny Cash reference, and you should always make a Johnny Cash reference if you’re given the chance.

Have you ever made a Vision Board? If not, what other motivational focus tools would you recommend?

My First* Time Mountain Biking

That “First” has an asterisk beside it, because I can think of another occasion that was my “first time” mountain biking.  I had been on a bike tour of the “Romantic Road” in Germany and on our final day, we climbed up the Alps on the German side and rode down on the Austrian side.  My bike did not have suspension but would still have been considered a mountain bike by some reckoning.  The year was 1994 – I was 21 years old.

I don’t think there’s been much since then, really.  Getting a mountain bike has been an oft-procrastinated goal for me, since I don’t know a lot about them and wouldn’t be sure what would be practical for me.  The general idea would be to get into training for an off-road triathlon (like The Muskoka Grind, which sadly won’t be taking place this year).  Based on my informal research a hard-tail (no rear suspension) would be best for that since the trails aren’t too technical/challenging (compared to hard-core MTB) and it saves some weight.  A bike swap seemed like a good bet to get a bike on the cheap, and I lucked out in having a little bit of free time for the Hardwood Hills Bike Swap.  I picked up this little number.  It’s a Trek bike with Bontrager components… like my current road/tri bike, so I guess, I’m either loyal or superstitious.

I don’t want to keep it at home – the garage isn’t secure enough and I don’t want to clutter the basement any further, so the long-term plan would be to keep it at the cottage and use it on weekends.  I’ve seen a few triathlon training plans that will put mountain biking as a weekend cross-training opportunity.  I think it could work for my schedule as a substitute for long rides – I’m not training for any long distance (half-iron or iron) events and short and intense works better for my family schedule, even at the cottage.  As of Easter, though, the cottage still has snow, but it was beautiful in Toronto on Easter Sunday, so when the kids went down for their nap, I decided to sample the Etobicoke Creek Trail (my main running route) from a different perspective…
View from on top of the ridge

From my sitting position on the mountain bike (which I will call by its model name, Wahoo, until I think of a better name), the experience was more comparable to my hybrid/commuter bike, so I was a little surprised to find the handling so responsive (by comparison).  The Wahoo has disc brakes, which I expected to be super sensitive; this wasn’t the case, and I wonder if they don’t need adjusting.  Still, I figured they were functional enough for what I would be trying in my novice’s trepidation.

The first part of the trail is some light gravel which I manoeuvred around easily.  When I had to climb a little into the forest, I had to deal with some roots and rocks, which made me giggle and whoop as I fiddled around them.  Local construction on Eglinton has blocked off access and exits to the trail in a way I find really annoying – right here I was going to go up to the top of the ridge where I know some mountain bikers have put some ramps and bumps.  Instead I carried on North toward the airport.

Shortly before I reached the highway, I came across a hill I’m well acquainted with from running.  This hill had a lesson to teach me – climbing hills on a bike is not just fitness/performance.  This is where bike handling technique comes in.  I’ve climbed much, much tougher hills on my road/tri bike, but I get into the right gear at the right time, I build up some speed before-hand, and I don’t get off my seat until absolutely necessary.  On my new Wahoo… I did none of these things and had to walk it to the top, and I wish I could say that was the only time on the ride that happened.
View from the top

It was on the way back that I found a way to get up on top of the ridge, and while I didn’t try any of the bumps or jumps, I did find more mud than I would have expected on high ground after 2 days of great sunshine… so I got dirty, in true MTB tradition.

I came home with a big smile on my face… let’s correct that and say a Big Kid Smile on my face, since I felt reconnected to that primal sense of fun a kid has when tearing along in abandon on a bike.  I don’t know if an off-road triathlon can be fit into my schedule this year, but I really want to make mountain biking (if only, moderate risk mountain biking) part of my training regimen.

Are you a mountain biker (of any stripe)? What should I call the bike?

The Axel Project

This post is about something wonderful, that comes from something terrible.  So it’s hard to know where to start.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a notification that I have a new follower, and it’ll be someone who seems really cool.  This happened a couple of weeks ago.  Jen Charrette is a mom into cycling, adventure, and travel.  Her twitter profilet also mentioned The Axel Project; with a name like that, how could I not be intrigued.

Before I get into what’s great about it (besides the name), I did have the sinking feeling that it was one of those causes born from a terrible loss.  Axel Charrette was a 2 year-old who had “love of life and adventure….He left a mark on almost everyone he came in contact with. His energy, kind soul, and joy of life was contagious.”  I remembered reading about his death in the news earlier last year, and I think I had repressed the memory; suffice it to say, I wish I had never read it, and if you’ll take my advice, we’ll leave it at the tragic loss of a child.

Having said that, I simply have to tell you about the Axel Project because it’s just that fantastic. From the website:

Axel Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that a productive, happy life begins with bikes. Our mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families. While our goal is broad, our first project is aimed at providing balance bicycles and instruction to children in need, ages 18 months to 5-years of age, to teach the basic skills necessary to get them riding on two wheels—with their friends, their family and forever.

As I mentioned in the Designed To Move post, it’s imperative to develop these habits and values before age 10.  This is where the Axel Project is being smart – they are promoting the use of glider bikes.  The more traditional path of getting kids on pedal bikes with training wheels only delays their progress; the complicated act of turning the pedals is what they work on before learning balance, and so they get to go so fast, that they’re scared to take off the training wheels.

We’ve had great success with a glider for Shark Boy.  Thanks to using a glider, he was able to participate in a Duathlon before he turned 3. Though people always marvelled to see him cruising our neighbourhood at such a young age, I was surprised to find how resistant people could be to adopting a similar strategy – the worst had to be when I found myself arguing with an 8 year-old neighbour over the necessity of training wheels; +10 points for intention, -100 for common sense (an 8 year-old!).

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Less than a year later he was riding a real bike (in a foreign country, no less)… that’s a bike with pedals, no training wheels, being ridden by a 3 year-old.

We’ve been struggling a little with the Lightning Kid in this regard, but the honest reason is his legs aren’t so long and don’t reach the ground from even the plastic toddler glider we got, though I have a good feeling about this spring, after seeing what kind of physical stunts he’s been capable of pulling around the house.

Thanks to the Chariot, we’ve already taken short family bike rides on weekends, and I look forward to more. Bicycles are really the best short-cut to getting the whole family involved in an active adventure, and the Axel Project is making that happen for as many families as they can. Donations can be made by Paypal or mailing a cheque.

I really hope that somewhere, Axel Charrette, is having fun, and smiling at the kinds of adventures families like mine and his might be having.

Why I’m Not Stronger On the Bike

Yesterday: Set alarm for 5AM.  Go to bed at 8:30PM in guest room

Today, 4:47AM – Woken by the Lightning Kid, turn off alarm before it goes off while wife puts him back down

5:05AM – Lightning Kid asleep, head downstairs, grab water bottle, Garmin, iPad and change into bike shorts and tank top.

5:17AM – After taking and posting a pic (natch), hop on bike and start pedalling.  Bring up Netflix and continue watching Taken 2.  Use the car chase scene to motivate myself on more intense pedalling.

5:34AM – I notice the rear wheel keeps slipping, so I figure I might up the tension on the trainer a little.  I get off to make the adjustment but find it makes a funny noise when I pedal.  The tire pressure feels low.  My good pump is in the garage, but I figure I can use the portable one strapped to the frame.

5:44AM – The tire feels flatter than before.  Obviously I’m getting nowhere with the pump so I throw in the towel.  It’s near freezing outside, so I’m not going to the garage dressed as I am, and I don’t want to wake anyone trying to get dressed.  I opt for a little strength/home workout, and try some pull-ups on the bar, Russian twists with the medicine ball, and of course, Roguees.

6:01AM – I hear Shark Boy coughing, and stirring, and the cat seems like he’s using my activity as a an excuse to thump around.  I try moving the cat to the basement with me so he won’t wake the others; as a ‘thank-you’, he sinks his claws into my unprotected chest.  Shark Boy is definitely awake, and will wake the others shortly unless I intervene.  I head upstairs.

So, in conclusion, I got 25 interrupted minutes of workout for having gotten up an hour and a half early…. but at least it got me posting again.

The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Part 4

When we last left off, my brother and his family had just joined us in Heiligensee, near Berlin.  Read The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Parts One, Two and Three if you haven’t already.

DAY 13:

Once the kids are all up, we got the fun of seeing them play together and then a quick bike ride to the park – with a combination of bikes with kid seats, a trailer, and little bikes for Shark Boy and his cousin.  We got to the playground, played on the playground train (made of stumps) then the slide and a game of hide and seek.  The Lightning Kid sat this little excursion out in favour of a morning nap – but when we got back for lunch and naps for the rest of them – it was his turn to ride in the bike seat.
I generally prefer the trailer for safety reasons, but it’s great to see him enjoy the ride (and more importantly, tolerate a helmet).

We’d seen posters around town for a Kids’ Fair near the big shopping mall.  Things to do for kids seem to be always available in Germany – if you know where to find them.  In this case our search led us through the mall which resulted in extra stops for espresso, ice cream (my third spaghetti ice cream of the trip) and books (as well as a tantrum or two).

We had some trouble finding the place (it’s a semi-industrial/commercial park) and when we did – there was barely anyone there.  The carny/operator guy seemed to think the threatening weather had kept the crowds back but I couldn’t help but think the hidden location added to that.  The good news was we could walk onto any attraction like a bouncy castle as a family or even have rides stopped and started at our leisure.  There may have been some bent rues about adults on rides too… We called it an evening before the rain hit and got the kids home for dinner and bedtime.

DAY 14:

In the morning we took all the kids on another riverboat cruise except the Lightning Kid.  Its pretty uneventful, in spite of the kids’ efforts to run around, split up, and generally get close to railings and other threats.

In the afternoon my brother’s family and mine split up to visit different friends – in our case, an old friend of my wife’s who lives in Teltow.  It’s a second chance for Shark boy to play with his little friend who he’d previously abandoned in favour of a boat ride.

To me, driving in Germany is a little more stressful than back home – there’s different rules for right of way (cars entering the street from the right have right of way unless otherwise marked – very counter-intuitive), you can’t turn right on red, the speed limits (or lack thereof) on the Autobahn and generally dealing with the fact that you don’t know where you’re going.  Like I said, it’s a little more stressful.. but factor in dark and rainy weather, rush hour traffic and noisy kids in the back seat and you have a white-knuckle experience.  Our GPS unit seemed determined to route us to every major road and highway via some byzantine combination of side streets and alleyways.  There might have been smoke coming out of my ears by the time we got there but it’s nothing a beer and pasta dinner (plus cake and cookies) couldn’t fix.

DAY 15:

We took the kids to Jack’s Fun World again; it was interesting to see how the presence of his cousins affected Shark Boy’s behaviour – he was a lot more game to get onto structures and trampolines and less into riding solo on video game motorcycles and other stationary, coin-operated machines.  He even tackles some slides that he left alone the last time we were here.  A big highlight for me is seeing the Lighting Kid flash his big smile at me when we ride the little train together.

Knowing we’ve got the journey back to Frankfurt the next day, we opted for a slower afternoon rather than take the kids swimming – they’d had enough big time action for the day.  It was nice to keep things simple at home and we got a shot of the kids together on the couch in what is becoming an annual tradition.

DAY 16:

Heading back to Bad Homburg, the families were splitting up in a race – the train (ICE & S-trains) versus car.  Would the delays of train stations and transfers be less or more than those of Autobahn traffic jams? (Note: my hand-written journal runs out here. A month later and my memory of our last day is a little hazier). We rode the ICE a little more knowledgeably this time, and managed to keep the boys reasonably entertained (resulting in reasonably good behaviour) for that portion of the ride back. Moving around the cars and getting food proved challenging, as the train was full of drunken, loud Bayern-Muenchen fans on their way back from a Champions League Final victory.

We made it to Frankfurt station and felt like ice cream… but we were being ice cream snobs and the Hagen Daaz and Movenpick kiosks were not going to cut it, so we got a couple of pastries instead and boarded the S-Bahn/S Train. S-Bahns are a little like street cars on steroids, and tend to help bind outlying communities and suburbs to the downtown core of cities like Frankfurt. Ours was very crowded and our stroller had to fight for space with bikes… while a separate section of seats were vacant. They were ‘First Class’ seats; I found the idea of a First Class section in a commuter train service very odd, but there you have it.

Riding the rails (again).

We spent a lovely evening as two families; the kids playing in the backyard and take-out pizza for dinner. One last night and the next morning we would be winging our way home.

The flight home was not overnight like the way to Germany, so we were a little worried. Fortunately, the boys kept their chaos on the lighter side, and we also had another empty seat beside us. We shuffled around quite a bit to keep everybody satisfied.

This picture is not representative of the overall flight

The young lady you can see in the background of the picture actually managed to catch Shark Boy and keep him from falling off the seats while he was sleeping. I thanked her profusely, but the best part was that she had forgotten a bouquet of flowers, and we were able to find her at baggage claim and return them to her; Shark Boy did the honours of hand delivering them. And with that, we were home, safe and sound.

Obviously there are a lot of great memories in a trip like this, but I won’t lie: it was exhausting, and overall made me wonder if it’s worth all the effort. More than what I got out of the trip, or what the kids got out of the trip though, is its symbolic value (for lack of a better term). We are a family with widely varied interests and priorities, we might have some special needs, we have personalities that could be classified as forces of nature, but we will travel. We will seek adventure, we will cherish our extended family, whether it’s now when it’s hard because the children are so young, when it’s a little easier because they’re somewhat more manageable, or even when they’re teenagers and don’t want to hang with their parents quite so much. Values like these are instilled through tradition, and tradition means repetition, and sticking to it even when it’s hard.

The Germany Journals (Ger-nals?) Part 2

This was the day we would make the trip from Frankfurt to Berlin.  While my wife and I packed, my brother took Shark Boy outside.  The next thing I knew, he’s asking me: “You know your son can ride a bike, right?”

To rewind a bit, Shark Boy does a great job on his glider bike and can balance and steer no problem.  Still when we’ve tried to move him up to a regular bike, he’s stayed fixated on the idea that he needs training wheels.  He even threw a fit when he saw me remove them from his new Ultimate Spider Man bike.  Getting him to ride it has been semi-successful, but he still didn’t seem that close to being able to go it alone.  A couple of days watching his older cousin ride a bike, and away we go!  Swimming … biking … can Kids Of Steel be far away?

Before our train departure, we walked around downtown Frankfurt for a bit, which I recommend for those that like modern architecture and/or high-end clothing stores and had some lunch.

Sandcastles in downtown Frankfurt.

The Inter City Express is a world famous fast train – I was excited to show it to Shark Boy after he’d read about it in books; although we were on it last year he didn’t notice much – a stomach bug had turned him into a near-zombie.

We had a cabin “reserved” – the 8 Euro extra charge didn’t make much of a difference as we had company the entire 4 hour trip.  I guess the train was too full – I’d have thought two small children would have been more of a deterrent to solo travellers. It turns out, you can only reserve the seats you sit it, which makes a certain amount of sense, I guess.

I spent most of the train ride carrying the Lightning Kid through the cars of the train (including ones that were identified as ‘QUIET’) from one end to the other.  Someday I’m going to write a post about all the calories I burn on the kids that I don’t get to count…Both boys fell asleep with all of 45 minutes left on the train ride.  Still we arrived in Berlin (Spandau Station) excited to start the next phase in our adventure.

A little too excited in the boys’ case! The new environment seemed to be an over-stimulation which combined with their over-tiredness to make for a very late, tedious bedtime routine – bad news for their jet lag adjustment.

DAY 6:

Thanks to our hosts taking the boys on first thing in the morning, I had a bit of a sleep-in .  We took them into Tegel for some shopping – riding a double-decker bus is a big draw for Shark By and the Lightning Kid seemed to like it too.  The effects of the night before were felt heavily as the kids seemed to need lunch and their nap times an hour or two earlier than expected and hopes for getting a run in while they napped in tandem were dashed.  I took the Lighting Kid to my favourite playground in the stroller.  I hadn’t changed out of my jeans but my plan B was successful – he fell asleep on the way there.  I used the park benches and playground for

  • Incline Push-ups
  • Tricep Dips
  • Negative Phase Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Single-leg lunges on the swings
  • Inch worms (on the train set – plank across two ‘cars’, then bring feet forward to the car your hands are on, move your hands forward into another plank, etc.)
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
Tricep dips on one of the ‘train’ cars

I was doing a side plank on a park bench, looking at a (rare) blue sky, listening to the birds chirp and thinking about how peaceful it all was when I heard “WAAAAAAH!” – the Lightning Kid woke up.   Still, everybody had gotten what they needed: fresh air and exercise for me, sleep for everyone else.  We had a very pleasant rest of the afternoon as a family.

DAY 7:

I don’t really want to write about this day.  The only undertaking was a trip into town for a few things and the promise of ice cream.  It was a nightmare as the kids’ nap and eating schedules were still off, so there were a lot of tantrums and screaming.  AND THE ICE CREAM CAFE’S MACHINE BROKE DOWN SO I COULDN’T GET SPAGHETTI ICE CREAM!

Side note 1: If you don’t know spaghetti ice cream, it’s soft ice cream pushed through a press to come out in noodles, coated in strawberry sauce and either grated coconut or white chocolate and the whole pile hides a little mound of whipped cream.

Side note 2: I might as well take the opportunity here to talk about one of my favourite things here in Germany.  When a house uses radiators for heat, it’s hard to stay warm if you’re in the wrong spot and we’ve had unseasonably cold (and wet) weather here this trip.  The plus side is these incredibly practical radiators in the bathrooms (and sometimes in a front hall).  Back home, between swims, gym workouts and showers not to mention regular hygiene I go through a lot of towels so I’d love it if I had one of these that could not only quick dry a used towel, but warm it too.

DAY 8:

In spite of continuing cold and rainy weather we braved a trip to the forest playground – Shark Boy rode his bike the entire way there while my wife chased him and I pushed the Lightning Kid in the stroller through the drizzle.  He fell asleep again before we got there and while Shark Boy played with his mother I snuck in a few push-ups, step-ups and tricep dips.  The playground is somewhat sheltered by the trees but when the Lightning Kid woke up and the rain worsened we opted to return home.  After an early lunch we got the kids down for a tandem nap and instead of the run I wanted to do, I did a living room workout instead.
  • Push Ups (100 Push Up workout 5 sets – 20, 30, 18, 18, 34)
  • Negative Phase Pull-ups
  • Lunges with 3 kg dumbbells overhead
  • Side Planks

I also developed and exercise with
  • no weights/equipment
  • functional compound movement
  • whole-body muscle recruitment

My idea is to create an alternative burpee (my wife dubbed my creation “burpees for engineers” finding them somewhat complex).  I’ll share it in a future post, but for now let’s stay on topic.

We had arranged for an afternoon playdate for Shark Boy with a friend of my wife’s and her 4 year-old son that afternoon at the same time that my father-in-law was having visitors who came by boat.  What ended up happening was that he was effectively kidnapped (I’m sure there’s a term for nautical abductions) for a few hours and our poor 4 year-old visitor had to split his time between the 19 month-old Lightning Kid and the grown-ups. Yuck!

Luckily Shark Boy came back in time for them to spend a good hour or two torturing me with silly faces.  We watched the all-important Champions League (soccer) final between two German teams: Bayern Muenchen versus Borussia Dortmund being cheered on by my wife and I respectively.  What can I say? She sure can pick a winner – she married me didn’t she?