Kids Triathlons

Since I last posted, we’ve been in two 5 Peaks trail runs, and two kids’ triathlons.  Rather than try to catch up with 4 distinct race recaps, I thought I’d pair them up by race type – that means you’re going to get an overview of the kids’ triathlons we’ve been involved in this time, and the 5 Peaks races next time.

Furthermore, I’m going to combine observations from both races on a per kid basis; they’re only 2 years apart, but in triathlon, their experiences are very, very different in terms of what the event expects of them, and what they expect of the event.  The races were the C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel and Nicola’s Triathlon (for MFM Research).

 

The Lightning Kid

Swim

The Lightning Kid is currently at the ‘Crocodile’ level in his swimming lessons; that means they’re teaching him to roll from back to front, and combining the front crawl arm stroke into the motion.  He makes forward progress for a bit, but he’s not really staying afloat or getting his head above water to breathe more than once, so for a triathlon he wears a life jacket (at the C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel) or water-wings (at Nicola’s tri) and I get in the water with him to coach and cheer.  For the C3 Kinetico KOS, it was 1 length of the pool for the 6-7 age group (groups are determined by the age on Dec 31st).  It would have been 2 lengths for Nicola’s Tri, but we asked them to bump him down to the lower age group, which aligns better with his physical size anyway.  At both events, he kicked and doggy paddled gamely, and was only slowed down by his need to take in the scenery and ham it up for the crowd – as usual.  I stayed a couple of meters ahead of him and tried to keep his eyes on the prize – or at least the end of the pool lane.

I heard reports that some parents were pushing or pulling their kids through the water, and obviously I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it at a young age like this, but I will say the point of these events is endurance and that getting the job done (i.e. making it to the end) is the bigger goal, not how fast you complete it.  I’d rather have my sons come in last, having earned every inch of the achievement themselves – who knew I was so hardcore about this stuff?

Nicola’s Tri took place 2 weeks after the C3 Kinetico KOS and I was blown away about how the Lightning Kid took to transition, running out of the pool area along the red carpet to his bike like a kid possessed.

Bike

While we have been getting him to practice on a pedal bike without training wheels, we haven’t been brave enough to let go of the handle yet, especially since he seems to steer pretty erratically, and we figured he’d be freaked out during the race if he had a fall shortly before the big day, so we selected the balance bike for both races.  And yes – it’s pink.  The bike leg has a lot of the same Lightning Kid hallmarks, good speed, big smile, hamming it up for the crowd.  Unlike adult races, I think the kids’ events could stand to have longer bike legs – if only because I think it would favour my kids (while longer bike legs in adult races only penalize me and my lack of bike fitness). They were both basically a lap around the parking lot with me running alongside.

I do help the Lightning Kid put on socks and shoes which is extra challenging with wet feet; he did not want to forgo socks, in spite of my advice.   I have to get my own shoes on during transition too so that I can run alongside (or ahead) and cheer and coach (again as usual).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run

The Lightning Kid has improved his running the most in the last year – it surprises most people.  He’s also gotten familiar enough with triathlon that he knows when you get off the bike the race is nearly done and he gets what Germans call Endspurt – a final burst of speed to finish the race.  With only about 500 m to run, it’s over so fast, it’s hard for my wife to get caught up and grab a picture.  The best we can do for pictures is the finish line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Boy

Swim

Every year, the swim length seems to double for Shark Boy.  We knew he’d have to manage 100 m this year, so we took to the pool for the 4-5 weeks before the race (on weekends) and tried to increase his skill and endurance.  Every week, he’d have to pass the swim test of 2 pool widths before venturing into the deep end for more practice.   I drilled him in breast stroke, as I feel it’s  a more endurance paced stroke; make no mistake, front crawl/freestyle is faster once you can manage it in a sustainable pace, but plenty of people starting out seem to prefer it, and I know it’s the stroke of choice for recreational swimming in Europe.  Too bad some lifeguards here don’t seem to feel it’s a valid way to swim – I had one lifeguard arbitrarily try to say he hadn’t passed the 2 width swim test for using breast stroke where his face wasn’t in the water enough, and during the Nicola’s tri he was forced to use a flutter board, which slowed him down more.  I know I have to defer to a trained volunteer when it comes to safety, but I do feel there is a bias there.

Being the slowest in his wave (though not the slowest swimmer in his age group, from what I could see) discouraged Shark Boy, even though I tried to explain before and after the race that the overall time is what counted, not when you crossed the finish line (he was in the last wave of the Kinetico Kids Of Steel).  I’m proud of his swims regardless, because through hard work, we took him from not being unable to finish 100 m of swimming to more than capable.

 

Bike

Shark Boy has gotten a hand-me-down mountain bike that has gears in anticipation of a bike camp he’ll be participating in this summer, but though he’s been warming up with it, he wanted his gearless one for the races.

For the Kids of Steel race, he seemed OK on the way out, but I noticed it was taking him a long time to complete.  As I had mentioned before, he was in last place in his own imagination, and I think he got discouraged and lacked motivation.  It was also very hot that day.

For the Nicola’s Tri event, we had a major problem or two.  The course is looped, and though Shark Boy must have listened to 4-5 briefings where the volunteer had the kids repeat back that the bike course had 3 loops, I’m not sure the info really took hold.  I couldn’t follow him through transition, so once he was out of the pool I raced to a spot on the bike course.  I saw him struggling to gain momentum while pedalling furiously, and I knew what the problem was: his chain had come off.  I ran over, had him dismount and showed him briefly how to fix it, then sent him on his way.

Of course this meant I was out of position to tell him to stay on course when he completed the first loop and went straight back into transition….

Run

…and furthermore, he somehow took a short cut on the run course and crossed the finish line after less than 200 m.  He knows how long a 1 km run should feel like (especially from 5 Peaks races of the past), so I can only surmise that he was discouraged to the point where he just wanted this thing over with.

Though he was given a medal, the official results showed ‘DQ’ as his time made no sense in relationship to his competitors who went much further.  It took some serious mother and father pep talk to cheer him up the rest of the day, as we’ve all had results that we weren’t happy with (including my own DNS) that weren’t always the results of bad performance.

For the Kinetico Kids of Steel event, there was no disaster, but he did walk segments of the run course, and I’m still attributing that to discouragement and heat.

He’s placed better in 5 Peaks trail races, than in triathlons so far.   I guess I’m a little discouraged myself to think that at age 7 (meaning he competes with 8 and 9 year-olds) he’s at a level where the training and mental game have to be already pretty high, but it’s actually a good thing for someone who’s had a lot of things come to him fairly naturally (e.g. riding a bike without training wheels by age 3) to learn about the benefits of practice and work ethic.  I just hope he’ll continue to view triathlons as fun.  In addition to being well versed in the technique of transition, he also knows how to blame his equipment in order to justify further spending – he’s been bugging me to get him a road bike which will ride faster than the mountain bike.

Miscellaneous Event Details

Both events are great days out for the family with bouncy castles, face painting and barbecue.

The volunteers do a lot to make the participants and their families feel welcomed, informed and safe.  I love doing triathlon, but I love it even more when the whole family can get involved!

 

Active Family Travel – Easter Weekend in Mont Tremblant

After getting priced out of a lot of ski resorts for March Break, we opted to put the kids in local camps for that week, and make our winter/spring family vacation take place over an extended Easter long weekend.   We opted to stay in Canada this time and selected Mont Tremblant.   We had skied there as newlyweds with my wife being pregnant with Shark Boy years ago.

It seemed like a good plan, especially once we had excellent accommodations locked down and saw how much money we were saving by going late in the season.  Our first snag was that the convenient local airport didn’t have flights from Toronto past the very beginning of April.  The second was that shuttle service from Pierre Trudeau Airport in Montreal was expensive and not ideal for our flight schedule.  Renting a car (I upgraded all the way to a Dodge Durango to make sure we could fit our skis in) proved the smartest option.

By the time we landed, picked up the car and had dinner, it was dark, but still, driving through the mountains was enough to get me excited.   Our condo was at the bottom of the ‘Village’ right across from the Westin, and had two bedrooms (including a king sized bed in the master bedroom) and a pull-out couch so the boys could sleep separately.

On Good Friday morning, we grabbed breakfast from the Au Grain de Cafe, and then got the kids dressed for their ski lessons.  We opted to put the Lightning Kid in a ‘Mother Nature Camp’ where the morning would be dedicated to learning to ski, and the afternoon would be in a daycare-like environment.  Downhill skis and boots are still pretty heavy for his legs, and it’s been slow going getting him to get the hang of it.  Shark Boy was in a ski camp for both Christmas and March Break holidays and he’s gotten pretty good – to the point of being able to use poles, although we hadn’t been able to secure a pair of his own yet.

Once the kids were squared away, my wife and I stopped for an extra coffee and a treat (which became the daily ritual) before going back to our room to get our own ski gear on, and trudge back uphill through the village to the gondola and get our own skiing done.

Both Friday and Saturday were nice, sunny days, and as skiers from Ontario, we’re not too fussy about snow quality – we were just happy to be there.  All we are really looking to do on these trips is spend some time in the simple pleasure of sliding on snow without worrying about anything more than keeping our skis beneath us.

Shark Boy’s favourite runs were ‘La Crete’, ‘Tascherau’ and ‘Dynomite’.  Mine were ‘La Traverse’, ‘Toboggan’ but of course, I have to give an honourable mention to my namesake…

It rained on the Sunday, and though Shark Boy lasted the whole day, we got pretty miserably wet.  Luckily, we paid a visit to the water park known as AquaClub (which also had a fitness centre which I did not take advantage of).  This place has various pools with a tarzan rope, a small slide and a little cliff to jump off of.  Both boys did everything, though the Lightning Kid always simply jumped into the water by releasing the rope before his swing could start.

The one day we didn’t swim after skiing, we rode a little open gondola called ‘Cabrio’ from the bottom parking lot to the top of the village and back.  And up again, and down again.  And up again…

We were very satisfied with the ski school overall.  Lunches were provided, and Shark Boy really liked his instructor, who had tall (though true) tales from all over the world.   I personally would have liked to see the Lightning Kid get more runs in on the bunny hill (served by a magic carpet), though I understand that when the kids get tired, forcing them into it is not going to yield good results or a positive attitude toward snow sports.  He had 3 different instructors, and they were all warm, friendly and great at teaching the skills.

On the Monday, I got an opportunity to ski with each of my sons individually.  I took Shark Boy for a run from the top of the mountain to the bottom before his lesson.  I should point out that though I claimed we’re not fussy about snow quality, the warm weather generated some heavy slush that really wore on your legs after a while and didn’t always yield optimal technique.  Still, I had a lot of fun skiing with Shark Boy and was so impressed that he stuck with me (not skiing too far ahead or afield) without me having to yell and shout.

At the end of the day, I took the Lightning Kid out, and promised him a ride on the chairlift.  I had scoped out a route of green runs from the top of the one chairlift that is accessible from the bottom and was trying to be optimistic that my back would hold out for the entirety while I held him between my legs.  Sadly, his tickets didn’t include lift access, and though it was the last day and last runs of the year, rules are rules, I guess.  I took him back to the magic carpet to see what he had learned and what he was capable of.

He’s getting the hang of putting his skis into the snowplow/’pizza’ position, and according to the instructor reports he can do some stops and control his speed a little.  He’s also fully independent on the magic carpet, so we’ll call the endeavour a success overall.

FOOD

I figure I’ll call out some of our favourite meal experiences separately rather than try and enumerate them all chronologically in the main story.

Pizzateria

The first night’s dinner was going to be a kid-friendly one.  There were two pizza joints within reach, one small and at the bottom of the village, the other larger around the midpoint of the climb to the top.  The kids chose the latter.  Pizzateria is decorated like a log cabin, and the pizza has a homemade, authentic style I really liked.

La Savoie

I grew up with both fondue and a home Raclette appliance, and we’ve also gotten one as a wedding present that we’ve never used.  Raclette is a kind of Swiss cheese that you melt over potatoes or just about anything else you can think of, and it’s delicious.  We haven’t dared to try eating something like these two Swiss delights for fear of the kids’ pickiness (and how their unruly behaviour poses a safety risk)… until now.  Shark Boy was lured in by La Savoie’s menu because it offered Salami as one of the options for dipping or melting cheese over.  We were really surprised at how well the boys took to the experience, and the restaurant service made the kids feel more the kids feel more than welcome.

There’s an element that melts the cheese onto a plate below
Shark Boy and I fondu-ing it!

 

 

Creperie Catherine

Sweet crepes for breakfast!  Shark Boy and I had their ‘Grand Maman’ which was loaded with ice cream… a bit much for breakfast.  The Lightning Kid had a Nutella and banana crepe and the results speak for themselves….

Le Q.C.

I picked this place for lunch date, just the grown-ups.  They had an interesting selection of tartares; my wife’s tuna was delicious.  Great cocktails too, I had a Dark and Stormy which was like a Moscow Mule only with coke, and my wife had a maple syrup based cocktail.

Samurai Pub

Great sushi, well presented, funky vibe.  Another great lunch date.  I didn’t partake of the Sake Bomb… maybe next time.

 

While ski vacations seem to be a lot of work in terms of planning, logistics, packing and lugging gear, when they’re done, we’ve always enjoyed them and grown closer as a family while living the life of adventure that we’ve always dreamed of.

Air Riderz Trampoline and Climbing (featuring Shark Boy)

I had first heard of Air Riderz from birthday parties that Shark Boy had attended.  I thought the combination of trampoline park and climbing gym was interesting, especially since they had exercise classes (“AirRobix”) for adults – I thought I might try sampling one and doing a write-up here.

Instead, I found myself taking Shark Boy there.  You see, this past weekend my wife took the Lightning Kid to a live Paw Patrol show on the Saturday and a birthday party on the Sunday, so I had my eldest all to myself.  Between Air Riderz and another climbing gym we had visited once, he chose Air Riderz.

I bought us a 2 hour pass (time slots start at the half-hour, and we got there 10 past noon, so I guess we had a little less than that since neither of us had the patience to wait for 12:30).  Unfortunately you need to be wearing official Air Riderz socks to use the facility – this wouldn’t have been so bad, as we have at least 2 kid sized pairs at home from the aforementioned birthday parties, but we didn’t bring them.  So now I have a pair of my own, that I think will also come in handy for yoga in cooler environments like my basement – the soles have little grips.

 

Our pass included both the trampoline zones and the climbing area; you can only put on your climbing harness once, so you’ll want to get your fill all in one shot.  For that reason, I encouraged Shark Boy to enjoy the trampoline zone first.

I’ll be honest, it made me feel old.  Not many adults were jumping, so I  checked multiple times that adults were allowed to partake in the fun too.  There was also the fact that I noticed every bounce in my bones, at least till I got warmed up, so I’d recommend starting slow and not throwing yourself into it till you get more of a feel for it.  I had envisioned myself pulling flips or bouncing from my back, but I just didn’t have the nerve for it.

 

The main area has a grid of small trampolines that are great for individual use, as well as longer strips that are more suitable for running (or flips).  Some of the walls are trampoline-like so that you can throw yourself against them.

There are 3 basketball hoops (of varying non-regulation height), but we only got to try the highest one, and I couldn’t get high enough to dunk; it’s actually pretty difficult to make the shot from the highest point in my jump – even though the distance was short, being in mid-air made aiming difficult.

There is also a foam pit with segregated lanes (with trampolines of course) – you pull your best flip and are guaranteed a soft landing.  I should mention that all these areas have lifeguard-like supervisors to enforce safety rules.  The last area of the jump zone are the dodgeball courts.  One was being used for a toddler area, but the other had games going.  I had half a mind to enter myself into a game and be an avenging ‘big kid equalizer’, but I thought better of it.  I did notice signs for an adult league that I hope to investigate in the future.

After a while, Shark Boy wanted to try his hand at climbing.  There are several walls and one tower that is limited to climbers under 100 lbs.  He did fairly well, and you could see how some walls were easier than others based on his performance, but having tried some of them myself, I can tell you it’s not as easy as it looks.  I think more serious climbers will miss having access to chalk or better footwear, but it was still fun to give it a try.

I had a lot of fun climbing the towers in the photo above.  You’re anchored to 2 safety lines to reduce the amount of swing when you dismount (or fall).  Since I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of good images/video of myself, I decided to let Shark Boy record my climb.  I think he did a fairly good job of it, for his age.  Have a look – you might be able to tell when I made the mistake of looking down.

Once we got tired of climbing, we took off and returned our harnesses, we rounded out the rest of our allotted time in the jump zone.  I wondered if I would be sore the next day, and if I’d be OK to complete some speed work I had planned (according to my TriDot training plan) for the late afternoon.  I can tell you now that yes I was sore in my legs, but I don’t know whether the speed work (which went fine) or Air Riderz was to blame.  According to a little research I did, trampoline (or rebounder) work is good for the core, as well as all lower body muscles (the upper body does get addressed somewhat to as you flail your arms for balance) – sounds great as running cross-training, especially as the impact is much lower than running, skipping rope and other high-impact activities.  There are also circulatory and internal organ benefits.

Between these benefits, and my curiosity about the Airobix classes and dodgeball, it’s probably not my last visit to Air Riderz.

Have you tried rebounding or climbing? What do you think about it as cross-training?

Welcome Back – Revenge of the Iron Rogue

Hi Everyone!

If you’re here as a previous reader of this blog, you’ll have noticed my new digs on WordPress and the new look of the place.  If this is your first visit, welcome!

2016 was a rough year for me and my family – I don’t want to go into gory details, but there was job loss, terminal illness, death, hospital visits, emergency home renovation… you know what, I’m getting bummed out just listing them all, even vaguely and generically.  The point is, both blogging and the kind of adventures that I love to write about took a back seat all year long, in spite of my efforts to “dig myself out of a hole.”

There were a few positives in 2016 and while they really deserve their own individual posts, I’m going to start 2017 with looking forward, but I’ll just list a few honourable mentions…

 

We took a trip to Jamaica….

The kids did the C3 /Kinetico Caledon  Kids of Steel Triathlon,

with Shark Boy also competing in the East End Kids of Steel (the Lightning Kid was sick that day).

While the 5 Peaks Terra Cotta Trail Race got its own post, you guys never got to hear about the 5 Peaks Rattlesnake Point Race…

which we used as an opportunity to take our first family camping trip.

 

We managed to make a shorter, later version of our annual trip to Germany.

We capped off the year by spending New Year’s at the cottage, which is the first time we did that as a family.  We tried some downhill skiing, some cross-country skiing, and lots of snow-frolicking.

 

What does 2017 hold for this space? Lots of the same outdoor, active family living, with a focus on multi-sport/triathlon.  Some things in our life have changed; the kids are older and pursue their own extra-curricular activity with less parental involvement (except driving them to and from the venue), and I’m less fit than when I was writing this blog regularly, so some of the fitness subjects will be more on the rehabilitative side (though I’m not going to turn this into a weight loss blog).  I will probably incorporate more mental health and productivity content, and I’d really like to step up the amount of gear and technology review.  Also, this might not be the final look of the blog, but I have to shout out and thank Janice from Salads4Lunch for getting me this far!

I’m already looking forward to my next post, recapping the Snowshoe Fondue event at Hardwood Hills!

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Trail Run – Terra Cotta

Well, race season has started!  It looks like this is not going to be a season of great personal accomplishments in endurance or fitness, but I’m happy to report we’re keeping active as a family.  Our inaugural race for the warmer months was the 5 Peaks Trail Run at Terra Cotta.

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Shark Boy was participating in his first timed event.  He’s quite fixated on numbers and quantifying things; it’s always a big deal who’s older, who’s bigger, etc.  I’m a little apprehensive about introducing him to more competitive events – he seems to be the fastest kid in his own schoolyard races, but I don’t want him to get upset if he’s not the biggest fish in a bigger pond, if you follow my meaning.
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Luckily, 5 Peaks seemed to have no problem with parents running alongside their kids at this event; I guess there was plenty of space on the trail.  Though plenty of kids took off in front of us, I tried to get him to reign in his pace and save the best for later on.  I’m really glad he listened, because he got to trade in his disappointment at being in the back of the pack for the thrill of passing others on the uphill climbs, who had already blown up.  He did give me a good scare when he tripped and landed practically on his face, but he got up again and kept running without any tears, so no blood, no foul, I guess.  He ran the entire 3 km and ended up in 20th place overall.

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The Lightning Kid did the 1 km ‘fun run’ with his mother. He’s picked up some speed from last year, and I think the concept of racing is starting to sink in, but he still does take his time to smell the roses on the course. I think he just loves all the attention he gets.
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I participated in the Sport course race. Since the race was some time ago, I don’t really recall too many details, but Terra Cotta isn’t the hilliest course in the series, but it is still very pretty. I came in 22nd in my age group, which I was happy enough with, considering I wasn’t really training prior to the race. 

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I mostly wrote this recap to entice readers to come join us next time at Rattlesnake Point. You can use the discount code of MARK (courtesy of my friend Mark Sawh) or JESSICA (courtesy of lacesandlattes) for $5 off each registration. The 1 km fun run for kids is free. Hope to see you there on June 25th!

Barrelman Triathlon Recap – Part 1: Pre-Race

I’ve read triathlon race recaps that have to be broken up into several parts; I used to complain (to myself) that they were too long, but I think I get it now.  A lot goes into these longer races, and my experience at the Barrelman Triathlon fits the bill.  I learned a lot, felt a lot, suffered a lot, smiled a lot.  So, while I’m not sure how to break up the actual race experience, I’m going to devote this post to everything leading up to my swim start.


On the Saturday, we took the Kids to Ashbridges Bay for the Beaches Kids of Steel Duathlon.  I wanted to devote my energy to getting the Lightning Kid through his first race, and it turned out we had registered Shark Boy for the age 6-7 category, which meant no parents on the race course.  Luckily, he’s always been able to roll with changing circumstances, and he’s done enough of these to feel confident.


Taking the Lightning Kid through his race acted as a nice little shake-out run for me, and he did a fantastic job.  He ran the first leg (50m) hard enough to get a little gassed, and I helped him with his helmet and bike.  He walked the bike (which he didn’t get to practice much before hand) out of transition to the mount line, and then we took off.  There were occasional stops to look at dogs, and I’m actually proud he chose to dismount for the one part where a decline was too steep – discretion is the better part of valour, after all.  Not that he lacks guts; he managed to get his glider bike up the biggest incline on the course (600m) and rode quickly back into transition.  The way to get him to keep up the pace was simply to say “FAST!”…. I must have said it 100 times in the race.  We headed out for the final run (100m) and before I knew it he was crossing the finish line to collect his medal, and his high-fives of course.


Shark Boy had to tackle new distances this year.  I already mentioned how well he dealt with having his expectations subverted – this was a big deal, since he hasn’t turned 6 yet, and was expecting to win or place in a race where everyone was younger or smaller.  In the 6-7 age category, he’s a small fish in the big pond again.  He handled all the distances (longer than he’s experienced before 250m run, 1.0km bike, 100m run) no problem, and I explained that running with the big dogs and not coming first was worth more than coming in first in a contest that is easy.  He seemed to get it.


After a celebratory round on a trampoline they had there, we headed home and I got to packing.  I had intended to dash off right after the kids’ race, but with the mandatory athlete briefings at 2:30 and 5:00, I could opt for the second one and linger a bit.  I figured I’d be leaving my wife with both of them for the rest of the night, so whatever I could do to lessen the load before leaving was a good move.  The Lightning Kid was tired, so I helped get him down for a nap, and apparently the plan was to go see a movie, Shaun the Sheep, which would be the Lightning Kid’s first trip to the movie theatre.  I left the house at 2:00PM for the drive to Welland, and got a text message that while they were all playing in the back yard, Shark Boy had locked his mother out of the house in a fit of pique.  Guess he’s the one who should have had a nap – not a good sign for peace on the home front.

The drive to Welland was peppered with rain showers and some downpours, but the forecast for Sunday/Race Day was good, so I didn’t get too worried; I just didn’t like my bike getting wet on my car roof.  The swim and T1 were located at the Welland International Flatwater Centre which is used for open water races such as Dragon Boating, Kayak, and Rowing.  I got my race kit/swag, different gear bags and timing chips.  The rain kept me from experiencing the exhibitors at the expo, and some were packing up for the day anyway.  I did get a chance to talk to Jessica from LifeSport Coaching about getting our kids involved in multi-sport; getting them on bikes seems to be a common difficulty.
The Welland International Flatwater Centre in the rain


I was on Periscope a fair bit that day, and I’ve compiled all the scopes I did on Saturday into one video:

As you can see, I got my race kit, scoped out the swim venue as best I could, spied on bikes and drove to Niagara Falls. During the race briefing, they mentioned several spots on the road where large trucks carrying the blades for wind turbines had damaged the roads. I knew those wind turbines would be an interesting sight on the ride, and it certainly was windy in the general area.

From Welland, I made my way to the Chippawa area of Niagara Falls, where I stayed in a cheap motel steps away from Kingsbridge Park where the T2 transition area was to be. I described the motel as a “great place for a drug deal to go bad”, it reeked of cigarette smoke, had borderline no hot water, and various other failings, but it had free wifi, the owner was a nice enough fellow, and it was one of the better deals for accommodation in the local area.

I organized my gear into the various bags (black was to keep my wet-suit and anything else I would drop in T1 – Welland to be transported to the race finish, red had anything I’d need in T2 for the run, and a clear bag for anything I’d need after the race was done like clean, dry clothes), then tried to go to sleep.

I got a late night text message. The Lightning Kid was having difficulty breathing; throughout the cold and flu season this seems to happen. He wakes up wheezing, and difficulty breathing is pretty serious. When we take him to the hospital emergency room, sometimes it’s not really anything, but at least once he’s had pneumonia. This time ended up being one of the worse ones – my wife stayed up with him from 10 PM to 3 AM before taking him to the hospital – he would be put on an oxygen mask and given oral steroids for the better part of Sunday morning. Plan A had been for my mother to take care of the kids so my wife could take a bus to Niagara Falls and cheer me on for the run portion, and we’d take Sunday night as a romantic getaway. Instead, my mother went to the hospital to assist my wife, Shark Boy went to his grandfather’s house for Sunday, and I would race alone.


Of course, a big part of me was questioning what kind of man I was, not being at the side of my wife and family, and instead gallivanting about in some vain attempt to prove something… to who? For what? Did I think I was some kind of hero or something? Then I’d argue that I’d come this far (including a fair distance from the hospital and home), and I should try to enjoy the day. So my mindset went from giving my all to simply trying to auto-pilot my way through the race and soaking in some of the experience while fighting the temptation to throw in the towel and go home to take care of business on the home front.


I drove to the parking lot of the Rapidsview Park (getting a little lost on the way), with plenty of time to spare. I’m guessing I caught one of the first shuttle buses. Though I joked to the crowd:”Anyone feel like doing a little swimming, biking and running today?” my mood was dark and I mostly kept to myself on the bus ride back to Welland.

I verified my fear that I hadn’t packed my timing chip into any of my gear bags, it was still back in my car. This is the kind of little mistake that is no big deal when you arrive with time to spare, but the end of the world when you’re running late. Fortunately, I fell into the former camp and joked with the volunteers about being in a special little club with other who had done the same.

I set up my transition area, including mounting my phone on my bike, but not before I took my last selfie before the swim.


I headed down to the water and waded in to get a few practice strokes in. The water was surpisingly warm, and the swim was less about a warm-up than just checking that the wet-suit was on comfortably. I met my friend Peter, and helped him with his Garmin. The elite and first two swim waves went off starting at 9:00 and every 5 minutes after that. You could start on either side of this floating divider, and though they encouraged faster swimmers to go on the far side of it, the far side was more crowded so I ended up floating on the side closer to shore as I waited for the horn to go off.

I had a long day ahead of me.

To be continued!

You can still donate to my RODS Racing Page to aid in the adoption of an orphan with Down syndrome.

Looking Ahead to Barrelman, Looking Back on the Training Season

This is the final week of “training” before the Barrelman Triathlon.  I put training in quotation marks, because between lower back pain, a head cold (that descended to my chest on Sunday), and some of the rainiest weather I’ve seen in at least a month, I haven’t been hitting a lot of workouts.  I thank my lucky stars that I’m tapering, and the workouts don’t count as much (or at least that’s how I’m consoling myself).  


The good news is that I’ve gotten chiropractic treatment for my back and it’s been improving slowly yet steadily, and I’ve got until next Sunday to shake this cold.  Doctor Wife’s prescription is to be in bed by 10:00PM (N.B. my wife is not a doctor, but I still think it’s a good prescription).

I’m feeling ambivalent about the last few weeks of training that I’ve been through.  On the one hand, I’ve hit new records for distance in every sport (all time distance for open water swim and bike, and 2 year records for running, pool swim record probably occurred earlier in the season), I’m faster and stronger than I’ve probably ever been, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to undertake the journey at all.  Still, I feel controlled by the program: Monday=Strength, Tuesday=Swim+Run and so on.  I was watching a Periscope a few weeks ago where the host was distinguishing between exercise and training.  If I understood her correctly, training has a finite goal, and is structured to serve that purpose, whereas exercise is more about general maintenance, health and fun.  I commented that I missed exercise and was sick of training, but I don’t think I really made myself clear. I just want to take an exercise class for fun sometimes, without questioning which of the 3 masters (Swim, Bike, Run) I’m serving.
This needs updating with a bunch of other new ideas…

I’m already wondering what I’m going to do with myself when it’s done; which feels like a mistake, because I haven’t finished the race yet. Still, stay with me for a bit while I ruminate. Most of all, I want to re-devote my time to my family; while I think I did ‘Walk The Line’ the way I said I would on my Vision Board, how can I ever really give enough? Big ticket items include volunteering with Shark Boy’s Beaver Scout Colony and helping the Lightning Kid with speech and occupational Therapy work.


The race weekend is going to be a hectic one. On Friday, I turn 42, so this race is kind of my birthday present to myself, and the sacrifices my family has made are the only presents I really wanted. Saturday will see us put both boys in the Family Fun Fit Beaches Kids of Steel Duathlon. This will be Shark Boy‘s fourth year, but the Lightning Kid’s first. He’s been really improving on a glider bike, and participated in a bike camp during the summer to get better on a pedal bike with training wheels. The trick will be keeping him focused on forward motion rather than waving at fans. He also does fall off sometimes, and even steers into his father’s legs (trying to cause a DNS no doubt). From the race, I’m going to Welland to set up my T1 and bike, pick up my race kit and get informed and oriented, then I head to a cheap motel in Niagara Falls on my own. My wife will be in Niagara Falls on Sunday to cheer me on (for the run leg) and then we’ll have our romantic getaway night… sore muscles and all.

Remember, you can still sponsor me and donate to RODS Racing; we’re still short of sending Laura home to a loving family. I’ll be wearing my official kit if you see me there! Wish me luck this weekend!

German Vacation 2015 Recap

I used to break down these trips into multiple parts, thanks to extensive journals I kept, but I think I’d just prefer to do a single round-up and not just because I didn’t keep a journal this time.  I think I’m just going to do a summary by category.


Family Adventures


  • Climb UP! Climbing Forest.

This was one of the cooler adventures we got up to.  For adults, there are various challenges to climb up into the treetops, and of course, some zip lines.  We didn’t do the adult challenges in favour of accompanying the kids.  They each wore safety harnesses with 2 carabiners that got hooked into safety lines that ran alongside each climbing challenge.  The challenges were strung together to form an entire course to traverse.  At the end of one challenge, you’d unhook a carabiner from the completed challenge’s safety line and hook it into the new, then you’d repeat for the second carabiner, so that in principle, you were always tethered.  The kids never got any higher than around 5 feet off the ground, but I guess it’s the principle that’s important.  Shark Boy loved it and managed his own safety harness, and while the Lightning Kid seems to be a born climber, he got a little tired about halfway through the course so I let him bail.


  • Germendorf Zoo/Theme Park

We’ve visited this place annually for at least 3 years now.  When we got in, Shark Boy found a dead snake beneath a statue of an elephant, and by the time we were done, he still considered it a highlight.  This year I had us navigate toward the ‘Dinosaur’ section before we got too close to the carnival rides and playgrounds that always seem to high-jack the kids’ interest in the animals there.  I think I only saw one dinosaur (statue) but we got to see some animals we haven’t seen in prior visits.  For me the highlight was a puma, which is not only one of my favourite animals, but this one actually got up and walked around, which is kind of rare for big cats in captivity (in my experience).  He did seem to take an unhealthy interest in Shark Boy; at least, unhealthy for the boy – his ears pricked up, he stared, licked his chops, you name it.  


We got to see monkeys playing, meerkats, parrots and even pet and feed a deer.


Then it was time for lunch and rides.  We shelled out for them to ride these electrically powered motorcycles (they move fairly slowly), which not only gave us a sweet moment of the two brothers riding together, but we actually got the Lightning Kid to ride his own.  He did a great job of steering until he’d get distracted by what his brother was up to, and then he’d crash – which didn’t hurt him but resulted in tears from the sudden shock.  There was an indoor play area which used to house a ball pit and a few bouncy castles, but they’ve expanded it into a much more extensive play area with all kinds of climbing structures.


I don’t like to make fun of personal appearances, but I have to tell this story.  My wife and I were sitting near the ball pit which was intended (according to the signs) for kids aged 0-5.  There were kids much older in there, and they were throwing the balls out of the pit and generally making a nuisance of themselves.  The supervisor turned up and told them off – and they got off light, because the supervisor was a witch from a storybook, I kid you not.  Hook nose, wild and wiry hair, crazy eyes… all that was missing was a wart.  I know we weren’t all created to have movie star good looks, but maybe using a brush once in a while… on the other hand, maybe it helps with her job.  My wife and I have read a lot of German children’s literature (as children ourselves, we don’t like it too much for our kids) where there is often some kind of boogeyman who comes and gets you when you don’t follow the rules (see here for an example) – so we couldn’t help but laugh to see one of these scenarios brought to life.


  • River Cruise

Another annual mandatory outing.  We had lovely weather, but this year they stopped making a stop near where we were staying, so we had to make a round trip.  The food menu seemed reduced too, but at least it’s getting easier to keep the kids safe while they roam the decks.


  • Bike Ride

We rode our bikes through the local forest into the town of Tegel to find a playground.  This day was particularly hot, so the shade provided by the trees was very welcome.  Shark Boy had been getting over a flu, and I think we overestimated his recovery, because he simply quit well before we could get home, in spite of covering a much bigger distance last year.  Still, taken as a whole, I have to call it a successful outing, and hopefully a precursor to future family bike trips.


Food


There’s a Simpsons episode where Germany is referred to as the land of chocolate, so we had plenty of that.  I honestly don’t quite understand how Germans stay thin (my observations of people make me think that they’re thinner on average, though I found this on Wikipedia – Canadian men are 2 kg lighter than Germans [who are 6 kg lighter than Americans] on average).  They have some good habits like more walking and biking as transportation, not to mention that the evening meal is generally quite light, with lunch being the big hot meal, but still!  The bread is made with white flour, the meat is often red; I have a hard enough time eating fruit at home, but with fresh cold cuts and cheeses bought on a daily basis, they really get pushed to the side.


And then there’s my fetish for ice cream made in the image of pasta… I try to eat Spaghetti Ice Cream as often as I can get my hands on it while I’m in Germany since I can’t get it back home.  The ice cream is pushed through a press to make noodles, the tomato sauce is actually strawberry sauce, and the grated cheese is either grated coconut, or grated white chocolate.  I didn’t get to try any new places this year, but I got enough samples to keep me happy.


My wife and I had two date nights: once at our favourite little Italian place, where they always treat us like royalty and once at Alten Fritz (which has been open, in some capacity or another, since 1410!).  We actually went to this restaurant twice: once with a larger group, and once with just the two of us.  The first time I had a Goulash made with Wild Boar, and the second time a platter with 3 kinds of dumpling; it was really an eye-opener to how fine traditional German cuisine can be.  There’s outdoor seating and even a little forested area with pond that really adds to the ambience.


Training


  • Swim

I used our proximity to the Havel River to my full advantage and I’d packed my wetsuit.  I got in 3 open water swims, and since I’ve been doing a lot more than usual pool training, the difference that the open water makes was a bit of a surprise to me.  I’m not sure of my technique in open water, but I’ve got the rest of the summer to figure it out.  I got 3 different swims in, and one was 1800m, close to a half-iron distance swim.  I think I’ll be putting together a post about swimming in an unfamiliar river.


  • Bike

In addition to the family bike ride mentioned above, I got in 3 rides.  I knew my cycling training would suffer the most for not having access to a road or tri bike, but two of my rides were with the Lightning Kid, including one that had us out for about 3 hours (2 hours of actual riding) – it was great bonding time for us, and he liked seeing the sights and sounds including visiting a pens where boars and deer are kept.  My third ride got cut short by a flat tire.


  • Run

Running is the easiest form of training to accomplish on vacation.  Running with my brother on the day we arrived with jet lag (after an overnight flight) was pretty challenging; I expected to feel tired, but I had this dead feeling in my legs that I wasn’t prepared for.   For the first few days in Berlin we had a lot of cold weather and rain so my first solo run was not enjoyable, but I also had nice runs in sunnier weather, alternating between going along the Havel River (and trying, unsuccessfully, to race one of the Steamboat cruises) and through the forest.



Beer

In addition to the usual suspects I also got to try the original Budweiser.  This Czech lager is nothing like the American brew and I really enjoyed it.  There was also Altenmuenster, which I gave 3.25 stars out of 5 and my wife and I both had a Kronbacher Radler.  If you haven’t heard of a Radler (Moosehead is making one, for example), it’s a little like a shandy or other beer based beverage.   A mix of sparkling lemonade and beer, the story goes that a bar owner was getting cleaned out of stock by thirsty cyclists stopping in, so he found a way to stretch his inventory while still quenching his customers’ thirst – Radler translates to ‘Cyclist’ as it turns out.  So of course we had one while on the family bike ride mentioned above.


That’s a wrap on another German holiday!

Indoor Sky-Diving at iFly (with Shark Boy)

I’m linking up with Lakeshore Runner for Tri-ed It Tuesday.  Wait till you get a load of what Shark Boy and I tried the weekend before last!



OK, this post is going to be off-topic, since it’s got nothing to do with triathlon, or fitness or any of the usual subjects.  I suppose it is related to active family living, as one of the ways we manage to get the whole family involved in physical activities and travel is to treat our life as an ongoing adventure.  Plus, the experience was simply too cool not to use this space to shout about it.



During the winter, we were taking the Lightning Kid to a hearing test at ErinOak Kids.  I spotted a building called iFly and deduced it was dedicated to indoor skydiving; something I had read about when I was a kid, and seen on TV, but never experienced.  The idea is that you’re put in a wind tunnel that simulates the air rushing by you when you’re in free fall.  By assuming a spread-eagle position, you float on the air currents.   All the fun of sky diving without jumping out of a perfectly good airplane – far less risk, somewhat less adrenaline.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my wife was taking mental notes, and gave me a pass to be used in the future as a Valentine’s Day present.  I waited for my chance (i.e. a break in our weekend schedule) and took Shark Boy, as they take kids as young as 4.

We had booked a 6:00PM slot, so after a rushed dinner at Boston Pizza, where I think Shark Boy was too excited to eat even his favourite foods, we walked into the facility and reported to the front desk.  I was sent to a screen to fill in waivers for the two of us.  They asked the usual health questions you’d expect, as well as asking about a history of shoulder dislocation.  Doing it digitally was nice since it auto-filled a lot of Shark Boy’s information with mine (e.g. address, email, and phone number).

After that, we were weighed for the record and sent upstairs to the viewing area where we could see flights in session.  We were told we’d have about 2 and a half hours of time to spend there which would include some training time.  I worried about Shark Boy’s attention span for any classroom orientation, but watching others tackle their flights was exciting enough to keep him engaged.


We were assigned a group number, and our instructor, Mike G, came to the viewing/waiting area to gather us into a classroom.  He was very laid-back and casual, and told us the classroom training would be an hour and a half.  That was apparently a joke, as it turned out to be about 15 minutes.  He was great and engaging kids and adults alike, and walked us through the basic rundown of what our flights would be.  We had two flights each, although you could book 4 beforehand and one lady in our group had.  The suggested method for her was to make her flights twice as long, and still have two sessions which would give her more time to hone her skills.

Mike explained the basics of the correct body position; the hips should be the lowest point of the body, the hands should be level with the plane of vision and most importantly the chin should be up.  There are hand signals used in the tunnel because between the ear plugs and helmet for protection and the noise of the turbine, you can’t communicate verbally. Some of the signals are for safety, some for guidance (straighten your legs=two straight fingers, bend your legs=two bent fingers), but my favourite was ‘relax’… it’s the old ‘hang loose’ sign from surfer culture (thumb and pinky extended from the fist).

He showed a video to get us oriented with the basics of entry and exiting the tunnel, and it ended with an expert rising to the top of the chamber and diving back down in an array of flips and turns.  One concerned parent asked if it was possible for someone (especially a child) to rise up that high accidentally.  The answer was no, it actually took a high degree of skill to get up that high – you need to build up momentum somehow.  Of course, getting us excited about getting to that skill level is how they get people to come back!

I made sure Shark Boy was paying attention and repeated as much as I could to him to make sure it was sinking in, I also volunteered him to lie on a special chair to simulate the position.  I probably came off as a little intense, but I just wanted to make sure we got the most out of the experience (it’s not cheap!)


We headed out of the classroom, and got suited up.  The jumpsuits have little handles on the back to make sure the instructor (who is in the chamber with you) can control your motion if necessary.  You can’t bring valuables (including cameras or phones) into the wind chamber with you, but they have lockers which are easy to use.  I snapped a few pics before putting everything away.


There’s a control booth with a window into the chamber where an operator can control the wind speed (or shut it down completely) and also a camera recording video (so they can sell you a DVD of the experience, of course).  While we were waiting for our group to get its turn, I checked out a few facts that were printed on a wall.  Apparently the wind tunnel is built with the motors at the top, meaning the air is actually being sucked from the top as opposed to blown from the bottom – though it does feel like the wind is coming from below, and your cheeks and face show it.  There was also a list of other such facilities all over the world – I only counted 26, so figure we’re lucky here in the Greater Toronto Area (this place was built in 2014).

I have to tell you, each individual flight is only a minute long, which seems dreadfully short when you’re spending 2 hours there, but I swear the time flies  (my puns are always intended).  The inner chamber’s floor is simply a net that air can flow through, but enough to cushion your landing should your flight skills not be up to scratch.  You enter the inner chamber through a doorway, and just outside that is a bench where you wait for your turn.  The kids went first, and when they get in, they all flop around like fish out of water.  The instructor is very attentive to every possible movement and keeps the whole situation under control though – that’s for adults as well as children.  I sat on the bench next to Shark Boy, because I wanted to make sure his exit was as smooth as possible.  I needn’t have worried, since it went perfectly.

For my first flight, I was glad to be able to go independently, without Mike holding on to me, though I had a bit of a laugh at how I crashed into the sides.  I even mugged for the camera.

We went through the entire line-up, and when it was the second round, the girl at the front of the line had lost an earplug.  The effort of getting it put back in meant shutting down the turbine for a minute or two, and by the time we had everything going again, she had lost her nerve.  She declined a second flight.  Then the kid behind her (her brother, same age as Shark Boy, I believe) declined too.  I was worried that it would be contagious and Shark Boy would follow suit, but no, he was game.  On the second flight, you’re a little more comfortable and you do a little better.  Shark Boy flew in what we called a ‘helicopter’ with both he and Mike in the air unanchored, spinning around the tunnel, and I got right up to the top of the viewing window, which apparently is as high as a beginner can get.

The session ended with our instructor Mike demonstrating flips and spins with  big rises to the top of the chamber (a good 30 feet up from the floor) and dives to within inches of the floor.

Once the group’s session was over, we got out of our flight suits, and there was an option to save on future flights if we purchased them that day.  It was enticing, but I wasn’t willing to commit.  If we do go back, we’ll spend less time in orientation and the flights will cost less. As part of our package, we got the DVD and I managed to not only rip the video from it, but edit it to show only the exciting parts (i.e. Shark Boy’s flights and mine).


I talked at length with Shark Boy about how glad I was that he didn’t chicken out because this was a really rare experience that not everyone will ever get to enjoy.  I really meant that.

What do you think? Would you give it a try?  What about the real thing (i.e. jumping out of a perfectly good airplane)?

Motivation Monday: Crashing the Sport Chek #SweatForThis Party

Sport Chek invited some of my favourite local bloggers, like Wildly Fit, Robyn Baldwin and Darwinian Fail (as I composed this sentence, I envisioned them as Charlie’s Angels, and I’m like Bosley or something) to participate in their #SweatForThis campaign.  


Krysten (a.k.a. Darwinian Fail) is even on a TV commercial which you can see here.


I love this campaign, because everyone has their reasons to run, swim, bike, lift and generally break a sweat, so I decided to crash the party with my own reasons.  I’ve compiled them into this video, I hope you like it.  

I #SweatForThis



For some of the stories behind those images, our active family adventures can be found under the tag ‘family‘. I’ll call out some particular highlights like the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Race, our Ski Vacation to Smuggler’s Notch, the 2014 Toronto Yonge Street 10k, and our First Kids of Steel Duatlhon.

What do you think of the video?