Race Recap: 5 Peaks Heart Lake Trail Race

“This race is the longest course in our series, so you guys are all bad-ass for finishing!”  said Erin Dasher (I’m paraphrasing at best) during the awards presentation at the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Trail Run Race and she wasn’t kidding.

When I put the Enduro race at this event on my race calendar, I was expecting a 14 km course.  I didn’t sign up till the last minute, and we found out less than 24 hours before the race it was going to be… 16 km thanks to a detour.  Oh boy.

The pre-race bulletin said to get there early since there would be a line-up to pay the park entrance fee, but we were able to drive straight in.  We were coming in from the parking lot when we ran into our friend Steve, who we last saw at the Lakeside Triathlon.  We also ran into our friend Peter, and were glad to find out I might have some company at the Barrelman Triathlon in September.

We grabbed our respective bibs (this would be Shark Boy’s first timed race) and posed for our obligatory pre-race pose.

The biggest prize in the pre-race swag was either a cool coffee mug that said “I eat mountains for breakfast” or this flexible cup good for insulating hot or cold beverages that is basically unbreakable.  We have too many coffee cups at home, so I took it.

Shark Boy seemed cool with the idea of not only going long (3 km) but running on his own (the rule is for adults to stay off the course during the race, though some alongside running is expected), and I didn’t want to step on that with my own nervousness on his behalf, but I still thought it might be a good idea to scout out the first part of the course with him and show him the orange flags he’d have to follow as well as signs for direction.  The timed kids’ races on the 5 Peaks series vary from 2 to 3 km, so at 3 km, Erin’s quote above applies to the kids too.

Shark Boy attentively listening to pre-race instructions.

Pre-race instructions were given (including a check to see if everyone knew their right from left, which is why he has his hand up in the picture).  I positioned myself at a fence about 25 m from the starting line to cheer him on.  Ready, set, go! He took off with the other kids at a good clip, and it didn’t seem to chaotic as all the racers gave each other safe space.  I took a short-cut path down the shore of Heart Lake to see him go by.

The little guy toward the back is Shark Boy

Then there was nothing left but to go back to the starting line and wait nervously for a while. The Lightning Kid had been eagerly chanting “GO! GO! GO!… FASSSST!” for probably the last 24 hours, and was taking practice runs from the starting line.  Of course, no 5 Peaks race is complete without saying hi to Buffy the Tiger.

When I saw the first of the 3 km racers cross the finish line, I figured I’d head back to the shore and see how Shark Boy was coming along.  I had to wait a bit, but sure enough, I saw him, completely red-faced, huffing and puffing and giving it his all.

He’s nearly spent

I cheered him on, and got him to give what we call in German an Endspurt; that burst of energy and speed you get when you’re nearly finished.  I ran ahead to let my wife know he was closing in for extra photo opportunities, and he finished the race strong – probably one of the youngest racers in the timed race.

In spite of all that effort, Shark Boy wanted to join in on the 1 km ‘Fun Run’ for younger ones that he’d done at the other 5 Peaks races; he said he wanted to help his younger brother. As much as I’m proud of Shark Boy’s grit, determination, athleticism and sense of adventure, his generous heart is his best quality.

I’ve seen these Kids’ Fun Runs vary from 600 to 800 m; today, of course, it was going to be a whole kilometre.  Again, every racer on that day was a bad-ass, even the little Lightning Kid.  I managed to get this great video of him running in the beginning.

He did start to flag after a bit; I’ve found with both boys that they start to lose interest in going as fast as they can without a reward – keeping up the distance running is more of a question of mental focus than physical fitness.  All it took though, was a reminder to “GO! GO! GO!… FASSSST!” and he’d break into a run again.  It definitely helped having Shark Boy there for encouragement.

Photo Credit: Sue Sitki Photography

Toward the end, I had Shark Boy take the same short-cut that I had used in his race to get back to the finish line and warn his mother that we were on final approach.  We crossed the finish line to loud cheers; in fact, they cheered loudly for Shark Boy on his finish too.  It’s always a super-supportive vibe at the 5 Peaks races.

If the splash pad had been open, my wife might have kept the kids at the park while I raced, but we had made a last minute plan that would let Shark Boy attend his dance lesson (for those keeping score at home, that’s a 3 km race, a 1 km race and a dance lesson on those little 5 year-old legs!), and I could pace myself without worrying.  To try to force myself to take it easy in the beginning, I seeded myself in the fourth wave, but I couldn’t help but try to get to the front.

The race starts downhill, and though I knew it was going to be a long run, I couldn’t contain my excitement and went a little fast; the first kilometre was my fastest.  I tried to watch my heart rate the entire race and keep it in Zone 2 (with exceptions for some hills and stuff).  As we went by the shoreline of Heart Lake, I noticed how chummy and chatty my little pack of runners was; we talked about how beautiful (yet hot) the weather was, and when the guy behind me saw me jump a log (rather than go around it) he joked it was “the scenic route”.  I answered that you have to have some fun on these things.

Shark Boy had told me that his race involved a “forest tunnel”, and I chalked it up to his overactive imagination, but they did make a few features with logs and fallen trees that put a ceiling over your head.  The “maze” he also mentioned did prove to be part of his imagination though.  The nice part about an Enduro race is when I see things I want to take pictures of, but I’m not sure whether I want to sacrifice the time to stop, I know I’ll probably be begging for a rest on the second loop, so all I do is take a mental note on the first loop.

The 4 km mark had an aid station in a sunny clearing.  I didn’t need water since I had it in my pack, but I sipped some (what they were calling) Gatorade for the calories, and prepared to be on my way.  I saw a woman dump water on her head, and remembered that was something you could do.  A relief, but not one that lasted.

After being in the shade for another 2 km, the 6 km mark came as we entered another stretch of sun-exposed terrain.  I noticed my legs felt heavy; and promptly tried to un-notice that.  6 km is not long enough to have any real signs of fatigue yet; you are in better shape than that! I told myself.  Despite being bad at meditation or any other kind of more passive mental activity, I did forget about my legs for a while.  On the last kilometre of the first loop, I even picked up some speed for a bit and passed a slower runner.  Before that loop was over, she passed me again while I took a walk break and encouraged me to pick up the pace as it was “almost over”.  I didn’t correct her, but I did laugh about it with another Enduro course runner as we took the right-hand fork away from the finish line and onto the second loop.

“That’s the nice part about the Enduro,” he said, “On the second loop you can run your own race and not have anybody nipping at your heels.”  He’s not wrong, but by the time I had cleared 9 km, I couldn’t help but notice how lonely and quiet things got.  My mind wandered in the worst way, and I lost track of how long my walk breaks got, or what kind of pace I was really keeping.  After neither catching anybody for a while nor being passed, I began to wonder if I was in last place, and all kinds of other negative self-talk.  My entire lower body began to complain, checking in one muscle group at a time: hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads, even hips and lower back.  The complaints went from screams to whines to whimpers as they competed for my attention and drowned each other out.  Also, my hydration pack was empty; the first time that had ever happened, in fact, I used to wonder if I was wasting effort carrying so much on my back.

A few showers came and went which was a nice way to cool off, but they didn’t put any real fuel back in the engine, so the trudging continued.

When I reached the 4 km aid station from before (for a total of 12 km), the volunteer told me that the finish line could be reached just a few hundred meters away if I wanted.  I hope he was just trying to light a fire under me (which he kind of did) because I’d hate to think anyone in my position would take him up on the offer and quit.  I told him I knew, because I could hear the music and P.A. system, but I wasn’t ready to stop yet.   I told myself I could simply watch the kilometers tick off as I went along… 13, 14, 15 and done.  Of course, I also reminded myself that same distance had seemingly taken forever on the second loop already.  Still, I saw my Garmin distance numbers go up (by half-kilometres in intervals that felt like they should be whole integer kilometres) all the same.  I even picked up the pace to real running for the last 2 kilometres, and crossed the finish line to loud cheering (some of that might have been for the awards ceremony which had already started).

I had barely crossed the finish line when I saw my family, returned from the dance lesson and a trip to Tim Horton’s.  With the kids crowding me, I barely got a chance to get any post-race treats.  Not that I minded, I didn’t have that big an appetite somehow, I even turned down a cookie Shark Boy offered me.  I found a shady spot on an embankment near the parking lot and collapse; they had to come find me because I hadn’t even said where I was going – I wasn’t feeling too talkative.  I think everyone suffered in that heat, but Peter managed to come in at 1:43 (to my 1:54) and Steve killed it at 1:36 or so.  I didn’t know then, but my friend Paul had an even worse race.

I tried to look at it as a net positive from a training perspective.  I had put some real strength and staying power into my legs that day, and even more importantly, I got to visit the dark places where I’m sure I’ll be during the Half-Iron race, and learned a little bit about how to get myself out of them.  And before I could wallow in it too much, I got an ambush hug from the Lightning Kid.

Shortly after that, the thunder rolled in, and we had a good laugh at our hurried retreat back to the car.  I secretly suspect the Lightning Kid had something to do with it by living up to his namesake – he even took the time for one of his trademark wild hairstyles!

Though the race was a visit to the pain cave for me, the 5 Peaks events are always a great experience for the whole family, and I’ll always come back.

Race Recap: C3 Kinetico Kids Of Steel Triathlon

The C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel Triathlon took place on Sunday, May 24th, and in a refreshing change from so many endurance events, it didn’t start first thing in the morning, leaving us time to get organized (or even get a couple of hours on the bike trainer before breakfast, in my case).  Thanks to steady stream of emails from Barrie Shepley, we knew exactly when Shark Boy’s race would start, and how much time we should leave ourselves for race kit pick-up and transition set-up.

We pulled into the parking lot of Mayfield Secondary School which is right on the border of Brampton and Caledon and unloaded.  There was a nice volunteer who offered to give us a ride to the race site in his golf cart.  It really wasn’t far, but the kids were thrilled to take a ride, and it made getting the bike there easier, since I didn’t want Shark Boy riding in the parking lot and walking a bike is always tedious.

We arrived at the main race site to see festivities in full swing.  Shark Boy’s favourite song ‘Paradise’ by Coldplay (also a fave of my wife and I) was playing, and the Bouncy Castle/Wall/Slide drew the boys attention right away.  


First things first though, we found the transition area and got his bike and helmet in the proper place.  I was already in a swimsuit, anticipating that I’d be getting in the water with Shark Boy.  I let him keep his shoes on for safety, and brought them to transition a few minutes before the race start, and we opted to go sockless for the sake of speed.  I had a last minute dilemma about putting him in the 6-7 age category; he’s 5 now, but triathlon rules (and body marking) goes by what age you’ll be at the end of the calendar year.  I knew he could handle it physically, but I worried a little about putting him in a higher pressure situation, and that race started a whole hour later.  The fact was that we had registered for the 3-5 year-old race, which is non-timed, so that’s where we stayed.

Then, with some time to spare before opening ceremonies and the race start, off we went to the inflatable slide.  Shark Boy knew what to do, and so did the Lightning Kid, except the whole, ‘wait your turn’ thing.  What nobody expected him to do, is climb the thing unassisted! I think he made a few sets of teeth sweat, but he always made it to the top where a volunteer assisted kids in getting over making sure they all stayed safe and didn’t land on one another.




Either the heat or pre-race nerves started to get to Shark Boy, because he couldn’t wait to get into the pool, and was not happy with waiting for any process or procedure that might keep a race like this organized and free of chaos.  He was even less enthused about sitting through speeches for the opening ceremonies, but luckily, his mood improved once we entered the rec complex – the swim portion took place in an indoor pool.

Each wave had only a few athletes, and it was generally one or two athletes (plus their parent/guardian) per lane, so everything was comfortable.  They had us inch up to an imaginary line where a lifeguard chair was, and wait for the start.  Hilariously, the kids’ nervousness and uncertainty seemed to spread to the parents, as several people started to ask if there would be a signal to start; as if there might not be and we could just go whenever!  That signal came, and off we went.




Thanks to a waterproof case for my phone, I got a few snaps in the pool as he was swimming.  As far as I could tell, he was the only one swimming without a life preserver (I had to turn down several offers).  I think we were first or second to the end of the pool, and some volunteers helped him out while I hoisted myself onto the deck.

We headed outside, and although I had reminded him of where his bike was in the transition area, he still hesitated and had trouble finding it.  Still, once he did, we got shoes on and helmet (of course) before he picked up his bike and we headed to the mounting area, but not before another wrong turn (this time it was my fault).

I’ve experienced how fast Shark Boy is on the bike so I made sure I sprinted ahead.  I tried to get pictures, but wet fingers don’t work well on touch screens, so I missed out and figured there would be some official race photos (more on that in a bit).  The bike course was very short, once around the parking lot, and the volunteers took our bike at the dismount point.

I later heard from my wife, who was struggling (along with the Lightning Kid) to keep up with the race progression visually, that Shark Boy’s name kept being announced over the speakers, as he busted through each leg of the triathlon; out of the water, out of the pool, out of transition 1, into transition 2, across the finish line.

He really got the idea of going as fast as possible, because he didn’t bother to take off his helmet, much to the amusement of the race announcer.  I asked, and he said he was OK running with it on.   We did a loop around the grass, and through the finish gate.  First place for Shark Boy!

He wasn’t interested in bananas or oranges (he’s a bit of a picky eater), so we came round and found my wife and the Lightning Kid who hadn’t been able to see much after the swim because it went by so fast!

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The finisher’s picture we took makes it look like triathlon is something we force him into against his will, but I promise you he’s all smiles during the race; he just doesn’t like having his picture taken and it didn’t help that the race took place during the lunch hour.

I wish we had more pictures to show, and I acknowledge that this is a nit-pick, but the race photographers seemed to manage to get several shots of almost every kid (especially our nearest neighbours in the race), but none of the one who completed the race without physical aid from his parent, nor a life preserver, nor training wheels.  And again, he came in first place.  I’d feel bad for dwelling on the win, but really, how often do you get first place in life (assuming you aren’t Chrissie Wellington)?  We even noticed a drone taking either aerial photos or video, but I don’t know when or where they’ll be available.  

We celebrated the win with a free toy that Shark Boy picked out of a box (a giant bubble wand), balloons, and hot dogs. The C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel Triathlon is a welcoming, inclusive event, because every one asked if the Lightning Kid was racing this year, or if he would next year (it’ll be soon, with a little improvement on the bike). When we floated the idea of him being the first athlete with Down syndrome in the race next year, we found out there was a girl with Down syndrome doing this year’s race. Like I said, being the first is a rare opportunity in this world!

Thanks to the C3 Triathlon Club, Personal Best and all the sponsors for organizing such  a great event!

Race Recap – Spring Into Action 10k for Diabetes

This was our second time running in the Spring Into Action 10 km run.  After last time, I knew we weren’t going to run with both boys in the Chariot; they’re getting bigger and packed like sardines in there, and they seem to be struggling with the behavioural skill of “keep your hands to yourself” (to say nothing of feet).  So this year we brought along my mother-in-law to watch Shark Boy near the starting area while my wife and I pushed the Lightning Kid (who still seems to like this sort of thing) on the run.  

Spring Into Action had a convenient ‘Family’ registration package that saved me time and money.  Getting extra bibs for everyone took a little extra time and effort so that I missed the yoga warm-up, but luckily, the rest of the family got to participate.

I got Shark Boy a tag and bib, because I could imagine what the outcome would be if he was excluded from the bling, even if he was happy to not run the race.

I got a chance to say hi to Barry Samuel (the organizer of the race), beforehand, and he asked a few of the families in attendance to come on stage and kick the event up with the National Anthem.  If my off-key singing hurt anyone’s ears, I apologize!

We got Shark Boy to start the race with us for kicks, but as soon as he touched the starting line archway, he headed back to go play.  I hope you don’t mind me skipping to the end to tell you he had a great time playing in the surrounding woods, engaging in the kind of old fashioned outdoor play that you think kids don’t know how to do anymore.

It was a beautiful day for a run and the spring colours were in full effect in Sunnybrook park.

At the 2.5 km mark the volunteers had the 5k runners turn around to complete their out and back.  Last year there had been some trouble with people getting lost or off of the 10k course, and Barry had mentioned to me that they were going to do better this year.  Just after the 2.5 km mark we veered up one of the biggest, steepest hills I can imagine on a run. At the top was the 3 km mark, where they had us turn around again.  I was a little puzzled since I knew heading back to the start wasn’t going to add up to 10 km, and if getting 10 km was simply a matter of doing the 5 km course twice, why did we have to go up that big hill to 3 km?  

All would become clear to me soon enough, because at the 1 km mark on the way back, we turned back again.  At that point we had run 5 km, running another 2 back to the top of the hill and 3 till the starting point gives us a total of 10 km.  A little confusing, but I have to say it was much easier to stay on the course and not get lost.  This run has to compete with the Mississauga Marathon and the Toronto Goodlife Marathon for participants and volunteers so you have to appreciate that it’s a little smaller.  What the volunteers lacked in numbers, they made up for in cheer and enthusiasm.

With 2 km left to run, the Lightning Kid was eager to get out of the Chariot, going to the point of trying to bluff a bathroom break.  2 km is a little far for his little legs, but once the finish line was within sight, we took him out and he ran his heart out.  I can tell you he wore the medal he earned for it the rest of the day.

There was a post race barbecue with hamburgers (and veggie burgers and hotdogs.  The buns were provided by Cobb’s Bread, who also gave out vouchers and various buns and scones (like delicious cinnamon scones which Shark Boy and I stuffed ourselves with). There was also lemonade for sale (basically for a voluntary donation to a Diabetes cause); lemonade cannot taste better than on a hot day after a run.

There was a DJ playing some nice remixes of older tunes and a clown doing face painting. Shark Boy asked for a cheetah (his favourite animal – no, I’m not changing his nickname), and the results are below.

Before leaving, we grabbed a group shot with Barry and thanked him for a day of fun, run in the sun!

Active Family Travel Review: Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort

“You know what I like about Vermont? It has better sticks.” – Shark Boy

While I have my doubts that the sticks of Vermont are of higher quality than the sticks of Ontario, Shark Boy does have a point that we were able to spend our vacation in a beautiful (fairly) natural setting at Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort.  We try to alternate our spring break between hot places and ski vacations, so after last year’s trip to Mexico, it was going to be skiing, even if this was another brutally cold winter.  Having been to Quebec twice, we wanted to switch it up this year.  My wife did some research at the Toronto Snow Show, and while there was heavy competition, we decided on Smuggler’s Notch due to its reputation for families and the 20% discount deal that they offered us through the show.

Taxicab Selfie on the way to the airport

When I told people about the trip, most assumed we’d drive there from Toronto, but that would have taken longer than I generally like to spend time in a car, never mind with two bored kids in the back.  Flying Porter from the Toronto Island is actually a reasonably comfortable experience with young ones; they get excited about all the various stages – taxi, ferry, air-plane.  The line-ups aren’t as long as at Pearson International Airport and the waiting lounge has free coffee and cookies.  Propeller planes are a little noisier and slower than jets, and they seem to have more turbulence (maybe due to a slower ascent into the more peaceful altitudes?) which is tough if you’re a nervous flyer like my wife.  It was also a bit of a bumpy landing into Burlington, VT.  Porter flights de-board in a weird satellite terminal which requires a shuttle ride to the main terminal.  We’d been expecting a shuttle that we booked with Smuggler’s Notch; they were supposed to have a sign with our name on it, but we were unable to find them either at the first terminal or the main one.  We did, however, get a lot of help and support from the driver of their regular inter-terminal shuttle buses, and we eventually found out that our driver had been told that our flight had been delayed when it actually hadn’t.  The upshot was that I never felt genuinely worried that we wouldn’t get our ride to the resort, everyone we dealt with was courteous, knowledgeable and professional.

We got checked into the resort, and driven to our condo which was in the “Liftside” section, and as the name implies, very close to the lifts.  If we hadn’t had a second story apartment we could have walked onto the hill from the back door of our room.  It was also a very short walk to the main village which not only houses most of the resort’s restaurants, but the ski school, rental shop, and guest services so we were well off in terms of location.

We had our first dinner in the Pizzeria, Riga-Bello’s.  Frankly, I found it a little confusing because it looked like the kind of joint where you walk up to the counter and order a slice, but when we were directed to take menus, it made me think it would be a sit-down-server-takes-your-order experience.  My first instinct was correct, but we ended up having my wife run back and forth from the counter to our table to provide updates as to which pizzas were available by the slice versus whole pizzas – it just made dinner way more complicated than it had to be.  The pizza was okay, but nothing special.

Our apartment was quite nice.  We had our own kitchen, which we sometimes used to make breakfast (the rest of the time we fell prey to the lure of treating ourselves), and a living room area where the kids would watch TV while we prepared our (or more specifically their) equipment and outfits for the ski day.  We were all in one bedroom which worked well, with Shark Boy on a higher bed (he’s a little more stable in his sleeping patterns) and the Lightning Kid on a low trundle bed which felt safe.  One of the things we liked best, of course, was the en suite washer and dryer; which meant not only being able to have clean and dry clothes when we needed them, but kept our packing and luggage to a minimum (2 ski bags, 2 suitcases, a ski boot bag, one backpack, one laptop bag – the last 3 items were all carry-on).

Our first full day at Smuggler’s Notch started with a gorgeous breakfast at the Morse Mountain Grill.  I had the stuffed waffles, which I can highly recommend.  They have a great kids breakfast menu too.

Bringing the kids to the ski school involved some confusion for us.  The package we had booked gave us ‘Discovery Camp’ tickets for both boys, and at the intake/registration, upon hearing that the Lightning Kid had been on skis before (albeit with our help) and was toilet-trained, said he’d be ahead of some of the other students in his class (named Discovery Dynamos while Shark Boy would be in Trail Blazers).  This sounded promising, but we had envisioned him as being in more of a daycare situation with some one-on-one ski instruction.  The instructor who was leading his proposed group had some directed questions about the Lightning Kid’s ability to follow instructions verbally, and in programs like his Little Kickers Soccer class, he’s done better by being able to follow the other kids.  The instructor pushed the Adaptive Ski Program as an idea; Smuggler’s Notch is clearly very proud of their adaptive ski program for individuals of different abilities, as well they should be.  It’s just that we’ve found that he does better when he’s surrounded by typical peers in an inclusive environment – ultimately we know what’s best for our son.  We eventually opted for the Little Rascals on Snow program, which is run out of their Treasures daycare building.  

The Treasures daycare is a short distance uphill, but once we had him registered (a process which was impressively thorough for the safety and security of the children), he seemed comfortable enough, and my wife and I were off for a day of skiing!  The day before had brought some new snow so as we got higher and higher we were treated to some beautiful scenery; snow coated trees and branches.  Smuggler’s Notch has 3 mountains: Morse, Madonna and Sterling.  I guess we were still a little antsy about leaving the kids alone, and we weren’t too confident in our own legs: we had said that getting in even a few runs alone would have been good enough for us on this vacation! We stuck to Morse mountain (the closest to our home base) and only did Blue runs that day.

I found it a little strange that even with 3 mountains worth of ski runs, Smuggs only has old-fashioned (read: slow, not high speed), two person lifts over the entire resort.  It seems quaint, and it didn’t bother me that much, but I think it’s something you’d want to know so you can manage your expectations.

The hillside cafeteria food was basically the kind of fare you might expect, but somehow it all tasted a little above average.  There were a few novel treats too, like macaroni and cheese in a bread-bowl (carb city!).

Everyday at the Treasures daycare, they took the kids into their little backyard where they have what has to be the world’s smallest magic carpet and slope.  Already on the first day, he had done a little skiing on his own.  We’d pick him up in our ski boots, get him geared up, and I’d ski down the hill with him between my legs to the bottom, where we’d walk back into our condo and change for dinner.  Skiing like that is a little tiring (it’s like holding a deep squat), but this was often my favourite part of the day.

Before dinner, we gave the kids a little bit of free play in the Fun Zone, which is an inflated dome full of play areas for kids of various ages and adults.  There’s skee-ball like games, bouncy castles, inflated giant slides and obstacle courses as well as mini-golf.  There’s a few rules for the larger structures that also keep little ones like the Lightning Kid off them, but there was enough smaller play structures to keep him happy.  The Fun Zone was a daily highlight for both kids (even if there are no sticks in the Fun Zone).

We had dinner at the Morse Mountain Grille again.  We were serenaded by Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate.  Ron has some corny pirate humour, but the songs were fun to sing along with and the kids were frankly entranced by him.  Vermont cuisine, in which as far as I can tell always involves Maple, Bacon or Green Apples, was always featured and always desirable.  I had the Maple Whiskey BBQ Steak Tips, which were tasty if a little tough, but what I really enjoyed was the local craft beer sampler, especially the ‘Sunshine and Hoppiness’ Ale.

On the second day, we dropped the kids off a little more efficiently after a breakfast of toast and peanut butter (supplied by items I bought at the General Store the night before), and we sampled Mount Madonna and Mount Sterling.  I had been warned that crossing between the mountains involved flat stretches that needed a lot of skating to get through, but having been warned, I gathered up plenty of momentum each time, and I don’t think it was really that bad.  One of our first priorities at Mount Madonna was to try one of their on-hill Waffle snacks.  I could smell them from several hundred meters away.   They were very tasty, but I’d decline the Nutella if I were you because cleaning up one’s face on the hill isn’t easy.  

We got some good runs in, and I found plenty of Blues that still gave me a little kick with their twisty narrow turns.  One complaint I had was I found that branches would crowd the fringes of many runs; I nearly got taken out by a branch on two occasions, once because I was looking uphill at a run we were merging with – just like the caution sign suggested.  The morning weather was pleasantly mild, but it turned nasty and we spent most of the midday being drizzled on. Getting wet like that made us get cold faster. We knocked off a little early to pick up Shark Boy from his lesson and ski with him.  Being the older brother means getting less attention much of the time, so it’s nice to address that with some two-on-one time; plus we wanted to see what he’d learned!  He showed us some great linked turns and much better stopping than we’d seen from him before we came to Vermont.

We also picked up the Lightning Kid early. My wife wanted us to have a date night, and she found out about a kids’ Fun Feast that would have the kids being looked after and fed, with games, movies and interacting with Mogul Mouse and Billy Bob Bear. She figured we’d have a dinner for two at one of the restaurants, but the reservations desk upped the ante… they were running a snowshoe adventure that evening where we’d take a lift Mount Sterling, do a little snowshoeing, enjoy a candlelit gourmet dinner (catered by their Hearth and Candle restaurant, but on the mountain the location is called Top of the Notch. Then we’d snowshoe down the mountain; and to boot, we’d be able to drop the kids off earlier than other parents who’d signed up for the Fun Feast (another trip to the Fun Zone for our boys).

We took the shuttle from the village to the bottom of Mount Sterling. We were briefed on how we could pick up our snowshoes, board the lift, and disembark – which was going to be more challenging and tricky than it would have been on skis. Not being able to slide off the ramp meant having to turn away from the chair and letting it pass, then crossing the ramp without getting hit by the returning chair. We managed it on our first try. We moved inside to Top of the Notch, where the guides explained the course of the evening. We sat with two other couples who had kids in the same Fun Feast and ski school, and they were even from the West side of Toronto – unfortunately, we were too big dorks to get their contact info… Beth, Richard, Dave and Jenn, if you read this, you can contact me at one of the links on the right side of the page! The head guide/host explained that calls of nature would have to be answered… in nature with a secluded area for the ladies, and the men just about anywhere else. He also invited the whole group for what he called a ‘little hike’ – it ended up being a mostly uphill climb all the way to Stowe! Some of the scenery was lovely, but that was a tough hike, and I’m surprised everybody managed it. Apparently we were the first group that had been able to accomplish that trek this season! I later kicked myself for not wearing my Garmin to track it, especially because the Garmin was actually in the backpack I had brought along for the event – the dinner was BYOB with the exception of a hot chocolate with banana schnapps. We both had trouble with our snowshoes staying on, but the guides were really good and making fixes on the go.

A pond just off the peak of Mount Sterling

We made it! A view from the top of Stowe…

Obviously the way back down was easier, though the sun was getting low and the air got colder. For spring, it was pretty cold, especially with the wind cutting through you. We had a lovely dinner, my pork was a little dry, but the wild mushroom ravioli was heavenly. We heard good things about the Vermont chicken too. Suddenly, it was time to go if we wanted to be on time to pick up our children. The mountain hadn’t gotten any warmer in the dark, but it was a fun downhill hustle in snowshoes, and interesting to see some of the familiar runs of the daytime in the darkness, never mind going at a slower pace than on skis.

We picked up the kids and they were over excited, and over tired, never a good combination. It was St. Patrick’s Day and the Lightning Kid had his face painted green for the occasion. In the spirit of many other St. Patrick’s Day revellers, he also did a face plant in the village courtyard that left a nice little scrape on his nose.

Day 3 was our last full day at Smuggs; and I promised Shark Boy that we’d visit the pool after skiing. We’d been avoiding it since all winter long, every time we took the Lightning Kid skiing, he’d get a nasty cold – barking coughs, wheezy breathing, you name it. My wife booked a massage at the spa, and I wanted to get a few lengths in the pool; it was officially week 1 of my Half-Iron training program and besides the snowshoeing, skiing, lugging ski equipment and chasing the kids around the fun zone, I hadn’t had any real exercise. I found out to my delight that the pool used a salt water chlorination process, but it was only 20 yards long. Ah well, better than nothing.

After that my wife and I met up for more skiing, but the cold winds were blasting up the hill. We got too cold, too fast, and the wind had also cleaned the hills of snow to a large extent. We did the best we could to enjoy ourselves, but getting inside for lunch was a pleasure that I have to say we dragged out longer than we would have otherwise. We only did 2 runs on Mount Madonna before opting to make the ski trek back to Mount Morse and the Village to pick up the kids. While Shark Boy had been a little resistant to go to a “Ski School” – we shouldn’t have called it that because school means teachers which means rules and orders to follow – he didn’t want it to end and was sad when he found out it was his last day. The instructors were great, and they use a GPS tracking technology (called Flaik) which not only lets them track the kids in case of emergency, but summarizes their runs, you can even map it out from the Flaik website.

One of Shark Boy’s days on skis.

Swimming in the pool ended up being a lot of fun. I had Shark Boy do a swim test to prove he could handle the deep end, which I’m proud to say he passed with flying colours. The Lightning Kid has tubes in his ears, and we got custom earplugs to protect them; this was one of my first times working with them, and I lost them. Three times, but I found them every time, once in the drain filter, once floating nearby, and once in the middle of the pool where I did my best Hasselhoff impression with a daring aquatic rescue (Baywatch reference!). 

We took the kids to the Fun Zone which was next to the indoor pool so their hair could dry a little before going the the Hearth and Candle. It’s a cozy restaurant which would have been nice for a romantic dinner in the basement where the fireplaces are, but the main floor accommodates families beautifully too. I got a chance to try the Vermont chicken which I had missed out on the night before and it was delicious. What I didn’t enjoy as much was the Maple Bacon Manhattan; I blame myself, because it didn’t taste any different than it should, I think I just expected to like it based on the fact that all the individual ingredients were things that I liked.

On Day 4, we weren’t flying out till the afternoon, and Smuggs was nice enough to let us have a late checkout without any extra charges which meant being able to do a few runs as a family. And the Lightning Kid didn’t seem like swimming had caused him to catch a cold! Oddly enough, it was the first time we’d gotten a real look at the beginner’s runs and lifts. Apparently Shark Boy was able to ride the Mogul Mouse lift by himself, and he didn’t like me lifting him up to get on the Village lift; turns out it was a good idea though because those chairs are a little higher and it nearly knocked him down – I managed to snag him in the last second. He actually rode mostly with his mother, because it was my job to get the Lightning Kid on the chairlift. Both my wife and I were nervous at the prospect, but I resolved to simply keep a good hold on him. The lift staff didn’t bat an eyelash as I lined up for the lift.

I got a lift-selfie to mark the occasion

We moved over to make use of the magic carpet and were able to let Shark Boy ski independently while my wife and I got the Lightning Kid to ski unassisted. WHICH HE TOTALLY DID…. for about 6 feet, but still! I got him to put his hands on his knees which is something he’s learned in the soccer program I mentioned earlier. That made his stance perfect with a low centre of gravity. Any time he wasn’t being held up, he screamed, but he did ski independently which was a great moment for us. Another funny moment was when we convinced him to ski without being held, by distracting him and singing “LET IT GO!” (his all-time favourite song from the movie Frozen). We capped off our last day at Smuggler’s Notch as a family of four skiers, and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

Our shuttle back to Burlington airport had all the info he needed to make sure we were there in a timely fashion and he even gave us a little scenic tour so we could see some of the mountains and learn about what some of the local villages have to offer; Underhill and Jericho Corners are great for hiking, for example.

We had a fairly uneventful flight back, and I think this trip stands out as a good example of how family vacations don’t have to be stressful; there were hair-pulling moments of course, but altogether, we got what we wanted out of the trip.

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?

March 4th? March Forth!

Today is my father’s birthday.  He would have been 73 years old… at any rate, this date tends to make me a little sad, that we can’t celebrate it with him in person.  I know he’d be crazy about his grandsons, and they’d be crazy about him too.

Shark Boy knows a lot about his ‘Opa Klaus’ and sometimes asks questions about him, while I’ve been coaching the Lightning Kid on how to say the name.  The best way I know to celebrate his life is to get outside with my family and move.  I like to think he’s cheering us on and helping us overcome any obstacles on the way whenever we ski, bike, swim, run, or whatever.

I came across the idea that we should ‘March Forth’ on March the Fourth somewhere in my (probably online) travels last year, but it was too late to incorporate the message into my blog or other social media channels.  This year, I’m going to March Forth on March 4th, and throughout the year.  If you want to see how I do it today, your best bet is to follow me on Instagram…
As for the rest of the year, keep watching this space!

Friday Five: Tips For Active Family Living

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

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

  1. Leave it to the last minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Use Your Optimism Muscle

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

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


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

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

  1. Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

Collingwood Madness (Part 2)

In case you missed Part 1, here it is!

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

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

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

The boys chilling before we went to the Aquatic Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Five: February Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Are More Active Than You Think…

King of the Playground

The news has been getting me down lately.  I really don’t know how to fix terrorism or the sorry state of our culture when it comes to gender roles etc.  But I have seen a few things this week that make me want to refute claims that our youth are overly sedentary and our digital society is ruining how they socialize.

We’ve had a nice Indian Summer going on here, and when I’ve gotten home from work, the easiest way to get the kids out of my wife’s hair while she prepares dinner is to head out the back door, through the backyard, to a local playground.  If you’ve been reading this blog at all before today, it should come as no surprise that we get active outside as a family; at least half of this year’s posts follow that theme.

My kids, however, are very young – too young for cellphones, tablets, video games or even most television.  They don’t necessarily represent (even demographically) the overall problem that gets reported in the media.

On Tuesday, I was at the park with the Lightning Kid; Shark Boy is still getting used to full school days without naps, and was taking it easy at home.  I saw some pre-teen boys doing some calisthenics.  I found it puzzling, because there didn’t seem to be a real leader or purpose to their exercises, but I was still glad to see young people being active.  The Lightning Kid and I played our little game of climbing up the playground and going down the slide for a while before we got called to dinner, but on the way back, I noticed their exercises had progressed to martial arts kicks.  I started to think they might be doing some kind of pretend ninja training… then I saw one of the kids consult a tablet. They were obviously following some kind of Youtube workout/training video!  Score one for the digital age.

Yesterday, I took the Lightning Kid to the playground again, and I got a call that Shark Boy wanted to join us.  He ran out of the backyard and I made sure he got to the park.  Once we started climbing the structure, we found we had to share it with some teenagers (I’d put them around 14 – definitely a little older than Tuesdays’ kids).  They were playing Manhunt/Manhunter or something – basically a combination of tag/hide and seek that involved teamwork.  I don’t need to figure out the details – I played games like that as a kid too, and rules always vary from region to region and generation to generation.  The point is, they were breathlessly sprinting, climbing, trash-talking etc. not cyber-bullying or sexting, or any of the other things we worry about teenagers getting up to.

Technology has a way of reshaping our culture for better and for worse, but the important thing to remember is that it usually fragments the way we spend our time rather than making wholesale replacements – kids are playing outside AND playing video games, for example.  It’s not always black/white/either/or out there.

Have you seen any examples of kids engaging in traditional play, or even re-interpreting it for the modern age?