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?

Flashback: Run About Town, November 20th

WARNING: Do not try this at home.  Well actually, you couldn’t anyway, since it involves going outside.  And if I really didn’t want anyone to do it, I’d probably keep it to myself instead of blogging about it.  Still, as you’ll see, this sort of thing isn’t for everyone.  I guess, what I’m saying, is attempt this sort of thing at your own risk.

In late November of last year, we had a stroke of luck in our scheduling I suppose.  My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were attending her company’s Christmas party, and the company had rented out the Better Living Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition and filled it with rides and attractions for kids.  They didn’t have kids of their own, so they invited our kids to take advantage and have fun that particular Sunday.  Normally, my wife and I would take advantage of the time for a date of some kind, but she was otherwise engaged (I don’t remember what).  What I ended up doing, is resolving to go for a run (or maybe rollerblade along the Martin Goodman trail) once I had dropped the kids off.

I found the trail to be a little wet and slippery, so I opted for a run.  I knew I had hours to spend, but I wasn’t in the kind of shape to go far (or fast) so I figured I would do a long, slow distance with plenty of breaks and sight seeing.


I even wore a backpack with my laptop and a book in it.  This is the first thing you might want to think twice before attempting.  My pace was a slow jog, so the bouncing around was minimized.  This backpack also has a nice laptop sleeve to keep the hardware still and stable, still the risk of falling and breaking it was there.  The first stretch of the Martin Goodman trail offered some pleasant reminiscing to when I was training for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in 2006.

The weather got a little nastier and I felt like I needed my first break so I found a Starbucks and had an Eggnog Latte.   This is risky item number 2.  I’ve never been the fastest or the strongest in body, but I have pretty close to a cast-iron stomach.  I sipped my holiday coffee treat, and started putting things in motion to move this blog from its old home on Blogger/blogspot to self-hosted.  I read a little in a book called Sapiens: A Brief History or Humanity by Yuval Noah Harari.  It’s a really interesting book, but I confess, I haven’t been keeping at it; I’m a very slow reader when it comes to non-fiction.

After I left Starbucks, I turned North away from the Lakeshore area toward the city.  I passed by Old Fort York, which I’ve seen plenty of times, but I also saw something that puzzled me:

That is a canoe – sitting by some old railway tracks, with no water nearby, in the middle of the city.   Stay weird, Toronto.

I hadn’t had lunch, and just the day before a friend had told me about Toma Burger Addiction.  I already knew of the place, I think it had been in the papers even, but my friend was giving me a first hand account of how good it was.  When it comes to gourmet burgers, we live in a golden age.  I had the El Diablo, and it took a while to prepare, not that it bothered me – I was enjoying listening to the Australian accents of some exchange students (I think) at the next booth.  I even had a beer – remember what I said about the cast-iron stomach? That was about to be tested, but first, let me show you the burger:

I honestly didn’t feel it to be that mind-blowingly good (I think Burger’s Priest still holds the championship in my opinion) but still it was a gourmet burger that I got to enjoy…. and then it was time to try to run back to the car.

Not to worry, I didn’t puke up my lunch on the way, but to say I didn’t notice any detrimental effect either would be a lie.   My pace dragged, and my stomach felt like I was dragging a boulder along on the inside of me.  Still I made it into the Exhibition grounds, and took what seems to be a ‘frustrated selfie’… I guess I was tired.

All in all, it was a fun way to spend the mid-day, and see a bit of the city.  The kids were sweaty and exhausted and grinning when I picked them up, so they matched my mood exactly.

Have you ever gone against the recommended practice in your fitness endeavours and NOT regretted it?

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)?

I Mustache You A Question

I was tagged by Robyn Baldwin to do this Mustache Questionnaire… who am I to refuse?

  • This mustache and this both are… bananas!

    Four names that people call me, other than my real name:

  1. Alex.  BIGGEST PET PEEVE.  There’s nothing wrong with the name Alex, except it’s not MY NAME.  I used to joke to people that called me that that there’s a dyslexia epidemic, until I came across someone who actually had dyslexia.  Has anyone seen my foot? Oh here it is, in my mouth.  It got bad enough that I actually (in a moment of low self-esteem, probably in my teens) considered changing my name to save everyone the trouble.  Nowadays, I correct people right away so they can’t get into the bad habit – I have to confront the embarrassment head-on.
  2. Papa – only two people call me that, but they do say it A LOT.
  3. Ax – due to #1 and what must have been a record-setting number of disparaging nicknames as a kid, I generally refuse to answer to anything but my actual name.  This one nickname gets grandfathered in since my oldest friends still use it.
  4. Axe-man – see #3

  • Four jobs I have had – My career as an engineer has been quite checkered, but if you’re not in the industry, it probably doesn’t seem that varied.  I think this list is more for crazy/joe jobs, so I’ll list those.
  1. Cleaning after pets at the Ontario Humane Society
  2. Tutoring (French, Math, Physics)
  3. Translating Academic Papers from German to English (or at least, proof-reading the translations)
  4. Wireless Network Engineer

  • Four movies I have watched more than once:
  1. Star Wars (all of them) – I think it was generally accepted practice in my generation (for boys at least) that social ranking was determined by who had seen the movies the most.
  2. Pulp Fiction – This is one of the movies I decided I must own on DVD once I first got a DVD player.  Highly quotable, in fact, it just gave me the idea to put “Bad Motherf***er” on some of my tri stuff (helmet, bike, etc.) just so I can paraphrase the diner scene.
  3. Swingers – From the same list as Pulp Fiction, maybe not quite as timeless.
  4. The Good The Bad and the Ugly – I love this movie, but I mostly put it on this list so anyone who’s seen it will now have the theme stuck in their head.

  • Two Books I recommend:
  1. A Prayer For Owen Meany – If this book isn’t the only book to make me laugh out loud AND cry, then it’s definitely the record holder for number of times it’s done both.
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – This book might not be for everyone, but if you like it, we can be friends, and if you’ve read it, you’ll better understand my sense of humour or even my worldview.  I try to emulate Douglas Adams a fair bit in my own writing.

  • Four places I have lived:
  1. Toronto: Grew up in Scarborough, first place of my own in North York, currently in Mississauga.
  2. Waterloo, ON: University
  3. Braunschweig, Germany: 1 year exchange
  4. Leeds, UK: Grad School

  • Four Places I have been:
  1. Thailand
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Germany
  4. Switzerland

Honourable Mentions: France, Mexico, Turks & Caicos

  • Four places I would rather be right now:
  1. Costa Rica – any place warm/tropical would do right now, but I dreamt of this place the other morning.
  2. Seville – This place made a great impression on me culturally (architecture, food, music); it’s also warmer than here, and very relaxed.
  3. New Orleans – Ditto
  4. Bed – Warmth, comfort… you know.

  • Four things I don’t eat:
  1. BRAAAAINS – this is part joke about how I’m not a zombie (yet), but some people do eat brain.  I consider myself an adventurous eater, but here’s where I draw the line.
  2. Leek – I really don’t like the taste of this one.
  3. Brussel Sprouts – Does anyone like these?
  4. Avocado – this one’s weird, I think it’s the texture, because I have no problem with guacamole.

  • Four of my favourite foods:
  1. Spaghetti and Meat Sauce – this was number one when I was a kid, and I’m not gonna change…
  2. Burgers
  3. Steak
  4. Muffins – I had to admit these were my weakness when I found that I could avoid sweets entirely, except I’d crack and get one of these mid-mornings.  I can say no to ice cream, chocolate, cookies, cake, donuts no problem, but muffins slip the net far too often.

Honourable Mentions: Butter Chicken, Peanut Curry, Pancakes, Jambalaya…

  • Four TV Shows I watch:
  1. New Girl
  2. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  3. Brooklyn 99
  4. Saturday Night Live

Honourable Mentions: I’m working through Orange Is The New Black on Netflix, Game of Thrones (season 2 so far) on DVD, and when House of Cards comes back… hooo boy.

  • Four things I am looking forward to next year:
  1. The Lightning Kid going to school – I’m also terrified at how well he’ll cope and if he’s ready for it all, but it’s a major milestone to be in an actual school instead of a daycare.
  2. Triathlon Season – Half-Iron, Off-Road and Winter Triathlon are all possibilities in 2015.  I haven’t nailed down goals or a schedule, but there’s sure to be something exciting.
  3. Visit to Germany – We go every year, and the travel gets a little less stressful every year as the kids mature… I think.
  4. Camping – Not a certainty but we’ve wanted to go camping as a family since before we were a family, and we’ve basically waited till the Lightning Kid is out of diapers completely… maybe that’s what I’m actually looking forward to the most.

  • Four things I am always saying:
  1. No hitting, no screaming, no breaking things – the 3 biggest rules in the house, and repeating them has barely helped with complying…
  2. No Retreat, No Surrender – this started as my mantra for toilet training, but I’ve applied it parenting and advocating for the Lightning Kid’s education and inclusion.  It works for athletic goals too.  It’s a Springsteen song and a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.

  1. Alley-Oop! – Every time I pick one of the boys up.
  2. Ugh. – I guess I’m not always a happy camper…

  • Tag 4 people
  1. Hayley Goleniowska of Downs Side Up
  2. Morgan of Wildly Fit

Friday Five Favourites

It’s Friday, and I’m going to list some favourite things I’ve discovered over the summer.  It’s a series from You Signed Up For What?

  1. My Mizuno Wave Rider 17s – I actually bought these before the trip to Germany, and it was there that I wore them running for the first time.  My Salomon trail shoes were showing their age, and I figured it was time for new shoes.  So many running bloggers I know love Mizuno, and these came recommended for runners who like/need cushioning, without being heavy.  Since buying them, I’ve found out Mizuno makes trail shoes, but I still really like these, as they’ve lived up to their weight vs. cushioning ratio promise.

  2. Cheddar & Caramel Smartfood – A while back, my wife managed to grab something called Chicago Mix, which was a mixture of Cheddar cheese popcorn and caramel corn.  I’m all about the savoury/sweet mixtures (e.g. salted caramel) these days.  Sadly, Chicago mix was hard to get our hands on, but this version of Smartfood is the next best thing, and I keep stumbling across it in every grocery store.

  3. Kobo Glo e-Reader – This thing has kept me reading a little better than I might have otherwise.  I forgot it at the cottage this weekend, but I’m currently reading through A Feast of Crows (Book 4 of A Song of Fire and Ice a.k.a. the Game Of Thrones books).  It also came in handy when I wanted to read the short fiction work of fellow triathlon blogger Dan T. Head, and as long as it’s connected to WiFi, it syncs my progress so I can continue reading on my phone (or iPad) app.
  4. Mill Street Brewery Seasonal Sampler – Every time I drink a Mill Street beer, I feel good about supporting a home team brewery, but the beers themselves aren’t always my absolute favourite (I really want to love the Organic Lager, but I don’t).  The seasonal sampler is a six-pack of six different flavours, 4-5 of which I would love to have in their own 6 (or 12, or 24…) packs.  100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager (distinct from the aforementioned Organic Lager), Palomar (Chipotle Lime) Ale, and the Belgian Cherry IPA are all new, and the Belgian Wit was new(-ish) to me. 
  5. Spi-Belt – I heard about Spi-Belt a while ago, and I kept hoping some blogger would post a giveaway or discount, but I ended up cracking and buying one.  The concept is simple: provide a belt for runners with a generic pocket that can store ID, keys, smart-phone/other device.  So many products are dimensioned exactly for a particular thing, making them useless if you’re not using, say, an iPhone.  The Spi-Belt’s pocket expands to fit a variety of items.  It’s a bit of a pain to get my smartphone in and out when I want to do things on the run (skip songs, pause the workout recording, take a photo), but for the better part of a year I was without a solution for storing things unless I wore my hydration pack or a water bottle belt.  I’ve since found out there are models that have even bigger pockets; the Endurance model and the Messenger Bag.
Happy Friday!

My Random Yet Awesome Playlist

On the last day of March, the sun came out, and it was time for an outdoor run.  I was so happy to get some sunlight on my face, and simply the ability to get out without a scarf or mask meant the run I was going to embark on could do no wrong.

I was using my phone for music, and the truth is, I’ve never quite mastered managing playlists or loading music on it, so what’s on there doesn’t represent anywhere near my whole music collection, but I put it on random and figured I could take it as it comes… here’s what came out of my earphones that day:

“Don’t Call it a comeback!” though it felt like one, running outside in pleasant weather. Great start to the run
A U2 Fave – awesome tempo.
I have tons of STP on my phone.  At least one of their songs was bound to come up.
80s! An urgent beat to keep me going.
A cover from their Renegades album.  More like old fashioned punk than most RATM (it’s originally by MC5)
One of their best tracks.  It’s baffling that this wasn’t one of their big radio singles.  Bonus: the quieter parts seemed to line up with when I had to negotiate ice/puddles and the chorus would come in just as I could go fast again.  Perfect.
Well, I don’t want to finish last… Bonus: The guitar solo came in right at the bottom of the biggest final hill, causing me to charge up at 100% effort.  I love it when that happens!
“Fight off the lethargy…” the hill is done, and the run is nearly over.  A good rhythm for plodding to the end.
Heh.  Well, I was heading straight back to the office a.k.a. ‘The Man’. Less on the tempo, good for cooling down.

Maybe it was just the positive attitude I had that day, but it really felt like serendipity to get such perfect tracks at random.  I made a point to keep track of what I’d heard (thanks to the scrobbling – tracking what tunes are played) so I could share it with you guys.

Would you ever trust the shuffle gods to do your running playlist?

Active Family Vacation: Skiing in Mont Sainte Anne

I’m really behind on blog post topics.  As the subject matter becomes less current (or even irrelevant), I’m left with either abandoning the topic, or going ahead with a ‘better late than never’ attitude.  This one falls into the latter camp; I know you don’t want to hear about winter, but we had a good time, and maybe the information will be useful for next season.

Winter is tough.  For everyone, but even worse for families with small children.  If you’re a family with small children and want to lead active lifestyles, EVEN TOUGHER.  We’ve done a good job of embracing the elements that a Canadian Winter gives us, but the snow in Southern Ontario is inconsistent at best, and really immersing yourself in the winter environment takes more time than than the average weekend allows (think packing, driving, herding the cats kids).  Enter the ski vacation.

Two years ago, we shopped around at the Ski and Snowboard Show for ski resorts that could accommodate a family with a child less than 18 months.  All the reps at the show acted like it would be no problem, since they simply wanted to make a sale, but the truth was, that the 18-month mark is a dividing line for daycare licensing and insurance and most resorts didn’t have that capability.  Shark Boy was going to be 17 months old (close but no cigar) for the dates we were looking at, but Mont Ste Anne takes kids into it’s daycare from 6 months on!  Staying inside Canada meant no customs/border hassles, avoiding invasive TSA screening procedures and dealing in Canadian currency.   Long story short, we loved it and booked another trip this year, which we did in the end of March.

We flew to Quebec City with Porter Airlines from the Toronto Island Airport. That made for some excitement as the kids got to enjoy a taxi ride, a ferry ride and a plane trip… I made the pre-boarding a little more exciting by forgetting one of our suitcases, necessitating a panicked taxi-ride home and back (an extra hundred bucks, ouch), but we made our flight just fine.  

The weather in Ontario had been iffy, sometimes cold, sometimes mild, but not very good with snow, but immediately before we left, Sainte Anne got a dump of fresh snow.

From what I could tell, this wasn’t powder of the very highest grade, but it was good enough for me. We were booked into the Chateau Mont Sainte Anne, and in one of their newer Studio (Nordik) rooms with a King bed. We had a crib for the Lightning Kid and Shark Boy slept on the pull-out couch.

The morning after arriving, we brought the boys to the daycare where they were welcomed with open arms. My theory on child-care givers is that experience brings an air of cool confidence that kids can read, and things tend to go smoother; the staff at Mont Sainte Anne has that air. We kept Shark Boy in for the whole day on Saturday which gave us the time to ski almost

all day.

Problem: I hadn’t downhill skied in two years at least. We took mostly Blue runs, but we found we had to take frequent breaks on the hills, and even on the Blue trails we found moguls we weren’t ready for. My theory is that downhill skiing is quite the opposite of most sports I do: rather than applying little to moderate force through a fairly large scale movement (like a running stride or cycling pedal stroke), you’re mostly pushing with a great deal of force through very little movement at all when you’re digging your edges in on turns. It’s dynamic versus static muscular strength and endurance.

We’d pick Shark Boy up after his second ski lesson, and had a few runs with us so we could see the progress he was making – it seems like he’s a natural. After that, we’d pick the Lighting Kid up (typically once he’d woken up from a nap) and take them for a ride up the gondola… and of course, back down.

He got frightened during a plane take-off but this didn’t bother him a bit.

Dead times before (and sometimes after) meals were spent in the kids room in the basement of the Chateau (there is also a video arcade, but our kids are too young for that kind of thing, and we weren’t going to encourage it – though later on, I got smoked at Dance Dance Revolution). The kids loved the toys in there and frequently played with other children – language barrier be darned.

I did have a little scare in the kids’ playroom. One morning, the Lightning Kid woke up around 5, and wouldn’t go back down. I had to dress quickly and hustle him out of the room before he could wake up his brother. I took him down to the playroom and let him go. I ended up finding a very large bug, which (to my surprise, since I was feeling sluggish as you can imagine) I was able to capture and bring to the front desk. Any parent wants their kids to be able to play in a fairly clean environment so my paranoia was going full tilt. When I followed up later, a member of the staff explained that they deemed it a grasshopper (rather than something more scary), and that these sorts of things could come in from all over the world in visitors suitcases. They take a lot of measure to prevent infestations like the kind my imagination was running wild with, and I had to admit, it didn’t really look like a cockroach or anything like that, so I was basically satisfied.

There are a good variety of restaurants within the resort grounds, so we tried a new place every night. We also ended up packing up our food before we could complete a proper meal, because the kids wouldn’t behave properly (I think they were a little overstimulated by the new environment and/or activities). Quebecers are really laid-back and don’t bat an eyelid at kids’ behaviour; unfortunately, I’m not a Quebecer, I’m an uptight Ontarian and meal-times ended up stressing me out.

The last gasp before bedtime was a swim in the pool (also in the basement of the pool). I was able to get Shark Boy to show me some of the skills he’s been learning in his swim lessons, and we’ve long since discovered that swimming is an excellent way to tucker them out so they’ll sleep.

Once they were out one of us had to stay in the room with them, so we weren’t able to enjoy our evenings as a couple. We’d do a little solo (drinks, the aforementioned arcade) but conk out early from exhaustion. There were many wake-ups to deal with, so it was good to get all the rest we could.

The next day, I felt so much stronger and more confident on my skis. We still stuck mostly to Blue hills, but it really felt like the best I’ve ever skied in terms of technique. We made sure this time to put in a stop at the Maple Syrup hut on the East side of the mountain. Here, they pour maple syrup into a trough of snow where it congeals, then you pick that up on a stick by rolling it all up (see below). Delicious!

In the trough
I got all the syrup… LIKE A BOSS!

The other thing we made time for is making sure we caught some of Shark Boy’s ski lesson. Then we took him for another run with his parents on “The Big Magic Carpet” as requested.

On our third day, I actually opted to head back to the room and sleep rather than ski. Normally there’s a voice inside that makes me seize the day, and says:”You can only ski like this so often, but you can sleep anytime!” but that isn’t actually true anymore. A chance to sleep without being woken up by the kids (or a phone call or whatever) is about as rare as good powder, which I missed out on that morning by all reports. I did manage a couple of Black Diamond runs in the afternoon, though the snow had gotten granular.

The vacation wound to an end… but they left me wanting more. There is an extensive network of cross-country skiing trails that we haven’t explored yet, and other winter activities like dog-sledding beckon too. My one gripe is that access to other services isn’t so great; two years ago I had to hail a taxi to get to a drug store for infant pain-killers because Shark Boy got an ear infection. There is also no shuttle to/from the Quebec City Airport making cab rides necessary.

Even as the kids get older and the daycare requirements get lighter, easier and more flexible I could see us returning to Mont Ste Anne. For another view on this trip, please visit the Lightning Kid blog.

Iron Rogue Finds a Cure For Winter Running at Tribe Fitness #JoinTheTribe

After having complained about winter running, I was feeling a little painted into a corner… was I really going to give it up? No, but without a change in perspective, I would be locked into dwelling on the negatives and wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself.  Enter an unusual set of circumstances (and a little initiative on my part).

It was shortly before Valentines and my wife and I had our plans already locked down – we were going to see a production of Alice In Wonderland that benefitted Mary Centre.  That was Thursday, so when an opportunity to be kid-free for Wednesday came up, she wanted a girls night out.  While a guys night out would have suited me fine too, they tend to end in the wee hours of the morning, and I wanted to pick my kids up and have them home and in bed before 9:00 at the latest, so I looked for other opportunities.  

One of the things I find have to miss out on are group exercise classes and lessons, since they tend to be held sometime in the period that is usually dinner and/or the kids’ bedtime.  Not this Wednesday!  I ended up picking Tribe Fitness, I believe having originally heard about it on Robyn Baldwin’s blog.  They have been doing training runs on Wednesday night, and some of the group are using this to get ready for Around the Bay or other bigger races.

All I was expecting was a fun, social 5 km run, but I got so much more! After struggling to find a parking space (which ended up being illegal, I didn’t discover the parking ticket till the next day!), I caught up with the tail end of the group and was warmly greeted by Heather Gardner who runs the group.  The warm greeting I got in person was to be expected after the one I got on Twitter when I mused about maybe turning up that night.

OK, tweeps… I have free time early Wednesday evening. Who thinks I should go to the @Tribe_Fitness 5k run?
— Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) February 10, 2014

We ran a little around the area surrounding Canoe Landing Park

First up was Biathlon.  Instead of skiing and shooting a rifle, we ran a sprint lap and took up to 3 throws to hit Hulk-hand targets with a snowball (I made a successful hit on my second lap, but otherwise came up empty).  Taking the throws counted as recovery between sprint laps of the park.

Next up was Luge (though it reminded me more of Bobsled).  I was on a team of 3, and as the biggest member, I didn’t ride, but only pushed my teammates on a crazy-carpet.  I think I made my biggest contribution for the uphill segment, when we switched riders for the way back, I had trouble keeping up and ended up letting go, rather than contribute to bad steering and crashing.  Luckily there was none of that, though there was plenty of laughter.

The last event was a “speed-skating” relay, or more simply, a relay around the park.  All 3 events were great ways to introduce a little of the dreaded speed work (which burn more of those hibernation calories) into the evening, and what’s more, they made them fun.

The group headed indoors for warm drinks, but I had to take my leave and pick up my boys, but I’d heavily recommend to any level of runner in the Toronto area to try and make it out to one of these events, or any other that Tribe Fitness puts on.