Multi-Sport Mind: Biathlon

With the Sochi Winter Olympic Games right around the corner, I thought it might be fun to learn about an often overlooked winter multi-sport event: the Biathlon.

The word biathlon is of Greek origin and means “two tests”.  In this case, the two tests are skiing and shooting.  The sport has its roots in snow-covered Scandinavia where an important survival skill was the ability to hunt on skis with a rifle slung over the shoulder.

A form of biathlon appeared at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 as a team event called the military ski patrol.  The military ski patrol would also be a demonstration event at St. Moritz 1928, Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 and St. Moritz 1948, the same year the rules for biathlon were standardized.  Biathlon would make its official Olympic debut at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.  Women would compete in Olympic biathlon for the first time at Albertville 1992.  There are now five events each for men and women as well as a mixed relay which will make its debut at Sochi 2014.
The sport makes unique demands on biathletes’ bodies.  After skiing fast and hard in cross-country free technique, biathletes must calm themselves to take accurate and controlled shots at targets 50 metres away.  The target size depends on whether the athlete is in the prone or standing position.  In the prone position, the hit area is 45 mm while in the standing position the hit area is 115 mm.  (source)

I find that last part interesting, because cross-country skiing is an endurance sport (and a tough one at that), the other half of the sport demands an entirely different skill set.  Mental focus, hard-eye coordination and such are really hard to achieve when your heart is pounding its way out of your chest (I used to have a video game in the early PC days called Winter Games; in the biathlon the targeting sight used to bounce up and down faster depending on how hard you had skied).  Missing targets incurs time penalties, so you can undo the hard work done by fast skiing.
I’I’ve noticed that there isn’t much cross-country skiing going on in Southern Ontario due to lack of consistent snow, so adding the complication and expenses of firearms and the safety protocols doesn’t make the sport very accessible to local youth, though having seen youth in training at Highlands Nordic in Duntroon makes me hope that things are different in Central and Northern Ontario.
I’m not a youth, but the responsibility of storing a firearm safely still makes my interest in biathlon purely academic (but if I did want to get certified, I’d go to Guide To Game).  It got me thinking, what if you substituted a bow (and arrows) for a rifle?  I’d feel a little safer about that… I think the potential for accidents with a bow is probably a lot less.  Well somebody already came up with Bowathlon it turns out… only they’ve subbed cross-country running for skiing.  The other problem is that the site hasn’t been updated in over 10 years, but I still like knowing there are other people pursuing the Multi-sport Mind out there…

Have tried Biathlon? Would you? What about Bowathlon? Any other crazy combinations you could come up with?

Recapping the #FitFluentialTO Get-Together/Tweetup

It’s hard for me to write about an event that I know will be covered by others (and they’ll do a better job of it too) and since this was a social event rather than a training session or a race, it’s even more out of my wheelhouse, but here goes nothing…

Saturday May 4th (happy Star Wars Day!) was the eve of the Goodlife Toronto Marathon, and several Fitfluential Ambassadors were getting together to welcome Brian, the Pavement Runner to town and wish him good luck on the race.  The whole thing was put together by Krysten, the Darwinian Fail.  They’re both great sources of leadership and inspiration in the running community, so any meeting of the minds between the two was sure to be the place to be!

The choice of venue/activity was carbo-loading at the Old Spaghetti factory; I don’t need a race as an excuse to eat pasta… let’s hope this doesn’t set my DietBet back too far!  One of my blogger heroes, Janice the Fitness Cheerleader got in touch and we carpooled to downtown Toronto for the event.  (You’ll notice I always include their blogger name – luckily my brain managed to stick to actual given names, but my instinct was always to use online handles, like they were superheroes with secret identities or something!)

We sat at the end of the table and were soon joined by Phaedra from Blisters and Black Toenails who organized the great #BostonStrongTO run, in short, another online running community leader (do you see a pattern yet?).  Go to her blog for another recap of the night.

It was the first time I’d met people who I only knew online in real-life (unless I count the old days of internet dating *shudder*).  I have to admit there’s an underlying awkward vibe that goes largely unacknowledged, but I think everyone feels it all the same.  The good news is that the crowd is so like-minded in their interests – running, social media, triathlon, blogging, health and wellness that good conversation is pretty much non-stop.  There was just a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings as everyone wanted to support the racers, who wanted to support the community of Boston.  If you weren’t racing, you still had training or wellness or blogging goals that everyone wanted you to be able to achieve too.  I even learned about a couple of kids Tri events that bear further looking into…

Phaedra not only beat me to the punch on the recap, but also did a great job of collecting links.  I hereby hijack that list, and add to it…

Christina:  The Athletarian
Kierston:  Candy Fit
Lisa:  ElleSeeFit

and without blogs, but on twitter: Derek
I’ll be spending the rest of the evening adding those to my Feedly (Google Reader Replacement), you should do the same and follow them on Twitter or whatever too.  If you were there that night and I forgot you (or know someone fitting that description), please leave a link in the comments!

EDIT: Holy Cow! I nearly forgot the best part! We all got little loot bags of  Clif Energy Products to take home.  I’ll bet I’m set for race season…

Motivation Monday: Listing One’s Strengths

Apparently in Crossfit, there’s a saying: write down a list of your strengths and your weaknesses, then throw out the list of strengths, and work on your weaknesses.  This is certainly wise, and in reading various fitness blogs, the phrase I probably run across the most, is: “I really need to work on my…”.

What about doing the opposite?  What about acknowledging the parts of your training where you’re a total Rock Star?  Self-doubt and criticism will come unbidden anyway, we should be making room to pat ourselves on the back from time to time.  Without further ado, here are my top 5 strengths:

  1. I start slow.  That sounds like a negative, but hear me out.  I can remember my first (only) marathon.  I had put myself in a corral based on the time I thought I could achieve and then I looked around.  Old men, runners with no shoes, runners a lot heavier than me.  I began to get down… was I underestimating myself?  No,  I thought, I had spent a lot of time training, and a big part of that was getting to know my body, and what it was and wasn’t capable of.  I had trained for my race, now I needed to race my training, I told myself.  I could easily have gotten psyched out and adopted an aggressive pace early to try and get ahead of those I thought I “should” have been beating, but that would have ruined me for the latter parts of the race.  Sure enough, I did pass some of those people who had probably made that exact mistake.   Being able to be conservative has helped me not only in endurance sports, but in grappling tournaments for jiu-jitsu.  In Crossfit and workouts inspired by that philosophy, I like doing RFT (Rounds for Time) better than AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible [within a time limit]), since I find I can estimate how I’m going to be able to get the exercises done.  I’ll take very small breaks as needed and be able to keep a fairly even level of activity and intensity, rather than having an awesome first round then being close to dying thereafter.
  2. I finish fast.  I may not have the fastest time, or even the best time for what my physical abilities are, but when I cross the finish line, it looks like I’m in a race.  I was raised with the German concept of “Endspurt” which is a burst of speed for the end that you are either a) given (like a ‘second wind’) or b) make happen or c) both. 
  3. Hills.  When I see a hill, I attack it like it insulted my mother then stole my bike.  I treat it as an obstacle to be overcome – no moaning and complaining, just get it behind you.  I’ll pass people going up hills in a race; hills still affect me, and take a lot out of me, I just find the best time to recover is shortly after you’ve crested it.  Some people will re-pass me on  the flats or whatever, I just don’t like prolonging the pain of going uphill by going slowly.  That goes for running or biking.
  4. Flexibility.  I’ll run with a slower partner.  I’ll ride with a faster group.  I’ll push a baby-jogger.  I’ll go out in the freezing cold, snow, dark, whatever.  I love trying new ways to train and/or exercise.  I don’t train in the evenings usually, just because I have to be so protective of my sleep, but mornings would be fine by me (if the kids would stay asleep and in bed).  I’m definitely able to work out while tired and sleep deprived.
  5. Humility.  That one is going to look strange in a post that’s pretty much tailor made to show off, but I am aware of my own short-comings.  More importantly, I don’t compare myself to others much.  This is my hobby, and while there are those that are better and faster than me (some even while having the same or more commitments to work and family etc.), beating myself up over why I can’t do the same simply takes the fun out of my hobby and pass-time.  I do what I can, when I can, and I want to have fun doing it… that has to be good enough.
Enough about me… what are your strengths?  What makes you a Rock Star? Listing one strength is good, listing 5 is better!

Race Preview: Chilly Half-Marathon

It’s the Chilly Half-Marathon this week!  Between depressive funks, snow and slush challenges and simply not always having every kilometer done that I should have, I was beginning to dread race day, but now, the more I learn about the race, the more I’m fired up for it (free beer)!

Here’s a video review of last year’s race (free beer!) courtesy of Get Out There Magazine:

Here’s all the reasons I’m excited::

  • Free Beer!
  • Weather looks good.

    • Free Coffee*
    • Free Beer!
    • Course is pretty flat:

    Race Route is approximate… it was the best I could do with Google Earth

      • Free Chilli
      • On my last tempo run, my hear rate stayed at 78% of max or below, so I think I can make the finish line in less than two hours.
      • Free Beer!
      • It starts at 10:05 AM perfectly reasonable to get the whole family out, and because we have friends in the area, they won’t have to wait outside the whole time.
      • Fitness Cheerleader is running this race too!
      For this week’s training (still in Taper mode), I did 5 km on the treadmill Monday, a Trifecta Tuesday involving a 1.4km swim (with kick drills, fist swimming and water jogging), Rowga (which really stretched out all the muscles I wanted streched out!).  I got my 1.5 mile tempo run with warm-up and cool-down giving me about 11 km total run for the week.

      Hopefully the rest of the week and weekend will be restful… on Sunday I hope to run like there is no tomorrow.  And from a training perspective, there won’t be!

                  Half-Marathon Training Weekly Recap: Bite My Shiny Metal Treadmill

                  • Monday: I had my 19.2 km run planned for Tuesday, and I wanted my legs as fresh as possible, yet I didn’t want to take a rest day (yet).  The answer: all upper body strength work.  I had a packed day at the office so I managed 30 minutes of chest and back exercises like dumbbell presses, bent-over rows, pull-ups, incline/decline bench press and the like.

                  • Tuesday: 19.4 km… read all about it here.

                  • Wednesday: The best option for me that day was to push a workout into the evening.  After my struggles with winter conditions the day before, I opted to head to the gym and grab a treadmill.  I took my iPad along and used Netflix to see what an episode of the new seasons of Futurama would be like.  I loved this show in its first run (have all those seasons on DVD), yet when it was ‘reborn’ I watched a couple of episodes and felt like they had somehow lost the magic.  It was like the balance of Crude vs. Clever was tipping in favour of the former.  Yet on Wednesday night, it was like old times.  As Bender would say: “I’m back, Baby!”.  The really funny part, was the fact that what I was watching got shared to Facebook, and my wife commented: “I thought you were at the Gym?”  iPad on the treadmill… watching SciFi cartoons…Biggest. Run-Nerd. EVAR.

                  • Thursday: I was behind on workouts overall, so I fit in 3.2 km on the treadmill (with more Netflix) before a PB Freakin Fit class.  The WOD: 4 Rounds for Time of
                    1. 20 Push-ups
                    2. 20 Stationary Lunges (10/side) with 10 lb dumbbells
                    3. 20 ‘Plié’ jumps (wide stance, toes out squat like a ballet plié – into a jump)
                    4. 20 Shoulder presses with 10 lb dumbbells
                  There might have been a part two to that WOD (workout of the day) but I had to bail for a meeting.  I also did a 55 second plank and two 30 second side planks.

                  • Friday: Tempo run on the treadmill (4 miles at 5:30/km).  That’s my longest tempo run, and it was tough.  It was also my third day in a row on the treadmill, and I still don’t like that thing.  I think the problem I have is that I want to get the run over with, so for a given distance, I’ll set an overly aggressive pace (unless it’s the prescribed training tempo), and end up struggling so hard, that I can’t enjoy whatever I’ve set myself up with for entertainment.  I should probably try slower paces and use the programs to create the variety needed to stay engaged with it.

                  • Sunday: The taper begins! My long run was a paltry 7.2 km (rather than the prescribed 8 km).  While the conditions were better than Tuesday, it was still very, very cold, and due to new snow, I had to stick to sidewalks.   I was pretty irritated to have my Yaktrax break on me (the buckle holding the strap on broke and vanished).  If I can find the time I’ll contact the manufacturer to see about warranty, but it’s a lot of money to spend on something that’s only been on handful of runs.
                  Any Futurama fans out there? Or Dreadmill Haters?

                  The Week in Links: SCIENCE!

                  Here are some of the best links I came across this week…

                  The Top Ten Sport Science Stories of 2012

                  #1 is the Lance Armstrong Fall.  I’ve been wanting to write about this, and maybe the upcoming interview with Oprah will freshen the topic somewhat.  Sport Science is fascinating since there are so many claims when it comes to fitness and what does and doesn’t work, that it takes rigorous analysis sometimes to debunk some of the myths.  Plus, it’s an intersection of my nerdier interests and my jock-ier interests.

                  The jaw-dropping benefits of cross-country skiing

                  A great article by Alex Hutchinson (who’s a great source for clearing up the claims of various studies) about why Cross-Country Skiing is such a superior form of exercise. 

                  13 Fitness Trends to Watch for in 2013

                  It’s always nice to see what the new frontiers of fitness are going to be.  I’m especially excited
                  about Primal and Parkour based exercise programs (which could stand to become more mainstream and accessible), Brain-Based Exercise (which overlaps with the former) and Cross Disciplining.  You know what combines those? Burbathlon!  Also the rise of online fitness and video will help with these.  Who knows, maybe Iron Rogue will be providing video this year…

                  Motivation Monday: My Sons Are My Heroes.

                  Over at my Lightning Kid Blog, I recently announced that he had taken his first steps.  He is a little short of his 15 month birthday, and we’re over the moon about his development.  It’s not only terribly early by the developmental milestones for children with Down Syndrome, it’s within the range of typical development.  I was watching him try standing the other day.  He’d crawl on hands and knees, get his feet under his hips, straighten up into standing, then flop onto his butt… but he was doing this over and over again with an intensity and persistence that could only be described as furious.  Tenacity is going to serve him well because I know he’ll face adversity as he gets older.  Likewise persistence, as my father used to quote Calvin Coolidge:

                  Now Shark Boy’s persistence isn’t any lesser, but a little more annoying, since he will argue on everything with me, sometimes I feel like he’d dispute the colour of the sky.  What’s remarkable about him, is his response to being tired: he simply goes faster.  Think about it: if you had to pull an all-nighter, and you started feeling drowsy, you’d probably put on a pot of coffee.  What if you did a sprint around the block?  That would wake you up!  Shark Boy had discovered this little fact from the time he could crawl, I figure.

                  If you ask just about any toddler or preschooler whether they’re tired, they’ll automatically say no even if all signs (fussiness, irritability, eye rubs, yawning) point to yes.  Shark Boy (and again the Lightning Kid to a large extent) don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.  As their parent, I find them exhausting obviously, but in moments when I can reflect on the day, I still admire that even as the energy in those little bodies starts to wane, their spirits want to keep going.  If I may quote my eldest son:

                  Words to live by…

                  On a bit of a post-script, I found other inspiration this week from an unlikely source… a brewing company.  I read a bit about Rogue Ales; obviously the name alone appealed to me.  They’ve got a lot of different flavours (like Chipotle Ale) that I want to try, but it looks like it’s a little hard to come by in Canada, especially in the Greater Toronto Area (BC looks like it’s better off).

                  By the power of Greyskull I will track down and drink this beer: @rogueales Chipotle… #beerchat
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) January 4, 2013

                  I started poking around the website and found their ‘Declaration of Interdependence‘ down the page was the following image and text:

                  Source: via Axel on Pinterest

                  • Rogues take risks.
                  • Rogues are willing to shun titles and personal financial success in the
                    pursuit of the greater good.
                  • Rogues pursue the long shot.
                  • Rogues have respect for diversity.
                  • Rogues are never satisfied to rest on past laurels.
                  • Rogues work hard.
                  • Rogues are driven to succeed in their chosen field.
                  • Rogues ignore the accepted patterns and blaze their own trails.
                  • Rogues have raw talent and focus on that talent.
                  • Rogues are honest with themselves and others.
                  • Rogues are rebels.
                  • Rogues have one foot in reality to let them get the job done, but they are, nonetheless, led by their dreams.
                  Some of those really spoke to me (maybe not so much the one about raw talent…).  I’d like to think they apply to my life and my pursuits…

                  Have you ever found inspiration from an unlikely source?

                  Achievement Unlocked: Ski-Commute

                  The Greater Toronto Area was hit with a snowstorm the night of December 26th.  Now, I’ve biked to work, and I’ve run to work, and I’ve even in-line skated to work.  The white whale of active living commutes for me though, has been the idea of cross-country skiing to work.  It would take a lot of special circumstances, most importantly a fresh snowfall.  I figured it was still holiday time and the office would be less than bustling so those circumstances were going to line up perfectly today…

                  Well, not quite perfectly.  I had brought my laptop home for the holidays.  Luckily, I brought it in a backpack rather than the typical shoulder bag laptops come in, so I could carry it, if I was willing to haul the extra 10lbs or so.  I also had to shovel the driveway before leaving (I got some help from Shark Boy).  Life (especially as a family man) has taught me that things are never perfect, and unless there’s a serious, serious obstacle –

                  if you want to do something, the time is now.

                  Going to cross at item off my #BucketList today… Can you guess? #fitfluential
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  I couldn’t resist the tease…

                  So, though I got a late start after my wife took Shark Boy to daycare (with the Lightning Kid along for the ride), I got suited up to go.  I couldn’t find my Garmin heart rate monitor, so I just used Endomondo to track the trip.  I also decided to live tweet the whole thing.

                  OK… Ladies & Gentlemen, boys & girls of all ages, coming to you live via Twitter… The #SkiCommute!
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  Backpack (with laptop) #SkiCommute
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  #SkiCommute Facemask
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  Hoorag on display

                  #SkiCommute skis
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  And off I went.  I actually skied on my own street to avoid the side-walks that my more industrious neighbours had already cleared.  I also skied across a few lawns, just to be able to spare my skis from cement, salt, or whatever.  Still I had to take them off and walk for a bit (though it gave me a chance to joke with an elderly lady shovelling her driveway.  Once I hit the park, I was good for a long ride on my skis.

                  Of course, I hadn’t thought the whole route through…

                  #SkiCommute have to take ’em off for this part
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  This would be the first of two bridges I had to go under…

                  I became aware of just how little snow I was skiing on by the fact that instead of the usual satisfying ‘crunch’ the poles make as they crush snow beneath their tips, there was a startling ‘knock’ as they hit the gravel or pavement just under the snow.  I got used to it after a while, but it rattled my nerves a little.

                  #SkiCommute kept the skis on for this part; didn’t think it would work.
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                   This part was real ‘bush-whacking’… I enjoy it when I’m running, but even I’m less agile with planks stuck to my feet.  Still, I managed not to fall (especially not into the neighbouring river), and I was really enjoying myself.  I was just about done…

                  Last effort…uphill #SkiCommute
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  After I took that picture, I think I put my Blackberry back in my pocket.  I took my skis off at the top of the hill, because it was all side-walk from there on in.  I wanted to terminate the Endomondo session and tweet victory, but I noticed the Blackberry was not in my pocket, and the pocket was unzipped.

                  I figured it fell out as I bent over to take off the skis, but I couldn’t find it at the top of the hill.  I retraced my steps to where I took the picture and couldn’t see a sign of it.  I dug through the snow, I looked at every suspicious hole in the snow.  I eventually ran inside, asked to look at Endomondo on someone’s computer.

                  You can see almost exactly where it must have been.  I ran back outside, and searched a 25 square foot area for a good 20 minutes, digging with my hands, kicking snow with my boots… nothing.  The mishap put a  damper on my mood… I can’t say it ruined the day since I’d accomplished something I’d been fantasizing about since we moved into our house.

                  And so the great #SkiCommute comes to an ignoble end… with a lost cell-phone.#Fitfluential.
                  — Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) December 27, 2012

                  I got out of my ski clothes in the change rooms, and treated myself to a hot shower.  I think everyone is still in holiday half-sleep, since the sight of me walking around the office carrying skis didn’t raise any questions at all.


                  The Blackberry was gone, and I had to report it as such, but the good news is I had my new Samsung Galaxy S3 waiting in the wings (as described here).   This gave me the excuse to embrace change and get it activated; I’m still getting used to it, but Endomondo was the first app I installed so that I could make the trip back home.

                  On the way home, I didn’t live tweet, I didn’t take pictures.  I figure all that goofing around was what led to me losing track of the old phone.  I just concentrated on skiing.  Due to that focus, and the fact that the snow had been tramped down by hikers, toboggans, bikes, and I don’t know what else, it was much faster going; almost like skiing on a track-set trail.  The stats from Endomondo seem to back that up:

                  I got home and squared away most of the gear, then started preparing dinner – Chili! What every good ski commuter eats for hisher reward meal when he/she gets in from the cold.  I guess I should invest in snow-shoes so I can do another wacky commute… after all, a snow-storm is no excuse to miss work!

                  Can you turn a ‘bad’ weather day into an opportunity?  Let me know!