5 Peaks Trail Race Recaps: Terra Cotta and Rattlesnake Point

Well, the summer is almost over, I guess I should break the radio silence.  I had previously recapped the 2 Kids’ Triathlons we did this summer, now it’s time to tackle our favourite trail races.

The season started at the Terra Cotta Conservation Area.  This April race tends to have cooler weather, but on this particular day, I think we’d had some of the nicer weather of the Spring season.  It was also my first race as an official Trail Crew Leader, so while I was nervous about fulfilling duties, it was exciting to deepen my connections with the 5 Peaks community, especially those excellent people who help make these races so fun.

Shark Boy did very well for himself and got himself all the way to the podium for the 3 km Kids Timed event; I think the concepts of pacing yourself and racing strategy (which at his age is mostly not looking behind yourself too much) might be getting through to him.

The Lightning Kid participated in the 1 km fun run, which he might think is some kind of parade considering how much he likes to ham it up for the crowds.

I hadn’t gotten a lot of running training in during the winter months so I limited myself to the Sport Course (5.4 km).  Not only did I have a lot of fun (with a back of the pack finish time) but I got the sweet convertible running gloves to take home.

The Rattlesnake Point race took place in June, and I have to say the highly technical clambering involved on that course makes it one of my favourites.  Of course, I did commit to the difficulty of the Enduro Course – at 12.7 km it is well over double the distance of the Sport Course on the same day (and most other races) – so I had plenty of time to rethink my decision on the trail…

But first, let me talk about the kids’ races.  I volunteered to ‘sweep’ the kids’ races to make sure no one was left behind… and I got to witness the sweetest little girl (who was no bigger than the Lightning Kid) and was tackling the timed Kids’ 3 km.   She was accompanied by her mom so my presence was mostly superfluous, but you know, safety first!  Anyway, she completed that course with nothing but smiles, and I heard her chirp “I love this because of the challenge!”, or something along those lines.  My heart nearly burst.

My own kids were no slouches either, of course.

Credit: Sue Sitki of Sue Sitki Photography

We had hot weather and plenty of exhausting climbs, but the scenery is gorgeous along the Niagara Escapement – don’t mind the Turkey Vultures… they won’t feed on you unless you run really slow.  I slowed down enough to take in (and photograph) some beautiful wood sculptures.

 

If some of this (fun for kids, beautiful scenery, hustling your butt along a trail…) looks like fun, the next race is at the Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton, ON on September 16th.  Please consider joining me by clicking on this link and using the code IRONROGUE for a 10% discount.  There’s even a free water bottle as take home swag!

And if you can’t make that one, the Kortright Centre Race is on October 28th.  Register here with the same IRONROGUE discount code.

 

Will I see you there?

Top 5 Reasons to Run a 5Peaks Trail Race (Starting with Rattlesnake Point)

While the Terra Cotta event is already sold out, you can still get a jump on the second race at Rattlesnake Point.  See my recap for my first time here, and some stories from last year here.

If you want to sign up (and you do), be sure to use the code “Iron Rogue” at checkout to save 10% on all race entries (and if you’re in another part of Canada where 5Peaks races occur, you can still use that code.   My top 5 list of reasons to sign up for this race apply to every one of their events anyway.

  1. Low(ish) Impact: Running is bad for your knees!  NOPE.  However, if you are worried about impact on your joints, natural ground like wood chips, dirt, grass, etc. is much softer and springier and easier on all those joints, so trail running is an excellent way to have the cardio and movement components of running without pounding the pavement.
  2. Higher Intensity: The biggest trend in fitness over the past 2-3 years is High Intensity Interval Training.  The idea being to go super hard and intense for short bursts with slower recovery periods in between.  With its up- and downhills, trail running naturally fits into this kind of profile.  Most people compare a trail race with a road race of at least  10% (though I’m used to hearing more like 25-30%)longer distance, and you only have to do one big hill before you realize managing your heart rate is going to be fundamental to finishing your race strong.  Rattlesnake Point fits this profile especially well, as stepping up some of the big rocks is like a lunge or split-squat.
  3. You need to address your nature deficiency.  From Wikipedia:  “Nature deficit disorder refers to the phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods[1] that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors[2] resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems.”  Though the legitimacy of this condition is in question, you will probably agree that you (and your family – see below) might not be getting enough fresh air.  If you’re  a runner, a lot the fresh air you might be getting is on sidewalks, below streetlights, etc. rather than a forest canopy.  Hearing the birds and listening to the leaves rustle in the wind are things we don’t get to do enough of in our current lifestyle…
  4. You don’t like crowds.  If you’re used to running races like 10k’s, marathons (or half-marathons), you might recognize the following: slot yourself into a crowd of people of similar pace, according to posted signs you can hardly see through the masses, and wait several minutes after the gun goes off to cattle drive yourself through the start line.  5Peaks events are much smaller than road races since the condition of the trails has to be protected.  Though there are starting waves (divided by expected speed/pace), and the single track can mean waiting behind someone slightly slower in the early stages of the race, it’s not long before it’s just you (and any pace buddy you might have invited to join you) and the trail.  And if you consider yourself slow, or would even rather power-walk than run the course, use the last (and always least populated) wave as your start.
  5. Family.  Last but not least; in fact, probably the most important and the reason we keep coming back.  My favourite photos of my sons are those of them running in the kids’ fun run.  Before the adult races take place, they always have a 1km (approximately) fun run.  Parents can run alongside (or even carry) their kids and cheer them on – it’s non-competitive and just a great way to introduce them to the joy of movement and physical outdoor exercise.  It’s not uncommon to see toddlers who are barely walking give it a shot, and they love soaking up the admiration of cheering parents – you can see it on the smiles of their faces.  I’ll admit, some kids don’t finish and have meltdowns, but I feel it’s important to keep introducing kids to new experiences; growth happens outside the comfort zone.

There is also a timed race (3 km or so) for older kids which is a little more serious.  Shark Boy started competing in them last summer, and then this fall competed in cross country running for his school.  After the kids’ events, there are snacks, meeting Buffy the Tiger, and generally having outdoor unstructured play in a wide area, the way kids should.

 

The Rattlesnake Point Race takes place June 10th.  The Sport Course is 5.3 km and the Enduro Course is 12.7 km.  Sign up using code ‘Iron Rogue’ for 10% off!

My First* Time Mountain Biking

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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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

The Things Trail Running Has Taught Me

I’m not sure if I can call myself a ‘trail runner’. I always liked the idea that as soon as you run, you’re a runner, so according to that logic, I can. I run on trails during training and I’ve completed a trail race. I prefer being under shady trees to being beside houses and buildings, and the natural earth is easier on my Achilles’ tendons than pavement or concrete.

Through running on trails, I’ve changed as a runner, both mentally and physically.

  • Pay attention to the environment.  Both trail races and triathlons disallow headphones while running, so it pays to get used to running without music.  Instead, you listen to the birds, the wind through the trees, and potential threats too (fitmomintraining has a great series on running safely here and here; being able to spot potential threats is part of it).

  • Pay attention to the terrain.  When you’re on an uneven trail, every step counts, so you end up taking in what your next 5-10 steps are going to be.  I found this paying off on inclines and declines.  Not the big steep monsters you fear (though trail running helps with these physically), but the subtle ones you tend not to notice.  The inclines have you slowing down and wondering how this got so hard if you don’t notice them; when you do notice, you can accommodate or compensate for them.  The declines give you a chance to get a free speed boost, if you know how to run downhill (which trail running gives you lots of practice for) and again, if you notice the decline. 
  • Be ‘present’/’in the moment’.  Running is an opportunity for us to let our minds wander – every runner I know tends to use it as a form of meditation.  Still, most new age/zen wisdom preaches the idea of  being ‘present’.  If we start thinking of all the things we have to get done next week (the future) or beat ourselves up in regret of things that have already happened, we miss the wonder of  now. 

If you want to read more about trail running (maybe from a ‘real’ trail runner 😉 ), then head over to Mountain Kait‘s post here.

Spartan Race Recap

I ran the Sprint Spartan Race the weekend before last.  It’s an experience I won’t forget, but I don’t really mean that in a good way.  The Spartan Race seems to pride itself on toughness, and part of that seems to be to keep race details in the dark, and give racers a surprise.  OK… so you should train yourself for general fitness, and rest assured you’ll be running a lot of hills.  I did the Warrior Dash the year before (I never got around to writing a recap), so this post will draw a lot of comparisons between the two events.

From the pre-race preparation email:
Greetings Spartans,

CLICK HERE to download the BIB LIST. The number on the left of your name is your CHIP number, use the search function in the PDF to search for you name. For Macs, use command+alt+ F to find your info.  Before you arrive at the race,
please write this number in Permanent Marker on your Fore-Head ONLY. If you cannot open the PDF we will send an online version tomorrow.

I guess a Spartan doesn’t have a job that he/she has to go to the next day.  I thought this was a joke, but it was repeated later in the email and they were trying to enforce it at registration.  Most pictures I saw from before I raced seemed to show a minority of people who actually had numbers on their face, but at the starting line I was a little surprised to see how many people played along.  I wonder how long it takes to scrub off, though it would become apparent that the ideal Spartan Race demographic has nothing but tons of time to kill.   I just wrote my number on both arms (accidentally backwards on my right) – I’m used to body marking from triathlon.

I was aiming to get to the race parking lot around 2 hours before (they recommend at least an hour), and we managed to be there 90 minutes before my race was supposed to take off.  After waiting in line for a shuttle bus (yellow rocket school bus), the ride there and making it through registration, I had all of 10 minutes to spare.

For a place that caters to both cross-country skiing and mountain biking, Hardwood Hills was not exactly stroller friendly.  Maybe I should have let the $15 spectator fee dissuade me from having my wife and kids along, but we like to do things as a family, and I sure love the moral support.

Like I had said, I had about 10 minutes to get my timing chip and find the starting line.  With some of the requisite pumping up (and spraying with the fire hose), we were off.

I did like the course layout; at the Warrior Dash the year before, mud was the first thing encountered, and it happened right in the beginning before different paces over different terrain could thin people out a little.  Here, we went a good way before encountering obstacles.  I really struggle to remember every obstacle and its order after the fact, so I just tried to put them in table form below.

The mountain bike/cross country ski trails can get narrow, meaning there were bottlenecks at certain junctures.  The only time I really minded this was when one fellow decided to look back and check how his team-mates were doing, right between two trees we all had to run through.  I had some success communicating with racers I wanted to pass:”Coming up on your right/left”.

The trail presented a lot of climbing and descending, and if you do one of these, hill training is the best thing you can do to prepare.  It was a nice, natural environment to be running through.  Anyway, on to the –

Obstacles!

Name Description Comments
Mountain Crawl Up a hill under a camouflage net meant going on all fours If you’ve ever done mountain climbers, this is what they’re for, only here you’ve got to move your arms too!
Culvert Tunnel a Belly crawl through plastic tubing I was too big to really get my knees involved, so more than anything else this meant pulling myself along with my arms
Cargo Net A loose net about 10-12’ high.  Climb up, over and down the other side You swung around a fair bit making falling off a real possiblity.  I got my foot caught just as I had the other on the ground and wanted to leave the obstacle.  I did a jiu-jitsu roll to get free!
Rope Climb Straight up a rope (with no knots) for guys, rope ladders for girls I doubted my upper body strength on this one, and after a quick try, I realized my technique was lacking too.  I did the 20 burpees instead – the only obstacle where I did that.
Kettle Bell Pulley Raise a couple of kettle bells to around 20’ by pulling a rope down. One of their ‘obstacles’ which is more of a straight fitness/exercise station
Mud Pit Barb Wire Get under the barb wire by crawling through the mud Ow.  There were roots to scratch up your knees (see photos).  You couldn’t avoid them because you couldn’t see them.
Mud Pools Without barb wire you still have to wade through hip to chest height mud By the time you get out, you’re carrying another 5 pounds worth of mud in your clothes.  A hallmark of these kinds of races
8’ wall Get over the wall Did it in one jump and pull-up.  Burbathlon came in handy…
12’ wall Guess…. Unless you’re the size of a pro-basket ball player, you need help of other racers (or to cheat by grabbing a foothold along the side of the wall – that was me).
Bag of Cement Carry a bag of cement (20-30lbs, I figure) on you shoulder (or however you choose) about 100m or so This was one of the easier ones for a parent of small children.  There was only one bag, and it never screamed in my ear.
Spear Throw Throw a spear at a large straw dummy.  As long as you make contact, you’ll avoid extra burpees. Lucky they’re lenient on hitting the target.  My throw grazed it lightly.
Wheel Barrow Cart a wheel barrow-like device for 50-100m. Not much to say
Crooked Balance Beam Stay on the narrow, zig-zagging beam or do burpees Proud I didn’t fall off.  Burbathlon came in handy…
Fire Jump Jump over flames 2-3’ high Another jiu-jitsu roll for me – OVER THE FLAMES!  I got an ‘oooh’ from some spectators
Rowing Machines 20 rows on a rowing machine/ergometer Obstacle?  Sure…
Hay Bales Climb over hay bales using the attached netting
Gladiator Gauntlet Two guys with padded staves and a third un-armed (to push or wrestle you?) By this point the race had run longer than I planned and I thought of my wife having to deal with two screaming kids.  This must have given me the crazy eyes, because I barged straight through those guys with body checks.  They managed to take out my friend Rob though (see photo)
Big Ramp The final climb.  There are ropes, but it’s still slippery and steep. Managed to make it on my first try, though I benefited from watching people in front of me.

After all that, I felt pretty proud to have finished.  I had expected to finish in under 45 minutes (since the race was described as being 3 miles+; i.e. something around/over 5km), but in reality it turned out to be over 7km and took me nearly an hour.  Cue the smiles and victory poses.

Shark Boy and I show our muscles

Hulk Hogan has 24″ pythons… I have pyth-nons

The smiles were not to last however.  The rinse off facility was a meagre garden hose (Warrior Dash used a fire hose, and even that doesn’t get much of the mud off) which had yet another slow, long line-up.  After getting some over-priced food ($23 for a personal pizza, and order of fries, and 3 ice-creams) to feed our starving selves, escaping the venue involved spending over 2 hours in line to get onto a school bus back to the parking lot.  When it started to rain, my wife took the baby into shelter, but someone had to stay with the stroller and hold our place in line, so Shark Boy and I risked hypothermia; he was visibly shivering well before we were able to board, and unfortunately, he’s a little too dynamic to stay still under a tent roof with his mother – it takes both of us to manage our kids for any extended amount of time.  I tried to keep us under the umbrella, but there’s only so much that will do.  Fortunately, once some extra buses beyond the paltry 2-3 that had originally been doing the shuttling showed up, the better nature of some of race participants took over.  The people in front of us in line wanted “to make sure the kids got on this bus”.  Back at the parking lot, another long hike back to the car and we were finally in warmer air and on our way home… through weekend cottage country traffic.  My wife later compared the experience to being at the airport with small children; you have no-where to go and you’re penned in so you feel like a hostage, while hearing the kids’ screams of irritation, boredom and discomfort.

Afterwards, I hoped to find my time results online and find a few photos for this post, but every time I found myself, I seemed to be a background player… and as for the results, check this from the post-race follow-up email:

Congratulations on your Epic achievement,

Results can be found HERE Please use the search function to search for your name. For some participants you will find the Letters TBA by you name, some of the Data stored on the timing box suffered damage there was a small electrical fire by the finish line, we have sent the drive off to see if we can extract the information in the meantime we will keep you posted. 

If you were part of the group that were unable to receive a T-shirt at the end of the race. We apologise sincerely, our final shirt delivery had been held for inspection for Canada Customs for over 3 weeks and despite our best efforts to fly in replacements we were unable to to get the total. HOWEVER it is looking promising that the shirts will be released in the next 48 Hours and when you crossed the finish line you would have given your CHIP Number and Size please confirm your desired Postal adress by CLICKING HERE and we will collate your request with the finish line list and you will receive your T-Shirt.

We would like to apologise as some of you may have experienced line ups at Bag check, showers or the shuttle bus. We would like to Stress how important your experience is to us and we have committed to solve these problems for your next race. 

I had grabbed an extra large T-Shirt (I wear Large) on my way out of the finisher’s area since I couldn’t find a large, and having my fans/family there meant not having to deal with the Bag check.  The basic theme of the event’s problems seems to be that they want as many people showing up as possible (they get admission money for both participants and spectators), but they don’t ensure any reasonable service for all those people.  They either need to cap admissions lower, or spend more on what it takes to get people in and out or wherever they need to be.  I stand by my initial assessment that I got by reading the intro email mentioned at the top of the page: SPARTAN RACE – An event for Morons, by Morons.   I’ll never participate in this event again.

Gear Corner: Reviewing the Salomon XT Wings 10-3 Hydration Pack

While running, I’ve most often handled my hydration needs with a belt and large water bottle. I’ve had two different belts (from Running Room and the North Face) both with large bottles in a diagonal holster, both are fairly good products.

Some of the challenges I faced:
1.) Not enough liquid stored: Whether it was for longer efforts, or in hotter weather,or simply because all the colds I seemed to catch this off-season redirect any fluids towards snot/phlegm production – I seem to need more water than a bottle can provide.

2.) Pockets: So many running shorts and pants lack pockets, and though a running belt will usually have space for keys or a wallet, a gear-head like me always has storage needs that are hard to meet. I bring my Blackberry, sometimes an iPod, sometimes even an extra camera (for blogging or whatever). I also need my keys, my work security card when I’m doing lunchtime workouts… it’s always something.

3.) Dynamic motion: I speculated that the sloshing and jostling makes it uncomfortable going over rougher terrain during trail runs and/or Burbathlon. I’d prefer things to be as integrated into the normal shape of my body as possible; a bottle bulging out over my butt can feel unnatural.

After a little research, I selected a Salomon hydration pack; they seemed to get good reviews and I’m already a big fan of their shoes and cross-country ski gear. I selected the XT Wings because it’s more like a vest than a backpack (satisfying criteria #3). It had enough pockets to keep me happy, too.

I bought the Medium size as it was the only one the store had left, and I wanted to ensure a snug fit so that it would really wear more like a vest than a pack.  I bought a Camelbak reservoir to insert into it.

Installed properly, the reservoir hose goes up under the arm with the nozzle secured in the right-hand strap, near the top of the chest.  This makes for easy access; I like my nozzle as it’s sealed when not in use, to get it to open, all it takes is a little bite.  Water doesn’t taste the greatest coming out of the rubber reservoir, but that’s more of a Camelbak problem than a Salomon one.  There’s also the problem that the first sip (from the water in the hose) is cool and refreshing, while the next is warm and tepid (probably because it’s come from the bag being warmed by my back).

I’ve been able to make good use of the pockets storing my Blackberry, keys, camera (and even a tripod!).  That’s just using the front pockets.  If I used the large pouch on the back, I could have a waterproof shell, or goodness knows what else.

My only real beef with the XT Wings 10-3 is that the zipper doesn’t stay completely closed.  My chest seems to be bursting out.  Much as I like doing Superman impressions, I’d rather the darn thing stay closed.  It’s possible that the next size up would have been better, but like I said, I wanted a snug, functional fit.

I don’t regret the purchase, and I’ve gotten good use of it so far.  If I end up going longer (runs or rides) or expanding into more off-road/adventure type events, I’m sure I’ll like having it even more.

Building my 2012 Race Calendar

It’s probably already getting to be too late to be plotting out my race calendar, as the training plan will follow from that – even one of my loosely structured ‘plans’ is in danger of never truly forming.  I have some favourite races, but I don’t want this year to be ‘Been There, Done That’ so there will be a lot of new and novel races for me this year.

Month
Race Name and Date
Quick Note
April
Primary Goal
May
NO RACES FOUND!
I may be supporting my wife in her race endeavours this month so…
June
Met Con Blue. June 2nd
Secondary Goal; Obstacle Course Race
Spartan Race Toronto (Oro); June 24th
Primary Goal; Obstacle Course Race
July
Muskoka 5150; July 22nd
Primary Goal; Olympic Distance Tri
August
Muskoka Grind; August 5th
Secondary Goal; Off-Road Tri
Primary Goal; Olympic Distance Tri
September
Logs Rocks and Steel; September 8th
Secondary Goal; Multi-sport Adventure

5 Peaks Trail run at Rattlesnake Point: I like running on trails and always have.  Still I don’t know that I can be considered a trail runner – I’m not sure if my usual routes are as technical or challenging as they would be if I were an ‘official’ trail runner.  Still, I’d like to try an official race and the races in this series come highly recommended.  This one is early in the season and as it’s my first one, I’ll stick to the shorter ‘Sport’ Course which is 4.5km.

MET CON BLUE: Obstacle races are blowing up as a trend, and what I like about this one is that it’s a Canadian Homegrown effort – I’m hoping that means less overcrowding than the Warrior Dash I did last year.  Collingwood and Blue Mountain have been like a  home away from home for my family in past years, so it would be fun to head up there for this.  It takes place the same weekend as the Milton Triathlon, but it looks like I might give that one a miss this year. I didn’t get much interest from friends when I tried to get a group going, unlike…

Spartan Race Toronto: This one is closer to where I live, and it looks like we have a strong contingent of people from the Jiu-Jitsu club going, so I’ll join in on the fun.

Muskoka 5150: Gone is the old Muskoka Chase triathlon; I guess I have mixed emotions.  It was a long standing race and one of my first.  The long course was always ‘neither-here-nor-there’: longer than Olympic distance but shorter than Half-Iron.  The Olympic Distance (51.5km total swim-bike-run) is probably my favourite distance so I’m jumping at the chance at doing this on my old stomping grounds in what is still technically a ‘new’ race.

Muskoka Grind: Every year I think I’m going to be able to try an off-road triathlon, and every year I don’t knuckle down and buy myself a mountain bike to accomplish it with.  So far, there’s been a dearth of these events in Ontario, but with this addition to the calendar maybe this is the year I get myself a mountain bike.  If only I knew anything about mountain bikes.  This will be promoted to primary race status once I have one…

Bracebridge Triathlon: The Recharge with Milk Series has become my favourite, but I seem to have trouble lining up their races with my schedule (at least last year).  Bracebridge used to have a Half-Iron but now they’ve gone down to the Olympic Distance, which suits me fine.

Logs, Rocks and Steel: In the same vein as trying an off-road triathlon, I wouldn’t mind dipping my feet into adventure racing without that pesky navigation or teamwork (I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel).  This fits the bill! The Pine Crest Course is 4km of paddling (kayak for solos like me), 22km of mountain biking, then a 5km trail run.  Overall, it’s a lot for me to work up to… good thing it’s late in the season.  Still need that Mountain Bike though.

That’s the plan (so far).  Always subject to change as conflicts and chaos can arrive.  I’ll probably keep updating the table on a separate page of the blog as the year progresses.

Grab/Santa’s Bag of Stuff from the Web

With End-of-Year crunch and Christmas time gatherings, I don’t seem to have time for training or proper blog posts, but here’s a couple of discoveries from the web that I love and wanted to highlight with more than just a tweet.

My favourite triathlon blogger is Swim Bike Mom; a ‘regular jane’ with a job and family who also happens to be a half Ironman.  Her posts are always heartfelt and funny, but this one took the cake (I was actually jealous that I didn’t come up with the idea myself): Triathletes Are Babies.

My other big find was TriMuskoka a newly developed advocacy club for endurance athletes and endurance sport tourism in Huntsville and Lake of Bays, Muskoka. We are committed to athlete development and support for both local and visiting athletes. Our priority is to ensure that every club member achieves his or her goals.  

This area has been home to multiple triathlons in recent years, and I’ve noticed a steep increase in the number of people running and biking out on the roads (I’m sure people are swimming in the lakes too, I just haven’t spotted as many).  I’m really excited to see a formal club/community spring up from all the local enthusiasm, and the icing is that not only is the old Muskoka Chase Triathlon converting to an official WTC 5150 race, but Element Racing is putting on an off-road Triathlon called ‘The Grind’.

A final note: I’ve added an ‘About’ Page for quicker way to introduce myself to new readers.  I’m looking at making some more cosmetic changes on the blog (can’t wait till Blogger’s Dynamic Views allows widgets), I hope they aren’t detrimental.

Happy Holidays and/or Merry Christmas! 

Race Bucket List

Bucket lists seem to be all the rage these days, but I’ve always found the idea daunting – how could I list everything I ever wanted to do?  My list would be something like: 1.) Live Forever and do everything.  Yet, if I focus on the idea that there are endurance/athletic events I would like to participate in, then maybe I can come up with something.

These races will be in the ‘Bucket List’/Pipe Dream category for one or more of the following reasons (in increasing order of likelihood):

  1. Conditioning.  I’m too far out of the shape I’d need to be in to complete
  2. Skill/Equipment.  One or more of the disciplines involves a skill I don’t know how to do
  3. Geography/Logistics:  Getting there with equipment won’t work while taking care of my family at the same time

All of these are fixable or will change with time, and so will the list as I find out new possibilities and opportunities… so let’s get started!

    • Pentathlon Des Neiges.  I was going to put the Ottawa Winterlude Triathlon here but I just happened to stumble across this event in IMPACT magazine. Both events include skating, cross-country skiing, and running, but the Pentathlon des Neiges adds snow-shoeing and cycling.  The latter discipline can be done with mountain or cyclo-cross bikes and actually takes place first (followed by a run, then ski, then skate, then snow-shoe).  There are short (9+4+6+6+4=29km) and long (15+6+9+9+6=45) distance races and it all takes place on the historic Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

    • Men’s Health Urbanathlon What I like about this obstacle course is it seems focused on the fitness aspects needed to complete while leaving out the fear factor/bravado and quite frankly, mud involved in mud runs, Warrior Dashes and Spartan Races and the like.  If they bring one to the Toronto area, I’m as good as signed up, but I wouldn’t mind travelling to one of the fine cities that are currently offered when my schedule would allow it.
      • Ski 2 Sea what if a race included even more of the Canadian Multi-sport experience, enough to span all seasons?  And what if it was a journey with an end destination that was far away from the start?  What if you started on top of a mountain, downhill skied 2km, switched to cross-county skis for another 8km, jumped on a mountain bike and rode 28km out of the mountains only to hit the road with your road bike for 36km.  Now jump off the bike and run for nearly 15km and get in your canoe/kayak so you don’t get wet because there’s another 8km before the finish line.  It’s a lot of distance to cover, and the logistics are quite intimidating so people often do this as a team relay, but it seems like such a dream journey (and it is a net downhill, after all) that I can’t help but be tempted by this one.

        • Ironman 70.3 Laguna Phuket Thailand  I’m a little wary of iron or half-iron distance racing and it’s not only the daunting training schedule and training volume.  Races with the Ironman brand don’t exist in everybody’s back yard, and most people who have done one turn it into a trip with overnight accomodation, meals and maybe a little vacation time… if you’re going to drop that kind of cash and time, why not make it a more once-in-a-lifetime experience?  I love Thailand (from having honeymooned there) and I can’t picture a better destination for a ‘destination race’ than the land of smiles.  So far, you don’t even have to qualify!  This race took place this past Sunday, in fact.

        • Berlin Marathon   My wife and I both have a lot of friends and family in Germany, and Berlin has become a bit of a home away from home for us.  The Berlin marathon is also considered the fastest course there is so there’s my motivation to beat my previous, pitiful marathon time.  What really put this marathon into my dream file was a conversation I had with a gentleman who had done more than 50 marathons all over the world, but when I asked him his favourite, he said it was the Berlin Marathon, during the year of German re-unification.  He had run through part of the city that were inaccessible to him growing up, and attempting to leave those parts in the East had gotten people shot and killed over the course of the Cold War.  By the time he ran through the Brandenburg Gate (below), he was blind with tears in his eyes and needed the guidance of a friend simply to find his way through the pillars.  So many Big City Marathons have a lot of historical draw, but none like this, at least not to me.
        Runners going through the Brandenburg Gate
        • XTERRA Canada (Canadian Open Championship) I already like taking my running “off-road”,  and it’s my honest intention to get a mountain-bike for cross-training purposes and to participate in some non-navigational adventure races (like Logs, Rocks and Steel) and off-road triathlons.  From the latter category, XTERRA is pretty much the biggest and baddest.  This race takes place in beautiful Whistler, BC which only adds to the draw.  Until that time, maybe I’ll get to do the Mine Over Matter as my introduction to off-road tris…

        This list is long enough for now, but I’m always up for recommendations… dream big!