Kids Triathlons

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

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

 

The Lightning Kid

Swim

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

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

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

Bike

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Boy

Swim

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

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

 

Bike

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

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

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

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

Run

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous Event Details

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

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

 

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!

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Trail Run – Terra Cotta

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

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

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

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

Race Recap: Angus Glen Half-Marathon

The Angus Glen Half-Marathon is one of my wife’s favourite races, largely because of the post race brunch.  Last year I wasn’t feeling too well on race day, so I ended up with a DNS (Did Not Start).  We had arranged for a sitter starting at 7:00 AM and the half-marathon start time was 8:00 – Google was predicting a 45 minute drive, so the scheduling wasn’t too smart on our part.

Luckily we made better time than predicted (not having to pack kids in and out of the car certainly helps).  After trudging across a frosty field (temperatures that morning were just above freezing) to the golf course clubhouse, I had a few minutes to grab my bib, and race kit, greet my friend John (who you might remember from my Huntsville Half-Marathon Recap) and his wife Tina (and ask her to keep my race kit bag), before being one of the last through the starting line as the race began.

I was wearing a hat and gloves, yet I still felt cold for a good long while.  The good news is the first few kilometres  ticked by quickly.  By 3 km my core was starting to feel warm but my hands weren’t, and I can’t imagine how cold people running in shorts (!) were.  Those first few kilometres went through a residential area, and somewhere near kilometre 4, we came doubling back to see some of the 10 km racers who started 15 minutes after us.  I hoped to see my wife but I think I got to that stretch too late, since the majority of the racers I observed were power walkers.

This course has a lot of climbs.

Kilometre 5 was followed by an early turn-around point for the 10 km racers, who would do a U-turn, whereas the half-marathoners kept going for a stretch.  I saw John on his way back from our turn-around and we trash talked each other; total strangers offer us encouragements, but we’re friends long enough to say things that are terrible, yet funny to us.

At the 3 km mark I had seen a porta-potty, but in retrospect, I think it belonged to a construction site, since there were no others anywhere on the race course.  At kilometre 7 or so, I was regretting not having enough time to an extra break before the start.  Up ahead, I saw a woman break off the road and head to a farmhouse.  I figured she was going to ask the homeowners if she could use their washroom – not a bad idea, I suppose.  She returned to the road scant minutes later – not enough time to have made a polite request and a proper thank-you.  I realized the farmhouse was abandoned and she had simply ducked behind it to do her business, so I did the same.

It cost me a lot of time, but I’d rather run comfortably and I always tell myself that the comfortable pace is faster than the clenched one.  I even saw a red-tailed hawk, and it screamed that scream that hawks do in the movies, but never real life.

My initial goal of 2:06 meant running about 6 minutes/km, and I was holding under that for the most part.  I had a Salted Caramel Gu Gel (soooo gooooood!) at the 10 km mark, and I was able to pump up the effort a little.  The sun was doing its thing and I not only had my hat and gloves off, but my jacket open too.

There would be another call of nature for me after 14 kilometres (effectively breaking the entire course up into thirds), but after that I really started hauling it, and I started to calculate that a 2:04 or even 2:02 finish was within reach.

The final 3 kilometres or so went along the golf cart paths of the golf course itself.  It was kind of fun, but the twists and turns and hills really did a number on my pace.  I talked with other runners after the race and they all felt the same way about it.  I climbed out of the golf course and sprinted down the road and into the car entrance of Angus Glen toward the finish line.  Official time: 2:02:34 – I think if I could have had better bladder management (for lack of a better term), I could have cracked the 2 hour mark for this half-marathon.  I still pleased, because I know the speed is there now – or more accurately, the pain threshold is higher since my half-iron training.


The post-race brunch consisted of a brown bag with a sandwich and a couple of other cold foods – which is a step down from the hot brunches that they used to provide.  I really, really love the race shirt (which is a long sleeve – a very refreshing switch from the endless supply of short sleeve t-shirts I’ve accrued over the years). Have a look:


The Angus Glen Half-Marathon is a nice race for this time of year, where it’s harder to find a race of this length and calibre, but I’m not sure I’m really stoked to do it again next year – I think we’re still dealing with the Daylight Savings time change physiologically speaking.  I’ve almost never had so much of a problem dragging myself out of bed on a race morning.  Still, it was a day of running in the sunshine with friends and family, and that’s worth a smile.  See?


Barrelman Triathlon Recap: The Race

If you haven’t read Part 1 of my Barrelman Weekend Recap, you can find it here.


The Swim


So there I was, floating in a sea of red swim caps.  Though I had picked the less crowded side of the overall swim lane, I noticed it had filled in with new bodies behind me.  I guessed I’d have to justify my confidence in my swim pace.  Toot went the horn, and the swim began.


As I mentioned last post, the Welland International Flatwater Centre is used for various boat races, and you couldn’t find a better venue for an open water swim.  For starters, the word ‘flatwater’ is right there in the title; it’s not a large lake with waves (nor any boat traffic – but more on this in a bit).  Some swimmers claimed there was a current, but I couldn’t detect any.  We swam more or less one kilometre to the other end, and there were even signs on the shore every 250m or so which not only helped you keep track of your progress it was great for motivation – you didn’t need to be at 750m (for example) but merely knowing you were coming up on your next milestone was a great mental boost.


Traffic collisions were a factor, including one punch in the face I took in the first 100m.  I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad, but maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Bracebridge Triathlon this year, or maybe lane isn’t wide enough for that many swimmers to spread out without some bump and grind.  


At one end of the course there were lime green buoys which you kept on your right, cornered to cross to the other side, then straight back to the starting end of the course; navigation could not be simpler – everything is straight lines and 90 degree turns.  On the way back, the distance signs seemed less visible, maybe they were obscured by bushes, so I didn’t rely on them as much.  There were some small white (and orange) buoys that must serve some purpose for the boat races which had the potential for collisions, but I mostly swam right past them without incident (I think I hit one head on, and it cost me all of a second or two to get dislodged).  Somewhere in the last 400m or so, I found myself boxed in by other swimmers on all sides.  To whoever’s legs I swam over, I apologize, but ultimately I think I saved us all a few bumps by getting to the outside and passing that way.


I did most of the swim on auto-pilot without really giving much thought to my pace, and I think that worked out in my favour.  I neither overdid it nor slacked off too much, based on my time.  I had hoped to complete in 38 minutes, but it was 40.  On the other hand, my Garmin shows I kept an average pace of 1:54/100m for over 2100m.  I was initially expecting the official 1900m, but the race day literature mentioned a 2km swim (and 89km bike ride instead of 90).  The Garmin map shows I did do some zig-zagging, but nothing to be ashamed of.



Swim Stats: 2112m in 0:40:00.

Transition 1

After the swim exit you ran past the grandstand to hear people on the bleachers cheering you on (thanks guys!) and up some stairs into the transition zone.  Bike racks were organized by bib number, and each number had a designated spot that we all had identified the day before.  I took my time in this transition, and once my wet-suit was off, I made a bathroom break – I was going to make the next 90 (or 89) kilometers as comfortable as possible.  My biggest struggle in T1 is managing my Garmin while taking off the wet-suit.  I don’t trust the sleeve to be able to go over the Garmin on my wrist, so I take the Garmin off, and juggle it while I’m stripping.  The upshot was that I left the wrist band behind while mounting the Garmin onto the bike mount.  I stuffed everything in the black bag that would be transported to the finish area, and walked my bike out of transition (helmet on, of course).



T1 Stats: 0:05:40.6

Bike

Once I mounted, the first few hundred meters were a little bumpy; my hydration bottle kept spraying droplets onto me and my bike, but most importantly my phone.  I had promised to text my wife at the end of each leg, and I hadn’t punched in “Swim Done” while in transistion.  I stopped just before a bridge where the road part of the course started to open up and struggled with reading the screen in the intense sunlight, with the stains not making it any easier (I keep my phone in a Lifeproof Case, if you’re wondering how I’m able to risk taking it along in all these extreme circumstances – here is an affiliate link for some of their products).  Once I had sent that first text, I got down to business.


The course had been described as having segments “The Out”, “The Loop”, “The Back” and “The Ride to Niagara Falls”.  “The Out” was the first 20km and very straight along a road called Feeder.  It was easy going, and I was averaging over 30 km/h while feeling like I was just on an easy spin.  In hindsight, I think I had a tailwind.


“The Loop” took us down to the shore of Lake Erie.  I tried to take photos of several things while riding, but as I mentioned, the glare made it difficult to see what I was doing, especially while riding.  It probably wasn’t worth the risk, and the camera didn’t take pictures when I thought it did.  Once I hit the shore of Lake Erie, the view was so beautiful, I had to actually stop and pull over to capture this shot.  
Lake Erie


At aid station #1 they had a bottle exchange, but I stuck to my aero bottle in my handlebars.  I figured I still had plenty of drink in there, and only grabbed a gel for later.  I had been eating GoMacro bars until that point.  Somewhere near the halfway mark I switched to a Clif Bar.  I began to notice the wind.  It always felt like a headwind, no matter what, but I think for the most part, it came at a kind of diagonal.  I saw the impressive wind turbines which had been mentioned in the pre-race briefing, and I figured (according to the laws of thermodynamics) they must be slowing the wind down at least a little.  Thanks wind turbines!


It was turning into a bit of a slog for the way back from “The Loop”.  My neck and shoulders were beginning to hurt in aero position.  Reaching the second aid station at 57km was quite a relief, and I opted to make it a bit of an extended break.

After taking that video, I rode about another 2 km. I was heading down a nice downhill stretch toward one of the more interesting features of the bike course – a tunnel under the Welland canal – when I felt my rear wheel go directly over a rock. That’s not good, I thought. I rode through the tunnel, and started climbing up the hill on the other side when I felt a familiar rhythm under my saddle – whump, whump, whump. I stopped and felt my rear tire – it was a little soft and getting softer. A flat. On the biggest race of my life (so far).

Having had an ambivalent attitude toward motivation the whole race helped me not panic and freak out. Obviously I wasn’t going to set any impressive time now, I just needed to focus on getting the tire fixed. I had wisely opted to take along my repair pouch rather than extra bottles behind my seat. I actually saw another rider a mere 200m up the road from me that had the same problem. I walked my bike up to where he was (with a runner who seemed to be helping out) under the guise of “misery loves company” but the truth was that I wanted guidance on fixing the problem. I’d practised switching out a tube enough times at home, but I felt a little less comfortable using a pressurized CO2 cartridge. They’re expensive, so I didn’t like the idea of using one when I didn’t have to.

The other guy was having no luck with his CO2 cartridge, and blamed the valve he was using, so I offered him mine. Once I had my new inner tube installed on the wheel, I waited for him to give me my valve back. It hadn’t worked for him, and sure enough, it didn’t work for me and my lone cartridge either. Luckily, the runner volunteered to run back to the aid station, where a repair van from VeloFix. We waited for a bit, and sure enough the van pulled up, and was able to inflate my tire with the all the effort of pulling the trigger of a motorized pump. I was off, and though I hadn’t watched the clock at the time (in the interest of staying calm), I had blown over 30 minutes on the entire misadventure.

There would be just over 30 km left to ride, and those clicks became more and more painful. Maintaining aero position was doing a number on my neck, and I was compensating by having my head tilted more forward, which reduced my field of vision to only a few meters in front of me – not good, not safe. I started to come up on my brake hoods, and abandoned aero position altogether. No body position was helping my neck at all – I wished I could have rode “no hands” and sat upright. Somehow I finished the ride, but the last 10 km were at a very low speed; it’s a shame I was in such a bad state, because that seemed to be very pretty countryside.

I pulled into the T2 transition area, wondering if I should bother trying to finish at all.


Bike Stats : 88.99km in 3:52:40

Transition 2:

I got off the bike and went through the motions of going out for the run. That became the strategy: simply try to put my legs on auto-pilot and see what happened. If my neck pain didn’t decrease in the first two kilometres, I think I would have packed it in. Shoes were on, and out the run exit I went.

T2 Stats – 0:5:45.7

Run

The good news was that my neck stopped hurting pretty fast as soon as I was upright. For the bad news, I need to know if you’ve heard of an entity known as the Blerch, as featured on Matthew Inman’s webcomic, the Oatmeal. If not, head over there and come back. Now I remembered the Blerch as a demon of general self-doubt more than one of sloth and laziness, and to me, that was what he represented. I generally try to keep the language on this blog pretty clean, but right here, I’m going to pull out some much saltier stuff, so if that offends you, you can skip the next paragraph.

For all 21 km, the Blerch and I had a knock-down, drag-em-out street fight; I’m talking about head-butts, knee-cap kicks, elbow strikes, groin shots, kidney punches, rabbit punches, biting, scratching, fish-hooking, you name it, for every inch of that course, that motherfucker and I went at it. “What are you even doing?” … “A real man would be at that hospital with his family!” “What do you think you’re going to prove? Are you supposed to be some kind of hero? Big deal, like a million people have already done this distance, and most on harder courses, in less time.” In short, I felt like I didn’t have the right to be there, 6 months of training or not, but my legs kept moving.

The only way to take the fight back to my own Blerch, was to try to finish, and do it with a smile on my face. That meant trying to enjoy the weather, the locale and the environment in general.

This put a smile on my face within the first kilometre… it was almost exactly what I was thinking at the time.

It was a two-loop course, and it was later in the day, and I probably looked like I might be fast enough to be on my second loop, but it was a little demotivating having spectators tell me I was “almost done” with less than a quarter of the running mileage under my belt.

The aid stations were nice and frequent, just about every kilometre I think (my memory has gotten fuzzy as it’s taken a long time for me to get this post written). I turned down Coke at my first opportunity, but it wasn’t a mistake I was going to repeat, and I think I had it every chance I got after that. Coke’s gotten some bad press lately, but caffeine and sugar felt pretty good to me at that stage; it didn’t even matter when it started to get luke-warm and flat.

The run course took us through some lovely parks in the area.

There was plenty of variety on the run course. Shady parks were one of my favourites, but there was a climb that got you to a decent vantage over the falls, then you wound through a pedestrian pathway and stairs in the “downtown” of Niagara Falls, then around to main strip where you could keep the Falls on your left while being gawked at by tourists. The mists cooling you off was an added bonus.

I was closing in on 9-10 km when I remembered there was a cut-off time for completing the first loop… but I didn’t know what time that was. John Salt, the race director, had mentioned that exceptions could be made if they felt your first loop time wasn’t representative of your potential finish time. I got panicky, because I doubted that would be the case. I kept asking volunteers if they knew the first loop cut-off time, and they didn’t. The Blerch had me in a choke-hold – I reckoned if I didn’t make the cut-off, I wouldn’t argue the point and fight for my finish. A volunteer told me the overall cut-off time was 5:00PM, so it turned out I was fine, but running alongside so many others who were finishing only to make a turn and head out for another loop was disheartening.

A hawk, watching the procession.  Apparently I have time to bird-watch while tri-ing

While the fatigue was certainly there, my spirits lifted with the idea that I could (and probably would) get the job done and finish that race. More coke, more bananas, more water, more smiles and jokes with the volunteers. I tried to find things that would amuse me.

NO STOPPING: Traffic instruction or Mantra? You don’t have to decide.
The course went by Marineland… I wished a dolphin would splash me to cool me off

The kilometres kept ticking off, and soon the end was in sight. Without having to chase a time goal, I wanted to cross the finish line in style. Some click their heels, but that is NOT my style. I wanted to try a cartwheel, but I didn’t think my body was up for it, so I opted for what I thought was the Ickey Shuffle (named after Bengals Fullback Elbert “Ickey” Woods), but I must have mis-remembered it, and mixed it up with some of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s steps from Jerry Maguire. Behold, the Iron Rogue Shuffle.



Run Stats : 20.13 km in 2:27:03




I got my medal. I got my free hat. I found a shady place to lie down. I called my wife, and simply said “It’s done.” I was emotional, but not entirely happy. The entire race I had been questioning this whole multi-sport, outdoor, active adventure lifestyle we pursue as a family. All the kinds of things you’ve read about in my posts (unless this is your first time visiting – in which case, stick around and see what we’ve gotten up to).

I’d given up a chance to be with my wife and child during a hospital visit (they were discharged shortly before the swim began). During the six months prior to the race, several times I’d been gone for hours off on a run or a bike ride. When things didn’t go my way in regards to my training, I was probably a miserable dick (sorry again about the language) to be around. I craved “normal”, and promised everyone more time, and more of me for the next year at least. Living the adventure has had costs, and I wasn’t sure of the rewards anymore.

Finished.


It’s been weeks since I finished, and I’ve tried to fill in the time I used to spend training with “normal” people activities. The kinds of errands that seemed to get put off – a couple of have been completed, but many seem to rely on others, or bureaucracy so they’re incomplete, and the time I spent on them feels wasted. I guess that’s what I love about endurance sport – I put my own time in, and my effort dictates my results. A half-hour spent running equals a half-hour spent running.

One thing that has filled in the void left by a half-iron training plan is work. It’s a big reason why this post hasn’t been published before now; and while I’m not lazy and I’m willing to put in an honest day’s work, my father told me that no-one ever lies on their death bed wishing they spent more time at the office.

Lastly, just 20 minutes before I started writing this paragraph, my wife told me about how well he does somersaults in his Acro Dance class, or more to the point, how much some of the other kids struggled with them. I don’t know all the science, but even if they hadn’t had formal instruction in gymnastics and other activities, we let our kids “off the leash” enough (especially in the outdoors) that they’re able to make the neural connections to integrate various body movements and have body awareness enough to learn complex movements in a hurry.

So maybe we won’t give up our active family (multi-sport) lifestyle just yet. After all, what else am I going to write about?

Barrelman Triathlon Recap – Part 1: Pre-Race

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

I had a long day ahead of me.

To be continued!

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

Race Recap: Bracebridge Olympic Triathlon 2015

Bracebridge is a great race; I thought so when I did it 2 years ago, and this year confirmed it.  In fact, I’m now wondering what was wrong with me that I didn’t do it last year – what probably seemed like a good reason at the time wasn’t.


I went to bed the night before with pain in my right shoulder, and I woke up with a tightness in my right hamstring, but luckily both were long gone by the time I had breakfast (bagel with peanut butter, apple, and 2 cups of coffee) and hit the road.  
Breakfast


Due to logistical concerns that I won’t bore you with, I was travelling to the race solo.  Though I love having a cheering section, and there were lonely parts of the day, I did appreciate being able to focus like a laser on being organized before the race.  Having gotten to the site with a little under an hour to spare, I still didn’t get everything perfect.


From the “Don’t Do Anything New on Race Day”

  • Somehow, I had left my Saucony Triumphs in the gym locker room at work, and I couldn’t access it on a Saturday while packing.  Luckily, I keep a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders with other running gear in my desk for emergencies (like, I forget to pack running gear) and I’ve used them mostly for treadmill runs.  So they were my shoes for race day.
  • I dropped a lot of cash on aerodynamic hydration accessories.  While I also got a double bottle cage for my seat-post, I focused on a hydration system that would let me drink while riding.  I’m pretty proud that I got it installed correctly, as I’ve seen pics of some jury-rigged setups in some triathlon Facebook groups that would make MacGyver puke.  At least, I thought I had it correct; can you see what I did wrong?


I won’t tell you yet, you’ll find out around the same time I did if you keep reading.
Race Site


Other misses

  • I did do a small swim warm-up to make sure the wet-suit was on properly, but ideally I would have done even more swimming before the race.  I crossed the river and back, that’s it.
  • I hadn’t cleaned and oiled my chain the day before, but I had inflated my tires.
  • I packed both gels I planned to have on the race course in my race belt, and set up my running shoes in transition with laces untied, but the silly part is that I thought I hadn’t,  and ended up fretting over it a little during the race.


Besides actually having a swim warm-up, which never happens to me, the other big hit for me was being able to make two trips to the port-a-potty before the race, and not over-hydrating, which meant not having to take any pit stops during the entire race.  Let’s break down the legs:
A view looking toward the Swim Exit


Swim

Bracebridge maintained its usual format of having a seeded swim start.  You simply line up by bib number.  Marshals got everyone organized in batches of about 50 people at a time, and it looked like everybody tried to find people close to them in number so it made things really straightforward.  Everyone wore red bathing caps, so there was no identifying your age group by colour, but I still like the format, and I think having different colour bathing caps might confuse people into trying to get into waves.  When you reach the front of the line (the end of the dock – you are already in the water), the final marshal calls out your number to confirm (I was 107), and finishes the countdown which is 5 seconds from the previous swimmer and you’re off!


The first part of the swim is with the current.  I honestly think the current was negligible; someone had commented that they’d seen leaves on the surface that “weren’t in any hurry”, and I couldn’t see much difference in pace from the downriver part to the upriver part.  There was no line of sight between the start and the turn-around, so sighting to the next buoy was important, and also was a great way to prevent collisions, but you didn’t have to sight too often.  I had the sinking feeling that I wasn’t pacing myself well, and I had to make a persistent effort to calm myself down and not swim too excitedly, so that I’d have a good pace on the second part of the swim.


On the way back, sighting became nigh impossible.  The sun was reflecting off the water and directly into our eyes.  Sticking close to the shoreline seemed like a good idea because the current would be weaker, and it would keep me on the right side of the buoys, so as long as I was seeing dazzling sunlit water ahead of me, I figured I was doing fine.  Besides a minor bump or two with other swimmers, the rest of the swim was uneventful.  I could swear I saw some bikes whizzing by along the river, but when I look at the maps, the bike course did not go past the North shore of the river. I still have issues with the seam of the wet-suit bunching up by my neck as I swim, which causes a lot of irritation and makes me lose time when I stop to re-adjust it.  I need to find a fix for that which won’t stop me from being able to open the zipper and take off the wet-suit when I hit transition.   I finished in 28:12, and that gives me an official pace of 1:52/100m which I’m pretty happy about.  The thing is, that’s based on 1500m exactly; my measurements show 1575m in 27:42 which gives me a crazy pace of 1:46/100m!

Courtesy of MultiSport Canada


Transition 1


My biggest challenge in transition seems to be getting the Garmin off my wrist before pulling off my wet-suit, only to put the Garmin back on again.  I just don’t like the idea of the wet-suit getting damaged by me trying to fit the watch in under the sleeve.  Other than that, I think it went pretty well, as 2:35 is actually a pretty good T1 time (in fact, it’s a personal best!).  I tried to take a sip from the straw of my aero-bottle while running the bike out to the mount line and nearly knocked a tooth out… I won’t try that again.


Bike


I was so excited to take Sable (see here for the bike name explanation) out for the first race?  Are there words sweeter to say than “on your left”?  Again I think race excitement was making me a little aggressive with my pace at first, but I think I brought the pace/effort down well enough without slacking either.  As I passed some athletes, I looked at their gear and their muscles and began to doubt whether passing them was the right thing to do.  Still, if the speed I wanted to go at was faster than I needed to go to stay safely behind them without drafting, I really did need to pass, didn’t I?  


One notable… observation, shall we say? I passed a female racer who’s tri outfit left something to be desired in the opacity department.  Remember that Lululemon controversy? They were like that.  Now this was a custom kit with a team name or something on them, but I felt bad about the view I had, and again, she wasn’t really going at a speed I wanted to match, so I passed her.  Guilt absolved… until I hit a hill and my chain popped off.  While I was replacing it she passed me and I went through the whole scenario again.  Twice this happened.
See how the front comes into a point?


Sometime in the last 15 km or so, I looked down at my aero-bottle and noticed that the front had a flat surface facing into the wind.  That’s not aero-dynamic!  I do believe that I mounted it backwards, although I thought I’d prefer having the main chamber closer to me (there are two different chambers which can be used for different liquids, or the inner chamber can be used to store ice to cool the outer chamber… that’s what I did on race day).


My overall goal, one I’ve been chasing my entire triathlon career, is to average speed over 30 km/h.  In spite of some tough hills and stopping to place the chain back on the ring twice, I achieved that goal… as long as you count the course as 42 km which it was (thanks to a last minute course alteration that was made for racer safety).  In the books (i.e. Sportstats Website) doing a 40 km course in 1:23:09 makes for 28.9 km/h.  Drat.


Transition 2


I noticed heavy legs as soon as I dismounted.  With my cleats in a new position on the sole of my feet, I was a little unsteady heading back to my space on the racks.


This is where I got two pleasant surprises: my running shoe laces were untied so I could do them up right and quickly, and I had packed the second carb gel into the same pocket as the first (instead of on the opposite side, as I intended), but I still had it on me and wouldn’t waste time going to my tri-bag (which was off to the side, as Triathlon Ontario rules dictate, which I found out at Lakeside last year).  I forgot to wear my visor, but ate the carb gel on the way out of transition.  Time elapsed: 2:13.  I should have gotten that under 2 minutes.


Run


My legs were still heavy as I headed out of transition, but I knew that would pass, more or less.  I was 3 for 3 on being a little aggressive with pace at the start; I could see my heart rate was too high, and I wanted to finish strong.  The run course was quite enjoyable as it followed the river and trees provided plenty of shade.  There were plenty of aid stations with water or HEED available every 1.5 km or so.  By the time I was 3 km in, I felt quite settled; my pace seemed to be hovering close to 5:30/km, which was better than I expected.  My legs were hurting, but I noticed that they were still responsive – when I told them to move, they moved and I kept good form.


As I closed in the last few kilometres, I saw the promise of a 55 minute finish, but again, the course was a little long, and I completed 10.43 km in nearly 56 minutes.  I had thought about doing a cartwheel or something goofy across the finish line, but when you’re chasing a time goal, there’s no room for fooling around.
Courtesy of MultiSport Canada



I had two goals for this race overall going in, and beforehand I thought they might be at odds with each other:


  1. Use it as a ‘B’ race to work on transitions and other race-day logistics
  2. Beat my previous time at this race, and maybe, thanks to a heavy training load this season, achieve a Personal Best for the Olympic Distance.

I’m really happy to have achieved both of those things.  While the new PB makes me happy, I needed the confidence that I know what I’m doing in terms of technique and strategy to carry me forward to the Barrelman Triathlon.


A Special Announcement

I’m racing in the Bracebridge Olympic Triathlon on Sunday… but that’s not the announcement.  A charity I’ve been following (and supporting) for the past year or two, has opened up applications to their team, and on the spur of the moment, I’ve joined the RODS Racing Team.

Donation link below.

I’ve seen first hand how a child with Down syndrome can flourish and thrive with a loving family’s support.  I’ve seen it in my own child and in the children belonging to the community I’ve joined.  Sadly, in other countries, whether because of cultural bias, bureaucracy, or simply lack of resources, children not unlike the Lightning Kid end up in orphanages, where they won’t know the kind of love that every child deserves, and you can imagine how their development wilts, as they are left in society’s furthest margins.

There are sad problems in this world that don’t have easy solutions.  This is not one of them; you see, there are parents out there just desperate to adopt these children – but the path to international adoption is not a cheap one.  The good news is that this is a problem that money can solve.

That’s where RODS Racing comes in.  Donations go to helping achieve an adoption for a child with Down syndrome from an orphanage, one child at a time.  When an adoption is successful, the next child’s adoption campaign starts.

As a member of the racing team, I’m looking to raise at least $2500 for Laura’s adoption.  I’ll be racing Bracebridge for Laura, and Barrelman too (probably while sporting RODS Racing Team apparel).

Please consider visiting my team page and making a donation.  RODS Racing is a registered charity and donations are tax deductible.  In addition to this campaign, I’ll also have other news for really cool events from RODS Racing in the near future, so stay tuned here, follow their social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and spread the word for this wonderful cause.

Race Recap: Huntsville Half Marathon a.k.a. Band On The Run

I had vowed to do Band On the Run this year after missing out the year before due to a certain procedure being performed.  In fact, at last year’s Angus Glen Half-Marathon, we hatched a plot for my friends John and Tina to visit us at the cottage and for John to do the race together.  Though our schedule was crazy enough that the plan was touch and go for a while, I’m happy to say that we all did the Huntsville Half Marathon last Saturday.


We drove up to the cottage on the Friday night, and traffic was not kind so we got to bed much later than one likes to before a race.  Fortunately, the kids slept well, and we didn’t feel too rough the next morning.  Though we parked and got to the race site on time, somehow we dallied in saying goodbye to the kids (who would be watched by Tina and my mother – thanks again!) and we only put ourselves in the back of the very small corral a few seconds before the start of the race.


Before the race, I had tried to do some analysis to come up with the right pace and thus a good goal for finishing time, or at least a rough estimate.  The problem was I hadn’t run a half-marathon type distance this season, and my longest run was the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Conservation Area Trail Race.  I figured that 16 km of trails was worth at least 18 km of road in terms of training, but I doubted it would give a good estimate of speed.  I also tried looking at training runs and figuring out an average speed that would keep me in Zone 2 of my heart rate.  That proved difficult visually; the graphs spike up and down in a way that’s difficult to simply eye-ball.  I even tried exporting my data into a spreadsheet and doing some analysis that way, but the numbers didn’t work, or at least, I couldn’t make them work for the time I could afford on the effort.  There’s probably another post in there – the raw data probably needs to be smoothed out by some algorithms to be usable.

My final strategy before the race began was to simply set an alert on my Garmin to go off if my heart rate went into Zone 3.  I had 3 gels on me, and I took the first before the start… it has a lot of caffeine.


The course starts climbing right away… and my heart rate alarm went off before I had gone 300m.  I tried to slow my pace, but there didn’t seem to be a pace more than a crawl that was going to keep me in Zone 2, so I reset the alarm to go off if I crossed into Zone 4, and I tried to keep an eye on the absolute value of my heart rate, and simply be conservative for the first third to half of the race.  Maybe it was the hill climbing, maybe it was the caffeine, but without much recent experience at the half-marathon distance, I knew I had to be conservative.

The climbing continued.  I was a little shocked to see so many people walking within the first 2 km of a half-marathon, but there was a great sense of community, and I joked with people at the appearance of each new incline as if the hills were a novelty, and not becoming tedious.  The race had promised musicians at regular intervals, and they delivered for at least the first 7 km.  The race course at one point crossed Highway 60, which they couldn’t close for the race completely, and a police officer stopped traffic so that runners could cross in batches.  I was impressed, because some people in front of me must have had to wait a little, but I don’t think this contributed any significant delay.

Seen on my run: clowns on bikes, fire trucks, bagpipers. 

Like I said, there was a great sense of community in this race, even though the number of runners was small – from the back of the pack, there was only 22 seconds difference between gun and chip time for me.  I was impressed by how often spectators seemed to know runners by name,  though Huntsville is a major hub of cottage country and population swells seasonally, I guess it’s really just a small town when it comes down to it.  In the first third of the race course, I also found my new favourite race sign…

Yeah, that’s right… potty humour.  I’m not even sorry.


I heard someone mention that we’d be visiting Arrowhead Provincial Park, and I could tell by the route we were taking that they were right.  The park’s front gate had porta-potties, an aid station and a great musician; I can’t remember what he played when I was on my way in, but he played R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” on my way out, and it was awesome.


While the park’s road was more peaceful for traffic, and provided shade and some of the nicest scenery on the run, it was also the biggest climb.  I saw John on the way in, he had already hit the turn-around at 10 km and was moving fast.  He told me it was only 3 more hills then corrected himself to 2.  He was actually right the first time.

The last musician I saw before the turn-around point was playing the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey”, and I joined in with my own “HO” and “HEY”s which probably only confused everyone else; I guess they don’t know that’s my jam…

As soon as I hit the turn-around I felt some relief.  I knew I’d have lots of downhill to look forward to, and I congratulated myself for playing it safe and leaving plenty in the tank to try and get a really significant negative split.  Up until that point, I’d been running at a pace that would have netted me 2:15 finish time, and that’s being optimistic.  I saw my wife around the same spot that John had gone by me, and we shared a kiss for luck.  She was smiling when we saw each other, which I took to be a good sign, as I knew the hills would be rough on her.  That moment definitely gave me another little boost.

I really picked up the pace for the last half; I took my gels, didn’t have any more bathroom breaks, and generally paid more attention to the pace than my heart rate.  The route seemed a little deserted by that point, and I crossed the Main Street Bridge and ducked into the alleyway that led to the finish line.  Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid (along with my mother, John and Tina) were all there to give me my finish line hugs.

The Lightning Kid with makeshift sun-protection as it had gotten quite sunny.

My finishing time was 2:06:05 which gives me an average pace of 6:00 per km.  I’m pretty happy with that, even if the total time was well over 2 hours or even 2:05.  What I’m proudest of is the negative split.  I did the first 10 km with a 6:24/km pace, and the final 11 with a 5:29/km pace.  Or, put another way, the first 10 km took me 1:04 and the next 11 km took me 0:54:45… now that’s a negative split!



We did have to wait a while for my wife.  Apparently the last 3 km were the worst for her; like I said, it was a tough course.  It was nice, however, being able to spot her crossing the bridge to alert the boys to her arrival – I cheered her on from under the bridge and she pulled out some last effort to break back into a run.  Once she came down the alley, Shark Boy accompanied her on the last stretch, and the Lightning Kid let me know he did not want to be left out.  The race announcer took note of the whole family coming into the finish line and it was a nice moment.


We slowly (painfully), made our way back to the car and headed home, with a stop at Kawartha Dairy for ice cream.  We had beer and ribs for lunch and took a dip in the lake to cool off our inflamed joints and muscles.

We did want to attend the music festival… all the runners were entitled to it, and the Lightning Kid got a kick out of dancing and making a spectacle of himself last year.  We arrived a bit into the head-liner’s show.  It was the Joel Plaskett Emergency, and they were a lot of fun.  Joel Plaskett managed to put some fun word-play into his lyrics and even mash-up covers into his own songs.  His son Shannon (less than 5 years old by my rough estimate) danced and took videos from up on stage which only added to the fun, family-oriented vibe.  People were dancing and having fun with their kids in front of the stage, and the Lightning Kid was not to be left out; Joel Plaskett even called out to him as “the kid in the Spider-Man hat”.


Having live music to enhance the whole musical theme of the Band On The Run race really makes for a whole day of fun and fitness, and I already can’t wait till next year.

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Heart Lake Trail Race

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

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

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

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



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





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

Shark Boy attentively listening to pre-race instructions.

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

The little guy toward the back is Shark Boy

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


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

He’s nearly spent

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



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

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

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


Photo Credit: Sue Sitki Photography

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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