After getting priced out of a lot of ski resorts for March Break, we opted to put the kids in local camps for that week, and make our winter/spring family vacation take place over an extended Easter long weekend. We opted to stay in Canada this time and selected Mont Tremblant. We had skied there as newlyweds with my wife being pregnant with Shark Boy years ago.
It seemed like a good plan, especially once we had excellent accommodations locked down and saw how much money we were saving by going late in the season. Our first snag was that the convenient local airport didn’t have flights from Toronto past the very beginning of April. The second was that shuttle service from Pierre Trudeau Airport in Montreal was expensive and not ideal for our flight schedule. Renting a car (I upgraded all the way to a Dodge Durango to make sure we could fit our skis in) proved the smartest option.
By the time we landed, picked up the car and had dinner, it was dark, but still, driving through the mountains was enough to get me excited. Our condo was at the bottom of the ‘Village’ right across from the Westin, and had two bedrooms (including a king sized bed in the master bedroom) and a pull-out couch so the boys could sleep separately.
On Good Friday morning, we grabbed breakfast from the Au Grain de Cafe, and then got the kids dressed for their ski lessons. We opted to put the Lightning Kid in a ‘Mother Nature Camp’ where the morning would be dedicated to learning to ski, and the afternoon would be in a daycare-like environment. Downhill skis and boots are still pretty heavy for his legs, and it’s been slow going getting him to get the hang of it. Shark Boy was in a ski camp for both Christmas and March Break holidays and he’s gotten pretty good – to the point of being able to use poles, although we hadn’t been able to secure a pair of his own yet.
Once the kids were squared away, my wife and I stopped for an extra coffee and a treat (which became the daily ritual) before going back to our room to get our own ski gear on, and trudge back uphill through the village to the gondola and get our own skiing done.
Both Friday and Saturday were nice, sunny days, and as skiers from Ontario, we’re not too fussy about snow quality – we were just happy to be there. All we are really looking to do on these trips is spend some time in the simple pleasure of sliding on snow without worrying about anything more than keeping our skis beneath us.
Shark Boy’s favourite runs were ‘La Crete’, ‘Tascherau’ and ‘Dynomite’. Mine were ‘La Traverse’, ‘Toboggan’ but of course, I have to give an honourable mention to my namesake…
It rained on the Sunday, and though Shark Boy lasted the whole day, we got pretty miserably wet. Luckily, we paid a visit to the water park known as AquaClub (which also had a fitness centre which I did not take advantage of). This place has various pools with a tarzan rope, a small slide and a little cliff to jump off of. Both boys did everything, though the Lightning Kid always simply jumped into the water by releasing the rope before his swing could start.
The one day we didn’t swim after skiing, we rode a little open gondola called ‘Cabrio’ from the bottom parking lot to the top of the village and back. And up again, and down again. And up again…
We were very satisfied with the ski school overall. Lunches were provided, and Shark Boy really liked his instructor, who had tall (though true) tales from all over the world. I personally would have liked to see the Lightning Kid get more runs in on the bunny hill (served by a magic carpet), though I understand that when the kids get tired, forcing them into it is not going to yield good results or a positive attitude toward snow sports. He had 3 different instructors, and they were all warm, friendly and great at teaching the skills.
On the Monday, I got an opportunity to ski with each of my sons individually. I took Shark Boy for a run from the top of the mountain to the bottom before his lesson. I should point out that though I claimed we’re not fussy about snow quality, the warm weather generated some heavy slush that really wore on your legs after a while and didn’t always yield optimal technique. Still, I had a lot of fun skiing with Shark Boy and was so impressed that he stuck with me (not skiing too far ahead or afield) without me having to yell and shout.
At the end of the day, I took the Lightning Kid out, and promised him a ride on the chairlift. I had scoped out a route of green runs from the top of the one chairlift that is accessible from the bottom and was trying to be optimistic that my back would hold out for the entirety while I held him between my legs. Sadly, his tickets didn’t include lift access, and though it was the last day and last runs of the year, rules are rules, I guess. I took him back to the magic carpet to see what he had learned and what he was capable of.
He’s getting the hang of putting his skis into the snowplow/’pizza’ position, and according to the instructor reports he can do some stops and control his speed a little. He’s also fully independent on the magic carpet, so we’ll call the endeavour a success overall.
I figure I’ll call out some of our favourite meal experiences separately rather than try and enumerate them all chronologically in the main story.
The first night’s dinner was going to be a kid-friendly one. There were two pizza joints within reach, one small and at the bottom of the village, the other larger around the midpoint of the climb to the top. The kids chose the latter. Pizzateria is decorated like a log cabin, and the pizza has a homemade, authentic style I really liked.
I grew up with both fondue and a home Raclette appliance, and we’ve also gotten one as a wedding present that we’ve never used. Raclette is a kind of Swiss cheese that you melt over potatoes or just about anything else you can think of, and it’s delicious. We haven’t dared to try eating something like these two Swiss delights for fear of the kids’ pickiness (and how their unruly behaviour poses a safety risk)… until now. Shark Boy was lured in by La Savoie’s menu because it offered Salami as one of the options for dipping or melting cheese over. We were really surprised at how well the boys took to the experience, and the restaurant service made the kids feel more the kids feel more than welcome.
Sweet crepes for breakfast! Shark Boy and I had their ‘Grand Maman’ which was loaded with ice cream… a bit much for breakfast. The Lightning Kid had a Nutella and banana crepe and the results speak for themselves….
I picked this place for lunch date, just the grown-ups. They had an interesting selection of tartares; my wife’s tuna was delicious. Great cocktails too, I had a Dark and Stormy which was like a Moscow Mule only with coke, and my wife had a maple syrup based cocktail.
Great sushi, well presented, funky vibe. Another great lunch date. I didn’t partake of the Sake Bomb… maybe next time.
While ski vacations seem to be a lot of work in terms of planning, logistics, packing and lugging gear, when they’re done, we’ve always enjoyed them and grown closer as a family while living the life of adventure that we’ve always dreamed of.
I had first heard of Air Riderz from birthday parties that Shark Boy had attended. I thought the combination of trampoline park and climbing gym was interesting, especially since they had exercise classes (“AirRobix”) for adults – I thought I might try sampling one and doing a write-up here.
Instead, I found myself taking Shark Boy there. You see, this past weekend my wife took the Lightning Kid to a live Paw Patrol show on the Saturday and a birthday party on the Sunday, so I had my eldest all to myself. Between Air Riderz and another climbing gym we had visited once, he chose Air Riderz.
I bought us a 2 hour pass (time slots start at the half-hour, and we got there 10 past noon, so I guess we had a little less than that since neither of us had the patience to wait for 12:30). Unfortunately you need to be wearing official Air Riderz socks to use the facility – this wouldn’t have been so bad, as we have at least 2 kid sized pairs at home from the aforementioned birthday parties, but we didn’t bring them. So now I have a pair of my own, that I think will also come in handy for yoga in cooler environments like my basement – the soles have little grips.
Our pass included both the trampoline zones and the climbing area; you can only put on your climbing harness once, so you’ll want to get your fill all in one shot. For that reason, I encouraged Shark Boy to enjoy the trampoline zone first.
I’ll be honest, it made me feel old. Not many adults were jumping, so I checked multiple times that adults were allowed to partake in the fun too. There was also the fact that I noticed every bounce in my bones, at least till I got warmed up, so I’d recommend starting slow and not throwing yourself into it till you get more of a feel for it. I had envisioned myself pulling flips or bouncing from my back, but I just didn’t have the nerve for it.
The main area has a grid of small trampolines that are great for individual use, as well as longer strips that are more suitable for running (or flips). Some of the walls are trampoline-like so that you can throw yourself against them.
There are 3 basketball hoops (of varying non-regulation height), but we only got to try the highest one, and I couldn’t get high enough to dunk; it’s actually pretty difficult to make the shot from the highest point in my jump – even though the distance was short, being in mid-air made aiming difficult.
There is also a foam pit with segregated lanes (with trampolines of course) – you pull your best flip and are guaranteed a soft landing. I should mention that all these areas have lifeguard-like supervisors to enforce safety rules. The last area of the jump zone are the dodgeball courts. One was being used for a toddler area, but the other had games going. I had half a mind to enter myself into a game and be an avenging ‘big kid equalizer’, but I thought better of it. I did notice signs for an adult league that I hope to investigate in the future.
After a while, Shark Boy wanted to try his hand at climbing. There are several walls and one tower that is limited to climbers under 100 lbs. He did fairly well, and you could see how some walls were easier than others based on his performance, but having tried some of them myself, I can tell you it’s not as easy as it looks. I think more serious climbers will miss having access to chalk or better footwear, but it was still fun to give it a try.
I had a lot of fun climbing the towers in the photo above. You’re anchored to 2 safety lines to reduce the amount of swing when you dismount (or fall). Since I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of good images/video of myself, I decided to let Shark Boy record my climb. I think he did a fairly good job of it, for his age. Have a look – you might be able to tell when I made the mistake of looking down.
Once we got tired of climbing, we took off and returned our harnesses, we rounded out the rest of our allotted time in the jump zone. I wondered if I would be sore the next day, and if I’d be OK to complete some speed work I had planned (according to my TriDot training plan) for the late afternoon. I can tell you now that yes I was sore in my legs, but I don’t know whether the speed work (which went fine) or Air Riderz was to blame. According to a little research I did, trampoline (or rebounder) work is good for the core, as well as all lower body muscles (the upper body does get addressed somewhat to as you flail your arms for balance) – sounds great as running cross-training, especially as the impact is much lower than running, skipping rope and other high-impact activities. There are also circulatory and internal organ benefits.
Between these benefits, and my curiosity about the Airobix classes and dodgeball, it’s probably not my last visit to Air Riderz.
Have you tried rebounding or climbing? What do you think about it as cross-training?
This post is part of the #MotivateMe Link-up that takes place on Salads4Lunch and Run Mommy Run every Monday. Visit them to see more great active living content.
Triathletes sometimes refer to themselves as ‘tri-geeks’. While everyone is a ‘geek’ for what they’re passionate about and will discuss these subjects at great, great length, what I think puts the ‘geek’ in ‘tri-geek’ is the attention to the technical minutiae. Even though I’m an engineer and an analytical person by nature, I’m actually pretty laid back about the number-crunching aspect of training. I do like to keep records and quantify things, but that’s about as deep as it goes for me.
I started following Tridot about a year ago. Tridot is a website/training system that is data-driven at a whole other level. They’re working at an algorithmic level, and putting a lot of effort into doing things differently – one aspect they’ve been pushing is their Pre-Season Project. They were recruiting athletes who had
Done a triathlon before
Planned on completing an Olympic, Half-Iron or Full Distance Tri this year
You are not a pro or coach or have benefited from a previous Tridot program.
I qualified for this, and sent in my application for 2 months of free training. While I’ve been a little anti-coach in the past, under this program I’m still a DIY type athlete – I’m just following a training program that has been customized to me by complex algorithms.
Once I was selected, I completed a few steps of an ‘on-boarding’ process which included not only my height, age and weight, but benchmark assessments, which I had to take very rough estimates of – 400m/200m swim times, 25km bike time (with average heart-rate) and 5km run time (again with average HR). They ‘normalize’ a lot of your performance by location (because of temperature, elevation and humidity factors), and ask for you bike weight, arm span, you name it. Like I said, it’s data-driven to the next level.
I was really impressed by their interface. It’s not exactly clean, but considering how much data they’re presenting at a glance, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate and interpret.
I’m still learning a lot about it (between jumping into the training program, writing this up, and the rest of my life, there hasn’t been a lot of time for other reading and research), but I can tell you the little circular graphs show your planned vs actual volume and the colours are mapped to training intensities like Endurance, Threshold etc. The intensities for each sport are explained on the dashboard, based on your current data.
The day after I was accepted into the program, there were assigned workouts to do, and they were quite technical. The great part is that each workout has explanations and/or videos for any part of the workout you don’t understand. I opted for 2 strength workouts per week (rather than zero) and those are included in my schedule with triathlon specific exercises. You pick your ‘off’ day (if any).
Completed workouts can be manually entered, or you can connect a Garmin account. While that was convenient, I hadn’t used my account in months, and my a lot of my accessories weren’t working too well. I’ve made a point of wetting the pads on my HR strap and I’ve replaced my speed and cadence sensor.
The training schedule for my first week looked like this:
The time and effort profiles are easy to see and the logos make it quick to determine what you’re doing on a given day with just a glance. Clicking on a workout brings up that day’s workout(s).
For strength workouts, you mark them complete as a percentage of intensity, which I found a little odd (I was prepared to record reps). The great part is not only are there videos to show the exercises, but they’re on the same page, available by selecting a drop-down menu which is populated with only that workout’s exercises (or drills/other terminology for swim, bike, run workouts).
As Instagram will prove, I had a lot of fun with these workouts.
I should also mention Tridot’s customer service. While the immediate volume and technical sophistication of the workouts was intimidating, they’ve been very helpful. One issue I had was getting reminders to do my assessments (time trials at prescribed distances) while having a full training schedule. They explained that my formal program hasn’t started yet, and the assessments were more important than the prescribed workouts and I should slot those in instead. In fact, the assessment protocol descriptions showed that they can be substituted for a given workout, for example, when the time trial takes less time than the prescribed workout, you just extend the cool-down period till you get the same time spent. One thing I’ll have to get better at (besides time-management) is recording the entire workout with my Garmin.
It’s still early days in my Pre-Season Project, and I have a lot to learn, but I’ll report back every few weeks on progress, opinions, notes and the overall experience.
This post is part of the #MotivateMe Link-up that takes place on Salads4Lunch and Run Mommy Run every Monday. Visit them to see more great active living content.
In a rare win for Facebook advertising, I came across this event that was being run by Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike. It sounded like a great date night; my wife and I had a similar experience on our trip to Smuggler’s Notch in 2015. The combination of fresh air and exercise with a bit of decadent comfort food is hard to resist.
We pulled into the Hardwood Hills parking lot a few minutes after 6PM, and picked up the snowshoes my wife was renting, along with some tickets to sample beers from the Barnstormers Brewery (there was also wine). I got to try their Polar Pumpkin Ale (the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had, some sweet notes) and the Smoked Billy Bishop which was a Brown Ale, but the smokiness was something interesting I hadn’t had in a beer before – I’m not sure I’d love to drink a lot of it, but it was still pleasantly complex. Just before we headed out, we got to try some butternut squash soup.
The guide for our ‘team’ ended up being our friend Sam who we knew from when we used to volunteer with the Track 3 Ski Program. I do regret not packing a head-lamp; I guess I thought the (near-)full moon might provide enough light or that there might be some lanterns on the trail. The moon didn’t rise till we were well past the halfway mark of the 5.5 km walk, and then it hung low in the sky. It was a spectacular orange, and I wish I had gotten a photo, but the trees prevented getting a very clear shot.
Even without a headlamp we got by fine. Sometimes I used my cell phone as a flash light, sometimes there was light from the headlamps of others, sometimes following the footsteps of the person in front of you was good enough. When you did stray from the trail into deeper snow, well, you were wearing snowshoes anyway.
It wasn’t my first time snowshoeing, but I was still surprised by how much of a workout it was – the first kilometer took us over 25 minutes to complete. We learned the tricks of leaning back a little on the downhill and forward (with digging in your toes) on the uphill. After a few breaks to shepherd the stragglers (i.e. us). We found ourselves at a gorgeous lookout above the city of Barrie, with a refreshment of cider and delicious cookies. They had even transported a fire via snowmobile.
On the way back to the chalet, I found things both easier and harder. I stumbled more often, yet I felt like I was keeping a better pace and navigating better without my cell-phone flashlight – I had run out the battery and thus wasn’t able to track the route to show you the final time and mileage. Luckily, my wife’s cell phone was there to provide more pictures.
Now that the snowshoe part was done, it was time for the fondue! They had created a nice intimate atmosphere in what they call the ‘West Wing’ of the chalet, complete with live music. The singer was pretty good, and I admired the different spin she put on songs that would have been described as hard rock in their original incarnations.
In addition to bar beverages, there was also punch and water available, and you could munch on french fries before the fondue course. I have a theory that french fries taste better after skiing, and I’m pleased to report that this holds up for snowshoeing too. The fondue platter was 2 different breads, along with an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The cheese sauce was delicious!
For dessert, there were cookies, rice krispy squares and some really decadent brownies. I think the event was a real success, and there are 2 more of these events in February and March. In fact, the February one (which we can’t make it to) will be a Valentine’s themed ‘Ultimate’ Snowshoe Fondue. Check the events out here.
Have you been snowshoeing in the moonlight? Do you think outdoor winter activities and decadent food go hand-in-hand?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
If you haven’t read Part 1 of my Barrelman Weekend Recap, you can find it here.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
Disclaimer: I was provided with the product for review purposes and compensated for preparing the review. All opinions are my own.
I write about triathlon, I read about triathlon, and I talk about triathlon to people both in real life and online. What’s keeping most non-triathletes from participating in the sport, as far as I can tell, is swimming. Improving your swim is as straightforward as spending time practising in your local pool.
What unnerves even experienced triathletes who have logged countless hours in the pool is swimming in the open water. For example, see Organic Runner Mom here, or Fitness Cheerleader here. While I see this as mostly a psychological hang-up, it is true that open water swimming carries a little more risk than the pool: you might not be able to see or touch the bottom, there are wind and waves (or maybe even current) to deal with, there could even be an encounter with watercraft or wildlife. Yet training your open water swim is very necessary to a triathlete; unless every race you compete in is in a pool, you’ll need to deal with some of the aforementioned factors, as well as skills like sighting, bilateral breathing and rounding corners, or simply the novel sensation of wearing a wet-suit.
It seems to me like if there was a way to give triathletes a psychological crutch AND something to use should an actual emergency or physical difficulty occur, without impeding the swimmer’s technique, we could have a lot more happy triathletes.
I think RESTUBE is the solution. RESTUBE is a portable buoy that can be used for flotation. With it folded up on a belt pouch, you can swim with it strapped around your waist without it getting in your way at all, and a simple pull on a cord will inflate it should you find yourself needing extra flotation. It can also be manually inflated with a mouth valve – then you’d simply pull it along behind you and it’s size and colour would make you more visible to boaters or any other people observing you from a distance.
Have a look at this video for further illustration:
A few notes from the video:
The weight I mention in the introduction comes from the extra two CO2 cartridges in the box. When you swim with just one, it’s much lighter, and if you were to manually inflate the RESTUBE and have no cartridge, the weight would be next to nothing.
I’m 5’11” tall and a lot of that length is in my legs. Many other swimmers would not experience their feet hitting the tube while swimming. Even for me, it wasn’t a physical impediment to my swim, just a bit of a mental distraction.
The CO2 cartridges use compressed gas, which have special considerations for air travel. If you were travelling by air to a destination where you wanted to use your RESTUBE, you’d need to notify the airline and follow the procedures they mandate, simply limit the number of cartridges you pack. The RESTUBE instructions include guidelines for air travel – which is great, because RESTUBE would be handy for snorkeling, surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding or other water activities you might undertake on vacation.
UPDATE: Innovation Sports contacted me and let me know that: “Quick note about the green clip you didn’t find in the box, if you had opened the RESTUBE before using it in the water, you would have noticed this little green clip was on the unit. When you trigger it, it breaks the clip and it is now in the lake somewhere… it is normal.
When customers are purchase the pack of 2 replacement cartridges, there are 2 clips in the package for this use. We haven’t provided you with the green replacement clips as we sent you demo cartridges that are only used normally for demos, trade shows and testing. They are bulk, not to be sold and they do not come with the clip.
The unit can be used without a clip no problem. The green clip normally just reminds you that the cartridge is FULL of air. Once used, it becomes RED to tell you the cartridge is empty and needs to be replaced. This is a visual help. The clips also ensure that you do not trigger it too easily… just a safety clip to avoid triggering it for nothing.
Please note that Triathlon Quebec is accepting the product for races. We are working on getting the approval for races by Ironman and also Triathlon Canada.
We just got yesterday the note from RESTUBE that USAT approved it for races in USA!”
Additionally, they have provided a code which lets Canadian customers get FREE Shipping! Simply use RT2015 when checking out. Again, here’s the link to Innovation Sports.
How about you? Would knowing you had a flotation buoy at your fingertips make you feel more comfortable and secure in the water? Would you inflate the buoy before starting for visibility, or just keep it folded up for the just-in-case?
I think I’ve hit the big times. This weekend (according to my training plan) called for 2 hours of running, 1 of swimming on Saturday as well as a 5 hour ride on Sunday. I woke up at 5:00 AM on Saturday with running gear laid out in advance in the basement. I even remembered hydration for myself.
Ready to roll… before sunrise.
My weather app said the sun wouldn’t rise until 6:30, so I had over an hour to make up my own course that would keep me under street lights. I went towards my office and ran through the industrial areas there. Seeing a truck yard at sunrise isn’t really my cup of tea, but if you want to fit your run in and be available for your family, you have to make some sacrifices. I had a few peaks at a map and I felt 99% sure I could connect back to the Etobicoke Creek Trail once the sun was up. The problem was I would be running beside the airport runways. I got to a point of no return on one of the airport service roads where there were signs saying that you couldn’t go any further… then I saw two cyclists go exactly where I wanted to run. I followed. It was nerve-racking, as I knew there were plenty of police cars patrolling the area; I’d been seeing them all morning. As I envisioned explaining myself to a police officer, my confidence in knowing my local geography dropped from 99 to somewhere in the 80s… Suddenly I recognized a familiar rolling in the landscape and some of the runway lights, and hopped onto the trail for the run home. I thought I’d be over 19 km and find myself trying to go around the block to get 20, but I only clocked 19 once I was already near home.
On my calves, I was wearing lavender calf sleeves by Legend Compression (Disclaimer: I was given a pair of Legend Compression calf sleeves for review purposes, all opinions are my own). I wear compression sleeves while running (and sometimes cycling) mostly to combat Achilles tendinitis and any other calf tightness/injury. What I noticed about the Legend compression sleeves it that the fabric felt very natural and breathable on my skin, like regular socks, and quite unlike most compression wear I’ve tried. That morning was quite cold and though I don’t regret wearing shorts and short sleeves, having a little extra insulation for my lower legs was nice. I could still feel some twinging in the lowest parts of my calf (which don’t get covered by sleeves – which I prefer to socks for the sake of wearing them in a triathlon where my feet get wet from swimming), but I think I weathered my 19 km run better for having worn them.
I was a lucky man that morning, as the kids had slept in, and I found them and my wife cuddled up together. I snuck in a few cuddles of my own and made pancakes (with extra protein from both Manitoba Harvest and Everlast Nutrition). We had a busy afternoon planned, and to make sure it happened, my wife ran errands while I took the kids to L.A. Fitness. The Lightning Kid has been to their Kids Klub daycare a few times, but it was Shark Boy’s first time; I tried to couch it as less than a play centre, but more than a daycare (which he kind of equates with ‘school’), while I quickly got 1150 m (a.k.a 1.15 km) of swimming in to round out the day’s mileage at 20 km.
I got your Fitspo right here..
That busy afternoon, I mentioned? Two birthday parties. The first was a classmate of Shark Boy’s and they went to Air Riderz trampoline park, which also had some climbing features (complete with safety harnesses and helmets). I took the Lightning Kid down the road to a favourite play centre called ‘Balls of Fun‘ where we goofed off and recreated a scene from the old 90s video game Street Fighter II: the Hadouken ‘Fireball’ technique (minus actual fireball).
I collected them from those two venues and shuttled them to another birthday party, with a Frozen (Lighting Kid favourite) theme and bouncy castle. I don’t need to tell you how well they slept that night. As for myself, I had some nerves before the longest bike ride of my life. I had signed up for the Burlington Mountain Equipment Co-opCentury Ride; 100 km in Niagara Escarpment country. I had put out my gear the night before, and I woke up before everyone else. I dressed in my new gear from RODS Racing. If you don’t know, RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome) helps get children with Down syndrome who are currently being housed in orphanages around the world into the loving arms of families who would like to adopt them; the families are ready, the kids are great, all it takes is cash to get around the bureaucracy and logistics. If you would like to help, my donation page is here.
I drove to Burlington’s Hidden Valley Park to find things in full swing; although I was there before 8:30, which I considered early for the 9:00 start, I had just enough time to switch shoes and put the bike together, pick up my numbered bib and take a bathroom break before they wanted us to start lining up on the road to head out; this was around 8:45.
I asked someone in the crowd what their estimate of the number of participants was, and they figured 250. I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only one with a triathlon bike there; I did see one girl with aero-bars on a road bike (much how I used to ride), but I still felt like a freak among what seemed to be a hard-core cycling crowd. The large numbers did make it seem like it would be safer out on any heavily driven roads. The marshals emphasized this was a ride, not a race, and the roads were open to all traffic, so safety first!
The ride started uphill, of course. For the first 5 km or so, I was happy to take an easy meandering pace, but soon it felt too slow. I needed to pace myself to last for 100 km – I knew this, but if the pace felt unnatural, and maintaining it was going to mean taking longer to finish than I was ready to spend on this event, that meant I would have to pass. This is where I seem to have a bit of a disconnect with pure cyclists. They like to ride at least 2 abreast and occupy the whole lane. This is considered the safest practice, I know, because it forces cars to acknowledge that the bicycle is entitled to the entire lane under the highway traffic act. When cars pass, they go around the group in a separate lane. As a triathlete, though, I have an aversion to crossing the centre line, even when there is not oncoming traffic, just because the rules so strictly prohibit it – it can mean disqualification. Plus, it seems dangerous. So I found myself sometimes waiting for opportunities to pass; I don’t think “on your left” is as much of a thing in straight-up cycling.
After some climbing to get over the Niagara Escarpment, there was plenty of flat land to really see what kind of speed you could build up to on flat land. It was a beautiful day, with perfect weather. The first rest stop came at 23 km, and they had bananas, Clif Bars, Pro Bar Base protein bars and Nuun hydration tablets. No porta-potties though; that might have been a little prohibitive for such a small support crew to transport, but I could have used one. From that point, the century (100 km) and 50 k routes split up. That was also the point where I separated from the crowd. Sometimes I rode behind a pair of riders or so, but for the bulk of the ride I was on my own. The course maps they had provided us had a list of ‘cues’ on the back that told you when your next turn would come in terms of total mileage. That came in handy for reassurance, but for the most part I could see the little white arrows painted on the road because they came as such logical junctures. The route was so rural and abandoned that I often forgot that cars could come by. At the second rest stop (48 km) my drink mix (Everlast FUEL with BCAAs and electrolytes, use the code IRONROGUE for a discount), was getting weak from being diluted with the water I had added, so I popped in a NUUN tablets. I have many blogger friends who rave about NUUN, and now I get it. It gave me some nice pep for the remainder of my ride. I didn’t see any of the Pro Bar Cookie Dough flavour that I had promised myself at the second rest stop, and the third rest stop (same location as the first) had run out by the time I got there.
The ride went through so many small villages that I can’t remember the names of them all, but one location I did recognize was African Lion Safari. One of the riders jokingly suggested a detour through there; “What could possibly go wrong?” I asked. Overall on the ride, I had my chain pop off way too much. Other riders suggested replacing the chain, but the bike is still too new. I think the front derailleur needs an adjustment – this is something I have to take up with my bike shop, as it costs me way too much time, and trying to put the chain back on while balancing the bike at the side of the road seems to get a lot harder as my legs get tired. The last 25 km were a bit of a struggle. I can remember thinking at 82 km “I don’t want to do this anymore.” It wasn’t so much that I wanted to quit, but the aero position was hurting my neck and shoulders quite a bit, and to not ride in aero was making the ride slower and ultimately take longer. Still that part of the ride was a net downhill, and all familiar from the ride out, so the kilometres clicked by fairly quickly.
I rolled into Hidden Valley Park after nearly 4 hours of time in the saddle (I paused Garmin tracking during the rest stops) with a big smile of accomplishment on my face. While I was tired, I think my legs would still have responded to the command to run, if I had to, so things are looking up for Barrelman. The local Rotary club was grilling burgers for free and a bike shop had put up a beer tent with a local brew; sadly they only took cash so I have a future date with Cause and Effect by Nickelbrook Brewery.
Century Ride Finisher (minus beer) selfie
I drove home and tried to clean myself up – I had chain grease everywhere: my hands, my face, my legs, the insides of my arms. Then I took the boys to the splash pad; they rode their bikes, showing me maybe someday they’ll be up for long rides too. Trips to the splash pad, long bike rides, birthday parties, swimming, running… I wish the summer didn’t have to end.
What’s the longest bike ride you’ve ever done? How are you consoling yourself over the end of summer?