Active Family Travel – Easter Weekend in Mont Tremblant

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.

La Savoie

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.

There’s an element that melts the cheese onto a plate below
Shark Boy and I fondu-ing it!



Creperie Catherine

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….

Le Q.C.

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.

Samurai Pub

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.

Swim Analysis Via Data – A Tridot Check-In

Here lies Axel “Iron Rogue” Kussmann.  Loved by the best of us, barely tolerated by the rest of us.  Drowned in the moonlight, strangled by his own bra died by exhaustion.

This training program may be too much for me; in fact, I’m nursing a pulled right calf muscle as I write this (a Finding Nemo frozen gel pack stuck under a compression sleeve).  When I wake up tomorrow I’ll know how bad it is.  When I look at the weekly totals it doesn’t seem that bad (though those don’t include warm-ups – the calf got yanked trying to do “butt kicks” for my run warm-up), but you’ll see there are 3 workout days, which apparently is due to me designating Thursday as a day off.


I’m not posting to complain though – that’s not the informative writing I strive for, but to tell you about a cool feature of the Tridot system.  When I was putting in initial data like age, height and weight, I also filled out a questionnaire regarding my swimming.


Based on these answers and stroke rate (which gets updated from Garmin data), Tridot has diagnoses me as a combination of different types.  I am:

  1. An “Overglider” (55%) – “As an Overglider, you’re likely over thinking your swim form and trying to stay streamlined at the expense of generating propulsion. Swim speed is Distance per Stroke (DPS) x Stroke Rate (SR)–not just DPS. It’s likely you’ll see solid improvements by focusing more on increasing your stroke rate and generating more propulsion even if you sacrifice your streamline a little. Remember that the most streamlined gliding position doesn’t have any propulsion. Make the mental shift from pursuing only form to pursuing fitness too. Work on your prescribed drills, and you’ll find the right balance.”
  2. An “Overkicker” (30%) – “As an Overkicker, your able to swim at least at a moderate pace and may not perceive the ‘need’ for much form improvement. However, with a little more emphasis on generating propulsion form your front quadrant and reducing your kick you’ll be able to swim further, faster, and with less energy. Focus on each of your prescribed drills and be open to re-thinking and re-learning how you swim.”
  3. A “Lightweight” (25%) – “As a Lightweight, you’ll need to really focus on your ooomph and confidence. You may not have much experience in the pool, but that won’t be true for long. Focus on making small improvements each session. Try to relax in the water and focus on strong execution of your prescribed drills. Much of your improvement will come from having a positive mindset as you go into each session. Swimming is not ‘natural’ for humans. It’s learned. You can learn to be a great swimmer!”

The percentages reflect a degree of confidence in the diagnosis, which is why they don’t add up to 100%.  The other types (which aren’t a match for me) are:

  • “Tarzan” – “As a Tarzan, you’ll need to learn to rely less on your strength and athleticism and more on skill and technique. As you execute your prescribed drills, learn to work with the water rather than fighting against it. Focus on reducing drag and having a long, balanced body position. Relax and let your body glide through the water. Improving your swim form can take time. It’s often not a matter of more effort, rather it’s patience as you repeat the movements (drills) over, and over, and over until they come naturally. “
  • “Swinger” – “As a Swinger, you’re already a relatively fast swimmer. Understand that the Swinger form isn’t a ‘lesser’ form than the Classic. You can achieve great results with either. The amount of ‘form correction’ you’ll want to pursue will be relative to your fitness and results. If you’re already turning in strong swim performances and are not experiencing shoulder pain, you may not want to change too much. Work on your prescribed drills as a Classic would to maintain and refine your form not overhaul it.”
  • “Classic” – “As a Classic, you’re already a very strong swimmer. You’ll always want to watch that bad habits don’t creep in and impact your form. Don’t take your swim form for granted and neglect doing the drills that are prescribed in your swim sessions. As a triathlete, you will do well to spend time working on open-water skills such as sighting and drafting.”

I’ve noticed they put a lot of “sink-downs” in my warm-ups.  These are for getting more comfortable in the water – you empty your lungs and let yourself sink down to the bottom.  These are to be immediately followed by swimming a short interval.  I think the idea is to get me more used to swimming with less air in my lungs – I’m probably spending a lot of time getting more air in than I strictly need and it’s hurting my stroke rate.  I also recently got to play with my head position; looking less up seemed to help me be more efficient but the stroke data didn’t look radically different over the short intervals I got to play with that aspect.


RESTUBE – How To Enjoy Your Safest Triathlon Open Water Swim

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.
RESTUBE is available from Innovation Sports, and you can find out more about the product at
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?

German Vacation 2015 Recap

I used to break down these trips into multiple parts, thanks to extensive journals I kept, but I think I’d just prefer to do a single round-up and not just because I didn’t keep a journal this time.  I think I’m just going to do a summary by category.

Family Adventures

  • Climb UP! Climbing Forest.

This was one of the cooler adventures we got up to.  For adults, there are various challenges to climb up into the treetops, and of course, some zip lines.  We didn’t do the adult challenges in favour of accompanying the kids.  They each wore safety harnesses with 2 carabiners that got hooked into safety lines that ran alongside each climbing challenge.  The challenges were strung together to form an entire course to traverse.  At the end of one challenge, you’d unhook a carabiner from the completed challenge’s safety line and hook it into the new, then you’d repeat for the second carabiner, so that in principle, you were always tethered.  The kids never got any higher than around 5 feet off the ground, but I guess it’s the principle that’s important.  Shark Boy loved it and managed his own safety harness, and while the Lightning Kid seems to be a born climber, he got a little tired about halfway through the course so I let him bail.

  • Germendorf Zoo/Theme Park

We’ve visited this place annually for at least 3 years now.  When we got in, Shark Boy found a dead snake beneath a statue of an elephant, and by the time we were done, he still considered it a highlight.  This year I had us navigate toward the ‘Dinosaur’ section before we got too close to the carnival rides and playgrounds that always seem to high-jack the kids’ interest in the animals there.  I think I only saw one dinosaur (statue) but we got to see some animals we haven’t seen in prior visits.  For me the highlight was a puma, which is not only one of my favourite animals, but this one actually got up and walked around, which is kind of rare for big cats in captivity (in my experience).  He did seem to take an unhealthy interest in Shark Boy; at least, unhealthy for the boy – his ears pricked up, he stared, licked his chops, you name it.  

We got to see monkeys playing, meerkats, parrots and even pet and feed a deer.

Then it was time for lunch and rides.  We shelled out for them to ride these electrically powered motorcycles (they move fairly slowly), which not only gave us a sweet moment of the two brothers riding together, but we actually got the Lightning Kid to ride his own.  He did a great job of steering until he’d get distracted by what his brother was up to, and then he’d crash – which didn’t hurt him but resulted in tears from the sudden shock.  There was an indoor play area which used to house a ball pit and a few bouncy castles, but they’ve expanded it into a much more extensive play area with all kinds of climbing structures.

I don’t like to make fun of personal appearances, but I have to tell this story.  My wife and I were sitting near the ball pit which was intended (according to the signs) for kids aged 0-5.  There were kids much older in there, and they were throwing the balls out of the pit and generally making a nuisance of themselves.  The supervisor turned up and told them off – and they got off light, because the supervisor was a witch from a storybook, I kid you not.  Hook nose, wild and wiry hair, crazy eyes… all that was missing was a wart.  I know we weren’t all created to have movie star good looks, but maybe using a brush once in a while… on the other hand, maybe it helps with her job.  My wife and I have read a lot of German children’s literature (as children ourselves, we don’t like it too much for our kids) where there is often some kind of boogeyman who comes and gets you when you don’t follow the rules (see here for an example) – so we couldn’t help but laugh to see one of these scenarios brought to life.

  • River Cruise

Another annual mandatory outing.  We had lovely weather, but this year they stopped making a stop near where we were staying, so we had to make a round trip.  The food menu seemed reduced too, but at least it’s getting easier to keep the kids safe while they roam the decks.

  • Bike Ride

We rode our bikes through the local forest into the town of Tegel to find a playground.  This day was particularly hot, so the shade provided by the trees was very welcome.  Shark Boy had been getting over a flu, and I think we overestimated his recovery, because he simply quit well before we could get home, in spite of covering a much bigger distance last year.  Still, taken as a whole, I have to call it a successful outing, and hopefully a precursor to future family bike trips.


There’s a Simpsons episode where Germany is referred to as the land of chocolate, so we had plenty of that.  I honestly don’t quite understand how Germans stay thin (my observations of people make me think that they’re thinner on average, though I found this on Wikipedia – Canadian men are 2 kg lighter than Germans [who are 6 kg lighter than Americans] on average).  They have some good habits like more walking and biking as transportation, not to mention that the evening meal is generally quite light, with lunch being the big hot meal, but still!  The bread is made with white flour, the meat is often red; I have a hard enough time eating fruit at home, but with fresh cold cuts and cheeses bought on a daily basis, they really get pushed to the side.

And then there’s my fetish for ice cream made in the image of pasta… I try to eat Spaghetti Ice Cream as often as I can get my hands on it while I’m in Germany since I can’t get it back home.  The ice cream is pushed through a press to make noodles, the tomato sauce is actually strawberry sauce, and the grated cheese is either grated coconut, or grated white chocolate.  I didn’t get to try any new places this year, but I got enough samples to keep me happy.

My wife and I had two date nights: once at our favourite little Italian place, where they always treat us like royalty and once at Alten Fritz (which has been open, in some capacity or another, since 1410!).  We actually went to this restaurant twice: once with a larger group, and once with just the two of us.  The first time I had a Goulash made with Wild Boar, and the second time a platter with 3 kinds of dumpling; it was really an eye-opener to how fine traditional German cuisine can be.  There’s outdoor seating and even a little forested area with pond that really adds to the ambience.


  • Swim

I used our proximity to the Havel River to my full advantage and I’d packed my wetsuit.  I got in 3 open water swims, and since I’ve been doing a lot more than usual pool training, the difference that the open water makes was a bit of a surprise to me.  I’m not sure of my technique in open water, but I’ve got the rest of the summer to figure it out.  I got 3 different swims in, and one was 1800m, close to a half-iron distance swim.  I think I’ll be putting together a post about swimming in an unfamiliar river.

  • Bike

In addition to the family bike ride mentioned above, I got in 3 rides.  I knew my cycling training would suffer the most for not having access to a road or tri bike, but two of my rides were with the Lightning Kid, including one that had us out for about 3 hours (2 hours of actual riding) – it was great bonding time for us, and he liked seeing the sights and sounds including visiting a pens where boars and deer are kept.  My third ride got cut short by a flat tire.

  • Run

Running is the easiest form of training to accomplish on vacation.  Running with my brother on the day we arrived with jet lag (after an overnight flight) was pretty challenging; I expected to feel tired, but I had this dead feeling in my legs that I wasn’t prepared for.   For the first few days in Berlin we had a lot of cold weather and rain so my first solo run was not enjoyable, but I also had nice runs in sunnier weather, alternating between going along the Havel River (and trying, unsuccessfully, to race one of the Steamboat cruises) and through the forest.


In addition to the usual suspects I also got to try the original Budweiser.  This Czech lager is nothing like the American brew and I really enjoyed it.  There was also Altenmuenster, which I gave 3.25 stars out of 5 and my wife and I both had a Kronbacher Radler.  If you haven’t heard of a Radler (Moosehead is making one, for example), it’s a little like a shandy or other beer based beverage.   A mix of sparkling lemonade and beer, the story goes that a bar owner was getting cleaned out of stock by thirsty cyclists stopping in, so he found a way to stretch his inventory while still quenching his customers’ thirst – Radler translates to ‘Cyclist’ as it turns out.  So of course we had one while on the family bike ride mentioned above.

That’s a wrap on another German holiday!

How To Build A Descending Swim Set

I’m thinking…

Following a structured swim workout can be complicated. I could probably do an entire series on swim terminology that I don’t quite have a handle on. Even when you look the terms up, it can still be a little intimidating (this is one of the better resources I’ve found so far).  One of the things do understand is the idea of doing a set, like the following example:

4×100 Descending

So that’s doing 100m (4 lengths in most pools) 4 times.  Each of those 100m intervals are supposed to be done successively faster.  If you’re like me (and congratulations if you’re not), it’s hard to get those paces right; how do you do it, beyond just
  1. Not too fast
  2. A little faster
  3. A little faster still
  4. Fast as you can!  (assuming you have anything left).

Trying progressively harder hasn’t yielded times that decrease for me when doing sets like this, but I did stumble across a way to gradually get faster and have different degradation of effort that I can mentally separate.  I even gave them one word nicknames that can double as mantras, if that’s your kind of thing.

  1. Stroll: the pace/effort of a walk in the park.  You’re swimming casually, and without much concern for form (though don’t be purposely sloppy) or pace or anything.
  2. Elegant: Make every stroke as perfect as possible.  Anything you’ve been working on remembering to do in drills should be found here.  You really concentrate on the best form you can manage to do for the entire interval; it takes some concentration
  3. Mash: This feels like a hill climb on the bike (or maybe even the run); every stroke should feel like it has a lot of resistance.  Push hard on every stroke, feel the power, like you would if you had hand paddles on.
  4. Quick: This one is almost the opposite.  Rather than trying to push every stroke hard, you’re trying to get every stroke over with quickly, and focus on the quickest arm turnover possible.
This shows the resulting times for 4x100m and 4x200m.  Usually about 15 seconds rest between intervals.

The first time I tried this, I actually had #3 and #4 reversed, since I expected that would give me descending times (i.e. go faster).  Quick seems to outpace mash for me, it may be different for you.

Disclaimer: I am not a triathlon coach, or even a particularly good triathlete. If you have one of these in your life telling you differently, more power to you – I am merely a busy cheapskate with a DIY ethic (at least in triathlon training) who likes to share his ideas and discoveries.

Swim Workout: Thursday 300s

I did this swim workout 2 weeks ago, and I thought it might be worth sharing.  The general idea (especially the main set) is from Gale Bernhardt’s Training Plans for Multisport Athletes.  The idea is a time trial test to determine race pace and other paces that are needed for tempo-type work etc.

  1. Warm-up for 300m
  2. Do 300m of power work with hand paddles
  3. Do 3 intervals of 300m.  Try to finish each of these with completion times that are within 15 seconds of each other.  Effort should be hard, but not so hard that you’re blown up in the third set and the times are inconsistent.  Rest 30s to 1 min between intervals
  4. Do 3 sprint intervals of 50m.  Rest 30s to 1 min between intervals
  5. Cool-down for 150m
Total distance: 1800m

If you average the  time of your main set 300m intervals and divide by 3, you get a benchmark time for 100m.  Slower than this for aerobic work, faster for speed work…

Looking at the stats from my test 2 weeks ago, it seems my Garmin 910XT and I don’t agree on interval lengths. If I look at the average 100m pace for Intervals 3, 4, 5 (the main set), rather than the total times of the intervals, we see I’m not quite consistent enough; the times vary by almost a minute, when the paces should vary by about 5 seconds or less (5 seconds=15 seconds/3).

Oh well, I’ll be doing this time trial several times during the 27 week training plan, which starts soon enough…

This Summer’s “Training” “Schedule”

It’s been a bit of a rough summer so far.  In the Holding Your Ground post, I talked about how I wasn’t going to be breaking new ground in terms of distance or performance this year, and the way things are shaking out, I don’t think I’m going to do any triathlons this year.  I had thoughts of doing Bracebridge again, or maybe dropping down to the Sprint level, but I think I know I’d be pretty much limping through it, and needing the better part of a week to recover.  The concept of merely doing the race for fun and simply enjoying completing it appeals to me, but I know I’d be cursing how slow I am and everything that woulda/shoulda/coulda (Shel Silverstein shout-out!) happened this season with every stroke, revolution and step.

Immediately after getting back from Germany, I underwent a vasectomy.  The snip.  I’m thinking of devoting a post to it in case anyone was considering it and wondering about effects and impacts (don’t worry, there wouldn’t be any pictures), but for now, I’ll just leave it at the fact that I was unable to exercise (or even pick up the kids) for a week after a less-than-completely active vacation just as the summer was getting started.  A summer that follows a brutal winter, where getting/keeping a good base was very unlikely.  It also meant missing out on Band On The Run (at least the racing part, but the music festival/live concert was a lot of fun); I don’t think I’m going to post about it since it’s so long ago and I didn’t run it myself, but it’s a must-have for next year; family friendly, lots of fun.  

So here we are, without racing goals, without a formal training program, with a weak training base and the summer has been rather rainy, if you ask me.  Rain and storms has meant cancelling rides and open water swims at the cottage where I spend most weekends.

Still, I’m not writing this to describe what hasn’t happened, I’m here to celebrate what has been happening.  For one thing, like they say in the movie The Crow, it can’t rain all the time, so the cottage has been good for open water swims.  Unfortunately, due to some weird Garmin firmware crash (that my Forerunner 910XT has fortunately has recovered from) I don’t have any data to show you for it… the Garmin ate everything from June 23rd till sometime in Mid-July.  I can tell you that I did the first one sans wet-suit.

That decision to swim without it was a good one, I got 1.4 km of swimming done in 33 minutes which made me feel good about where my technique, body positioning and endurance were at.  I had a couple of other swims, one of which was in very windy and rough conditions and was really unpleasant, but at least it would toughen me up for adverse conditions, right?

We’ve taken the kids kayaking a couple of times too. The first time was about 1km, the second we got up to two. They’re pretty good about patiently sitting still, to the point where our arm endurance is a bigger limiter than their fidgetiness (I just made that word up).

The other thing the cottage has been good for is using my mountain bike.  Rather than cart my tri-bike back and forth from the city, I just try and get out on the mountain bike, which I’m treating as part cycling training, part cross-training.  The first time I looked for a trail in the area I encountered a massive mud puddle which a little too much for this novice mountain biker…. but when I hit the same trail the week after, it was dry enough to ride through and I got a little further.

Whenever I hit some challenging terrain (which, for me, is just about anything more than a dirt road) I giggle and hoot. I bet I sound like Daffy Duck out there.

Back at home, the Lightning Kid’s sleeping schedule has returned back to its horrible default condition.  He’s less accepting of me as means to get back to sleep, but the good news is that when I’m industrious and organized, I prearrange my running gear so I can get up, grab it, change quickly in his room, and take him out running before he can wake anybody else.

It’s been a great opportunity to play with fasted cardio, since I don’t take any fuel before I go (though it’s super important to hydrate before and during, because I wake up as dry as a bone).  I’m pushing the Chariot and taking it easy and just trying to kill 30-60 minutes so that the rest of the house can sleep.  I don’t push the pace, and I’m just happy to be moving, and even then, I find myself tempted to stop running or turn around early.  I’m training my body to recruit more of my fat stores, and training my mind to keep going even though I’m tired which is key for triathlon.

I wasn’t sure how much he was enjoying it, and in fact, when he starts asking for ‘Mama’ I know it’s time to get home quick, but I was surprised at how quickly he’s come to expect it: I got up early with him on Tuesday, and since I didn’t have my gear out and ready (and I was pretty groggy), I didn’t take him out.  He grabbed my running shoes and though I took him out on the porch for a few minutes when he asked to go outside (not for long, because it was surprisingly cold and we were just in pyjamas), he threw a tantrum when he found we were going back inside.  Sometimes when we’re out on the run if he starts to fuss I give him my water bottle to drink from.  He hardly ever drinks from it, but he does play with it a little.  The funny part is when he starts calling me to take it back; he’s like a little coach reminding me to hydrate.

So, though I haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire, I’ve had some fun and that’s what summer’s all about… and it’s half over!

How has your summer been so far?

Snapshots From Germany

In my on-going game of blog post catch-up, I would like to engage in the (probably pointless) exercise of telling you, dear reader, about our annual family trip to Germany.  Last time I kept a detailed journal, not so much this time, so I’ll wrap it up in a single post, with just the broad strokes. With Germany in the World Cup final, I’m sure you’re all eager for a little taste of the Fatherland, right?

Travelling with small children is indeed exhausting, especially the flights, but I have to say, my boys are actually pretty good, all things considered and they get compliments from airline staff and other passengers.  They’ve both been on planes since they were 6 months old, and while the Lightning Kid still doesn’t get the need to stay seated, they show their veteran flyer status in their general behaviour.

Due to the German holiday calendar this year, we weren’t able to spend as much time with my brother’s family, and we ended up heading to the Berlin area shortly after landing.  Germany gave us some great weather this year, though it was late May, it felt like a full-on summer (meanwhile, back in Canada, the climate was still shaking off the Polar Vortex).

This gave us an opportunity to swim in the Havel river a bunch including off a boat!  Shark Boy really improved his swimming and it ended up paying off a few weeks later at TriKids Burlington.  I even got my own open water swimming training session, and though it didn’t feel great in terms of technique, performance or accomplishment, this is the first year I’ve gotten one done while on vacation though that river has been there the whole time, so I feel proud of it.

This boat was docked nearby, and it gave me a daydream about living on it, and having constant access to open water, living a nomadic, triathlon lifestyle a little like Team Wuertele.  Having a cottage is pretty good too, though.

We don’t do much sight-seeing while there and prefer to be homebodies… it’s quite cozy. Apparently some ducks thought so too – but nobody told them that ducks aren’t roof birds…

The other big physical activity we did as a family was a bike ride; Shark Boy rode at 10 km on his own, and now that the Lightning Kid is a little bigger, he can ride longer in the rear seat – he is also carrying on his brother’s tradition of reaching forward to try and give me a wedgie.

While we didn’t sightsee, we did have to find ways to keep the kids entertained, and we looked into a couple of amusement park and play centres as we’ve come across them over the years. Lots of jumping and climbing for both boys, and it’s great to see the Lightning Kid really rock his gross motor skill development.

After Berlin, we did finally get a chance to spend time with my brother and his family, and what we didn’t have in quantity of time, we made up for in quality. Seeing the cousins play and bond really reinforces the feeling that family is something to be treasured. We took a nice hike up one of the Taunus mountains.

I also got a nice run in with my brother.

Like any vacation, it was over too quickly and now seems so long ago.

Our Family Trip To Grand Palladium Mayan Riviera

We’re big on travel in our family, and we want to give our kids great, diverse experiences, even from a young age, even though travelling with young ones can be very stressful.  So far, we’ve been going South in even-numbered years (it was Turks & Caicos for 2012) and ski vacations in odd years (Mt. Ste. Anne for 2011 and 2013).  I’m glad this year wasn’t a ski year, because after the Polar Vortex(es) of this winter, I couldn’t take more cold and really needed some sun and warmth.  We all did.

The Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos really spoiled us in terms of what was possible for an all inclusive with child care, but it was too expensive to repeat this year.  My wife did some great research and we booked a Sunwing holiday through Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel.  We were going to the Grand Palladium in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico.  I’d been looking forward to it for a while but as the days before the trip trickled down to single digits, I got worried.  I’d had bad experiences with charter airlines in the past, getting tripped up on baggage weight restrictions and being crammed (me=5’11.5”) into small seats.  I’ve got to say, though, combined with our using their online check-in, Sunwing made it really fast and efficient, which is very important, because I find it hardest to manage the kids when standing in line.  Having got through baggage drop-off and security quickly, we had time to kill before boarding but I find the gate area a lot better space for managing kids, the Lightning Kid’s disagreement with an escalator about direction of travel notwithstanding.

The flight went well too; the kids are too energetic to be easy on the plane, but they’re experienced enough flyers that they weather most of the challenges well.  We were warned of keeping track of our immigration papers on the flight, and briefed about the customs procedure (where you push a button to determine whether you’re going to have your luggage searched) by the flight crew.  Exiting the terminal, we bought snacks for the long bus ride to the resort – 15USD for a beer, a water and a can of Pringles.  Ouch.  The kids slept a little on the bus ride, which made things a little easier.

Grand Palladium in the Mayan Riviera is a resort with 4 different lobbies: Riviera, White Sands, Kantenah and Colonial.  We were booked in the latter, which I liked, because as far as I could tell from the map, it was closest to one of the biggest pools, the kids water park, the beach, and definitely closest to the “Mini-Club” (child care).  The Colonial lobby is next to a Flamingo lagoon, which made a strong first impression for our arrival.

 Our room was ready with a crib, and the couch had been pulled out and made with sheets, so both kids would have a place to sleep.  We’ve struggled with this in other hotels – we’ll request a crib, be assured that one will be there, and come up empty when we check in.

Once we were ready to explore, we found we had a neighbour: a rather large iguana; I asked Shark Boy to give him a name and he picked “Max”.  At first we were astounded not only by how tame he seemed, but how nobody else seemed to notice him (or us staring at him).  It turns out, these things are everywhere on the resort, and if you’re grossed out by lizards, I have to tell you that there was a startling absence of bugs, and maybe that’s a coincidence, and maybe it isn’t.  The entire resort is peppered with mangroves, which not only protect the landscape from erosion and give the local fauna a place to live (while making little visits to the inhabited sections of the resort) but also provide extra shade.  As a melanoma survivor, it’s not always easy to enjoy sunny destinations and the shade provided by the mangroves as well as some sheltered paths was really welcome.

Cooling off became our first priority.  We found the big pool (or one of them) and started in the shallow end.  Shark Boy has gotten the hang of swimming (thanks to his grandfather) and he splashed around in the water as comfortably as his namesake.  We didn’t really get to sample the rest of the pool much; in spite of an on-site daycare, we spent most of the time with the kids… more on this in a bit.  I would have liked to use it to swim a few lengths in the mornings before things got busy, or spend some time at the pool-side bar, but I was able to fetch drinks from it once or twice.

After the pool, we showed the kids the new water park.  I took the Lightning Kid with me on a water slide and was chided by the life-guard who directed me to the rules board… where we couldn’t find what rule I had broken.  Finally he pointed out “Always obey the life-guard” which would have to do.  No big slides for the Lightning Kid, and he was hesitant on the smaller ones, but fun in the water is still a favourite for both kids.

The other thing that had made me apprehensive before the trip besides the flights was that we’d all be in the same room.  The Lightning Kid was waking up 2-3 times a night still, I snore, and Shark Boy sometimes gets nightmares if he’d overtired or overstimulated (both of which were likely while on vacation), so I thought we’d all end up waking each other up and come back from vacation less rested than when we left.  That couldn’t have been further from what actually happened.  The kids were so tuckered out from walking and swimming in the sun that both nap-time and night-times were a breeze to get them down and keep them down.  It’s almost upsetting to me, because we strive to keep them active and outdoors every day, but the Canadian suburbs simply can’t compete with living by the beach in Mexico.  As for me, I think the sea air helped my sinuses or something, because snoring was lessened.

Speaking of the beach and sea, I think this was the best part of every day we spent there.  Shark Boy could really show his stuff (and make his parents’ teeth sweat) being thrown around in the surf, and the Lightning Kid loved running into the water repeatedly after a (mispronounced) “1-2-3-GO!”, not to mention running up to people on beach chairs and socializing. I’m really happy that the boys were able to get so much out of being on the ocean.

The resort had activities that I would have liked to try including kayaks, catamarans and stand-up paddle boarding at the beach, not to mention archery on their sports field. It was for this kind of thing and the potential for date dinners/lunches that the ‘Mini-Club’ (for Shark Boy, age 4) and ‘Baby-Club’ (for the Lightning Kid aged 2) were supposed to come in handy. I think the Mini-Club would have been fine (especially once Shark Boy’s initial resistance was overcome and we got into a routine) for longer stays since they would take them to the water park or beach. The Baby Club, however, gave us a walky-talky to reach us at a moment’s notice (which you want in a way, just in case), but apparently had very limited range, as they specified we couldn’t go further than the beach or pool area. This, combined with picking the kids up at lunch time made for limited opportunities. More than anything else, we used our kid free time to research what on-site restaurants to try and other logistical details. I did manage to fit in one scuba dive, though. The dive shop was right at the beach and the dive site was only 5 minutes by boat, so I managed a single tank dive in something under 90 minutes; perfect when you have kids to get back to. The weather had been kind of windy all week, so visibility was not so great and we didn’t manage to spot any big ticket items like sharks or turtles, but I did see some lionfish, pufferfish and a seahorse (not pictured).

The resort had both buffet-style and a la carte restaurants. I was surprised by how good the quality at the buffets (La Hacienda, Tikal and Grand Azul) were with plenty of healthy things like fruits and smoothies, local dishes like antojitos, international cuisine including paella and run of the mill stuff like chicken fingers for the kids. By contrast, the a la carte places didn’t seem as good, with the Italian place (Portofino) being the biggest disappointment (slow service, bland food), the Japanese being mediocre (interesting Mexican twists on the sushi, but not high quality fish, I think). The Mexican a la carte (Adelita), on the other hand, was mouth wateringly good, and we had a nice, if rushed due to Baby-Club hours, date night dinner.

While we did get around the resort mostly on foot, there was the opportunity to take little trains (on wheels, not tracks) from one lobby to another and the boys got a kick out of the ride. Shark Boy and I used this to attend a ‘Surf Party’ with animal mascots (known as Raggs and Friends – side note: Raggs has a friend who is differently abled – hooray for inclusion!) run by the Kids’ Club staff. There were plenty of evening entertainment options for the kids (if they weren’t too tired from the days activities) including a Pinata party one night too.

Surf Party

Pinata Party

I have to confess that there were times I wish we had taken a holiday without the kids; the funny thing is that now I have trouble remembering the specifics of what made it so difficult. I guess it just got frustrating trying to take the kids to places like the pool and the beach while they actively worked against making it easier to do so (e.g. resisting getting dressed), even though the destination was where they wanted to be. What I do remember, is all the smiles and fun we had. Grand Palladium not only gave us a taste of sun and sea (as a family), but a good sampling of both Mexican cuisine and the local ecology too.

An Agouti

The resort has a crocodile lagoon in addition to the flamingo lagoons

Coati and raccoons were occasionally visible around the resort.  We saw a monkey once too.

Watch Me Swim!

One of the things I’ve been itching to do since I have a waterproof (and idiot-proof) camera is get some underwater video of my swim stroke.  I managed to do this a couple of weeks ago, but it’s taken until now to get this thing uploaded and edited.

Compared to the other two disciplines, my swim is strong, but that doesn’t make me a coach or expert of any kind, but I figured I could eyeball my form and evaluate it on a few key measures that I know (or at least, I believe) to be important.  My information is partly from ‘Swim Bike Run’  by Hobson, Campbell and Vickers and the rest from informal chats both on-line and in real life with other triathletes. Key concepts are:

  • Hand Entry – ‘Always enter your hand into the water in a line directly in front of your shoulder… A common mistake among triathletes is “cross-over,” which occurs when the hand is place inside the shoulder line usually in line with the head.’ There’s an interesting parallel with running there, because your hands shouldn’t cross the mid-line of your body then either; it’s all wasted energy.
  • Catch – Once the hand is in the water, you actually complete the extension and reach the rest of the way forward underwater.
  • Body Roll – ‘… once the arm pull is ready to begin, your body has rolled to that side or your hips are facing away from your hand.’   Body roll is key to getting core muscle power involved in your stroke, but I confess I’ve gotten mixed messages on how much is enough. Swim Bike Run seems to indicate the whole body, while others seem to be saying that it should be mostly torso, with everything below the waist being more neutral in the water, which would result in a bit of a ‘twist’ motion.  That’s the ideal I thought I was working toward, but the video might reveal otherwise….

Whether or not my roll below the hips is excessive or not, the asymmetry is a problem.  Watching the video gives me some things to think about the next time I’m in the pool, and it’s cheaper than a coach.