5 Peaks Trail Race Recaps: Terra Cotta and Rattlesnake Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My own kids were no slouches either, of course.

Credit: Sue Sitki of Sue Sitki Photography

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


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

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


Will I see you there?

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

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

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

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

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


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

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Trail Run – Terra Cotta

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


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!

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Heart Lake Trail Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shark Boy attentively listening to pre-race instructions.

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

The little guy toward the back is Shark Boy

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

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

He’s nearly spent

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Sue Sitki Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Terra Cotta Trail Race

Having skipped out on the Yonge Street 10K in favour of watching the kids and cheering on the runners, this last weekend was my chance to get a bib on and race.  It’s the first race of the 5 Peaks Ontario Trail Racing season and I was pumped – pumped to try my legs out (especially while carrying less weight) on a new trail and push them as fast as they could go, pumped to get the kids running around their fun run, pumped to see friends.

We arrived at Terra Cotta Conservation area around 9:30 AM with plenty of time to park, pick up and our race bibs.  I was pleasantly surprised to see we got some swag before the race, because I’ve missed out in the past when they’ve handed it out well afterwards, and I’ve already long since gone home.

I got to see Janice from Fitness Cheerleader finish the competitive 3 km kids race with her eldest daughter. I found Krysten from The Misadventures of a Darwinian Fail (and her husband) as well as Paul from Paul’s Inane Ramblings Then it was time for the 1 km (or 600 m in this case) fun run for kids of any age.  My wife wasn’t feeling too well that morning, so we opted to encourage Shark Boy to run it on his own, while I stuck with the Lightning Kid.  Shark Boy seemed a little upset at not being near the front of the starting crowd, but knowing how he dislikes standing around waiting, there was nothing for it except to encourage him to nudge his way forward before the official “1,2,3  GO!”

The Lightning Kid has been getting faster and faster and I’d already noticed in the past few months, so I was glad to see him put that to use now.  I’d experienced this phenomena with Shark Boy a few years ago, but when racing with a 3 year-old, the limit isn’t so much their fitness, but their attention span.  He’d stop to see who was coming up behind him, glad-hand with new-found fans (a repeat of last year at Albion Hills), and generally smell the roses.  I’d be cheering and chanting “Come on! Go, Go, Go! Faster” the entire way.  

Those are actually snow pants.  The morning was not warm.

We were well on our way to the turn-around point (a small loop around a pond) when we saw Shark Boy already on his way back.  He was smiling and really moving, so I knew he was managing the course fine, and having a good time doing it.

Then, a few minutes later, we saw him again! He had done an extra loop, and I don’t think it was exactly by accident, because I saw him try and avoid the final stretch back to the finish line only to be corrected by some marshals.  Apparently he asked “Is that all?”  when he crossed the finish line, so I think it might be time to enrol him in the competitive Kids’ 3k next time.  I got the Lightning Kid to run the final stretch with the promise of seeing Mama and there were smiles and high-fives aplenty.

After that nice little warm-up it was time for the main event.  I seeded myself at the back of the third wave and listened to the final instructions.  The course was going to be a muddy one thanks to the rain and cold temperatures we’ve been having, and they asked everyone to stick to the trail and not try to go around which would widen the existing trail and erode the very forest that the area is trying to conserve.  It was generally pitched as, “don’t be afraid to get dirty” and you shouldn’t if you’re trail running, but the thing is that deep mud can actually suck the shoes right off your feet (as nearly happened to a woman right behind me) and your shoes start to get really heavy as they get clogged up with mud. I still stuck to the trail, as instructed, but I found myself doing the Remo Williams run (see this video around 3:13, then watch what happens to the guy following Remo) whenever I encountered deeper mud.

Terra Cotta seems like it’s going to be a flat course, but there are definitely some hills, enough of them were wide enough to allow me to pass when other runners wanted to walk up the hills (and I didn’t, which wasn’t necessarily every time). There were a few boardwalks which the more clever runners used to scuff off the soles of their shoes as they went along and lose some of the mud weight (not to mention regain the traction provided by their treads that had been hidden by a layer of mud).

I finished the first lap of approximately 5 km feeling strong with a smile on my face. I took a gel and was determined to negative split the race. As it turns out, I did the second lap all of 3 seconds slower, and I know I really pushed myself on the last kilometre, so I’m not entirely sure what happened.

Shark Boy wouldn’t let me rest until I had seen the play area he’d discovered (which amounted to a dug out area of clay/earth), then I helped myself to snacks like Clif bars, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and bananas. I also managed to catch up a little with Jessica from Laces and Lattes (who not only pulled a 3:15 Boston Marathon the Monday before this race, and did the Enduro course, but also did Paris to Ancaster the next day!) as well as my friend Mark Sawh, a great Toronto community runner.

My official finish time was 1:09:52 with an average pace of 6:29, which I think I’m happy with. The other runners seem to set the bar pretty high, as I was the 101st man to finish and ranked 34/47 in my age category.

As always, 5 Peaks put on a fun day of running for the whole family, and though I thought we wouldn’t necessarily be able to make it to another race, we are currently pushing things around our schedule to be able to make it to the Heart Lake race on May 30th. Hope to see you there!

Why You Should Join Me At the 5 Peaks Terra Cotta Trail Run

The trail running season starts on Saturday April 25th, at Terra Cotta Conservation Area, and the entire Iron Rogue clan will be there.  Unless you’re new around here, you should be no stranger to the 5 Peaks Race series (recaps: here, here, here, here, here and here). They’re a fun event, and super family friendly.

Let me break it down for you…

  • They are friendly to beginners.  There are two course lengths, Enduro and Sport which are 10.8 and 5.4 km respectively.  If you feel you’re a slower runner, or are intimidated, you can simply seed yourself in one of the last waves, and then you don’t have to worry about being passed.
  • They have Clif Bars and Kicking Horse coffee on site.
  • Terra Cotta is a beautiful conservation area, but not as well known as some in the Greater Toronto Area.  Running this race affords all kinds of ‘Terra Cotta Warrior’ puns/jokes.
  • Kids can run the competitive 3km race or the fun 1km race.
  • You will get a free high-five from the Lightning Kid
  • Trail running is the purest form of running; you’re closer to nature than when you’re on  a sidewalk or road, and ditching the headphones means tuning into the experience of finding out what your body can do.
  • Many awesome local fitness/welness bloggers are expected to attend including Jessica from Laces & Lattes, Krysten from Misadventures of a Darwinian Fail, and Michelle from Michelle The Runner.
  • Thanks to me, you get a discount on your registration! Use the code AxelsTrailPals when registering online.
Not good enough? What about a free entry?  One random winner will receive a discount code.  You can put several entries in and the winner will be announced on Monday April 20th.

So… do you want to give trail running a try with me?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday Five – Coming Soon

In an effort to keep some momentum in my writing and posting (I’m a little stalled on a Lightning Kid post), I’m going to do a Friday Five post with 5 things that could be their own posts – and probably will be in the future.  Rather than beat myself up about my inability to get a good, quality piece written and published this week, I’m going to give you this, the bastard love-child of a clip show and sneak preview/trailer.

  1. Cross-country skiing.  Finally there’s enough snow for us to do one of our favourite family activities in the winter.  I think the Chariot is coming to the end of its service life; it’s in fine shape – it’s just the boys are getting a little big for it.  I stated in my submission to Pavement Runner’s Best Photos of 2014 that we probably wouldn’t be able to do running races as a family going forward.  It’s a bittersweet thought.

For cross-country skiing, which is more tiring than walking or running, we might have a bit of a reprieve.  Shark Boy can ski, he’s just slower than my wife or I which only makes sense. 

Last weekend he finished a 2 km trail on his own, and we were incredibly proud.  He never lets falling down (which happens when you’re learning or rusty, never mind both) get him down and kept the smile on his face.  He needed some coaching, coaxing, cajoling and cheer-leading to keep moving until the very end, but he did it!  We tried the Lightning Kid in a simple pair of toddler skis (that don’t require special boots) – and he was keen in theory, but hated it once he had to manage them and a pair of poles.  Once we had lunch, Shark Boy was still too worn out to go on his own, and we got a 3.7 km trail done with me pulling – fortunately, the boys kept the peace in the Chariot despite being packed in like sardines.  I had done an extra loop alone (besides pulling the Lightning Kid in the Chariot) while my wife and Shark Boy finished their 2 km, but pulling both boys along was super tiring.  I had to take breaks to let the lactic acid clear from my hamstrings, sometimes even in the middle of an uphill climb (which I dislike doing, as it always feels a little precarious).

The boys’ different stages of development (on skis) puts us at an interesting juncture in our ski days.  We’re going to have to learn to break the days up and split up – divide and conquer as far as teaching them and keeping them entertained, happy and content.  This will be an interesting season.

  1. 5 Peaks Trail Run Series Ambassadorship – I ain’t got one.  I was, however offered one, and though I didn’t like doing it, I had to turn it down as the time commitment was a bit much for me.  I am still happy *to talk up this race series as much as possible*; it’s accessible/beginner-friendly, has great venues, and the little kids’ races make it family friendly on a level that is unmatched by any other race or athletic event I’ve seen.  I’m adding Terra Cotta to my Race Calendar this year, and probably others too.
  2. DietBet – After the holidays, some of my clothes didn’t fit too well.  For pants to be too tight at the waist is one thing, but I had some favourite shirts that were feeling tight.  Something I’ve gathered (besides pounds on my midsection) is that losing excess weight (especially fat) is probably the best/first thing I can do to get faster in my runs and the bike (probably in the water too), never mind the health benefits.  Weight loss was recommended during my *sleep study* too.  My wife and I got a book called The Doctor’s Diet (by Dr. Travis Stork) as a Christmas gift (shout-out to my cousin-in-law Stefan, and a great triathlon series in the Pacific Northwest USA – TriFREAKS).  I know ‘diet’ is a four letter word, and that they don’t work, but we needed a real change, since we weren’t effectively implementing what we know are better nutritional principles.  We’re hoping to use this book’s principles (most of them, anyway) permanently, but for now we’re on a 2 week STAT plan, which is working quite well for me.  I’m taking part in not one, but two DietBets (again)…. and I’m going to win too.  I’ll be reviewing the plan and my experience with it in a future post.
  3. Hot Yoga –  One of my resolutions goals aspirations for the New Year was to try Hot Yoga.  I found a place nearby that has an introductory package of a week’s worth of classes for $25.  I’ll have a complete review of the experience in a future post, but it’s going well overall; here’s the website if you’re looking for Hot Yoga in Mississauga.
  4. Word of the Year – Remember how I mentioned I was doing 2 DietBets? One is being run by Diatta of Femme Fitale Club.  She recently did a post called *Ultimate Tps to Resolve Your Resolutions in 2015… it was the first time I’d seen the word ‘Resolve’ in conjunction with ‘Resolution’.  First point: I am extremely late to the game in terms of setting real goals for 2015.  I have wishes that are starting to turn into ideas, but they have no commitment or plan yet, but mentally I’m starting to gain confidence in myself and my ability to make them happen.  Second point: I don’t generally go in for a lot of the ‘touchy-feely’ stuff a lot of bloggers do, but I am open to trying new things, so I may find myself working on Law of Attraction type journal writing, vision boards, who knows what?  I like the word ‘Resolve’ because it refers to two meanings: 1) the idea of finding a solution to a problem; I’m an engineer by trade and a problem-solver by nature 2.) the concept of determination, endurance or grit, which is the stuff a triathlete is made of.  So, I’m making ‘Resolve’ my word of the year.

Can I get a high-five?

Going Long – Race Recap: 5 Peaks Kortright Centre Enduro Course

To ultra-runners, the distance of the Enduro courses at 5 Peaks events are laughable.  But to me, it’s the longest I’ve gone on a trail (with all the hills) and longer than most training runs to do 10 km.  

And then I found out that it would be more like 13km.  I was still looking forward to the race until I heard thunder rolling in as I was trying to get the Lightning Kid to sleep.
That should read “… don’t *want* a thunderstorm..”
With rain forecasted for the day, we decided to keep the kids home.  I was already nervous about how they’d behave for their mom when I was out running for twice as long as I usually do, and I didn’t think the Kortright Centre had as much to offer as Heart Lake or Albion Hills (like splash pads).  In the end, the weather ended up not being so bad, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.

I picked out the absolute worst pair of running shorts I could for the day, but I think they were the only clean ones I had available.

  1. I worried that they’d soak water like a sponge
  2. It turns out the elastic is worn out and I had to pull them up continuously while running (sorry about the plumber-butt anyone running behind me!)
  3. They chafe the insides of my thighs.
I got to the race, picked up my bib and timing chip, then lost the latter while standing in line for the porta-potty.  Luckily, it was recovered and announced so I got it back.  Before the race I found Jessica of Laces and Lattes, as well as Robyn Baldwin and her friend Allegra. Robyn is a big fan of Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid, but she took it well when she found out they wouldn’t be there.  She and Allegra were in the wave ahead of me, but I managed to get a shot of them doing Robyn’s patented “The Face”.

The rain from the night before made the course wet and slippery, so we were warned to take it easy on hills, bridges, boardwalks, whatever.  I was determined to take the pace easy, to make sure I was able to finish strong anyway.  Taking it easy also meant I had the opportunity to take nice pictures, and with a 2 loop Enduro course, I had 2 chances to get pictures of notable sights.

I wouldn’t have predicted that the Kortright Centre (to which we’ve been for Maple Syrup festivals before) would have some of the nicest sights of the 5 Peaks series, but have a look.

There were some hills on this course, and I’m pretty proud of how I handled all of them.  Early on, of course, I was feeling strong and passed people who chose to walk.  Then I encountered what the hilarious Erin Dasher (race director and announcer) described as a “water feature”.  There’s a saying (or rather more of an excuse/rationalizaiton) in Engineering Development: “It’s not a bug! It’s a feature!”  That’s what this reminds me of…

I think I could have balanced on those railings to get across dry, but that honestly felt like cheating, so I got wet feet like everybody else.  Between the wet shoes and fatigue (especially on the second loop) some of the hills gave me a very heavy feeling in my legs, which reminded me of a hard brick workout… which is a good thing, I suppose.

If you look closely you can see some of the network of tubing to bring the sap from the trees on the right side of the picture.
I not only saw the Kortright Centre’s maple syrup facilities, but also learned of their Raptor Centre (for the Canadian Peregrine Foundation).  I couldn’t get too close to the cages (sorry about the poor photos), but in addition to peregrine falcons they had a bald eagle and a great horned owl that actually went: “HOO… HOO”.  We’ll have to bring the kids once.


I mentioned I wanted to finish strong, but in spite of taking a Clif gel on the second lap and Gatorade being available on the course, my pace simply had to slack on the second lap.  Still, on the last kilometer I started getting aggressive.  I passed 2 runners on the final, biggest hill.  There was a contest to name the hill and someone came up with “S.O.B” which stands for Shortness of Breath (not that other thing).  I never submitted my suggestion which was “Hill-o, I hate you won’t you tell me your name” (sung to the tune of the old song by The Doors, with option second verse Hill-o, I hate you, you drive me insane).  As I crested the hill I saw two younger ladies who seemed to be easily prancing like pixies through the forest.  I must stress that this was a false impression that was brought on by pain and exhaustion, but I sprinted to the finish to catch them both (tying the faster of them at the finish line).  You know, like the spiteful jerk that I am. I’d like to think Robyn and Allegra’s cheers helped me achieve that final sprint.

For once I didn’t have to dash away from the race, and I managed to snag a cup of coffee (well after eating my post-race bagel, banana and cookie).  I forgot to add my bib number to the draw, and my finish time put me in 3rd last of my age category, so sticking around for the awards ceremony didn’t have much point, but at least I got to witness the shoe toss challenge (for the prize of a Suunto GPS watch).

It never did rain, so it was really a magnificent day and an appropriate end to my trail running season.

Friday Five: Top 5 Fall Races

I’ve got 3-4 other topics I know I want to talk about, and write posts for, so what am I going to do? Write a completely different post instead.  Must be a blogger thing.  If you’re new here, I’ll tell you I’m going to review the Samsung Gear Fit smartwatch, and go really in-depth on how sleep is important for health, so be sure to subscribe for these posts as they come in.

Fridays mean Top Five Countdowns (when I feel like doing them of course), and this time I’m highlighting my Top 5 Fall (or Autumn if you prefer) Races.  For whatever crazy reason, our family’s race calendar seems to be craziest in September; but we had fun last year, so we’ll do it again!

  1. 5 Peaks Kortright Centre.  We’ll be there tomorrow!  If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of the 5 Peaks Series.  The whole family has fun, and while I haven’t run this venue, I’m somewhat familiar with the Kortright Outdoor Education Centre from Maple Syrup Festivals every spring.

  1. Lakeside Sprint Triathlon.  The only thing standing between me and a triathlon-less 2014.  I hope I’ll have a respectable time that is comparable with past performances, but with the differences between courses, there might be no sense in comparing.  I’ve never been to this venue… I’m just looking forward to getting my swim/bike/run on again.
  1. Terry Fox Run – This is a threepeat for us (Triathletes love 3s).  Here’s the family donation page if you want to help fight cancer with us.  I’ll be recovering from the Lakeside Tri the day before, but this is really leisurely family fun.  Let’s hope for good weather.

  1. Kids of Steel Duathlon – Shark Boy is going to threepeat this one this year too.  Between this and the Kortright Centre, I’m hoping to light a bit of a fire under him as it dawns on him that races can be more than just a light bit of sightseeing; if he wants to be “the fastest” (his words), that might mean starting at the front and going as hard as he can.  On the other hand, I don’t want over-competitiveness and pressure rearing their ugly heads.  I want to coach him, yet let him take the lead as to what he wants to get out of these events… does that make any sense?

  1. Levac Attack – Registration is now open! The event has been moved to Mississauga and takes place on Saturday October 4th (event details here [Facebook].  A very small race with great post-race food, that is accessible for strollers and whatnot.  We are in our 5th year of raising money for Mount Sinai Hospital’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Unit.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed my blog has undergone a bit of a theme shift from my individual endurance endeavours to active family living.  Both were always supposed to be big factors in what I’m inspired to write about, but there’s no doubt the balance has shifted from more of the former to more of the latter.  Active,healthy families are a big deal to me, but not every family can be as lucky as ours (even with a child with special needs, we are all able to participate in a lot of physical activities, as you can see from some of the links I’ve used).  Mount Sinai is there to help families with high-risk pregnancies get to a point where they can hopefully enjoy lifestyles as fun and wonderful as the one my family does.  It’s an honour and a privilege to be associated with this cause; if you’d like to register to join us (we have 5, 10, 15 and 20 km events) the registration link is here.  If you can’t make it out, you can sponsor me here.

I know I basically asked you for money twice in this letter, Dear Reader.  You can’t really blame me for assuming someone so attractive, well-dressed and discerning as yourself might also be rich though, right?

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Albion Hills

So, the Friday before last, I did one of my morning runs with the Lightning Kid.  During my lunchtime spin class, I could feel both a tug in my hamstring and my Achilles acting up.  That didn’t seem good, but I took it easy that weekend at the cottage, except for an open water swim, so I figured I’d be fine.

The same thing flared up in a Boot Camp class on Tuesday, and I began to think I was in trouble, since I had signed up for 5 Peaks Albion Hills that very morning.  I had to take an Ibuprofen just to get through my Wednesday and by Thursday night I was soaking in a cold water bath (no ice, though, I just can’t do that to myself).  The latter seemed to help and I was willing to brave it by Saturday morning.

Albion Hills is a great park that we visit often for cross-country skiing.  I wish I could say that the skiing made the trails familiar to me, but everything looks different in snow, but at least I’d done this race 2 years ago… but more on my race later.

As always at the 5 Peaks series, it starts with the Kids Challenge; all participants get a bib with the number 1 on it, because they’re all winners.  We were rushing up to get the kids’ bibs and safety pins when I ran into Robyn Baldwin (whose blog I’m sure you read, right), and though we didn’t have time to greet her as well as we should have, did us a solid of capturing great race photos of the kids, so big thanks to her.

The Lightning Kid gives Robyn a High Five

Shark Boy in action – Courtesy of Robyn Baldwin
Lightning Kid waves to the fans – Courtesy of Robyn Baldwin

At previous races, I’ve run with Shark Boy while my wife has run with the Lightning Kid.  Last year, he needed to be carried a lot, but he did almost all of the Heart Lake 1 km Kids Challenge this year unassisted, so I was game to switch kids with her this time.  Uh-oh, not only did she struggle to match Shark Boy’s pace, but the Lightning Kid must have been a little thrown by the switch because he hesitated and paused as the pack pulled away from us, and when they began to disappear from sight, he threw a mini-tantrum or two.  Luckily, he’s still motivated from those morning runs and understands the concept of “Go, go, go!” so I got him through the course with a fair amount of carrying.  What he lacks in speed he makes up for in charm and charisma because he put on a grand show of waving at almost everyone he could.

They stuck around after their race just long enough to see me off on mine, then it was off to the on-site splash pad and pool.  It’s really great that 5 Peaks is using these awesome venues of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority – they make for great scenery and family fun.

Wanting to play it safe and conservative with my right leg, I decided to seed myself in Wave 4, which ended up being the last wave, but also the best behaved, because according to the Race Director’s announcement, we get to hear our instructions 4 times. Heh.

The race course was described as a roller-coaster with lots of single-track, and the latter fact made for some line-ups in the early going, even for last wavers.  Still, I enjoyed taking it easy and knowing that simply finishing would be a fun day and mean my leg hadn’t stopped me.  In fact, I jumped a foot off the trail to take a picture of a unique looking stand of trees:

The roller-coaster description held true, and the kilometer markers seemed to tick off fairly quickly – time flies when you’re having fun.  I managed to pass a lot of people more through technique on the hills (especially downhills) than conditioning.  Some of the sights I saw included a girl who stubbed her toe while wearing those Vibram Five Fingers Barefoot shoes (ouch) and a guy who looked like he belonged on a tennis court.  Tennis shoes, polo shirt… look, I get it, not everybody needs to be hard-core dedicated to the sport, in fact, I love the idea of people trying things out for the first time, without necessarily having spent money on all the best gear.  It’s just that this guy had all grey hairs, so I’m thinking he’s not some 21-year old who is going to bounce back from the kind of injury that improper footwear is going to cause.  he Sport course ended up being 5.7 km by their reckoning or 5.3 by me & Endomondo’s.

I’m really happy that I crossed the finish line strong, and I did comparatively better in my age group than at Heart Lake (13/20 is better than 24/28). Once I had retreated to the shade and gotten my water and banana, I had a chance to talk with Robyn and Jessica from Laces and Lattes (who, again, supplied me with a discount code for the race entry as well as kicked butt in the Enduro category).  We talked blogging, heart rates, upcoming races and adventures – it was a great way to highlight what an inspiring, fun community that I can connect with through active life blogging. 

After the great time we had as a family that day, the Kortright Centre race is basically a done deal…