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?

Kids Triathlons

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

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

 

The Lightning Kid

Swim

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

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

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

Bike

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Boy

Swim

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

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

 

Bike

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

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

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

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

Run

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous Event Details

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

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

 

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.

FOOD

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.

Pizzateria

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.

Air Riderz Trampoline and Climbing (featuring Shark Boy)

I had first heard of Air Riderz from birthday parties that Shark Boy had attended.  I thought the combination of trampoline park and climbing gym was interesting, especially since they had exercise classes (“AirRobix”) for adults – I thought I might try sampling one and doing a write-up here.

Instead, I found myself taking Shark Boy there.  You see, this past weekend my wife took the Lightning Kid to a live Paw Patrol show on the Saturday and a birthday party on the Sunday, so I had my eldest all to myself.  Between Air Riderz and another climbing gym we had visited once, he chose Air Riderz.

I bought us a 2 hour pass (time slots start at the half-hour, and we got there 10 past noon, so I guess we had a little less than that since neither of us had the patience to wait for 12:30).  Unfortunately you need to be wearing official Air Riderz socks to use the facility – this wouldn’t have been so bad, as we have at least 2 kid sized pairs at home from the aforementioned birthday parties, but we didn’t bring them.  So now I have a pair of my own, that I think will also come in handy for yoga in cooler environments like my basement – the soles have little grips.

 

Our pass included both the trampoline zones and the climbing area; you can only put on your climbing harness once, so you’ll want to get your fill all in one shot.  For that reason, I encouraged Shark Boy to enjoy the trampoline zone first.

I’ll be honest, it made me feel old.  Not many adults were jumping, so I  checked multiple times that adults were allowed to partake in the fun too.  There was also the fact that I noticed every bounce in my bones, at least till I got warmed up, so I’d recommend starting slow and not throwing yourself into it till you get more of a feel for it.  I had envisioned myself pulling flips or bouncing from my back, but I just didn’t have the nerve for it.

 

The main area has a grid of small trampolines that are great for individual use, as well as longer strips that are more suitable for running (or flips).  Some of the walls are trampoline-like so that you can throw yourself against them.

There are 3 basketball hoops (of varying non-regulation height), but we only got to try the highest one, and I couldn’t get high enough to dunk; it’s actually pretty difficult to make the shot from the highest point in my jump – even though the distance was short, being in mid-air made aiming difficult.

There is also a foam pit with segregated lanes (with trampolines of course) – you pull your best flip and are guaranteed a soft landing.  I should mention that all these areas have lifeguard-like supervisors to enforce safety rules.  The last area of the jump zone are the dodgeball courts.  One was being used for a toddler area, but the other had games going.  I had half a mind to enter myself into a game and be an avenging ‘big kid equalizer’, but I thought better of it.  I did notice signs for an adult league that I hope to investigate in the future.

After a while, Shark Boy wanted to try his hand at climbing.  There are several walls and one tower that is limited to climbers under 100 lbs.  He did fairly well, and you could see how some walls were easier than others based on his performance, but having tried some of them myself, I can tell you it’s not as easy as it looks.  I think more serious climbers will miss having access to chalk or better footwear, but it was still fun to give it a try.

I had a lot of fun climbing the towers in the photo above.  You’re anchored to 2 safety lines to reduce the amount of swing when you dismount (or fall).  Since I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of good images/video of myself, I decided to let Shark Boy record my climb.  I think he did a fairly good job of it, for his age.  Have a look – you might be able to tell when I made the mistake of looking down.

Once we got tired of climbing, we took off and returned our harnesses, we rounded out the rest of our allotted time in the jump zone.  I wondered if I would be sore the next day, and if I’d be OK to complete some speed work I had planned (according to my TriDot training plan) for the late afternoon.  I can tell you now that yes I was sore in my legs, but I don’t know whether the speed work (which went fine) or Air Riderz was to blame.  According to a little research I did, trampoline (or rebounder) work is good for the core, as well as all lower body muscles (the upper body does get addressed somewhat to as you flail your arms for balance) – sounds great as running cross-training, especially as the impact is much lower than running, skipping rope and other high-impact activities.  There are also circulatory and internal organ benefits.

Between these benefits, and my curiosity about the Airobix classes and dodgeball, it’s probably not my last visit to Air Riderz.

Have you tried rebounding or climbing? What do you think about it as cross-training?