Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hurray for lifetime warranty

I bought the Kurt trainer because the reviews described it as one of the most durable units available.  I had proven that I was going to spend hours and hours riding through the winter, so it made sense to get the model that would last for years.  Other hydraulic units had complaints of oil leaks.  Hydraulic seemed to be agreed to be the best resemblance of road riding.  My previous stationary bike used magnets, which worked really well, but for a replacement, I was ready to step up a level, since I was way past the fad stage, and knew I would be spending many hours on it.

The Kurt trainer

It's been about 10 years using it.  Thousands and thousands of simulated kilometers.  Last winter I was reading someone's blog, and the writer commented on how quiet her trainer is. I don't remember it ever being quiet.  The sound of the chain running through the derailleur has always been loud.  Well, not really loud.  Outside you don't notice, but in the quiet basement it's really noticeable.  So anyway when I read that, I thought, man this thing is noisy.  It's so loud I can't hear the chain in the derailleur anymore.  Plus, it's grinding something.  I can feel the vibration in my feet.  I took the bike in and had them change the bearings in the bottom bracket where the crank meets the frame, and that didn't help, so I'm sure it's the trainer.  

I e-mailed to Kurt and asked about getting the bearings changed.  I even sent a video where you can hear the roar.  They sent a whole new resistance unit to honor the lifetime warranty.  What a difference.  It's not just the sound, but it's easier to pedal, so I can use the whole range of gears again.  Thanks Kurt.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Running in the fall

Jen was in the London Lady's half-marathon, in support of the NICU.  

Support the NICU
She has that same preying-mantis tuck with her arms that I use.

Halloween is my favourite religious festival. 
My favourite religious festival

Dark Pumpkin

I have the privilege of being able to run with two of my children.  The oldest was here for a visit at Thanksgiving (Oct here in Canada).  We went for a short run together.  He settled into a nice easy 5-min per km so we could chat.  It was for him a relaxing easy pace.  I was completely red-lined.  Gasping for breath, I could barely spit out two words at a time.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The last nice day

The forecast showed Friday to be the last nice sunny day of the year.  I took the day off work and went for a ride. It was surprisingly chilly in the morning, even with the sun, and I took the extra shirt from my pack and put it on, making it a triple layer. 

The road is still open

Here there be llamas

The corn fields have dried up to yellow.  In the morning my feet ached a bit from the cold, but by mid afternoon it was nice. I made it to the Pita Pit just as my daughter was starting her shift.  She made me my lunch.  

Monday, 23 September 2013

Mighty Niagara - Race Report

Took Friday afternoon off work so we could leave on good time to make it for packet pickup.  Brought the passports for the border crossing.  Welcome to the USA!  We made it with enough time to go to the motel first.  Then to the mall for our bibs.  The shirts are orange.  The next morning having breakfast at Dunkin Donuts I noticed that their company colours matched the race shirts.  They're not even a sponsor.  Mile 6 was presented by Tim Hortons cafe and bake shop. We didn't know our way around town well enough to be able to find one of those. Tim Hortons is the best! A common theme amongst runners we chatted with was a dislike of the new colours.  Maybe the medal will be blue.  That's why we signed up, for the blue medal that's shaped like a guitar pick.   

The alarm went off at 7.  I opened the curtains and just froze.  It was raining.  A solid drizzle enough to soak you in minutes, and light enough to be able to continue all day.  The last item on their FAQ was, "What if it rains". Answer: "You run in the rain".  Here we go. Running is the best!
Shirt with built-in mittens
Return of the ninja
I anticipated this, and had packed the ninja gear. I had the tights, but Jen was wearing shorts, so I wore my shorts too. Someone commented, "nice optimism with the sunglases".  Well, the idea was for the sunglasses to ward off the rain.  The hat works nicely for that too. I don't like the feeling of raindrops bouncing off my head or running down my face.  I've run in the rain before.  We were both at the porta-pottie when the starting horn sounded.  There's over a thousand people, so they were still streaming through the gate by the time we got over to the starting line.  

The volunteers were dressed for the rain

Fund raising for the hospice

It was quite a surprise to find myself warm and taking off my jacket after a couple miles.  We saw a "trample the weak" shirt, like at the Toronto marathon, so we struck up a conversation.  Turns out the shirt is from the Zombie Run.  This was her first half, as it was Jen's.  It was warm enough that the rain wasn't a problem at all.  Everyone was happy and running and we all had a good time.  By mile 6 I felt the pace dragging, and coaxed Jen into stepping the speed up a bit.  

The rain let up after an hour or so

Lake Ontario

She did well, and maintained a run right to the end.  Most of the run was along the river, with a view across the gorge to Canada.  Then we went through the old fort and past a lookout to Lake Ontario.  It's hard to imaging looking out at that, not seeing the other side, and thinking, "I could swim across this".  People do crazy things like run marathons, race Ironmans, and swim Lake Ontario. 

Mud on the legs
They had beer for us at race end!  The server asked Jen, "are you legal?"  "Sure" Jen responds.  "Are you legal here?" she then asks.  but no, Jen is 4 months young from the cut-off and gets passed over.  She gets a Dr Pepper and a water. and 2 chocolate milks.  Love that chocolate milk.  That's definitely my first choice of drink after a race. Chocolate milk is the best! Then beer. 

It looks like a guitar pick

The medal is orange. At a distance, it looked to me like it said, "Are you naughty?".

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mont Tremblant 2013 - Race Report

Saturday had no group activities planned.  It was rest-and-eat day. As much rice and I can manage.  The kids each had an activity card for the resort, but decided to stay in and argue instead.  I therefore went out to find a restful place.  I took the gondola to the top of the mountain and sat in a Muskoka chair for 2 hours listening to dance music. After more food, I applied the temporary tattoos to my arms and leg then got to bed just after sunset.  I slept an hour or so, to be awakened by the kids still at it. The tattoos remained tacky and got stuck to the bed sheets.  I didn't really sleep again all night. No matter.  When the sun was back, I was rested and ready and wonderfully excited.

Where's the pictures?  The rules this year said no cameras allowed by racers without permission, so I didn't use my bike cam.  Maybe I'd have gotten permission, but I didn't ask.  It's one less thing to worry about.

Staying right in the resort, we can sleep until dawn.  I had three of those travel boxes of Rice Krispies for breakfast.  Meghan was already gone for her volunteer duty on the bike course.  I went down the hill to transition with my bicycle pump.  The tires were still good, so all I had to do was crack open the packs of Rice Krispie squares in my Bento box.  I had decided to put a face cloth into my bike transition bag for wiping my feet dry, plus a pack of Gu.  I went to bag staging area, found my bag, and stuffed them in.  The bag was now tied really tightly at the neck.  I had just let gravity cinch it closed, and wondered whether the volunteers had gone around tying them.  Jen met me outside transition, and asked, "what's that?" pointing at the pump.  Oh no. It's someone else's pump.  I went back, and mine wasn't there, so I abandoned the pump by the bikes and shrugged it off.  Maybe he would get his pump back, maybe he won't.  I checked at lost and found the next day, and no pumps were there, so now I need a new one.  

Feeling nauseous from what must have been too much milk, we headed off to swim start, with daughter Jen carrying the wet suit just as she did last year.  Luckily she reminded me to bring the morning drop-off bag, since she was going directly to her volunteer duty in T1 working the women's change tent.  When we arrived at the beach, I thought about having a third trip to the bathroom, but the whole area was too crowded. Third trips are always just nerves anyway. I was putting on my wetsuit as the gun went off for the pro start at 6:35.  

I hugged Jen goodbye, dropped the clothes bag in the bin, and went to water's edge.  With the wave start, there's plenty of beach available to have a prep swim, so I did that.  The minutes went by quickly until my group was off.  My Ironman race was underway!

I eased quickly into a calm rhythm.  My peers largely headed away from me.  By second buoy, the 50-year old men had caught up already.  This seemed a better fit for me, and I was surrounded by their blue caps for some time.  My cap was white.  I was moving well, remaining calm and within my limits, then I turned and gasped a mouthful of water.  A massive coughing and choking fit ensued.  A girl on a surfboard sidled over and I paused for a moment with one hand on her board. There would be no more problems for me.  At the turn buoys, I changed to side stroke to better see the others, since it became quite crowded there.  I checked my watch for the one and only time.  7:35 am -- 45 minutes in, and about halfway.  Nicely on schedule.  Coming around the second turn buoy, I was bumped by a guy doing breast stroke.  Really?  Isn't that about the absolute most inefficient means of swimming there is?  Maybe it's good because you can sight so easily.  Then there's the guy in the green cap just treading water, looking backwards.  like he's waiting for someone.  I was passed by a girl in yellow cap, just inches to my left.  Her stroke was so smooth and clean it was like she wasn't working at all.  She glided by as swiftly as if she was being pulled by a rope.  Her hands just magically folded the water, allowing her body to sail on like the shadow of a passing cloud. 
It's more like peeling than stripping

There would be no clouds today.  The sky was blue and sunny and lovely.  Out of the water, I let them strip off my wetsuit.  I tried a few steps of running, but even with the lovely red carpet, the pavement was too hard and my sore right foot complained.  I wasn't going to create a problem, so settled for walking, and ate the Gu I had secreted in the pocket on the back of my tri suit. 

No sign of Jen as I pass through the change tent.  I found a chair, and dumped out my bag on the floor.  Where's the cloth I put here two hours ago?  and the Gu?  Not here.  No wonder the strings were so tight.  It was someone else's bag.  No problem.  I set about stuffing my wetsuit into the bag, when a volunteer came along and waved that off.  he would do it.  I stripped off the tri suit and put on my bib shorts, biking shirt (the official Mont Tremblant 70.3 shirt!), socks... Fiddled with my shoes a bit. Ate the Zantac.  On my long rides I found that after 8 hours of liquid sugar I ended up with some rot gut and needed antacids and would take one of these at the outset.  Even the Clif bars, which are my principal food, dissolve into sugar. The volunteer is trying to be patient.  "Anything else to go in this bag?" he says.  I pulled out the stick of lip balm.  We're supposed to be in a hurry, and his athlete is putting on lip balm. I hate that feeling of my lips sticking to my teeth when I get dehydrated and they're dry.  Finally I toss that into the bag, and he's done.  

I'm off for the bike.  Where's the potty?  I don't see any, so I head out to the course with the bike.  Oh, there they are.  I cross the mount line instead of getting on I hand my bike to another volunteer, and take a short break, my last pee until about midnight.

What's the matter with my helmet?  It feels too small.  I should adjust the straps, but I don't know how long that will take, so I carry on riding. None of the triathlon guides said to practice adjusting your helmet in case it's all messed up on race day. Tomorrow, I will find that the quick-adjust was compressed from being in the bag with the other gear. It just needed popped out.  

What a great bike ride this is.  The pavement is smooth.  It's sunny but not too hot or humid.  Daughter Meghan is on her volunteer duty at the on-ramp for the 117 highway.  I shout and ring my bell at her. They don't have us going through the McDonalds parking lot like last year.  
On my road bike

We have the full northbound side of the divided highway.  Traffic is diverted to the other side.  At the athlete briefing and in the manual, they insisted that we ride on the road, not the shoulder.  Most everyone is riding on the shoulder. Even the staff motorbikes are using the middle of the road, not the shoulder.  They should just tell us to use the shoulder so at least everyone is consistent and the middle is free.  I brake a bit on the big downhill section.  Arriving at downtown St. Jovite, the sidewalks are mostly empty.  One of the bars has music playing for us which is nice.  There's some woman with a squeaky toy, which is annoying.  

It's a lot more windy out on Hwy 117 than last year (in the 70.3 that I raced).  It's kind of a cross wind which makes it feel like riding into the wind both ways. Really, really glad to have the aerobars.  It was with some satisfaction that I found myself at one point riding on the bars, downhill, doing 45 kph, still pedalling.

Then there's the guy with the squeaky bike.  It gives a creak with every pedal stroke.  Mine used to do that, which I diagnosed as having the seat post too high.  My post was right at the max-marker, but still made the frame creak.  I bought an extended post so it would have more insertion, and it doesn't do that any more.  I was going to tell him this, but he's pulled ahead, and I'm not going to chase him down.
Dream ride

I was sure that the pros wouldn't catch me, but with it being 3.5 hours that I took on lap 1, they do.  Luke Bell blows past me about 5 minutes out from transition.  He's off to run, and I'm out for my second lap of the bike course.  Meghan's still there at the on ramp.  She asks how I'm doing, so I say that I thought it would be fun to do the bike course again.  It is fun.  I still love the bike course.  I brake a bit on the big Hwy 117 descent this time too. Woman with the squeaky toy is still there downtown and it's still annoying.  Coming around the bend into town, my right leg seizes up. The outside of my thigh has gone into a spasm and turned my leg into a post.  I can't pedal, but I can't sit down either.  I decelerate and almost fall off my bike before it lets up. Afterwards someone tells me that this is from lack of salt.  I'm a little dehydrated, but didn't think it was that bad yet. I'm saving my best dehydration for the run.  I've taken to getting a bottle of Perform at the aid stations, plus a bottle of water which drink some and pour the rest over my head.  The water bottles don't fit into my half-clip holster, so I empty them right out and pitch it by the end of the aid station. It's not that the bottles are smaller, but they aren't as hard as regular sport drink bottles, and the holster can't grip the sides like it is designed to.  The bottle just squishes and falls out.
Must be early. My original blue bottle is still on board

There's a girl laid out on the road on Hwy 117. The crowd around her is muttering something about hydration.  There's a guy I saw drop over onto the road coming up the big Duplessis hill as I'm going down.  I can understand that.  You click the gears down and down and down, and then there's no further to go but it's just not low enough.  and I saw someone not take that risk, and get off to walk up the hill. Second time down the big Duplessis hill, and the trial runs last Friday have proven useful.  I fly down freewheeling and it's great.  I want to do that hill a few more times.

Ah the run. My foot is fine. My legs are good.  No problems with the knees.  I can run.  I walk the hills heading to the village.  They sap the last of my strength.  I'm breathing hard, almost panting, but the air is of no use. There's just not enough oxygen to sustain the run.  I switch to a run-walk for the rest of the first lap.
While that last morsel of run power was still available

Uh-oh, what's that pain in my heel?  I changed into these mini-socks, which should be cooler than my usual cotton sport socks.  The left one has slipped down into the shoe, and I'm rubbing a massive blister at the back of the shoe.  I pull the sock up, but it's too late.  That's going to be painful for the rest of the day.  I struggle to put out the occasional burst of running until I get back to the resort for my second lap, at about 6:15 pm. After that, I have no worry of missing cut off. Nothing can stop me. I decide to just walk it. I make a couple half-hearted attempts at conversation with others, but it's no good.  I'm not thinking clearly enough.  Just slog it out and be done.  There's no more swift runners going past us any more. All that's left is wreckage.  We are all of us on our second lap, steadily finishing our day.  Walking or running a slow shuffle. Tired, but absolutely will not stop.  

I tried a handful of pretzels, and they turned to dust that clumped in my mouth.  I'm so

Still happy to be here
dehydrated I'm not producing saliva.  It's a kilometre to the next aid station for water, so I just spit it out.  Next station, a kid offers me a cookie.  It's chocolate, and I'm delirious, so I take it.  It does the same as the pretzels.  But it's chocolate, so I carry on.  I'm taking lots of Coke.  Love the Coke.  Mostly it's warm, so I get Coke, and then get ice, and mix them to make the Coke cold. After dark, soup broth shows up.  It's warm and salty.  It's the salt that makes it attractive.

At station 11, the northbound turnaround, Jen is there doing her 2nd volunteer duty.  She hands me a cup.  It's Perform.  I ditch that and find some Coke. It's late, and been a long day, but Jen is still bouncy and upbeat and happy. Seeing her picks up my spirits, but my pace is a swift walk. 

Nearing the resort and the glorious finish, I see the last few people coming from it, just starting their second lap. There's a girl (Eve) young and moving well with a strong run. I hope she keeps that up.  A few steps past, is another woman, barely shuffling a walk. We can tell that she isn't going to make it. 
Made it

At last the finish!  I jumped up and down.  Yes!  I've done it.  Mike Reilly announces me as an Ironman.  Then Meghan is there, with my medal.  She used her volunteer shirt to get into the chute to catch me.  Another gives me a blanket.  She leads me to tables for a shirt and a cap.  I tell her that I need to keep walking.  To underscore the point, my leg seizes up again, and I pound on it.  She suggests a nice massage, but on the way there I smell the pizza.  This is the most awesome finishing area ever.  Most races have health food, like bagels, fruit, and yogurt. After a long day I want salty.  I want greasy.  I beg off the massage, and go for the food, wishing my support volunteer goodbye.  and there's beer.  Michelob Ultra.  I admire the can, so he gives me a second one.  I take the pizza and settle in.  There's a cafe area with lots of tables and chairs.  Someone comes by and insists that we need to have some poutine.  Fries with salty cheese and gravy.  It's the perfect post-race food, and is luscious. My clothes are damp, so I wrap into the blanket which is surprisingly warm for a thin sheet of plastic. I glory in the beer and food. I savour the honour of being an Ironman.  

Life is good.  Time to go, I fetch my bike.  It's good to lean on it while walking up the hill to the condo.  I shower then change into the finisher shirt.  Down to the finish area, I find there's plenty of room to squeeze into the bleachers.  Getting there at about 11 pm, I get to see the last finishers of the day.  The 70 year olds make it in and we cheer like crazy.  Mike is in fine form.  We love everyone for finishing.

And then there was Eve; making her cut-off with just 2 minutes to spare before her 17-hour cut off at 11:57.  Oh how we cheered. In unison we announce her as an Ironman.  She's done it, as have we all.
Joyful and triumphant

Total time 14:31
227th out of 291 in the age group

Saturday, 10 August 2013

What to expect from number 2243

My bib number is 2243

As a back-of-the-pack racer, I don't put a lot of concern into finishing times and positions.  In my first recent 70.3 mile race, in my age-group (M40-49) of 58 men, I was 55th out of the water, overtook a couple of them on the bike, and another couple of them on the run. Actually, I was so far back, I couldn't see the pack anymore, and just had a few other stragglers like me for company.  In 2012, I was 157 out of 199.  

This is a hobby.  I do it because even before I raced, I rode a lot for fun anyhow.  Adding some running and racing was a good fit with the 6-hour rides that I was doing.  When the children got older and I acquired the extra free time, I wanted a hobby that also promoted fitness.  I would have been just as happy to devote the time to internet or video games and I would put on a massive overhanging gut. And then there's the beer.  There was lots more beer with that lifestyle. I topped out at 205 lbs and decided to that was high enough. time to sell.

I don't like swimming laps in the pool, since you can't even listen to music, so I don't do that at all.  I do a few open water swims in the Woodstock reservoir.  Putting in tons more time, or adding difficulty until I don't enjoy it anymore doesn't make sense.  Should I care about improving from 157th place to 120th place?  There's a lot of people in this sport who were high school jocks, accustomed to winning, and who can still pull off a high place in their age group.  Know what? Given the chance, of course I would like that opportunity, and would prefer to be the winner instead of the pack runner.  but it's not about to happen with my age and ability and sore knees. 


I like riding in the basement while watching TV. I like to swim and have none whatsoever fear of open water.  I love to ride outdoors.  I like to bike up a good tough hill.  I listen to rock and folk and pop and orchestral instrumental when I ride.  

and I like to run.  I listen to dance music when I run.  Fast Euro 132 beets a minute dance.

Full disclosure

While I'm not in it for a high place, and don't put much stock in my finish times, I nevertheless have expectations of what might happen. My split times in the 2012 Ironman 70.3 show what I might do in the Ironman.  

Swim            47 min
Transition 1   8 min. (It's a long run from the beach to the bike corral)
Bike              3:03 hours
Transition 2   3 min.
Run               2:08 hours
Total           6:10 hours

These should translate to the following reasonable values for Ironman
Swim     1:40 min
T1         10 min. 
Bike      6:30 hours
T2         10 min.
Run       4:50 hours
Total   13:20 hours.  
Just barely past sunset. 
   Sunrise           6:08 
   My wave start 6:51 
   Sunset            8:04 
That's my race goal.  Finish by sundown.

Raymond Britt at <a href="" > RunTri </a> has a calculation that shows a similar result.  Going over 14 hours will mean the wheels totally fell off.  Going under 13 hours would be totally storming the race.  My right foot is really sore, and the heel is tender from plantar fascitis. It got really bad in the middle of July, so I quit running entirely.  for 6 weeks.  That's a long time without running.  I cross trained on the elliptical machine, and had 6 rides over 180 km.  Then the reservoir went cloudy and they said it was risky for me to continue to swim there.  I had two swims of 4 km and felt really good.  One of the advantages for me in triathlon is that I have absolutely no fear of open water.  The campground where we spent most summers as a teen had  a pond with a raft in the middle, and swimming was as easy as walking We did it every day for two months.  I also like to ride bike.  Even back then, I was taking 2 to 4 hour trips from Bayfield to Goderich or Grand Bend.  Nowadays, I would be spending 4 to 6 hours on Saturday whether it's training or not.  It's what I do.  It's my idea of a good time and a day well spent. So the training isn't a chore.  I started running because there's all these great events to enter.  Plus, it can't be beat as a workout.  On the bike, if I want to slow down, I slow down.  On foot, running can't be faked.  It demands that continual extra effort. 

 Here's hoping I manage to run the whole way rather than ending up being brought to a limp.  Either way, I'm getting there.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I need more hills.  The trip to Collingwood was great, in spite of my consternation with the map I printed from the cycling club's website.  I had to ask for directions just to find where I was starting from. Turns out that Sideroad 33/34 where I began was right on a principle route, which expIains why so many locals cruised by all day.  I started by heading east, looking for Fairgrounds road.  My map called it Mill St.   Arriving at Creemore, it turned into Mill St.  It was as if the writer did the course backwards, marking road names as he went.  On towards Badjeros, I was lost again.  The crossing wasn't on the map.  I had brought a highway map with me, and used that to get bearings.  Turns out I was on the right road.  then I tried using the kilometre marks on the map as a guide for when to turn, and only ended up by resetting my odometer on the bike.  Doesn't make sense.  Eventually I ended up at Eugenia Falls which was on the map, and had a long straightaway afterwards, so I couldn't get lost anymore.  

You can see the CN Tower in the distance, I promise
 Milton has the same escarpment overlooking it as Collingwood.  I parked at the Go station, and took a meandering route southwesterly, until I saw directions for Rattlesnake Point, and followed those up the hill.  Wow this thing is steep.  I came to a parking area for the trails, and headed in a short distance to get a picture from the cliff top.  I wanted to go north to the cliff overlooking the 401, but without running shoes or a mountain bike, I wasn't going to be able to get that far over the rocky trails.  

Hate them dump trucks

Back on the road, I headed north, across the 401 and out of town.  I was treated to a long downhill, and another steep uphill.  That's what I came for.  It had dump trucks going up the hill beside me.  Hate those.  Good challenging road, though.  Saw a couple other cyclists out, which seemed unusual for a Wednesday.  

Spent about 2 hours on the road overall.  Feeling strong and ready.Got back the the car and leaned the bike against it.  Got in, and it's really hot from the sun.  I know! Open the side door.  I clicked the button and heard such a clatter.  It dropped the bike.  
Dropped the bike

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Went to Collingwood for the weekend.  It's a lovely city on Georgian Bay below some of the best ski hills in Southern Ontario.  In the summer that makes for some great biking!  I looked up recommended routes on the local club's website.  The route for the Centurion ride looked good.  It's 170 km with 5 climbs up the mountain. 

Hilly countryside

It's the biggest hill I've ever gotten to ride up.  I set out at 9:30, heavily loaded down with Clif Bars and Rice Krispie squares.  Plus two Kellog's cereal bars that I found at the back of the cupboard.  They were so old, that the filling had sogged the crust.  I worried that I had too much food.  The intention was to simulate race day, with what I intended to bring for the Ironman.  Not to worry, at three hours in, I was only a third of the way.  The day rounded out to nine hours of travelling.  It's a tough course.  

View downhill to Collingwood

I'm still terrified of the descents.  I pulled up to another rider chat, and asked about that, and he says yes of course he rolls down at full speed, topping out around 75 kph.  Yikes that's fast on a bike.  I hoped that the new pavement on Bower Hill in Woodstock would let me have a few runs at that kind of speed.  It's the only thing near where I live that has that kind of steepness and length.  Alas, I went there to find they have only paved half way, and will be the rest of the summer to finish it.

It was a great day on the road.  Sixth in a series of 180 km rides this summer.  I'm getting stronger, because by this time I didn't awaken screaming in the middle of the night from having my leg muscles seize up in uncontrollable spasms.  

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

YMCA International Bridge Race

What a cool idea.  Race across the Blue Water bridge.  They started this way back when I lived in Sarnia.  Since then, it's become twin bridges, still collectively know as "The Bridge".  When I first heard about it 5 years ago, I immediately determined to enter.  

Prep at the starting line

It's a small-town event; about 500 entrants.  No web site, just the info page on the Running Room site.  Still, it has everything you need.  a shirt (technical), a medal, food afterwards, water stations, chip timing.  They charter a half dozen school buses to take everyone from the finish to the starting line across the border.  This year US customs had us all disembark the bus and checked ID.  There were 3 water stations, not the 5 shown on the map. Three is plenty enough water for 10 km.  

I worked the overnight shift Friday, slept less than an hour, and set off for Sarnia on Saturday morning.  Courtesy of Monster drink.  Meghan had nothing to do, so she tagged along.  We stopped along the way in Oil Springs to take some pictures that I'll be posting on WikiMedia.  Dinner was home-made at grandma's by my brother, who just happened to be in town. I have to get to bed, so I can't go out with him.  Lots of rice for dinner.  We watched Arial America touring Michigan, then I crashed at 9 pm while they watched the ball game. or maybe it was the hockey game.  I was tired and didn't notice.  


Alarm time was 5 am.  I slept really well, and was feeling great.  I had all my gear laid out.  Looking outside, the sky was mostly clear.  The forecast all week was for rain, so I brought my long tights and jacket.  It's too warm for those, so I went to the shorts and brand new Yonge Street 10 k shirt. A bowl of granola, then a stop at Tim Horton's for a bagel.  We parked near the beach, and I suited up.  My race belt had slipped the clasp off again, and I spent 5 minutes looking for it in the minivan before finding it still clipped on the belt, but only on the one end.  I fixed that and was ready.  I need to patch that so it doesn't happen again.  It's essential race gear, since it holds the bib.  No bib, no race.  

Looking back

My camera had the operating system freeze up the last time I ran it, so I wanted to get a ton of pictures.  Next time I can do it just for the run.  I brought my HD video camera, and  carried it in my hand.  The pictures are screen captures from the movie.  

The rain stayed away.  There wasn't much sun, but it was really warm for so early in the morning.  They had plenty of supplies for us at the finish. 

Meghan had 2 hours to kill waiting for me to come back, so she chatted with the organizers setting up, and was put to work helping them.  We stayed for the awards.  They had a team with grandparent, parents, and children all together.  This is a great sport. Everyone takes part.

Meghan hands out medals

I pushed to about where I felt uncomfortable, finishing in 53 minutes.  Not much faster than the 59 minutes I paced Jen to on Yonge Street last month.  About the same speed I was 5 years ago.  

Dinner time!  They closed our local KFC back around Christmas time, so that's what we had for lunch.  I like something greasy after a workout.  

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Day Will Be Epic!

A guest post by Jennifer

The Marathon will change your life. You run 42.2 km and you feel like you can do anything cuz nothing can be harder than that. After running the Toronto Yonge Street 10km a couple weeks ago I felt fulfilled. I had set a goal and made it with flying colours. That was the first time that I had finished a 10k in under an hour (59:38 to be exact) and I still felt ready to go. So I decided it was time to try something harder and originally I was going to sign up for the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon but when I got on the website and saw the size difference between its medal and the one for the full I ended up signing up for the longer distance. This meant I was running 42.2km on a whim with not near the even minimal amount of training.

My Harley Quinn hair is still good

 Epic! should be spelled with your hands in the air. They need a font for that.  The hands in the air font.  Comes with optional game-show-announcer voice.  

The day would be Epic! But it started with a cat -- my cat Paddington, climbing on my head.  Down Paddington.  I shoved the not-quite-a-kitten-anymore to the bottom of the bed.  Pad pad pad she came back.  She thinks now I want to play.  My dog, Willow, popped her head up and came along this time. Two critters on my head.  At 3:00 in the morning.  Down Paddington. Down Willow.  Willow nuzzled Paddington and began giving her a bath.  The licking would go on for half an hour.  Paddington liked baths and Willow liked giving them.

Alarm time was 4, and I thought about sending them out of the room to play, as if having them venture through the house waking everyone else was an improvement. Would I get back to sleep anyway?  No, I waited out the hour.  Up at 4, I showered and dressed, and the house was still quiet.  Where's my supporters?  I'm not doing this alone.  Upstairs, I exclaimed, "Rise and shine Mulan!  Pack the bags Crickie!  What do you mean the troops already left?"  There we go, supporters are up.

We headed out into the cold dark night at 4:30 am.  Got to the Tim Hortons where two weeks ago at 5 am we impressed the night shift crew with our Epic! Harley Quinn and Joker costumes.  Today they haven't even cooked the bagels yet.  Back on the highway for another half hour.  Cambridge.  I hear they have the highest concentration of Tim Hortons in the world. Dad tells me useless stuff like that. They have the bagels!  Now I remember that I hate bagels, or at least bagel with peanut butter which is what Dad said to have before the race.  I barely manage to choke it down over the next half hour.

If you’re gonna do something dumb do it dumb right so here is my bit of advice to other last minute runners for the marathon.

1) Have a full six hours of music so that you never hear the same track twice and you have choices of all your favourite songs to pick from when you really need to push up that hill. My new fav running song is ‘Bring it all Back’ by S Club 7
2) DO NOT run up the hills. Save your energy instead of wasting it on hills cuz you’re gonna need everything you got for the second half. In fact I would recommend that you walk whenever you see someone else walking just so that you remember to not push too hard in the first half. The first half is fun times and you definitely just need to relax and enjoy it. This is why so many people now like doing half marathons; All the fun without the blisters.
3) After the finish line feel free to cry knowing that you won’t be able to muster tears
4) Wear nothing cotton on race day, this includes underwear and bra. Cotton gets soaked in sweat and it chafes, true story. Use Vaseline or body glide anywhere that will have friction and sunscreen everywhere else.

And you should wear your medal at least until you can walk down stairs like a normal person. Walking down stairs backwards works for the day after running a marathon.

I've run down Yonge Street before.  Just two weeks ago Dad and I ran the Yonge Street 10 k with me dressed as Harley Quinn and him as the Joker.  It was Epic!   I managed the entire distance at a steady run, finishing under an hour and feeling strong.  I wanted to keep going.  I felt like I could run forever.  Let's go again, I thought.  Dad told me of some upcoming races in Waterloo, London, Mississauga, Toronto, and the GoodLife stood out because it too was down Yonge Street.  I like running down Yonge Street.  The medals shown on the website were square with rounded corners, not the great big circle that Dad has from when he ran it in 2010.  The half-marathon medal was big, but you could see that the marathon was so much bigger!  If I can do 21, I can do 42, right? Dad told me to do the half.  The prices were close to the same.  I went for it! Full marathon. The medals dangle.  Paddington likes things that dangle.

Race weekend began on Friday with the trip to the expo to collect my bib.  So much to look at.  Need more shoes!  Need a water belt!  I felt like such a noob.  They can have whole conversations about electrolytes.  It's what plants crave! that's all I know.

Then Saturday was rest and prep day.  Um no, it really really wasn’t.  It's free comic book day!  It's Epic! I loaded myself again into the Harley Quinn outfit.  It turned out there were four Harley Quinns, including Epic! Star Wars Harley with her light-saber. I spent the day standing in line at various stores around London.  My friends and I also went to the library where they held the costume contest.  It was Epic! and we were all Harleys and Jokers and little kids wondering why Dad was so weird dressing up for Halloween in the spring.

We arrived at the race site an hour early.  It's cold out, so after the mandatory trip to the porta-pottie, we huddled in the car for a while.  It's good to have a squire to carry things.  Dad was squire and took my long pants and coat 5 minutes before the start. I was left in my cotton-candy short shorts.  I waited at the back of the bunch looking for the 5-hour rabbit, which never showed up.  

Start time, hurray!  We are off.  The 5:30 rabbit is too fast, so I don't follow her.  About 10 minutes into the race, we have looped back past the start, and there's Dad and Meghan waving.  Hi dad.  Hi Meghan. I will see them twice more before the finish.  It's cold until we went under the 401 coming out into the open and the deep valley.  It's sunny here and will be sunny and warm for the rest of the day.  

If marathons had a course for newbies, the GoodLife Toronto Marathon would be it since it is all downhill. The first half as I said was fun. 

I had a conversation with a guy whom I will call Green Shirt Guy, because he was wearing a green shirt.  His shirt was Epic! and said, "trample the weak, leap over the dead."  So we're talking about racing and such, and I tell him everything, which maybe he doesn't believe until we get to the 13 km banner, and he looks at me and says, "so this is the furthest you have ever run?".  Yep.  "and this is the first time you've ever eaten an energy gel?"  Yep.  I’m not be prepared, but I'm ready!  

At the 13 km marker I settled in with ‘The Pink Lady’, as I called her in my head, whom I found was good to run with cuz although slow like me, unlike me she had a plan. We were heading off from Yonge Street into a subdivision, and I noticed pink lady slowing to a walk.  My 5 hour rabbit was supposed to pace the walk breaks that I'm supposed to be taking.  No rabbit = no breaks. I slowed down to walk with her.  Pink lady looked at me and took off her headphones.  Oh great, now I have to take mine off.  She is doing a 10 plus 1 run - walk plan, and has a watch.  I ended up near her for most the rest of the race.    We talked some, and listened sometimes to headphones.  She was a bit concerned when I told her this was my first marathon, and that I hadn’t trained much at all, and that I had never ran more than 12 km so when I met her it was already the farthest I had ever gone, and also that I had never eaten a gel packet. Although I must say that I tried six different flavours on race day and liked all of them even the double latte flavor. We ended up running together on and off for a good half of the marathon and we happily finished in 5 hours 45 minutes.

Epic struggle

Coming up to Ontario Place, you can see the finish line. There's still 15 km to go The half-marathon runners go directly there to be done.  I can see why that distance is popular.  Dad is there, and Meghan.  I tell him that I'm fine, except my aching ankles.  and my hip replacement. My hip has been aching for an hour.  I need a new one.  

Dad and Meghan were there cheering throughout the course and they have pointed out to me that my good pacing looked like I was out of breath and that my speed walking looked like a stagger.  So what, I felt strong most of the race. I never got out of breath to the point that I couldn’t talk, I didn’t throw up though I wanted to, and I didn’t use any of the porta-pottys, so I count it as a good race. Those last 4 km when I gave it my all were great cuz I still had enough energy to pass other runners. I’m fairly sure I annoyed the other runners though and that the spectators were concerned about my craziness cuz by this point I was singing out loud to my music. ‘Jellyhead’ and ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ were the last couple I sang as ran the last kilometer. It should be noted that I can’t sing on key even on a good day.

After the race I staggered around the finish area until the final runners crossed the line and eventually Meghan and Dad had to coax me toward the car cuz I was not thinking straight. We stopped for burgers and beer on the way home. I finished the beer but didn’t have much appetite which surprised me. The post run beer was almost as good as the post run banana. It was very saddening when I got to the finish and they had run out of bananas. The best banana you will ever eat is the one at the finish of a long run. That banana is everything. The GoodLife seemed to have a lot of shortages. They ran out of water at several water stations. They ran out of 5 km medals (Meghan’s will be sent to her in the mail) and they ran out of bananas. When the water stations ran out of cups they were pouring it into our hand to drink from there which seemed really unsanitary to me but I was desperate and didn’t think about it.

Running the marathon I finally managed the goal that I had originally for the 10k. I felt not just fulfilled but accomplished and look I got an Epic medal.

Epic medal

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

First ride of the year

We had just a couple days of warm weather towards the end of April, and I got out for my first ride of the year.  The sky threatened rain, and I could see rain that way and that way, but by heading towards the sunny gap in the clouds managed to stay mostly clear of it.  I got a light sprinkle, but it was still sunny, which means rainbow!


It also means a muddy stripe up my back by the time I got home.  It's good to be out there again.

Monday, 6 May 2013

GoodLife Toronto Marathon & 5k – Not a race report

Up at 4am again, like two weeks ago.  This time out the door at 4:30 since there were no fancy preparations.  It was dark well before dawn.  Tim Hortons’s hadn’t made the donuts, neither had they and bagels for us.  We carried on to Cambridge for that.  Nervous, and short on sleep due to her critters climbing on her head, Jen could barely choke down the bagel which I told her was an excellent start to a running adventure.  

Nice day for a run

Having totally stormed the Yonge Street 10k, Jen was eager to go again.  I offered that the Scotiabank Waterfront race was in September, and would give her the summer to train.  I offered that the half was a fun and popular race.  I want to race now, she said, and something a little longer.  Well, there’s several nice races on May 5.  There’s Toronto, Mississauga, and closer to home, Waterloo with half marathons.  The GoodLife Toronto lets you run down Yonge Street again, so she favoured that.  She checked the website, and found the half and full at nearly the same price, but the medal for the full was bigger, shiny, and dangled invitingly.  Go for broke, she said to herself and signed up for the full marathon. 

Wanting to come along again, Meghan was told she had to race too this time, so she was signed for the 5km.

We parked close to the start with an hour to spare before the 7:30 start.  I got to be squire this week, taking Jen’s sweatshirt and pants a few minutes before go time.  The start was adjusted this year, so by the time they circle back from the starting line to Yonge St they have covered 2 km already.  Meg and I gave some great cowbell until the last were past, then got into the car to go the to next monitor point, near Yonge and Bloor.  We were set up at the bridge over the subway tracks with cowbell in hand, just shortly after the leaders had gone past.  Shortly thereafter the half marathoners went by, and then Jen, on their way into the ravine.  I brought speakers and had some epic music playing.  My intention was originally to park closer to a ravine access road and go down into the woods, but the parking spot was out by Yonge, making that a convenient location.  
The weather was terrific for running.  Nothing but sun.  Cool in the early morning, becoming warm but not hot by noon.  Just a slight breeze.

The crowd has thinned

By this point, Jen had made friends with Valerie, from Saint Catherines, and the two would shadow each other to the end, finishing a minute apart.  Passing the 12 km point, she gave a shock when announced that it had just become the longest distance she had run.  Ever.  She originally intended to go with the 5:00 hour pacing rabbit, but one didn’t turn up.  She chose not to be bunny to the 5:30 rabbit, and instead followed her own tune.  

5:30 rabbit with her last remaining bunny

Waiting again for the last of the marathoners, Meg and I were off to park at CNE grounds.  Traffic was slowing, and parking tight, so we were at the course just in time for Jen to pass through.  The half marathoners are done, but the marathoners head for the long waterfront out-and-back.  I had a short run to chat with Jen.  She was feeling well and in good spirits.  I was still terrified that she would run out of gas and end in tears.

Lined up for 5k race
Next up was Meghan, with her run starting at 12 noon.  There was some likelihood that she and Meghan would finish together, but Jen wasn’t keeping pace to do that. Meg ran a good race, keeping to mostly a steady run.  It was a great race, since she swims often but doesn’t run regularly.  She was very pleased with herself, although disappointed that there were insufficient medals on hand for her to have one as a take away.  They said they will ship it.  Everyone wants a shiny dangly prize to show off.  

Herd of 5k runners
The 5k crowd hit the water station like a herd of buffalo, totally overwhelming it and leaving the struggling last few marathoners dry.

There she comes
We waited, with fretful parental worry, about a half hour until Jen showed up, still happy and bouncy.  Well, there might have been a few tears except that she was much too dehydrated for them to come.   No matter.  She had her big shiny medal. Meghan had her great race.  I had two amazing daughters.  What a great day it was.