Thursday, May 6, 2021

Every Day is a Winding Road

This year has brought about many changes and one of those has been staying isolated and staying home.  So, when it came time for holidays, we decided just to do that.  We had originally thought of touring in Croatia this year, along the coast, so, why not turn our pedals in beautiful Ontario for a stunning holiday?  After all, vacations don't always mean travelling far away.  After all, we travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.

"Discover the World " with Apidura
The Grand Depart
Cornel purchased me the line of Apidura bags as an early birthday gift, so I was anxious to use them and test them out and they did not disappoint.  Previously, we had done a couple long weekend bike touring trips on Manitoulin Island, so why not expand our horizons.   Previously, I had carried hard panniers, so I was already feeling a ton lighter.  Wait until Cornel finds out that I packed pj's again.  Its become our bikepacking banter since our first trip.  At least these weren't the full micro fleece ones. 

Kissing Bridge, West Montrose
We embarked on Sunday morning and as usual we had a late start, but, temperatures were cooler than the previous week.  Our first destination was Brussels, ON where we would take advantage of the G2G railtrail and also take advantage of my sister Gail's hospitality.  There is a plethora of abandoned railways that have since been turned into hiking/cycling trails throughout the area and we planned to take full advantage of them.  We had cycled the G2G previously in sections on a few occasions but it was more complete this year.  The only issue with the day was the amount of headwind we encountered, so the first 157km seemed like a push.  We were treated to the best hospitality with cold beers and smoked chicken and ribs (made by my niece Kailey on her new Traeger).  My sister also made us Key Lime pie as she knew we had carbs to replenish.  Full of beer and good food, we finally retired to our tent around 1am. 
The late night made for another late start the next morning.  In addition, I needed to repack as I didn't consider packing things in the order that I would need them?  Rookie mistake I guess.  And, as easy as the Apidura bags are to put on the bike, why remove all of them each time?  Thanks Cornel,  Destination Sauble Falls or bust.  Well the bust occurred within the first hour with Cornel getting a pinch flat.  Just glad it was him or he may have expected me to change my own flat.

Maitland River, Brandon Sidreroad, just outside Brussels, ON

The blood sucking symbionts were a distraction on the gravel climbs as you attempted to swat them away while maintaining your line.  Not sure what was worse, the mosquitoes or the deer flies.  Damn wheelsuckers!

"As soon as I saw you, I knew that an adventure was about to happen'' Winnie the Pooh

They Call Me The Bruce

Sunday, December 31, 2017


I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but, I figured I could get it done.  The training was not necessarily optimal, but, my mind was strong and as it would turn out, my mental determination would be the best running asset I had.

We've all been there.  Haven't we?  You sign up for a race and lay down the grass roots of how you'll get it done.  All your long runs and the optimal training plans are strategized well in advance.  I even signed up with the Health and Performance team back in November, so, I was sure, this year would be a success.  Last year, I hung up my shoes at 100k, but, it was damn hot, like hell hath no fiery hot and I was determined to come back and finish it this year.

Well, then shit happens and all your plans head up the creek.  The creek my Mom use to reference, where you had no paddle.  To start it all off, I ended up with a stress fracture at the beginning of the year at the 6 hr Frosty Trail Run.  I had also planned on racing (I think I can call it that) at the 70P2A again this year, so as soon as the weather got nice, I needed to get out on the bike.  I also never made it to a single H & P track meet (still haven't).  Those guys are fast and Coach Sean really lays down the grass roots or so I can attest by their results.  I caught a cold right after P2A and as usual, they always seem to linger and get comfortable by settling into my chest.  Good thing I gave up smoking when I did.  My longest training run ended up being 36km the weekend before the race.  Am I an idiot or what for even attempting this?

Well, this year was different.  I had Richard, the guru of long distance running as my pacer.  I just had to reach the 100km mark.  He had done the math and worked out a plan for me.  Something I hadn't even considered the year prior.  I just thought I'd sign up and run and that was all I needed to do.  There is so much involved when running your first 100 Miler, it's complex.  With the plan, each loop was a success.  I had even earned some time on the first 4 loops.  How empowering that turned out to be.  Equally empowering or even more so, was watching the athletes compete in the 200 Miler.  I thought if they can survive the course, especially after all that rain, then surely, I CAN.  My first loop was a little fast, but, I was with a couple of younger runners and the stride felt good.  It ended up working out perfectly, as Cornel and Claudia were running the 50k and the timing worked out for Cornel and I to run the entire second lap together.  I felt so good.  Could this be happening?  I also did something I don't normally do, but, Richard recommended taking an Advil on every loop.  In all my years of running, I had never taken Advil, not even when pain set in.  It must have worked as I was relatively pain free.  I had my new Altra Torins, more for road then a slick trail, but, my feet felt great and only one small blister to speak of (which happened on the first loop with my La Sportivas).  I took care of it right away by threading the needle and leaving in the thread for it to ooze out slowly.  Richard with his tackle box of supplies took care of it professionally prior to my 5th lap and no further issues.  How fortunate am I to run a 160km with no real foot issues.

I think I met up with Andrew on the 3rd lap and we had the same pace relatively.  We may have ran that loop faster than expected as I recall Andrew had a work colleague coming to meet him with a sub.  Beer makes me run faster, so I can definitely relate.  Now food, that was a bigger issue than my feet.  It was difficult to get anything down of any substance.  I was nibbling and it was sustaining me.  I was just worried whether I was taking in enough to get me through until the end.  I changed my clothes on the next lap and it was exhilarating to be in fresh clothes.   If only that feeling lasted.  We were running the hermitage loop and if I hadn't mentioned already, the trails were a muddy mess.  We were passing through that narrow section down to the creek and next thing I know, Andrew is slip sliding away.  I made a quick move to try and grab him before the edge and my foot hit the mud and before I knew it, I was vertical in the air before slapping flat back into the mud.  The entire slippery slope meaning was never so true at that moment.  I knocked the wind out of myself but got up as quickly as I could.  Mud is cold.  Poor Andrew had continued to ground ski almost to the bottom of the hill.  He recovered and we both made our way to the creek to wash off the mud as best we could.

The sixth loop was a bit of a blur.  I was maintaining a consistent time, but, don't recall much of that loop.  Richard had supplied me with a can of caffeine.  Nice and strong and gave me the pick up that I needed.  Not surprising that my mental clarity was revived after the jolt cola.  Cornel had returned after going home and eating and showering.  What would I do without his consistent support.  It makes all the difference in the world having someone there cheering you on.  Due to my earlier fall, my back was starting to seize up and with night falling, so had the temperatures.  Richard had a ThermaCare heat wrap for my waist and I dressed in warm layers and got ready for my 7th loop.  I swear, if you had asked him for sand from the Sahara, or a rock from the Andes, he would have had it.  He completed The Marathon Des Sables and held the Guinness Book of Records, for a marathon in all 7 continents in under 30 days; which has now been surpassed.  He has quite the repartee of accomplishments and I was lucky to have him as a friend and pacer.  We had always planned to walk this entire loop and that we did.  We were still good for time.  At the beginning of the loop, Richard had got me some chicken noodle soup as I changed and the broth and noodles were amazing, but, I didn't have enough saliva to break down the pieces of chicken and almost choked.  I don't know who made that soup, but, it was delicious.  That brings me to the volunteers.  They are amazing.  Most of them are out there for the races entirety and help to get everyone to the finish line.  They are truly incredible and we can't thank them enough for all that they do.

Well, we made it back around just as the sun was coming up....that means, only one more loop and I was done with this.  I was actually going to complete this 100 Mile journey.  Although, I had a negative split on this loop, it was still a slow and painful run.  As my legs were requiring more oxygen, I had to stop 2-3 times up the 3 Sisters in order to breathe.  They were anything but a nicety, more like the 3 Effin Bitches at this point. Boy, was I glad when I had climbed them for the last time.  Just after the dirty ladies, my second favourite part of the course ensues.  The Hermitage loop being
Hermitage Loop
my most favourite. It could be that this portion has a downhill followed by some gentle rollers and then fairly flat.  I also means, you are in the last stages of the 20k loop.  We excited through the trees and I had my last drink of Coke as we headed for the last ascent of Martin's Road.  There is always such a big crowd on this hill cheering for the runners. It really helps, its a metaphorical rope that pulls you up.  Then, you hit the top and just a short run across the parking lot and I was done, the finish line.  Feeling better than expected too.  Cornel and Claudia were there with a bouquet of flowers.  I quickly found a chair and Cornel opened me an apple cider and a bag of chips.  I probably shouldn't have had that second beer as when I got up to talk to another finisher, I became quite dizzy and had to return to my chair to sit down.

I got into the car to head back to Cornel's and attempted to text my daughter Mindy and my phone dropped mid way through and my head dropped next.  I was asleep.  I succeeded in stressing her out.  She thought something had happened to me.  She already thought I was crazy and now she thought I was hurt.  Probably the nurse in her as she wanted to really be there to check my vitals.  Once at Cornel's, I had a quick shower and some some and then had a 3 hour nap.  I woke to a craving for pizza.  The first bit was painful.  As it appears, the roof of my mouth was raw from all the mouth breathing I was doing.  With this cold, I was unable to really breathe through my nose.  I still managed to get down 3 slices with baby bites and watched some TV prior to sleeping for 12 hours.  I thought, I'm so glad to have that out of my system. I never have to do another one.  Well, that lasted only a week, before thinking, I should do it one more time as I really wanted to hit 27 hours.  I have an hour to shave in 2018.

Happy Trails my Friends


Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Paris to Ancaster 70K

P2A is like forget the pain. 

Then, you think you should do it all over again; as it truly was a beautiful thing.  However, I really
didn't recall all those hills from the year previous.  Albeit, last year was my first attempt at this race, so, I may have been in a slightly altered state.   Nonetheless, in my mind, it was now doable on a single speed-like deciding to go with natural childbirth, the second time around.  Okay, for you gentlemen, I'll cease using this metaphor.  

I first woke in the morning around 6 am to thunder and lightning, not by choice, but, by shear volume.  I had been dreading the weather report for the past few days and it proved not to disappoint, which is rather an oddity by all accounts.   I fell back asleep to the lull of the rain and awoke a short time afterward by the pleasantry of my alarm. I sprung to the window, to check on the weather status and still, it continued to rain.  Yet, it was set in my mind; I was doing this race.  Sure, I had done many running events in these conditions and it always seemed refreshing, but, today, I was thinking it would be otherwise, especially in combination with the cold and wind.

Wave 4 was a bit of a blessing.  By the time I was ready to wheel the line, the rain had ceased and it only seemed cold when I was moving.  The gun went off and I was ready to go.  And move I did.  To be honest, I had only had one other ride on my single speed as it was newly acquired. The test ride was along the rail trail, so it was flat.  As I started to pedal, I looked at the slight incline and wondered how it might go.  I know, its like running a marathon in a new pair of shoes that you just hauled out of the box.  Not!  Well, that seemed easy enough and I was vehemently committed to seeing this through.  The initial climb, as small as it was, was a saving grace as I never allowed myself to visualize defeat.  Dreaming was achieving.  I knew I was going to finish this thing and that was the only plan.  Okay, just 69 km to go.

I spoke to some fellow riders and there were quite a few new riders.  I was quick to point out, that once we got off the rail trail, there was a quick right and it was a steep uphill. The lack of momentum in the turn, makes it difficult to ascend the hill, so, I had already made the plan to walk this one and if need be, the final Martin Road climb.  I began to relish the hills.  Yeah, those ones that I had totally deleted from the memory banks.  I even began to think they had changed the course from last year.

There was definitely more mud to contend with this year and the wind started to become atrocious as the trail opened up to roads.  The section of bush behind the first private property we cross, was a mud pit and I knew that I had to keep the momentum going.  I met up with a cyclist from the Pickering area that did this race with his son each year.  Today, he was told by his son to embrace the wind and that he did.  Until his front wheel hit a rock in the mud and over the handlebars he went.  Foremost, he was okay and once that was clear, I inquired about his bike and all appeared good, except for his pride he confessed.  Once we hit the road, I offered to pull and we continued to share each others company for a good portion of the route.  Good thing, as I happily let him pull on the rail trail as pushing into the wind had reduced us to a pace of around 12 km per hour.  At one point, I was almost blown off the trail by the wind.  There was an embankment at that point and it may have been interesting had I not recovered.

Just past the half way point, I was getting ready to pull out of the water stop and heard the announcement that the sweepers were only 15 minutes away.  How is that possible?  I checked my Garmin and although I had started off with an average pace of 23-25, I was now in the position of being just above 16.  I must admit, the wind was tough, but, this is not where I had visualized myself at this point.  I departed the station with an appetite for vengeance in making up for lost time.  All seemed to be going to plan, until we got back into the headwind.  It was a hard push at every point now, yet, I forged on.  I still felt good and I seemed to have lots of juice in the tank.  Soon thereafter, I hit the section of trail that had been sabotaged last year.  Mature trees had been cut to block the trail and created a backlog.  The community and race organizers had ensured that the course was clear from any obstructions. With the proceeds going to St. Joseph's Hospital, I'm still perplexed as to why someone would have done this.

I hit the last rest area and decided to keep going as there was only about 20km to go.  There were still 2 sections of mud chutes to get through and I was ready for them.  No grocery bags to cover my shoes this year as I was going to attempt to push through them.  Oh, the beauty of a single speed. There will be no expensive repairs to my derailleur.  Mud is such a bike killer.  I came across the first chute and it was okay.  They even had someone there hosing down your bikes to prevent from such disasters.  Such a nice touch.  The last chute didn't go as well.  I had picked my line and all was good until two other cyclists had moved right and occupied the same line I had set out upon.  I had to slow and then stop to prevent a collision.  I didn't get clipped out in time and down I went.  At least I was now looking the part.  What would Cornel say?  He is always telling me, it needs to be instinctual.  I was like a wild animal being fed at the zoo.  The instincts were not defined.  As I went down, the pedal hit my calf and I winced in pain.  I got up and was worried from what I was experiencing in that muscle.  I was so close now.  Surely, this would not be it.  I had to saddle up and keep moving and once I did, the calf started to feel much better.

I maneuvered my way over to the final ascent at Martin's Road and I have to say, I was happy with my performance through this section.  Now the climb, that was a different story.  Just like last year, I hit the beginning of the apex and had to get off and push my bike until it leveled out.  There I was able to get back in the saddle and finish the ride to the finish line.  I was beaming.  I had done it.

Once we had checked in our bikes at the wash station, we changed and made our way into the gymnasium for some lunch.  That is when I noticed, I had placed 2nd in the single speed category for women.  I'm told that I should neglect to mention that there was only the two of us, but, I think it matters in this regard as it means there was only two of us that were willing to try it with one gear.  I'm already looking forward to next years race and I'm hoping to shave at least a half hour or more off my time.  The weather is unpredictable for this race and that's what makes it so appealing.  Well, at least, once you're done.

Happy Trails My Friends


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Burn

Another year and another first.  The Tillsonburn, aka, The Burn, set in Tillsonburg, Ontario on Good Friday each year.  A distance of 50, 100 or 160km. I of course, took the middle ground and did the 100k.  I thought this would also give me the last little push in my training for P2A.

This is a race/ride put on by Jeff and his wife (owner of Indigo Lounge) and there is no fee. Bring a donation and money for chili and you'll be doing your part in helping some well deserving teen with a new bike.  What a great concept.  And, the day was absolutely perfect for it.

On the way there, I'm thinking, this will just be like the D2R2 except on flat; well, everything appeared to be flat leading into Tillsonburg. Gone are the distant memories of randonneuring some 2000m in elevation with some of the hardest roads I had ever climbed.  And just like the D2R2, you cover the course in a self-sufficient manner.  Similarly, it's a mixture of paved, gravel, dirt roads, along with some rail trail and single track.  It didn't take me long to figure out why they call it the Burn.  In full, its not a misprint and to abbreviate it, is not to save room on paper.  My legs were on literally on fire and everyone just kept saying, including the event t-shirts "just one more hill".  Did I mention, I'm slow on hills?  I always get left behind. Definitely, a skill I need to improve.  Back to speaking of hills, haven't we heard that a million times and each time, we know its just plain BS.  There is always another one.  In this case, there was plenty more. 

One section of road, between two paved roads, was this muddy sandy mixture that really kept my focus.  I was being overly cautious not to get dragged into the soft spots.   Now, had it been
quicksand, it may have been a blessing for me, well, as long as no one came along to haul me out.  However, I thought to myself, if I'm going down, as least this seems like a pretty soft landing.  Also, I may get dirty, but, at least I won't be all scraped up.  I usually save my war wounds for mountain biking.  Still go down at least once with every time I go out. 

At 50k, there was a descent down to the lake and there was a public restroom, which would have been ideal had it been open. This is where I found Cornel  He decided to wait for me after losing me some time ago on one of those hills.  To be honest, I had gone down after hitting some loose gravel after turning to talk to someone ascending the hill. I don't think he was impressed that I had a lack of focus.  Okay, so, I like to talk?  I can be very social, especially if it takes my mind off the task at hand.  That was a bitch of a hill anyway.  Its was a good tactic to earn the right to walk the rest.

We hit the 70k mark on the rail trail and although I may have slowed my pace, I still had energy.  At this moment, I felt good about where I was at for the P2A.  This year will be my second attempt at racing that.  I guess for me, its more like a ride as I only averaged 20km per hour.

Soon after, we hit some single track and I lost some time there as I was a little gun shy after my wipe out at Hardwood Hills last year during the Epic 8 hour relay race.  I need to find my confidence again.  Its out on the trail somewhere.  The mixture of the terrain on the course was incredible though.  A good mix and well designed course. Kudos to Jeff on all his efforts in bringing it together. 

Although, I was happy when it was done, I am looking forward to doing this one again next year.  One last note of mention, when the flyer has a caption at the bottom, that declares, "this is no sissy ride", pay heed.

Happy Trails My Friends


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winter Blahs and Injuries

Its Canada and it's mid March and we just had another dumping of snow.  Actually, the white, fluffly, full of grace stuff is still coming down right now (that was not so obvious sarcasm).  It all started with Wiarton Willy seeing his shadow and then came the bleak anticipation that we would be able to get outside and start training for the Paris to Ancaster that is a mere 6 weeks away.  I had a missed opportunity on one of the nicer Saturdays, but, life gets in the way.  Cornel made it out and came back with both him and his bike covered in mud, so, I was okay with my schedule.  I'm guess I'm a fair weather rider unless I'm forced to do otherwise.

I should be out there running and prepping for my 100 Miler at Sulphur Springs but since my six hour race in January, I have been recovering from a stress fracture and a diagnosis of Morton's Neuroma on my right foot.  It took weeks before even being able to walk on it.  The silver lining in all of this, is that I went looking for a new pair of shoes that would offer roominess and comfort to my foot.  I found a single pair of Altras at my local Running Room, which just happened to be my size and I absolutely love them.  With my falling arch, the toe box has continued to be a bone of contention.  It's confirmed, I have now crossed over the boundary of youth, looking for comfort rather than style, but, I am okay with it.   Just this past weekend, I had a 4 km trial run and all seems good.  The numbness and tingling were still present, but no pain.  Now to start ramping up the mileage.    

Zwift North American Tour - La Bicicletta, TO
But now, comes my night in shining armor,  Zwift!  I had not even used an indoor trainer until last year and then was introduced to the magnificent known as Zwift.  A digital destination for the global cyling community that alleviates the boredom associated to getting on a trainer.  It offers a variety of courses in a variety of settings: training sessions, social rides, races and just time on your own.  I think my second or third trial in this environment, I did 118 km as a training ride for last years Paris to Ancaster. It must have helped as I was able to hit my time goal on race day, minus the time spent waiting to clear the course sabotage of mature trees being cut down.  Who does that?  Certainly not someone that cares about the environment or someone that cares about the charitable needs of others that these races support.  So, I digress.  But really?  Okay, so you can customize your avatar and win achievements where you get to switch up your jersey for the fashion conscientious or tires and bikes for those that are the fanatical aero geeks.   

If you're a woman and have some free weekend time, try the ladies only social rides (you may even see the odd man joining in) that are offered by clubs like ODZ.  The group leaders offer helpful tips to assist in cadence and interval training.   Its such a great community and watching the screen lets you become absorbed into a virtual reality setting.  It even allows for a supertuck if you hit the right conditions; just make sure you don't get dropped while resting if you're in a race situation. Plus, all your efforts can be manually uploaded to Strava, proving to friends when you dominated the sprint sections of QOM.  It also offers a variety of challenges where you accumulate your distance and ride California or Italy to unlock presents which are presented as bikes (Pinarello Dogma F8 or Tron).

Well, I'm going to close off and do a quick Zwift session prior to heading to work.

Happy Trails my Friends and Ride On!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

On the Wagon

For those in Nashville, this is for real!
Well, its the start of another year and as I consistently attempt with each new year and this year is no different;   I elect to embark on a sudden withdrawal of sugar.  Yup, that's right, I get off the Sugar Wagon or on as it goes.
Let me tell you, sugar addiction is real.  The more you have, the more your body craves it and the more you want.  The month of December was horribly bad though.  I was not able to put the brakes on as I normally do.  I gained 5 lbs, but, it was more like 20 when I was getting dressed.  It's not a comfortable feeling.

So for anyone else trying this, start at the beginning of the week and be sure to check your calendar as you'll need a clean brake from functions, if you're going to be successful.  The first 3 days will be the most difficult as you skip carbs, wheat and other grains.  You'll also temporarily cut out fruits and dairy.  Yes, even cheese.  And wine, which is a whole other food group.  I feel pretty passionate about it getting a piece of pie on the Canadian Food Guide.  The premise of cutting dairy and fruit is to eliminate those sugars as well.  The lactose and fructose.  Pretty much anything that ends in "ose" can be translated to sugar.  Except for grandi"ose" which is the magnificent training plan and race plan we have all put together already.  I still have a few to decide on, but, I have committed to the major ones.  And, without the hangovers and sugar crashes you'll have more time and energy, so you can focus on your workouts.  Also, sweating during exercise encourages toxins to leave your body at a faster rate.  It is a trace amount as only the liver and kidneys can detoxify at any significant rate.  Milk Thistle tea is a good product to detoxify for the liver if interested.

So, that means a diet full of protein and vegetables.  Utilize fat to fight sugar, so eat nuts and avocados.  Now you can have fruit, but, limit it to just lemons and limes for the first 3 days.  Add them to your water as you'll want to focus on hydrating well during this time as well.  You can gradually add fruit, like an apple a day and add 1 serving of dairy a day as well.  The fructose will raise your blood sugar levels quite rapidly, so be prepared for the sudden spike.  Hold off on the wine for another week or so, unless you are so stressed that you may murder your husband or children.  Then, by all means, have the wine.  Have the bottle if it will calm you down.  In all seriousness, you may suffer from mood swings and headaches during the detox, so be ready for it and warn your friends and loved ones.

After a week, you may find that you are more focused and even happier.  The biggest take home for me was that I was suddenly sleeping through the night.  I read an article that suggested this may happen, but, I was doubtful.  So, plan those intense workouts as you will have increased energy. Usually, if I can maintain the absence of sugar in my diet for just 2-4 weeks and keep my regular running routing, I can usually drop 5-10 lbs.

So, leave the sweet cravings behind and ramp up the routine in the gym or outside if you're able to.  I'll be turning to by other addiction, albeit a much healthier one, running the trails or climbing on the trainer.  I've given a couple of options to ramp up your running program or just switch it up with some extra Tempo or Fartlek runs.  Be wary of ice if you're doing these outside.  Tis the season, but, at least we're burning up to 30% more calories by keeping core temperature being outside.

Option #1Option #2
Run 1 mile warm up Repeat 8 times Run 1/4 at goal pace rest with 10 squats and 10 lunges per leg. Run 1 mile cool down / stretchRun 1 mile at goal pace Repeat 4 times Run 1/2 mile at goal pace rest with 20 squats 10 / lunges per leg.Run 1 mile cool down/stretch

Happy Trails my Friends