Friday, June 27, 2014

Pedal - paddle - win

Last Sunday I finally got around to a couple of things I'd been meaning to do.

One of which involved dirt

With Mine Over Matter less than 2 weeks away, I hadn't really rode any year. So, we buggered off to the GORBA trails and did some of that.

I rode some stuff that made me pucker and clench. I walked some things that scared the bejeezus out of me. I then proceeded to turn around and ride some of the stuff I'd walked on the way out.

I held up Tanker a lot
There was some nasty climbing, some sketchy drops, some very-nearly-catching-my-bar-on-a-tree-and-vaulting-over-the-handlebars, a mud hole or two, and a modicum of screaming. I cleaned some sections I'd never managed before, and actually managed to come out of the whole thing undamaged!

Can I get a w00t for remaining upright?
This bodes slightly better than the final single track experience I had pre-Mine Over Matter in 2012. Hopefully this means I will have a rather longer race than I did that year, with fewer long-term consequences. 'Cause damnit, that sucked.

Then to cap off an awesome weekend, we unwrapped the Weather Canoe and found that our idea of "put it up on sawhorses and wrap it up in a tarp" had indeed kept it undamaged through the horrible Polar Vortex Winter of Death and Ice Storms. Thus, we'd be able to try out our new acquisitions.

Such prettiness from Grey Owl Paddles

We popped the PunkRawKanoe up on the roof of the car, then drove down to Puslinch Lake, arriving just as the golden hour was beginning.

Breezy but lovely evening

We paddled through the honey-coloured sunshine of a gorgeous summer evening, delighted with our new paddles.

Tanker loves his new bent shaft!

Why the new paddles? Well, we've just booked ourselves a 4-day canoe trip through Frontenac Provincial Park for the end of next month, and decided to spoil ourselves a little. It'll be Tanker's first canoe trip, and our first paddling excursion since we went sea kayaking on Georgian Bay for our honeymoon in 2003.

Campsite booked for our first night.
I can almost hear the loonsong already..
I've never even been to Frontenac before. I can't wait!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ride report: Together We Travel Cycle for Angels - Sunday, June 15th, 2014

So after our wonderful day in Welland, we got up Sunday, had a marvellous brunch, then hopped on our mountain bikes to hit the Together We Travel Cycle for Angels.

We headed up to Waterloo via the Iron Horse Trail, which neither of us had ever taken previously. Ridiculous, really, when you consider how much cycling we've done in and around KW, and all the trails we've explored in Cambridge. Nonetheless, we had an enjoyable trip up through the lovely, cool shade of the trees along the trail on an otherwise hot and sunny day.

Photo from Patti Kapron-Weber

Arriving just after 2pm, we registered and received our reflective arm bands and said hello to some friends among the dozens of other cyclists who'd turned up for the event.

Lots of bikes of all kinds at the CIGI campus

There were some pre-ride announcements by the ride's organizers, including a heartfelt speech from Heather Caron, who came up with the idea for this event after her husband Barrie Conrod was killed while cycling on May 6th, 2012.

Pre-ride talk - Heather is at left.

We'd rode in last year's edition, but it seemed especially important that we participate this year after my own brief trial as a hood ornament, two years almost to the day after the death of Barrie Conrod. I actually even wore the same kit in which I was hit, having managed to repair it enough to be rideable.

Stitched up like a baseball, but at least my arse isn't hanging out.

We saddled up and rode the same route as last year, slowly looping around to Waterloo Public Square where a huge crowd of people awaited, as the ride coincided with the first Open Streets Uptown Waterloo event of the year. We all rode through, ringing our bells, spreading the message of sharing the road.

Photo from Dave Jaworsky

Waterloo Public Square after the ride.

After some post-ride announcements, we headed back down the Iron Horse Trail toward home, pausing to check out an awesome new installation - a bike fix-it station with a floor pump, repair stand and tools! Located at the intersection of the Iron Horse Trail and Queen Street, this is one of 3 such stations recently introduced in Kitchener.

Well done, City of Kitchener!

This was a lovely way to spend an afternoon on a bike, and to help raise awareness for cycling safety in our region. It was wonderful to see everything from wee tots on balance bikes up through townie commuter steeds, fixies, mountain bikes and full-on racing rigs coming together to honour those who have been injured or killed and to declare that cyclists and car drivers can work as one to see everyone reach their destination safely.

You can stay in touch with future news and events through the Together We Travel website - hope to see you there in 2015!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Welland Relay Triathlon - Saturday, June 14th, 2014

So. Much. Fun.

We were up at the crack of stupid, persuading ourselves to prep for the race and giving the air temperature some really nasty side-eye. Even after arriving at the race site an hour and a half before gun time, the weather stayed obstinately cloudy, cool and windy.

Even Tanker stayed in his hoodie until the last minute, and was very happy I suggested a wool base layer.

Stuffing myself in my wetsuit just to stay warm.
No significant pre-race drama - we were able to help out a fellow relay racer with a bike tool, as his rear hydration rack had come loose. Tanker got me zipped up, gave me a kiss, and I headed down to the water. I did get in about 150m of swim warm-up (ha!), then due to the time-trial start and relay teams going last, I had to stand around shivering for over half an hour after the first athlete took off at 8:30am. I ran into a fellow accountant and Vanderkitten VIP while I waited - she'd arrived early for the Give-it-a-Tri event starting at 10:30am, in which she'd be doing her first-ever 3-sport race after spending 18 months learning to swim.

Kittens before the races

The athletes ahead took off one-by one, and I finally got back down into the water. It was warmer than the air (and certainly warmer than the cold wind!), but I still made sure to give my face a good dunk a minute before my turn came to set off. I hoped this would go better than my unreasonably slow swim at Woodstock last month - I'd finally managed to get my catch working again the week before (after having lost it due to the 10 days I spent out of swim training commission near the beginning of May), but I wasn't really feeling 100% back to form yet.

Nonetheless, I took my sendoff from MultiSport Canada series technical director Jason Vurma, and started stroking away. There were only 4 athletes due to enter the water behind me, so odds were I wouldn't have anyone swimming overtop of me - the time trial start gives everyone lots of clear water.

The time trail start - 5 seconds apart.
Photo credit to Cathy

I basically focused on trying to keep my elbows high and just gave'er. No navigation issues - I came up on a few people as I approached the first turn buoy, but no problems getting around them. Made the second buoy, and came down so bang on top of it that I actually whacked it with my hand during my recovery stroke. I was feeling like I was swimming decently, but then again I felt I'd swam well at Woodstock, so I'd just have to wait and see. I'd told Tank initially that with bib # 415 and the start being in bib number order, I'd be delayed about 7mins from the actual horn. I am, however, an idiot - that would've been true if we'd gone off 1 second apart, but at 5s apart it would take 34.5mins. I hoped he wasn't worrying about me.

Rubbery leviathan emerging from the deeps

I almost swam overtop of a lady as I made my way to the final turn, but apologized as best I could. Again, bang on top of the big green buoy (which let me avoid a fair-sized group of swimmers taking the turn wide), and just 85m left to the exit. My arms were fatiguing a bit but I gave it all I had since I knew I'd get a rest after the run up to T1. Reaching the exit at last, the volunteers were all occupied with other people as I stood up, so I didn't get my usual helping hand. I did ok, though, and got moving toward the timing mat. It turned out later I actually came out of the water with 29 people behind me, so I guess I managed to pass quite a few!

Holy crap - I don't look like a total mess!

750m swim: 15:20 @ 2:03/100m
8/12 relay teams

Ah, ok - there's the derpyness.

I ran my freakin' arse off on the way to T1 - it's a long slog, but I passed a number of people since I didn't have to worry about getting my wetsuit off.

425m run-up: 1:36

Into transition puffing and blowing, I got Tanker to hold out his left leg so I could whip the timing chip strap off my ankle and onto his (nearly falling over in the process - well done, K), then sent him off with a kiss and attempted to get my breath back.

T1: 00:55

Off he goes to kill it!

The wind was still quite nasty and the cloud cover persisted, though some sunny gaps had finally started to open just before I got in the water.

Clouds over transition as I wait for my honey to finish kicking ass

A moment to breathe.

I did my best to get myself dried off with a towel I'd left in transition, but still had to put my hoodie on to try to keep warm - it still hadn't made it over about 17c/63f yet, and being wet with no way to get out of the wind had me shivering! I did put some sunblock on, though, and finally did my bodymarking; I'd figured there wasn't much point in doing it before the swim, only to have it smeared by my wetsuit.

I also made a small addition.
I did some dynamic stretching plus some high knees and butt kicks, partly to try to keep myself loose and partly to stave off hypothermia. I also drank a bottle of eLoad sport drink to keep myself hydrated and get a few calories into me, but not too many. I was rather amused by one of the other relay teams needing to be informed that the bike had to be racked again before the chip could be handed off to the runner - does noone read the website or listen to the pre-race announcements? Then, just over an hour after I sent him off, Tanker came hammering back into transition!

And he brought the sunshine with him!


28.8km bike: 1:03:15 @ 27.3kph
6/12 relay teams

So much kickassery.

With just one last thing to do, I grabbed the chip off Tanker's leg (once his bike was racked, of course), slammed it onto my own ankle, gave him a kiss that he described as "being more like a headbutt with your lips", then sped off at a totally untenable pace out of transition.

T2: 00:50

Artist's conception

See ya!

I started my watch as I crossed the timing mat on the way out through the run exit and figured I'd get some splits. I knew I had taken off way too quickly, but wasn't sure how bad it was or if I was going to blow myself up. The Welland sprint run course is a bit of a bother as there as 2 turn-around points and endless corners, but all I could do is keep my legs moving and see. I passed the queue of Give-it-a-Tri athletes waiting for their swim start and screamed something like "HAVE A GREAT RACE CATHY!" as I went by. I sincerely doubt she heard me, but the effort was there.

Saying hi to Larry, who took 2nd O/A in the duathlon.

As I passed onto the bridge toward the first out-and-back, I noted the 7k marker right at the final turn to the finish line. Ok, all I had to do was make it there and I could try to kick. I ripped up toward the first turn-around on the pathway, passing some people as I went, then hit my lap button as I passed the 2k mark. Split time: 10:22.

Um, I'm running at my open 5k pace.

This is not sustainable.


Back along the West side of the recreational canal on the pathway, my left hamstring started to complain about ill treatment. WHAT A WHINER! There was nothing I could do about it, so I just had to hope that it wouldn't get any worse. The second portion of the course does have some tiny little lumps to it, and the hammy didn't like inclines, but it held together. I whipped across the canal again with a tailwind, hitting the 4k mark in 21:17 - the second 2km split was a much more realistic 10:55, at a pace of 5:27/km.

Realistic, but still not sustainable.

From 4-5k I may have been distracted watching Give-it-a-Tri cyclists heading out on the bike, and by the rowers out on the canal. I also really, really wanted to be finished because I'd been death whistling since kilometer 1 and was starting to think I'd blown myself up and would have to walk. I made the turn-around, then hit the 5k mark at 26:56 - I'd slowed down to a 5:39/km pace and my disintegration showed no signs of relenting. At least I was now headed directly for the finish line, though there were still 4 turns to go.

Hurt. Freakin'. Bagged.

My worst kilometer was from 5-6k, taking me 5:49 as I struggled with the headwind on the bridge back to the West side of the canal and all the 90-degree turns. The 2k split from 4-6km was a pathetic 11:28 at 5:44/km. I might well have benefited from a sip of water or sport drink, but I didn't want to slow myself down any more than I already had. Fortunately, while the sun was out in full force, it stayed relatively cool out on the recreational trail, so I was still passing some people - if it had heated up, I'd have been in much worse shape. As it was, my hamstring was very grumpy about all of these corners.

I finally made the final turn at the 7k mark, and it was mostly a false-flat downhill to the finish, so I tried to pick up the pace as best I could. I'd come through the last full kilometer in 5:34 for a 7km total time of 38:19, and was hoping I could push and bring it in to finish under 41mins. I made the last half-kilometer in a rather astonishing 2:30, just barely making that goal.

Done at last!

7.5km run: 40:49 @ 5:27/km
5/12 relay teams

Official time: 2:02:42 - 7/12 relay teams

Post-race group shot!

We met up with Cathy and Amy after their race was finished, and found out later that they both won their age groups - great job ladies!

For the perfect addition to a fun morning of racing, we then drove down to Niagara Falls and did some super-leisurely cycling along the Niagara Parkway. A bike is the perfect way to get around that world-famous tourist destination: just park the car and roll around, stopping or diverting anywhere you like to check out the sights. We cycled across the King's Bridge, through some of the Dufferin Island trails, hit a gluten-free bakery in Chippewa, and had a really wonderful time. A really good steak and a campfire later, we were both ready for bed after a truly transporting day spent in the best of company.

Thank you for an incredible day sweetheart - I'm so happy we could share this!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Welland proper

In a rather dramatic change from the last 4 years, I will not be racing at Welland this year..


Tanker and I have been doing relay tris together since 2010, back when Belwood was part of that other series. I do the swimming, he goes out and KICKS ALL THE ASS on the bike, then I plod my way around the run course. We have fun, then go out and eat too much food, drink an adult beverage or two, and call it a day.

Artist's conception of the canal swim

We've only ever done Belwood as the relay race. It's close to home, it's usually on the weekend closest to my birthday, and it's a pretty spot. Tanker has raved about how lovely the bike course is, which prompted the change for this year - I'll do Belwood as a stand-alone race, and we'd pick another venue for the relay.

Welland was a natural choice. Apart from being one of my favourite places to race, Tanker was attracted by the pancake-flat bike course - he's not fond of climbing. As a bonus, a large portion of the 30km out-and-back runs alongside the old canal, which tends to be filled with water lilies.

Artist's conception of Tanker laying the smack down.

So we'll pack up tonight and race in the morning, then once we're done the plan is to head down to Niagara Falls and take in some of the sights along the Niagara Parkway. I'll be bringing along my 'cross bike so we can do some leisurely pedaling, hit up a gluten-free bakery, check out the falls, then head on home for the afore-mentioned adult beverage or two.

The bowling shoes will be in full effect.

We may be fast - we may not. Who the hell cares? It's supposed to be a lovely day, and I can't think of any better way to spend it than with my darling.

We'll even get to cheer on a friend of ours who is doing her very first triathlon after years of duathlon and taking the last year and a half to learn how to swim. Great to see a fellow Vanderkitten VIP conquering her fears and kicking ass!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cambridge Tour de Grand 72k - Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Fun times on two wheels!

Despite getting up at a reasonable time, my sluggishness and Tanker's burrito-ness conspired to make us late for the start. Again. It's like we're just destined not to be on time for this thing, and it seems like I'll never actually have the chance to ride down. We could probably have made one of the waves for the 72k start if we'd managed to pick up our registration packages on Saturday like we'd intended, but we missed the 2hr window of opportunity.

Time management is clearly not our strong suit.

At the start line, minus one husband.

After grabbing our gear we pedaled toward the start line, which was wide open - there may have been a crowd at 9am, but at 9:10 the coast was clear and we were told to proceed in our own time. I'd have rolled right through, except I lost Tanker somewhere in the crowd near all the bike shop tents. After a quick BBM conversation, we finally got started around 9:15am. We were pretty much by ourselves for most of the trip down to St. George, though we did finally start overtaking some small groups as we came across Blue Lake Road.

We found the dayglo paceline

Crossing Hwy 24 - the red lights didn't apply to us!

Rest stop ho!

Despite predicted sunshine and quite warm temperatures (25c/77f), the weather stayed obstinately overcast and much cooler than expected. We rolled into the new rest stop at the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead after a few tests of our legs, pleased to meet some lovely friends of ours and scarf back some bananas and cookies to fuel the ride ahead. I also got some wonderful compliments on my Vanderkitten jersey - people can't resist a fine looking kitty like Ophelia!

The homestead, containing a museum.

Rest stop #1, with Tanker in his manderkitten hat!

We didn't get back on the road until about 10:45 or so, only having rode about 20km. The long stop made my legs a bit whiny when we started getting into the hills, but the only cure is to just keep riding. As we'd been leaving the rest stop some volunteers had been prepping lunch for the 100km & 160km riders, who would be using this new aid station as their halfway point - much different than the return to Churchill Park that had been in place in prior years.

Pack of 100 or 160k riders headed toward their lunch stop.

Two way traffic.

We puttered along up East River Road, took in the magnificent view as we came screaming down across the bridge on Glen Morris Road, then made a lady's day at the turning onto Spragues Road - she'd optimistically signed up for the 100k, but had realised that her fitness wasn't up to the rolling hills and was currently just trying to survive the 60k front half.

Grand River bridge on Glen Morris Road


The poor lass didn't have a cycle computer and begged us to tell her that she was at least halfway done - I happily reported that not only was she actually just over 35km in, but the next rest stop was only a few minutes away.

It was, however, up.

We arrived at the Wrigley Road rest stop by Bannister Lake ready for a break after the hills - it was probably the warmest and brightest it would be all day at this point, and we were sweaty punks. Fortunately the aid station had provisions to keep us going: I had some banana and orange chunks while Tanker grabbed more of his own favoured fuel.

Maple cream cookies.

The goodies tent

My handsome boy.
I don't have enough headtube to hook my levers over the sawhorse.

I'd have been totally jealous of the cookiepalooza at the rest stops, except I'd stocked my jersey pockets with my own stash of dork-friendly cookies.


Almost some sunshine at Wrigley!

Having used the portajohns, filled bottles & eaten, we rolled off around 11:45am, passing Bannister Lake on one side and Wrigley Lake on the other.

Bannister Lake

Hundreds of water lilies on Bannister

Tanker is ready to rawk!

We couldn't have been more than a couple of kilometers out when we found 3 ladies on the side of the road. We asked if they were ok, and they said they were, then we asked if they needed anything like a pump, or patches, or whatnot. It turns out that one of the ladies had flatted and had a tire lever, spare tube and another of their group had a pump, but none of them knew how to change out a flat! I offered to get them up and riding again, and to show them how it's done - they'd called for a sweep vehicle to help, but were very thankful and called event headquarters again to cancel the request.

Lending a hand and passing on some knowledge

After another barrage of enthusiastic thanks from the lovely gals, we pedaled off once more - we struck north on Dumfries Road before making the turn onto Greenfield Road to see a part of the course we'd never ridden before. Our experiences with the Tour de Grand so far had been doing the 50k plus the 25k ('cause we weren't done yet) in 2010, the 100k in 2011, the 160k full-whack in 2012, then back to the 100k for 2013. We'd skipped right over the 72k in the past, and looked forward to checking out what we'd missed. The 100k and 160k routes had been re-designed for 2014, and now included a loop up around Ayr.

Most of the 72k route, per Endomondo - interactive map here.
I was not always reliable about getting it started as we rolled out.

We were just coming up on Reidsville Road when we spotted a fellow on a mountain bike standing at the corner - he waved to us, and we slowed and asked if he was ok. He said his pedal was about ready to fall off; they were about 23 years old and he'd rebuilt them every year for the last decade or so to keep them going, but it seemed like the one might just have to go on the rubbish heap. I asked if he had a phone to call for a sweep vehicle since he'd said his day was done, but he hadn't brought one, so Tanker whipped out our cue sheet and we called in a request to event headquarters. John, the gent who was having pedal problems, was incredibly thankful; as if having to DNF his first Tour de Grand in 15 years wasn't bad enough, he thought he'd have to stand around waiting for hours until a sweep truck came through. We made sure help was on the way, then got back in the saddle for the ride to the final rest stop.

Riding two abreast on a wide shoulder.

Unfortunately, the weather decided to take a turn for the worse at this point. A few drops of rain began to fall just as we were reaching Northumberland Street, turning into a decent shower as we made the corner onto Alps Road. We managed to spook a deer at the roadside as we pedaled through the wet, watching our front tires turn shiny as the pavement became soaked. We were both on quite new sets of tires - mine came with the new wheelset on my 'cross bike and had only seen 2 days of riding, and Tanker's had just been put on the night before - so neither of us was entirely sure how our bikes would grip.

Angry cloud is angry over Alps Road

Still having fun!

As the wind freshened and the rain fell, we both found ourselves really thankful that we'd worn our base layers. We thought we'd need them to keep us from overheating, but the cloudy skies meant the high for the day only reached 18.5c/65f, and the system bringing the rain cooled the air even more. We stopped as we reached Dumfries Road again to turn on our red blinking taillights for safety, as the light shower had turned into a steady, soaking rain that waterlogged my shoes - there were even a few small hailstones, some of which hit my bell on my handlebars, making it ring. The precipitation, however, wasn't nearly as off-putting as nearly being blown into traffic by a couple of huge gusts of wind that hit us on Whistle Bare Road as we approached the golf course! Poor Tanker nearly had a high-speed meeting with a transport truck, and we both had to fight to keep our bikes under us. I seriously wondered if we'd have to pull over and dive into the ditch: it felt like tornado conditions. Fortunately, the wind decided to play nice again, though neither of us really enjoyed riding directly into it up Dickie Settlement Road.

Sign says "Don't wait for the storm", followed by another that said "Learn to ride in the rain"
It was raining on us as we passed them.

We made the turn onto Old Mill Road doubtful that we'd catch the final aid station before they shut down for the day - the Terry Black Rest Stop & Spa was scheduled to close at 1pm, and it was already past that as we gingerly rode through the potholed, gravelly, slippery hills to Blair Road, made the turn onto Fallbrook, and negotiated the wet, sandy curve to the big red barn...only to find that almost everything had already been loaded into vans by the volunteers. Apparently a couple of riders (probably doing the 60k) had come through about 20mins previously and said they were the last ones. Sadface.

Tanker checking if his unprotected phone still worked after being soaked.

Soggy kitten is soggy.

After a washroom break for Tanker and a jersey pocket cookie for each of us, we set off for the last leg in the worst rain of the day. We were both pretty chilled, so probably put in some of our hardest riding as we cruised down Blair Road!

Yes, that is a stream of water flowing down the bike lane.
Also a rooster tail of water off my front wheel.

Artist's conception of the final 25km

Finally reaching Churchill Park again after just over 3 hours in the saddle, we popped inside to get some post-ride food into us to try to fight off the chill. Our base layers had been just enough to keep us from freezing while we were working on the bikes, but now we were just bedraggled punks at the mercy of the capricious wind. Fortunately, since we'd only picked up kit that morning (instead of Saturday), we had dry t-shirts to change into once we got to the car!

Done our ride and ready for some inappropriate parking lot nudity!

After which, we went home and I got my new shirt soaked anyway as I took it for a run.

Because triathlon.

Despite the weather conditions in the last hour or so of our ride, we had a great time. If you're anywhere within an hour's drive of Cambridge, I highly suggest checking out the Tour de Grand. The rest stops, meticulous route markings and beautiful courses represent just about the best value in cycling in Southern Ontario, and you couldn't ask for harder working or friendlier volunteers. Bring the whole family - you'll all have a blast!