Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

Enjoying a Little Rest and Relaxation

Greetings sports fans. This post is definitely well overdue, but as you can guess by the title, I was really more focused on the R&R then I was writing a blog post 🙂 One of the best parts about deciding to take a couple months off was the fact that it would give me the chance to do a little bit of traveling. Of course, I promised Deanna I wouldn’t take any really long or exotic trips. The longest I was booked to go anywhere was Las Vegas for 2 weeks. In addition, I booked a week in Nova Scotia to visit and spend time with my dad. This post will give you a little taste of what these trips were all about, and the fun I got up to during the trips. And of course, there will be lots of pictures! Read on if you feel like heading about several national parks in the U.S. and brewery tours, along with great hikes!

NOVA SCOTIA

First up in my trip itineraries was a weeklong trip out east to enjoy some Maritime hospitality from my dad and his wife in Pictou, NS. Of course, I grew up on the east coast, so heading back that way is always a bit of a blast from the past and a chance to catch up on the gossip and the comings and going of Pictou County. While the primary purpose of this trip was to spend time with my dad, it was obviously not the only thing I did while there. For a few pictures and a little taste of what I got up to, check out these pictures:

Running along in the open air taking in the smells of the ocean was of course one thing I did. In addition, I found out that a new craft brewery had opened up not 5km away from dad’s house. Uncle Leo’s Brewery. I convincedIn dad to join me in some tastings and meeting the owners. Some nice brews, and they keep it simple there, which was nice. I liked their porter best. I also had a chance to borrow a light and fast XC mountain bike and joined an old friend from some mountain biking in an area I never been to. I was pretty impressed with the level of riding that can be found now in the county. I’m sure it didn’t exist when I was growing up. But then again, mountain biking really didn’t exist at all!

One of my only real ‘needs’ of going out east was making at least one day trip to Cape Breton. Rather than do a whole loop of the highlands this time though, I opted to just get dropped off at a trailhead in the Mabou Highlands area, and proceeded to spend a few hours hiking and running in the hills and to the ocean. It was a great getaway. Dad and Nicole spent the time having a bite to eat and touring by car in the area. Once we were all back together, we visited another craft brewery (Big Island Brewing), then drove to a brew pub in Antigonish for supper. All in all, a great day. In addition to those activities, I squeezed in few visits with old friends (including a mini grad class reunion at a pizzeria serving up the famous Pictou County Pizza. Oh yeah, and in that week, I somehow managed to simultaneously sell our current house AND buy our new place in Chelsea! A bit challenging to do all the negotiations while out of the province, but we pulled it off!

LAS VEGAS AND SURROUNDING AREAS

After Nova Scotia, after a tough 4-day adventure race and after the stress of buying and selling a house was done, it was time to really unwind. To do that, what better place to head to than Sin City? Flights are cheap, and I actually have a couple old and dear friends that now live down there, so I had a built in HQ for all the crazy desert adventures I had planned. Vegas itself really wasn’t high on the agenda for this trip. I was really taking advantage of the proximity to the amazing sights including the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Death Valley, Red Rocks Park, and the Hoover Dam. Yup, there was no shortage of things to do And thanks to Troy being free the whole time, I had someone to share some of the experiences with.

For a few of the days, the focus was on sampling new beers, playing pool and disc golf, and lounging in the pool and hot tub in the hot Vegas sun. Although temperatures up north had already started falling, it was still full ‘summer’ in Vegas! I managed a bit of running in it, and also Troy and I wandered off to the Red Rocks area for a nice little day hike with great views of the city in the desert. Before and after a weeklong trip to the parks, we did find time to hit the strip twice, with a focus on music. We hit the Brooklyn Bowl to catch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which was amazing, and also later in the trip a visit to the Las Vegas Country Saloon to see Hank 3, which was certainly interesting, with his split of classic country and in-your-face punk! Obviously though, the highlight would be the road trips out of town.

First up was a day trip with Troy’s car out to Death Valley. We left early in the morning on a weekday and made good time to get there. Skies were pretty grey, so temperatures were nowhere near the highs that they warn you about. We even went on several hikes in the full sun. It was clear that this isn’t a place to be trifled with, but given the lower temps, we were fine. We made our way all around the valley, hitting up Badwater, and the Devil’s Golf Course, as well as visiting the sand dunes. These were all pretty cool. However, our final stop was high above Badwater at a place called Dante’s Peak, which is where a surreal thing happened. It rained! And hailed! Yup, one of the driest and hottest places you can find, and I got caught out on a peak with a crazy storm with lightening, and watched the rain pouring into Death Valley. Good thing we weren’t exploring any slot canyons!

Next up in the adventure was renting a car for a week so we could immerse ourselves in some of the bigger national parks. First up would be the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had tried to visit Zion first, but it was absolute madness there! Instead we decided to head to the farthest point on our itinerary then make our way back over the week. The North Rim was also pretty busy, so we had to set up our campsite about 12 miles out of the park. No big deal, but man was it COLD in the morning. We had FROST on the tent! We also learned from a ranger that instead of paying for camping, we could just drive on forest service roads and camp for free without permits! Our second night we did that, managing to find a spot RIGHT ON THE RIM OF THE CANYON! Yeah, for free. With a nice fire pit, and amazing views. What a discovery.

In addition to the cool camping spots, we were obviously there for some hiking. Originally, we had planned on making an overnight trek down to the Colorado via a remote route, but discovered all the overnight permits were spoken for. We re-planned the trip, and instead did a nice long out and back hike via the North Kaibab Trail. We also hit the Angel Point trail, as well as another cool trail along the rim at sunset near Imperial Point (highest vertical point in the Canyon). When people say that the views are awe-inspiring, they aren’t lying. I loved every minute of the outdoor adventure in the Canyon, and tried to take pictures that would do it justice. Some were ok, but really, it is best experienced in person.

The second major stop on our mini-tour was Bryce Canyon. Ironically, I hadn’t originally planned on visiting that park, as each park carries with is entrance fees, etc., so I had planned to just visit two parks. However, in the end, Troy picked up an annual parks pass, giving us access to all parks, so we figured what the heck! Plus, armed with our newfound knowledge around ‘free camping’, we got a line on some nearby forest camping we could use. I must say, I’m REALLY glad that we did make the trip here, as Bryce Canyon is an amazing sight, particularly the amphitheatre section. The colours and formations of the sandstone and hoodoos here is nothing short of otherworldly.

My one takeaway from Bryce was that the scenery was probably more spectacular than the Grand Canyon, but from the perspective of hiking trails, Grand Canyon took the cake. That’s not to say that we didn’t hike though. We did in fact spend most of the day hiking all around the canyons, with every twist and turn leading to more gorgeous colours and shapes. It was definite eye candy all the way. After a full day hiking there, we drove off to a nearby national park where we found another amazing campsite with some cool hiking trails around it. We hiked high up a hill yet again over supper to enjoy another amazing sunset. We lit up out third fire in 3 days, enjoyed a couple beers, and turned in for the night.

Thursday took us to the final stop in the tour: Zion National Park. Zion was pretty much my real reason for making this trip. I had seen it on various tv shows, and others had commented on how amazing this park was, so I HAD to visit. I was NOT disappointed. We arrived quite early in the morning, allowing us to nab a camping spot early, and head out on shuttle buses to explore the park. Zion is unique in that visitors can’t drive in, they have to actually take shuttle buses operated by the park to the trails and views. This protects the region, and manages traffic flow. It worked as advertised and in no time we found ourselves at the Angel’s Landing trailhead. I can’t say enough about this hike. It takes you up, up, and up, finally following a knife edge ridge trail that features chains to aid hikers. The views from the top? Well, you can see some images above. I LOVED it. Troy had turned back earlier on account of a bit of vertigo, so I was on my own up there, and for the rest of the day.

After Angel’s Landing, I basically boogied my way to almost every single front-country trail in Zion National Park. This park is pristine and gorgeous. After seeing all the front trails, I realized that I will HAVE to come back and spend more time doing some of the overnight hikes that are available here. In addition to Angel’s Landing, there was another trail that follows the West Rim trail of the park to a place called Sentinel Point. Sadly, it is closed on weekdays due to maintenance. However, I learned that it would be open on Friday! Lucky me, since I’d be there in the morning :-). This was dumb luck, as we’d intended to spend Monday and Tuesday here, when the trail would have been closed. And I must say, of the entire week’s trails, this was probably my favourite. The view from the top pretty much defines for me the quintessential end of a hike. I was the first on the trail in the morning, and the first to summit at this, the highest point in the park. Sadly (or happily), my camera batteries were dead before I even started hiking, so I have no actual pictures. This just means that I’ll have to go back with Deanna to take her to the top to see the sights herself.

All in all, this trip hit all the high points for me in a vacation. I got to spend time with friends. I relaxed in the sun and played my heart out, board games, pool, disc golf, hiking, running, and biking. I saw amazing new sights forged by mother nature, and by mans’ own hands. I left feeling relaxed and ready for anything. Las Vegas may be known as Sin City, but I think from here on out, I will only see it as a jumping point for amazing adventures in the Southwest. There is still so much more for me to experience, and the flight prices are awesome! That’s it for my R&R, so stay tuned for my post on my next race, which was the County Marathon….

Success on all Fronts on the East Coast

Double Fisting Happiness

As I trotted around the turnaround point of the run loop to head out on my 2nd loop of the 10.5km run course, I made the final decision. I would NOT upgrade myself to the full iron-distance event by doing an additional 2 loops after this one. It had been a scorcher of a day on the course so far, and completing the Epic-distance race, as originally planned, would be plenty enough racing for me on this fine Canada Day in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. After all, I would still have raced 205km by the time I crossed the finish line! Welcome to the inaugural Epic Dartmouth Triathlon in Dartmouth. Deanna and I had driven from Ottawa to spend time with family, take in the sights, and for me to take part in yet another excellent endurance event, all in a whirlwind 6 days. Read on for the full story, check out pictures of the race and of the touring (including paddling near Peggy’s Cove as well as watch the video review I pulled together for Get Out There Magazine.

Pictures from Race

The decision to make the long driving trip out east again this year came about quite early in the year. I’d caught wind of a new race that was being created in Dartmouth, and the race director was looking for racers to sign up for his inaugural event. The timing seemed to work, and I thought it might be a good chance to visit with my dad again, and this time, make a trip to Halifax, since that was one spot we’d missed last year (along with Peggy’s Cove). Also, another friend of mine, Mike Caldwell, was also eager to commit. What’s more, we hatched a plan to actually hop on the motorbikes and make it a big road trip as a little group.

Well, fast forward to late June, and plans changed slightly. Due to problems with dates and schedules, we were no longer all traveling together. Furthermore, we’d also decided (quite wisely) NOT to travel by motorbikes. A few short roadtrips showed us quickly how much longer traveling by bike takes, and we just didn’t have the luxury of time if we were going to visit family and friends. Also, as luck would have it, Deanna’s parent also managed to make a trip out east to coincide with us, which meant our parents would meet for the first time! Pretty good idea seeing as the wedding is just over a year away 🙂 At any rate, this post is mainly about the race, so let’s move on to that, shall we?

I was once again slated to cover the event for Get Out There, so as per normal, I had 3 cameras in tow with me, and was bound and determined to attend most aspects of the weekend. We did miss the welcome dinner and race briefing on Friday night, but the race wasn’t till Sunday, and we were in Pictou with family. However, we showed up early on Saturday to the race check-in and transition area. This gave me lots of time to scope out the layout, as well as chat at some length with Tim, the Race Director. He has put in a herculean effort to make this a true destination race that will grow over time, and after having attended this first edition, I’m sure he’s well on his way.

To give you all a very quick overview of the race course, there were, as always in triathlons, three legs. The opening swim, the bike, and the run portion. This event was unique in that it had three options. Namely, the ‘Aqua Dartmouth’ the ‘Epic Dartmouth’ and the ‘Iron Dartmouth’. All three options involved swimming 3.8k and cycling 180km. In the Aqua, it stopped there. in the ‘Epic’ you ran a 21.1k course. Finally, in the ‘Iron’, you run a full 42.2k course to finish off. I had chosen the Epic with the expectation that even after finishing, I should be fine to do some touring by foot around Halifax. Another unique aspect of the race was that you could start at one distance, and change on the fly. For example, some participants registered in the ‘Iron’ distance, but due to heat and/or not really feeling it, they ‘downgraded’ to the ‘Epic’ distance. That was a nice option. The intention of this was to ensure that as many people as possible finished the race. Now on to the actual race synopsis.

The Swim Stats

The 3.8km swim all took place in Lake Banook, right in the heart of Dartmouth. This facility has actually been home to at least 4 world championship paddling events in the last decade, and is very well set up for this sort of thing. There are no less than 3 paddling clubs within spitting distance of each other on the water there. There are also permanent buoy lines stretching along the lake, and lots of great spectator options to watch the fun. Owing to these facts, the water was very calm, and there were even lines you could sight off in the water which meant you didn’t have to keep looking ahead to make sure you were headed straight.

The race itself started at 7am, which actually seemed to be a pretty reasonable start time. Water temperatures were around 21-22 degrees C, and everyone (except Mike) wore a wetsuit. On account of only having gone swimming 3 times this year, I seeded myself towards the middle, and just planned to get ‘er done. In the water I didn’t feel very fast, and was sure I was losing tons of time to others. Fast forward to the exit, and my watch read 1:09! That was my fastest swim split yet. I was 8th out of the water, and had even beaten Mike, a stronger swimmer than me. I was flummoxed!

Happy to take it though. I jogged over to the wetsuit stripping area and let the volunteers disrobe me of my neoprene cocoon. From there, it was a 100m or so jog to the transition area, and the giant circus-like tent where I could change into my super-hero biking costume (well, not quite, but I feel fast when I wear it…). Since I’d had a quick swim, I languished a fair bit in the first transition, and I think I had the slowest transition of anyone, but I had to fiddle with camera set-ups, and took an extended lavatory break as well. I knew it would be a while before I could take a rest, so I took advantage!

The Bike Stats

180km. Anyway you slice it, that takes a while to pedal. Even longer depending on the weather conditions and pavement conditions. This bike course had a bit of everything in the mix. While the pavement was for the most part pretty new and smooth sailing, there were sections that went against that trend. Unfortunately, they also seemed to be combined with the biggest climbs, and the gnarliest winds. The basic layout was an out and back 90k leg, so in theory, if it was headwinds in one direction, you’d have a tailwind in the other direction.

After the swim and my lethargic transition, I felt pretty fired up to get on the bike and put in the mileage on the asphalt. I settled into a pretty decent speed of just over 30km/hr and dropped into my best aero position. My plan was to try and maintain an average speed of 30 the entire way, which would give me a decent bike split of 6hrs. In theory, it would also leave me with enough gas in the tank to run the entire run course rather than have to walk. My previous iron-distance experience was only in Ottawa, and the course was repeated loops. On that course, you did 12 loops, giving you a chance to know exactly how you were doing on average. The challenge here was that there was no repetition, and you didn’t know what awaited you.

As it turns out, what awaited us were soaring temperatures, and increasingly challenging headwinds. I still felt good at the 90k turnaround point, where our aid bags awaited us. I loaded my ‘picnic basket’ with food and took back off at my decent clip. Surprisingly, I found myself passing quite a few riders on all the uphills on the way back, in spite of the mounting winds. Although I was feeling a little less energy, I kept motivating myself to push hard to get my 6hr goal. I’m told I looked strong the whole way and maintained a good form. Nice to hear, but I can guarantee you that the final 15k seemed pretty miserable, and I really wanted to get off the bike. However, when the final meters closed, my time was just over 6 hours, so I was definitely pleased with that time over what i consider a challenging bike course.

Once again, it was back into the transition zone to change into another outfit to tackle the run. By now, my legs had turned very red from some poor sunscreen application by a volunteer my first time through the tent. This time, I made sure they put a good amount all over my legs, and I did my own arms while they tended my neck. It was still incredibly hot, and the sun was beating down on us, and knowing I had almost another 2hrs out there, I wanted to be safer. I also had to yet again mount my camera again, and this time on my chest, before trotting out.


As I jogged out of transition to get on the course again, my spirits were uplifted by the fact that Dad and Nicole were there cheering me on, as well as Deanna happily snapping away with the camera. I took the time to pause and give her a quick kiss before running off merrily into the hot zone. I knew I had 21.1k to run, but in the grand scheme, that really didn’t seem like too much more work before I could rest.

For the run, we had a closed loop of 10.5km, which meant I’d have one loop to warm up and get to know the terrain, and my 2nd loop to basically get ‘er done. This run was a combination of surface types. We followed a paved pathway for a good chunk, then ducked into a provincial park where we followed shaded trails for several kilometers, before emerging out onto plain sidewalk paralleling busy roads. The path and sidewalk were mostly exposed and baking, but the woods provided a much-needed respite from the sun at least. The heat was still there, but not quite as intense. As hoped, I had gas in the tank, and managed to keep a run pace the entire way. It flagged towards the end, allowing a fellow racer to pass me in the dying 2 kilometers, but at least I didn’t walk at all. Something to be proud of. I’m quite sure that had I opted for the full iron distance, I may have walked at some point in the final 2 loops.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the run course (and bike course for that matter). It was thoughtfully laid out, with aid stations at very regular intervals, all offering water, Gatorade, some with food, and most also with sponges, which were quite useful to beat the heat back. There were lots of volunteers present on all stages of the course as well, smiling and friendly, and quite willing to help in any way they could.

As I crossed the finish line, I instinctively raised my arms triumphantly, as so many do at the conclusion of an event like this. Not because I won anything, or broke any records, but simply with the acknowledgement that i once again slayed a beast of a race and put in a great effort that I was happy with. The race director was nearby, and congratulated me, and we had a chance to speak shortly as well. The word was that a lot of people were out there suffering, and this was definitely hotter than anticipated or expected, but the event was still a success by all counts.

After finishing, there was some great food to gnaw on, including bagels, fruits and HOT PIZZA with COLD BEER! Yup, healthy victory food for sure. It took me a little while to actually feel up to eating and drinking, instead opting for a quick free post-race massage as well as a refreshing dip in the lake. However, when I finally did eat and drink, it was marvelous. Of course, the real meal was the next day, and featured fresh Atlantic Lobster, and lots of other great food options. This was the official awards banquet, and by having it the next day, all participants were able to rest and recover a bit and therefore show up in high spirits, and willing to relive the day, no matter how tired they had been at the finish the day before.

All in all, I give this race a huge thumbs up. Granted, it was a long trip to make for a race, but many people like to seek out a ‘destination race’ to train for, and I think this race would definitely fit the bill for many a triathlete. Check it out online at Epic Dartmouth if you’d like to learn all about it or register for the next year’s event! I’m not sure I’ll make it due to other commitments, but I’d certainly not hesitate to sign up again in the future. From here, I had a couple weeks off before the inaugural Ottawa GranFondo, so stay tuned for that one folks!

Video Review