Tag Archives: Racing

Racing Season Upon Us..

Well, it’s been a little bit since I popped a post online, so here we go. I’ve been pretty wrapped up with final preparations for the upcoming race season, which is actually well and truly upon us at this point. In the past couple weeks, I had my first adventure race of the summer, as well as my first ‘marquis’ event, which was the National Capital Marathon. I’ll leave that one for a post of its own, and stick to talking about my adventure race in this post. If you’d like to check out some pictures from this event, I’ve posted them over on flickr, as per usual. These were all pictures taken on the course by volunteers at various points, not me, so I’m not even in all of them, but they give you a bit of an idea of the race. The race took place on the May long weekend, specifically on the Saturday. This was slated to be a 5-8 hour race course, and unfortunately for me, we took the entire 8 hourse to complete it, due to some unfortunate errors, which I’ll get into soon. The entire weekend, as you may recall, was sort of miserable. There were frost warnings issued, and the temperatures stayed low, and the rain poured forth. The location of this race was in Quebec, in the Val de Monts region. Not far from Ottawa by any means, a mere 40 minute drive. The actual start and finish took place at Lafleche Aerial Parc. This is a real fun place which has all sorts of zip lines, aerial obstacle courses, as well as caves that can be explored. If you’re looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon, this would be it!

I was racing with Steeve Lavoie, a fellow I’d met at a few other races where he was racing in the solo category. I’ve been trying to hook up with more racers so that I have a group of people I can count on to do longer races with me. This was our first time racing together, and in preparation we’ve been doing quite a bit of paddle training, so we knew we had a pretty good dynamic heading into the race. However, anything can happen in a race, and this was a chance for us to see how we dealt with things as a team. To save anyone the suspense, we got along great! There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll do a couple more races this summer, hopefully longer ones, and with other people as well (3 and 4 person teams). He dealt with adversity well, and had a great attitude and enjoyment during the entire race. The same can not be said for everyone out there! So that was a big relief. Anyway, on to the race coverage.

We arrived nice and early around 6:45am to the race site, since we had to go through registration, gear check, and a certification course for the aerial parc. We breezed through that, got our stuff together, and I went to the race briefing, where we recieved our maps and instructions. This was relatively uneventful, the only point I’ll make here is that I chose to take the instructions in french, not english, in consideration of Steeve, who is mainly a francophone. After that, we lined up in the rain on our bikes to get set for the start. The first leg of the race was a pretty simple bike leg, which was half on the road, and half on cross-country ski trails at Nakkertok. There was one checkpoint on the way to the canoe put-in, and it was at the intersection of two ski trails. We over-shot a little, and I had to make a quick course correction, but we still found it pretty quickly, and were on our way to the boat transition. We arrived at the transition zone in a great 4th place, and a time of 35 minutes. Awesome! We were pumped.

The next leg was a seemingly easy paddle section of about 12km in a lake. Flat water only, with 3 different checkpoints. The first was an overpass on a narrow, water-swollen creek, the second on a little island, and the third was a paddle-by quiz question where we had to identify the color of paint on a sign. First CP, not a big problem. We opted to avoid the creek, and Steeve went on foot to punch our passport, while I relieved myself and had a snack. He returned soaking wet, as he ended up swimming across the ‘creek’ after getting the control. Ha ha. Sign of things to come I guess. The next CP was supposed to be a relatively easy CP, located in the woods at the top of a hilly island. I chose to get that one, hopping out, and running blindly up the hill to get the CP. I found it pretty quickly, but after turning around and attempting to sprint back to the boat, I got turned around in the woods and missed the spot. Hmmm. I first went along the shore in one direction, then the other, with no success. After doing probably 2 complete circumnavigations of this small island, I finally found the canoe! Not until wasting almost 40 minutes though!! D’oh! Also, by then, Steeve thought I was injured and had headed up the hill looking for me. Double d’oh! We finally hooked back up, with me supremely mad at my flub. I can’t believe to this day how I screwed that up. There are more details, but I can’t bring myself to type it all up. If you want the details, just ask me some day. We got back in the boat, and paddled like two men possessed, trying to make up time. We probably passed 5-6 teams in this next leg. We found the next control with no problems, and made it back to the transition to find we’d dropped down to 11th place! This leg had taken us 2 hours and 7 minutes, and cost us 7 places. Oh well, no time to dwell on that, we had time to grab a quick snack, then hop back on our bikes to press on.

The next section was the crux of the race. A very tricky bike leg that had us all over the ski trails at Nakkertok. If you’ve ever been there, you might understand how easy it is to get turned around. And yes, we managed to do just that. We started by overshooting the trail entrance we wanted to take on the road, and instead started on a ski trail further along. Not a big deal with thought, but by the time we doubled-back to the place we wanted to start at, we’d probably lost another 30 minutes. These minutes add up real quick in a short race, so we knew we were essentially cooked from here on out. That made the race a little easier for us. We just decided to have a great ride on the trails, and have fun with it. This was definitely the place for a fun bike ride. The trails were some of the gnarliest we’d ever ridden, with foot-deep mud in parts, perilous descents down rock-strewn and flooded trails. We smiled the whole way. The Gods even treated us to free energy gels. At one point, we came across two muddy energy gels on the ground. I rinsed them off, and we each had one. One man’s loss, another’s gain I guess :-). Towards the end, we missed another critical branch, and lost probably a final 20 minutes as a result. The trouble is that time was running short, since the course was supposed to be shut down at the 8 hour mark.

We finally rolled into the second transition stage after 3 hours and 40 minutes, to find we’d dropped another two spots to 13 :-(. Not only that, but we were told to skip CP8 and go straight to CP9, skipping the only true nav / trekking section. That’s too bad, as I’m confident we would’ve nailed that one! The final section was hiking up a nice hill to get a couple controls, then heading to the aerial park for the zip lines and obstacles. Luckily, the clock stopped once you got there. Unfortunately, that also meant standing in the pouring rain, soaked, and freezing while we waited for our turn to do the zip lines along with all the ‘clients’ at Lafleche. We hit a nice roadblock there, and we were getting pretty cold. After completing the zip lines and obstacles, the clock was turned on again, while we entered the caving section to retrieve another couple checkpoints. This is where my size played nicely. I squeezed myself into all the little crevasses quikly, and managed to find the three CPs in no time. We emerged the caverns to pick up the two final CPs, which were in the hills surrounding the park. Once those were done, it was a quick jog to the finish. Our final time was 7 hours and 35 minutes, putting us in 13th place (out of 17 in our category). I felt like I could race easily for another 8 hours, which is good to know, but I was disappointed at the mistakes that had cost us so dearly. Of course, this is the chance you risk in every race. Some work out, some don’t, but I take something away from every race, and it only makes me stronger for the next challenge.

Thierry at Raid Pulse put on yet another great little race, and the event was wrapped up by a nice hot chicked meal from Au Coq, along with a prize ceremony where almost everyone walked away with something. I scored some great socks for sharing my story about getting lost on the world’s smallest island, as well as a bag of beef jerky that we passed around with new friends made at the race. All in all a great day in spite of any efforts by Ma Nature to make it worse.

Boy, Does it Add Up….

So, I just did some quick adding up. Would you believe that since January of this year, up to yesterday night (April 23, 2006), I have run over 820 km? Holy crap! Well, I double checked, and that number is accurate. I’ve put this distance on my own two feet in various shoes over the past 13 weeks. All of this of course is preparation for the marathon, which will be my third time running it. This distance doesn’t include any other things I’ve done, like skiing, snowshoeing, swimming and biking either! I’d like to say I’m a machine, but it really doesn’t feel that way. I’m just a regular guy, who’s been able to be pretty disciplined about getting out there and doing what needs to be done. I’ve got a bit of drive, since I’d like to start coming out with some possible podium finishes in various races that I’ll be doing this summer.

Speaking of which, my schedule is already filling up fast it seems. As of right now, I’m planning to do the marathon, 3 triathlons (including a ½ Ironman), 5 adventure races (hopefully including a ridiculous 1-week, unsupported ‘expedition’ race), 2 trail running races, and playing ultimate Frisbee. Jody isn’t so pleased to hear about new races I’d like to do, since it ultimately means no camping or outings on those weekends. Of course, camping is usually a challenge in itself, what with the Great White Beast, Jonah.

Like any person training hard though, my body does occasionally feel the results. The last couple weeks, I’ve cut back on my ‘extra’ swimming and biking training, since I’m at peak running mileage. I started experiencing various knee and foot pains, but nothing too terrible. Just to be sure, I decided to head out to a sports doctor at PSI Rehab at Scotiabank Place, as well as get a full footwear and orthotics assessment from my friend Ryan at Solefit Orthotics. These appointments are slated for this week and next, so that I can buy new shoes if needed and break them in before the marathon. Anyway, I’m sure this post has limited appeal to most, so I’ll leave it at that. For the record books, yesterday’s weigh-in had me at 129 lbs., 11.3% body fat and 63.1% water composition. Yikes. I better make sure I bulk up before that expedition race!

The Longest Week

As the title of this post indicates, last week marked the longest week in my marathon training program mileage. From Tuesday to Sunday, I ran a total of 80 km, culminating in a 32km run on Sunday! I repeat this same week twice more in the next 5 weeks, and then it will be the final taper to the marathon. I’m pretty sure I could finish the marathon with no problem tomorrow if I had to, but I’ll still need these next 7 weeks to tune up my engine. Thus far, I’ve had pretty good luck with my training program, avoiding both injury and illness, the bane of any endurance athlete’s existence. That changed for a me a bit in the past week, with me coming down with a nasty little bug. At first, I was worried that perhaps it was my old friend strept throat coming back to haunt me, but as I write this, I think it’s just a nasty cold brought on my who knows what. All I know is that it has caused me to take 2 days off work to basically sleep. Normally, on a sick day, I try to catch up a bit on chores, but this time around, it was sleep central for me, not getting up till after 1 pm both days. It also caused me to yet again seek out medical advice. I still have not gotten a family doctor, and at this point, figure I won’t be getting one anytime soon. Instead, I just keep going to Appletree Medical Clinics. This time, I even signed up to be part of their ‘group’. Essentially, it makes them my family doctor.

I found a new clinic this weekend, close to Carling and Merivale, and think it might do the trick. It’s close to home, and is pretty new and modern. I was going to the one downtown, but after waiting over an hour, only to find out there wasn’t actually a Doctor there on Saturday (they weren’t sure why), I’ve given up on them. Anyway, at my behest and a bit of questioning, I got the Doc to take a throat swab to rule out strept, and got some blood work done on Monday to check on some other conditions I’ve got (namely these pesky dizzy and light-headed spells I’ve been getting some days). He was mainly concerned with my blood sugar levels, but indicated my vitals were all fine (BP 110 / 80, RHR 56). It can’t hurt that I’m in respectable shape again due to training.

There’s another reason that last week felt like the longest week. Jody left on Saturday for BC, to surprise here Dad on his Birthday (Happy Birthday John!), leaving me alone with Jonah and no company, so the house has been just a bit emptier than usual. Of course, that means working on the bar more, and catching up on music for a bit. It also meant heading over to Al and Matt’s for Meatfest ’06. Basically, we had a raclette night, with way too much food on Saturday. Add into the mix several bottles of wine, and you’ve got a fun little soiree. Of course, we’d also said we’d join some of Al’s friends in the market later on for duelling pianos at Fat Tuesday’s, but instead ended up at the Aulde Dubliner for a band from Montreal. This of course meant more imbibing, which was really unnecessary. I blame it on Matt. I’m really not used to drinking much these days, and this just put me over the top. I was pleasantly tipsy by the time I stumbled home at about 3am. On the plus side, we discovered a great band. If you ever get a chance, you’ve gotta check out the Mad Caps from Montreal. And that’s not just the beer talking. Everyone agreed they were awesome. However, it made for a very difficult Sunday 32km run, hence the tired-looking man in this picture to the left. Well, that’s it for now. Tune in for a bar update soon.

A Mere 6.5km… of Crap!

Alright, I’d like to file a formal complaint with Mother Nature. What’s up with this frickin’ freezing rain when I’m trying to run? All week, Jody has been lamenting that I’d be spoiled at the end of the week by a nice warm run before diving back into cold weather. All I can say is … I’ve been had! Yes, the temperature has gone up, and is at this exact moment sitting at a mere -2 degrees. However, why don’t we just throw in a little rain into the air. What’s that? Oh yeah, it’ll obviously freeze in this temperature, a seldom-enjoyed meteorological occurrence known as freezing rain. The result has got to be one of the most miserable runs in my training this year thus far.

Of course, being the tough guy that I am, I do everything in my power to not skip any training activities, so this rain wasn’t going to stop me from completing my lunch-time run. It might as well have though. Progress on my short 6.5km route was hampered at every step by the compounded misery of slush, puddles, and a huge helping of slick, wet, ice on the sidewalks. More than once I nearly fell, catching myself only with Herculean efforts and contortions that I wouldn’t even contemplate in a hot yoga class! My body got quite a work-out, and all the sore muscles from last week are now angry at me!

Of course that nice 20km/h wind didn’t make me smile much either. The rain was actually freezing on my jacket as I ran. I had to laugh at that. Then I had to worry. Flashbacks of last year, and spending a month pretty much laid up with pneumonia danced in my mind. This is the year that I’m really hoping to have a full training season free from illness and injury. So far so good, but more of this crap, and I could be in trouble. Oh well, I guess I can just grimace and bear it, right? I finished off my run, and took a nice warm shower, stretching out my sore spots. Now I’m back at my desk enjoying my lunch. Now just a few more hours to kill before heading off to my Thursday spinning class!

Podium Finish at Raid Pulse!

Breaking news… Jim Doucette and I managed to get a podium finish at the March 4th, 2006 Raid Pulse Winter Adventure race this past weekend. Yay bronze medal! I’ll update this post with a picture and full stats as they are added on to the main Raid Pulse website. We were third overall in the duo male category with a time of 6hrs. 20 mins. on the 5-8 hour, 45-50km course. The funniest (or not so funny) part of this win is that the race was 90% skiing, which was definitely not our strong suit. Just ask Jim what he thinks of cross-country skiing. The course wasn’t super-hard or anything, and I handled the navigation for the whole race. We did quite well on a certain portion of the course where other must have had problems. We were actually 3rd to cross the finish line as well. However, 6 other teams managed to get on to the ‘advanced’ course section, meaning the automatically place higher than ‘standard’ course finishers. I think that as a result, our overall placement was 8th. Either way, we were pretty stoked by the placing. Jim even informed me that this was his highest finish in a sprint race. He’s won before, but generally, that’s on multi-day races, which are his specialty (and where I’d like to become a specialist as well!).

The day itself started out a bit chilly, but turned into a gorgeous sunny winter day, warming up the snow, and causing a few problems for us with mushy snow, and me losing all my grip wax in the course of the race, resulting in a difficult last few kilometers on the skis (basically, I couldn’t ‘kick’, so I ended up trying to skate-ski to get up hills!). I even fell through the ice on one of the lakes on the course while wearing my snowshoes. Luckily, it was more like a marsh, so I was able to easly get myself out and keep going. The other thing we got to learn was that the snow this year HURTS! When you fall through it full force, there is a nice thick layer of ice buried, so for example, your arm goes through, then your forward motion is stopped dead by ice. The result: lots of little bruises all over my body from the various falls on hills.

By the time we got to the bike transition, we were more than happy to get off the ‘death sticks’ and put away the additonal dead weight we had to carry throughout the course (snowshoes, used for about 20 minutes in total!). The bike leg itself ended up being dead easy as well. We plowed through the 20-25k of biking, which was all on cleared roads, to the finish line. No mistakes were made, so we had a good ride. We actually regretted dropping the pressure in our tires. Usually, in winter, you’ll lower tire pressure to get better traction, but in this case, we mainly had to deal with water, so in fact the higher pressure would have given us more speed. Not that it really mattered, we weren’t that close to anyone else. I guess the spinning I’ve been doing has helped out as well. I felt good through the whole ride, and Jim and I traded off pulls at the front, breaking the icy wind. At the end, my feet were thoroughly frozen, I couldn’t feel them, but didn’t really care. No obvious frostbite, so it was time for a quick warm shower at the finish, then a nice little Heineken beer to celebrate.

All in all, it was a great day, and now I’ll get back to training. I don’t think I have any other races till May now. Good thing, since I’ve already polished off 5 races this year! I also ended up 4th overall in the Mad Trapper snowshoe race series, so my year is off to a good start!

Weekend Racing / Training Fun

So.. did everyone get outside and play this weekend? I made sure to get out and freeze my extremities a few times over the course of this weekend. First off was the finale for the Mad Trapper Snowshoe Race series held out at Mike Caldwells ‘Ark’. I had to go to it solo this time around, as Kev was otherwise tied up, and Jim was helping a friend carry out a last-minute move. The pending snow had me a little worried when I went to bed Friday night, but when I was leaving Saturday morning, the roads were still clear. I arrived about 30 minutes early, in time to weasel my way into scoring a set of Atlas DTSL snowshoes for the race. These are the ultra-light racing version of what I use. I’ll compare it to going from running in construction boots to slapping on a pair of running shoes! Not to mention that I didn’t whack my ankles repeatedly. As a result, I was able to boot it for most of the course. As my reward, I wound up finishing in 7th place(hmm..results actually have my in 8th, oh well)! Yay me. Funny thing is, my time was comparable to the other 2 races. I can only assume the course was a little slower than last race. Even better than that is the fact that I wound up in 4th place over the series for males. Yippee. Have a look at the full results.I still ended up pretty pooped, and soaked. I kind of blew up on the second lap (hilly course), since I went a bit too hard on the first lap (flat course). As usual however, it was a great time. I’ll have to return next year.

Having gotten the snowshoeing out of the way, I turned my focus to race training for the Raid Pulse Winter Race that Jim and I are doing this coming weekend. The race is only 5-8 hours, and will consist of Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Mountain Biking. I’m pretty comfortable in the latter 2, but I was still concerned with skiing, after having done the winterlude Duathlon. So, yesterday, I set my sights on going out skiing, and not stopping until I felt I could do it properly. Before heading out, I did some further research on how to properly set up my ‘wax pocket’ on my skis. That’s the area under your feet that helps you propel yourself on waxable skis. The result of my reading lead me to stretch out my kick zone both further forward and backward from what I had been using. One coat of base binder, and three coats of Green kick wax (green was the color of the day for the really cold conditions), and off I went. Well, what a difference that made! In no time at all, after setting off from Bell Arena by Bruce Pit, and I felt like I could ski. All I had to do was wax differently. I even tried out the double-pole, kick technique that I saw on the Olympics. It worked! I tried skiing up small hills (instead of ‘walking’). It worked! I tried skiing without using poles at all. It worked! What a relief. Now at least I think I’ll be able to semi-efficiently take part in the race. Good thing too, given that I’m hoping we can pull off a podium finish. I traded off a long run to do this skiing, but it was the right choice. Now I can ski! I was out in the -20 cold for over two hours, working up a sweat, so I’m pretty sure I got the physical benefits anyway. One missed run won’t kill me!

I also dragged along my backpack full of the mandatory gear that I would need next week, and my GPS receiver as well. As a result, I was able to track the course that I skiied, and you can see it to the right here. The yellow trail is where I skiied. It came up to about 14km. I wasn’t always going flat out, as a result of my little ‘tests’ and exercises, but I’m guessing we can finish the 15km worth of skiing in about 2 hours, provided we can stay on course. The other lesson I learned (again), is that liquids freeze fast in -20 with wind. Even when I blew my Eload back into my water back, the nozzle would freeze. I’ve really gotta come up with a fix before next weekend. Hopefully MEC has the neoprene insulating sleeves for the drink hoses. I’m sold on it at this point. Especially after going through 2 races having problems!

I even managed to get in some quality bar-time this weekend, having finished 1.5 coats of varnish on the bar pieces that I stained last week. Yay me! That’s all for now.