Tag Archives: training

All Roads Lead to Relaxing

Mmmm beer

Good day my friends. I thought I’d take a quick moment and write a blog post where the subject wasn’t purely about racing or training. I say not purely because I just couldn’t help myself from at least a little training on the one weekend that I had more or less free all summer. However, in true ActiveSteve style, I managed to combine my relaxing with the training for a truly spectacular weekend out on the Madawaska River at Jim’s property near Calabogie. Of course, I’m talking about his annual Mad River Float, in which he invites a whole crew of friends out for the flotilla on the river. Everyone brings a floaty thing, and we put in 3-4 km upriver of his cabin and leisurely float back, with the aid of tasty beverages. Afterwards, there is a super-tasty barbecue put on by he and Ali, then a roaring fire to finish things off. As per usual, I took pictures of the whole event, and you can check them out on the folder on flickr. Click on to read the rest of my little story, which won’t be too long, I promise!

The weekend of the float was one of the few this summer / fall that I truly had nothing going on. The following weekend would be the 30 hour Wilderness Traverse, and after that, a whole string of other races. Also, we didn’t have the dog for the weekend, so we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. Jim had let me know well in advance that this would be the weekend of the float, so we’d kept things free that weekend. At one point, Deanna and I had talked about making a cycle touring trip of it, using both bikes, and me using a trailer to haul our stuff out there. However, when the time finally rolled around, we realized that it probably wouldn’t work with all our stuff and the fact that the float would start around 12:30. The ride from home would probably take 3.5 hours or more. However, seeing as I had several big races coming up, I wanted to get in a good bike training session. The plan was to ride both to and from the float. I only made it one way, for reasons that you can probably guess 😉

Biking out there, I had planned a pretty straightforward route that took only back roads and should only be about 100km. I memorized all my turns in advance, and hit the road from home around 8am, leaving me seemingly plenty of time. Well, I didn’t plan on new roads and a bit of a route fail on my part. I ended up doing a huge extra loop in one section, adding at least 15km to my trip. Plus, the undulating terrain and winds also slowed me a bit. In the end, I rolled into the cabin area pretty much right at the deadline! So much for lunch! Oh well, the beer would fill me up, right? Yup, obviously I should have eaten something after a 115km ride, before hitting the beer. But what’s the fun in that?

Shortly after I got there, we loaded up a few cars in order to carpool to the put-in. Deanna and I hopped in a truck with our drinks and floaty things. Once at the boat launch, the entire flotilla crew set about inflating their hardware and prepping for the float. Deanna and I had chosen the Ahh-qua Bar this year, and it was a solid choice. Of course, I modified it before we arrived, by adding grommets to each of the 4 floating chairs, and attaching docking ropes to the middle section. That way, you could float free, or tether yourself to the bar and float with that. Having the attachment points, and wearing flippers made this actually work pretty good. The chairs were pretty comfy, and allowed us to sit in the water and stay cool while the sun beat down on us. Oh yeah, and did I mention there were 12 cup/can holders PLUS a central cooler area? Yup, lots of room for suds!

We had a decent tailwind, so our group, which was probably around 20 or more people, actually made pretty decent time. In the past floats, when there is no wind, it takes FOREVER to actually float the river, due to the lack of current. Not so this year. With a little paddling, it took less than 3 hours total, and just about the right amount of time to work through my stash of beers and catch up with everyone on the float I hadn’t seen in a while. Deanna, for the most part, just paddled around on her chair, while I stayed at the bar and let people join me there. Good times.

Once back at the cabin, more fun awaited as we played at the high-jump diving into the river. It wasn’t super deep, so I managed to bash up my foot a little bit, but nothing too serious. And certainly nothing that I was really feeling. Meanwhile, Jim was busy sparking up the BBQ and cooking up an insane feast of ribs, burgers, hot-dogs, etc.! We were definitely not wanting for food after the meal was done! The fire was also going strong as well, and even though the weather did eventually turn sour by pouring rain on us for a bit, nobody really minded. Luckily, the rain passed, and we were able to head back out around the fire. And that’s when I busted out my Jiffy Pop! Yes, I’m mildly famous at the cabin, and for a while had the nickname ‘Jiffy Pop’ from a past poker night, but I was determined. By using a cooking grill, and wearing heavy-duty gloves to prevent burns, I patiently worked my Jiffy Pop until I got the perfect pop. It seemed to take forever, but it was totally worth it!

Eventually, many people left, and the 10 or so people that stayed moved into the screened porch to have a few more bevvies and play some cards. We played well into the night, until eventually, it occurred to me that I should really go to sleep. Although Deanna and I had brought Big Agnes, we instead opted to just sleep in the screen room. Deanna was on a couch, and I just laid on the floor on a thermarest. By that point, I don’t even thing the thermarest was needed ;-). We had a few solid hours of sleep before morning found us again. I felt pretty crappy upon waking up, but luckily, I had nuun to drink, and Ali actually had bacon, eggs, cheese, and english muffins, and was able to make us some kick-ass Egg McMuffins to eat for breakfast. It was heavenly. Once fully awake, I assessed my state, and determined that biking 3.5 hours wasn’t in the cards for me. After all, I rarely just chill out and do nothing, so I decided a hungover relaxed day would work out just fine!

After hanging out a bit longer, we packed up, and headed home. It was another super-fun Mad River Float, and I’d like to say thanks once again to our amazing hosts, Jim, Ali, Tristan, and Xavier! We’ll definitely try to make it again next year. After all, the bar worked perfectly, and needs to come out at least once a year! So that’s it for my relaxed post. As I finish this post, I’m about 33 hours away from tackling my 2nd ever Iron-distance tri, so as you might guess, the next post will be back to a race report! Till then, squeeze out the most you can out of our remaining summer!!

Technical Two-Wheel Training

Safe Stop

Hello adventure-loving friends. I have a really short and sweet blog post for you all. Between training, racing, and general fun-having with Deanna, it’s a wonder I ever find any time to try new things around here. However, much like trying my hand at snowboarding this winter, I have also decided it was high time to pick up a new summer activity as well. Any guesses? Well, I suppose the picture sort of spoils the surprise, doesn’t it? Yup! Motorcycle riding! The idea has been percolating in my noggin for some years now, but upon learning Deanna was also keen on the idea, we went ahead and pulled the trigger on this new pursuit. And as with all my activities, I don’t just dip my toe in the water, I dive right in. Before the snow had even fully melted, I had a helmet, jacket, gloves, and even secured my first motorcycle! All without even knowing how to ride a motorbike. For some pictures of my new ride, as well as some shots of me in training, head over to my flickr folder. Then, read on for a very brief summary of the process of getting my licence in Quebec, and where I’m at.

Part of the reason we opted to get the licences this year was the challenges of getting a licence in Quebec vs. Ontario. Deanna still officially lives in Ontario, so she’ll be doing her training and licencing in Ottawa. Here is her process:

  • Step 1: Write a test, get beginners. With it, she is free to hop on any bike and ride anywhere. Limited to daytime, no passengers and no alcohol
  • Step 2: Take (optional) weekend. At end of 2 days, get tested on site and you have a full licence. She can ride anywhere, with passengers, day or night, just no alcohol
  • Step 3: Basically, there is no step 3. She’s good to go.

In comparison, here is the long, torturous method in Quebec:

  • Step 1: Enrol in (mandatory) course
  • Step 2: Take 9 hours of theory
  • Step 3: Go take written test at DMV, get learners, but ONLY valid for closed course training
  • Step 4: Take closed course training, 4 days over 2 weekends on a parking lot, PLUS 2 days of 2-hour on-road instruction (during WORK hours!!). Get certificate if they think you are good enough
  • Step 5: Take closed course test back at DMV, get full learners, but with limits
  • Step 6: For next 11 months, can only ride alone on bike, and ONLY if there is ANOTHER rider on THEIR OWN motorbike with you, who has AT LEAST 2 year’s of experience as a fully licenced rider
  • Step 7: Next year, take a road test, and FINALLY get a licence that lets me ride on the roads alone

So, just how asinine is that? On the one hand, the Ontario system seems a bit lax, on the other hand, the Quebec system seems overly harsh. Honestly, I’m okay with everything except the final clause that for a full year, I need to find other people to ride with me. Not easy when you live in an area where you don’t know any motorcycle riders :-(. On the plus side, it will ensure that as of next year, Deanna and I will be able to head off on bike touring trips, either on motorized bikes or on road bikes. We likes that. We’ve even done digging into how we’d bring bikes along on our motorbikes. And you know what? The products exist to do so! Sweet, eh? Don’t be surprised if you see us out with these rigs. Ha ha.

At any rate, we’ve now both got our learners. I’ve completed my first weekend of training, and next weekend, we are both finishing our courses. After that, I’ll do my 2 practice rides during the following week, and hopefully get tested. If all goes well, I’ll have my new ride in the garage by mid June! I’m very much looking forward to actually trying it out. I must admit, I’m a tad nervous about it now. After all, I’ve tried a few motorbikes at my course now, and can tell you that I don’t like them all. I just really hope the one I bought is as sweet as I remember. After all, it is a 2009, ridden only a year, and with under 5,000km on it. Sharp looking rig, and felt pretty sweet. Happy birthday to me, right?

Well, that’s it that’s all for this post. Short and sweet. See you out on the roads!

A Little Sinful Spring Fun

Greetings friends. So have you figured out what this post will be about yet? Well, here’s a hint; normally what you do there stays there. Yep, that’s right, I just got back from spending nearly a full week in Las Vegas. The occasion for such frivolity? Well, I was actually on the company nickel for this trip. I was attending the 2011 National Association of Broadcasters conference. Sound dry to you? Well, apart from the yearly CES show, this is one of the biggest conferences in the states. Estimates pegged attendance at over 90,000 people. How insane is that? In a word: insane. I was the only attendee from my work, and unfortunately, I didn’t know a single person at the conference. I know a fair number of people in the telecom industry, but not the broadcasting space. As such, this wasn’t going to be the typical Vegas trip. In spite of that, i managed to do some fun things, and will tell you about those things. Also, I took a few pictures while there, which I’ve split into two sets: Natural Fun, and Hotel and Conference pics. After you’ve checked them out, read on for the rest of the post.

When you hear Las Vegas, no doubt your mind travels to unspeakable acts, flagrant abuse of alcohol and sound judgment, great shows, and general ostentatiousness. However, the Vegas experience is much different when you are all on your own and know no one. There really isn’t much excitement in wandering the strip alone, bumping into all those people who ARE enjoying the ‘authentic’ experience. For my part, I was arriving in town at midnight on a Friday night, so the crazy was in full swing on the strip. I checked into the Mirage, and then decided to head out for a little stroll. I quickly realized this really wasn’t my scene at all. I had barely arrived, and was already trying to figure out how to get out. It then dawned on me that a car rental was in order for Saturday. Although the conference was starting on Saturday, there were really no sessions that were relevant to my work, so I decided to get a Saturday for me. Plus, I had to squeeze in a 28km run, and doing so in town would NOT be fun.

Luckily, by having a look at the maps and doing a bit of quick research, I found the perfect place to get away. Red Rock Canyon, a mere 20-25 minutes away from the strip to the west. This park is far away from the frenetic pace of the strip. No neon out there, just the awe-inspiring lightshow of the sun on the canyon and mountain walls. There is a 15 mile scenic loop that goes around the park, with lots of spur routes for hiking. So the plan was set. I’d get up as soon as I could on Saturday, rent a car, and head out that way. I got a mid-size car for the price of an economy car, and headed out for my day of natural splendor. It was the right call for me. I hit a grocery store on the way out of town for a bite to eat, as well as grab supplies for the rest of the week.

Once at the park entrance, I parked my car on the side of the road and ran to the actual entrance to pay my $3 entry fee for a walk-in. I figured why pay for the car entrance when I had no intention of driving anywhere in there. So what about the run you ask? Well, apparently in Ottawa, it was hovering around the 15 degree mark. In the Red Rock Canyon park? Well, it was more like 5 degrees! Luckily, it started out quite sunny, and I was running such that I gained about 1000 feet of elevation to get to the high passes. So I kept warm enough in spite of not wearing too many layers. The other thing I really enjoyed, apart from the views, were some of the people I met on my way. A lot of cyclists go out that way to train, and some of them stopped to chat with me as well. With one couple, i was actually running faster than they were on the uphills, but they’d obviously pass me on the downhills. The cat and mouse game was kinda funny. Further on, i was met by a few cyclists that were actually down from BC who had done Ironman Canada. Wanna see a full map of the ride with some pictures? Well then, check out my custom Google map!

The weather never really got any warmer in my long run. Quite the opposite in fact, as I had to laugh out loud when the snow hit! Yup, that’s right, what started as a few flakes of the white stuff actually turned into full-on proper snow flurries. This did not dampen my mood at all though, since I was absolutely loving being out there. When the run was done, I headed back in and made my way to the visitor center to see the displays on the park. It was quite well done. Back to the car I went, and on to my next outdoor stop. Well, a shopping stop. I hit the REI (MEC equivalent in the States) where I’m a member. They were having a 20% off a single purchase promotion, and I decided I’d finally replace my old hiking boots that have seen my through many adventures. I actually ended up getting another pair of Garmont’s, but this time, a full Gore-Tex model. In chatting with one of the employees, I was quickly convinced to make the 1hr drive to Hoover Dam before wrapping up my adventure day.

I showed up at the Dam as the sun was starting to dip behind the mountains. But still plenty of light to see this modern wonder of the world. In 2010, they actually opened up a big ‘bypass’ bridge which runs parallel to the Dam itself. With that, tourists now have the opportunity to walk out onto the bridge and look straight down into the dam itself. I was too late to have an actual tour of the Dam facilities, but with the bypass bridge, I still had a great sense of the scale of this concrete and steel depression-era masterpiece. I also didn’t bother driving across the Dam. Once that was done, I made one last stop to cast my eyes towards Lake Mead for a bit while I enjoyed a muffin. All in all, a perfect day in my mind. Well, not quite perfect. it WOULD have been perfect if I’d been able to share it with Deanna, but still pretty darned good.

The rest of my week was more typical i suppose. I filled my days with the conference, getting up each day before 7am. Learned a few things, saw a lot of really cool toys of the trade for television and audio production, and was generally mind-boggled at the scale of this event. It would literally take 15 minutes just to walk from one session to another in the sprawling Las Vegas Convention center. That doesn’t even talk about the exhibit floors themselves, of which there were 4 giant halls!

My evenings were spend usually trying to squeeze in a dip in the pool or hot-tub at the Mirage, or doing some running in the cardio center. Then it was always a matter of finding some food. I didn’t do any really fancy dining, but did enjoy my little forays out into the strip (for short periods). As a non-gambler, there really wasn’t much else to amuse me. The smoky atmosphere was annoying, and the air of semi-desperation and optimism clung to the air as well, and didn’t leave me feeling very inspired. I’d contemplated trying to catch a show, but that didn’t work out either. Most were sold out, or otherwise, not things I wanted to pay for. Instead, I enjoyed the free shows on the strip, and on one night, treated myself to live music at the BB King blues bar, where the Memphis All-stars were playing. That was a nice break.

My one night of ‘authentic Vegas’ happened sort of unexpectedly. I got a text on Tuesday from Andy telling me that he and Irene-Ann were in town for the rest of the week, as they were heading to the Arcade Fire show at the Hard Rock on Thursday. Good timing, as I happened to have 3 VIP passes to Lavo, a night club at the Palazzo, which was hosting an official NAB party that night. Seeing as night club access is usually $30 or more, we decided we’d see the ‘night club’ scene there. It was my first-ever Vegas night club, as I’m more of a ‘dive bar’ kinda person. Ha ha ha. Oh, and did I mention that it was open bar from 10-11 for us? This resulted in some poor judgement and some accelerated alcohol consumption. We stocked up on extra-strong beverages, and I made friends with a bouncer, as well as with a VIP table host who had just dropped $2000 for a couple tables for his clients. It was kinda cool chatting to some of the people that make Vegas go round. Sadly, the latter parts of the evening are somewhat shrouded in mystery for me. I know there was a small bar somewhere in Treasure Island that we ended up at, as well as some 3am instant messages I sent to Deanna, and of course waking up fully clothed! Oh yeah, and severely regretting the choice to see how many free drinks I could drink in an hour.

That left me with Wednesday and Wednesday night. I still made it to the conference at a decent time of 9am, but I was not feeling well at all. The whole day was miserable, but I had no one else to blame than myself, so I just sucked it up. That night, I took a quick 1 hour nap at suppertime, then wandered out to the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace to do a bit of light shopping for my sweetie. Upon return, a quick little video Skype with Deanna before she headed off to bed. I was so wiped that I opted to just pack my things and order room service. Ironically, it was one of my nicest meals of the week, which I got to enjoy on my own room while watching Batman Begins on the TV. Yeah, I know, not very sociable, but if you were in my shoes, I’m willing to bet most of you wouldn’t even have been able to get out of bed that day.

Well, in a nutshell, that pretty much sums up my trip to Vegas. I’m proud to say that I still got in all my training runs (although I missed my biking), and came out no worse for wear or any further behind on mortgage payments or anything. Ironically, the only gambling I actually did was put in the single dollar bill that Deanna had given me into a slot machine. Sadly for her, it wasn’t a winner. As I finish this post, I’m high in the sky flying back to Ottawa, with a lightening storm flashing off in the distance to my right. The week was pretty good, but after 6 nights, I’m very much looking forward to getting home and crawling back in to my own bed with a nice warm body next to me! So with that, I’ll sign off.

Riding for Charity…

Good day friends and followers of ActiveSteve! As has been my theme as of late, this post is coming to you all just a little bit later than I would have wanted it to. In fact, I’m going to detail for you all an event I took part in a full 3 weeks ago! Yikes! Where does the time go, right? Well, in this case, my time went into a Toronto trip, and preparations for a Timmins trip, as well as my continued string of focusing more on having fun rather than telling the world all about my exploits :-). So, what event am I referring to? It was called Velogaroue, and was a 2-day staged Mountain bike ride through Gatineau Park. Note I said ride, not race! Yes, that’s right, it was a social thing through and through, and I wanted to make the most of it with the fall colours. It was the inaugural year for the event, and one of the big goals was to raise funds for a charity, whichever charity you wanted. I chose to support the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center, as I didn’t take part in the annual adventure race earlier this year that normally benefits them. For the full story of the weekend, please read on. Also, you can browse through some pictures I took of the weekend, as well as click on over and check out a custom map that I made of the whole ride!

Before I get any further into this blog post I’d like to start off by saying a huge thank-you to all those who supported my ride. I decided that I’d make it a short campaign by only soliciting people the week leading up to the ride, but I still had great response, and ended up raising almost $735 for my charity. The kindness of my friends never ceases to put a smile on my face. Your funds will certainly go a long way to help those that need it!

I’d signed up for this ride a long time ago, after my friend Tanya, the organizer, first mentioned it to me. Originally, I think she had hoped for a better turn-out, but for the first year running this event, I think she was happy with the sub-20 number of participants she had, just to get a taste for the logistics required in such a race. I tried convincing Deanna she should join me last minute, but she’d also made plans for that same weekend, so unfortunately, i was riding solo, and would have to suffer 2 weeks away from her :-(. Yeah, I’m that pathetic. Ha ha! But as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and time apart and on our own could only help put things into even clearer perspective for us.

Luckily for me, preparations for a ride such as this are pretty straightforward. Just had to get the bike tuned up, and pack a 30L backpack with the bare necessities for an overnighter in a dorm at the other end. I had decided to bike to the start line as well, so I was only taking what I could fit on my back with me. Sleeping bag, change of clothes, and some light toiletries. Of course, on the bike I also packed snacks, lights, GPSr, Blackberry, camera, etc. My plan was to also take part in a bit of Geocaching while I was out there on the bike. After all, I don’t always get to these spots, and the weather looked like it would be good to do a bit of stomping around. Were it a race, I certainly would have forgone this, but as a ‘tourer’, it would be awesome. Ride morning came, and it was chilly! Summer days definitely seem to be behind us now, and the dream of swimming in the lake at the far end seemed unlikely. I put on a toque and gloves, and hit the road. Managed to be the first rider on site. I was that excited! it took all of 3 minutes to register, then I just bummed around chatting with people and waiting to get underway.

As it turns out, getting underway was largely a matter of just going. This was a more or less ‘free-for-all’ event. We got little maps of the trails we were to take, but were told to just make our way at our own pace. Seeing as I was solo, and was going to geo-cache, it quickly became clear that I’d be on my own most of the day. No big deal, as I love being on my bike on the trails :-). I started out, and shortly thereafter, realized I had taken a wrong trail. This theme continued throughout the first day for me. A number of times I chose the wrong branch of a trail and ended up biking extra distances. All’s well for the training though, right? That’s what I kept telling myself. The caches also seemed to be elusive today as well. Admittedly, trying to scramble through woods and around rocky cliffs in bike shoes is a bad idea on the best of days, but when you have at least some schedule to maintain, it becomes downright impossible! Upon arriving at the first food station (there were 2 en route), I found out that I was basically at the very back of the pack! Oops. However, I had all day, and there was little else to do at the other end, so in that sense the journey truly was the destination that day.

All told, on the first day, I ended up cycling about 80km, and managed to grab 2 caches. At the end of the route for that day, I made another trail selection error, but it ended up being the funnest part of the ride to me. True bike-whacking, and even climbing over a beaver damn and crossing a lake with the bike on my shoulder. I later found out that was definitely *not* on the official route. However, I believe I convinced Tanya that it should be an ‘optional’ segment for next year’s ride.

Lodgings for the night were at Camp Gatineau, which is normally a camp used for children with various disabilities, so we had dorm rooms, and there were some common areas, as well as a big kitchen and multi-purpose area. I assisted things by getting the A/V gear working so that we could watch, what else, but a mountain biking video of the 2009 Trans Rockies race. All the riders sat in a semi-circle watching the movie. Pretty relaxing stuff (and inspiring to a degree). Afterward, a great meal of lasagna, salad, garlic bread and desert. To close out the night, we wandered down to the fire pit to start up a bonfire to chase away the night chill,and yes, it was quite cold. Once again, I volunteered my services to get the fire going, but there were a number of other backseat firebugs trying to intrude ;-). I kept telling everyone to be patient, as you need to start a fire out right for it to burn well, but they kept wanting to throw more tinder and bigger logs on. Oh well, majority rules and I eventually just sat back and let it go. We ended up with a respectable fire to warm our toes by (and me to dry my socks, gloves and shoes by, as s result of the lake crossing).

Probably the most amazing part of the night was the starry sky above us in the inky black space. Stepping away from the fire to enjoy my beer in the crisp air, I gazed up and was floored. It was absolutely stunning. Since we were quite remote in the park, there were no lights at all to pollute the view. There were also no clouds at all. I was reminded of one of my summer camping trips with Deanna where we lay outside taking in the Perseid meteor shower. I really wanted to send Deanna a quick note to share this with her, but unfortunately, we were so remote there was absolutely NO cellphone coverage. I felt totally incommunicado. Well, I suppose one night away couldn’t hurt, right? It was tough, but I managed, and the time apart probably gave us each even more time to reflect on what we have, and where we’d like it to go 🙂

After staying out a little bit longer, it was getting time to pack it up and head to bed (bed being a sagging cot with my thin summer sleeping bag!). Temperature was dropping, so I wanted to crawl into my bag and get some sleep before it got too cold. After the long day of biking, you’d think I’d go right to sleep, but I actually stayed up listening to music and writing out another blog post! However, once I finally went to bed ‘for real’, I slept quite soundly till the morning.

Dawn broke crisp, and luckily, dry. It still wasn’t raining, and I was ready to double back and do the whole trail again, only this time I had plans to actually follow the right route! We had a great breakfast of french toast and bacon, cereals and muffins, with juice and chocolate milk to wash it down. I definitely had my fill before packing up my stuff and heading back out. I started sort of at the front, as I didn’t want to be the last in the group today. I stayed in front until the first food station, but after that, I was back on my geo-caching kick! I picked up several more that day, which ended up putting me a bit further back in the group. However, I had all day to get it done, as our closing meal wouldn’t be until 5 or 6 back in Gatineau.

Lucky for me, the ride was fairly uneventful this time. No flat tires, no rains, no bad terrain, nothin. Just really fun riding and thinking about how lucky we are to have something like Gatineau Park in our area. Before I knew it, I was flying through the final kilometers of the course. I had a smile on my face, and the sun warming me up. I got in early enough that I opted to head home and have a good shower before the closing meal. After all, it would be dark once that was done, so I decided I’d just drive back.

Upon my return, I was surprised to learn we still had a rider out there, missing! There was a bit of a scramble and panic, and we dispatched a few people to try a search operation. We also called the park patrol folks, and they took over the operation. Long story short, the final rider made it in safe, and had just taken a completely wrong turn adding quite a bit of distance, which explained why no one had seen them. The rider was quite tired too, so their speed wasn’t the fastest. We were very relieved to see them walk through the doors.

After that excitement, we finally sat down for our post-ride meal, and a look through some of the pictures and videos of the 2 days. I managed to raise the most money of everyone, and was given a some applause for my efforts (and the guarantee of a 2nd piece of cake if I wanted). There were prizes drawn for (I snagged some really warm winter cycling gloves), and a few little speeches. Plans are already in the works for next year’s ride, and pretty much all of us said we’d be interested in doing it again. If each of us brings 1 person, we’ll be at maximum capacity for next year. Hopefully this is the beginning of an annual ride. There aren’t any other mountain bike charity tours, so I really like this format.

Well, that’s it for now. It’s taken me too long to get this out, and I have to get crackin’ on some other things around here. Snowshoe racing season is just around the corner after all! Thanks for checking in folks!

Course Preview for Ultimate XC in Tremblant

Howdy friends! Have you been missing my posts? Well, I guess I’ve been too focused on living life, training, racing, settling into my digs, and getting a year older lately rather than sitting down at the keyboard and spending hours trying to chronicle all the afore-mentioned things. However, I’ve decided that it’s well overdo that I fill you in on some of my latest exploits, so what I’m going to attempt to do is polish off four blog posts in fairly short order, with various degrees of detail. The point of this post will be to fill you in on a crazy little training weekend that I spend a few weeks back up at Mont Tremblant in preparation for Ultimate XC. After spending the weekend previewing both the paddle and the bike, I can definitively say this will, by far, be the hardest solo endurance race I have ever undertaken. 60+km of kayaking including whitewater, 60+km of trail running with EXTREME altitude gain/loss, and 100km of intense mountain biking with more of the same altitude gain an loss. Honestly, I’m pretty daunted by the task, but also very much anxious to try it out. I’ve posted pictures from the weekend, as well as tried to throw together some custom maps of the bike and paddle (GPS died during day 2). Read on for a little more insight into the weekend.

When deciding to submit my credentials for this race (you had to be ‘invited’ to race), I quickly realized this would be no easy task. However, in my quest to do more off-road races this year, this seemed like the ideal fit, plus I knew a lot of other people challenging the course, and decided I might as well throw my hat in the ring. In all honesty, my only goal truly is to finish the race in this case! No time goals, no podium hopes, just hoping to keep my body in one piece and cross the finish line with a big smile on my face. That’s how tough this race will be on my body. I know several people that are hoping to podium, and I tip my cap to them, but I’m a realist on this front. I’ve never done an ultra yet, so even the 60 or so km trail run on day 2 is daunting by itself, ignoring the fact that it is sandwiched between 2 other mega days of racing hard!

Others had been keen to try out some of the course, and the race director himself decided to offer up a ‘mountain bike preview’ day, where all participants would be invited to ride about half of the mountain bike course in advance of the actual race. I had nothing else really planned for that weekend, so signed up for it. I knew a few others doing the bike, but I had hoped to do a bit more training while up there. Well, as luck would have it, Sophia also wanted to try more training, and we hatched a plan to paddle the Rouge River, the crux of the paddle stage. This is the 32km stretch of river, including whitewater, that we would be racing in UXC. Basically, we have two big lake stretches, joined by this section of river paddling and portaging. I was keen to see this section, to get a feel for the water and the boat selection. Our plan was to drive up Friday night, camp out, then bike all day Saturday, re-locate to a little Inn closer to the paddle, then spend all day Sunday paddling, before loading back up and heading to Ottawa.

What can I say about the bike? Well, in a word, GREAT! I wasn’t sure whether we’d have trails, bike-whacking, logging roads, or what. In the end, we had probably 70% singletrack, and then a mix of connector roads and secondary dirt roads to get between sections. The singletrack ranged from flowy downhill to intense climbs deep in the woods. Apparently, the hardest climbs were even tackled by us, instead being kept as a secret for race day. Yikes! All in all, I am satisfied that the biking leg won’t be that bad. Just a long slog of a day, which is going to be wholly dependent on how the legs feel after the first two days of racing. I think I’ll just be focused on technique, and riding easy that day. Risk will be tempered with caution. Our ride lasted most of the day, with intermittent periods of rain on and off. Enough to make things interesting, but not make them too annoying. We were all thoroughly soaked at the end, but happy, and left wanting just a bit more (which we’ll get on race day!).

Having finished the bike, Sophia and I next geared up again and drove over to the Railway Station Inn at Labelle, QC. Charming little converted railway station with basic rooms for the weary traveller, which is basically what we were. We wasted little time in taking nice hot showers, eating a bit, then crashing. Next morning, we’d made arrangements for a local fellow to shuttle us and our boats to the put-in, from where we’d paddle our way back to Labelle and our waiting cars. He thought we were being a bit ambitious, and graciously offered to be on standby should we need to bail out early, or run into problems. Very nice of him, but hopefully wouldn’t be needed.

The paddle? In a different word, challenging! That is, challenging for those of us not blessed with much river-running experience, nor boats that are made for said river-running. I’d chosen to use my relatively lightweight Airalite 14ft Perception Cadence boat. It’s a bit more fragile than a regular plastic boat, but more durable than fiberglass or kevlar. In the end, it was a pretty good choice, provided I take some caution on the Class 1 and 2 rapids that I’ll be running in it. I managed to get a fair number of nice scratches and gashes, but no punctures, which would definitely not have been good. Couple of good things I learned from this run: First, a nice rope tied to the stern of the kayak to ‘guide’ it down some section while I walked around was a great idea. Second, when in doubt, walk it out. shallow, fast water can quickly turn a happy paddle to a pinned boat and/or racer. Sophia unfortunately got a little jammed up in one section, and I had to perform a bit of a boat and paddler rescue (first the boat, then the paddler). It’s amazing how hard it is to dis-lodge a boat that is pinned in whitewater where the water has rushed into the cockpit! Took a mighty effort to get it our and drained, but I pulled it off!

For my own part, I gained some great experience and confidence out on the water, running a fair bit of the rapids. At one point, there was a pretty substantial funnel and drop, that I was trying to paddle to the shore before hitting. Unfortunately, due to timing and current, all I pulled off was getting pulled into it BACKWARDS! I panicked only slightly, then reminded my self to just use my body and paddle to keep control and POP! I made it out the back side and eddy’d out below. Whew. Big relief, as I was basically all alone, as Sophia was off in the woods somewhere portaging around them. Rule 1, always respect the river, right?

When not in whitewater, the paddle was actually quite nice. The water was flowing pretty quick, and the speed was often around 10-11km/hr. Let’s hope it stays like that for race day. Unfortunately, I think the water is continuing to drop, which will mean a lot more rocks along the way. Boo! Fingers crossed that I finish with my boat intact. By the time we finally got back to Labelle, the time had totally gotten away from us. It was almost 6pm I think. We’d been out there for about 8 hours! Mind you, we weren’t ‘racing’, and spent a fair bit of time making decisions, but man, what a day of paddling!

We more or less scrambled to load back up, and off we went, driving back to the Ottawa area to finish off our weekend. All in all, a great training opportunity spent with good friends, and a great confidence booster for what is sure to be a great physical challenge coming up in just a few weeks. Of course, there were still 2 other races up before that. The 5-8 hour Raid Pulse race, and the 24-hour Wilderness Traverse! Both adventure races, so both more great opportunities to get in some quality training before UXC. Up next, the story of Raid Pulse. Till then, have fun out there!

Lest we Forget…

Howdy all. Just a quick little blog post to let you know what I got up to on my day off for Remembrance Day. Yup, I’m one of those lucky federal employees that gets to take the day off. Now, I realize that the main reason anyone would have the day off is to take the time to think about the sacrifices that the men and women of the armed forces have made to ensure I can continue to enjoy my freedoms. Well, rest assured, I did honour them in my way, and in fact had several moments of silence at 11am. However, I did also get to enjoy a beautiful summer-like day and spend over 4 hours biking in Gatineau park. This post will be short and sweet, just wanted to fill you in on the day. Read on.

For November 11th, it was amazingly mild. We’ve already actually gone through some snow and plenty of frosty nights, but for some reason, we scored some pretty amazing weather, with temps between 7 and 12 degrees Celsius. We didn’t get underway until after 11am, and there were 6 of us out for the day. We started at O’Brien Beach in Gatineau Park, then followed trails up to Wakefield. There, we stopped in the bakery for some tasty fresh baked goods to fuel us up before turning back into the park, and heading around Lac Phillipe, then back to our start at O’Brien.

When all was said and done, we managed to squeeze out over 50km on the trails, and had a great time. I had my GPS with me, so if you’d like, you can check out a map with some pictures on it that I put together. If you want to see even more pictures, head over to the folder that I put up on flickr with more shots. After the ride, it was quickly off to home to await news of the imminent arrival of my new niece or nephew! More on that later 🙂