Thursday, August 25, 2016


I've heard of this race, (for all intense purposes we will call it that), referred to as many things, including Hell. And its not just the name that's clever. The courses are well designed and all the proceeds benefit the farmers and land owners that want to protect it from unwanted development. And without farmers....there would be no beer.

 I must admit, studying those elevation maps, watching all those videos and reading the numerous blogs prior to the event, had me a little terrified.

Time to pick up our race kits and meet a few locals
We arrived on the Friday around six to pick up our race kits and everything was well organized with numerous volunteers and and there was a plethora of D2R2 souvenirs to choose from (jerseys, mugs, posters, arm sleeves, etc).  The maps and cue sheets were printed and waiting.  There were a few vendors too which included, "Dug's Art" , a local artist with an extensive racing background and
his stories were as vivid as his paintings.  "The People's Pint", a local brewery and restaurant in Greenfield attended, serving up burgers and beer.  Plus a few more.  Cornel and I  anxiously grabbed for a cold one, for the carbs of course-it had absolutely nothing to do with that seven hour drive.  Unbeknownst to us, was the group of cyclist that had gathered on site at the People's Pint.  We'll be sure to follow up on that one next year.  Oh yeah, there is definitely going to be a next year.

The starting line
As we were toeing the start line, or wheeling in our case, I for one was happy that we had decided to scale it back to the 100km distance.  Everything about this "race" was very relaxed and casual, except for the actual distances and routes-oh, and did I mention elevation?  We took off shortly after 9:00 a.m. and had a good warm up section, traveling on pavement, before the climbing started.   The first hill I took pretty fast and Cornel worried that I would tire myself out too quick.  I was just thrilled our first climb was on pavement; I had also set a goal of finishing within 6 hours and I was pumped, well, at least for the first half hour.  The asphalt road quickly turned to dirt and the climbing on intensified.  I assured myself that all the climbing must be at the beginning.  Prior to the first water stop, there was a steep paved incline and I had to dismount and walk my bike up as I couldn't see a thing.  The sweat was dripping down into my eyes and stinging with contact and without travelling at any significant pace, my glasses were fogging.  This is huge for me as typically I'm not much of a sweater, mostly just a little perspiration; something that resembles Mickey Mouse. That's all I will say about that.   It was only an hour into the race and things were heating up by 10 a.m.  Cornel easily pumped his way to the top.  The assemblage of road surfaces as we wound our way up the hills of Massachusetts made it quite cumbersome, but, on we trekked.

Pickle Juice
When we got to the first water stop, my time limit already expired as we were an hour and fifteen for the first 20km.  That would add another hour over and above.  It didn't seem like an aggressive goal at the time.  I grabbed my half empty water bottle and headed to the water jug to refill it.  On the jug, was a written sign that said "pickle juice" and I thought how cute. What a great simile.  Not so cute and poetic after all, because after I took a big mouthful of the stuff, I realized it was legit.  I've done a few races, marathons, ultra's, a half ironman and never, not once was I ever provided with pickle juice, flat cola maybe, but, never pickle juice.  If you can get by the taste, that stuff is apparently magical, or so I heard.  Much like cabbage juice on a hangover.  I did end up dumping it out, as I was worried about the mixture of coconut water and pickle juice and didn't want to have any emergency stops.  I was a little unprepared in the kleenex situation.

The stunning views of Franklin County
As we departed from the water stop, we had company and some of the people started to become familiar.   There wasn't a whole lot of conversation going on, but,  I think that was mostly attributed to attrition, better save it for the next climb.  Within a very short time frame, we ascended our way up and once at the top, you had to grab a photo or at least blink your eyes.  The vista was breathtaking and laid down the perspective of all your climbing thus far.   It was certainly worth the view. The distinction between green and blue was truly epical. Now, this is living. Shortly, thereafter, we were halted by a fire truck as one of our fellow cyclists had gone down. Glad that he was okay. This is the dilemma, you are on a paved decent and then the surface changes to gravel.  There was a lot of sections like that. At the end, we had heard, there was only four mishaps of a similar nature, but, everyone was okay.  Lucky for me, my coach, Cornel has always taught me to stay loose and reactive; much to his chagrin, I still take the downhills with not near enough caution, loving that top-speed.

Almost 3 hours in and we had hit our lunch spot.   A captivating little oasis in Vermont by a relaxed river and covered bridge that was currently under construction. We probably spent at least an hour there enjoying the lunch that was provided.  There was also another pickle juice table and they were serving shots this time. I graciously accepted the sour and salty notes for the gains they would provide as the day continued to heat up.  Thankful for what little breeze there was.  Departing from lunch had to be one of my most favorite spots on the course.  The road followed the river and it was pretty much flat and shaded, so a good way to digest lunch and warm back up again.  This was also the section for the family ride and I was impressed with all the youngsters that were riding their bike.  We still have some work to do where my grandson Kingston is concerned.  Hopefully, one year soon, he'll be able to join us.  I was still convinced, quite unequivocally that we must have completed the majority of our climbing prior to lunch.   Cornel also has this sinister side to him, evilly telling you that there is just one more climb.  All in all, I was still feeling good and was still pretty strong on the climbs, relatively speaking. I just preferred not to do anymore.  Unfortunately, the choice was not mine to choose.  By the end, was had a total elevation gain of 1800m, which was just 200m shy of the hike we did in Austria.  The comparison really put things into perspective for me.
Cornel pondering how I beat him up that last hill.

 One of the most significant clambers in my opinion was on the way up to the orchard.  It is appropriately named Apex Orchard. I received the full definition from a cycling perspective from Cornel.  Who Knew? We were greeted with cold peaches and apples, cookies and other hydration.  It was hard to leave, but, knowing that there was only 20km remaining before cold beer was enough to put you back in the saddle.  Upon leaving, Dr. Evil made his usual remark.....just one more climb.

It was a nice descent and although, I still felt good, I was content knowing that the ride would be over within another hour or so.  There was a technical tailspin close to the end and this is where I suspect I broke my spoke.  It was the only casualty, so not so bad.  This last sag was also another concern for Cornel as he felt I was taking it way too fast for my level of expertise.  Poor guy, I can only imagine the amount of cringing he must do riding behind me making sure that I'm safe.Without him, I'm not sure I would have been able to do this journey.  He has taught me so much.  He is my rock. Fortunately, the broken spoke didn't cause any further damage, most of which, I was totally oblivious to anyways.

Following that, it was just a nice flat section where you could sprint to the finish if you still had the legs to do it. It was such a moment to cross the line with some energy left to eat, drink and enjoy some camaraderie amongst the other cyclists.  Each of us giving a full description of the days events and our favorite portion of the course.

Looking forward to heading back up there next year and hopefully taking some friends along for the ride.

Happy trails my friends.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

July Movement

Upon seeing the following quote from Dr. Steve Maraboli and a slight prodding from Cornel, I was inspired to write about the events of the past weekend:

"Yesterday was not your defining moment.  The calendar moved forward; why not you?"

The game plan was to do a trial run of the Hardwood course for the Epic 8 Hour Summer Reggae race the following weekend.  Cornel and Zen are the glue that will hold the team at a respectable time and I am the weakest link.  However, what I lack in experience (only my second year MTB), I make up for in passion and resilience.  I say pliancy due to the shear amount of times that I have fallen, scraped, cut and bruised myself and my ego on attempting to get better at this sport.

I'm ashamed to admit, but, the first miscalculation came prior to getting on the course.  It didn't prevent me from continuing as I came here with a mission.  I've pretty much concluded that long dresses are a must for me during MTB season.  There are also certain other benefits to falling at this age---I have confirmed without the aid of a physician that I do not have osteoporosis as my mother has.  As I rapidly approach 50, this is an important discovery.

The first loop of the course was not uneventful with a few more spills, but, I was surprised to have completed it within the hour.  Cornel has the patience of a Saint.  He carefully rode behind me to watch my technique and offer any guidance along the way.  Zen led the way and already had an extra loop in on us.  The second loop again proved uneventful and lucky for me, the ground was quite soft with the lack of rain.  My confidence was improving as I was able to shave 6 minutes off my previous run.  I'm really not hoping for much better during race day as both Cornel and Zen are just wanting me to arrive alive.

While I cleaned up the extra dirt I had acquired along the course, Cornel let out some steam on his final loop; finishing the course in 37 minutes.  I was amazed by his time and felt that we were in pretty good standing, until I heard from the pro shop that some of the practice runs had resulted in times of 20-26 minutes.  Oh well, if you're not first, you're last.

............then there was Sunday.  The game plan was to do an out and back on the T.H. & B rail trail from Dundas to Port Dover.  I was still suffering silently from the events of the day prior, but, wanted to do this ride in preparation for the upcoming D2R2.  Cornel and I had signed up for the 180k gravel grinder that takes place in Deerfield, MA.  It was a little bit ambitious at best for me, but, I get excited when I first learn of these races.  Then, all of a sudden, we are signed up and I'm trying to get some training in......all the while, pondering what I just got myself into.  

Town of Waterford

The ride was pretty uneventful at least until we hit Scotland (which actually has a nice paved section), where we met up with a couple from the area and followed them back to their place for a nice cold beer and some nibbles.  Now, these are the kind of rides I enjoy.  Saunter about ,saunter about.  Oh, and the cold beer.  After all, the temperatures were climbing, but, the trail was pretty optimal in regards to shade with good tree cover for a significant portion.  We headed back out after about an hour break and our next goal was to make it to Dover for an ice cream.

Once we hit Dover and our ice cream was devoured, Cornel figured out that we would need to maintain a 20km average if we were to make it back within full daylight.  Sleeping in does have an occasional disadvantage, but, I'll take it when I can.  I was committed to maintaining the average, so off we went, into the sunset, me and my blue beauty.  Everything was going relatively well until we hit Brantford; that's when I figured out my legs were done.  The muscles were starting to fatigue and it was everything I could do to keep going.  This is another one of those times that Cornel will doesn't matter if you go fast or slow, the legs are still going to hurt, so you might as well go fast.  If only I could convince the legs of such matters. I believe it was at this moment that I figured the 180km D2R2 route was probably more than I could chew, considering the elevation gains and we had just completed an entirely 156 of flat.  Cornel graciously accepted whatever distance I was comfortable with.  Its a difficult revelation to have to pull back the reigns, but, sometimes it just makes sense.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sulphur Springs 100 Miler

What a race....and a race it was.  Against time, heat and mental anguish.  O all you host of heaven! O earth!  What else?  And shall I couple Hell? (William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Running Supplies
It all started well and I was feeling very well prepared....well mostly spoiled.  My nutrition, my hydration, the tent and all supplies other than what I would need to wear was all prepared for me....thank you Cornel.  You truly are the most considerate and caring person I know.  Just knowing that you and Claudia were in my corner and would be there to run with me when things got tough was motivating in itself.

Sulphur Tent City
Arriving at the dinner the night before and meeting some seasoned veterans like Guy and Lucy and hearing their stories provided a mix of excitement and apprehension.  Could I really pull this off?  Guy had only been running Ultras less than 2 years and he already had quite a few under his belt---held on with the choice of 100 Miler buckles I am sure.  Guy provided a lot of insight and really helped in finalizing my race plan.  Start off slow he said.  It was also my first time meeting the race directors, Tim and Andrea, and what an amazing pair. I would come to get to know them quite well over the course of the following day.  They provided the utmost motivation and insight to continue, but, we'll save that tidbit for later.  Everything was extremely well organized by all the volunteers and that was even more evident the next day.

Sulphur Mascot
Toeing at the start line the next morning, I was ready.  I took off at a comfortable pace and heard someone say, I'm just going to walk down Martin Road and let myself warm up nicely.  And, I recalled from the previous 50 Miler last year, how much havoc that Martin Road decent played on my quads.  Little did I know, but, this runner with all her expertise would be my running partner for most of the race.  The tips and encouragement that Robin provided along the way helped immensely.  I don't think there was a person on the course that didn't know her and lucky for me, she was using this 100 Miler for training and was running a slower pace than her usual stride. In the 3rd loop when my legs were feeling off, sluggish and painful, she offered me a Tums and almost instantly, I felt better.  Tums will be in my pouch for next year, amongst other things.  It was great conversation that passed the time away.  You meet such nice people with amazing stories at these races.

By the beginning of the 4th loop, the heat had intensified yet again and we caught up with another veteran Ron.  He was also feeling the affects of the heat and we collaborated and decided to walk the entire loop.  I had met Ron at a previous Ultra, That Damn Hill, so it was nice to catch up again.  Robin and Ron are the many faces of Ultras.  You see them at all the big races.  We had an enjoyable loop despite the conditions and even came across a snake in the grassy section.  Snakes, I'm okay with, now June Bugs, that's another story.  Despise them and the thought of them had not even crossed my mind at this point.

By the end of the 4th loop, I was still feeling pretty good, considering the heat and length of time already on my feet (considering I finished the 50 Miler in 11:35 the previous year).  Upon making another ascent up Martin's Road hill, I found some additional support at the top.  There beside Cornel was Susan, Jorg and Helen who had come out to support me.  I sat with them and drank a Radler while I worked on releasing my heel blister (never had one there before-in fact-I never usually get blisters at all).  When I started back down the hill, I thought, this is totally doable.  I started into a walk and by the time I got to the Hermitage, I was feeling good and really picked up the pace into a nice run.  I was thinking, where did this come from?  Then, it was right around the area where we had run into the snake earlier, that it was too dark to continue running and on went the head lamp and back into a walk I went.  It was shortly after that, that my calf seized, despite the salt tablets and lots of hydration through the day.  Susan met me at the last aid station and was willing to walk with me through this last portion. Thank you again for that, Susan.  Out came the June Bugs (you could hear the 2 of us scream as each one crashed into our headlamps) and the 3 Sisters to battle; while I struggled to keep it together to get to the finish.  I knew I was done.  My calves were obliterated.  I'm not sure, if they buckled under over use or whether it was the unfolding climate of the day.

At the top, when I told Tim I was done.....he said...oh're not have 3 more laps.  He helped with trying to work through my calves and Cornel was there to take over.  I think Cornel was a little disappointed that he wasn't doing the next loop with me as he had taken it easy on the 25k that morning, so that he would be in good shape to see me get to the finish.  Well, as easy as he could considering his daughter Claudia was also racing the 25k and the challenge was on.  Claudia was determined to beat her Dad this one around and that she did.  Her training and determination definitely paid off.  Well, just touching my calf at this point sent me reeling into pain.  I was happy to admit that I completed 100km (my longest distance thus far) and I would not be continuing.  Andrea also gave me a great pep talk and I am grateful for their attempts.  As I sat with Cornel and Susan and  drank another Radler, Cornel softly coerced me to try again.  It took some time, but, no convincing was enough to get me back on my feet, well,  until the pouring rain hit and then I didn't even have enough in me to run to the car.

The next day after a semi restful sleep, we arrived to bring down the tent and gather our supplies and were fortunate enough to see the last 3 runners come in.  It was Deborah, a gentleman and then Rhonda.  Rhonda was the last runner and this was her first 100 Miler;  to see her come up that hill, was so empowering that it convinced me to give it another try next year.  I think I've also talked Cornel in attempting the 50 Miler.  Well, truth be told, it didn't take much persuasion at all, come to think of it.  See you at the Sulphur 2017.

Happy Trail My Friends

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

70 P2A

70 K Paris to Ancaster Classic Cycling Race

The fridge is becoming empty....not the contents, but, the postcards that adorn the front of it.  Well, until Cornel finds some new races that he is anxious to try and let me tell you, there is plenty.  I get weekly emails with links and YouTube videos of races all over the world, with the majority being held in North America.  I have to admit, I am pretty fortunate to have found an equal when it comes to his sense of adventure.  

So, our latest race, was the 23rd edition of the 70k Paris to Ancaster.  The course takes you over a terrain of rough farm lanes, trails and gravel roads.  I must say, I felt like a kid again, with the amount of dirt I ate that day.  The route takes the riders down dirt corridors with trees on either side and rolling hills of grass amongst the dirt and rocks, but, the sun was on your face and the robin egg sky blended into the green horizon.  It doesn't get any better.  I almost forgot to mention the mud pits; the last being the worst of all.  I took my honey's advise and walked down the Powerline portion, so I wouldn't have to clean my chain and derailleur after making it through. Not sure that I would have kept the momentum going anyways, so I spared myself some time, but, mostly the embarrassment of being covered head to toe in mud.  The course nicely finishes with Martin's Road, which is a climb of 1.3 km.   I will get to see this road again (8x) in about a month when I attempt my first 100 Miler at the Dundas Conservation area.
We had fabulous weather considering how unpredictable the Spring can be.  I was checking reports daily to ensure I would be mentally ready for the chance of rain or snow.  Thankfully, the day settled on mostly sun, fortunate for me with the gear I packed.  Cornel and I were in Wave 3, which nicely starts at 10:15.  I have to admit, I love races where you also get to sleep in, or relatively speaking.  We decided prior that Cornel would race and I would chase and this worked out essentially well for us as we both hit the times we were aiming for; if you subtract the time that we were delayed due to the course sabotage.  Its a shame that someone had decided to cut down mature trees to prove some sort of wayward point.  It takes all kinds, doesn't it and I'll leave it at that.  

This was also my first race on a CX bike, after just getting it in March.  I have to admit I love the
responsiveness compared to my Mountain bike.  It provides the ability for turning over the legs fast once you come out of a turn. Its got the power.  Cornel felt it was appropriate for the race and as always he was right. I'm looking forward to our next undertaking, whatever that may be.   

Happy trails my friends!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Do More of What makes You Awesome!

Awesome defined......tempo runs!  Don't worry, you'll be finished before your body evens knows you started.  

Tempo runs are the single most important workout you can do to improve your speed for any race distance.  Long runs develop pure endurance, but, tempo running is crucial to your race performance because it rains your body to sustain speed over distance.  The problem being, as runners, we rain our cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to the muscles but we have not trained our bodies to use that oxygen once its present.  Imagine doing the tango without a dance partner.  In essence, you are missing the crucial detail.  Tempo runs do just that; they teach your body to utilize oxygen.

There are many ways of performing tempo runs, but, I prefer to use the progressive type and build on the distance.  Its simple to perform and is in many ways more enjoyable as your body gradually warms up to your pace.  You feel stronger through the middle portion and can typically finish at a faster pace.  To do a progressive tempo, start with one kilometer (1/3 your distance) at warm up pace.  Then gradually and evenly increase your pace over the next kilometer or second part of your distance at an easy endurance pace (60-70% of your maximum heart rate-you can hold a conversation).  The last kilometer or final 1/3 of your distance is at race pace (90% maximum heart rate - just shy of breathlessness).

This type of tempo run can also be divided by time rather than distance.  It gives you the additional advantages of running while improving your ability.  It will also help with those negative splits.  You'll be running faster at the end of a long quality run.

Note:  Ensure that all speed work sessions begin with a dynamic warm-up and cool down routine.  And, don't forget to stretch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Life's a Climb

Such a big hill to climb.  Its a love hate thing, but something I will soon have to embrace.  I'm about 3 months behind on my 100 Mile training and should be into hill training already.  If I get a good week of consecutive runs next week, I should be good to begin.  Here's some pointers if any of you are looking to rise to the challenge.

Hill training will improve your training distances, anaerobic capacity and strength.  Its essential to soar if you want to put the roof on your training.  Uphill running helps us increase our stride length by increasing our knee lift.  Our quadriceps and hip flexor muscle groups become stronger from lifting our knees higher.  This effect carries over to when we run on flat ground, because the higher knee lift translates into a slightly longer stride length on level ground.

So, if you run with longer strides using the same effort, it’s logical that you’ll cover a given distance in a shorter time. Here’s an example using the 10K distance for an 8-minutes/mile runner, who covers about 1.1 yards/stride. Simply lengthening the stride length by 1 inch, (multiplied by the 9,090 strides to cover the 10K distance) shaves about 250 yards, or around 1 minute off the time.The faster and more powerful your foot-strike, the faster you’ll run and the more steps you’ll have per minute. Hill sprinting improves the tensile strength of your leg muscles, and thus enhances the recoil or return of energy from each foot compression (g-force).  There’s also another way hill running can increase stride frequency—downhill running. If done with short quick strides your neuromuscular system adapts to a faster leg turnover, thus increasing stride frequency.   Let gravity do the work.

Studies show that VO2 max (the ability of your heart and lunges to utilize energy) contributes significantly more to uphill running compared with horizontal running. This high VO2 max level incurred during uphill running is partly due to the increased demands of the lower extremity muscles, the largest muscle mass in the body. As aerobic capacity is improved from uphill training, you‘ll use less energy and oxygen at a given speed, or over longer distances—in other words your running economy improves. This derives from better coordination of your neuromuscular system. At the metabolic level, hill trained runners experience an increase in lactate threshold and anaerobic threshold. Lactate threshold is the point where lactic acid produced in the muscle is not metabolized as fast as it is produced. Hill running improves the strength and endurance of the quadriceps, hip flexor and hip extensor muscle groups—so the increased ability of these muscle groups to resist fatigue (lactic acid) shows through in the latter stages of races. You’ll slow down less, improving your race times.The benefit to you, it that hill trained runners don’t fear steep gradients in races because they have improved confidence from training on them. They mentally withstand the extra demands of hills in races and training to the point of eagerly anticipating hilly courses. 

To maintain the center of gravity over the drive leg you need to shorten your stride slightly. Exaggerate your forward lean by bending at the waist to direct force up the hill, and bring your hands and arms up high (even as high as your ears), as if you were pulling yourself up.
Different gradients require different technique modifications: the steeper the hill, the more you’ll need to lean in to it and drive more powerfully with your arms. Run with exaggerated knee lift and push off hard with your glutes and ankles from your toes. Knee lift should be more exaggerated on steeper hills. On slight inclines run with a shorter, faster stride. Breath deeper when you run uphill. You’ll find in your early uphill efforts you’ll have to slow down. If you persist with this, going a little further up the hill on each outing at your faster pace, your breathing will get easier and your legs will not feel so fatigued and heavy. Eventually you’ll be able to crest the hill at the same pace you started at. 

The best way to think of hills is essentially like doing track intervals. Select a steady uphill slope up to 5% or 8% grade. It doesn’t need to be really steep. Do a number of repeats up it. Lean forward and pump your arms strongly. These repeats should be at about 85% effort, or close to your VO2 max.
Walk or jog slowly back down to the start. No hurry here, as you don’t want to jar your legs too much from the downhill running. You may even want to walk backwards down the hill to relieve the strain on your quadriceps.

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb" ~ Nelson Mandela

NOTE:  The information was prepared for my half marathon group.  I received my personal training certifcation thru CPTN at Conestoga College.