Apr 28 2014

120th Around the Bay Road Race – Race Report

This was one of those races where I didn’t know what to expect. The winter was icy and snowy, where I was completely distracted by my honeymoon with my new skate skis. I did way more mileage in the cross-country ski trails and bike trainer than in my running shoes.

With all that, it turned out to be the best running race experience in recent memory, if not ever!

The morning was crisp. Temperature was in the threshold between shorts and tights. I ended with tights, which was not a bad idea with the cool breeze on the overpasses.

Despite Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne apparently did not know how to count down from 10, the race started right on time. She later ran the 5K race herself under 30 minutes. That’s pretty good for someone in the over 60 category.

New AtB course by the waterfrontThe first few km were downhill towards the waterfront, which was quite enjoyable. I wanted to stay close to the 2:25 pacer, but she seemed to be going way too fast. I decided to back off until I figure out how my legs were feeling.

After reaching the waterfront, the new course took me east along Burlington Street, up its overpasses, until reaching the beach to rejoin the last half of previous years route.

The gentle rises and falls of the overpasses actually helped to prepare for the rolling hills near the end of the course, but there was no scenery. In previous years, the route runs through downtown Hamilton with spectators on both sides. This year, only concrete bridges and smoke from Dofasco and Stelco.

On to the Hamilton Beach section, my legs were still feeling great so far.
I was running as fast as I could comfortably, and everytime I manage to glance at my watch, the pace was around 4:40/km. Looking at Strava activity log later, I could see the pace was relatively even for every km mainly through running by feel.

The toughest part of the race for me was always the Hamilton Beach section. It’s straight, flat, goes on forever, and featureless apart from draw bridge. This was the area where staying focussed was important. Otherwise pace would start to drift wildly.

Getting to the finishAt 20km, heading into the rolling hills section, I was still feeling really good. Perhaps I might have been de-sensitized by the hills at Highlands Nordic and Hardwood Hills over the winter, but this section felt easier this year.
The usually strategy was to charge up the incline, pass a whole bunch of people, and let my heart rate decrease a bit in the subsequent before the next climb. It’s a tried and tested method that works well.

God bless those people giving out bananas at around 23km. I love bananas!

Coming into the hill at Valley Inn Road, I was almost tempted to try for a Strava KOM on that segment, but I’d rather not have to stop and catch my breath at the top. So steady as she goes.

I couldn’t tell for sure, but it appears the Grim Reaper was a little scared of me?! Wonder what I did…

Finished!I felt like I still have a few more matches to burn, I tried to pick up the pace as I spotted FirstOntario Centre for the first time.

Legs were burning and lungs were burning now. It was hard to stay at that effort. I just wanted this to end now.

Finally I went around the side of the stadium and turned to the tunnel for the finishing stretch.

Time was 2:22:22, almost 3 minutes faster than last year’s PB. If only I can get myself to settle down and concentrate on training for one thing, maybe I can get that silver medal.

Mar 23 2014

Skating on snow

The winter of 2013-2014 was the first “real” winter in Southern Ontario for quite some time. I am always one who rolls with the punches, so there was no better time to take advantage of the excellent snow conditions. Three-metre high snow drifts on Dufferin County Route 124 anyone?

Except for the more challenging conditions (for a beginner) caused by an ice storm at the end of December, the trails were in top shape from mid-December until beginning of April!

Unlike most people, I choose cross-country skiing, because with respect to my alpine cousins, getting a motorized lift up the hill is just plain cheating! Also I could never get to any level of competency on alpine skis or snowboards…

This season, after not too much deliberation, so I finally decided to add of pair of skate skis to my quiver.

New  Madshus Ultransonic skate ski package!They are Madshus Ultrasonic Skate on Salomon SNS Pilot bindings, Salomon Active8 Skate Boots, and Swix CT-5 composite poles. A solid entry-level performance package.

Skate skiing is a different technique than traditional classic skiing. It is usually faster, so in any freestyle races, everyone would be skating.
It does not require tracksets, but a groomed surface is needed, the harder the surface the better.

It looks similar to ice skating and rollerblading, but with poles. The main challenge for me is to learn complete weight transfer from one leg to another, and balance and glide on one leg.

I read somewhere that one needs to ski at least a dozen times in order to not look like an absolute beginner. That was bang on.

The first half dozen times out, most of the effort was spent trying to stay balanced and glide on one ski.

After that, I was finally starting to get it a little, so I can actually focus more on trying to get faster, extending the glide, better polling, more dynamic push-offs. When I’m going faster, that is when it starts to get fun!

For next season, I am hoping to get some additional instructions to improve my climbing and overall technique. Specifically, the V1 and V1-Offset techniques. I still cannot get the timing right learning by myself via Youtube instructions.

Though are no good trails within the Toronto area itself, some of the best prepared trails are less than 2 hours drive away.

Highlands Nordic
My favourite go-to place. 40km of trackset and groomed skating trails, plenty of snow, and has an extensive youth program via their Highlands Trailblazers club

Hardwood Ski and Bike
Voted best cross-country ski and mountain bike facility in eastern Canada by Get Out There several times, and for good reasons. All trails trackset and groomed. Very good coaches and clinics

Scenic Caves
All trails trackset and groomed for skating as well. Loops are a bit short, but still have a few challenging climbs. Spectacular view from the lookout point!

Wasaga Nordic
Run by Ontario Parks within the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park jurisdiction. There are nice flat trails for learning, as well as challenging ones into the sand dunes. As with any Ontario Parks facility, admission and rental fees are very affordable

One Way Meadowlands loop at Hardwood Hills Larry's Glacier at Highlands Nordic Wasaga Nordic Lookout point at Scenic Caves

Feb 20 2014

Crashes and Road Rash

It’s been a while since the last update. So what has happened since then? Two more crashes on the road, then winter came with lots of snow, which helped me get completely addicted to skate skiing.

But first, the crashes. I have never had one until near the end of summer last season, then immediately developed an affinity for asphalt.

The first one was from chain suck as I was getting up to chase after an attack. According to a GoPro video I found later, the back wheel stopped then took a hop, flipping the bike 90 degrees while causing uncommanded unclipping, and down I went. That’s what happens if you are too lazy to do an overdue tune up.

The second one was due to touching wheels with the guy ahead. I held on for as long as I could, but alas ended up on the gravel shoulder.

I don’t really know what happened in the last one. All I remembered was doing a superman on the asphalt. For anyone who has yet to try: yes, you can slide on asphalt!

What else happened as a result? I became very acquainted with the first aid section of my local Shoppers Drug Mart, Target, and Walmart.
And after spending a fair bit of change on said first aid supplies, plus lots of reading and asking questions, I learned something about treating road rashes too. I might as well post it here for posterity.

Firstly, if you hit your head, you obviously must get yourself checked out at a hospital. If you broke anything, that’s probably a good idea too.

If it’s only road rash:
1) Clean off all the dirt and gravel. I got a bottle of BAND-AID Hurt-Free antiseptic wash which works well, but kind of pricey. Otherwise some generic alcoholic wipes could do. If you are macho, simply go and take a shower.

2) Box of Tegaderm patches. Hopefully it will last a while...3M Tegaderm is your best friend. They are waterproof, breathable, keep wounds moist to prevent scabbing and promote healing, and extremely expensive.
Fortunately, they do last a few days even through showers. Tape around the edges to prevent the patch from peeling off.
If wound is still “liquidy”, fix some gauze around the edges as well to catch any leaks from staining clothes.Hypafix dressing rentention sheets and medical tape

Hypafix dressing retention sheets are fantastic for the aforementioned taping.

3) Small scrapes need attention as well. Those are best treated with Polysporin or similar generic antibiotic cream, then cover with bandages.

4) Keep the rubber side down.

Sep 23 2013

Centurion Canada 2013 – Race Report

After merely surviving the 100 mile race last year, I went back to the 50-mile race where I could actually race it, and the hill climb challenge up Scenic Caves Road again.

Hill Climb Challenge

The hill climb was scheduled on the Friday this year. I forgot to account for afternoon rush traffic, and only arrived at Blue Mountain Village with less than an hour until the scheduled start.

Getting the race kits was quick though, and my scheduled start was delayed, so I still had some time to warm up.

Unlike last year, it was a mass start instead of grouped by age.

From the start, everybody gunned it, hoping to be at the front.
I thought it would be an easy pace like last year, so by the time I clued in, there was some chasing to be done.

While I could hold my own spinning up the road, it was clear I am still not quite at the level needed to compete yet.

At least the descent back down the escarpment was fun!


Spectating the U23 Prospects Criterium

On the Saturday, the first ever criterium through Blue Mountain Village was held. This was one stage of the inaugural Ontario Prospects Stage Race. The course looked challenging, with a few tight curves, narrow lanes through the village, with some cobble sections thrown in. No, I was too old and too slow to be in the race, but spectating the race was the second best thing:

Leader was in yellow. Unfortunately he later crashed and lost the jersey Team Ontario The chase peloton. The break stayed away to the end.


C50 Race

The advantage of staying at a rental property within sight of the start/finish was being able to roll right to start. I found a spot in the first wave, and we were off 5 minutes after the U23 Prospects started.

The so called neutral start was ridiculous, just like last year. The pace was too slow, and there was extreme yo-yoing until the start of Grey Road 2 climb. There’s no reason to grab a handful of brakes and almost come to a complete stop?

After the longest, most agonising neutral rollout, racing finally started on the Grey Road 2 climb. There was immediately more breathing room as people who didn’t belong in the first corral went backwards, involuntarily.

The pace was relatively high at the front, so there was a bit of gap at the summit, but with so many in the peloton, everybody was back together not long after.

It was mostly stiff headwind from here until the KOM, so there was no serious attacks as far as I could tell. Apart from a few surges, the pace was also relatively easy.

My housemate Bill made an appearance here. I would see him on-and-off until the finish.

The KOM climb itself wasn’t that tough. I found the toughest part was the plateau immediately after the climb, where I really had to redline it to get back on a wheel.

I saw a gap form with about 30 to 40 riders ahead, but I was boxed in on the right shoulder, and couldn’t get out until 1km to the top. I’m not sure if I would actually make the lead group selection even if I was unimpeded, but at least I would definitely move up a few spots on the KOM leaderboard.

Someone touched wheels on this climb; the crash that resulted was comically slow-motion like. I later found one of the guys that went down, and apparently not a scratch for himself and the bike.

I ended up sitting in a small chase group on the plateau, later gaining more people on the downhill after turning off Grey Road 7.

We tried to start an echelon several times, but didn’t quite work.

And so, we kept the lead group in sight the whole time, and could not bridge back up. Our group ended up finishing close to 6 minutes behind the winner.

The final long gradual climb up Route 19 would have been brutal if there was any action, but as it turned out, nobody in our group was in a mood to try any move, so turtle’s pace it was until the descent on the back side of the climb.

I’d say the most enjoyable part of the race was wheel surfing on this section, jumping on whichever wheel was moving faster. I was again frustrated on some occasions when I wanted more gears than my compact cranks could offer. Perhaps I will think about moving to a standard cranksets, or ideally 52/36, the best of both worlds…

On the run-in to the village, I made a conscious effort to move up closer to the front.

At the final roundabout before the finishing straight, I found myself near the back of the group again. Damn, this happens way too often!

There was not enough time and no room to move up, so there was no sprint for me.

On the other end of the spectrum, Bill won the bunch sprint on our group! I need to be more like him.

I hung around with some Midweek clubbers I saw at the finish, then got some free lunch, and back to the house to lie down for a bit before packing up for home.

Thanks Dave, Ian, Morten, Bill, John, Bruce for the great company and food, and especially Bruce for organizing. I also had the privilege of ogling and touching a Cervelo Rca. There are only 325 of those in the whole world!

centurion_canada_house1 2nd floor living room The guys devouring dinner. Kitchen and dining rooms were gorgeous.

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