Friday, September 26, 2014

Youth Are More Active Than You Think...

King of the Playground

The news has been getting me down lately.  I really don’t know how to fix terrorism or the sorry state of our culture when it comes to gender roles etc.  But I have seen a few things this week that make me want to refute claims that our youth are overly sedentary and our digital society is ruining how they socialize.

We’ve had a nice Indian Summer going on here, and when I’ve gotten home from work, the easiest way to get the kids out of my wife’s hair while she prepares dinner is to head out the back door, through the backyard, to a local playground.  If you’ve been reading this blog at all before today, it should come as no surprise that we get active outside as a family; at least half of this year’s posts follow that theme.

My kids, however, are very young - too young for cellphones, tablets, video games or even most television.  They don’t necessarily represent (even demographically) the overall problem that gets reported in the media.

On Tuesday, I was at the park with the Lightning Kid; Shark Boy is still getting used to full school days without naps, and was taking it easy at home.  I saw some pre-teen boys doing some calisthenics.  I found it puzzling, because there didn’t seem to be a real leader or purpose to their exercises, but I was still glad to see young people being active.  The Lightning Kid and I played our little game of climbing up the playground and going down the slide for a while before we got called to dinner, but on the way back, I noticed their exercises had progressed to martial arts kicks.  I started to think they might be doing some kind of pretend ninja training... then I saw one of the kids consult a tablet. They were obviously following some kind of Youtube workout/training video!  Score one for the digital age.

Yesterday, I took the Lightning Kid to the playground again, and I got a call that Shark Boy wanted to join us.  He ran out of the backyard and I made sure he got to the park.  Once we started climbing the structure, we found we had to share it with some teenagers (I’d put them around 14 - definitely a little older than Tuesdays’ kids).  They were playing Manhunt/Manhunter or something - basically a combination of tag/hide and seek that involved teamwork.  I don’t need to figure out the details - I played games like that as a kid too, and rules always vary from region to region and generation to generation.  The point is, they were breathlessly sprinting, climbing, trash-talking etc. not cyber-bullying or sexting, or any of the other things we worry about teenagers getting up to.

Technology has a way of reshaping our culture for better and for worse, but the important thing to remember is that it usually fragments the way we spend our time rather than making wholesale replacements - kids are playing outside AND playing video games, for example.  It’s not always black/white/either/or out there.

Have you seen any examples of kids engaging in traditional play, or even re-interpreting it for the modern age?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Best of the Beaches Kids of Steel Duathlon starring Shark Boy

For the third year in a row, Shark Boy has participated in this Fall tradition of doing a Kids' Duathlon down at Ashbridges Bay.  He's getting to be a veteran of multisport, but he still seems to want me pacing him for re-assurance.  I don't mind the exercise...

Saturday was a jam-packed day, as after the duathlon my wife and I attended training run by the Down Syndrome Association of Toronto, and Shark Boy would be going to a birthday party.  I'm happy to say we got it all done, but let's just focus on the exercise and activity - that's what we do in this blog.



Thanks to a public address system hooked up to loud speakers, we all knew how much time we had to get the bike and helmet set up in transition.  Shark Boy was running in the second heat (which didn't help our schedule much). I could see he was nervous before the start, and yet eager to go, but he still did a great job of keeping the excitement in check so that we could have a good time.

He's been talking a lot lately about being "the fastest" and while I don't want these events to become high-pressure and competitive, I did let him know that if he wanted to be the fastest, he was going to have to lead the pack a little and tried to coach him on how to do that.

Running, he really put the pedal to the metal - he was gasping for air after the first run leg (50m) heading into transition.  We'd reviewed the important safety steps about putting on the helmet and walking the bike to the mount line before the race, and he nailed it.  As usual, the bike course made it look like he was on a motorcycle compared to the other kids - his focus did start to wander a little on the middle part of the bike course when you can look out at the lake; I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree after all! I do the same thing...

The bike course is 600m long, and ends with an uphill climb, and he got up it by himself (except for my constant cheering).   Again we executed a good transition, and then we got to see him run like I've never seen before.  He had his mouth wide open gasping for air, and though the last 25m (of a 100m run leg) started to lag a little, all it took was a reminder that "drinks and cookies" were at the finish line and he started to sprint.  It's what we call in German "Endspurt".
The Need for Speed... and anonymity.


Apparently the Lightning Kid did a great job of cheering "Go, go, go" to everyone and also enjoyed pretending to take pictures.  We looked up the race stats later that evening and found out Shark Boy was 4th overall, and 2nd place boy (the girls took the top 2 spots!).  We're really proud of him; I hope he's enjoying the sport for itself, and not just the fatherly bonding and approval, though. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Terry Fox Run 2014

On Sunday we did the Terry Fox Run at West Deane Park.  Sure, I was sore from the *Lakeside Tri* the day before, but no rest for the wicked, right?  That's what the "Indefatigable" at the top of the web page refers to....


It was a chore packing the Chariot (which the Lightning Kid has been showing a lot of enthusiasm for), and Shark Boy's new "mountain" bike into the trunk, but we ultimately made it to the park for 10:00.


My father-in-law and his wife had come to the park and convinced us that they could take the Lightning Kid off our hands during the run.  They'd end up walking a good portion of the Southern half of the trail and spending some extra time at the great playground.

Once we had our stickers and ribbons on, I got excited at the prospect of finally doing the course in its entirety, in the correct order of kilometer markers.  We took Shark Boy along on his bike and headed North.  The North end turnaround is about 2km from the start, but you see a 9km marker on the way, which we would face later.  I tracked our run with Endomondo, and when my wife heard the app announcing our pace at every kilometer, she’d cringe at how we’ve slowed down over the past 10 years or so.  I figure you’ve got to be happy to be still moving and getting out there.  We took water at the North end, and turned back toward the start.   From there, you head to the South End turn-around which occurs around 6km.  Shortly before then, we ran into the Lightning Kid and his grandparents, and Shark Boy let us know he was done for the day - he probably got around 7km or riding done.




My wife and I carried on to the Southern end, took some water, then back to the start and past it for another 1km to the 9km mark, then the final stretch. I got her to space the walking breaks up a little to more regulated intervals instead of just willy-nilly.

I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed of how I egged my wife on for the rest of the trail, but I'm proud of her for getting out of her comfort zone a little by pushing pace and distance, and hopefully it made her a stronger for the next run she does.

Once the run was finished, we had hot dogs and hamburgers with a little extra playground time. We didn't quite make it to the bouncy castle or hot air balloon before they were shutting down, but we still had a nice day out and raised $175.00 (thanks to our generous donors).


Race Recap: Lakeside Sprint Triathlon

I woke up to rain.  Not good.  I could also feel sore muscles from a Boot Camp two days before;  either the glute bridges or hamstring curls on the Swiss ball had taken their toll.  I wanted a good breakfast - a protein shake with Zico coconut milk water, hazelnut milk, real milk, Manitoba Harvest hemp powder and almond butter beside oatmeal with Greek yogurt and wild blueberries.


I had packed the night before and even pumped up my tires and the race didn't start till 10:00.... I had plenty of time, right?


I'm not quite sure how it happened,  but my 7:45 planned departure became an 8:00 one,  and the 90 minute drive ran into 100 thanks to a bathroom break on the way.


My wife was with me; I figured there wouldn't be much for spectators to do and everyone but me should stay home,  but she wanted to cheer me on and my mom had come over to watch the kids - so I had my favourite roadie/cheerleader along.



By the time we parked the car and I had my race kit picked up, they were calling for athletes to clear the transition area, and I had somehow lost my timing chip, much like I had the week before at the Kortright Centre (though I left that part out of the recap).  Luckily in both cases it was short-term loss and the chip was found.


And yet I still hadn't found my way into transition.  For security, they were giving everyone bracelets that would be keyed by bib number to each bike so that athletes taking bikes out after the event could be verified.  I figured I'd cross that bridge when I got to it, and snuck under one of the fences.  I racked my bike, grabbed my goggles, swim-cap and wet-suit (leaving my earplugs behind) and exited the transition area without having done any organization or setup, though apparently my transition bag (which I've used in at least half a dozen races) was a violation that they let slide in the interest of time.  At least I wasn't the last one out, or the one to hold up the whole race...


I got to the swim start and nearly literally ran into my friend Steve and his wife Andrea.  They wanted to see me put on my wet-suit while wading into the water; challenge accepted.  According to them, Lakeside is quite the nice venue for families when the weather is nice; I'll have to make a note of that for next year.  They were doing the relay and swimming in a later wave, so they helped me zip up (and get the sleeves high on my shoulders) seconds before my wave took off.  Being at the back of my wave didn't seem so bad considering I had no idea where I was going; I'd need to follow the crowd as best as possible.

Once my face hit the water, I settled in mentally - I was at the start of the race on time, and here to enjoy myself.  Being insecure about the navigation and everything else made me pop my head up to sight too much, but I think there was a little extra adrenaline for keeping a good pace.  I think I had managed to get to the front of my wave of yellow swim caps by the time we  could put our feet down. (Swim Time: 16:12)



I exited the water and the run to transition was really short. I think my legs felt somehow, I could almost describe myself as feeling woozy. I even lost my balance taking my legs out of the wet-suit and fell on my butt; which is exactly what I was trying to avoid given the wet grass and mud around. The T1 transition was going to be extra-long, I had made my piece with that. Getting my Garmin sorted out, finding my shoes, etc. gave me lots of time to get my bearings, catch my breath and start confidently. Except for how cold it was and the fact that I don't own arm warmers or anything like that. I'd have to ride myself warm. (T1 Time: 5:20)

I'd been worried about the rain not only for the sake of being cold and wet, but also for safety. I'd heard a co-worker had broken his collarbone entering transition at a race a few weeks before and couldn't even lie down to sleep for all the pain he was in. The rain had stopped fortunately, and though we had to exercise caution, the ride never felt precarious, especially given that there weren't many turns involved and it was a relatively flat course for long stretches (though not entirely free of hills - what fun would that be?).

I heard my name being called by someone about to pass me - it was Phaedra of Blisters and Blacktoenails! If you don't know her from her blog, just check the podium at a given Ontario race, she'll be there. Needless to say I expected to be passed by her, I'm just glad that it was on the bike course where we could spot each other and say hi instead of the swim where there would be no recognizing each other. She's not just fast, but she must be perceptive to recognize me (we've met all of twice) - I wasn't wearing my race bib. Still thinking of the wet roads, I told her to stay safe and watched her pull further and further ahead. I toyed with the idea of trying to catch her once, just for kicks, but it proved hard with some of the blocking and drafting that was going on in the pack I found myself in. I'm tempted to name and shame since I still remember the bib numbers of the worst offenders, but instead I will just say, that it's very romantic that you two want to ride as a couple, but this is a race that actually has rules against riding side by side like that. I kept Phaedra in sight longer than I expected to, which still wasn't that long. After the turnaround I took a gel, and but my concentration wavered on the latter half, which may be why I averaged less than the elusive 30 km/h on the race. Averaging 28.7 km/h isn't too bad given the general state of my conditioning, though (Bike Time: 46:48)

Coming into T2
T2 is always simpler than T1, even when you're completely disorganized. I had my Zoots along, so it was easy to slip off the bike shoes and into the run shoes (no socks) once my helmet was off.
I ran out of the transition area, and promptly stopped, snuck back under the fence, and went back, because while I had ridden the bike without my bib, I knew I wanted it for the run. The timing mats counted my first exit, not my second, but I started my Garmin according to the second attempt; more on that later. (T2 Time: 1:59)



So fast the camera couldn't catch me... except in those pics above where it did.

The dirt road was pitted and there were times you had to avoid deeper mud, so nobody seemed sure exactly what part of the road we were supposed to run on, luckily we had it all to ourselves. There was a young girl who must have twisted her ankle and was crying pretty badly around 2 km in; luckily she was about 50m away from an aid station so help arrived quickly. I took water or whatever carb-electrolyte drink they were serving (they said Gatorade, but I don't think so) every time, but I used the little breaks to make sure I had a good aggressive pace, especially on the last 2 km. My Garmin said I got a time of 27:10 for the 5km which is not a personal best (within a triathlon), but pretty close (I did 24:31 at the Muskoka Sprint of 2011). (Run Time: 28:54)


I was happy and proud to be done. The post-race food was pizza, but I really love the chocolate milk the most. I got cold fairly quickly, so we opted not to hang around, though it would have been nice to socialize a little more. I managed to talk my way back out of transition with my bike by showing my bib and body marking (by then I was wearing a hoodie and track pants to stave off hypothermia) and I made the long drive home with a smile on my face.

I owe another thank-you to my lovely wife, who's support not only makes racing triathlon possible, but her photography is what makes this recap possible! Thanks, my love!




Saturday, September 6, 2014

Going Long - Race Recap: 5 Peaks Kortright Centre Enduro Course

To ultra-runners, the distance of the Enduro courses at 5 Peaks events are laughable.  But to me, it's the longest I've gone on a trail (with all the hills) and longer than most training runs to do 10 km.  

And then I found out that it would be more like 13km.  I was still looking forward to the race until I heard thunder rolling in as I was trying to get the Lightning Kid to sleep.
That should read "... don't *want* a thunderstorm.."
With rain forecasted for the day, we decided to keep the kids home.  I was already nervous about how they'd behave for their mom when I was out running for twice as long as I usually do, and I didn't think the Kortright Centre had as much to offer as Heart Lake or Albion Hills (like splash pads).  In the end, the weather ended up not being so bad, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.

I picked out the absolute worst pair of running shorts I could for the day, but I think they were the only clean ones I had available.

  1. I worried that they'd soak water like a sponge
  2. It turns out the elastic is worn out and I had to pull them up continuously while running (sorry about the plumber-butt anyone running behind me!)
  3. They chafe the insides of my thighs.
I got to the race, picked up my bib and timing chip, then lost the latter while standing in line for the porta-potty.  Luckily, it was recovered and announced so I got it back.  Before the race I found Jessica of Laces and Lattes, as well as Robyn Baldwin and her friend Allegra. Robyn is a big fan of Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid, but she took it well when she found out they wouldn't be there.  She and Allegra were in the wave ahead of me, but I managed to get a shot of them doing Robyn's patented "The Face".
 

The rain from the night before made the course wet and slippery, so we were warned to take it easy on hills, bridges, boardwalks, whatever.  I was determined to take the pace easy, to make sure I was able to finish strong anyway.  Taking it easy also meant I had the opportunity to take nice pictures, and with a 2 loop Enduro course, I had 2 chances to get pictures of notable sights.

I wouldn't have predicted that the Kortright Centre (to which we've been for Maple Syrup festivals before) would have some of the nicest sights of the 5 Peaks series, but have a look.





There were some hills on this course, and I'm pretty proud of how I handled all of them.  Early on, of course, I was feeling strong and passed people who chose to walk.  Then I encountered what the hilarious Erin Dasher (race director and announcer) described as a "water feature".  There's a saying (or rather more of an excuse/rationalizaiton) in Engineering Development: "It's not a bug! It's a feature!"  That's what this reminds me of...


I think I could have balanced on those railings to get across dry, but that honestly felt like cheating, so I got wet feet like everybody else.  Between the wet shoes and fatigue (especially on the second loop) some of the hills gave me a very heavy feeling in my legs, which reminded me of a hard brick workout... which is a good thing, I suppose.


If you look closely you can see some of the network of tubing to bring the sap from the trees on the right side of the picture.

I not only saw the Kortright Centre's maple syrup facilities, but also learned of their Raptor Centre (for the Canadian Peregrine Foundation).  I couldn't get too close to the cages (sorry about the poor photos), but in addition to peregrine falcons they had a bald eagle and a great horned owl that actually went: "HOO... HOO".  We'll have to bring the kids once.


HOO



I mentioned I wanted to finish strong, but in spite of taking a Clif gel on the second lap and Gatorade being available on the course, my pace simply had to slack on the second lap.  Still, on the last kilometer I started getting aggressive.  I passed 2 runners on the final, biggest hill.  There was a contest to name the hill and someone came up with "S.O.B" which stands for Shortness of Breath (not that other thing).  I never submitted my suggestion which was "Hill-o, I hate you won't you tell me your name" (sung to the tune of the old song by The Doors, with option second verse Hill-o, I hate you, you drive me insane).  As I crested the hill I saw two younger ladies who seemed to be easily prancing like pixies through the forest.  I must stress that this was a false impression that was brought on by pain and exhaustion, but I sprinted to the finish to catch them both (tying the faster of them at the finish line).  You know, like the spiteful jerk that I am. I'd like to think Robyn and Allegra's cheers helped me achieve that final sprint.

For once I didn't have to dash away from the race, and I managed to snag a cup of coffee (well after eating my post-race bagel, banana and cookie).  I forgot to add my bib number to the draw, and my finish time put me in 3rd last of my age category, so sticking around for the awards ceremony didn't have much point, but at least I got to witness the shoe toss challenge (for the prize of a Suunto GPS watch).


It never did rain, so it was really a magnificent day and an appropriate end to my trail running season.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Five: Top 5 Fall Races

I’ve got 3-4 other topics I know I want to talk about, and write posts for, so what am I going to do? Write a completely different post instead.  Must be a blogger thing.  If you’re new here, I’ll tell you I’m going to review the Samsung Gear Fit smartwatch, and go really in-depth on how sleep is important for health, so be sure to subscribe for these posts as they come in.


Fridays mean Top Five Countdowns (when I feel like doing them of course), and this time I’m highlighting my Top 5 Fall (or Autumn if you prefer) Races.  For whatever crazy reason, our family’s race calendar seems to be craziest in September; but we had fun last year, so we’ll do it again!




  1. 5 Peaks Kortright Centre.  We’ll be there tomorrow!  If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of the 5 Peaks Series.  The whole family has fun, and while I haven’t run this venue, I’m somewhat familiar with the Kortright Outdoor Education Centre from Maple Syrup Festivals every spring.


  1. Lakeside Sprint Triathlon.  The only thing standing between me and a triathlon-less 2014.  I hope I’ll have a respectable time that is comparable with past performances, but with the differences between courses, there might be no sense in comparing.  I’ve never been to this venue... I’m just looking forward to getting my swim/bike/run on again.
  1. Terry Fox Run - This is a threepeat for us (Triathletes love 3s).  Here’s the family donation page if you want to help fight cancer with us.  I’ll be recovering from the Lakeside Tri the day before, but this is really leisurely family fun.  Let’s hope for good weather.

  1. Kids of Steel Duathlon - Shark Boy is going to threepeat this one this year too.  Between this and the Kortright Centre, I’m hoping to light a bit of a fire under him as it dawns on him that races can be more than just a light bit of sightseeing; if he wants to be “the fastest” (his words), that might mean starting at the front and going as hard as he can.  On the other hand, I don’t want over-competitiveness and pressure rearing their ugly heads.  I want to coach him, yet let him take the lead as to what he wants to get out of these events... does that make any sense?

  1. Levac Attack - Registration is now open! The event has been moved to Mississauga and takes place on Saturday October 4th (event details here [Facebook].  A very small race with great post-race food, that is accessible for strollers and whatnot.  We are in our 5th year of raising money for Mount Sinai Hospital’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Unit.


Over the past year, I’ve noticed my blog has undergone a bit of a theme shift from my individual endurance endeavours to active family living.  Both were always supposed to be big factors in what I’m inspired to write about, but there’s no doubt the balance has shifted from more of the former to more of the latter.  Active,healthy families are a big deal to me, but not every family can be as lucky as ours (even with a child with special needs, we are all able to participate in a lot of physical activities, as you can see from some of the links I’ve used).  Mount Sinai is there to help families with high-risk pregnancies get to a point where they can hopefully enjoy lifestyles as fun and wonderful as the one my family does.  It’s an honour and a privilege to be associated with this cause; if you’d like to register to join us (we have 5, 10, 15 and 20 km events) the registration link is here.  If you can’t make it out, you can sponsor me here.

I know I basically asked you for money twice in this letter, Dear Reader.  You can’t really blame me for assuming someone so attractive, well-dressed and discerning as yourself might also be rich though, right?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Creating A Solo Triathlon

Having a cottage makes me one of the lucky ones, I'm well aware.  For a few years, I've had this idea to really take advantage of the location: rather than just do open water swimming, or a long hard/hilly bike ride or run or even a brick, what if I could do all three sequentially, like a real tri?  This Sunday I made it happen.

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