Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas to you...and me!

We're in that magical time between Christmas and the dawn on a new year, so I'm just going to take a moment to wish you all a very happy holiday season from Tanker the Wonder Sherpa and myself.

Not your traditional elves.

You even got me a present, too - some time in the past couple of days, while I've been immersed in good times with family and some nice, rummy eggnog, you wonderful folks graced my little blog with its twenty-five thousandth hit! You're all awesome!

Even the reindeer are stoked!

So have yourselves a safe, happy and wonderful new year and I'll be back with more of my blitherings in 2014.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snaking out of training

I'll confess. I haven't really trained at all this week. Not a bike ride taken, not a yard swum, not a single kilometer run. I have done my morning weight training, but it's been scaled back a bit. I will admit I did go for one walk.

Am I quitting tri? Am I turning to CrossFit? Have I lost my mind?

None of the above.


Warning: bewbs.

What you see above is the state of my Massassauga rattlesnake from approximately early 2003 until last Saturday. The linework was mostly there and the shading had mostly been done around the back of my neck, but there was a lot of blank space. The amazing Heather Myles of Inksmith Tattoos in Guelph agreed to take on the task of bringing my snake to life more than 10 years after the original artist had disappeared. Seriously - I'd been waiting to get this finished longer than I've been married!

It was certainly no walk in the park having my sternum poked repeatedly with needles, but Heather made it as pleasant as possible and it was incredible to watch the design unfold under her talented hand.

She laid in heavy lines first, then brought out the shader and filled the design with soft greys. His one visible eye turned shades of vivid green, with a cheeky gleam in the pupil. After 3 hours of work, I was absolutely delighted with the outcome!

Since then, I've been sore. Oddly enough, your chest is pretty good at telling you when it's sustained some damage, and that this is NOT A GOOD THING from a survival standpoint. I've been caring diligently for the tattoo, but since soaking it for long periods in water or exposure to bacteria could damage the work (and/or me), training has been put on hiatus. I've been spending as much time as possible topless and haven't even been able to contemplate wearing a bra to the office, let alone having a sports bra rubbing on the new ink during a run. I finally got in for my first real shower last night (relax: I've been having a good wash every day, but spongebath-style), and am very happy not to have needed to wash of days worth of sweat. It was bad enough I ended up having to shovel out our driveway on Sunday afternoon - moving 5+" of snow by hand with a sore chest wasn't much fun!

The second flake is now finished and I "graduated" this morning from using vitamin E ointment on the new ink to a good slathering of hand lotion - he's nearly healed! I'd actually contemplate training this evening, but apart from it being date night (every Friday without fail) it's also my office Christmas dinner. So, I'll wait until tomorrow to see how snakey feels about going out for a bit of a run. Hoping that the freezing rain won't kill off all the snow that we got from last weekend - I'm itching to crack out the cross-country skis!

There's still more work to be done - the original linework needs to be freshened up, and I'd like to fill in the design with some soft brown & white highlights. That, however, is going to have to wait until I get some training done - Around the Bay is only 100 days away!

Friday, December 13, 2013

I love a parade!

So last Saturday was the Hespeler Santa Claus Parade, in which Tanker and I had been invited to cycle to represent The Hub, an awesome local bike shop. Despite a chilly temperature of -5c/23f brought down to a positively frosty -12c/10f by the howling wind and intermittent flurries, we loaded up our mountain bikes on the rack and headed across town to have some fun.

Dorking it up on the way over.

Tanker elected to wear his enormous down coat for the ride.

I dressed in my Hub kit to represent, but it sure was chilly!

Huddling for warmth.

The parade itself had almost 50 floats this year - bands, a "Polar Express" train made up of a decorated ATV pulling wagons full of kids, and a few other neat sights.

Like this glorious old Packard race car.

And J5 pulling his own little train of elves. Wee Jessie in the trailer fell asleep!

It was heartwarming to see the huge crowds lining Queen Street through downtown Hespeler, waving and clapping for all of the floats as we cycled our way along. Too bad it wasn't finger- or toe-warming, too!

Merry Christmas!

What's a Santa Claus parade without a visit from the big guy himself?

We finished up at a parking lot off the main drag, and managed to get most of the crew together for a photo.

That's right - we had out own cyclist Santa!

Then it was off to The Hub for hot chocolate and snacks provided by Cliff and Meredith for all who came out. Either they spiked the hot choccy with something or I froze my brain solid, because when it came time to get going I decided that Tanker could take the nice, warm car home...I was going to ride!

How bad could it be?

I ripped along the Mill Run Trail as the snow fell around me, pumping the pedals hard to try to keep the blood flowing and warm myself up in the relentless wind.

Blurred by speed, or just shivering?

Through the woods.


I arrived home just a few minutes after Tanker did, with a half-frozen bottle and a huge grin on my face - you only live once, right?

No problem with the water getting warm today..

Still got all my bits!

The Hespeler Santa Claus Parade is just one of the awesome Christmas in Cambridge events, and we're proud to be able to represent both The Hub and the local cycling community by taking part! It also seems somehow fitting that the last cycling event of 2013 be an extremity-numbing trail ride, as the first cycling event of the year was my hypothermic experience at Steaming Nostril. Hopefully 2014 will hold more warmth, but just as much fun!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Riding out November

When it's November the 30th and above the freezing mark, you seize any opportunity you can to flee from the trainer dungeon and hit the trails!

Of course I was tied up for most of the day, but finally managed to get out around 3:45pm...with an hour before sunset. Still some beautiful sunshine out in the woods!

I checked out some new-to-me trail along the West bank of the Grand River, and most of it was in pretty good shape...but I totally failed to stop and take photos of the bits where the river had washed out the trail and left frozen puddles. It's quite the experience to ride a bike over glare ice with a skiff of snow on top, hearing it groaning and cracking under your wheels!

I made it through ok, just taking it slow and concentrating on keeping the pedals turning over smoothly. My awesome bike responded perfectly, as though I hadn't shamefully left him sitting in the livingroom for almost the entire summer & fall. Sorry Arven!

Next up was exploring the Trans Canada Trail through Homer Watson Park, which turns out to still be a work in progress. The above photo shows where the beautiful, fresh-laid pavement ends and they've set in what appear to be supports for a footbridge over the little streambed.

I could clearly see that the other side was in fine shape, though, and some people had laid down branches in the mud to form a passable section through the ice and mud. A little bit of hike-o-bike-o and I was on my way again.

I emerged from a very unfinished-looking trailhead on Manitou Drive, near Fairview Park Mall right at the time given for sunset that day, so took the well-lit road route to get back home. I was treated to the incredible display of colour on the cirrus clouds above as I pedaled home to get ready to head to the pool.

Seize your chances to make some memories, and winter training doesn't have to be a drudge! Just remember to bundle up tight, and use a big light to keep yourself safe.

I'll see you out there - look for Tanker and I to be pedaling with The Hub's float in the Hespeler Santa Claus Parade on Saturday!

Friday, November 29, 2013


I am incredibly honoured to announce a new partnership for 2014 - none other than the amazing Vanderkitten!

I applied on a whim to their Vanderkitten VIP program because they're a company I can totally get behind - I actually already own a couple of pieces of their kit! I bought them back in August partly because 10% of sales from their store go to support Vanderkitten Athletics - which sponsors a full pro women's cycling team plus some female motorsports drivers and a few other kickass female athletes - but also because I absolutely love their mascot! Her name is Ophelia, and this is one kitten with some teeth!

This mission statement for the VIP program is everything that women in sport really need:

"Vanderkitten is committed to sharing stories of everyday women achieving extraordinary things. In 2013 we created the Vanderkitten VIP program to highlight the stories of inspirational women from around the globe who embodied the Vanderkitten spirit. 

Vanderkitten VIP's act as ambassadors & role models in their chosen sport, creating an athletic community among members in their region and worldwide, and sharing stories of success- from podiums to simply overcoming obstacles in life through fitness & outdoor pursuits. Vanderkitten VIP's receive VIP pricing on Vanderkitten items, access to sponsor "Pro Deals" & an events calendar where Vanderkittens can get together and achieve.

In turn we share your experiences & stories with a worldwide audience, encouraging and inspiring more people to lead active, healthy lifestyles."

Their motto says it all: "Clothing for Women Who Kick Ass!"

I'm so proud to have been chosen to join such an incredible crew of kickass athletes from around the globe, and will do my best to do them proud by encouraging women (and men!) of all shapes, sizes and abilities to find their joy in active living and the rewards of sport. In the meantime, while the temperatures have dropped and the snow has begun to fall, the work has begun to ensure that 2014 will be a season of speed, strength and great adventures!

Leading by example is always the best way, and after all - you can't kick ass without strong legs!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seems Like Science: Remove your excuses

In almost every race, we're forced to bargain with ourselves. If you're racing at an intensity that's appropriate for the distance, you'll eventually hit a point where you'll have to argue with your body about slowing down while it's presenting some pretty solid reasons for doing so. One of the biggest keys to racing success will be your ability to remove the excuses your body will try to give you, so let's review a few of the ways you can prepare yourself to keep on pushing.

We've all been there.


This seems stupidly obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Every single workout you do is one more drop in the bucket of water you can throw on your body's lame-ass demands to slow down, stop and just curl up for a nap in the middle of the race course. The harder the workout, the closer you get to blowing yourself up to squeeze out one last interval, the stronger your voice will be able to shout LALALALALALANOTLISTENING when your legs are screaming at you that they've had enough and it's Miller time.

I don't think it'll be a big seller.

Tailoring your training to your chosen races will produce the best results. If you're going to be racing in Hawaii, doing all of your training in mild temperatures is going to leave you gasping. Similarly, if your race is a cross-country course with hills akimbo, running exclusively on the local highschool's track is probably not your best tactic. The more specific the preparation, the easier it will be to pull a Jens Voigt - because you've already done the work before, you know you're capable, which is a huge mental boost.


Not surprisingly, your body doesn't perform at its peak when you're hungry or hypoglycemic (that's low on blood sugar, kids). In endurance events that last longer than 90-120mins, there are proven benefits to consuming a carbohydrate solution to supplement muscle glycogen stores, which will generally deplete within that timeframe. There have also been demonstrable benefits to rinsing with a carbohydrate solution for shorter events, even if no calories are actually consumed. If your body is telling you that it's completely spent, you may be able to quiet that voice with some sugar.

I won't judge how you go about it.


Similarly to the above, there is a proven decline in cardiovascular function as a direct result of dehydration. A thirsty body will slow down and begin to shut down no matter how strong your will to power through may be, so take a moment and hit that aid station for a cup of water or sport drink. There's evidence that the latter may be preferable, as the carbohydrate and electrolyte content may increase fluid absorption, keeping you better hydrated and able to maintain intensity. There's a pretty exhaustive hydration guide here.

'Cause noone wants to be this guy.


One of the easiest ways to ensure that you'll end up blown and unable to maintain pace in a race is to go out too fast. You only have so many "matches" to burn, and once they're gone, you're going to be left limping to the finish line...assuming you can make it there at all. To avoid a performance explosion, you can either buy some fancy gadgetry (GPS device showing pace for runners or a power meter for cyclists), or you can pace by feel. If you intend to do the latter, you'll have to train at your intended race pace until you know it absolutely intuitively - so well as to be able to overcome the adrenaline and zippy, easy feeling from being tapered and rested at the starting line of an event. This is one of the toughest things to really nail down, but when you manage it, the first third of the race will tend to feel too easy, the second third will start to feel like work, and the final kilometers will have you ready to barf your lungs all over the finish line as your legs simultaneously fall off.

If you can coordinate all of the above, you can generally mitigate the effects of fatigue, using your mental strength to carry you through those last agonizing minutes. The suffering only lasts a little while - you can always collapse later!

Me after every single race.

How do you shut down your body's excuses? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments!

Friday, November 15, 2013

What's in your race bag?

Most of us have enough stress on race day without having to worry about dealing with unforseen inconveniences. While we all know we need to pack shoes for a running race plus bike & swim gear for a tri, the contents of your race bag can really help to make your whole race day experience more pleasurable with the inclusion of a few items that may have hitherto escaped your notice.

1) A towel for post-race. If it rains, or even if you're just a heavy sweater, it's nice to be able to dry off. You can also use it as a privacy shield if you choose not to participate in the seldom-discussed 5th discipline of triathlon known as "inappropriate parking lot nudity".

2) Space blanket for post-race. Not all races provide them, but there is always the potential for getting chilled after a hard effort. Can also be used as privacy shield as in #1.

3) Wet wipes for post-race, or even a bar of soap/bottle of bodywash. Some race venues offer showers, and if you've got the gear (including the towel from #1) you can have a much less fragrant ride home!

4) Warm, dry clothing  for post-race. I am always cold. I will happily crawl into a giant hoodie and pants in 25c/77f weather after a race.

I'd be cold on the surface of the sun after a half iron tri.

5) A rag for wiping your hands. Between chamois cream, chain grease, sunblock and pre/post-race food, I almost always end up a mess at some point. It's nice to be able to clean up.

6) Plastic shopping or garbage bags for sweaty, smelly gear post-race. Nobody really wants that mus, sweat, grease and general gank lingering in their favourite race bag, so keep it safely contained. Tanker and I call this the "Haz-Mat Bag".

7) Safety pins. Sometimes they've run out, sometimes the pins they're giving out suck, and sometimes you just need an extra. Didn't use the ones from your last race? Great - dump them in your race bag.

8) Pre/post race snack. I have a metric buttload of food allergies, and can't rely on being able to eat whatever is provided by the race directors. Rather than go hungry (and get angry), I make sure I have my own stash of happy snacks.

9) Nail clippers. I always seem to break or tear up a nail on the way to races, or realise I've forgotten to clip them. Rather than risk snagging expensive race kit, tearing up my wetsuit or just ratching my feet from an overlong toenail, I keep multiple sets of clippers stashed around.

10) A stool, for putting on shoes or a wetsuit. It's way easier when you can sit down! I have a little 3-legged folding camp stool that fits in my transition bag, and Tanker always appreciates having a place to sit while he waits for me to finish.

Just make sure you clear it out of transition before the race.
Officials will remove it if you don't.
They may try to remove it even if you plan to do so.

11) A big, fat permanent marker. I often either can't be stuffed to wait in line for bodymarking, or have forgotten to put sunblock on first, which melts the numbers right off my skin. If I have my own marker, I can touch up or apply at my own convenience.

12) Extra goggles. If you keep one smoked and one clear-lensed pair on hand at all times, you'll have a spare in case something happens to one, or can choose the best lenses for sighting in that day's weather conditions.

13) Recovery apparel. If you're changing out of wet and smelly things, you might as well put on some stuff that will speed your recovery - I have compression quad sleeves, compression full socks, and recovery footwear. As comfortable as my running shoes are, I seldom want to remain in the same kicks I wore for racing once I'm off the course - my feet are always delighted to slip into something that cradles them just right and lets them breathe.

The full dork - quad sleeves, compression socks and recovery shoes.
Wearing full pants post-race can reduce the impact on your dignity, if you still have any.

14) Contingency stuff. I keep a big ziploc bag packed with a tube of aloe, a pot of petroleum jelly, a little bottle of minty foot balm, a sterile gauze bandage, medical tape and a sling. You just never know.

15) A plastic shopping bag or cooking oil spray. Some people like to use these things as aids to putting on a wetsuit, though as a caveat the latter is contra-indicated by pretty much every wetsuit manufacturer out there. There are more suggestions here if you want to try something like that.

16) Anti-chafe and chamois creme. For the love of gawd, don't be conservative about this stuff. I'd rather look like I was attacked by some manner of huge, creamy monster than deal with chafing during a long race. Embarrassment only lasts a few hours at most - the pain from skin that's been rubbed raw can go on for days.

17) Extra warm things. You can never be sure exactly what race morning will hold, and racing cold can be miserable or downright dangerous. While I don't suggest trying to pull full garments on in transition (it's an exercise in futility when you're wet - noone wants to be stuck halfway through a long-sleeve jersey), a pair of rolled-up arm warmers and/or knee warmers can be put on fairly quickly, as can a wind vest. You can leave toe covers on most cycling shoes and still be able to get them on or off. These small things can make a bigger difference than you might think in trapping body heat and keeping your blood circulating to the working muscles while racing, as can a pair of little dollar-store stretch gloves in a running race. See this post for some other cheap & efficient ideas for cold weather triathlons.

18) Sense of humour - mandatory for a great race experience!


Got any other suggestions for race bag essentials? Let us in on your ancient Chinese secrets in the comments!

Friday, November 8, 2013


Race season is over, the Great North is becoming white once again, and thus it's time for a little tongue-in-cheek post.

The Top 25 Ways Running is Like Sex:

1) You can do it fast, slow, or vary your speed throughout the workout.

2) It's way more fun when you're strong and fit!

3) You can do it as many or as few times a day/week as you want.

4) You can hurt yourself if you over-estimate your abilities or do too much too soon.

5) You can do it all by yourself, or with as many people as you like (as long as everyone's respected and enjoying themselves).

6) You may need to lube up to prevent uncomfortable chafing.

7) With training, you can go for hours on end.

8) If you're putting in a good effort, you'll be panting and sweaty when you finish.

9) It can leave you feeling either triumphant and energized or completely broken down and exhausted.

10) Everyone does it just a little differently - there isn't really a wrong way, just whatever makes you happy & comfortable.

11) It can be enhanced by rocking out to some great music, but doesn't really need any.

12) It's even more fun outdoors!

13) You miss it when you're injured and unable to do it - you can't wait to get back at it!

14) A good workout will leave you with a smile that lasts the rest of the day.

15) Awkward and embarrassing moments will happen, but shouldn't take away from the fun of it.

16) It's always best to listen to what your body is telling you.

17) Anyone can do it without training, but everyone improves with practice.

18) You'll have some amazing workouts and some not-so-great workouts. Both are still good for you, and fun in their own way.

19) It'll always be there for you to come back to.

20) It doesn't always go the way you planned.

21) You can buy all kinds of gadgets and accessories, but none of that is really necessary.

22) It's always better if you warm up a bit before going all-out.

23) If you go too long without you may forget how much you enjoy it, but the more you get the more you want!

24) You can learn a lot about yourself by stepping (safely) outside your comfort zone.


25) People can tell you about it in every way they can think of, but you'll never really know what it's like until you experience it for yourself!

So get out there and have fun people, but remember that it's always better to be safe than sorry!