Tour De Waterloo

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Bike

A few weeks ago, seeing as how I had originally planned to be away out east – you know, competing in an Ironman competition (click HERE and HERE for the whole story) – I had some time off from work with which to relax.  Now, I recognize that there were about a thousand things I could have been doing like ticking things off my wife’s “Honey Do” list but, truthfully, I was feeling a bit morose about the whole failed event; disappointed and frustrated.  I ran the whole gauntlet of being depressed as if I had actually failed at something.

Silly, I know, but there it is.

Instead, I read, drank beer, and felt sorry for myself while listening to a buttload of sad records.  Honestly, I accomplished little other than being a lazy arse and driving Kelly completely bat shit crazy (mission accomplished on both regards, by the way).  I decided then that maybe a little “Cycle Therapy” might be order.

Hello, Waterloo!

This area (ride) is pretty familiar to me for many reasons of which I will soon explain, and I’ve cycled this particular route a few times now.  So I guess you could say it’s becoming a bit of a tradition.  Each time I go back it feels a little bit like a homecoming of sorts for other reasons I will also elaborate on.  The “tradition” started four years ago when Kelly planned for us to join what was then billed as “The Butter Tart Ride”, organized by one of the local cycling clubs.

Butter tarts and bike riding, what’s not to love about that?

Together we cycled 112 kilometers through Amish and Mennonite back country, gobbled butter tarts by the mitt full and otherwise enjoyed each others company on what we would come to affectionately refer to as the “Boogers, Ball Sweat and Hoark” ride.  It’s a long story.  I remember it being brutally hot out that day but together we soldiered through the heat and had an extremely agreeable time.  The next year my father passed away and remembering how therapeutic I found that ride the year before, I returned again and plotted out a 95 kilometer route that, while still following some of the same roads as the Butter Tart Ride, also took me past more of the area that I am familiar with and have a strong connection to.  This time the ride was solo and I pedaled along at a pace that I am more comfortable with, with fewer stops.  Not that stopping for butter tarts is a bad thing, mind you.

When cycling alone, I can turn my brain off, turn the pedals over and just get lost within myself and the passing landscape in state of Zen that one can only achieve through effort and pleasing exhaustion.  Call me crazy.  I may not have gone as far, but by the end I was still thoroughly spent and more at ease with my swelling emotions.  Last year I couldn’t make it out for one reason or another, so I figured I’d resurrect the trip this year in lieu of not having an A-race to compete in; a total lemon vs. lemonade kind of dealie.

I searched out the route from my Garmin.Connect data and, this time, made more mental notes of what I wanted to see and accomplish.  Namely, retracing certain aspects of my childhood when we used to visit this area on family trips to stay with relatives.  I wanted to more thoroughly indulge in all those memories from my past and let them flood into and out my brain like water through a pipe.  Except this time it would be from the saddle of my trust steed, a Trek 1000 road bike that I have affectionately nicknamed “Daisy” (don’t judge), and not the backseat of my parents old cream colored Volvo.

Fortunately, my relatives now live in not-so-far away Waterloo, a bustling metropolis of 120,000 people (depending on what school term is currently in session), which provides the perfect launching and ending point for the trip.  Also, having attended the University of Waterloo back in the early 90’s, I am also very familiar with the north end of the city and downtown core which definitely adds to the whole “Trip Down Memory Lane” purpose of the journey.   Convenient, right?

My Aunt Kathy now lives around the corner from the campus – quite literally.  I arrived around 11:00am which was definitely a bit later than I had originally planned, thanks to on-going construction, detours and a dodgy GPS device which thought it was best I take the slowest and most inconvenient route possible.  I also have to say that I’m sure the Waterloo city planners also intended for motorists to be required to stop at some intersection other every 3.6 nanoseconds or so.  It felt like I spent more time sitting at traffic lights than I actually did making progress towards my destination.  But I eventually arrived, set and ready to get on with the journey.  After a quick chat with my aunt and tire pump up, I headed out of her driveway eager to get going.


I knew that leaving a bit later meant that I would also be dealing with the mid-day heat and humidity but I have learned to cope with both in as long as I keep moving as I can usually generate enough “breeze” to convince myself that I am actually cool.  The only real unfortunate thing was that almost from the get go, I was cycling directly into a headwind and for that I have no easy fix, so I consigned myself to the fact that it was potentially going to be a very challenging day.  Regardless, I was under way and feeling pretty good about it.

The 2016 edition of the Tour de Waterloo was officially underway.

I chose the quickest route of the city that I knew figuring that I could do the reminiscing around campus later when I got back into the city.  Let’s just say I was eager to get out of Suburbia.  I headed out west down Westmount Rd. North and, coincidentally past my old dorm on campus where I lived during my first year of university back in 1994, exactly 22 years ago.   At the time I lived (if you want to call it that) in the Village 2 Residence and as fate would have it today, I rode right past the window to the very same room I lived in East E.  It didn’t look like there was much life going on around the Village today as the drapes were all drawn and there were was absolutely no sign of student life whatsoever, given it would likely be the summer break for most students, so I rode on.  It’s not like I have terribly terrific memories I wanted to relive here anyway.  After all, how much fun can one possibly have living in a room the size of a broom closet and where everything – furniture included – is permanently fixed down?  But, hey, just for shits and giggles, here’s a throwback picture of that very room from back in the day:


My old dorm room along Westmount Rd.

Looking back at it now, it almost seems like I was in fact having fun.


Anyway, it was then a left on Columbia Rd. past more residences and the Trillium Lake Valley and right on Erbsville Rd., past the shops and strip malls of Erbsville and, eventually, a pretty lake belonging to a local conversation area of which I forget the name.  What I do remember about it though is the big climb up and past it…a sure sign of things to come.


Unknown Conservation Area

At the end of Erbsville Rd., you come to a tee at Kressler Rd.  This is what I consider to be the actual starting point of the bike route I had planned.  It’s evident that once you get to this point you are no longer in Kansas.  The city is now behind you and you have officially arrived in the country.  All this constitutes approximately 10 kilometers of cycling.  Had I known I was this close to the countryside back in university, or had the required energy levels to do so, I might have been more inclined to make an effort to get off campus more.

A quick dog leg to the west and then to the north and you’re on The Weimar Line, one of the major thoroughfares.  Upon doing so, this is the sign that greets you:


How awesome is that?

Unfortunately, just a few meters beyond that you are greeting with this gentle reminder:


Remember that you would see this exact same sign every, oh, 1.2 km.

So, sure, there may be lots of horsies and wildife to behold, but it’s still not going to be any easy trot through the pasture, so to speak.  And it wasn’t.

The Weimar Line, as scenic as it is, is basically one challenging hill after the other, over and over again, requiring nothing short of a total Sisyphean effort.  Making matters even more challenging was that I was also riding directly into a strong headwind.  With no buildings or man made structures to protect me (one of the few benefits of city riding), the wind was more or less blowing across the open fields unobstructed so that it was at times, like riding into a brick wall.  In fact, as I worked my way up each climb, instead of a nice downhill descent as a reward (after all, what goes up must eventually come down), I was greeted by a strong gust of continuous wind that would require me to keep working at turning over the pedals lest I should get blown back up and over the top of the climb again…backwards.  What a rip.

Regardless, the landscape down the Weimar Line to Bamberg is breathtaking.  It runs pretty much straight as the crow flies for 5 kilometers or so past stately country homes, rolling meadows filled with hay bales, old barns, and expansive pastureland with herds of galloping ponies.  And every inch of it you have to earn, as I mentioned before. In total, it took me exactly 12:01, averaging 25.8km/h; good enough for 666th position among other cyclists, according to Strava.

Weimar Line

That’s not an entirely impressive time and I could certainly do better, but I was too busy enjoying myself and taking in the sights and smells of horse shit and dried grass.  That’s not to say however, that I wasn’t working.  To effect, I don’t think it’s any through any mere coincidence that I ended up 666th over all.  I genuinely thought at times that I could feel Lucifer himself prodding me along up the road by sticking his pitchfork in my ass.  Coincidentally enough, I also passed this sign:


Little did I know at the time that this sign was actually in reference to myself.

It was also somewhere along here that I passed my first Amish horse and buggy, of which there would be many more over the next few hours.  I would have taken a picture to post here, except that I know the Amish hold humility as a highly-cherished value and view pride as a threat to community harmony.  They literally take “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image” (Exodus 20:4) to heart and they would prefer to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they left, not by physical appearance.  So I refrained from doing just that.  Besides, I’ve seen ‘Witness’ and wouldn’t want to end up laid out by some Amish poser with a well timed Harrison Ford-style haymaker to the bread basket (click HERE).

I will say though, that there is something hugely satisfying about passing a horse and buggy on your bicycle.

I should also mention here that the last climb into Bamberg is a real doozy.  Just look at this gradient:

Bamberg Climb

This little bump here in the middle may only constitute a mere 380m of elevation, but it took me exactly 2 minutes and 50 seconds to grind up and over, good enough for 643rd spot on Strava.

Big whoop.

I will concede by saying that on the left hand side as you climb, there is the most spectacular farmhouse and working farm you have ever seen, complete with vegetable garden, pretty flower beds and a clothes line with wet laundry flapping in the breeze.  When was the last time you’ve actually seen laundry on a clothes line?  It was something right out of ‘Little House on the Prairie’.  I have expected that Laura Ingalls herself would come running out of the house, pigtails trailing behind her, to cheer me on as I struggled up and over that damn hill.  But she didn’t and I almost died.  I did, however, finally make it over and pressed on.

Anyway, continuing down the Weimar Line, not to mention up an over another stupid amount of hills, you eventually end up at the end of the line at Hutchinson Rd.  I turned a sharp left here and made my way towards the Township of Wellesley.

Wellesley is where my relatives lived for many years when I was a kid and this is where my family would venture out to on Christmas vacation.  So I am quite fond of the area.  Wellesley encompasses approximately 277.79 km2 and had a population of 10,713 as of the 2011 census.  Most of the residents likely will not have a home phone, access to the Internet or have the faintest idea about Pokemon Go!   The town of Wellesley’s original name was Schmidtsville, derived from its founding settler, John Schmidt.  But In 1851, the town was renamed Wellesley after Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the eldest brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.  The community quickly grew to be the largest economic centre in rural Waterloo Region, then called Waterloo County, with a wood mill, feed mill, grain mill (which still stands today after being constructed in 1856), leather tanner, cheese factory, restaurants and housing, and many other businesses that also brought much trade to the town from the nearby farms and farming villages.  It was in here that Kelly and I stopped for our first butter tart on our ‘Boogers, Ball Sweat and Hoark’ tour, at a cute country style deli on Nafziger Rd.  It was also here that I had a colossal (not to mention embarrassing) wipe out on the curbside outside the shop.  There would be no butter tarts today, however, and I pressed straight down Queens Bush Rd. through the center of town past the local post office, feed store, pharmacy and a village market.

This entire area is also the setting for the annual Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival of which I am also well acquainted.   Periodically, my family would make the bonus trip up in September to visit with the relatives which, for whatever reason, always welcomed us back even after allowing us access to their home for a week already that past December.  The festival, founded in 1976, attracts a few thousand visitors to the grounds located at the Wellesley Arena and Community Center during the weekend-long festival.  The festival begins with a community pancake breakfast at the crack of dawn and continues with a smorgasbord at noon, not to mention the apple butter and apple cider available all day long.  There are cider tours, coach rides, quilting bees, remote-controlled boat races on the nearby Wellesley Pond, horse-shoe pitching competitions and a classic car and tractor show.


Good times.

At the top of Queens Bush Rd., I turned left on Greenwood Hill Rd. and up an extremely scary looking hill that leads back up to the Weimar Line completing the loop through Wellesley proper.   It was here on our butter tart ride that I waited for Kelly to get to the top.  Here she is at approximately the half way mark, ready to toss up her butter tarts:


Don’t laugh though, this climb may be short but it’s a total bitch.  It took me a whole minute and 45 seconds to breach the summit (good enough for 483rd spot on Strava).  I thought it would be altogether appropriate to have a Sherpa greet you at the top with an oxygen bottle.

Here’s the results:

Greenwood Hill

How the hell the KOM on this segment navigated this hill in 35 seconds averaging a speed of 44.3km/h  I’ll never know.  I suspect doping.  However, providing you are observant around the half way mark of the climb as your lungs begin to explode (especially given how hot it was out), you might notice this beauty on the right hand side:


On the other side of the hill is a more modern and fancy residence complete with a private pond, gazebo and floating jungle gym.  As gorgeous a property as it is, it seems extremely out of character with the rest of the landscape.  But, hey, power to them as I would have loved to have been able to jump in that pond at that point.

At the top, I kept climbing up and over the Weimar and down again…into another headwind.


This, however, was a stretch of road that I had really been anticipating since I left.  For here, at #2039 Greenwood Hill Rd. is where my cousins lived.  To say I have fond memories of this place would be understating the obvious.  I remember my cousin Jodi tangling her hair up in the tire swing out back, getting trapped half way up the tree house in the field beyond the backyard and having to be rescued, waking up Christmas morning with chicken pox, mountains of presents piled up under the Christmas tree, huge roaring fires in the afternoon as the snow slowly piled up outside.  Man, those were the days.  I also remember going for my first “jog” here along this very stretch of road, when I stubbornly followed my Aunt Kathy until it was impossible to keep up and I was abandoned to play in a snow bank by the side of the road until she came back to collect me.  In total, I think I made it about 50m from the house or so.  Now, she has no recollection of this whatsoever and swears that she has never ever jogged in her life, but the memory is so vivid in my mind that I can’t imagine how it could not have happened.

Anyway, the house is one of only a few residences along this stretch of roadway which definitely adds to its quaintness.  Back then, it was a log cabin style residence and features a gi-normous wood burning stove in the family room, perfect for Christmas eves and mornings; especially for disposing the small rain forest worth of wrapping paper we inevitably tore through.  Its new owners have now covered up the log exterior with a soulless cream-colored vinyl siding and have paved the driveway, but I was pleased to see the same huge bay window in front.  Back then, this was about as “rural” as I thought you could get.  It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere but, then again, anywhere where I could cross the street to see cows grazing behind barbed-wire was about as rural as I could get; city slicker as I was.    I would have stopped and peeked inside the window had there not been a Dodge Caravan parked in the driveway.  Can you just imagine the reaction of those people had they found some stranger in a skin tight pink and purple Lyrca cycling kit pressing his nose up against their front window?

“Honey, fetch my shotgun.”

Shortly afterwards, I turned right on the Hessen Strasse, which more or less parallels the Weimar Line meaning I had to deal with all those hills again in reverse order.  And let me assure you, they are no less challenging in the opposite direction.  In fact, they’re longer, meaner and nastier.  And any notions I had of finally having the wind at my back were immediately vanquished the second I turned onto the Hessen Strasse; Mother Nature was definitely having a dig at me today.

Similar to the Weimar Line, the Hassen Strasse is beautiful…maybe even more so.  There are the same vast expanses of open pasture land, quaint little churches (one of which we would visit on Christmas Eve) and maple syrup farms as far as the eye can see.  If you stopped to have a swig at every maple syrup farm along the Hassen Strasse you would surely have type 2 diabetes by the time you navigated it’s entire 10 kilometers or so.  One day, I might even put this to the test.  It is along here though that you begin to come across a lot of little roadside “aid stations”.  This one was located approximately half way up another stupid climb:


That’s one of the reasons why I love the Amish and riding in this area in general.  They may not like you very much or care to do business with you directly, but if you’re inclined to leave a buck for a cold can of Coke left in a grungy old cooler at the end of a remote driveway, so be it.  Other unmanned roadside stands (if you can call them that) will have bouquets of flowers, home baked goods, bottles of water, and excess fruits and vegetables from their own gardens.  Garlic scapes were certainly in season as that what was primarily on offer.  You really don’t need to bring any GU gels or protein bars when you have all this instant nourishment available on the honor system by the roadside.  Likewise, who needs Clif bars when you can have a home baked Amish-style fig cookie?  I love it.  I could pedal for hours after one of those things – and I literally did.

Here’s another more “elaborate” one:


Around this time I passed another horse and buggy.  As I approached it from behind, I noticed two little faces pressed up against the back window watching me ride up on them.  Two little Amish girls were sitting in the back seat of their family carriage on their way to market or whatever with their father.  As I passed, the stern looking man never gave me so much of a sideways glance, which given what I happened to be wearing, seemed kind of surprising, but such is the Amish’s ability to block out the rest of us “English”.  However, I did manage to get a quick and nervous little wave from one of the girls before she instantly snapped her gaze straight ahead again as to not be noticed by her father.  I flashed her a little smile but I don’t think she noticed.

Turning left on Kressler Rd. again, having completed the first big 40 kilometer loop of my route, I headed north towards Heidelberg.

Oh, and I also passed this:



Weird, right?

Anyway, there’s not much to write home about Heidelberg aside from its being nearly 200 years old.  There’s not much even there aside from a stop light intersection, a garage and The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant of which I have never visited (maybe someday).  Really, it’s a reference point on my route to turn left on the Lobsinger Line into St. Clements and then right on Herrgott Rd. to Wallenstein.  Neither of these routes are particularly enjoyable riding as they roughly paved, and busy thoroughfares for traffic and large trucks so I just boogied along them as quickly as possible to get to my next intended destination in Elmira.  In fact, I will likely seek out an alternative route altogether on next years’ tour.

I will pause here for a moment however to point out that one of my stops is at the General Store in Wallenstein.


By this point I am at the (more or less) 60 kilometer point of my tour and could generally use some sustenance in the way of a cool beverage seeing as how there is very little shade along the road out here…anywhere.  The last shade I passed through was likely back at the University Campus.  It has been my habit to stop here for a Coke and give my ass a brief break while I’m at it.

Now, say what you will about the Amish and the Mennonites, but they generally aren’t very welcoming of strangers for one reason or another.  Each time I am in their presence I do my best to be polite and courteous and mind my own business.  When I entered the store, I was greeted by no fewer than 13 ladies in their traditional plain dress.

I gave them my best non-threatening smile.


Not.  A.  Single.  Response.

Then again, considering that I was dressed like somebody who was about to be shot out of a cannon, maybe it was too much to take in all at once.  Maybe they were just stunned?  I tried for a little friendly small talk by confirming with them that Elmira was in fact just up the road.


I thanked them for my Coke and told them to keep the change.


So much for “Where Friendly Neighbors Meet”, and I exited the store to allow the women to return to their scowling.  While sitting on the porch though, a huge Parmalat truck pulled into the parking lot beside the store.  One of the scowlers (about 70 years old I might add) came out of the store, jumped on an old forklift and proceeded to unload about a dozen palates of ice cream out of the truck and into the back of the store in seconds flat.  I guess the Amish and Mennonites really like their ice cream.  So say what you will about the Amish and Mennonites, they sure can drive a forklift.

I continued on to Elmira, about another 7 or 8 kilometers along Country Road 86, where I had planned to have lunch.  Elmira is the largest community within the Township of Woolwich in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.  While the land comprising Elmira originally belonged to the Huron followed by the Mohawk Indians, the first settlers arrived in here in the late 18th century.  In 1798, William Wallace (not this William Wallace) was one of the first settlers in the area after he was deeded 86,078 acres (348 km2) of land on the Grand River for a cost of $16,364.  In 1806, Wallace sold the major portion of his tract to Mennonites and the rest, as they say, is history.  There is obviously still a strong Mennonite influence in the area.  Each spring, beginning in 1965, tens of thousands of people gather in Elmira to celebrate the return of spring and maple syrup as part of April’s Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

My usual stop is at the Elmira Donuts & Deli off the street a little behind some shops.

You can see my little jog back to it here:


It’s nothing fancy.  Believe me.



But they do have one kick ass tuna fish sandwich and the Mennonite proprietors are a little more welcoming than the ones in Wallenstein.  Not much, mind you, but a little.  I will usually pass 20 minutes or so here on the front stoop in the shade thoughtfully noshing on my sandwich and whatever cookie that happens to catch my eye and do my best to “blend in”, which is not at all.  I consider this to be my half way point, even though it’s really more of my three quarter point.  Regardless, I know it…I like the tuna…so I keep returning.

Such is life.

From here I zip out of town as quickly as I can down Arthur Rd. and right on Listowel Rd. and back out into the countryside.  A quick left turn onto Three Bridges Rd. and, low and behold, I experienced my first tail wind.  Amazeballs.  Finally!  I amped up the turnover of the pedals and applied a little extra effort and eventually was cruising down this nice scenic stretch of roadway at an average of 36.9km/h  and at one point I was sailing – effortlessly I might add – at 47.2km/h.  After 70 kilometers of head winds I was determined not to waste this brief opportunity.  My effort was good enough for 15th position over all on Strava this year, covering the distance in 5:26.

Yay me.

Turning left on Hawkesville Rd., I pointed my bike towards popular destination tourist town of St. Jacobs.  First known as “Jakobstettel” which means “Jacob’s Village”, the village was settled in 1820.  The St. was added to the name simply to make it sound more pleasing and the pluralization was in honor of the combined efforts of Jacob C. Snider (1791–1865) and his son, Jacob C. Snider, Jr. (1822–1857), founders of the village.  It now pedals that heritage to tourists who have come to experience the “Mennonite Lifestyle”…which is entirely laughable.  Basically, I consider it as a necessary obstacle to endure on way back to Waterloo.  I mean, it’s a nice enough village, don’t get me wrong.  There’s lots of artisans, and a thriving market and yadda, yadda, yadda.  But the hapless throngs of people and touristy bullshit piss me off.  It reminds of own town of Ridgeway which practically triples its population in the summer when the “out of towners” flood into town and literally proceed to take over the beaches, shops, restaurants, etc.  It’s enough to drive you insane, so I get out…quickly.  And that’s pretty much what I did today in St. Jacobs.

Funny thing though, in the 30 seconds or so it took me to pass through the village I probably had my photograph taken about a dozen times.  Do tourists really think a Mennonite would be caught dead on a high performance road bike…and dressed like this?

The fuck.

Anyway, shortly afterwards there is a fun stretch of road along King Str. which takes you pretty much back into the city of Waterloo again.  “Fun” in that it is downhill and protected from the wind.  Eventually you pass through Wagner’s Corner and onto Weber Str. which will take you back into downtown Waterloo.  I spent a little time passing by the old familiar haunts of my University days and much has changed.  There is a significant amount of new high rise buildings now on just about every corner.  Waterloo, it seems, has been very busy.  I also passed though the campus quickly and it too has changed drastically; most of which are the students.  Did I look that young when I was in university?  Anyway, I was hot, tired, and getting instantly annoyed with all the hipster beards and toques on campus (seriously guys, it’s JUNE!) so I made my way back to my Aunt Kathy’s and a well deserved beer…or two.

All in, I covered 95.3 kilometers in a little under 4 hours, averaging a speed of 26.8km/h, which seems miserably slow.  I know.  But given the ridiculous amount of climbing I did today (almost 2,000m to be exact), I’ll take it.

Until next year.

Now that I’ve determined how much I absolutely suck at Aquafit, I have started to look at what other options are available at our YMCA during this time period while the girls are getting their Aquafit on.  As luck would have it, there is a yoga class that goes on at the same time.


I used to really get into my yoga way back when; four to five times a week as a matter of fact.  It’s actually one of the primary reasons I attribute my getting to the starting lines at both Cancun 70.3 and Ironman Wales in the shape I was in.  I first started at my YMCA and shortly afterwards graduated joining a local yoga studio where I learned the in’s and out’s of participating in “real” yoga sessions at a proper “ashram” (click HERE).

You may read that as “uninjured”.

The benefits of yoga are already pre-established within the posts of this blog.  At one one, yoga was the only form of strength-based workouts I did.  But then after Wales I needed a bit of a break from…everything.  Eventually, I slowly got back into swimming, cycling and running but, yoga?  Not so much.  My excuse is that there wasn’t a “satisfactory” yoga studio out here that I could visit regularly.  So my yoga practice took a sharp U-turn to Splitsville.  I did try to kick start my practice a few years ago and, well, it didn’t go so well (click HERE).  But seeing as how I’m now trying to focus my efforts on strength building and core given that the EPiC Challenge is off (click HERE) I figured, “hey, let’ giv’er another shot?  What the hell.”

It was like fate had finally smiled down on me.

So the plan was to spend my Wednesday evenings doing some plyometrics and weights specially aimed at building explosive cycling and running power and then cap it all off with a nice and relaxing yoga session afterwards to focus on my core and injury prevention.

Did you hear that?



Anyway, as I sauntered into the gym area where the session was being held I noticed a particular lack in the usual hippie-dippie New Age tattoos and fashionable athletic wear.  I mean, it is my local YMCA after all but, regardless, given my distaste for the holier-than-thou “culture of yoga” I began to think that this might actually go pretty well.


Suck it, Aquafit!

I unfolded my dusty yoga mat, slipped off my shoes and socks and readied myself to be “transformed”, or “blissed out”, or whatever the fuck it is they do in yoga.  I forget.

Unfortunately, the first words out of the instructor’s mouth were not would I would consider as being “transforming”:

“Today, we’re going to focus on opening up our hip flexors”.


To put this in perspective, and speaking for most regular runners/cyclists, “opening up our hip flexors” would rank right up there with “pouring battery acid down our pants”, or “claw our eyes out with garden tools” as far as motivating statements are concerned, specifically since I haven’t participated in any instructor-lead yoga sessions for at least two years.

This was going to suck.

And suck it did.

The next 55 minutes or so, we were lead through the usual series of poses and asana’s and at every turn I felt like my either my hips were going to rip apart, or my spine was going to snap like a dry pretzel.  At one point, she demonstrated the “bird of paradise” asana and I can only imagine the look on my face.

It probably read somewhere along the lines of:

I swear, I almost walked out then and there.

Definitely not WINNING!

Oh, and “crow pose”?


Of course, this was all largely in part due to the fact I haven’t participated in a well disciplined yoga class for so long, but also because I was still fatigued from the 60 minutes worth of hopping, leaping and skipping I did previously.  So, basically, it was about as far removed from “relaxing” as it was going to get and I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My intentions were good, of course, but the reality of the situation was less than pretty.

Eventually, she invited us to lie down on our mat to begin our warm down and, I swear, I think a single tear rolled down my cheek.  I was that relieved.  However, this was some good news though at this point.  As it turns out, I can still Shavasna like a champ.

Yay me!

I still plan on keeping with it as my schedule allows.  But if anything, this class reminded me of how far I’ve strayed from being a ‘yogi’ as well as how much work it’s going to take me in order to feel somewhat comfortable on the mat again.  Fortunately, I have a whole year to get reacquainted with my practice.

In a way, it’s kind of my practice coming full circle again in that I’m back at the YMCA where I first started and I think that there’s something pretty apropos about that so I’m taking it as an ultimate sign that it’s time to get my bendy-twisty on once again.

Let’s do this.


Posted: May 6, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: , ,


What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “Aquafit”?


How about this?



Me too.

In fact, prior to Wednesday, I’ve only ever participated in one other Aquafit class before and that was years and years ago and at the time I was as high as a kite.  So much so, that I pretty much just floated around the deep end doing my own thing for about 45 minutes until I noticed that everybody else had left.

I’m not proud of it, but there you go.

Anyway, the other night I had another go at this “Aquafit” thing and, truthfully, it didn’t go much better.

Allow me to paint you the tale.

We had decided earlier this month that in lieu of HRH  keeping up with her weekly swimming lessons that she and Kelly would participate together in something active every week.  Nothing intense or crazy, mind you, but something that definitely requires more effort and calorie burn than watching YouTube videos on an iPad.  And, seriously, if surfing videos and playing video games were an Olympic event, HRH  would be the new Jesse Owens.

Anyway, the plan was hatched this week that the girls would participate in an Aquafit class together and even though I had completed two other prescribed workouts that day I agreed to join them.

I’ve seen the grannies going at it during my evening swim workouts and it sure looked easy enough.

What the hell.

A quick check with Dr. Google revealed that Aquafit can be a beneficial workout to improve performance in other high-impact activities such as running.  Thanks to the buoyancy of water, you can strengthen your muscles and improve your cardiovascular fitness without actually subjecting your body to additional wear and tear. 


Furthermore, Aquafit can help you balance out muscle groups that may have become uneven through repetitive actions (ie. running, cycling, etc.).  I definitely have this issue and is ultimately why I’m so focused right now on trying to even out these imbalances I’ve created through weekly functional strength and plyometric workouts.   Working out in water provides equal resistance through your full range of motion, a phenomenon known as ‘double concentric muscle action‘  so, yeah, maybe there’s something to this whole Aquafit thing.

Suddenly, I was beginning to view Aquafit in a very different light:

Most importantly, it would be fun do something active and healthy together as a family.

And that’s cool too, right?

Besides, how hard can it really be?

So, anyway, my idea was to venture to the gym about an hour in advance to complete a challenging 60 minute plyometric routine and then I would join the girls in the pool for the Aquafit class as my “warm down”.

Good idea, right?


The first five minutes or so were easy enough alright, but as the class started pick up momentum into the workout I realized that, shit, this is damn difficult!  My body absolutely rebelled against me in the water refusing to do even the simplest of movements that the grannies over on the opposite side of the pool were making look easy.

The fuck?

The instructor lead us through a series of moves with odd sounding names like ‘crossovers’, ‘chainsaw’s, etc.  All of which, everyone – including Kelly and HRH – seemed to accomplish gracefully without much effort at all.  they were cool, calm and collected…like they were performing some sort of aquatic ballet.


I looked like a retarded porpoise splashing around for sardines.

Even pedaling my legs underwater was difficult.  Sure I do it over hundreds of kilometers a week on my bike – millions of revolutions in total I’m sure – but in the water, no so much.

And pedaling backwards?


But here’s the thing, after thousands and thousands of meters spent in the pool doing my drills and perfecting my ability to minimize resistance in the pool and thereby maximize my ability to efficiently move my body through it, suddenly, I was being asked to do exactly the opposite; feel that resistance and work against it.

And my body didn’t like it – at all.  It was confused…stymied…betrayed even.

It was as if my whole body was giving this to my brain:


I’m sure I looked like a monkey trying to hump a football out there.

So, yeah, this Aquafit thing…not so easy.

So while the girls still plan to keep up with it going forward and I definitely applaud them, I think I’ll stick with something a little less stressful and demanding like, say, bull fighting or pankration.

Bike riding is fun.  Sure, there are definitely some not so fun parts like when you’re going up a steep ass hill that never seems to end or when trying to maintain that tempo pace into a strong headwind but, hey, life is seldom an unbroken boulevard of green lights so what can you do?   You suck it up and get ‘er done.

But for the most part, riding is fun.

One of the cool perks of getting out and about on your bike is the ability to explore your neighborhood on a grander scale than you’d be able to while, say, running.   Not that you can’t explore while running but on a bike you can go further and if newly taken route should end up in a dead end, it’s not so aggravating in that you have to hike it all the way back again on foot.   This is my theory anyway as I’m sure others will wholeheartedly agree with me.

To this regard, I am also lucky in that I have a lot of room to roam and therefore, explore.  In my immediate area we have a plethora of battle grounds, historic forts, old barns and silos, century old (and even older) stone homes, and more country roads and fire lanes than you could shake a stick at.  Sometimes it’s a total bust or, worse yet, you find yourself cornered by dogs (click HERE), but other times you find something really neat that you never knew existed or something that makes you go “what the fuck?”  as was the case HERE.

Similarly, this was the same kind of scenario about a year or two ago when I came across this at the end of a dead end:



It’s exactly what it looks like…a stupid big rock…suspended by wire…from a fence pole.

That’s weird, right?

Let me try to put it in better perspective for you on how incredibly stupid huge this thing is.

Here it is with my step daughter standing next to it:


That’s pretty big, right?

And, believe me, this child is no midget so it sure ain’t no little casting stone.

Here it is again with a rubber duck:


Don’t ask me why I happened to have a rubber duck.  I just did.

So, like I was telling you:  it’s fucking BIG!

It easily has to be a ton or more.

I remember the exact moment I first spotted it from the road as I whizzed past.  I was riding down to what would eventually turn into a dead end along Silver Bay Rd., here:

Big Rock

And I was all like:


So much so, that I had to circle back and check it out to make sure that what had initially registered in my head was actually true.

It was.

I must have then spent a good 15 minutes ogling at this monstrosity trying to make sense of it.  Questions immediately began to flood my brain at an incredible rate.  It was like my little lizard brain was trying to instantly run about a zillion mental computations about what on earth could have transpired to result in this huge ass rock to end up hanging precariously from a wooden fence pole in the middle of nowhere bit in each and every model I considered either the world or my brain blew up.

Anyway, just for shits n’ giggles, let me run a few of the more obvious queries I have about such a random curiosity.

  • WHY is it there?

I mean, seriously, why?

What possible purpose could this thing be serving?  Is it the remnant from some ancient Sherkston Stonehenge-like rock formation?  What is some kind of marker or milestone for pilgrims on their way to the local trailer park?

I just don’t get it.

Is it supporting something in particular?  But even then, that be a bit over kill, wouldn’t it?  Like getting the Hulk to open your pickle jar.

  •  WHO put it there?

Was it Heracles?  Aliens?

I inquired with the owner of the house whose property this thing rests when they were out cutting their lawn once and they told me that it was already there when they purchased their home years ago.  This gets me to wondering then, who in their right mind would ever want  to hang a rock from a fence post anyway?  Surely this is not the work of some fancy-pants Ritchie Rich type (of whom there are many in the area), whose name suggests they probably own a yacht, wears only cashmere sweaters and owns a Zurich-based truffle conglomerate.


This is the handy work of a real dedicated working man for sure, which brings me to my last question:

  • HOW did they get it there?

Nobody – and I mean nobody – was ever going to simply lift huge ass thing up there by themselves, that’s for damn sure!  So, even if we did know what purpose it was supposed to serve, how on God’s green earth did they ever manage to get that fucking thing up there?  It’s not like it’s just come to be hanging there accidentally like some discarded orange rind.

Hells no!

Somebody wanted it there and made significant efforts to get it there.

So how in the fuck did they do that?

Did they use a tow motor, Bobcat, medieval lynch and pulley system, or was it achieved through some other lost method of moving around large ass rocks only know to prehistoric druids?

And when they got it up, how did they hold it there long enough so they could wrap enough wire around it to keep it suspended?  It completely baffles the mind.

In my mind this huge ass rock on Silver Bay Rd. is right up there with the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge as far as Wonders of the World go.

Perspective is a funny thing and I was reminded of that just this morning during my usual Wednesday morning swim workout.

There I was, kicking ass and taking names while hammering out the 50m sprints and feeling pretty damn proud of myself.  Everything was turning over well and I was keeping a pretty decent consecutive pace (for me).

I felt sleek, streamlined, powerful, and fast.

In my head, I was all:


Totally killing it.

Then about 45 minutes later, another familiar swimmer entered the pool; none other than our 2016 Canadian Olympic triathlon hopeful in Rio de Janeiro, Kyle Jones.  Let’s just say the dude can swim (as you might expect) and while doing so, he makes it all look so damn effortless.  It’s both incredible and inspiring to witness.

So, anyway, he hops in the lane beside me and begins doing his workout.  Suddenly, my 50m sprints didn’t seem quite so…speedy.


Now I’m being lapped over and over and over and over…and, well, you get the idea.  In fact, the lane rope separating our lanes began bowing over into my lane due to the sheer force and velocity he was generating while moving through the water.  It was like he had an outboard motor strapped to his ass.

Instantly, I was all like:



By comparison, my 50m’s now felt like I was trying to move through hot tar.  I was still keeping my same pace but suddenly I wasn’t the speedy fish in the little pond anymore.

No, sir!

Of course, that’s to be expected I guess given Kyle’s athletic prowess, age and, shit, I’ll just say it, he’s a far superior swimmer.

It’s all good, of course.  It’s just funny how suddenly things can change mentally and the silly things that can trigger those positive thoughts into psychological sewage.  Usually, I participate in the morning lane swim with other swimmers who are likely double my age so, yeah, by comparison, I’m a freakin’ marlin.  Next to this guy, however, I’m a sea slug.

That’s perspective!

However, it definitely gives me something to work towards.

Either that, or I’m looking for an ass-mounted propulsion unit of some sort to power me through the water for future sprints.

EPiC Disappointment

Posted: April 13, 2016 in In Transition, The Plan
Tags: ,

I received a bit of a shock the other evening when I opened my email and there was a message from the organizers of the EPiC Dartmouth Triathlon.  Usually, by this point before a major event I start to receive information about the event such as reminders about starting times, transition set up, etc., and this typically makes the event suddenly begin to feel “real”.  So it was with a bit of excitement that I opened the email to see what they had to say.

Unfortunately, it was not one of these types of “exciting” emails.  Instead, it was a message indicating to participants that the event had been canceled.


My expression was probably something like this:


I just sat there dumbfounded.


Here’s the primary issue as stated in the email:

“Two large sections of our bike route, comprising in total 28 kilometres of race distance, will undergo major construction this year, leaving us unable to guarantee a safe and secure competitive environment for our July 2nd event. Over the last two months, the EPIC team has worked continually with City Staff, NS Dept of Highways, the HPD & RCMP to identify an alternate route we could use for our 2016 event. In the last few days we exhausted the last of those possibilities.”

Now, first, let me just say that I have no issue whatsoever with the event organizers at all for making this decision.  They made the call they felt was necessary after doing what appears to be their very best to remedy an unfortunate and untimely situation.  The organizers have graciously provided participants the option to either a) receive a full 100% refund, or b) transfer their registration to next year’s event at the locked in price for 2016.

The fact still remains though, that I have already put three months of hard effort into training for this particular event including my having hired a coach and, suddenly, it’s all off the table.  So, needless to say, this announcement has therefore left me feeling very disappointed and discouraged and, ultimately, trying to figure out the answer to the immediate question:

What next?

So what it really comes down to is that my options are twofold:

  1. Find another event
  2. Agree to transfer my registration to 2017

My first instinct was to try and recoup the training by finding another event to switch focus to.  The problem being is that I have made other commitments to continuing my involvement with the SunRype Tri-KiDs series of races which I am very fond of being a part of.  That means then that just about every weekend throughout the rest of the summer from July onward will be dedicated to helping them run their amazing series of kids triathlons and my word is my bond so canceling on them now is not an option.  So if I choose another Ironman event later in the summer it will inevitably mean having to train without the benefit of most weekends to accomplish my long runs and bikes…not to mention having to do all this peak training during the hottest part of the year which was also something I was trying to avoid.




So, how about other July Ironman event’s right?  And there are a few.  My issue with this, however, is that if I am going to fork out the big bucks to do a major event I want it to be something that I am really looking forward to; something that not only myself but my family can get excited about…together.

After all, I’m not in this alone.

The EPiC Darmouth Triathlon (which is currently on my “Bucket List” of races, by the way) was going to give us  the opportunity to travel out to the east coast together and, as HRH  is particularly excited to do…eat cake by the ocean (click HERE).

And, seriously, who can’t get behind a plan like that?

So simply doing an Ironman for the sake of doing an Ironman is not really a favorable option for me either.  What I ultimately decided then was to accept the offer to transfer my registration to the 2017 event instead.  This gives me the benefit of another year focused on the right things to get even stronger and, hopefully, giving me a better shot at actually feeling like I can actually toe the line at this thing as a serious competitor and not just someone hoping to make it to the finishing line (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

So, yeah, I admit it:  I had the secret goal of being able to place well at this event. And looking at the finishing times from last year, it is definitely in my wheelhouse to do that.  My chances of this happening at any official “Ironman” branded race is pretty slim to none at this point.

I mean, some day, sure…but now?

Not likely.

The next big question is:

Then what?

And this took a bit more time to contemplate.  I just don’t want to nothing this summer as far as competition goes so the dilemma I’m having now is basically, if I wasn’t doing this Ironman, what would I have been doing instead?

The answer I kept coming back to was this:

Having fun!


The truth of the matter is that I don’t think I’d necessarily be competing, like, at all.  No, it’s more likely I would be doing different altogether; something that still enabled me to be active and healthy and continue on with my training, while still offering me a unique challenge to overcome.  “Competition” doesn’t necessarily have to be part of that formula.

Now so I’m considering other goals to accomplish; goals that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish had Ironman still been on my plate.  Among these things I’m now considering include a single day Summer Solstice “Double Century” bike ride on June 21st from Barrie, Ontario to St. Catharines and participate in some local open water swim events at the 5k and 10k distances.  These would keep me both on the bike and in the water while will later transfer nicely into next season’s Ironman training program.

I also plan to keep up with my running as well, specifically focused on perfecting this whole “cadence” thing.  I’d like to keep with the shorter more intense runs like my prescribed fartleks and progression workouts, but there is not real need to keep “going long”…well, not “stupid long” anyway.  The plan would be to keep this strong base I’ve established through these past three months so that I can launch myself headfirst back into the plan next February feeling strong, speedy and capable.

Basically, something like this:


So that’s it I guess.

It’s on for 2017.

The other thing that helps me with this decision is that in 2017, it will be exactly five years since Ironman Wales and, being the obsessive-compulsive guy I secretly am, I like prime numbers.  Taking another swing at the cat exactly five years later seems almost…cathartic.

What can I say?

It just feels  right.

So, sports fans, I guess there isn’t much else to say aside from the fact that I’m still moving forward, I’m still working hard and, hopefully, there will still be lots more fun adventures to journal about in the near future even though they likely won’t be Ironman specific…

…well, for a few more months anyway.

So am I disappointed?

Sure…of course.

However, will I carry on and come out stronger on the other side?


Two weekends ago I raced my first long distance event of the season, the Around the Bay 30k (click HERE  for this years results) in Hamilton, Ontario, except that I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole subject…until now.  In short, it was a complete debacle of epic proportions which has ultimately left me very disappointed and discouraged given all the hard work I’ve put into my run training over the past two months.

Seeing as how I finished over 20 minutes off my best time from two years ago (2:31:20), well, let’s just agree that it was a total shit show ending with me walk-slash-trotting at an abysmal pace for the final few kilometers.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this event should now be officially renamed the “Painful Shuffle Around the Bay 30k’.

But as the new coach keeps telling me, every failure comes with a new opportunity to learn and improve, meaning, now I’m stuck with the burning question that I’ve been dwelling on for the past two weeks:

What the fuck went so wrong?

The plan was not necessarily to go out and set a new personal best.  No, it was ideally just an ideal “training day” to get a sense how my over all run training has been faring, especially in regards to the whole quicker cadence thing (click HERE).  We agreed then that I should go out sparingly at a comfortable pace of 5:30min/km  for the first 5k, then begin to up my pace gradually over the next 15k or so, before unleashing the big dogs altogether and go for broke over the last 10k to the finish.

Easy enough, right?

Well, the first part of the plan went great and despite the adrenaline and rush of competition, I held myself back just as planned arriving at the 5k mark at almost the exactly anticipated time of 27:30, meaning that I was pretty much bang on my 5:30min/km pace perfectly.  At this point, I was experiencing no issues and was rather enjoying myself.  Well, aside from the fact that I way over dressed for the occasion and sweating like a complete bastard that is*.

But I digress…

After the first 5k I increased my pace by focusing on my “quick feet” just I have been practicing and my pace accelerated to fluctuating anywhere between 5:10-5:20min/km, or thereabouts, depending on the terrain, wind, hot babe runner in tight-tights, etc..  It was still a slower pace than that of my PB pace two years ago, but if I could keep that pace going and then some for the remainder of the race that would put me on a pretty even keel to finishing around the same finishing time having covered more distance in the end…quicker.

“So far, so good”, I thought.

“Yay me!”, even.

Then around the 18k mark the fatigue began setting in, even a little more than you might expect.  Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that running 18k in and of itself is no small feat (well, for me anyway), but this was a different feeling.  My energy began to sap from my body rapidly and all at the exact moment when those stupid long-ass hills started up in earnest along the dreaded North Shore Blvd. portion of the race.  In fact, these hills are what the race is known for.

I knew I was in trouble.

From there is was vicious downward spiral where my quads began to feel like they were being torn apart, and I developed a hot spot in right foot making my keeping any decent pace comfortable.  I knew that my shoes were a bit long in the tooth going in but I figured that they had at least one more long run in them.

Apparently, I was wrong.

By the half marathon mark, I was in big trouble.  From there, well, let’s just say it was a complete and total dumpster fire.  Mentally I had checked out, physically I was broken.  It started by my walking through the aid stations in order to give the burning sensation in my right foot some temporary relief and then graduated to alternating sporadically between a walk and a painful limp for the final few kilometers to the finish.

Here’s the whole shit show broken down pace-wise:

ATB Data


Not pretty is it?

I didn’t even want to collect my race medal when it was all said and done and instead of allowing the volunteer to place it valiantly around my neck as is customary, I snatched it out of her hand and quickly stuffed it in my race bag along with the token post-race banana and package of flatbread.  You’d think that she had just handed me porn, or something.

Fuck that.

Anyway, back to the question (blown shoes aside) – what went wrong?

Piecing together the day, it all started off pretty much like it does on any other given race morning.  One bowl of whole oats with brown sugar upon wake up, a toasted bagel and cream cheese about an hour later with the usual cup of coffee, and then starting about an hour before the start of the event I started nursing my premixed bottle of E-Load performance drink.

What I didn’t do however, was much fueling after that.  Once the race started I just got into my rhythm and blew through the aid stations as I hate jockeying around with 2000 other runners for a glass of whatever, so I tend to just move over to the right (or left) and carry on my way unencumbered.  And this was great for the first 15-18k, no issues.  I think the only thing I had to eat was a single dried honey date around the 7k and, maybe, the 13k mark.  By the time I had reached the hills, I was running on empty.

This was later explained to me by the coach:

“When you run out of glucose and glycogen in the muscles, your body switches from using fatty acids as fuel…to catabolizing muscle tissue for fuel.”

What this means is that when your body runs out of other sources of fuel, it will start to use its own muscle tissue for energy.  Isn’t that sexy?  This likely explains the “tearing” feeling I felt in my quads right around the two hour mark.  Obviously, this is not a normal condition, and your body will only start to use muscle tissue for energy under extreme conditions, such as if you are very sick (I was getting over the plaque I had contracted while in San Antonio two weeks before), severely malnourished or not consuming enough calories over an extended period of time to support normal body functions.


You see, every cell in your body needs energy to perform normal body functions such as moving, breathing, maintaining your heartbeat and healing damaged tissue.  And over the course of runner 30 kilometers, there’s lots of damaged tissue going on.  Normally, carbohydrates from your diet supply the types of sugar your body uses as its main source of energy.  To get enough sugar from your diet to supply your body with the energy it needs, approximately half of your daily calories need to come from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  I likely had enough of these stored carbs from my early morning feedings and the previous evening’s meal.

During digestion, your body will break down those carbohydrates into simple sugars that are then converted to glucose, or blood sugar.  That resulting glucose travels in your blood to every cell in your body, where it is used to manufacture energy.  If you consume more sugar than your body needs for immediate energy (and Lord knows I enjoy my treats), some of the excess is converted into glycogen, a type of sugar that is stored in your muscle tissue.  If your body needs glucose, and no sugar is coming in from your diet, glycogen is released from your muscles and broken down to supply enough glucose for energy to last about half a day.

So when I failed to “stoke the fire”, per se, by replenishing those stores of glucose I had in my body before the race started by providing it with more regular quick burning stores of simple carbohydrates, my body more or less reverted to eating its own muscle tissue in an effort to get the necessary glycogen to keep me going.

So, yeah, great!

My body was basically cannibalizing itself for the last 10k.


So, what’s the learning opportunity?


So going forward this is my new mission to figure out a proper fueling strategy for both before and  during my long workouts, especially now that I’m heading into my long bike training period as well.  During these training runs (and bikes, for that matter) I will need to begin experimenting more with what I am taking into my body, as well as how often, in order to be able to sustain the required energy level.

My issue with that though, is that I don’t necessarily want to spend the equivalent of the Gross National Product of a small underdeveloped country on gels and sporting supplements to do so.

But the dried honey dates just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Now, given that I “go long” at least twice a week (long, being over two hours), that’s a lot of expensive sporting gels.  Of course, I would definitely prefer real (cheaper) food.  But not only does that “real food” have to be the right type of quick burning fuel, but it also has to be easily portable to boot.  After all, to my knowledge, there is no catering service for long distance athletes that will agree to set up an elaborate fueling buffet station ever 5k or so along my predetermined workout route…is there?



So let the learning commence…

*This is a long standing tradition I have with this event in my never being able – for whatever reason – to figure out how to dress appropriately for the occasion.