Just like every other person on this planet sensible enough to take this whole social distancing thing seriously, I am beginning to suffer a bit from “Cabin Fever” given that aside from working as an essential worker four days a week, and the very odd bike ride when the weather cooperates, I have been abiding by government mandated social distancing strategies and simply staying the fuck home!

That means there’s been no running, no swimming, and no weights; not much of anything that doesn’t involve the couch honestly.

And, really … I make no apologies.

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Of course, I’d like to say that I’ve managed to keep up with a home fitness plan that I accomplish regularly but, truthfully, aside from at various points of boredom I dug up my front yard, dismantled the picnic table and affixed a set of swiveling handlebars to a fence post for God knows what reason, and eating fistfuls of jellybeans, my motivation to do anything physical more or less died on Day 3 of the official quarantine back on March 28th.

Today, however, was one of the few days I decided to throw caution to the wind, and while still practicing social distancing measures (i.e. I was alone) I set out on my bike for a ride down the Niagara Parkway.  It’s a beautiful day, and the first this year that I could just wear a normal summer riding kit without being cold.

It was glorious.

It’s times like these where I’m not necessarily pushing the pedals too hard, or focusing too much on a workout, where my bring gets to thinking and this, that, and everything else.  I’m pretty sure that on easy rides like these my lizard brain comes up with, turns over around and around, and then discards altogether before moving onto another, a fresh topic approximately every .0046 nanoseconds.

It’s true.

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Anyway, while out riding the more quiet roadways my eyes will periodically drift around to the landscape passing by around me as well as the roadway passing underneath me, and as is often the case this was the view today:

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Sorry … let me crop out my junk and flabby COVID thighs.

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There?

You see it now.

But just in case you still can’t (in which case, you must be totally blind):

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Yup … I’m taking about the water bottle.

And not just any water bottle, my vintage SunRype Tri-Kids Triathlon Series water bottle.

So, yeah … this is a random post about a water bottle.

My second post about water bottles, in fact (click HERE).

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To say that I’m not an “Ambassador of Change” as they say, would be the understatement of the century.  I’m more the passive obsessive-compulsive type that, once I find a style, system , route, or as it is in this case – an item, be it a convenient instrument, tool, or piece of training equipment – well, let’s just that that I tend to stick with it come Hell or high water.

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What can I say?

I’m a unique and beautiful snowflake and, yes, another post about a water bottle because, shit, I’m …

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Why this particular water bottle then?

Well, for starters it hearkens back to one of the very first outings I had with Tri-Kids team dating back to 2012-2013 (click HERE), meaning that it’s pretty much indestructible given how much I have used it over the past near decade. It’s made of that nice, soft, “mushy” pliable plastic that’s easy to squeeze and utilize and under no circumstances does it ever, freaking drip.  Serious.

Never!

It’s also nice that it seems to be impervious to mould, so that’s also good.

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It has accompanied me on many, many long and difficult rides and was even with me throughout my last Ironman distance triathlon two years ago (click HERE), satisfactorily managing the coveted role of carrying all my fancy performance mix – a very important role no doubt!  Let’s just say that I have some serious history with this water bottle and, believe you me, it has more than earned it place in my personal Pantheon of Water Bottles.  There was the unfortunate business with the chewed lid at one point many years ago (see previous link), but that issue has since been remedied by replacing it with another cap and yeah, Bobs your uncle … it’s currently back in service and riding along in my bottle cages eight years later.

Often, when I have been on a training ride (or at the gym working out, spinning, swimming, etc.), this particular bottle has brought me strength and motivation; other times it has brought me comfort and familiarity. Today, it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I see it, knowing that the up-coming Tri-Kids season has inevitably been either cancelled, postponed, or otherwise up in the air thanks to this whole global pandemic crisis.

Just another reason to hate on the 2020 year so far, I suppose.

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(It’s not like it was off to a rousing start anyway – click HERE)

While we’d be gearing up and getting ready to kick off the season in Burnaby, British Columbia at the end of the month (not to mention that I’d likely be riding a lot longer than the mere 90 minutes I did today), currently we’re on a holding pattern as is the rest of the world I suspect.

For the time being then, it’s more of these easy, solo “steady as she goes” rides (with the water bottle, of course!), and continuing to do my best to keep a healthy 6ft from the rest of you contagious germ factories.

BRING ON 2021!

(There is no intended point, or specific goal being made with this post.  No, this is simply more of my own personal weighing in with myself on this new, bleak future Mankind is now facing; namely the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.  It’s a strange new world and everything is changing, and one of the few “coping mechanisms” that I have that I can still do relatively safely here at home, is this blog, so this post is more an effort to document these strange times in which we now exist and, specifically … train.  Be smart out there people.)

It’s already April and I should be well on my way to building some serious fitness heading into the outdoor season but, of course, that was all before this global COVID-19 pandemic crises swept in and shrouded the world with a palpable air of gloom and despair.  Borders have been either closed or have newly imposed restricted access regulations, travel bans have been placed on international and non-essential traffic, schools, restaurants, and “non-essential” businesses have shut their doors, professional sports and live sporting and entertainment events have all been cancelled, “social distancing” is now strongly encouraged and gatherings of more than five people are not permitted, even the Olympics have been postponed to July 2021 for fuck sakes!

Know the last time the Olympics was ever delayed?

Never!

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That’s when.

In fact, the modern Olympics as we know it have only been cancelled twice before in history.

Of course, there were little things going on at the time known collectively as WWI and WWII … but I digress.

Our world has now been forever altered, and not necessarily for the better either.  Now with the recommended self-isolation measures and “social distancing” practices, gyms pools are all closed, and most running and cycling groups have suspended their weekly workout programs and, instead, are asking their athletes and participants to stay home; or at least go it alone if they absolutely must venture outdoors.  Suddenly, that glorious outdoor training season that we’ve all been looking forward to is in jeopardy, as are all the anticipated events and competitions that we’ve been counting down in our training calendars all winter.

Everything is now (quite literally) up in the air.

Now, you’d think then that the triathlete in particular would be faring a bit more than most, as we have more or less have been training for just these kinds of new isolated conditions and, ordinarily, I would agree with you.  We all spend, and have spent lots of time in our own basement “pain caves” to be sure.

What’s a few more weeks … or months?

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Amirite?

However, this whole current coronavirus outbreak is doing me no favors whatsoever.  I can’t swim as the pools are closed, our public trails are clogged with pedestrians (often quite in conflict with the “social distancing” guidelines), joyriders are making it challenging and stressful to be out bike riding and, shit, I’m not even sure I want to be outside anyway.  I’m not really smart enough to figure out Zwift and other online group workout sites, and I’m too cheap to pay for any online memberships.  Our grocery runs are delivered now to our front porch to be in as best correspondence with our self-imposed quarantine as possible and, therefore, our access to readily available fresh produce is proving to somewhat of a challenge and maintaining a healthy daily regimented diet is problematic to say the least*.

And we are not giving in to the temptations of panic hoarding either.

“We are all in this altogether” as they say.

These are some dark fucking times, man.

Some peers of mine are simply choosing to continue on “business as usual”, and attempting to maintain their disciplined training programs regardless – and “Power to them!” I say.

Bravo!

For me, however, this is simply not going to be the case.

I am in an awkward position where, happy as I am that I am still considered an “essential resource” and permitted to maintain working, it also comes with the greater inherent risk that I could be exposed to or contact the COVID-19 virus, especially given the often “less-than-ideal” sanitary conditions that I need to work in.  As such, on my mornings, evenings and weekends, I do not tend to stray too far from home.

I guess you could say that I am becoming aware that this global COVID-19 pandemic is a sign of sorts, that the human race collectively needs to slow down and reconsider its current pace of life if we are ever going to continue existing prosperously on this great blue marble of ours floating around in the celestial infinity of the cosmos.

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Too deep?

Anyway, what does this mean then for my health, both physical and mental, in the coming weeks to months?

To be truthful, I don’t know exactly.

While I have been out for some recent solo rides out in local country roads nearby now that the nicer weather is upon us, I have pretty much circled the wagons for all other activities and instead, embraced the quiet life that inevitably goes with this bonus “down time” we’ve all been gifted.

Hey, sometimes you just “have to go with the flow”.

For me then, that means I have been reading more and – get this – yard work!  That’s right folks, the other day I raked the front and back yard (after fixing said rake), cleaned out the window wells, swept out the garage, tidied up the workbench and sorted out my grandfather’s tool box, sorted and separated a shit ton of screws and nails, and rehung a metal bracket to hang a bird feeder meaning, of course, that I hand to operate a power tool.

That right, bitches … I used a POWER DRILL!

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While all this was going on, there was RUSH playing barely audibly over a broken radio and a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee going cold on a shelf within arms’ reach.  And if that isn’t the very epitome of the true Canadian in his natural habitat, I don’t know what is!

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You know the last time something like that has happened on a weekend?

Never!

(Once again)

Ordinarily, I would be out for a long ride or run, so that I could slip in a few errands and maybe drop by the local boozer for a pint before retiring home again in time for dinner.  There was seldom time in the day to scratch my ass, much less sort screws from nails … and all things considered, it was very satisfying indeed.

Also on the “Pro-Quarantine Front”, is that I have embraced reading once again.

You know, books n’ shit.

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Yup, me!

Being almost exclusively a non-fiction kind of guy, I have read biographies on such historical figures as Ernest Shackleton, Iggy Pop, Rev. Jim Jones, Patti Smith, Van Gogh, Bonnie & Clyde, King Leopold, and Theodore Roosevelt to name but a few.  Let it never be said then that I’m not a genuine Renaissance Man.  I’ve been seriously enjoying this somewhat rejuvenating quiet time on the couch with a record on the family turntable and a cat lying at my feet; a cold drink within an easy reach.  It’s almost as if I’m putting my mind and body in permanent “recharge mode”.

I’m not gonna lie – it doesn’t suck.

Not having to stress about the next workout, the next upcoming race, or how much I may be falling behind in my training regimen is, well … liberating.

I like it.

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As for the more physical health aspect, that too is being slowed down and more “strategically compartmentalized”.  That’s my way of saying that as far as exercise goes, I’m more doing what I feel like when I feel like doing it.

Period!

For example, now that the weather is nicer and the winter seems to be finally behind us, I am taking my usual morning core workouts to the back porch in the mornings and, instead, enjoying a nice, invigorating and gentle-flowing yoga practice.  Sure, gone from the routine is my faithful morning mat companion, Toby the “Morning Crack Cat”, as is the usually weird record from my “Cornball” collection of oddball records as a soundtrack, but there is something now to be said about waking up to a lungful of fresh air, while the squirrels forage the yard for lost buried treasure and red-wing blackbirds patrol the area for potential threats; a hot coffee steams nearby.

Sounds pretty sweet, right?

It is.

Of course, for God knows what reason, there is also in the near vicinity during these workouts an old axe, as well as rusted out squirrel trap. I’m not sure what this does for my chakra’s exactly, but I’m sure will won’t hurt any.

Yes, if it was an ordinary training day I’d already have done some laps, or be getting back from a morning tempo run, but it’s not.  I’m at home – where I should be.  And if this is what training is now in the absence of that fast-paced “Go! Go! Go!” world, especially when you’re not directly and constantly wired into it … then I dig it.

What can I say?

It is what it.

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And if quieter and more introspective times should genuinely lie ahead, then I want my exercise routine to be also reflective of that more, shall we say, magnanimous shift and, hopefully, lend to not driving myself insane in the meantime and then, once this whole coronavirus bullshit finally blows over, we can all get up and together and rise from the ashes like the unique and beautiful Phoenix’s that we are, ready to once again tackle the fitness world.

But for the time being, it’s time for us all to rest.

Stay at home, folks.

And wash your hands, for God sakes!

*Don’t even get me going on toilet paper, basic PPE’s and essential cleaning and sanitizing products.

It was exactly 10 years ago when I first started this blog.  Obviously, if anyone can recall (click HERE), I was a very different person and the circumstances surrounding my life and lifestyle were vastly different – that simply cannot be helped.  I made my choices and lived by them and, largely, I was very successful in the beginning, and while my initial goal of being the first “Stoner Ironman” were never realized, I did crush Ironman Wales as the ultimate end product of the whole transformation process.

But that was the peak.

Sure there have been other successes and triumphs along the way too, both competitively and personally, and this blog is full of those stories.  But, of course, there has been a fair share of serious setbacks as well through these years.  In some cases there have been resurrections from these challenges; other times not.  These past ten years have been more or less a continuous roller-coaster of ups and downs; triumphs and tragedies; being broken and being rebuilt again – all in a seemingly endless cycle.  It just so happens then, that rather than when I first started this blog and was well on my way to becoming my personal best, I now find myself one decade later having slid back down towards the very bottom.

And it’s galling.

More than anything over the past decade, more than any of my other “accomplishments” was a general belief that I had transitioned myself through doing the necessary hard work, of being one tough son of a bitch.  The kind of person who can go ride a century ride at the drop of a hat, or join others on a long open water swim just for the fun of it – often in the same day if time allowed.  I had finally accepted to myself that I wasn’t likely ever going to be the sleek-looking super pro riding the fanciest equipment at mach speeds in all the local triathlons, but turn that event instead into a long, slow, arduous, and often painful task?

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Let’s go.

Keep in mind, all my “personal bests” have taken place in the worst possible conditions and I have learned to genuinely cross my fingers for shitty weather come race day.  Heavy rain, strong wind, driving sleet, excessive hills, extreme heat or frigid temperatures, six foot swells … bring it on!  Throw everyone into the same shit equally, and I suddenly tended to fare much better than most.

I was tough.

Of course, I was still doing all the necessary hard work in training.

Among my most favorite and, truthfully – feared – “tough guy” proving grounds were my repeated invitations into the Brock kinesiology lab to be a willing participant in their various studies to test the limits and understanding of sporting and athletic related sciences.  And believe me; some of these studies really, and quite truthfully, tested the very limits of my own mental and physical abilities.  Sure I was never the fittest looking, or likely the top performing of all the participants, but it was guaranteed that I would show up for more, again and again and again if necessary; regardless of how bad it sucked.

And, believe me when I tell you that there were times when it really sucked (click HERE for only an example), and many participants even threw in the towel before completing the entire process.

But I never quit.

Remember, I even sat in a freezer for two hours (click HERE).

I even took to referring to myself with pride as a “Suffer Bunny”, knowing my growing mental aptitude for enduring the worst that could be conjured up and that general belief has been a prime motivator in accomplishing my more recent training plans.  Over the years, I have allowed myself to be poked and prodded with needles and IV’s, heated up, frozen alive, and dehydrated.  I have had my body pushed to its absolute physical limits in pretty awful conditions and then allowed my mental skills and cognitive function to be challenged afterwards and, of course …

THE PROBE!!

(Sorry, couldn’t help myself)

Whatever they threw at me, I was guaranteed to go back for more to complete the job and I prided myself on being able to do that.

I was one tough son of a bitch … I was “hard as nails”.

This hard-working “at all costs” ethic even serves me well in my personal-slash-professional life.  I routine have a very physical work day; both mentally and physically.  I routinely lift, hoist and “Jenga” heavy furniture, often in cramped conditions, as a product of my job.  Elevator not working?  I’ll just carry all my heavy equipment up the ten flights of stairs rather than waste valuable work hours waiting in the lobby with everyone else.

Breaks?  Breaks are for pussies.

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My father certainly may not have left me much, but he definitely well-equipped me with his unique brand of ethics and stubbornness!

And so it was this same mindset that I walked into the Brock kinesiology lab once again this past Tuesday to participate in the next round of torture, a project called: “Redefining Fatigue: Considerations for the Modelling of Critical Power”.

And rumor had it that this particular series of testing was extremely difficult and, therefore, I was bound to LOVE it.

Just my kind of dance.

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Having said all this, I was very aware going in that I was not going to be anything close to my past performances; quality or quantity.  But surely my mental and physical toughness would continue to serve me, and while the inevitable body mass and fat measurements were going to be embarrassing, that wasn’t going to necessarily inhibit my ability to suffer any as is typically required and so I made arrangements with Scott to meet up in the lab to begin the eight sessions that were going to transpire over the next 3-4 weeks; time to get to work.

Unfortunately, the only work I really did was changing into my bib shorts.

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Yeah.

Let me back track a little first …

As part of the study (as it is in the beginning of any study), there is the gauntlet of consent forms and “Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaires” to complete.  I typically gloss over these forms as I’ve never had reason or cause for concern regarding my health.  Sure, I’m still a larger dude – I’m no skinny Minnie to be sure — but I’m eons from where I had allowed myself to slip in years previous.  However, I have also recently come to know that I have unusually high blood pressure, despite exhibiting zero others signs of anything indicating a cause for alarm.  Lord knows that I have never typified the idea, or image for that matter, of a standard “athlete”, and it pains me even to type that word in reference to myself.

Regardless, I felt that ‘full disclosure’ was the only policy as I have come to both trust and respect the student investigators (Scott and Phil, et al.)  Besides providing me with a safe environment and means in which to have my ass handed to me, they also 100% have my back by taking every safety precaution in order to protect my health and thereby minimizing the risk of anything ever going, well … not smoothly.  And, of course, they can’t do that without all the necessary information; the big picture – so I mentioned my blood pressure and it was (rightfully) decided to check it out before proceeding any further.

161/90.

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Yup.

That’s what I figured, so we waited a little longer before trying again.

(thinkcalmingthoughts … thinkcalmingthoughts … thinkcalmingthoughts …)

160/59.

FML.

We tried a third time, but I knew there wasn’t going to be any positive change and, ultimately, the reality began to sink in … my inherent “toughness” was gone.

Now, I was a liability simply to continue — from Ironman to Ironpussy.

It was like being punched in the stomach (made even worse seeing as how I had also brought along HRH for moral support) as I was instantly overcome with this overwhelming sense of shame and embarrassment.  The denial that, while not performing or exercising to my usual standards, I was still somehow miraculously self-managing my fitness reasonably, sank in with a lead weight.

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In fact, I had back-peddled much farther than I had anticipated.

I was no longer “hard as nails”.  I felt mushy and gross.

Needless to say, I never  made it onto the velotron Tuesday evening.

It was a total wash.

I was shocked (I still am).

I would like to say then that this post was intended as a “calling to arms” in that I’ve seen the light and I’m ready to rally back and put the whole fitness train back in motion again but, truthfully, given this new information and current circumstances surrounding my life now ten years down the roads, I have no more idea on what to do now than I do how to calculate quantum physics.

What is “Heart Smart” exactly?

To me, it sounds like a Latin derivative meaning “to eat dust”, or maybe “void of flavor”.

Suddenly, I’m plunged into this challenge of, well, not being such a high risk of having my heart explode should I decide to go for a bike ride, or do some laps in the pool, or – heavens forbid – attempt my luck in future testing at the Brock lab, and I’m both scared and lost.

And, apparently, I cannot do this alone any longer and I do need help.

I think over time, I’ve lost the inevitable accountability that I used to have by belonging to different sporting groups, and was more enjoying simply being a part of a larger community of like-minded and physically active people.  When I moved from my longtime home base of St. Catharines, 45 minutes down the road to Ridgeway, I started opting out of club rides and activities to stay closer to home in order to explore new territory, as well as helping to raise a very engaged seven-year-old girl.  I have still been fortunate enough to hook up with many very capable and hugely inspiring people out this way, but more and more I ended up training alone and this model has served me well as long as I had a commitment, either to an actual event or to a specific coach.

I always had accountability … somewhere.

After my second Iron distance triathlon, the pressures to perform and focus on “doing the work” seemed less critical and sleeping in seemed more and more like a good idea, over my beloved morning laps.  I still rode my bike, and even managed some decent length Century-distance rides, but it was more when I wanted to and felt like it as opposed to any sense of obligation and, of course, they nearly all ended at the local brewery to celebrate.

It was a pleasant change to enjoy myself and do as I please, as opposed to continuously over-exerting myself, specifically seeing as how I didn’t have anything specific to train for.  I enjoyed not having to rush out of bed early in the morning to slip in a first work, only to rush to and from work in order to slip in a second workout before dinner and, hopefully, some family time before an early bedtime so I could repeat it all the next day.  My mind wasn’t really into “suffering” any longer; it was into patios and time spent with family and friends.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

But all these post-ride beer and pretzels, never mind the “Great Jellybean Festival of January 2019”, have apparently caught up with me in just short of two years since my Hudson Valley Full Triathlon and it’s time to finally step back and take a serious reassessment of myself, and the ultimate direction that this currently rudderless ship is traveling, and maybe attempt to make the necessary and immediate changes to get it back on course.

In essence, ten years later and adrift again and more or less starting all over once more.

The learning curve is going to be no less huge – life changing in fact, just as it was over ten years ago (click HERE for My Life: Part 1, click HERE for Part 2, click HERE for Part 3, click HERE for Part 4) and I don’t even know where to begin this time around precisely, but I do know that it has to start now and, hopefully, this public admittance to myself will prompt these tentative first few scary steps towards rekindling and rediscovering that old toughness I was so genuinely proud of.

I have so much to learn and relearn, so coming over the next few months, hopefully, there will be a series of posts here with a renewed focus aimed at keep me accountable to all the new “come to Jesus” moments that I’m inevitably going to encounter along this new path … and I see lots of forks in the road in the very near future.

rest assured, this is sure going to be one hell of a learning curve!

So in an effort to not completely freak out and end things here on a dour note, I have to remember that I have rebuilt myself on more than one occasion (click HERE and HERE), and I do have people with whom I can lean on if necessary, so here’s just hoping then that I can do it once again seeing as how this time … my life may literally depend on it.

What else can I say?

Pass the salad.

Mountain Biking Madness

Posted: December 24, 2019 in Bike, Motivation
Tags: , ,

“Slow” has become pretty much my normal jam these days.

With the exception of getting to the local brewery to pound back a few “couple beers” after work, there is very little that I ever do outside this “slow” parameter anymore.   You could even go so far to say that I have making judge strides with the whole “Mañana” approach to working out and as such, I’ve been stockpiling an approximate shit ton of calories around my gut.  In fact, my belly more or less continues to press outward against my waistband, ceaselessly, in an ever-expanding cosmos around my ballooning ass.

It sure ain’t been pretty.

Anyway, I received an email the  other day from the Brock University Kinesiology Lab looking for “volunteers” for their next upcoming series of scientific testing involving “Critical Power” which, while still managing to sound like a schmaltzy name for an early 70’s smooth country band, also kinda scares me a little too.

To that regard, I decided then that it was time to begin getting back out on the bike; and not just any bike, but my newish EVO Stone Ridge mountain bike.  You see, indoor trainer workouts aren’t really my thing.  Actually, technology is my biggest limiter as my inevitably trying to buy, install and sync my bike to the computer would cause me either a massive coronary or a divorce, but I digress … I don’t spin indoors on my own much; like, at all.  Similarly, I haven’t been able to loop into and join any “spin” classes at the local YMCA’s that I either enjoy*, or can make regularly.

So that leaves me no other option but to keep riding outside, or so has always been the initial plan anyway.

However, “my favourite workout” didn’t really materialize last winter as I didn’t really have any special competitions to prepare for nor the motivation to freeze my balls off unnecessarily, so my mountain bike has more or less been living in the shed for a year.

Lately though, especially since I will soon have to run the gauntlet of body fat measuring and VO2max testing, not to mention having to don my bib shorts in public once again, I have begun to bring “Eva” out of the shed to explore this whole mountain biking thing.

And by “mountain biking”, I mean actual mountain biking** and not just riding to and from the YMCA through the snow along the Friendship Trail but, again … I digress.

My first real ride was last weekend where I took Eva out and rode along the shores of Lake Erie between Bernard Beach and the end of Thunder Bay Rd., along the leftover cracked and crushed sea shells, small pebbles and rocks, washed up roots and vegetation, packed sand, and just about anything else that got in my way.  As far as difficulty is concerned, I’m sure this wouldn’t even register for most seasoned and gnarly mountain but, for me, it was thrilling.  Today, I rode the infamous “Hydro Hill” (and damn near died in the process!) in St. Catharines and then around the “easy” network of trails around Brock University and the Glenridge Quarry Naturalization Site.

Now, I have to say as a devout roadie: mountain biking is absolutely alien feeling.

It’s a total apples and oranges kind of difference actually.

First off, mountain bikes are bigger and heavier.  Now this might seem like a completely “duh” kind of thing to point out here but, really, when one has only ever had to heft their light ass road bike into the back of the car – rather effortlessly I might add – suddenly fitting the mountain bike takes a little more strategy, configuration and muscle.  My fear now is that if I continue to get used to loading and unloading this wheeled beast into my car, the next time I go to do the same in the spring with my beloved road bike, I’m likely to forget how light it is and accidentally launch it into orbit after I go to pick it up expecting it to be much heavier.

Secondly, mountain bikers dress differently.  I passed only two other riders out today and they looked, well, relaxed and comfortable while I’m out here trying to make do with my recycled roadie gear.

Seriously, I might as well have been riding a penny farthing.

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Regardless, neither of those differences really matter much when it comes down to it performance-wise so, really, what benefit is this mountain bike going to provide me?

Specifically, what are the immediate and noticeable differences that might positively enhance my fitness and, ultimately, serve my endgame of not being a complete and utter pussy come time I walk back into the Brock lab.

Well, two minutes into my first taste of off-roading over “soft” trails and I already knew this was going to be a very different ride.  Out on the road, remaining alert to obstacles and potential threats in the road of course, I am mostly keyed into the traffic around me and absorbing the usual hustle and bustle of road riding, all the while trying to identify potential risks and threats around me (unless of course, you’re lucky to enjoy miles and miles of quiet, paved and seldom-used country roads).

On the trail, it was quiet.

Like … creepy quiet.

Likewise, there were no exhaust fumes to breathe or any of the unusual funky roads smells that waft through your nostrils as you cycle past.

It just all smelled crisp, fresh and awesome.

I have to say, there was nothing quite like the feeling of whooshing down the Niagara Escarpment through the woods with squirrels scattering and birds taking startled flight; the sound of my 2.8″ tires crunching through the frozen leaves and twigs; frozen booger stuck to the side of my cheek; the look of mad and unbridled exhilaration in my eye.

If ever there was “gnarly”, certainly this was it!

While I admit that I enjoy the meditative aspect to long distance road riding, the inevitability is that you’re also going to share the road with other nitwits making hasty, impatient decisions in navigation, except that they’re wrapped in a metal box and you’re not.

Sure there are things out on the trails to be wary of, but I am wagering that a tree is sure going to be a more forgiving when you run into it than, say, a moving Dodge Caravan.

Also on similar (yet different) note, your Strava maps tend to look a bit more, well … erratic.

In comparison to my long summer rides that tend to follow long roadways that form some sort of “loop” beginning and ending at your doorstep, the map for today’s ride on Strava looked more like the flight path of a drunken bumblebee.

Behold:

Bike route

Keep in mind that all this seemingly random meandering all over God’s creation happened within a mere 12 kilometers.

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Yup, that’s it.

Oh, and even just that took me a whole 46 minutes to boot!

For my complex roadie lizard brain, that’s some crazy time and space shit to comprehend.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother getting suited up for a mere 12 kilometers out on the road as I would be done those 12 kilometers in a shorter time than it would take me to initially get ready in the first place.

However, here I was completely spent; huffing and puffing like an asthmatic orangutan.

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Just look at my heart rate in the first few minutes as I made my first ever ascent of the dreaded 500m long “Hydro Hill” beginning at the base of the escarpment:

I haven’t spiked my heart into the 160’s in eons, much less in the first three minutes!

In truth, road riding is primarily spinning at high cadences for long periods which serve to enhance your cardiovascular fitness, but (as I am learning) mountain biking is much, much different.  Mountain biking requires much more dynamic fitness – from quick bursts to sustained cardio output – and incorporates many more muscle groups.

Let me tell you, my lungs were a-burnin’ even though I wasn’t anywhere near the speeds that I would normally associate for this kind of fatigue.

The gravel trails and single dirt tracks had more varied terrain than the paved roads I usually ride.  Short, steep rises and obstacles require explosive power bursts to ride without losing momentum. Single track with rocks, roots, switchbacks and other obstacles demand repeated power bursts and highly fluctuating pedaling forces.  I am equating this to the same type of power required to wind up my beloved morning sprints, accelerate out of a corner, close a gap in a road race, or even ride away from my completion altogether as I like to try and do from time to time.

(Honestly, I just don’t want to die or shit myself on the Velotron next month)

Truth of the matter is, I’m more or less starting over again at this point.  My fitness is lost, my drive has all but fizzled out and I’m in desperate need to get back into into with passion (aside from my bed that is).  So once our little family has finished our “Big Nash Family Christmas Cruise” next week, it’ll be back ‘at er for good in the New Year and, hopefully, this mountain biking thing will play a major role.

*Yes, I can be somewhat of an indoor cycling snob.

**Okay, there’s no real mountain per se, but there certainly wasn’t any paved pathway either.

I have been trying (largely failing, but trying) lately to re-establish some sort of disciplined regime, or training program of some sort into my every day work week.

Even the motivation to get out of bed in the morning would be nice.

It doesn’t have to be a lot at this point, of course, but I have started feeling like I should be doing something.  However, it feels sometimes that my body has ways of conspiring against me and forcing me to remain sedentary.

For example, once I started to get back into the regular habit of swimming twice a week in the mornings, for God knows what reason, my body also decided that I needed to develop an acute case of wax build up in both my ears, ultimately blocking them up entirely.

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Yippie.

Now, I’ve had my ears plugged up before but it had become so that I could hear about as well my grandmother on a windy day.

Not good!

Lest we forget my traumatic perforated ear drum just three years ago (click HERE).

And, apparently, I still have a bit of PTSD regarding that incident because rather than risking another visit to the Urgent Care I decided to do nothing but simply cross my fingers that the situation would simply correct itself.

Of course, it didn’t and I’m a colossal idiot.

After a few weeks of near deafness and a voice now well hoarse from asking people to repeat themselves, I finally managed to make an appointment with my family doctor in St. Catharines.  I should clarify here by pointing out that my family doctor also runs a medical clinic, meaning that I will typically get handed over to whatever medical student happens to be on duty that day.

Unlike the buffoon at the Urgent Care, things went a smoother albeit unsuccessful.

Try as he might, using a metal Medieval-looking syringe contraption, the good doctor simply couldn’t dislodge the waxy obstruction from either of my ears.  By the time we were finished, he was huffing and puffing as if he’d just run a personal best half marathon and I was absolutely drenched from head to toe from being sloshed over with waxy ear water and sweat and, still … nothing.

Not a damn thing.

FML x 2.

As it turns out (and as history has hinted at), I have been blessed with both extremely small ear canals* as well as a propensity to generate some sort of “Super Wax” that isn’t so easily cleared from my ear canals.

‘GO ME!’ with the God-given talents, eh?

For a month or so, I subjected myself to having my ear canals flooded over and over again with special over-the-counter caustic solutions and olive oil 2-3 times a day in an attempt to break down my super wax before having them thoroughly rinsed out with syringful’s of warm water.

It was awful.

Seriously, with all the cotton balls I stuffed in my ears over the weeks, I was about one pair of white socks and sandals away from my seniors discount on the Denny’s “Breakfast Special”.

Never mind the horror this was likely inflicting on my wife for having to be the actual “applier” of said solutions and oils into my ears each night.

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It was pretty nasty.

Needless to say, it got very frustrating when after multiple unsuccessful visits to the doctor I started to get rather miserable.

Then, in a moment of apparent clarity, my Kelly suggested that I visit the Hear Right Canada Ridgeway clinic that opened up shop only a few months ago down the road.

My first response: “You waited a fucking month to suggest this?”

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My second response: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Let’s do this.”

Among the services provided by founders Jenny Fanning and Anne Boake, include: ear wax removal, hearing tests, custom noise plugs and swimming ear plugs, as well as adjustments, service and cleaning for hearing aids.

Essentially, the girls cater to old stubborn farts such as myself.

Upon arriving at the clinic, I was greeted at the front desk by Anne, a very jovial and affable woman who instantly puts you at ease because, well, after my last experience of squirting blood on the Urgent Care walls after having my ear drum perforated, let’s just say that I was in need of some “easing” shall we?

Needless to say, I was more than a tad nervous to be there and her demeanor was much appreciated as it was necessary.

Shortly afterwards, I was escorted into an examining room and introduced to Jenny, an equally nice lady with whom I also felt perfectly at ease.  Well, at much at ease as you can be with someone with whom you are about to trust not to send you skyrocketing through the roof in pain that is, but I digress.  I went through the whole sordid tale and past history with her.  I’m pretty sure that if had had a lute to play, I might even have tried to set it all to song for true dramatic effect but, again, I digress.

Finally, Jenny rolled up her sleeves, and armed with a plastic spray bottle with a weird heart shaped garlic clove sized thingee for a nozzle and a plastic rinse cup, proceeded to get to work and flooded my poor, clogged up ear canals.

Now, I would like to tell you here that I weathered this like a champ but, of course, that didn’t happen.

Not exactly.

Instead, especially, when Jenny began to really dig into my ear with some kind of lighted probe thing, I clung steadfastly to the office chair and whimpered like a frightened koala.  Truthfully, whatever that thing was she was using to scoop the indestructible goop out of my ears, in my peripheral vision – it resembled some sort of strange alien device and it did nothing to alleviate my mounting anxiety.

In fact, when Jenny called for Anne to “put on a pair of gloves and come to assist”, I thought it was going to be to hold my hand because I was being such a little Sally girl.  Instead, it was to tug at and pry open my ear even wider as Jenny really begun to dig into the obstruction.

It’s not painful exactly, but it definitely isn’t comfortable.

In my mind, it was as if they were trying to forcibly uncork a stubborn wine bottle that happened to be my head and it totally sucked balls.

All I could think of was that scene from the Wrath of Khan:

In reality, however, they were gentle as could be and eventually, together, they were able to dislodge the offending blockage from my left ear.

HALLELUJAH!

What she fished out and wiped off on the counter in front of me looked like some sort of nasty, waxy cocoon about the size of an affixed pencil eraser.  Sadly, the right ear – the worst of the two I might add – was proving to be much more stubborn so it was decided to call it quits for the day and just take the partial victory for what was and another appointment was made for the following week.

And, so, for another week, I dropped gunk in my ears at bedtime.

This time, however, on Jenny’s advice, I dropped hydrogen peroxide into my ears which, apparently, was to serve to soften, break down, and dissolve my super wax preceding another vigorous round with the spray bottle and probe.  Honestly, it was rather pleasant to fall asleep to the snap, crackle and pop of the hydrogen peroxide working on the accumulated cerumen in my inner ear.

It was like having a bowl of Rice Crispies poured into your ear each night and, strangely, I liked it.

Regardless, it was not with a great amount of stress that I re-entered the clinic a week later ready to do battle.  Thankfully, the office was empty because (similar to the first visit) inevitably, there was going to be lots of swearing and maybe more than a few tears.

Promptly the girls got to work in dealing with my stubborn blocked right ear.  For the next 10-15 minutes, Jenny meticulously rinsed and flushed my right ear canal with the genuine fervour of an overly obsessive-compulsive raccoon and dug at the deeply embedded blockage like a true 49er and Anne responded to each stage of the proceedings, be it positive or negative in result, with the right commentary; always delivered in the appropriate tone.

It was like having both my own play-by-play commentator and cheer leader all rolled up into one.

For my part, I mostly bitched and whined.

Jenny’s monumental labour was on par with mighty Hercules having to clean out the Augean Stables I assure you.

Fortunately, after much effort and a few near close calls, the super wax was finally extracted from my ear and sound flooded back into the right side of my head once again.  I maintain that the first thing I heard was the sound of angels singing.

(I swear!)

I almost broke out into a full on Footloose calibre dance party right there in the empty office.

So, what have I learned through this whole spectacle; what’s my ultimate take away here?

Well, aside from the obvious fact that I need to clean out my ears more, I am proactively assuming a “self-care” preventive plan for my tiny ear canals involving my dropping mineral oil into my ears 2-3 a week to hopefully assist in turning my hard, dry super wax into a more soft, pliable, liquid substance which (fingers crossed) will allow the wax to drain from the ear on its own.

How friggin’ awesome will that be?

Okay, it’s a bit gross too but, once more, I digress.

I guess then that if long distance swimming is going to be the name of my game, so to speak, then like poor Prometheus who was similarly forced to endure having his liver ripped out and eaten daily by an eagle, so too will I just endure my regular ear drops.

(Not to mention my wife, for whom, this will become a new part time job**.)

Likewise, it would appear now as if Jenny and Anne at Hear Right Canada Ridgeway will be having a new, regular client every three months or so for regular ear cleanings because Lord knows I am NOT going through this again.

Onward and forward …

*Thankfully, there is no urban myth associated with guys with “small ear canals”.

**Love you, dear!

On March 2nd, 1962 Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game scoring record in the NBA by scoring 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169–147 win over the New York Knicks at the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

It is widely considered to be one of the greatest records in basketball, not to mention in all of sports.

It is also worthy I feel to mention for no reason whatsoever, that ól Wilt also claimed to have slept with over 23,000 women in his lifetime, which would certainly be worthy of some sort of record or renown accomplishment of some sort, but I digress …

Chamberlain also set five other league records that game including most free throws made, a notable achievement, as he was genuinely regarded as a poor free throw shooter.  ut on this particular night, Wilt was in the zone and drained 30 of the 32 times he was sent to the foul line.

Pretty impressive, huh?

But here’s the thing.  Given his notoriety of being a poor free throw shooter, Chamberlain decides to switch his foul line strategy to making his free throws underhand, or a “granny shot” as they are often referred to, which ended up giving him a bit of an advantage.

I know, bear with me here.

Believe it or not, there is a shit ton of science behind the logistics that will make the claim that free throwing underhand is a much more accurate and therefore statistically advantageous way to throw from the foul line, as opposed to the classic overhand approach which is almost always observed by players.

But, for whatever reason, despite all the successes that it brought him that night, Chamberlain decides shortly afterwards to revert back to free throwing overhand simply because he felt “like a sissy”.

Get that.

After arguably the greatest performance of his career, he instead reverts back to doing things differently because that’s what people expected him to do.  In other words, he potentially forgoes even further successes and laurels in the future simply because it went against the grain of what was commonly regarded as the norm by society (ie. everyone else), regardless of the science and logistics behind it.

Essentially, he sacrificed his success for what others believed.

This is also known as the “Threshold Model of Collective Behavior”, or some fancy shit like that.

That’s fucked up, amiright?

Now take Rick Barry, named one of the 50 Greatest Players in history by the NBA in 1996, the only player to lead the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), ABA, and NBA in scoring for an individual season.  At the time of his retirement in 1980 his .900 free throw percentage ranked first in NBA history … all done utilizing the unorthodox but effective underhand free throw shooting technique.

Yup!

But have you ever heard of Rick Barry before?

I didn’t think so.

And that’s okay, because Rick Barry doesn’t give two shits if you know who he is or not and he never did.

So what does any of this have to do with triathlon or, anything really?

Well, the truth of the matter is that I’ve had just had a similar breakthrough as far as it goes with my cycling as of late.

You might remember a little something called the “Barrie Project” right?  Well, four years later and this classic steel bike is no longer just for simply joyriding around town with Hailey (aka Fabia Von Hall unt Hauser), or on year end Daddy-Daughter rides (click HERE), no sir!  I mean, I still do these things, of course, but it has become more regular that I pull this specific bike out of the shed for organized group rides, plus my own solo evening efforts.  And where I would have typically put on ridiculous mileage on my other two bikes Daisy and Lucille (click HERE) by this time any other year, this year the total kilometers on those bikes pale in comparison to what I’ve already put on my steel bike.

Of the 1,440km I’ve managed to ride so far this year (pittance that it is), 85% have been on my classic steel.

So why is this so significant you ask and what the hell does this have to do with Wilt Chamberlain?

Well, hold onto your sprockets bucko – I’m getting there!

Like most people new to the sport I suspect, I used to be that guy who would show up and instantly be roundhouse kicked in the face with bike envy the moment I stepped into transition.  Everyone’s bike looked far more expensive and, therefore, far better than the used and entry level bikes that I rode because, really, that’s what was in my budget at the time.

Likewise, everyone else around me was upgrading their road-riding and racing rocketships on the regular believing (I presume) that newer, fancier equipment was their best route to further successes.  I even bought on myself and would lust after newer models in bike shops and I have romanticized on more than one occasion of replacing my beloved Daisy but, as fate would have it, I would only needed to look at my checking account to know that it was never going to be in the cards.

And I’m not complaining either, both Daisy and Lucille have served me extremely well and I have no such plans to ever part with or stop riding them.  However, my viewpoint now on what other riders seem to feel about newer, sleeker equipment being the better ride, well …

… let’s just say I’m calling “bullshit”.

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Seeing as how I’m not training for anything in particular this year, instead, engaging in something I’m calling the “Great Fattening” of 2019, I’ve been doing a lot more “easy” rides where I haven’t been so concerned with either distance or speed and, as such, have chosen to ride my dad’s old classic steel more regularly than not simply because it’s fun.

Yup!

It’s fun.

But here’s the thing, despite riding an older, heavy steel framed bike, my times or distances haven’t suffered any.

(Well, as a result of my riding choice that is)

In fact, I’m riding pretty damn well.

The real proof in the pudding came a few weeks back where I opted to ride my classic steel on one of my Thursday more “Drop Rides” in lieu of my regular choice – my road bike Daisy – when it ended up having a flat tire at the last second.  I thought for sure I was doomed.

I mean, c’mon! 

Downshifters and a heavy steel frame on a fast, hard group ride?

That’s KAR-azy!

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Even some of the initial looks from the other riders suggested that I might be in trouble.  Surely, in comparison to the fancier, more expensive modern bikes the other riders were riding it might seem that I had arrived at the starting line of the Kentucky Derby riding an ostrich.

But here’s the thing, not only did I NOT get dropped by the group but I ended up at the front doing a good portion of the work, setting the pace, and even kicking off the lead out for the final sprint at the end.

In other words, everything I do on a ride normally!

Really, this should come as to no surprise as these bikes have completed the Tour De France, scaling mountains, and hammering out insanely fast individual time trials, why would this bike be any different now?

And, in fact, it’s not.

It’s just that I never realized it could or, rather, *I* could.

In that manner, it’s like learning to drive Standard automobiles, as opposed to Automatic.  Sure, it maybe new and a bit nerve-wracking at first, but with time and experience most drivers tend to be swayed over to the Standard format, usually because it more emulates the sense of “driving” and I am finding that older bikes are similar in that respect ; they just “ride” better.

I have no scientific studies to back up this claim, so you’ll just have to believe me in this regard*.

Perhaps it was just confidence in getting used to riding with downshifters, and different sizes rings and cogs and other mechanical hocus-pocus, or maybe it was just my own case of Threshold Model of Collective Behavior, believing that I was only ever going to be the better rider by riding expensive new bikes.

But no more!

Wilt Chamberlain, I am not!

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As it is now, I’m looking backwards as opposed to forwards in regards to cycling and technology and with more time in the saddle; so too comes confidence and skill to use it.

So much so (I am hoping anyway), that it is now an intention of mine to do something epic on my steel bike.  Maybe just little more epic than my Daddy-Daughter rides that is.  Perhaps a Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon next season; take it “old school” as it were and really test my meddle against these seemingly fancier and definitely more expensive bikes.

I would love to be the fat old guy riding an authentic 35-year-old Bianchi Triathlon road bike.

So, yeah, bring on the carbon-fibre rocketships – let’s do this!

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I also have it in mind to do a complete self-supported Century ride (160km) on it as well, perhaps in the Fall after I’ve completed “Fabia’s Big Ride 2019”.

Whatever it is going to be, I’m certainly not looking at it with any anxiety or trepidation.  As I currently see it, it seems to be the perfect way to challenge myself in a very unique way.  After all, how many people can say they ride hard on a steel bike these days … much less compete?

I want to be that guy.

And I don’t care anymore who knows it!

*You’ll only need to saddle up and hop on my back wheel if you ever really want to know for sure.

Goals for 2019

Posted: April 21, 2019 in Motivation, The Plan
Tags: ,

Recently, I have fending off lots questions from my friends and peers (least of all my wife) about what events or competitions I am thinking of participating in this summer, and while I was all gung-ho even just four months ago to get back at it training-wise towards something, anything, well, let’s just say that I am currently looking at things a bit differently these days.

Initially, I thought I’d go back to short course racing this year; sprints and Olympic distance. I’m confident now that I could “train” fairly easily for distances without having to make many sacrifices physically, personally, or of the vastly underappreciated commodity in triathlon (especially long distance) … TIME.

As it turns out though, my motivation this year has become something much different and therefore, taking my “training” in a very different direction.

In fact, I’m hesitant to use the word “training” at all.

The New Year started pretty well with me getting back into a regular swim, bike and run program.  I even started attending some cross-training classes, and lifting weights.  Hell, I even invited a newly certified personal trainer friend of mine to totally rip out my asshole and rearrange my innards on Tuesday nights over the course of 60 minutes of intense circuit-training.  I’m not even exaggerating.

I will admit that my third round of early morning core workouts (click HERE) pretty much fell off the radar but, hey … sue me.

I think 243 days of self-inflicted core workouts over three years so far, isn’t bad.

About a month ago, however, I noticed that my usual “go forth and get it done” hutzpah was somewhat lacking, preferring instead to roll over at 4:15am and opt for another 90 minutes of sleep before work.  I had lost that spring in my step, so to speak.  There was always a reason or an excuse; I wasn’t “feeling well”; I was “listening to my body”; it’s a “recovery week”.  The list went on and on but, truthfully, there was nothing wrong with me.

I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

First, however, it’s important to state for the record that I have NOT stopped working out.  I am still swimming, running, cycling, lifting weights, and doing lazy yoga in my underwear on the weekends in lieu of a disciplined daily core strengthening program.  I’m still doing it all; I’m just not doing it as intensely or for as long a time and, true, sometimes I just roll over and sleep in instead.

So what I am contemplating on doing, you ask?

What crazy adventure or insanely stupid challenge am I going to take on to punishment myself over?

Nothing …

Absolutely buckus!

Instead, I’m going to be a dad and a husband again … albeit, a very active one.

A few things have occurred to me over the past few weeks.  My past three years of Ironman training have taken me away from my family for hours and, quite often, days at a time; they don’t call it an “Iron Widow” for nothing.  It was a simple necessity of the process:  swim, bike, run … a lot!  I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s trained for a long distance triathlon that will tell you there is an expected amount of stress that goes along with it; and not just the workouts themselves, I’m talking about the normal daily stresses that go along with trying to accomplish everything around everything else – namely your family and friends.

Let’s not even mention the stress involved if a workout is cancelled or doesn’t go as planned.

Did I go far enough?  Did I go hard enough?  Do I need to do more?

Me?

I’m kind of done with that shit for a while.

Presently, I’m planning on being around a lot more this summer to ride bikes with my step-daughter, as well as other great people that I just never get a chance to ride with because I was always out “training”.   I also wanted to organize group rides from the local Brimstone Brewery (and my sponsor – click HERE) to show off the amazing area I which I am fortunate to live and (*ahem*) train, help a few participants from my Monday night Master’s spin class get out on the road on their own bikes, I wanted to be available to help new swimmers get in the open water confidently, I wanted to support fledgling triathletes learn the basic “in’s and  out’s” of the sport without immediately feeling obligated to drop big money with the first “Iron Guru” that convinces them they need their astute guidance and about six kabillon dollars of unnecessary equipment.  Most importantly, I want to spend time with my family.

Oh, one more thing … I also wanted to be able to do a full squat.

Without the pressures of “training”, especially that required for Ironman, I’m feeling liberated to do more of things that I couldn’t before … the fun things.

One could argue the important things.

(Right, Steve?)

Oh yes, I’d also like to be able to have the time to update this blog more as well.

Anyway, so what does this mean for my summer plans and goals then?

Well, regardless of not having to be defined by a specific training schedule per se, I still have this intrinsic need to somewhat structure my weekly activities to ensure I am still on the righteous path of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, keeping my triathlon-specific skills somewhat in check and, well, not turn into a total blimp for all the guilt-free craft beer I’ll inevitably drink this summer.

With all that in mind, priority no.1 is supporting HRH in her quests to be active this summer and among her chosen healthy lifestyle passions is swimming and cycling.  Beginning with swimming, my goal is continue developing my stroke instead of going right for the distance and long swim sets.  Instead, I’ll remain focus on developing my catch and adding some short speed sets to mix things up from the usual program.

This, however, will inevitably means that for a while in comparison to my peers who follow a disciplined training program, where once I entered the pool deck like this …

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It’s, sadly, now going to be more like this:

Graceful isn’t it?

But I don’t care.

The idea is that I’m going to continue spending that quality active time with my step-daughter and once the water decides to rise to a reasonable temperature that isn’t like diving into a minus-zero Arctic temp ice bath, we’ll hopefully transition into cooling off together in the humid summer evenings by swimming in the open waters of Lake Erie a whopping two minutes away, or at the International Flatwater Center in Welland.

Ideally, I’d like to continue swimming 2-3 times a week, albeit not necessarily long or intensely.

One of Hailey’s goals this summer besides her third crack at the Big Move this year, is another big “Daddy-Daughter Bike Adventure” together in the fall.

Leading up to that, I’d like to be able to use some of this extra time and organize more destination rides around the area so can better appreciate some of the amazing countryside and communities we have here in the Niagara Region; horses and endless pastureland; sweet-smelling vineyards; “Pick Your Own” fruit farms and roadside stands; small town cafes and bakeries; fragrant orchards overladen with ripening (and rotting) apples, pears and peaches; long rolling descents along the Niagara escarpment; the gradual sloping climbs back up again; I would like her to experience all of it.

As much as we can anyways.

As far as running goes, well, I’m going to continue to allow myself to fail in some regards.

My current plan is to continue keeping the runs short and infrequent with one longer run on the weekends somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-50 minutes, perhaps getting up to approximately an hour.  This is going to be more in the hopes that I can maintain some of my run specific strength I developed the past three years while not having to endure endless fartlek runs in the extreme heat and humidity of summer … something I have always struggled with during the summer months.  After all, nobody likes a fat, sweaty runner wrapped in Lyrca (least of all me) so aside from the “long” weekend jaunts outside, a good portion of my runs this summer might be accomplished on the treadmill in the mornings as either a warm-up or supplement cardio workout after a strength workout at the gym in the early mornings.

As far as distances and run goals are concerned, ideally, I have none.  If I can manage to keep myself within being able to accomplish, say, a 10k run without killing myself I’d be very happy indeed.  Perhaps this then provides more opportunities to try this whole “trail running” thing and see what all the bearded hippie runners are blogging and podcasting about.  I have tried a few “off roads” runs recently and, surprisingly, they were pretty cool so, yeah, maybe I’d like to do more a bit more of those too.

One thing that is important for me to maintain is my strength and flexibility.

I’d love to join a yoga studio again but, really, that works against the whole plan of freeing up more time to spend with the family.  However, these two things are both fundamental in maintaining both my “triathlon specific skills” as well and being able to continue working long, hot, hard days and still being able to come home and ride my bike and swim in the canal so, essentially, I’m going to begin using my morning out of the pool to focus on the heavy iron and developing better core strength; of which, is typically much less than where it currently is and should be at this point in the training season.

To this regard, I’m succeeding as the slower, more methodical session with the weights have proven to be a rather good start to the morning for me in the way that swimming is and not, say, running* – I just plug in my Yurbuds, set the meter to “kick ass” and go all Schwarzenegger  with the heavy iron.

Well, in my mind anyway.

Yoga has been reserved for free mornings in my underwear in the basement, with Toby the Cat and a cup of coffee just it has been for the past few months; perhaps in the future, but for now, this desire to re-establish a regular “practice” will just have to remain on the back burner.

Having said that, I still do get to practice a very undisciplined variety of yoga each and every day when I get out of my work truck and enter the work site where my inability to either do a very low crawl, hold a plank, perform and hold a squat, and maneuver into tight and confined spaces more or less means that my body is getting a variety of workouts and “poses” over the ordinary workday.  Essentially, it’s a continuation of the “On-the-Job Training” mindset I was attempting to put myself into last year exactly one year ago.

There is one thing however that will inevitably pre-empt a few of these plans eventually as I am expecting the call to come from the good people at the Brock University Kinesiology Department headed by Dr. Stephen Cheung to return to the “torture chamber” for God knows what kind of testing.

Whatever it is, I’ll be ready … mentally and physically.

It likely will not be my finest moment fitness-wise, but it will also give me that same adrenaline rush through suffering and sense of accomplishment that I have gotten before, and would ordinarily get from competition otherwise.  What it says about me that I like to be experimented on and tortured by guys in lab coats as a way of developing and learning about myself, who the fuck knows — but I will do it happily once that call comes.

What it all comes down to in regards to “training” this year if you really need to put a fine point on it, is that I’m training to be a dad, a husband and all round swell guy this year.

Full stop.

This is going to be the relatively stress-free year of fun.

By the way … I can now successfully do a full squat despite my burgeoning beer gut.

Easily.

See?

I’m already killing it.

*Morning warm-ups and supplemental cardio workouts excluded.

In past years I have made the traditional ‘For the Triathlete Who Has Everything’ (1, 2, 3 and 4) post to offer up helpful and exciting gift ideas for your triathlete.  Other times I give more, shall we say, “thrifty” ideas on what to get your triathlete for Christmas (HERE and HERE) and on one occasion I went all miserly and posted about what NOT to get your triathlete for Christmas (click HERE).  This year, I’m going back to the miserly bit but not because I don’t want anything, per se, but because I don’t actually need anything.

Well, nothing that I would ever trusts anyone else to shop for but me – and even then, barely me.

I suppose then that that makes this post the sequel for ‘What NOT to Give Your Triathlete for Christmas’ … just in case, you know, you were still feeling any pressure.

  1. A dog/puppy

I get it:  everybody is at some point in their lives in love with the idea of getting a dog.  We pride our own family on being adopters and rescuers of needy cats but even still, HRH will stare lovingly at the puppies in the display pen windows should we pass a pet store.  They will even try to justify this desire of theirs as being a good idea for dear old dad (or mom) since, hey, you know, we like to run and all.  And what a better Christmas present than getting  me a loyal running companion for all those long lonely winter runs?

I call bullshit.

First of all, have you ever tried running with a dog on a leash?  How about having to stop in the middle of intervals to scoop up steaming dog shit?  Sounds like a real giggle, right?  How about when said dog spots a squirrel running in the opposite direction on the other side of the street and you suddenly find yourself being dragged ass over tea kettle across the road through traffic?  No?

Me neither and I aim to keep it that way thank you very much!

Secondly, just because I might be a glutton for punishment doesn’t the poor dog is going to have the same affiliation for minus zero temperatures and icy roadways so, unless you’re going to heartlessly shove poor Fido out the door despite his hesitation, let’s face it – I’ll end up running alone anyway while Fido instead occupies my warm spot in the bed.

  1. Tickets to any show after 8:00pm

Are you fucking kidding me?  These people do know we have to be in the pool for 4:30am, right?

Therefore we don’t function very well at night so, yeah, no thanks!

  1. Bike decals

Just don’t.

  1. Protein powder

I know, I know, its “good for me” and, yes, I do enjoy protein smoothies and stuff from time to time but, by now, I am pretty partial to my own blend and unique recipes so, yeah, cheers!  And if anyone buys me any of that Walmart brand cricket protein shit because it’s all trendy now, I swear, I will come over to your house and slash your car tires.  This does not only prove that you don’t give two shits about me, but that you’re also a tightwad and where I usually appreciate a good sense of fiscal frugality, it’s Christmas for fuck sakes!

How about not totally cheaping out on the cricket powder?

  1. A race registration

Definitely do not sign me up for anything specific.

I repeat:  DO NOT SIGN ME UP FOR ANYTHING SPECIFIC.

By this I mean, do not register and otherwise financially commit me to something that is not a triathlon event.

I am not interested in doing a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or – God forbid – a Zombie Run so, please, do not commit me to anything outside my own anticipated training and race schedule lest you want me to take a dump in the front seat of your car after I slash your tires.

Now, if you’re offering to pay for something I’m already going to sign up for. well, that’s entirely different and God bless you sir.

  1. Body Glide

‘Why not?’ you might ask yourself; after all, I do use and can always use more of the stuff.  But consider this, would you ever in a million years consider giving your wife a mop for Christmas?  Fuck no!  After you dodged the inevitable barrage of pots and pans, you’d be presented with a stern lecture that equates to what Moses must have received at the very top of Mount Sinai, on how a mop is an “inappropriate” gift to give for Christmas.  Now how about giving her, oh say, a douche?

Definitely a hard ‘No’, right?

So how then you do you think I’m going to fucking feel then when you give me a tube of lube for my balls?

  1. A Crossfit membership

Why don’t you just do the humane thing and take me out behind the shed and shoot.

  1. A CD of anything

Yes, it’s true, I spend inordinate amounts of time listening to music when I swim, spin, lift weights and what have you, but still, please do not get me that ‘Hot Party Tunes Vol. 18’ or ’The Greatest Kick Ass Songs of 2014’.  I will not use them for my next spin class and, besides, who the fuck plays CD’s anymore anyways?

It has been nearly four months of pretty much inactivity.

Well, not really inactivity, per se, but definitely nothing resembling itself as “training”.  I have been swimming, riding my bike for fun and even hitting the weights from time to time, albeit not with any sense of urgency or dedicated frequency.

In fact, if I had to use a word to describe my current fitness regimen it would be “mixed”, as in ‘Sweet & Sour Mix’, ‘Soft & Chewy Mix, ‘Chicago Mix’, etc., and so forth.

And, of course, I also love beer and I’ve been indulging again because, yeah, first it’s the lighter, flavorful, fruity Summer saisons and then it’s Autumn IPA’s and Harvest Ales and now it’s the dark Winter stouts and porters and, yeah … you see what I mean?

Who has time for workouts?

Anyway, as has been the custom, I’ve usually drifted back into some sort of structured workout schedule by now and, of course, that schedule is preceded by the obligatory “Looking Ahead” blog post – this post – so here it is.

Truth is, I haven’t really felt the urge to train yet.

In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

I’ve felt the need to be lazy.

And, so far, I have been ‘okay’ with that.

It’s not my being “unmotivated” so much (remember the Ironfunk?), as it is my confidently reading my body as needing a prolonged break from any hard, dedicated training program – such as it has been for the past three years.

Instead, I wanted to have fun, go slow, sleep in in the morning, explore new roads with Hailey, relax in the water and casually work on my stroke development, catch-up with all the friends I didn’t have the time for while training, end rides with a drink at the local Brewery … that sort of thing.

I might have even done some yard work at some point.

(Crazy, I know!)

And I have done all these things and it’s been absolutely glorious.

Believe me.

I’ve enjoyed the time off one hundred and ten percent; no guilt whatsoever.

However …

make_the_donuts

Yup.

It’s time again to begin think about shifting gears back into some sort of well-thought out, established training program.  Having said that, seeing as how I’m not returning to long distance Ironman racing next summer, what does that new training program even look like?

Hmm.

That’s interesting.

I’ve become something of a “long distance guy” if you will – short course racing was for pussies.  And now here it is, it’s no longer “go longer”, it’s “go faster”.

That’s one serious paradigm shift.

ya-feel-me-nigga

By now, I’d already be thinking in terms of distance and time spent doing stuff (such as distance), specifically running and particularly on the weekends.

Currently though, I haven’t so much as even run outside since my July 7th Ironman (click HERE).

I could, sure, I’ve just chosen not to.

So, before I get into anything resembling “training”, I first have to reinitiate the “train to train” program; preparing my body for the stressful rigors that will more come in the new  year.  That gives me two more months of strength building, core routines, and shorter more intense workouts as opposed to those long weekend grinds and slogs.

And, yes, that means more “Booty Camps”.

Oh, and fuck … I guess that means I have to give up the mixes in favor of healthier snack fare.

I’m not giving up my beer though … yet.

This post then I suppose, is my way of working out and formalizing my fitness goals going forward over the next few months leading to another off season (and, hopefully, injury free) training program.  The current plan for next summer is to return to short course racing (Sprints and Olympics) with the longest event potentially being the Rose City Long Course Triathlon in June.

So, yeah, the old fat guy has to now learn how to go fast.

No problem, right?

Priority #1 then has to be (as it always is I might add) to lose weight.

Ultimately, what I would like to do is to replace my newly acquired post-Ironman beer belly* with strong, explosive muscle.

This has never been an easy task for me.

The muscle building part, sure, I can do that … looking forward to it actually.

The dieting part, however … not so much.

Particularly given that I’m not giving up my craft beer.

Regardless, beginning Monday I am going to kickstart a regular strength program; namely, by revitalizing my currently lingering “Core Project” or my even worse off home yoga practice.  Rather, the goal is to simply accomplish five days’ worth of on the mat functional strength and core exercises, whether in the mornings before work or prior to other workouts in the evenings after work.  Likewise, I’d like to accomplish two days of strong muscle building – one session being a hot “Me on Me” session with the heavy iron, the other an instructor lead circuit training or boot camp style training class; or something that also starts to rebuild my mental toughness and aerobic conditioning as well.

Ideally, this portion of the plan would take approximately 3-4 hours of my overall week, perhaps more if the motivation moves me.

To track this overall “fat to fit” progress, I am going to start tracking my weight each morning and set for myself a target goal to lose 1 lb. of fat per week.

Currently, I am weighing in at a humbling and husky 224 lbs.

Ideally, I’d like to be down to around 185 lbs. by springtime (June).

40-ish lbs is ambitious, I realize.

But “go hard or go home”, amiright?

Priority #2, as much as it pains to say (type) it, is to begin running again.

tenor

Yes.

Run.

Sadly, the time has come once again to lace up the sneakers and pound the pavement.

In the last few months, I’ve only managed a single short treadmill run and one easy(ish) track session; definitely nothing too strenuous.  Eventually, I will need to transition into more interval based fartleks and speed workouts (which, honestly, I might even consider doing on a treadmill this winter) and, yes, even start up a weekend “long distance” run program once again.

The good news in all this is twofold: 1) none if it needs to be too lengthy right now seeing as how I will likely be doing nothing more than 15k to, maybe, a half marathon to keep things interesting and, 2) seeing as how I am also concentrating on building strength, I can focus (in part or in full) on completing portions of my runs aimed at completing running drills and plyometrics which, truthfully, might even be fun seeing as how it’s going to be so new and different.

Perhaps it will be my new mechanism for escaping reality’s chronic Shit Show, who knows?

Whatever it happens to be, the focus then in these early stages will remain more on establishing form, strength, weight loss and general fitness as opposed to distance and endurance.

Part and parcel with this new run program will be my also breaking out the ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ book by Dr. Kelly Starrett and once again start developing good running habits and practices; namely proper warm-up and cool down practices as well as successful pre- and post workout fueling.

Lord knows when I’m going to actually run, but I’m figuring I’m going to have to make peace with running once or twice a week in the dark, whether it be early morning or in the evening.

giphy

I guess the good news in all this is that I get to grow my winter beard once again.

Whoo-ha!

Ideally, I’d like to run three times a week; one for easy distance with some plyometric’s and drills thrown in for good measure, one faster paced interval workout whether it be outside, or on the treadmill or track, and one run with no solid plan whatsoever other than the expressed purpose of, say, getting outside and getting some fresh air while burning some calories.  If I feel like doing more in the moment on these easy unstructured runs, I  will, or maybe I might just say ‘fuck it’ altogether and make snow angels instead … who knows?

I’ll probably hate it regardless because, well, running … but I’m trying to remain positive in the meantime.

Of course, I will apply more structure come the New Year but for the time being, I just need to begin getting ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning back in the game somewhat by getting them used to turning over once again after a near four month furlough; maybe 2-3 hours a week.

As far as swimming goes, I have some new drills I have been working on recently and for the time being, I am going to remain focused on my form and stroke development as well as doing lots of paddle work to continue building that swim-specific muscle memory I have become obsessed with.

To this end, I am also going to begin initiating my favorite workout (click HERE) every once and awhile on the weekend, specifically in lieu of an exciting announcement I’ll be making in the near future.  It may not have to be every weekend, of course, but it is a perfect way to fit in some nice easy kilometers on the bike while I can still ride outside comfortably and, well, I did say before that I find it fun right?

As far as the bike goes, I’m still backing off the bike for a bit and keeping my cycle program to just getting out whenever I can, whether it be a simple quickie on my classic steel with Hailey or another riding buddy, or maybe on my mountain bike just for a change of pace.  I needn’t be doing a lot of cycle training yet that I won’t already also be doing as part of my strength building plan so I’m not giving myself any real “goal hours” to accomplish weekly in the saddle.  For the time being, I’ll just keep pedaling whenever I feel fit and inspired to do so, knowing only too well that those sweaty, sucky indoor hill and time trial efforts will begin with the New Year as well.

Worse comes to worse, when the shitty weather really takes affect outside I will consider doing short spins in the morning (instead of the erg as is currently my habit) at the gym where I can just plug into some tunes and turn my brain off for 45 minutes or so.  Again, nothing needs be too crazy with my cycling at the moment so I’m not going to stress about it; I’ll take that stress out on the participants of my Monday evening Masters spin class.

In total, in some form or fashion, I’d be very happy if I can successfully clock around 8-10 hours weekly on rebuilding my triathlon specific conditioning.

I recognize that this might not happen each and every week as there are still family things that will take priority from time to time and, hey, fine craft beer doesn’t drink itself does it?  Shit, perhaps some weeks I might even go over my weekly goal and that’d be great n’ all, but I’m not going to start counting the hours just yet, rather keep myself on being more active now on a regular daily basis and maybe, just maybe, I could even substitute the odd side of French fries for a house salad.

Baby steps, ya know?

*It’s true, I’ve gotten chubby again.  Everyone thinks so.  And by “everyone”, I mean all of my different personalities and my three cats.

“Fabia’s Big Ride” 2018

Posted: October 6, 2018 in Bike
Tags: ,

(Note:  I feel it important to mention that she’s not really “Fabia” anymore (click HERE).  Fabia has grown up now and, while I still don’t refer to her by name, prefers to be referred to now (just as in other blogs) simply as “HRH“.)

In every riding season, I suspect there are but one, two, maybe three big rides that you might look forward to more than any other.  Maybe it’s a specific race or a particularly challenging ride, or perhaps a planned leisurely destination tour ride, whatever.  It’s something that you begin to anticipate the moment you start to take your training indoors again come November or when the weather begins to turn crappy; it becomes your motivation to get back in the saddle again and again.

This year, I had two such rides (not discounting The Big Move, of which, will always remain on my event calendar), and one of which was completed back on July 8th (click HERE).

Today was that other ride …

The 3rd Annual Daddy-Daughter Ride.

Truthfully, this year’s route was a bit difficult to plan.  The first year is was about the ultimate distance for her, who was then only 11 years old (click HERE), and the second year it was more about the fun and exploring an entirely new area spanning northern shores of Lake Erie (click HERE).  This year, however, seeing as how Hailey has two extra years of savvy road riding under her helmet, I decided to take a bit of a gamble and take a busier and challenging, but no less fun or scenic, route beginning in Chippawa along the much traveled Niagara Parkway to the historic towns of Queenston, Niagara-on-the-Lake and, ultimately, end up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house at Lock 3 in St. Catharines, just as we did in on our first ride two years ago.

Ambitious?

Maybe.

But I have grown to trust my step-daughter immensely while we’re out riding together, as she has matured into quite a tough, skilled and competent rider.

Especially when there is the promise of “treats” afterwards.

Anyway, we started this year’s journey in Kingsbridge Park in Chippawa just above Niagara Falls.

It was a chilly 14° outside and, for once, I was glad I brought arm warmers.  Needless to say there wasn’t a lot chit-chat and “pussy-footing” around in getting ready to ride and with only a quick prep, we gave Kelly a kiss goodbye and were clipping in pedaling away before you could say “moderate hypothermia”.

Okay, we did pause for this:

pic1

Anyhow, the village of Chippawa is located just above the Falls themselves, so we didn’t have very long to go at all before we were going to begin encountered some of the cool stuff along our way.

The decent down the Parkway past Dufferin Islands and the Niagara Parks Floral Showcase is fun but the tourist pedestrian traffic can be stupid even at the best of times (yes, even in the middle of the road) but if you’re going to ride through Niagara Falls well, you have to ride by the actual Falls themselves, right?

Of course you do!

Plus, it’s fun.

Here’s our obligatory selfie at the brink of Falls:

pic2

It was pretty cold on the brink of heavy mist that cascades over from the 3,160 tons of angry water that flows over Niagara Falls every second.

Believe me however when I say that there was no mist this day, my friends, it was a full on deluge from the sky.  A hard, cold rain was a-falling for the next 400-500m which, true, doesn’t sound like far, but when you’re already cold and shivering and then you get doused with an even colder rain …

Yeah, not necessarily fun.

Except, we’re cycling (at one point) a mere 100m meters away from the brink of new EIGHTH “Natural Wonder of the World”*, so you suck that shit up and you enjoy it.

And we did.

In fact, I even heard from behind me at one point:

“That was awesome!”

So there you have it.

And, remember, this was all in the first 2-3 kilometers of the ride.

For the next few kilometers though, we had to navigate through tourist traffic, underneath the bridges that span the Niagara Gorge between the US and Canada, as well as up and over the rolling “hills” and climbs that weave along the Niagara Parkway.  This is a particularly fun stretch of road for cyclists as you can play with momentum as the road steadily rolls upward before pitching down again on the other side and pitches and HRH  was enjoying every second of it hanging onto my back wheel.

I have to say that I am very proud at her ability to apply the gas to the pedals when she wants to.

(Not that we were in any hurry of course)

The other fun part of this stretch of road is that it follows the Niagara River past all the popular tourist attraction like the Spanish Aero-Car, the Whirlpool Rapids, Niagara Helicopter, the Niagara Glen Natural Reserve and, well, all these:

pic3

Here’s a few more from the Spanish Aero-Car and the Floral Clock:

Our first scheduled rest stop was at the very top of Queenston Heights, the grounds for the first major battle in the War of 1812 (resulting in a British victory).  From this vantage point, you have an amazing view of the Niagara River at it bends away towards Lake Ontario at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Here’s the view (and the obligatory bike lean photo):

The other fun thing about this rest stop is that we could enjoy our lunch of Subway turkey wraps and grape Soda at the feet of Major General Sir Isaac Brock, who fell at the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13th, 1812 … a mere eight days short of being exactly 206 years ago to the day.

That’s some cool ass shit, right?

Total ‘Yay me!’  for even being able to drop some pertinent historical brain nuggets on the child in the process!

Am I “Step-Dad of the Year”, or what?

Cheers to that!

Anyway, with the last words of sir General Brock himself ringing in our ear, “Push on, don’t mind me”**, we did just that and set out towards our second intended destination for the day, the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, another 20k or so down the Niagara Parkway through primo wine country.

Of course, to get there, we still had to immediately descend the infamous Queenston Heights; a curvy, 1.16 kilometers span of pavement straight down into the village of Queenston proper and often regarded as one of Niagara’s “Top Ten Must-Ride Cycling Climbs” (click HERE).

Fortunately, we only had to go down it today.

I’ve taken Kelly down this hill before years ago and, well, she didn’t like it so much (i.e. the speed) and proceeded to grasp onto to her handlebars like a frightened koala bear clinging to a tree branch.  That was the last time we ever attempted that with Kelly so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that she knew I was taking HRH down this same hill today and (there were many, many “please be careful’s” issued at the beginning of the ride earlier).

Apparently though, HRH does not share the same anxiety about descending as her mother does and as soon as we had slingshot-ed our way around the traffic circle at the top and pointed ourselves directly downhill, it was on.  She followed my line all the way down and around the curves and managed her brakes well in order to control her decent and around the halfway point I just make out a “THIS IS AWESOME!!” from just behind me above the rushing air.

For the record, we had approached speeds of 64km/h by the bottom of and she managed to hang onto my back wheel easily like a pro and then again at the bottom, cruising at 44km/h along the Parkway behind the “People Movers”, until we veered  off at Line 8 to take lesser traveled roads into Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We more or less used Concession Rd. 1 all the way to the East-West Line.  This entire area is practically vineyards, fruit farms and wineries so, essentially, it all smells amazing right about now as overripe apples, pears and peaches fall and rot on the ground and the overburdened grapevines await the inevitable harvest over the next few days.  This is just about the best time to cycle in Niagara in my opinion, and it was definitely a nice relaxing pedal through God’s country towards our second rest stop.

It’s also worthy to note here that it was around along this stretch of road that we both developed a strong craving for ripe Concord grapes, and that we began to hatch a clever and devious plan to sneak a small roadside sample from some poor unsuspecting farmer’s field.

What can I say?

We’re awful people.

Oh, and we and also found the location our next possible future family home:

Shortly afterwards, we met Kelly in town and had our photo snapped at this iconic location:

43067683_591984334554262_8475137731154935808_nRecognize it?

No?

What about this:

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Yup.

This is the very same picturesque gazebo at Royal Queen’s Park featured in The Dead Zone, a 1983 David Cronenberg film that starred Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.  Now, it stands as a magnet for thousands of visitors each year.  With a crystal clear view of the Niagara River, it’s a hot spot for romantic couples and tourists with cameras.  Not that the visitors are aware that their beloved gazebo was the scene of a brutal (and fictional) rape and murder 35 years ago.

Yessir!

I have this “Step-Dad of the Year” thing locked up for sure!

We all stopped together briefly at the Balzac’s (*giggle*) coffee shop z block away on King Str. with Kelly for some hot apple cider and a few assorted baked treats.

We do ride for the treats after all.

From this point on, I didn’t have any real expectations to go further with HRH  but she said she felt good and was confident that she could continue on to our potential final destination at Grandma and Grandpa’s at Lock 3 in St. Catharines, another 30-ought kilometers or so away, so we saddled up when the cider was gone and we were off again.

Personally, I think it the ‘as-of-yet’ unfulfilled promise of fresh grapes off the vine.

We made a quick tour of the town to see the Shaw’s Festival Theatre, the Pillar & Post and Queens Landing hotels, the infamous “Witch House” and all the beautiful lakeside cottages along Niagara Blvd, and Shakespeare Ave.

After that it was a bit more single-file down the Parkway until we could hang a sharp left on the gorgeous Four Mile Creek Rd. so that we could head inland back out into wine country and finally put our devious plot into action.

“Operation: Purple Fingers” was getting the green light … and we were officially a GO!

It was actually along Church Rd. where we decided to make our illicit rest stop.

After making sure there were no rogue “Big Brother”-esque cameras, we stealthily laid our bikes by the side of the road and tippy-toed ninja-style into the field towards the most fruit-laden vine we could find.

Against my attorney’s advice, of course, I am posting here publicly the evidence of our nefarious felony:

Shocking, I know.

It’s hard to bare witness to.

Forgive her.

I, of course, had nothing to do with it.

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From here it was only a hop, skip and a jump away to the Welland Canal path, across the bridge at Lock 2 and onward along the paved pathway towards the Welland Canals Center and our final destination.

For anyone who might not be already familiar with the Niagara area, it is also one of the few places in the world where you will ever see something like this:

The Welland Canal one of the amazing man-made wonders of the world, which was originally constructed in 1829 to link Lake Erie with Lake Ontario and offer ships a safe detour around Niagara Falls.

The Welland canal is simply amazing.

The first impression of a modern lake-faring freighter is of it’s overwhelming size. It doesn’t seem possible that something of such immense proportions could even be built, much less be able to dock, load, and sail the lakes … and then you ride up alongside one as it passes underneath the Garden city Skyway.

Breath-taking.

And yet, having lived in the area our entire lives, we take things like this for granted.

Already in less than three hours of bicycle riding we had passed two wonders of the world and visited three historic villages.  We rode past numerous battlefields, historical monuments, and old forts.  We navigated our way along some of the most scenic roadways on the planet, past some of the lushest orchards and vineyards on the planet where we just simply helped ourselves.  We posed in the exact spot where Christopher Walken …

Never mind.

Eventually, we safely ended up at the Lock 3 complex once again, from all the way up there:

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… just as the Federal Caribou was pulling out of Lock 3.

Honestly, how often will you ever be able to get a victory shot like this:

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Remember now, that this particular vessel is nearly 225m long by 26m wide.

That’s over two football fields long!

That’s some cool shit, knowhatImsayin?

Anyway, we took this picture as well to commemorate our having been here again two years later after our inaugural “Daddy-Daughter” bike adventure:

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Of course, we took a much more challenging and lengthier this route this year – a whopping 60k in total – but that’s a prime testament to the cyclist that HRH  is turning into and has become; one that I can trust riding with and alongside through this remarkable area and share together in the sights, sounds and, yes, even flavors (illicit and ill-gotten as they may be), of our beautiful Niagara Region.

*Yes, it’s true (click HERE).

**It was also reported his final words were, “Push on, brave York Volunteers” … but that doesn’t work contextually in my story.  Sorry.