Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! G has been over to keep me company and carved me a jack-o-lantern. Ever wonder where that tradition came from?

The story of the Jack o'Lantern comes from Irish folklore. Jack was a crafty farmer who tricked the Devil into climbing a tall tree. When the Devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, making it impossible for the Devil to climb down. In exchange for help getting out of the tree, the Devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven for his sins and turned away from Hell because of his trickery. Condemned to wander the Earth without rest, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil, and used it for a lantern to light his way. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern."

More Jack-o-lantern trivia:

Most j.o.l.s ever lit in one place? 30,128 on October 21, 2006 on Boston Common

World's largest j.o.l.? 1,469 lb on October 1, 2005 at the Pennsylvania Giant Pumpkin Growers Association Weigh-off

Anyway, we had big plans to join friends for a little old fashioned Halloween fun involving bobbing for apples and peeled grapes, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, I have been struck down by a crazy bug they tell me is most likely H1N1 with a side dish of strep throat. It's now day five.

Things came to a head yesterday with the strep and the whole not being able to breathe thing, so it was off to the doc's again and he equipped me with two inhalers and some antibiotics. Thanks to a little pharmaceutical help, today is the first day I've actually felt better (as opposed to worse) since this whole thing began.

Anyway, rest assured I am not handing out candy to young children, and once this is over, I'll be even more motivated to get onto 2010 as planned.

And since laughter is the best medicine:

Q. Why do demons and ghouls hang out together? A. Because demons are a ghouls best friend!

Q. Where does a ghost go on Saturday night? A. Anywhere where he can boo-gie.

Monday, October 26, 2009


The sun came out on Sunday. The temperature was up, too. It was enough to send me tail- spinning into a vortex of restlessness (and maybe even some guilt!) and that's how I knew the off-season was over.

Since the end of racing, I've put a stop to "training" and just kept up with "exercise" on a whenever-I-feel-like-it basis. Now's when you get to dust off your runners, hike with family and friends, and play in the woods with folks you don't normally get a chance to ride with. And it's so important to slack off, I can't even tell you. You must clear your brain of all the crap racing fills it up with and fall in love with bikes again or you'll never make it to your next race.

You'll end up a "Christmas Star" ... someone who is in great shape in December because they didn't bother to let their race fitness go to pasture, but who will not last until it really counts: April. Check out Joe Friel's blog on the topic ... his site is a good one to bookmark, and his book has always been a great help to me!

Last week, I started slotting in 'training'. I call this my "planning" phase. I mentally map out the kinds of activities I want included in the upcoming training plan, even going so far as to name a day and a time. But then I end up blowing it off completely. It's a process. Last week was about planning, this week will be about execution

So with a sunny Sunday to kick things off, I postponed the yoga idea so I could take advantage of the weather, and got G to agree to spin to see the horses of Sunnybrook Stables. The horses were awesome and were totally into raw food. I grabbed clumps of green grass for them to eat instead of the bits of hay and dried leaves in their pen and was soon best friends with all them. Even the biting one.

Earlier this fall, I read Brendan Brazier's book Thrive Fitness and his training philosophy is very close to mine so I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes. Plus, it includes his great information on diet, which is another area I've made some huge changes.

I used to be a completely different shopper -- I bought things that claimed to be "low fat" or "organic" based on how long it would take to make them. But even if something tells you on the box it's good for you, it's still in a box, therefore bad for you. I knew diet was important but until I started reading about where our foods really come from, how processed they are, and what they mean to the body, I was not a healthy eater. Even though I thought I was. I first started making changes at the beginning of race season this year and at the same time posted some of my best results ever. Coincidence? Maybe. But I'm running with it. I'll have more to say about diet in a later post but for now I'm just happy to have another arrow in my quiver.

And of course, I am looking forward to another round of Daffyd's amazing spin class at RPM Studio. The course, while not yet confirmed, usually runs from January to March and meets twice per week (traditionally Thursdays for 1.5 hours and Sundays for 2 hours). We go through the training periods together, working on single leg drills, hill climbs, endurance and intervals as well as testing. Working in a group on hard workouts is such a great benefit. You think, "well that guy next to me is really going for it, what's my excuse?" I find I get a lot more out of myself at RPM than I can on my trainer in my living room.

They also offer strength training through their gravity program -- an exercise machine that uses your own body weight as resistance. With new equipment on the lower level, like bosu balls, I expect to be spending a lot more time at RPM this season.

So with another year of training, on higher quality fuel, and a slightly tweaked strength routine I expect 2010 will be something to really look forward to. Happy Training!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My favourite "lines"

I'm lucky that part of my dayjob involves doing a lot of reading and research -- everything from new bio technologies to the rules of Cricket. One thing I'm always looking for is a good quotation, and luckily there are some great sites out there to help you find that academic or poetic line to back up what you're trying to present.

Once, my dayjob involved some research on bikes. And so I thought I'd share with you the great lines I found. Here are my favourite quotations on bikes; if there's one I missed, add it as a comment!

Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. ~Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. ~Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart. ~Diane Ackerman

For instance, the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. ~Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist

A bicycle does get you there and more ... And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun. ~Bill Emerson, "On Bicycling," Saturday Evening Post, 29 July 1967

The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community. ~Ann Strong

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

Until mountain biking came along, the bike scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm. ~Jacquie Phelan

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"

Cycling is unique. No other sport lets you go like that - where there's only the bike left to hold you up. If you ran as hard, you'd fall over. Your legs wouldn't support you. ~Steve Johnson

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard. ~Sloan Wilson

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~Ernest Hemingway

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. ~John F. Kennedy

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells

Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own. ~Louis J. Helle, Jr.

The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash. ~Julie Furtado

Dog-eared for my retirement

Wandering around the internets today I came upon a pretty amazing bike tour. However 'Tour' seems like too nice a word for what this trip entails ... especially since they claim you can even race this bohemoth if you want.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Silk Route.

It goes from Istanbul to Xi'an, goes for 114 days and covers almost 10,700km. Hot dog! You get 22 rest days (92 ride days, one travel day), and the average daily mileage is 115km -- ranging from 80km on rough terrain to over 180km on the nicer courses. And speaking of "ranges" you'll cover more than 3,600m of elevation.

From Bike Rumour: "The route traces the steps of soldiers, merchants, monks and adventurers through some of the highest passes and harshest deserts as they created powerful political and trade routes as far back as 138 BC." Sounds like a good time to me!

Cost? Almost $13,000 ... but as Mark Twain says, (and which is handily present on the Silk Route's website to remind you) "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the things you did do."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Women's Specific 2010

It's a fun time of year: racing is over, training for 2010 is just in its baby stages and that leaves tons of spare time to drool over the next year's bikes on offer. I am not in the market for a new rig this year as I am far too attached to my Trek to let it go just yet.

However, there's never any harm in looking.

One thing Trek really stands out for is their understanding of what women who race really need from their bikes. If you look at the specs on their racers, the geometry is exactly the same (I did actually look -- the one size that is available in both women's and men's model is the 17.5 and all angles and measurements are equal). Having taken some Trek University courses (true story), I found out that that's because -- as I always suspected -- women who spend a lot of time in the saddle need to be fitted just as "racy" as men. The difference comes in the sizes available (WSD: 14.5, 15.5, 16.5, 17.5; "mens": 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5, 21.5) and the colours.

I give you exhibit A: Two equally racy machines, much coveted and sought after. Almost exactly the same, right down to the components.

Trek Top Fuel, 9.8 and Trek Top Fuel 9.8 WSD (with pretty aqua trim)

Then, for fun, I started looking around at other manufacturers' "Women's Specific" designs. I was a little disappointed. Take Giant for example. Last season, Giant introduced the new "Anthem X" and it is back on offer this year in a fancy red paint job. The women's counterpart gets points for not copping out like I've seen in the past with a sissy paint job (stealth black is always in style) but what's with the recreational position? This is the bike they have listed under "competition" on their website but it looks like something my mom would like to try out (no offence intended and I'm sure she'd be the first to agree she's not into "competition").

A closer inspection reveals that there are no small sizes offered for women (you can get the same sizes in the red one) and the geometry has got the female rider racing more upright, with a shorter top tube, on a shorter wheel base. Hello! That equals slower.

Observe, exhibit B:

Giant Anthem X1 and Giant Anthem X1W

So where does that leave us girls? If you want a racy set up, both Trek and Giant have served me well. Since I'm a firm believer in Trek's stance that if you are a woman who races bikes (ie spends a lot of time in the saddle), you don't need much in the way of "Women's Specific Design" it stands to reason that I could just forget all about Giant's "W" option.

But to Giant I say, if you're going to do it, do it. And don't even get me started on the mish mash of components on the Women's rigs. It's like they just throw whatever's left lying around the factory on the W bikes. My impression is that Giant just treats the women's bike as a marketing opportunity; not as a way to progress the sport for women, which is too bad for them because more women than ever want to ride, and Giant's response is kinda weak!

/end rant.

And now just for fun, top-of-the-line 2010s: doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl for these beauties. Just gotta be fast.

Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL and Giant Anthem X Adavnced SL 0


I don't know about you, but I am a happy subscriber to "Thoughts to Keep you Moving", the blog-in-your-inbox put out by Peter Glassford and Steve Neal. On Tuesdays, they send the "workout of the week" which is a great bonus because each coach puts one in, thus providing two workouts that I don't have to come up with myself. Happy days!

This week, Peter asks that we take a yoga class. That made me realize it has been forever since I last went to yoga. And yet every season, it is a goal of mine to keep up my practice at least once a week. So with newfound determination, I plan on visiting the Moksha Yoga Studio on the Danforth. They have a ton of classes to choose from, it's close to home, and they even have a $20 introductory special that gives you a week of unlimited yoga.

(As an aside, most yoga studios in Toronto have that deal so I figure if I just go to a different one each week, I'll save a ton of cash and do a ton of yoga! haha.)

The other thing I like about Moksha is that it is HOT. Meaning they jack the temperature up to about 37 degrees to allow you to get deep into your stretches. Plus when it's that hot, I find it is much easier to focus on breathing and my practice. And it helps get rid of the toxins in your body by sweating them out. Don't settle for mediocre heat! I used to be a member at Extreme Fitness and they promised a hot yoga practice, but when I went, it was "warm" at most, and the poses were more active style than the long holds I'm used to in raised temperatures. In proper Hot Yoga, you should sweat. A lot.

I know being in a hot room for 90 minutes isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a cyclist, (or any kind of athlete!) definitely consider hot yoga. Moksha's website says, "Many cyclists come to the studio with chronic knee pain. With time, however, hips, calves and hamstrings start to open up, knee pain diminishes and can eventually disappear entirely. Cyclists also report an improvement in low back and shoulder pain."

If there's a hot yoga studio near you, check it out. Bring your mat, a big towel to cover it, a hand towel for brow-wipes, a water bottle (and electrolyte drink if you need it!) and a headband.

They say not to eat for 2 to 3 hours before, but I find that hard to handle in the heat, so I usually just have an energy gel 15 minutes before class, and another one right after so I don't bonk. And wear clothes that you can sweat in! Lots of girls just wear shorts and sport bras and guys usually just wear shorts.

Can't wait to get back into yoga. Thanks SNPD for reminding me!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Atherton Project

Episode 11

Following her training injury earlier this year, Rachel is back on the bike and back on the pace as she takes on the gnarly trails of Schladming, Austria. Shes fit and focused and looking to reclaim her position as world number one in 2010. Meanwhile, brother Dan has his eyes set on a strong finish in the Schladming 4X finals. Can he end the year on a high? While Dan gets his lines down on the rebuilt 4X track, we gain an insight into the life of Animal Commencals firey photographer, Sven Martin as he hunts for the perfect shot. Its been a solid year for 2008 World Champ Gee Atherton, and with a little more luck he could well take the World Cup title next year, but for now hes focused on putting it all on the line in Schladming, and he does just that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Life Cycles - Stance Films

Update: Apologies for those that didn't get to see the teaser while it was up. It's since been taken down and I haven't found a replacement yet. In the mean time, visit Life Cycles site and see what they've got going on.

I'll post the teaser again ASAP!

I stumbled on the website a little while ago and was pleasantly surprised to discover mountain biking has come to my old stomping grounds. With five different sites to choose from, how could we not bring bikes home for the weekend?

G and I packed up a couple rigs and headed to Port Elgin Friday night. Found a second wind and ended up staying out a little too late, and drinking a little too much. But what would Saturday be if it didn't come with a hangover? We took our hangovers to Brant Tract to ride them out.

Double Track at Brant Tract

The temperature was perfectly crispy, the trails were nice and tacky, although wet and muddy in some places. We did a nice two hour ride through fall colours and sunshine, even stopping to help out another rider with a flat. The trails were all named, extremely well marked and just challenging enough, with lots of flow. I'd feel comfortable bringing mountain bikers of any level there. My favourite part of Brant was the teeter totter at the trailhead. Thus cured of hangovers, we made merry for another festive night.

Sunday, we decided to take the bikes out again, this time to the beach at Port Elgin and a lap around town riding curbs, stairs, parking barriers and other assorted skinnies. What a great time of year: no need to worry about "training hours" or "intervals;" just spend time goofing around with your favourite people and your favourite toys.

G gets rad at the beach

Besides riding, we spent a glorious three days eating my mom's amazing cooking, nature walking at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, and visiting with family and friends. Weekends like that remind me I've got tons to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Atherton Project

This week's episode follows Gee and Dan to the World Champs in Australia. With Dan's disappointment in the 4X at the World Champs the Atherton's season hangs in the balance. It's not all bad news though, with former World Champ and World Cup winner Rachel Atherton well on her way to recovery and eyeing a successful 2010 season

Back to School!

A couple weeks ago, I got tickled by the idea of returning to my mountain biking roots and turning the pedals for a University Cup Race. The idea became even more tantalizing with some cyber smacktalk between myself and fellow O-cup racers KK and Ashley. The two of them had been leading the series and with Sunday being the final race, I thought I'd throw my hat in too.

Except, while they assure me they haven't been training, they have still been racing every weekend ... whereas I haven't been on my bike since Provincials due to lack of interest and also the persistent shoulder sprain thingy (which seems to now be a-okay, btw.) Oh, and I was also staying up late, eating garbage and happily drinking some wobbly pops on weekends.

And so out-gunned, I lined up on a rare warmish and kind of sunny October day relying on residual fitness to get me over the first big hill.

And it DID! I WON THE HILL CLIMB! and then died shortly thereafter when all the snot and mucus I had in me tried to make its escape through my nose and mouth, and my lungs shrunk to the size of a sandwich bag. It is REALLY hard to breathe with that stuff hanging off your lips. I grossed out Falco (an old friend from U of T and random photo-shoots) who was kind enough to ride with me nonetheless and compliment me on smooth pedal strokes thus taking attention away from the slime stuck to my arms and legs.

I found out that throwing a race into your rest and relaxation program is ill-advised ... I haven't hurt like that in a race in a really long time. It is amazing how fast the fitness goes if you don't take care of it. Good inspiration to stay on top of winter training!

The three leaders got away, and Morgan called out a three minute split at which point I remembered that as an "alum" I wasn't getting any points for this ... so I decided to quit the suffering already! I just rode the rest for fun, which isn't hard to accomplish at Ganaraska.

The course was super tacky, not very technical, but some sections had some serious flow to them that brought me straight to my happy place. I'm super glad I went, even if I did open up an opportunity for the annual cold/flu. The results are posted for your viewing pleasure.

The rest of the afternoon we spent enjoying the University Cup BBQ, beers, fun and prizes. It was so great to see Derek and Morgan from Sweet Pete's '08. Got to see Eric again, and his lovely fiance (and their new pup, Sammie) who all took an extra-long ride in the minivan (thanks to badly placed detours!). Caught up with Falco post-race and covered a wide range of topics, most notably his two-month touring adventure to Newfoundland. And perhaps my favourite part of the day was watching KK shotgun a beer faster than a bunch of college dudes.

In closing, I'd like to thank U of T and especially Dave Wright for their dedication to the sport and in recruiting more and more riders every year. A lot of the racers in the "B" category had never rode a mountain bike until this year, let alone raced one. I was one of them, back in the day! Ganaraska was the site of my second-ever mountain bike race in 2004 and I'm so happy to have met the people I met, learned what I learned and used that knowledge to lead me where I am today: still loving the ride, and still racing my heart out. I wear my Blues jersey proudly!