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Early Sunday morning some fellow cyclists and I took to the streets for a nice long ride. As we travelled along quiet rural roads and through sleepy little towns we may have rolled through a few stop signs and may even have run a red light. It was 8, maybe 9 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday of a long weekend on roads that we were able to see for miles on in all directions. As cyclists most of us have, at one point, rolled up to a stop sign or red light quickly glanced left then right and continued on through, justifying our actions with any number of reasons. What we sometimes forget though is regardless of our reasoning, we are breaking the law.
Many in the cycling community have issue with drivers and pedestrians disobeying the rules of the road and putting those who travel by bike in danger. These same cyclists don’t see any problem with rolling through stop signs, turning without signaling, riding between lanes of traffic, flying down one-way streets in the wrong direction and committing a variety of other Ontario Highway Traffic Act offenses. We can’t have it both ways, expecting everyone else on the road to follow the rules while we pick and choose those that suit us at the time. We can easily justify rolling through a stop yet very quickly become enraged when we witness a motor vehicle do the same thing.
Just as a canoe is subject to the same laws as a motor boat, a bicycle is subject to the same laws as a motor vehicle. Choosing to disobey the law can result in consequences that may affect your driver’s license and insurance. Whether you agree with this or not, until the laws are changed, this is the risk you are taking. On top of monetary punishment, there is always the risk of injury. Accidents occur when cyclists are at their most defensive on the road, that risk increases significantly when we willingly choose to disobey the law.
What I find most interesting about those who will argue the need to follow the rules of the road is that I have yet to meet a dedicated cyclist that will ride a bike without a helmet. According to Ontario law, every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. Rarely am out for rides with people under the age of 18, but I have never come across a cyclist who will ride without a helmet despite it not being a law. We recognize that riding without a helmet could lead to potential life threatening injuries if we were to fall yet not only are we willing to sail through a stop sign despite the obvious risks, we try to validate our actions as well.
I started this post with a thinly veiled confession of rolling through a few stop signs and a possible red light. I am the first to admit I am not always the perfect law abiding cyclist nor am I the perfect law abiding runner or driver for that matter. Despite the Highway Traffic Act stating that I must have a bell (HTA 75(5)) I do not. But, I’m not self-righteous enough to thing my reasoning should exclude me from the $85 fine I am susceptible to if an officer chooses to ticket me. I make my choices, aware of the consequence I may face. Do I agree with the laws that are in place right now? Not all of them. But until they are changed I do my best to follow them and understand that despite what I may think is a justified action, I am still a vehicle on the road and fall under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. As cyclists we are not above the law and if we are looking for respect from others who share the road with us, we need to start giving that respect back.

http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling-guide/section5.0.shtml

It was a rainy day when the alarm went off at 4 in the morning.

I was up, out of the house, and on the road by 5 making my way to Blue Mountain to take part in the North Face Endurance ½ Marathon.  While the early morning start was a bit of a challenge, it was the extremely low, very dark clouds, flashes of lighting, and intermittent downpours leading the way to the race that really had me concerned.  Fortunately, the sun won out and broke through the clouds moments before the gun went off.

My first stand-alone ½ marathon was completed last year with my cousin Lili. It was her first attempt at that distance and I paced her to a finish just under 2 hrs.  I figured this, being an off-road run with a pretty significant climb, would be slightly more difficult and my time would be around 2:20-2:30. Boy did I underestimate the challenge!

The race started with a slight incline on fire road through a bit of forested area before the switchbacks kicked in and the single track took over. The terrain was slick and slippery thanks to the deluge of rain the night before and the morning of the race.   As the pack began to split, I managed to stay with the first group as we navigate our way up the steep slopes and greasy track.

Soon we were out in the open on gravel fire road, heading ever higher up the mountain. A slight drizzle became a welcome relief and seemed to reinvigorate many of the runners as the uphill shuffle began to take on the rhythm of a run again! I too used the cooling effect of the rain to push myself upward and onward, hoping that the next ascent was the last. At one point, with only one runner in my site another competitor came up behind and asked if this was the front of the race. I had to laugh and then crush her hopes by telling her that there was another group further ahead.

Using the ski lifts as a beacon, I finally made it to the top of the mountain. And now, so I thought, the course must get easier as logically the only direction to go is down. Oh, how wrong I was! The sadistic course designers decided to throw in several twists and turns as we made our way back to the finish, including a very long descent that brought smiles to all until we took the corner and came face to face with a wall of a climb back up to where we came from.

Finally, after 19 grueling kilometers, the end was in site. Now, there truly was only one way to go. Once again though, the Endurance challenge lived up to its name.  The finally 2k were a twisted, treacherous trail of rock, roots, and mud. Slick stone steps and narrow paths lined the final push for the finish. While some, including me, tentatively picked their way through the trail, others barreled down with few rewarded with gained time while many other were left on the side of trail, or worse, off the trail completely.

More the 20 minutes after what I assumed would be my finishing time; I crossed the timing mat that recorded my run at 2:59:24. It was a brutal race!  We covered more than 800 feet of elevation and descended trails that I wouldn’t do on a mountain bike! It was AWESOME!

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Oh this post could be titled SOOO many things…”Third Time’s Not the Charm”, “How Juan Saved the Day”, “The King is Dead”…and I can go on, but I won’t!

Despite being on summer vacation, I was required (somewhat reluctantly) to set the alarm for 5 am this morning so that I can get through my morning ablutions and make my way over to the ‘Mine’ Over Matter off road triathlon. I was looking forward to redeeming myself of last year’s bike portion when I let a little mud and water send me for a loop. Unfortunately redemption could not be found!

The 1k swim went better than I expected. After all, I haven’t been in open water for at least year, and I haven’t been in a pool since December. My time was 00:22:18. A few seconds off last year, but with pretty much no training, I can’t complain!

I can, however, complain about my ride (well, technically, the bike I was riding). When we started the race, there were 24 people in my category. I came out of the water 22nd, but I wasn’t worried. In 2011 I came out of the water 30th, but finished the bike portion in 5th. So as I mounted my trusty steed, I quickly began overtaking my adversaries! The great thing about triathlons is they write your age category on your left calf, so it was easy pickings as I started passing the competition. By the start of the 2nd lap I had pulled my up to 3rd or 4th ( I wasn’t sure about one of the guys ahead of me), but my trusty steed decided to not be so trusty!

About a k into the second lap the course drops down a steep very rocky decent. I was flying down picking some sweet lines when my chain came off the front rings. I kept going, letting gravity do its work and pulled to the side as the trail leveled out. Much to amazement, I had sheered the rear derailleur hanger clear off. With no tools and little time, I began to run the course, knowing I was only about 2k in and still had 6 and a bit to go! I tucked the derailleur into the chain stay and ran/scooted/and rolled my way along the course depending on the grade of the trail.

About 4k into what was sure to be a DNF, I ran into a friend, Juan, who was there as bike repair help. He saw me coming, asked what was wrong, and when I told him, he told me to take his bike to finish the lap. I was so thankful! We swapped bike and I quickly realized that his seat was way to high, my cleats didn’t match his pedals, and SURPRISE, it was a totally rigid frame! Despite these little inconveniences, I kept calm and carried on! My total time was 1:11. 2013 it was 1:02. In 2011 it was 50:42.

The run was actually uneventful! *L* A decent time of 48:41 for an 8.64k trail run. Last year was 56:49. 2011

The other day, after posting about leading my second indoor cycling class, I got a comment from my friend Trevor asking why anyone would want to be spinning indoors when it is 18 degrees outside.  I have to be honest and say I’ve questioned the same thing when running past a gym in my neighbourhood and seeing all those people trudging along on a treadmill behind glass.  Regardless of weather or temperature I was always amazed that people would actually choose to pay to run on the spot indoors rather than run outside where the sidewalks are always free.  Now, although I’m still relatively new to the indoor cycling scene, after meeting some of the participants I am begin to understand why people choose the comfort of the gym.

Trevor is a cyclist, as am I.  I also run. We both do our sport with the intent of competing and hopefully winning.  We train on the terrain that we compete on. For us, the indoor trainers are there only when the weather sucks, the motivation is low, or we need to be close to home for something but still want to get the heart pumping.  Often, those who participate in an indoor cycling class or choose to log a few k on the treadmill are not dedicated cyclist or runners; they are interested in overall fitness. The cycling class or the treadmill may be just a small part of their routine. Perhaps they use the class as a warm up before hitting the weights or finish off a swim with a light jog.

The indoor cycle and the treadmill offer the user a safe place to exercise and get fit.  While a dedicated cyclist would have no problem hitting the road for an “easy” 60k ride, it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  In the gym, you can take an hour’s ride or run 30k and know that if you need to stop, you can, and you are right where you started. I know there have been more than a few times when I was out on the bike or for a run and would have loved to have been able to just stop and know there is a nice clean bathroom around the corner.

The indoor cycling class also offers the motivation of a group, the drive of the music, and the comfort and safety of a stationary bike.  It is amazing how many people come out regularly to a cycling class and have never been on a bicycle.  I’m pretty sure the same could be said for many who hit the treadmill a few times a week. While running outside is something I love to do, it can be pretty tough on the body and the nerves. Sidewalks and roads are unforgiving surfaces that can play havoc with knees and back.  While it can help increase your pace, running from dogs is not fun! And if you suffer from asthma, exhaust fumes can really suck the life out of you!

So, while I do agree with Trevor and will always choose outside to in, I am beginning to see the other side of the coin.  And if I am able to share my love of cycling with those who are looking to get fit (and get a few bucks while doing it) then why not.  Who knows, if my enthusiasm is contagious, I may just get a few more people out riding in the sunshine!

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Trust me, I trained professional!

 

Came home from work, opened the basement door to let the cats up and no one came. Both Sox and Spice were nose up against the patio door.  I looked out and there was momma raccoon gathering her babies and bringing up into the trees.  Grabbed Sarah’s camera and started snapping!

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To wimpy to pre-ride in the rain!

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This jersey has a logo on it!

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Don’t people pay a lot for this at the spa?

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If you look closely, you can see my chakra leaking! 🙂

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Looking for more mud to play in!

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Yes Murray, I’m muddy too!

All I wanted to do was ride and run and maybe share some adventures with my friends.  It seemed simple enough. But, like most things in life, simple isn’t usually good enough!

I wanted to ride, so I rode.  But soon that wasn’t good enough. I needed to train so I bought a cycling computer.  But soon that wasn’t good enough.  So I bought a better one, with all kinds of functions like top speed, average speed, cadence and other apparent essential.

I wanted to run, so I ran.  But soon that wasn’t good enough.  I needed to train so I bought a pedometer. But soon that wasn’t good enough.  So I bought a running watch, with all kinds of functions like GPS, pace, timer, multi-sport function, and other gizmos.

My heart beat, all was well.  But soon that wasn’t good enough. I needed to train so I bought a heart rate monitor. But soon that wasn’t good enough.  So I bought a new one that is wireless, coded and thin.

I wanted to share my adventures with my friends so I sent out emails.  But soon that wasn’t good enough.  I wanted to reach more people so I started a blog.  But soon that wasn’t good enough.  So I signed up for Twitter then registered on Facebook.

So here’s what I want to know…

If I ride through the forest and forget to start my computer, did I really ride?

How long to do I stand out on my driveway waiting to pick up a GPS signal before I say “Screw It!” and go in for a nap?

Should I be worried if my heart rate monitor suddenly flat lines? Or just check the battery?

Why, within five minutes of signing up for Twitter and Facebook, do I have hundreds of people wanting to be my friend when the only time my phone has rung in the past three years it’s been my wife or someone wanting to clean my ducks?

Perhaps, in time, I will become more accustom to this newfangled technology.  But rest assured, as I muddle my way through the 21st century, I will do so with flip phone in hand and record player in the basement!

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Like lemmings to the edge of a cliff, cars started filling in spots around the Coulson’s Hill trail head. As the wind and rain picked up, mountain bikes were lowered from roof racks and removed from trunks.  Soon a gathering of riders clad in an array of gear clustered together under the registration tent eager to start the new season of Spoke O’ Motion‘s Wednesday night race series.  

As is customary at the first race of the season, friends gather to brag about how little they’ve done over the winter and to ensure other riders of how crappy, tired, or out of shape they feel. For some, it is the truth, for others it is a precursor to what will undoubtedly be a fantastic race. Not sure how, but tonight I fell into the second category. 

Despite miserable conditions at the start, once tires touched the single track and we took the first tight turn into the trees, the weather was left behind.  The course was in perfect condition, tacky enough to keep the rubber side down yet slick enough in the corners to get a great whip around the brims. After a weekend of spinning my legs on an indoor trainer, I really wasn’t in any condition to do my usual mash through the course.  Instead, I dropped into middle ring and spun my way through the single track, over obstacles and along the double track. I think I changed gears on my cassette twice the whole race and only went up to the big ring once along the third lap to put some distance between me and who ever was on my tail. I felt great, didn’t over exert myself and was really enjoying it! A huge difference from last year’s start where I was ready to toss my bike onto the 400.

As always, we all crowded around the timing tent after our final lap to recap the action and cheer those still coming through.  It is amazing how many war stories can be created in an 11.5 k race.  Some blood, lots of sweat and all smiles! Another season has begun, and if tonight’s race is any indication of what this season has in store…Bring it on!

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A little dirt never hurt any one!

My aversion to indoor cycling has been well documented in my blog.  It was not until recently, under duress from my friend Trevor that I reluctantly hauled out my trainer and travelled the road to nowhere in hopes of improving my cycling prowess. I’m happy to say that not only was I rewarded for my efforts by a great start to the Time Trial season, I also took my new found fondness of indoor cycling to the next level by becoming a certified C.O.R.E. instructor.

While this may seem like quite a leap in a very short time, it has in fact been something Sarah and I discussed often to give me something productive to do over the summer. In summers past I’ve filled my time as a camp coordinator and martial arts instructor. But the last few seasons have been training, competing and then recuperating from training and competing, I figured it was time to try something new.

I came across C.O.R.E. Cycling after wandering into In Gear Studio on Main Street in Newmarket. The instructor told me about the various forms of certification and where they are recognized. On his recommendation I contacted C.O.R.E. and after a brief conversation with co-owner and head instructor Clair Cafaro I decided to take a chance and sign up. Am I ever glad I did!

Although few and very far between, my past experiences with indoor cycling classes were not positive ones. Granted I can now look back and say the lack of success stemming from my first encounter was due more to my diet of extra-large pizzas and bags of chips than to a poor class.  The second experience of doing pushups over the handlebars however can definitely be blamed on the class! I shared my concerns with Clair and confessed that I was not an indoor trainer kind of guy. To my surprise, she was very happy to hear that.  Because C.O.R.E. Cycling is run by cyclists for cyclists, the fact that I had not picked up any bad habits from other indoor training was a definite bonus in her eyes.

After spending a few weeks reviewing the very extensive binder provided by C.O.R.E. outlining the theory behind indoor cycling, the physiology that goes into it and the essential components of a safe, enjoyable and practical training session, I was ready for application. The training and certification took place over two very long but gratifying days. The facility was great, but more importantly, Clair, her two instructors Joe and Karl, and the other students were fantastic.

Our Saturday started at 8:30 am.  After a brief introduction we were on the bikes going through an hour class led by Clair. The rest of the day was spent on and off the bike, putting theory to the test and starting to design a lesson of our own. We finished the day as we started, on the bikes, with each of us taking a turn leading the class through a cycling drill.  Then it was time to head home. No rest for the wicked though, as the next few hours were spent composing the next day’s ride for the practical exam.

Sunday’s class started at noon, but the refreshed feeling of a sleep-in didn’t last long. We were right back on the bikes, earphones in, and feet spinning to the beat. For the next few hours the class rode shoulder to shoulder without saying a word as each of us were plugged in and focused on our ride. Other than the odd mumble or scratch of pen to paper, the only sound emanating from the studio was the hum of six flywheels.

After a one on one consultation with the instructors to go over and fine tune the ride, we were ready to go.   Thanks to the leadership of Clair, Joe, and Karl, the confidence to get up in front of the class was evident in each one of us. As we took turn on the podium, the rest of the class showed their respect by following along and giving it all they had! Sure there were a few hiccups; a missed cue here, a dropped device there, but not once did anyone stray from their path.

Finally, after 100+ minutes of looking up at the podium, it was my turn to lead.  I had my music, I had my timer, I was ready to go!

I forgot to start my timer, my music device kept slipping into sleep mode, it was not how I planned it. I would say that the idiom “Never let them see you sweat” would apply here, but since I was leaving a puddle deep enough to attract ducks under me; let’s go with “The show must go on”.  I lead the class through a 20 minute ride covering warm up, a journey over rolling hills, and ending with a 9 minute steady climb that broke into a sprint to the top! It was exhilarating!

We gathered our gear and met upstairs for a group photo and debriefing. The last step in the process would be to complete the theory exam.   We had given it all over the two days. Butts were sore, legs were burning, but mouths were smiling! It really was an amazing experience.

Had I encountered an instructor oh so many years ago that had the same dedication to indoor cycling I discovered with C.O.R.E. Cycling instructors, my appreciation and enjoyment of training may have started way back then. Thank you to Clair, Joe, and Karl for all your guidance. Thank you to Vic, Alex, Sam, Cortney, and Mirella for your support and encouragement throughout the course! And for putting up with the flip-phone, sweat, bad jokes, and music choice!  

And speaking of music choice…if you are wondering what music I chose to lead my ride, you’ll just have to come out to one of my classes!

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You can trust me, I’m an instructor!