Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Long Bike Ride: Tour De Lake Of Bays

You might say I crossed an item off my bucket list this weekend - the odd part is that I forgot that it was on my bucket list (insofar as I have one).  You see, when I was little, my father and a friend rode their bicycles around Lake of Bays over the course of a day.  He’d repeated the feat with my mother a few years later, though I had forgotten that little factoid.  At any rate, he told me that it was a challenge worth taking on, and I always thought I would do it one day “when I was grown up”.


A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

I was trying to come up with a good long, training ride to do at the cottage when I remembered all this, so it fell to me and Sable to get the job done.  I called it “Tour De Lake of Bays” #TourDeLakeOfBays.


The first 24-25 km of the route were very familiar to me, as I had rode them last week.  It was a lot hotter and sunnier this time, though.  There is bridge construction in Dorset, which made for a good time to text a status update and take a CLIF Shot (chocolate flavour) gel.


After Dorset came the Highway 117 leg, which probably caused me more suffering than any other part.  It was very long and unfamiliar, and though I hoped that it would be flatter thanks to how it hewed close to the lakeshore, I was confronted with the same kind of hills I’d been climbing the whole time in my own backyard parts of Muskoka.  It must have gotten monotonous and seemed worse than it was, because the Garmin analysis shows I kept up a speed average of over 25 km/h for over an hour.


A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

When I rolled into Baysville, I was seeing familiar sites.  I’ve heard stories of people on long bike rides stopping for Starbucks, or Tim Horton’s or whatnot, but stopping at a brewery would take the cake.  I didn’t though, since I knew I wasn’t going to be keeping to my projected 3 hour schedule, and I didn’t want to shirk child-minding duties entirely.  I doubt the alcohol would have done much for my safety or performance, but it would have tasted SOOOO good.
A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on


While being familar ground, the final stretch of Brunel Road followed by South Portage were the toughest. For starters, there was construction on Brunel Road for the first 3-4 km. I had been forewarned about it, but I figured it would be a closed lane or some narrowing; the road was as good as gone!

I didn't like taking my brand new bike over that gravelly road, but I didn't have much choice, and taking it easy for safety was a good excuse to take it easy, and give my legs a rest. When I reached the end of the construction zone, I saw a sign that put me a little on the defensive...


The last part of the ride along Brunel takes you by some very pretty lakes; there's Shewfelt - which is nearly a pond, and Axel Lake (!) which isn't too visible from the road. I stopped to take a pic of North Tooke Lake (I think) and it's one of the nicer landscape pictures I've ever taken (at least with the help of an Instagram filter).
A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on


I finished the ride back at my starting point with a time of 3:17 and texted for a pick-up. I was pretty spent, and even laid down in the dirt for a bit. Being attacked by bugs made me realize that at least I'm in good enough shape to recovery quickly from when I think I'm all tapped out.
A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on



I've still got some time before Barrelman, so I may use this route again (with some add-ons, probably).


It would be great to be able to get it under 3 hours.

Do you have a training ride that is like a dragon that you have yet to slay?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Going Long On the Bike & Starting My Race Nutrition Journey

Disclaimer: I am an Everlast Nutrition Ambassador and earn commission on sales made with my discount code.

The origin of the term ‘Brick’ for a bike-run workout has somewhat disputed origins, but I’ve always believed that it comes from the heavy feeling in your legs after you get off the bike and try to run - the legs feel like they’re made out of brick.  You know what’s been giving me the brick feeling in my legs lately?

Waking up in the morning.  The last week I’ve woken up with legs that just don’t want to move, and it’s been disconcerting.  I’ve known soreness in my time, but this seemed worse.  I didn’t panic about it, since my legs seemed to work fine once I got moving, and by the time I was dressed each morning, I felt fine except for a bit of a tired feeling in the legs.

Still, it was a wake-up call that maybe I need to be more formal and regimented in my efforts to recover post-workout; the volume of training has taken a sharp uptick, especially since the training program’s phase that would have had me ramping up more slowly coincided with our trip to Germany, where I’ve already documented I got less than the prescribed amount of training in.

So on Friday, I took a 3-pronged approach to my 1 hour, 15 minute ride (accomplished by tacking on a little extra saddle time before and after a spin class).

  1. I used a foam roller on my glutes, quads, hamstrings and even calves after the ride
  2. I wore 2XU compression sleeves on my calves (I mixed up the calf and hamstring compression sleeves when I packed my gym bag - the latter might have been better).




Even though I got to bed late after a long drive up to the cottage, I felt great the next morning and totally rocked a brick workout on Muskoka’s hills, first thing in the morning!  In addition to feeling validated about my recovery strategy, it was my first time taking Sable out on the road.


I rode 30 km with an average speed of 25.9 km/h, which I never thought I’d manage on those Muskoka hills, and I still had enough gas in my tank to run 6 km with a 6:05 min/km pace after that.


Now in addition to being recovered well, I had another weapon.  Since I wanted to get a 3 hour ride in on Sunday, I knew I had to start playing around with taking in calories while on the bike.  Sable isn’t kitted out with many accessories yet, so I don’t have any bottle cages or fuel boxes (aero or otherwise) attached to it.  Instead I wore my hydration pack, and loaded it with Everlast FUEL.  I’m a big fan of all-in-one solutions, and though you can take care of hydration, calorie intake and electrolyte balance with combination of drinks and/or gels, this product has BCAAs for the protein to start rebuilding muscle right away as well as vitamins to pre-charge the workout.  So if I start sipping it before the ride, or as I’m putting the bike away, I’m doing myself good just as much as when I’m drinking during the workout.

I used the brick to test it out before the long ride.  I mixed two packets in about 24 ounces of cold water (measured with the free shaker I got when I ordered two boxes worth of Everlast FUEL).  The taste reminded me of a milkshake I had the weekend before from Kawartha Dairy, obviously less creamy and not quite as tasty given that FUEL is not a milkshake made with real ice cream, but reminiscent of a Creamsicle - does anyone else remember those from when you were a kid?  Anyway, it was tasty and no problem to digest.

While my long ride (and Half-Iron race) nutrition strategy is a work in progress, I’m planning on drinking FUEL and some water, packing along some gels, and maybe a nutrition bar or two (lead contenders are CLIF and Go Macro).

Getting that 3 hour ride on Sunday proved more challenging.  There were threats of thunderstorms that seemed to be zeroing in on the time and place that I was planning to ride.  We were going to go visit another cottage on the way home, and I opted to ride ahead on my bike.  Altogether it was a good plan that let me get more riding in than one might expect, since with my wife and kids coming along the same route while having left an hour later, I was in perfect position for a rescue when the weather did turn nasty.  In fact, I heard the first lightning strike just as the car pulled to a stop in front of me; it was a little shy of 2 hours on the road, and again I averaged close to 25 km/h.  My neck was starting to wear down from aero position a little, and I’m looking forward to getting a proper fit in the near future, but again, I felt pretty strong and solid for the duration of the ride.  I wish it was longer, but you can’t control the weather.


If you’d like to help fuel your efforts or try the best tasting vegan protein on the market, be sure to enter IRONROGUE at checkout when you visit Everlast Nutrition.  They’ve got a great sale with free shipping to the US on orders over $20 and a free Drink Shaker if you order 2 boxes of FUEL (the shaker worked great for mixing the fuel before I put it in my hydration pack).


Use the code IRONROGUE at checkout for a discount!




Monday, July 13, 2015

What I've Learned About Clipless Pedals (Tri-Talk/Tri-ed It Tuesday)



I'm doing a double link-up with Lakeshore Runner for Tri-ed Tuesday and both You Signed Up for What?! and Blisters and Black Toenails for Tri-Talk Tuesday to talk about some new knowledge about bikes that I picked up...


In my post announcing my new bike, Sable, I mentioned I had Shimano SPD pedals installed.  My rationale was that I wanted to be able to use my existing shoes in a Spin class, as spin bikes tend to have SPD compatible pedals.  I had been initially disappointed that I didn’t have such pedals on my original bike as I had been sold a set of Shimano 105 pedals.
The Shimano 105 pedal


The problem was that the bottoms of my shoes had three holes, which would make them compatible with a variety of road cleats, but not the SPDs. There did seem to be some kinds of adapters in existence, but I was never able to find any at local stores (in the very short amount of time I had to drive to stores and shop around).

One option would have been to buy new shoes, but a slightly cheaper one was to re-install the Shimano 105 pedals and buy new 105 cleats to install on my old shoes (the old ones were pretty worn out). I hadn't had much luck taking my 105 pedals off my old bike with my own tools, so I also purchased a 15 mm pedal wrench; I consider that one of the smarter moves I've made when it comes to buying cycling accessories.

The Shimano 105 pedals on the left have some little pads that are better for walking on if you dismount your bike on a long ride.  At the bottom left you can see my old cleat.  The SPD equipment, you can see is much smaller and doesn't fit the 3 holes you can just make out on the bottom of my shoe.
For removing the SPD pedals and installing the 105s, I followed this video:

Then I used an Allen Key to screw the cleats to the bottom of the shoes; there was still an outline from where the old ones were, so alignment didn't seem to be an issue.

I'll keep the SPD accessories and eventually install them on my mountain bike and buy new shoes for them too - apparently SPDs are intended almost solely for mountain biking. So I don't meet my goal of having one pair of shoes for both road riding (and triathlon races) and spin class, but the good news is that Sable is finally ride-ready.

I celebrated with a 2 hours 15 minute ride on the trainer while I watched the movie Man of Steel - I think the recent trailers for the sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have gotten into my head. Superman makes for surprisingly good training inspiration, considering he never had to work for his superpowers...

Do you find bike technology as confusing as I do?

Friday, July 10, 2015

German Vacation 2015 Recap

I used to break down these trips into multiple parts, thanks to extensive journals I kept, but I think I’d just prefer to do a single round-up and not just because I didn’t keep a journal this time.  I think I’m just going to do a summary by category.


Family Adventures



  • Climb UP! Climbing Forest.

This was one of the cooler adventures we got up to.  For adults, there are various challenges to climb up into the treetops, and of course, some zip lines.  We didn’t do the adult challenges in favour of accompanying the kids.  They each wore safety harnesses with 2 carabiners that got hooked into safety lines that ran alongside each climbing challenge.  The challenges were strung together to form an entire course to traverse.  At the end of one challenge, you’d unhook a carabiner from the completed challenge’s safety line and hook it into the new, then you’d repeat for the second carabiner, so that in principle, you were always tethered.  The kids never got any higher than around 5 feet off the ground, but I guess it’s the principle that’s important.  Shark Boy loved it and managed his own safety harness, and while the Lightning Kid seems to be a born climber, he got a little tired about halfway through the course so I let him bail.





  • Germendorf Zoo/Theme Park

We’ve visited this place annually for at least 3 years now.  When we got in, Shark Boy found a dead snake beneath a statue of an elephant, and by the time we were done, he still considered it a highlight.  This year I had us navigate toward the ‘Dinosaur’ section before we got too close to the carnival rides and playgrounds that always seem to high-jack the kids’ interest in the animals there.  I think I only saw one dinosaur (statue) but we got to see some animals we haven’t seen in prior visits.  For me the highlight was a puma, which is not only one of my favourite animals, but this one actually got up and walked around, which is kind of rare for big cats in captivity (in my experience).  He did seem to take an unhealthy interest in Shark Boy; at least, unhealthy for the boy - his ears pricked up, he stared, licked his chops, you name it.  


We got to see monkeys playing, meerkats, parrots and even pet and feed a deer.


Then it was time for lunch and rides.  We shelled out for them to ride these electrically powered motorcycles (they move fairly slowly), which not only gave us a sweet moment of the two brothers riding together, but we actually got the Lightning Kid to ride his own.  He did a great job of steering until he’d get distracted by what his brother was up to, and then he’d crash - which didn’t hurt him but resulted in tears from the sudden shock.  There was an indoor play area which used to house a ball pit and a few bouncy castles, but they’ve expanded it into a much more extensive play area with all kinds of climbing structures.



I don’t like to make fun of personal appearances, but I have to tell this story.  My wife and I were sitting near the ball pit which was intended (according to the signs) for kids aged 0-5.  There were kids much older in there, and they were throwing the balls out of the pit and generally making a nuisance of themselves.  The supervisor turned up and told them off - and they got off light, because the supervisor was a witch from a storybook, I kid you not.  Hook nose, wild and wiry hair, crazy eyes... all that was missing was a wart.  I know we weren’t all created to have movie star good looks, but maybe using a brush once in a while... on the other hand, maybe it helps with her job.  My wife and I have read a lot of German children’s literature (as children ourselves, we don’t like it too much for our kids) where there is often some kind of boogeyman who comes and gets you when you don’t follow the rules (see here for an example) - so we couldn’t help but laugh to see one of these scenarios brought to life.


  • River Cruise

Another annual mandatory outing.  We had lovely weather, but this year they stopped making a stop near where we were staying, so we had to make a round trip.  The food menu seemed reduced too, but at least it’s getting easier to keep the kids safe while they roam the decks.



  • Bike Ride

We rode our bikes through the local forest into the town of Tegel to find a playground.  This day was particularly hot, so the shade provided by the trees was very welcome.  Shark Boy had been getting over a flu, and I think we overestimated his recovery, because he simply quit well before we could get home, in spite of covering a much bigger distance last year.  Still, taken as a whole, I have to call it a successful outing, and hopefully a precursor to future family bike trips.



Food



There’s a Simpsons episode where Germany is referred to as the land of chocolate, so we had plenty of that.  I honestly don’t quite understand how Germans stay thin (my observations of people make me think that they’re thinner on average, though I found this on Wikipedia - Canadian men are 2 kg lighter than Germans [who are 6 kg lighter than Americans] on average).  They have some good habits like more walking and biking as transportation, not to mention that the evening meal is generally quite light, with lunch being the big hot meal, but still!  The bread is made with white flour, the meat is often red; I have a hard enough time eating fruit at home, but with fresh cold cuts and cheeses bought on a daily basis, they really get pushed to the side.


And then there’s my fetish for ice cream made in the image of pasta... I try to eat Spaghetti Ice Cream as often as I can get my hands on it while I’m in Germany since I can’t get it back home.  The ice cream is pushed through a press to make noodles, the tomato sauce is actually strawberry sauce, and the grated cheese is either grated coconut, or grated white chocolate.  I didn’t get to try any new places this year, but I got enough samples to keep me happy.



My wife and I had two date nights: once at our favourite little Italian place, where they always treat us like royalty and once at Alten Fritz (which has been open, in some capacity or another, since 1410!).  We actually went to this restaurant twice: once with a larger group, and once with just the two of us.  The first time I had a Goulash made with Wild Boar, and the second time a platter with 3 kinds of dumpling; it was really an eye-opener to how fine traditional German cuisine can be.  There’s outdoor seating and even a little forested area with pond that really adds to the ambience.


Training



  • Swim

I used our proximity to the Havel River to my full advantage and I’d packed my wetsuit.  I got in 3 open water swims, and since I’ve been doing a lot more than usual pool training, the difference that the open water makes was a bit of a surprise to me.  I’m not sure of my technique in open water, but I’ve got the rest of the summer to figure it out.  I got 3 different swims in, and one was 1800m, close to a half-iron distance swim.  I think I’ll be putting together a post about swimming in an unfamiliar river.


  • Bike

In addition to the family bike ride mentioned above, I got in 3 rides.  I knew my cycling training would suffer the most for not having access to a road or tri bike, but two of my rides were with the Lightning Kid, including one that had us out for about 3 hours (2 hours of actual riding) - it was great bonding time for us, and he liked seeing the sights and sounds including visiting a pens where boars and deer are kept.  My third ride got cut short by a flat tire.


  • Run

Running is the easiest form of training to accomplish on vacation.  Running with my brother on the day we arrived with jet lag (after an overnight flight) was pretty challenging; I expected to feel tired, but I had this dead feeling in my legs that I wasn’t prepared for.   For the first few days in Berlin we had a lot of cold weather and rain so my first solo run was not enjoyable, but I also had nice runs in sunnier weather, alternating between going along the Havel River (and trying, unsuccessfully, to race one of the Steamboat cruises) and through the forest.








Beer

In addition to the usual suspects I also got to try the original Budweiser.  This Czech lager is nothing like the American brew and I really enjoyed it.  There was also Altenmuenster, which I gave 3.25 stars out of 5 and my wife and I both had a Kronbacher Radler.  If you haven’t heard of a Radler (Moosehead is making one, for example), it’s a little like a shandy or other beer based beverage.   A mix of sparkling lemonade and beer, the story goes that a bar owner was getting cleaned out of stock by thirsty cyclists stopping in, so he found a way to stretch his inventory while still quenching his customers’ thirst - Radler translates to ‘Cyclist’ as it turns out.  So of course we had one while on the family bike ride mentioned above.



That’s a wrap on another German holiday!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Thinking Out Loud Thursday


I’m back from our annual trip to Germany and while I should be typing up a recap of it, or attending to other important (at least, important to this blog) topics, I thought I’d use a Thinking Out Loud Thursday Link-up as a way to clear some of the junk that’s been rattling around my brain lately.



Robots is Good People



Far too many people are still talking about the Zombie Apocalypse and not enough are worried about the Robot Uprising.  Not me, I’m going to work on making friends with our future overlords - I’m a survivor like that.  The Lily Camera has been getting some attention from outdoor and extreme sports enthusiasts for being able to intelligently follow its user that is wearing a small tracking device.



I had fantasies of making cool videos featuring me swimming, biking and running (not to mention *Burbathlon*, cross-country skiing, maybe mountain biking ) with chase cam footage.  A couple of days after I came across the video, I started seeing it everywhere - Facebook friends shared it with me having similar ideas to mine, and I even saw a couple of co-workers watching the video too.  Apparently one of the gotchas of drones is how much skill it takes to fly them, so this one having automatic ‘Follow Me’ modes (among others) is something of a breakthrough.  I also like how it’s waterproof and portable.


The thing is, with the autopilot feature being so desirable, they can’t be the only ones who have come up with a potential solution.  I also wondered if I might want a GoPro or other action cam to do First Person video too, and then have a drone that can mount the camera for the chase cam stuff.  I found the Iris, the Hexo+ as well as some highly experimental smaller drones like the Extreme MicroDrone 3.0 and the Nixie.


Of course, these are the serious thoughts of someone richer than me - I need to stay focused on getting my bike up to snuff for Barrelman.


Video Killed The Blogging Star



In a fit of Shiny Object Syndrome/Me Too Disorder (a.k.a Blogger Peer Pressure), I started using Periscope, an app for doing live broadcasts from your mobile device.  Tamara from Fit Knit Chick did a great little beginner’s tutorial and you can see it here.  I guess I thought I’d do similar content to what I had in mind for the drones and action cam; walking an audience through what I consider to be a fun workout or something.


I started with trying to incorporate a Bike Hill Training/Strength #WorkoutHack, previously seen here.  I don’t think the broadcast was terribly good or successful, though people were kind and generous with their ‘hearts’ (which are like ‘Likes’ on Periscope).  I didn’t enable a tweet share, and I haven’t found a way to share it now; even by uploading the MP4 file to YouTube (and the file doesn’t seem to be able to play natively on my phone either).  You may be able to see the replay if you find me on Periscope (in app, search for apkussma).  Based on that initial experience, here are my thoughts on Periscope (and yes, I’m aware of Meerkat, which is pretty similar).


  • You have to have something to say or show.  Either you have a prepared presentation/speech/lecture or tutorial, or your location is interesting enough to provide the scenery giving your audience a show and a way to virtually join in your experience, (for example, a concert or show).
  • You have to have a good network connection; this rules out doing any kind of swim or underwater video, and if you’re outside your home network (and are unwilling to pay roaming charges), there’s no chance to do a live broadcast.  This kept me from doing some Periscope video while in Germany... I could have shown you guys around.
  • If you want to broadcast action, be prepared for technical hiccups.  My broadcast ended accidentally and an error popped up.  I’m not sure if it was because the phone was being manhandled by me while trying to ride my bike, or if the phone ran out of memory while recording (you can enable the video to store a local copy) or if it was just a bug.  I’m glad I didn’t put too much thought or preparation into it.


With those caveats, I’m probably not done with Periscope, but I think I prefer doing video with Instagram; 15 seconds is enough for a lot of the messages I’m trying to send, and I’m not limited to a character count for when I want to add some extra hashtags (unlike Vine). Here’s an example:



Last but not least on the Video Star front, here’s the official video recap of Spring Into Action 2015.


Mo’ Media, Mo’ Problems (Mo’ Money?)



Both of the aforementioned feelings (desire for a little cash to spend on gear and tech abd Blogger Peer Pressure) have coupled which has me looking at expanding some of the ‘business’ aspects of the blog.  I’ve already joined some affiliate programs, you may have noticed some of the links in previous posts.  Affiliate programs, Ambassadorships and Partnerships, better advertising are all potentially on the horizon, and yet I constantly remind myself that this blog is a hobby... about my hobbies.  I do this mostly to go through the practice of writing, and share my experiences like some kind of glorified post-card. I train, I get outside, and I try to develop my writing ‘voice’ by describing those adventures. I do like to try new things, obviously, so I’m willing to put some effort into the kinds of things more professional bloggers spend time on, but I need to balance that with my sanity, and not make blogging yet another chore.

Ahhh... that feels better. See you next time with something more triathlon/family/something related, OK?

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