Motivation Monday: Je ne parle pas français.

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Je ne parle pas français.
I know a word here and there, my accent sucks and every time I forget the French word I automatically substitute in the Czech equivalent. Since I finally signed up for The Worlds Master Championships, which takes place in Lyons, France I decided I have to start brushing up on all things French. I have the coffee stuff down pat. In fact it was France where my coffee addiction really took hold.

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My favourite place to be when in France

With the plan now firmly in place, my training will get much more specific. I actually feel like I have a real goal to work towards again. As my mileage begins to increase I decided what better way to make use of this time. Replacing many of my song lists now will be French lessons.

Since I have got these amazing new Red Fox Wireless head phones, I may as well put everything to good use. Training my body and my brain at the same time, you can’t get more efficient. I even spent one night watching La Femme Nikita to perfect my French pout.

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The French pout

As this will be an international event, I’m not so much concerned about getting around the venues and being at the right place for my races. Of course it won’t hurt to have a few more French words under my belt to ensure the trip will be stress free. There will be days off for me though and during this time I want to take advantage of the seeing a part of France I’ve yet to experience.

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Lyon, France

The competition is going to tough, that’s a fact. This being a very accessible site and it being in Europe, there won’t be a shortage of girls to chase. I’ve made a pack with myself to not go in with elevated expectations. I have to be patient with myself and just focus on one goal at a time. I’ll have all summer to prep and practice on the 400M track and get acquainted with the new terrain.

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I’ve signed up for several events and even though I’m excited about each of them, I’m most excited about the half marathon. I’m not thinking or hoping to race this event, but to have a chance to get out of the stadium, open my stride and see the city the way I love seeing all cities. The first thing I do when I land anywhere, is lace up my shoes and go for a run to get my bearings. This will be the last thing I do on this trip but just the same it will be spectacular to take in the sites.

Spring brings a sense of rebirth and renewal. The race season is set to begin next weekend and I’m excited to see the fruits of my labour. I’m prepared to experience both success and failure as no season can be completed without the balance of both. As I come to learn more about my sport and the people inside it, I’ve been given a renewed sense of what can be accomplished no matter where you are in your life.

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Wear Test Wednesday: Red Fox Wireless Headphones

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Red Fox Wireless

Disclaimer: This will not be a debate about whether you listen to music while I/you run or not. That debate will never end.

Do I listen to music when I run? There are days when I want to, days when I need to and days when I just want to focus on the workout. Everyone who reads my blog knows I’m completely in love with running. I also have another strong passion. It’s music. I’ve always grown up with music in my life and I devour music history. When trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up and picking Universities was a time my mom developed a few more wrinkles.

I first wanted to get my PHD in musicology. I wanted to be a doctor of music. There were a few obstacles, so I switched gears and told my mom and teachers I was going to go to theatre school and become a roadie. I will never forget that parent/teacher meeting: my drama teacher telling me to please stop pursuing theatre and get a “real” job. Music is just as much a part of me as running has been.

When I run I don’t listen to music to get me motivated. I don’t like repetitive time signatures or screechy music when running. I like jazz and folk music when I run. I like obscure lyrics and irregular time signatures. I’m completely obsessed with The National Band. While I’m running the most annoying thing is headphone cords and headphones that don’t stay in my ears.

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Recently a company Red Fox Wireless sent me a pair of their headphones to test out. I was impressed with the overall look and feel of the headphones. The first day I used them around the house, taking phones calls, listening to music. They are multifunctional and perfect for multi-tasking. You can be up to 32 feet away from your phone and still get a signal. In my small condo this means I can clean, cook and do whatever I want while my iPhone (worst battery ever!) stays plugged into an outlet.Once you have the headphones synced with your device it works with siri and google voice integration. You can play/pause music or refuse phone calls with one tap of the side button.

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It took me less than 3 minutes to sync them to my iPhone. If you’re not a gadget geek, these are made for you. The instructions couldn’t be simpler.

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Red Fox Wireless headphones are USB rechargeable, and the charge will last for 9 hours. It will take 1 hour to get a full charge so I just make sure to plug mine in once every other night. Red Fox Wireless come in a variety of colours and ship with a hard shell carrying case. They are designed for sport use so they’re sweat-proof, but it’s not recommended you take them out in the rain and definitely don’t use them for swimming. The company gives you a 1-year warranty that you have to activate within the first 30 days of purchasing them. They are very clear about what the warranty won’t cover; so just don’t do those things!

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What I was MOST impressed with was the sound quality. On my first “test run” I put on my favourite “The National” album (Trouble Will Find You) and noticed right away instruments I hadn’t heard on my other headphones. The sound was clear and balanced which was a nice change. Not only is the sound better, but the headphones aren’t noise cancelling. This is important if you are 1. Going to drive with them and 2. Run or bike with headphones. You need to be able to hear what’s around you, and still be able to have great sounding tunes. These headphones give you both.

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Enjoying my run wirelessly

There are two ways to wear the headphones, one with the loop up and one with the loop down. For me, I wore it differently depending on what I was using them for. I don’t have thick hair and my head isn’t huge, so I found that they weren’t snug fitting. At first I thought this was going to be an issue, but thankfully it wasn’t. I ran many times with them, and they didn’t bounce around behind my head. In fact after 2-3km into my run, I actually forgot I had them on my head. Normally I have to find a bunch of creative ways to tuck the wires into my clothing so that the bouncing wires don’t pull the ear buds out. Now with my phone in my pocket, headphones comfortably in place, I was free to listen to my favourite album and just enjoy my run.

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I’m more than happy with how these functioned and especially happy with the sound quality. As our world gets more cluttered with gadgets and so many wires, it’s nice to have a product like Red Fox Wireless that is sleek, simple yet still very innovative.

With my headphones I got a code that I will share with my readers. Go to www.redfoxwireless.com and use the code FOXTEAM22 for a 20% discount on any purchases.

Motivation Monday: Track is Always a Good Idea

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Learning track is like riding a bicycle. You don’t really forget, you just might be a little wobbly once you get back on the saddle. This past weekend was the last indoor track meet for 2015. Every single meet leading up to the Canadian Championships I’ve learned something new.

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Lining up for the 800M

Saturday was track meet day #1 where I was scheduled to run 800M followed by the 300M event. These two distances are not my favourite. I was given a strategy for the 800M and by lap three I was starting to feel the pain of the race. With 100M to go my arms got heavier and heavier and soon my legs followed. I heard the sound of another runner, and with nothing left to push, she took over the race and finished strong. I finished, with a PB and silver medal but I wasn’t happy. I’m not ungrateful and I don’t expect to win everything, but I did have the secret goal of a club record. My inner over-achiever had high hopes for Saturday.

I needed a nap. I put my feet up, closed my eyes and took a time out. I had another race and I needed to re-focus. As a distance runner I can admit I let my ego get the best of me. Partially too confident, I took the pace very aggressive. My coach yelled to slow down several times, I tried but I couldn’t get comfortable. With the pace already pushed and the scratch of Amy (my competitor), I would take the gold even if I walked the race. The pre-race pep was to run strategic for the medal, once I realized that strategy didn’t need to be played out, I completely lost my marbles. This is the lesson I had to learn the really hard way. I stopped listening to my coach; I stopped listening. Running 15 laps hard you need to listen, you need to focus. I was focused on a goal I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about; the 2000m club record. My lap times got slower and slower, my legs felt weaker and when the race leader lapped me as we passed the lap counters, I misheard and thought I had one lap to go. When you have one lap to go, you drop the hammer, so I did.

From the sidelines, my coach was confused and wondering what the hell I was doing. I raced to the finish line, left the track and could hear Timo asking me what happened. I replied, “nothing, I’m done”, and then learned, I still had one more lap to go. In a complete fog of confusion and seized with lactic acid, I jumped back on the track and finished the last lap. No PB, but based on my 14th lap I was on pace for a great PB. I was pissed at myself. Timo told me this thing kind of thing has happened to the best athletes on bigger stages, which made me feel slightly less embarrassed. The track community was great, and all felt for me what I was feeling inside.

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the start of the 3000M

I needed to put Saturday behind me, Sunday I still had 1500M to race. I really love the 1500M distance. It was my strong race when I was younger and 30 years later, racing it makes me excited. I arrived at the track with a clear idea of how I wanted the race to play out. I even took my watch out for the first time all weekend (Timo banned the use of the watch this weekend) to time parts of my warm up. I used a proprioceptor exercise, to lock in the pace I wanted to race just prior to starting.

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The 1500M start.

This worked like a charm. Unlike my 3000M race, the 1500M started calm and in-control; exactly on pace. With only 5 laps to go I started to move up my pace and took control of the pack.

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Making my move

This was not where I wanted to be this early on, but I felt good. 2 laps to go, I knew I had the gold medal, but if I pushed too hard, I could blow up, so I held steady. Not letting a single error ruin this day, I knew I had one lap left and I pressed harder. All I could hear was cheering and screaming as me and every other girl jockeyed for a strong finish. Annie (in the age group ahead of me) overtook me with 50M to go and as she passed, I said “you look amazing, go for it.”. I looked at the clock and I had the race I wanted; A masters PB, A Canadian Master Gold Medal and best of all the Club Record.

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Crossing finish line very happy!

I crossed the finish line beaming. The only running memory to date that compares to this moment was when I ran a sub 3-hour Boston in 2013.

The tips, the insight, the nuggets of stories that Timo shared with me this weekend all helped put me in the place I needed to be to achieve my goal for the 1500M race. Watching my heroines, Annie and Nancy race the 800M on Saturday inspired me to race smart and check my ego at the door. The girls of track and field are amazing women. They are tough as nails, kind and most of all supportive.

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Nancy – an amazing athlete and one I’ve recently come to admire

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Annie – one of my favourite female athletes I’ve had the privilege of knowing for many years.

They say track is where the athlete is made. After this past weekend, I believe it. Like Paris, track is always a good idea. It builds a stronger runner mentally, physically and you have an opportunity to learn the wisdom directly from the great racers before you.

My focus will shift for a month and I will be back to outdoor track to prep for Lyon 2015 World Master Track and Field. This is one of those now or never moments in life, and I’ve decided to choose the now path.

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With my fellow team mate Lynn Borque: Lyon2015 Bound.

Paris to Ancaster 2015: How to Prepare by Steve Shikaze

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A great post by my cycling expert guest blogger Steve Shikaze. He bring loads of experience and knowledge to my site that was once only dedicated to running. Enjoy the read!

A couple of years ago, there was a series of videos entitled “How to Win Paris to Ancaster”, created by Jason Zhu.  Jason’s series of videos followed a P2A winner, a new-to-cycling beginner and a weekend warrior as they prepared for the 2013 version of the race.  The videos offer a spectrum of preparation perspectives and I found it refreshing to see how others get ready for P2A. Having entered this race every year since 2002 (the full 60+km event 10 times, and the shorter 30-35 km version 3 times), I was asked, nudged, encouraged to write a blog on “How to Prepare for P2A”. However, everyone has their own way of getting ready for this event, so I’ve modified the title to “How I Prepare for P2A”.

With less than two months before the 2015 P2A event, I am reminded of the first time I entered P2A back in 2002.  I had just purchased a new mountain bike at the spring bike show in Toronto a month earlier and was nervous about my first-ever bike race/event.  My two brothers and I arrived in Paris for the start, and I saw all kinds of serious racers in team kits riding what looked to be road bikes (they were cyclocross!).  I was there with my brand-new Kona, a full-suspension mountain bike with fat, knobby tires, a camel bak for hydration, and baggy shorts.  That year, I prepared for P2A by doing a few spring rides on my new Kona – some on the road, some on rail trail, some singletrack and I did a little indoor training in my basement.   I finished the race in about 3 hours, and vowed to return the following years.

In the subsequent years since then, my preparation has ranged from little to moderate preparation.  There have been years when P2A was my first outdoor ride of the year.  There have been years when I was on my indoor trainer 2-3 times a week for 4 months prior to the event.  And there have been years when I had nearly 1000km outdoors in the months leading to the event.

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P2A Spring Classic Route

Rather than write about specific training plans for P2A (mainly because I’ve never had a true training “plan”), I’m going to provide a list of tips for preparing for the event.

  • Training: Training will help, whether it’s indoors or outdoors.  P2A is a long bike race, and any time you spend on a bike beforehand will help you … however … No matter how much you train, the race will challenge you. As Greg Lemond has said: “It doesn’t get easier, you just go faster”. 
  • Race conditions:  Regardless of how fit you are, there will be times in this race when you’ll have to unclip, get off your bike and carry it over or through obstacles.  The mud chutes are rideable for those who are technically strong, but by the time I get there, most people (including myself) are walking.  The times I’ve tried to ride the mud, I usually end up stopped at the bottom of the mud chute to clear mud from my bike so the wheels will turn!
  • Weather conditions:  The race is in April, so the weather can vary from blizzards, to rain, to sunny and 25C.  One year, we had a torrential downpour with hail only 15 minutes before the start of the race.  Miraculously, the storm ended before the start of the race, but it made for a sloppy event.
  • Hydration/Nutrition:  I carry two water bottles and a lot of gels.  There’s a rest stop about half-way through the race, usually stocked with cookies, bananas, fluids.
  • Bike preparation:  Every time I’ve entered this event, I’ve been on a mountain bike. This year (2015), I’ll be riding a used cyclocross bike that I bought last fall.  I make sure the chain is well lubed and the gears are shifting well and I remove things like fenders, head/tail lights to give me the illusion that the bike will be light and fast.
  • THE climb.  Just before the finish line, there is an epic dirt road climb on Martin Road.  Again, as a mid-pack rider, by the time I reach the base of this hill, many people are walking.  With my easier gearing on my mountain bike, I’ve been able to keep the pedals moving and ride up each year.  As you make the turn towards the finish on the last part of the climb, you can hear fans cheering, and if this isn’t enough to motivate you, the fact that there are only a couple hundred metres in your epic ride should motivate you to get back onto your bike if you’ve been walking (the slope of the hill lessens near the top, so it’s a little easier).

This year, I’ve had a late start to the training season, and with less than 2 months to go, I need to get some miles on the bike. Inevitably, everyone will prepare for P2A in their own way.  Some will train hard all winter with a focus on this event.  Others will simply use this event as a warm up for the race season, be it road or mountain biking.   Then there are those of us who don’t race much and look to this race as motivation for getting some early-season fitness.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember why we enter these kinds of events.  Carrying a heavy bike through 6″ of sloppy mud with cramping legs after riding for 2+ hours doesn’t seem like fun.  But it isn’t difficult to appreciate the epic nature of this event and the accomplishment of completing it. And that’s what draws me back every year!

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Crossing the Finish Line: 2005

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Steve Shikaze has been an active member of the Waterloo Cycling Club (www.waterloocyclingclub.ca) for over a decade. He currently sits as a member of the WCC Trail Committee, which oversees the mountain bike trails at The Hydrocut (www.thehydrocut.ca). He has completed multiple 8 and 24 hour mountain bike relay races, 3-day stage races and many other cycling events, on his mountain, road and cyclocross bikes, and has dabbled in trail running and open-water swimming.

Track and Field – My 30 Year Anniversary

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I have 5 days until my last track meet of the winter. Canadian Championships are happening this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited about racing. I was speaking with my mom this past weekend about how surreal doing track in 2015 has been.

York was where my running life started. A young up and coming runner on the scene, I started with a club called The Flemington Flyers. The run club was coached by the one and only Charlie Francis and my teammates included two very promising young Jamaican athletes. Ben Johnson and Angella Taylor-Issajenko. They were sprinters and I was the long distance runner training for the 800M and 1500M disciplines.

Fast forward 30 years and I find myself on the very same track, training for the very same disciplines. When I look in the mirror, I see a wiser, stronger healthier athlete, but when I look down at my shoes, toeing the start line, I see the lanky kid with long legs who found herself in running. My first coach, Charlie Francis was, as I remember him, a great man. He cared about his athletes and gave me a very strong foundation as an athlete. Every time I decide to drop a “crazy idea bomb” on my coach Timo, I’m reminded about the few times Charlie would find me with Angela while she tried to teach me how to do hurdles. I would be banned from the hurdling area and would have to watch my idols from the oval.

Coaches and teammates have played such a key role in my life over the years. As my 30-year anniversary of racing at York University track approaches, I’m filled with so many fond memories of the people in my life past and present who gave me the strength to be who I am today. It wasn’t always easy, but the best things in life never are.

What to pack when you’re doing track?
What’s on tap for me will be a full weekend of competition which means packing for any and all potential scenarios.

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  • At least two pairs of shoes. (warm-up shoes and spikes, I will most likely bring 2 spikes and 1 warm up shoe)
  • Compression Socks: my favourite CEP compression.
  • Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 11.55.36 PMPolar watch – which I have a created a special track and field profile.
  • IMG_1952Vicks Vapour Rub to keep my airways opens.
  • Ricola lozenges, to keep my airways moist.
  • Biofreeze in case of emergency acute tendonopathy
  • Warm up track suit
  • Towel
  • Race outfit (includes longboat sportsbra and singlet incase I get busted for not wearing my bib correctly)
  • Pillow for napping
  • Iphone for instagram updates and Itunes
  • Redfox earphones for personal quiet time
  • red-fox-wireless-EDGE-headsetAsthma medication
  • Extra hair ties – they always break when you need them most.
  • Coach Timo for support and sideline coaching
  • 1623363_10154843196325243_249375679485230284_nWater bottle
  • Honeymaxx for hydration
  • GU gels for energy bursts – favourite track flavour: Salted Watermelon
  • Elevate Me Bars for carbs and protein between events
  • Rumble Drink for post race recovery

What happens after next weekend? That is still up for debate. There are a few options that I’m considering, but all of them are equally exciting opportunities to train for. While I take a bit of a taper week this week, I will have a few more moments in my day to contemplate the direction I want to go for the remaining 2015 winter/spring season.
As the summer quickly closes in on us, expect to see me at the 5Peaks Trail Running Series (discount code MICHELLE), The Northface Endurance Challenge (Discount code D30MCON15) in Collingwood, ON and at the outdoor track summer race series. The best is yet to come!

Motivation Monday: Building Confidence

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This past weekend was my second track meet of the year. Provincial Championships were a good learning experience. This time, my coach asked me to sign up for the 1500M and 3000M event. Worse, he wanted me to attempt a 2000m Club record en route to the 3000M record. It was a long shot, and not entirely confident I would succeed, I was less afraid of failing, than not even trying.

Track life is so different than any other running communities. It’s intense when it has to be and the rest of the time, it’s completely relaxed. The events run in the background as you nap, eat, hydrate or best of all, be a spectator. Getting to watch the track and analyze how other people strategize a race is an amazing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Track Life

This meet, I was seeded in a position where I was going to be chased instead of last meet, where I was chasing. Running with a pack of girls on your heels is not a comfortable place to be. Having no idea where anyone is and trying to stick to your own pace is a challenge. In the 1500M I stuck to my own race strategy and did exactly what my coach had asked for that day. As soon as I crossed the line, I knew I had a great race, but also I had too much left. Immediately I started to replay the last 7 laps in my head, thinking, I should’ve started my kick earlier. Still unsure of how to deal with lactic acid build up and not knowing where my threshold is, leaves me vulnerable and insecure.

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My down time with my CEP compression socks

With plenty of cool down, a little nap, snack and a mental reset I started my warm up for the 3000M. The track was getting hot, everyone was complaining about it. It was going to be a very uncomfortable 3km. The gun went off, and I set off to attempt the 2km record. 9 laps down, I was within reach but it was going to be close. As I turned the corner and headed down the straightaway, closing in on the 10th lap (2000M), I saw 7:15 turn over on the clock and I knew I blew it. The record was not going to happen that day. I pulled the shoot and slowed my pace slightly so I could finish up the last km. This last kilometer was not only physically painful but also mentally rough. Analyzing and imprinting the pain I was feeling, I would be able to use this data next time, to determine how much I could handle when I attempt my next an en route record.\

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Remember a few blogs ago, I talked a lot about overcoming my performance anxiety? A fail like my 3000M, in my past, would’ve caused a pretty big set back mentally. Instead, I’ve learned that in track, the failure is actually part of the overall success. Having a set back in track is much easier to deal with. You don’t have to take 2 weeks of recovery to get over it and start all over again. You can keep moving forward and learn from your mistake. My performance anxiety, which crippled me in the past, is now a faint memory. The more I fail, the stronger I get and more I want to win.

My coach sent out our weekly reviews and signed off with this saying. “Don’t wait to feel CONFIDENT enough before you act or you might wait forever. CONFIDENCE is the GIFT you receive after you have the done the scary thing.” This completely summed up my latest track meet. Even though I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, I walked away with two gold medals and best of all, just a little bit more confidence for next time.

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2 gold medals at Provincials Championships! Not a bad day!

Frostbike 2015 – Race Review

facebook_1424127694269Canadians are great at many things, but they’re especially great at getting outside during the coldest months of the year. Winter is our thing. We totally own it in every way. This year I was riding my road bike well into December and The Donut riders are still out there every Saturday and Sunday. Little Miss. Hardcore (that’s me) thought I was going to be joining them, but sadly there have been other races every weekend keeping me busy. Instead I’ve been training at least once a week on my mountain bike for the much-anticipated Frostbike race.

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Huddling at the Start line

ShortHills Cycling Club located in Port Colbourne hosts the race. It’s capped at 100 spots, and this year it sold out in something crazy like 5 minutes. It’s a 10kmish course mostly through single track. Last year I did the race on a sprained ankle and even though every bit of it was painful, I had so much fun.

While many people did the first Ocup velodrome race in Milton, Ontario, others were packing up their fat bikes, cross bike and mountain bikes heading for Short Hills. When an event is called Frostbike, you aren’t expecting tropical temperatures, however -20 with wind chill and gusting winds is tad overkill on the frosty part.

The morning of the race, I woke up, looked out the window and rolled myself into the comforter. A few minutes of weighing my options I gave myself a pep talk and put on my cycling gear.

Loading everything up, putting on all the layers I could find I headed off to the race. I was thankful to see I wasn’t the only crazy person willing to go through with this. A big portion of the field decided not to show, but the diehards were there with big smiles on their faces, and many layers on their butts.

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Trying to keep warm

The cold was not actually the worst part. Word was getting around the trails were basically un-ride able. It was turning into a hike a bike competition. Had I known this 1. I wouldn’t have worn my clipless pedals. 2. I would have worn trail shoes. 3. I would have brought a kids bike and strapped it to my back and ran the course!

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Looks ride able but it’s pretty deep!

The race went in heats of 4-5 riders and after about 5-6 heats took off; I was well on my way into the trails. Just like everyone said, once you hit the single track, you sunk straight into the soft powdery snow. The kind of snow perfect for skiing but not so good for cycling. 2km later I was still walk/running with my bike, knee deep in snow, asking myself “Why the F**K do you keep signing up for this kind of shit!” My answer; “it’s better than being on a couch watching TV.” I was only starting to get concerned thinking how am I going to do this for 10km, when someone in the pack told us all it was changed to a 5km course. (Listening to pre-race instructions in not my strongest trait)

The sun was out keeping things slightly warmer. There were some really great parts you could bike on and the riders took every single opportunity to hop on for as long as they could. The wipeouts were hilarious, the last 100M to the finish line were grueling, but fun and the post race festivities were the best highlight of the day. Warm Honeymaxx, Spicy Chili and Hockey Pucks for age group awards made spending the day with almost 100 other nutty cyclists a perfect Sunday afternoon.

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Covered in Ice and Snow on my way to the finish line.

A huge thank you to the ShortHills Cycling Club and all the volunteers for hosting such a fun event. I will definitely be there again next year, rain, polar vortex, blizzard or hurricane.

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2nd out of two – Means 2nd place and dead last! haha