Sunday, November 20, 2011


Cold and blustery.  Sure, it's going to get colder yet, but still this week was the week that we were reminded that winter had not forgotten us; there's been frost more mornings than not and we had that short but vicious flurry on Thursday.  As a runner and a cyclist, this has been the week that the longs all came out; long-sleeved tops, long tights, long-fingered gloves all topped off with a toque.

Just the day for a warming recipe, so I tried making a fabada or Asturian Bean Stew; something I had when in Spain a couple of months back.  Nothing too complicated, just white haricot beans and sofrito.  If you're watching your cholesterol then the original, served with chorizo, blood-pudding and pork belly can be a bit much (although they are all food-stuffs I love dearly) so I added a lean pork chop instead.

I'm sure it would have been nicer at Casa Fernando, but a couple of bowls of that, fresh bread and a little too much Rioja than was strictly necessary and I perked right up.

This was a needed meal after quite a full weekend.  Headed for the usual club run yesterday and ended up running ridiculously fast for an easy Saturday.  However it felt good, it was nice to know the legs were still (kinda) there and it was a great excuse for a breakfast sandwich.

After we got home la belle said let's go for a ride on the BLT trail to the Bike And Bean cafe. I didn't really feel up to it, the morning's run had left me feeling a little empty and my knees were aching but hey, it was warm (or at least not cold) and the wind wasn't too bad so why not?  I'm sure there were coffee shops closer (it's a 60km round trip) but it was pleasant enough.

This morning was the cross.  Again, it was warm and like last week warm enough to essentially race in summer kit

....although I did my practice-laps in my Team Canada jacket (I managed to get another one after swapping my original with Raul for an FETri running top).

The course had dried out quite a lot and it was quite fast.  I managed to have my 'cross head on again and had a good race, for me.  Like last week I was in a sprint for 37th place (or something) but unlike last week I won it!   The wind was insane, 50kph gusts according to Environment Canada.  On the back part of the course we were blown along, you were pedalling but it was like the chain wasn't there.  On the grass the wind was mostly in our faces and coming around the last 180 before the barriers/finish I was quite literally stopped dead in my tracks as I turned beam-on into the wind!  

The wind notwithstanding, it was a tough race for me.   Despite doing the same number of laps as last week in almost exact;y the same time, after a couple of laps I started to feel the effects of the previous day's run.  It's one thing to do a >160bpm run for 45 minutes, but at my age I'm starting to find that it's quite another to ask your body to do another 45 minute >160bpm effort 24 hours later.

Tomorrow's a rest day for sure!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stadium of Shite

Shit, from the Old English scitan.  Sometimes in parts of northern England is Shite (pronounced to rhyme with "light") and one wonders if that pronunciation is perhaps a language fossil from a much earlier  time.  It is one of the earthier Anglo-Saxon words in our current lexicon, and perhaps the most socially acceptable.  In fact you could probably get away with it before the nine o'clock BBC watershed, unlike fuck and definitely unlike cunt, which is apparently the last taboo word. 

I mention it because today, November 19th is the Halifax Parade of Lights, the de facto Christmas season opener.  Whenever I hear the expression Parade of Light my brain often transforms it into Parade of Shite, perhaps because of Sunderland FCs home-ground the Stadium of Light which rival Newcastle fans (think Montreal Canadiens - Toronto Maple Leafs for the level of intensity) immediately christened the Stadium of Shite.  Rather like Atlantic Tit-Chiming it's an expression which rather rolls off the tongue and for better or worse almost always comes unbidden to mind.  

Unbidden but perhaps an appropriate mental Spoonerism.  It's November 19th!  Barely mid-November and we're doing Christmas already?  What gives?  At least in the States the Christmas season cannot start until after Thanksgiving (which is next Thursday) and this puts a natural check into the start of proceedings.  Here, with Canadian Thanksgiving so early, there is no such hurdle.  Rememberance Day perhaps; no evergreen before poppies seems reasonable and whilst some stores didn't respect this unwritten rule (or guideline); our local Sobeys has been the full Christmas nightmare for a fortnight now, private houses did.  Now the wreaths have been laid?  Well on the Sunday afterwards (November 13th for the record) I saw at least two houses decked out to the nines, including one with the full-on candy-canes-in-the-front-card-lit-up-bushes-and-trees.

Yup, I don't like Christmas.  OK, to clarify; it's not the holiday as such as the falsity, the anti-genuine, the supposititiousness behind it.  For one day a year, or so it seems, we are told, instructed, expected to, have a good time.  If your family is even slightly dysfunctional (I'm not talking Simpsons here, I'm talking your regular run-of-the-mill dysfunctional family) then you are expected, forced, told (whatever) to do this with people you may not even talk to for the other 364 days of the year.  Yet for one day you have to be all hale-fellow-well-met and transform the usual family bickering into a picture-perfect Normal Rockwell Time cover.  The irony of course being such an image likely never existed anyway, yet here we are trying desperately to recreate something that wasn't there in the first place!

Of course, to get over some of the guilt you may feel over such heretical anti-Christmas feelings, well you can spend your way out of guilt.  An idea so old that even the Catholic church doesn't ask you to do that any more; just you try asking Father Ignatius after midnight mass for an indulgence.  I'm sorry my child, we haven't done that since Martin Luther!  Here was a guy who the Roman Catholic church loved so much they excommunicated him on the basis of his writings but they still said hey, putting a stop to the whole buying your way out of purgatory, not a bad idea that! 

It reminds me a bit of being told to go out and enjoy myself in the snow.  The logic being it's snowing, snow is nice, nice is fun, so if you go out in the snow then you will automatically have fun.  Of course the truth of the matter is you climb into umpteen layers of fleece and go outside and hey presto, I'm cold and wet.  Now what?  Are we having fun yet?  Like Christmas, well I'm here, I've spent tons of money but I'm still not happy.  What did I do wrong?  Nothing.  You can't force anyone to have fun, whether it's snowing or Christmas.  I'll have fun when I'm doing things I enjoy with people I like.  So guess what?  By that definition I can have Christmas nearly every day!  I might not get any free stuff, but I'm smiling and laughing (odd behaviour for a misanthrope I know, but it does happen) with people I genuinely care about.  You can't force such a thing.

So please don't try.  I'll respect your enthusiasm for this holiday, if you'll respect my lack of enthusiasm for same.


Monday, November 7, 2011


So, it's what, November already? Oops, I guess I haven't been blogging for a while. Truth be told. I've written some pretty damn fine pieces, albeit in my head. I just don't seem to have to have the time to get it down on paper, well the screen, you know what I mean. Somehow, tonight, the stars have aligned: the will to write, the want to write and, perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to write. I've been told that writing is good for me, and that might be true. so perhaps blogging will be part catharsis, part therapy, part stopping-me-from-wasting-all-night-on-youtube.

As I've said before, I don't really get any "free" computer time nowadays and it's worth reiterating that I never realized how much government time, both federal and provincial, I wasted blogging, either for myself or for TNS. I apolgise to Laura and Stewart and Tarjei and Hussain. Well, the former three anyway; the latter needs to, well, never mind.

I think I'll try and get back on track, and even though it's been a couple of months since last putting pen to paper, they haven't been quiet months, quite the opposite in fact. The blog may end up jumping around in time as we travel between events that may, or may not, be causally connected but as the joke goes: " 'I'm sorry Sir, we don't serve particles faster than light'. A neutrino walks into a bar".

As with all years, my racing season seems to have started late: only three races until August 31: two marathons (one as a pace-bunny) and a team duathlon. I seemed to be living that Clash song,

If you liked that, try the acoustic-Mick-Jones-in-a-public-library version. Fricking awesome!

Anyway, after that, I seemed to get racing with Shubie (as per the belated post below), Worlds, a couple of marathons and then the customary cyclocross, or "humiliation on a bike by pros and 14 year-old girls" as I like to call it. I might yet get ten races in this year (as opposed to the 20 + last year) but with over half shoe-horned into the last three months of the year after every self-respecting triathlete has already bolted their bike into a CycleOps. Of course, I'm not a self-respecting triathlete, so 'cross, here we come.

The first 'cross race I did this season, the second of the series (I missed the first because of a marathon: there's the first cause-and-effect or effect-and-cause of my next few posts'), was a true, Belgian 'cross day. Windy and rainy. Horizontal rain actually, interspersed with hail and sleet! The course was slick and the mud-pit was well over our rims.

The Cyclesmith 'cross has really ballooned in size. Five years ago it was twenty, thirty guys max, now a bad day is sixty. The joke is that BNS should rename all their races "cyclocross" and they'd see some decent size packs again! La belle did it one year, but now says she's a little intimidated by the size of the event. I can see that: your only mass-start race of the year and it's off-road single track. Plus the front row is 50% local pros. It's a bit different at the back: it's not quite the proverbial laughing group, we're serious too, but we know where we stand in the pecking order, fight it out amongst ourselves and get the hell out of the way when the big guys come steaming through to lap us! There's no need to get intimidated out of the race: just readjust your goals (finishing without hospitalization is a reasonably achievable aim) and have fun!

I didn't think the 'cross Gods were smiling on me as I crashed on the course riding to get to the start, a silly little 10kph prat-fall on an off-camber descent that gets me every time. I started at the back and the first lap was little more of a warm-up riding behind people slower than me and, thankfully, the same kind of bike-handler. This allowed me to get my eye in for the terrain and the obstacles and I slowly picked it up as the race went along. I missed the bell-lap as I was in the funny no-mans-land between the leader and the flag. I know I could have made the bell-lap but there was strangely something missing. It took me a day or two to realize what it was. After a month or two of concentrating on long races, where tempering your tempo was the name of the game, my head just wasn't into the 40-minutes-or-bust attitude that was 'cross. I was coasting over the top of the hills and taking too much rest on the straights.

Still, it made for some epic racing and one of the advantages of taking the first race piano was that I didn't crash in anger!

It's not blurry, its' the rain!

However epic it felt, it doesn't top the epic-ness of last years epic 'cross shot...

Terry Tomlin said it was the full Mount Surabachi and whilst such comparisons are meaningless and trivial at this time of year (I am assiduously avoiding any use of a Paschendale metaphor with regards to certain sections of the course), I think secretly, we all agree with that.

This week I went with my 'cross head squarely screwed on, and even listened to a bit of JLo to get my heart-rate pumping before we started. Not that I've turned into a JLo fan in the last six weeks, but events have conspired to make On The Floor this season's warm-up track!

The weather was much better than last week, sunny and warm. Unfortunately, the mud had dried out to a much slicker consistency. It was like cornering on ice. Except for the mud-pit which was still over your rims, but sticky. Imagine cycling through a 30 metre semi-cooked waffle, already coated with maple syrup. If the Inuit supposedly have 57 words for snow, we need 57 words for mud, as this was clearly a different mud to last week! Raul Martin commented it might be called ponzoña or poison in Spanish. Poison to your race perhaps, trying to get a bike through that, but it smelt pretty toxic too. The passage of so many tyres has churned the mud up and reanimated some previously dormant sulphrogenic bacteria. My bike positively reeked when I washed it. I've no idea what latent anaerobe we've awoken from the deep but if it escapes, it's going to be armageddon!

By my own standards I had a good race. Again I started at the back and picked my way through the field. Instead of coasting and floating through some sections, I pedaled through them. One person I caught on the last lap said I "really picked it up at the end". I don't think so, I think it more likely that the three-hour engine I've been cultivating all summer helped me keep an even pace. Plus, I know my bike-handling limits and whilst I may not have been chucking it through the corners, riding reasonably conservatively through the technical sections meant staying upright and not losing time remounting, re-hitching dropped chains and cleaning small shrubs out of the drive-train. The closest I got to crashing was spinning the bike around nearly 180 coming around a U-turn and ending up pointing back the way I came! I got an extra lap in compared to the previous week and I was pleasantly happy with the event. Plus, I'd trued my own front wheel the day before, not something I do often, and I wasn't sure that doing that and then heading to 'cross was a good idea! Well, the wheel held up; there was a slight squooshing coming from the front end by the end of the race, but it was only mud build-up under the fork-crown!

The tale of the tape tells it better than any words. For the first race my Garmin gave me a 163 average, 172 max over 44 minutes. This week, I got in an extra lap for 51 minutes, but a 170 average and 180 max! The SD this week was lower too, so I was riding more consistently throughout. That max, 180? How do you like them apples? So much for 220 minus your age.

Plus, for the rest of the day I had that funny hacking cough I only get after red-lining it in the cold! Sweet times.

Well, that's all for now, I'll try and make a start on getting some of that other stuff down.