Mad Trapper Snowshoe Championships

Thanks Mike for the hat and the great series!

Thanks Mike for the hat and the great series!

Pssst, hey Ottawa/Gatineau outdoor enthusiasts/runners/snowshoers – where were you this morning? We missed you out at The Ark in Denholm, Quebec… It was a fine morning for a snowshoe romp through the woods with a great gang of folks. Oh well, this only meant more pasta, potato chips, world-famous brownies, beer and hot chocolate for the rest of us!

Yes, this morning saw a return to the famous Ark for the last in the Atlas Mad Trapper snowshoe race series. With the crazy rain yesterday, I really didn’t know what to expect with the drive and the course conditions. The drive was largely uneventful, save for the two deer who I caught by surprise on the gravel ice road – luckily they scampered away… The snow conditions could be called – soft, granular, coarse, and darned hard. The atmosphere at the Ark was very positive with lots of great chatter, smiles and laughs. Throw in the tasty brownies and the hearty pasta and the event/morning was a huge pile of fun.

As for the race itself? Well, there weren’t large numbers today. Maybe folks were stuck in their basements riding their bikes or simply decided to leave the fun to the rest of us? Regardless, the group that was out was an excellent one. As always happens at these Mad Trapper events, there are lots of opportunities to chat with friends, meet new people and to tell stories about the events that happened during the race.

So, back to the race… Well, initially I wasn’t that happy with my effort. I felt sluggish and was missing that extra gear. You know that feeling when you can’t seem to go deep enough to get the satisfying burring lungs and legs? That’s how I felt today. Ah well, in the end my run time was similar to my previous two races and after downloading my data from my Garmin 220, I see that my heart rate was pretty high and steady for the duration.

But really, the race itself is such a small part of the entire event. Yes, the personal challenge and the event itself are a big part of it, but an equally big part of the event is the people. I find everyone to be super friendly and supportive. Post-race, is all about hanging out with cool dudes and playing the “finger game” in an attempt to win one of the generously donated draw prizes.

To sum it up – it was fun. I’m really glad I did all three snowshoe races this season. Next year, I’ve committed to Dave and Laco that I’ll step up and do the 10 km races (this year I did 5 km)… Huge thanks to Mike and Monique for organizing the races, for cooking up some awesome food and for letting us come on over and play in the snow.

(P.S. if you’re new to snowshoe running and this was your first or second time out – you definitely have to come on out on Wednesday evening with the Natural Fitness Lab gang. We run every week in the Gatineau Park, chasing down our fearless leader… You can’t beat running under the stars with a headlamp to guide you along the way.)

(P.P.S I took a post-race epsom salt bath (TMI?) and during this hot and steamy bath I read the latest issue of Trail Runner magazine and now I know what I want to do in 2016… XTERRA Trail Run World Championships in Hawaii. Who is in? Note – anyone can do this race and who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii…)

GP Twenty20 Cycling News

2012 Koppenberg Cyclocross Race photo by The Chainstay

2012 Koppenberg Cyclocross Race photo by The Chainstay

For those of you familiar with cyclo-cross, you will have heard of the Koppenbergcross – a storied and extremely challenging cyclo-cross race. This race brings the crowds and the top cyclo-cross racers out to duke it out on an historic course. For all accounts, it is a cyclo-cross race – a damn hard one – but still a cyclo-cross race… but now something is changing for Koppenbergcross in 2014…

The women’s race has been renamed to GP Twenty20 Cycling and this race will now offer equal prize money for the women racing. Yes – this means that elite women professional cyclo-cross racers will be paid the same amount of money for their results as the men. This is a big deal. A really big deal. (I’m guessing that some of you thought this was already happening – nope – women’s prize money lags far behind the men…)

It is a tremendous step forward for women’s cycling and cyclo-cross in particular that this change has happened. One of the people instrumental in building and creating this forward momentum in women’s cyclo-cross and in cyclo-cross in general is European and British champion Helen Wyman (also bronze medalist at the 2014 World Cyclo-Cross Championships). Helen is a member of the UCI cyclo-cross commission and has been working hard to bring about changes in the sport.

“In my eyes, this is a huge step. It is a very significant moment for women’s cycling. This allows women to make one step up the ladder towards equality. I spend a lot of my free time trying to advance women’s cyclocross and I hope this will lead to a chain reaction of races who do the same, as I know the support is there from sponsors, supporters and riders. To be a part of this development for the sport is fantastic for me,” says Helen.

Helen adds, “For the Koppenbergcross to be the first race in Europe to do this is very special.  I love the Koppenbergcross, to me it is the biggest race outside of the World Championships.  It is legendary.  To have an American sponsor back the race shows how significant it is around the world.  I can’t thank Twenty20 Cycling enough on behalf of all of the racers that take part next season.  I’m certainly already looking forward to the GP Twenty20 Cycling and hope to collect another cobble stone in 2014.”

Kristopher Auer, manager of Twenty20 Cycling, is proud to connect the name of his company to the women’s race of the Koppenbergcross. “Twenty20 Cycling Co. is a small two-store bicycle shop located in Baltimore and Savage, Maryland in the United States. One of the things that makes our business unique is how it developed from a cyclocross background. Since before we opened our business I have been supporting the growth of cyclocross in America. I was promoting UCI cyclocross races in Baltimore nearly a decade ago when I met my future business partners. Growing the sport has always been on our agenda and I’ve always looked to ensure both women and men can race with equal opportunity.”

“There have been a lot of discussion recently about the globalisation of the sport, and women’s racing is high on the agenda for change. Following discussion with Helen Wyman, a six-time winner in our UCI races in Baltimore, we looked for an opportunity to do our part to help advance these two key areas of change. As a company we are excited to be part of such a prestigious event as the Koppenbergcross. It is an amazing race with its own rich history, tough conditions and a fantastic venue. We are proud to be part of what I believe to be an important, if not historic, moment for women’s CX and women’s cycling in general. The growth of women’s sport is not to be ignored and we are hopeful that support of the Koppenbergcross will send a powerful message in Europe and the United States that the time is now.”

To read more about this exciting news, visit the following websites:

Koppenbergcross

Twenty20 Cycling Company

Helen Wyman’s thoughts on the announcement

Podium Cafe interview with Helen Wyman

So book your calendars for November 1, 2014 and get ready to watch history in the making.

Helen Wyman on Koppenberg - By Peloton Photos

Helen Wyman on Koppenberg – By Peloton Photos

Gatineau Loppet

Well, Feb. 16 has come and gone… a date I marked on my calendar way back in October 2013. I had originally registered for the 51 km skate ski race at the Gatineau Loppet (what was I thinking) but luckily I was able to switch my registration to the 27 km event.

The 27 km skate ski race was the perfect distance for me. One that didn’t require hours and hours spent out skiing but challenging enough to motivate me to get out and ski. I’ll come out and say it – I’m not a skier. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it. I thoroughly enjoy the hard work-out but I also dread it, I enjoy the feeling of having gone for a longish ski but I also fear the ski as well. (So exactly what was I thinking when I signed up for the 51 km in October…)

Over the course of 27 kilometres on Sunday, I managed to hit every emotion possible: fear, elation, despair, relief, pure joy and a bit of anger. I suppose this is normal for a long endurance event and it’s a sign that I was pushing myself hard enough for my brain to get angry and to suggest that I should pack it in. Luckily I didn’t listen and instead I just kept on focusing on the kilometre markers along the trail.

Really the entire event is so well organized that it just went off perfectly. Many thanks to my pals from the Natural Fitness Lab group for their advice and tips on the day of (and all the help in advance with lessons and encouragement) and of course to Marc who got me out skiing and kept me motivated. And a huge thank-you to Josée - without those long weekend skis I wouldn’t have been able to do this – thanks for pushing my hard Josée!

As for the race itself – there isn’t much to say. I really just skied at my own pace. I was conscious of not “blowing up” so I might have been a bit slow at the beginning but I think this strategy worked out because I was able to catch and pass a number of people on trail 7 and on the parkway back to the finish line. I do think it would have helped to have skied the 15 and the 7 beforehand but since these are classic-only trails it wasn’t possible to do so.

Immediately afterwards I wasn’t sure I’d like to do the event again. But today (and even last night) I’m feeling as though I’d like to give it another go. If anything, registering for such an event helped me get out the door and get skiing. I know that for next year I need to practice my climbing technique and really try to work on getting a flatter ski. But as with anything, all in due time and ultimately the most important thing is to enjoy the process.

Skiing for me is all about getting outside in the winter s0 on days when I don’t feel like going or when it is crazy cold – I simply don’t go. This balance works perfectly for me – I don’t feel “forced” to ski and can do it for pleasure. I can continue to enjoy it and use events like the Gatineau Loppet and the great folks I’ve met through Natural Fitness Labs, Marc and Josée to motivate me to get out and soak up the brilliant winter sun and have some laughs along the way.

Up next is the Mad Trapper snowshoe race on Feb. 22 (considering doing the 10 km….).

The Latest

Lately I’ve had a few people ask me how I’m feeling. So I thought it was time for an update..

Well, the good news, is that things have been going very well. I’m on the new medicine now (Remicade) and it is doing its thing. This is a big drug and like all big drugs it has a long list of side effects. A few folks have wondered if the potential side effects are worth it – well for me right now they are. When I think back to how I was feeling this past summer and fall, I’m very thankful to finally be on Remicade. But I’m not naive I know that this likely is not the long-term solution – but for now, I’m able to feel better and hopefully there is some healing going on.

Remicade is delivered with an intravenous infusion – so this  means I go to a special Remicade “clinic” where a nurse supervises the entire process. Right now I’m on an eight week cycle but I have a feeling this will change… I’m currently in my eighth week and I’m honestly not feeling that great.

Last week I started to notice some extra fatigue and this week has not been great. A few symptoms are back and the fatigue is quite overwhelming. So overwhelming that I haven’t been able to run or snowshoe this week – and this is a big deal since I always try to be active regardless of how I’m feeling. As a consequence I’ve been taking it very easy this week – not easy to do but I really don’t  have any other options (yes, I’m learning to listen to my body).

I have my next infusion on Friday. I’m hoping this helps to quiet down the symptoms I’m experiencing and that in a few days I get my energy levels back. In addition to the Remicade, I’m taking a large number of supplements in efforts to help reduce inflammation and to heal my gastrointestinal tract. I don’t know if these supplements are working or making a difference but I’ll stick with them. I am dealing with some lingering effects from all the darn Prednisone I was on this year – incredible lower leg swelling – to the point where I can feel my calves expanding and stretching the limits of my pants… This is worrisome but so far I haven’t been able to determine what to do about this (if you have any ideas – post a comment). I’m also dealing with very low iron stores but they’re not quite low enough for me to qualify for iron infusions… so this is another thing I have to figure out.

I’ve also started researching alternative therapies. Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop the Remicade and do something radical but I think it is important to know about the other options that are available. Some people get weirded out when I bring up things like FMT but it is a treatment that can work. I’m not “ready” for it yet but I do know people who have done it. There are also various dietary changes that might help as well – I’m always reading and researching these options.

So, this is where I’m at. I’d say I’m doing very well. For the most part I feel good. And most importantly, I’m optimistic about my health moving forward. (Fingers crossed. Knock on wood.)

St. Donat Winter Triathlon

This past weekend saw the second year of the St. Donat Triathlon – organized by Endurance Aventure. My friend Amanda participated in the Classic Winter Triathlon and has sent along this race report.

Amanda enjoying the skate

Amanda enjoying the skate

I’m going to right to the point. The organizers\volunteers for the St.Donat Winter Triathlon hosted a fantastic, well executed and super fun event. I showed up on time, well in advance, so you know that’s going to be a good start right there.

The small quaint town has the energy that makes you feel like you should come visit, and when you do, you’re in the right place to participate in something very unique. The registration on the Friday night was quite easy, simple, even for my lack of French speaking abilities.

The morning of was beautiful. Sun beating down on the lake made for a great morning picture. The transition zone was equipped with lots of volunteers to direct us, chairs for us to properly change gear and lots of warm Gatorade type drink to keep us hydrated.

The run had a nice little fun start by doing a nice little loop on the lake, then we headed up to the road for a few kilometers.  A nice water station at the turnaround point before you had down for the final 2.5km. Through the transition we were guided to the 800metere, BACK COUNTRY man made skating rink. Folks, this thing is the most fun I’ve ever had skating on an ice surface. With my helmet properly in place, I headed for my 1st loop. I’m like a kid in a candy store… All smiles. I was excited through all 6 loops and I was able to make up for my not so fast 5k (could of pushed harder) run. Through all of this I could hear my good friend Ronna cheering me on. Let’s not forget how important that support system is.

Amanda and Ronna

Amanda and Ronna

I’m ready for the ski, or at least I think I am. Thanks to Deanna for reminding me that this is the FUN part. That nice 2.5km climb made me think different, but I managed to get through and actually started to enjoy the descent. Again, a nice back country trail that was sorta groomed (I think)! That was definitely the hardest part for me, but I am so grateful for all the training thus far. I believe I heard my friend Isabelle cheering loudly in my ear, all the way from Gatineau. 

I have to say that if you are going to try a Winter Triathlon, go to St.Donat. Everything is so well laid out, and although not knowing French can be challenging at times, people are always great in answering questions that you may have. I for one am very happy with the day, the support from my friends, family and all the teachers who have helped me along the way.

Skate2

The beautiful skate section

The beautiful skate section

Thanks Amanda for the great race report – sounds like it is an event to put on the calendar for next season.

Happy

The other day my friend Amanda tagged me in a post on Facebook with a link to a music video… Now, I don’t typically click on links to videos – I’m one of those people who never visits YouTube and can’t understand why someone would watch videos… but I did click on this link – something drew me to it – likely the word Happy.

Well, I was immediately tapping my feet and grinning. So I think you should give yourself the same treat and enjoy this video of Pharrell Williams singing Happy.

If you want to feel even happier, go watch the world’s first 24 hour music video of this same song. (It is pretty awesome.)

Oh, and if you’re looking for something to watch on YouTube this weekend – I suggest you tune into the UCI YouTube channel and watch the World Cyclo-Cross Championships.

Mad Trapper Bushtakah Night Race/I2P Fundraiser

I don’t throw the word “epic” around much but I’ll be using it with liberty in this post. Everything about the Mad Trapper Bushtakah Snowshoe Night Race/I2P Fundraiser was epic…

The drive. The people. The vibe. The deep soft white snow. The field. The last climb. The potato chips. The brownies. The chilli. The conversations. The stories. The grins. The alpaca. The I2P fundraising.

All of these elements can be summed up with one so very 2013 word – epic. Oh and to top it off – it was a good fun night.

With weather that was not favourable to driving but very good for snowshoe running, a hardy group made their way to the Mad Trapper Ark for a very good night of running around in the snow. As usual, Mike set a very challenging course (I actually found this one more difficult than the Hilly Course), my favourite aspects being the downhills and the run through the field. I must say that hill at the end definitely cracked me – but in a good way!

As always these events are really so much more than about the race… Sure we all want to go out and run our hardest and some folks are even aiming for the win – but it seems to me that people are really getting more than just a race from these events. It is about community and support – the chatter in the Ark after the race was all about congratulating one another and really just coming together for some fun. Yes, the winners are acknowledged but the people who get the biggest cheers and attention are those that did the race for the first time.

It is this atmosphere that keeps me coming out. The race last night really felt like a giant “group hug”. Even more so when people generously opened their wallets to bid on auction items to raise money for Impossible 2 Possible (I2P).

So yes, it was an epic night. Good people. Super atmosphere. Excellent community spirit. Lots of smiling faces. (And my favourite potato chips – ripple au gratin…)

(If you’re interested in checking out the course profile and all of my fascinating Strava statistics, check out my Facebook page.)

The next group hug… I mean Mad Trapper Snowshoe Race is on February 22. Make sure you come out – there will be lots of good stuff (brownies, potato chips, running, smiling, huffing and puffing) – all on an epic level.