Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Run For Retina - Race Report

The forecast was for rain, and the highway was wet as I drove to Jen's place to collect her for the race.  She was walking her dog.  She takes such good care of that dog.  Off to Tim Hortons for the traditional bagel with peanut butter. It's the food you need for the struggle to come. I unpacked my new shoes and put them on.  This was my first time wearing them.  

"Do you have Gu?" I asked.  

"Yes, of course."  She showed me her handful of them.  

"Any extra? I'm out and didn't get any at packet pick-up."

"At the house."  There was time, so we went back to her house, and she got me some Gu packs.  Like me, she buys them by the carton. It would have been nice of me to ask for them when we were here the first time.  Off to the starting area.  Traffic is light, and there's some free parking on the street. In the municipal lot, you would have to pay the Sunday rate.

"Where's my fanny pack", Jen asked, looking around the back seat. It's not there.  I looked under all the seats. 

"You carried your wallet in hand into Tim Hortons, so I know it wasn't abandoned there." I offered. "Do you want to go to your house to look?"


"We don't have time."  It was a rhetorical question, meant to find out how important the pack was.  Maybe we could come up we an alternate strategy.

"Oh!  I remember."  She opened the lid of the shoe box.  "I was being organized," she giggled.  There was the pack and her Gu, in the shoe box.  
Jen 5 minutes before the start

It was chilly but not bad. We wouldn't be shivering, or have to carry extra clothes. There's not a big crowd, so we didn't show up until just 15 minutes to go.  There was hardly a line at the porta-potties. The race start area apparently was under water just a week ago when the spring runoff peak flow went through.  A couple muddy patches remained.
Me 4 minutes before race start

Our course began by heading north a couple kilometers, then turned around to come back.  The 5 km race uses this northern leg.  We then headed west along the river, using the same course as the 10 km race.  The river scenery was lovely.  The trees haven't begun to sprout, so it felt like late autumn, with them all bare, and the ground covered in leaves.  The sun came out as we made it back from the north leg, and continued until turn around in the west end.  Fine spring weather. Local charities love this course.  There's no need for police to be stopping traffic.  We go underneath bridges where each of the streets meet the river, and through a tunnel under the railway embankment. 
Jen adjusts the fanny pack

For the first time, I listened to music while running with someone.  It's a long way, and I feel much better when running to music.  I mostly used only one ear, pulling the headset of of the one on Jen's side.  

Normally I don't concern myself with race times. How did Dr. Seuss put it, "They run for fun in the hot hot sun."  Today, Jen said she wanted to go for 2:30, which I thought was possible for her.  I figured about 7 min/km, and checked my phone for our time at each marker.  We started off slow, and were several minutes behind schedule by 5 km, so we picked up the pace.  We had no washroom breaks;  that would have ruined us.  After turn-around on the west leg (about 13 km) I began to nag regularly to keep moving, keep the pace, keep the legs turning over.  She held on to our necessary speed finishing in 2:30 plus a few seconds. Good job.  This bodes well for the Mississauga Marathon in 3 weeks. She's much better prepared than last year for the Good Life.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

You can't go home, but you can go biking there

I went back for a visit with my mom, and brought my bike.  Wow, I can sure cover a lot more ground than when I was 12.  I circled from the north end down south through the Chippewa reservation.  I visited all of the old haunts.  

This is the church which I first attended.  Now it belongs to the Masons.  The beat up King James Bible which they gave me is one of the oldest and most treasured keepsakes I have from my childhood. They sent a converted school bus around to collect local children for Sunday School.  My parents would come later for regular church service, and bring us home.  My parents were graduates of Eastern Pentecostal Bible College, with aspirations of going into the church ministry.  

Former Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle
Here is my high school.  For highest achievement in grade 13 chemistry I was awarded a copy of the  CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
S.C.I. & T.S
This was my elementary school.  There was no middle school.  A year after I graduated, it was closed and sold to the armed forces for use as an armoury.  
Former Confederation St School
There's now a tank on the lawn.  I remember playing british bulldog on that lawn.

After my dad died of cancer, we began attending church here, at the Gospel Chapel.  It was close enough that we could walk there.  I wonder know whether some lingering resentment with the Pentecostals made my mother switch churches.  I remember them coming to the house to pray for him.  There seemed to be expectations of a miraculous healing. Their attitude seemed to be that failure to achieve this indicated a lack of adequate faith on his part.  My mom took this to mean that is was somehow his fault that he was dying.

Our cat would always follow us to church, sneaking through the bushes and across everyone's lawn.  One day, when we stayed through the afternoon for some special event, people took notice of a gray cat peering in the door and crying.  She was tired and hungry and wanted to go home.

Before Sunday school we would sings songs, then have a participation game with the group.  Look up the Bible verse, name the character, or something like that.  I did really well at trivia, which I attributed to the excellent Biblical grounding the Pentecostals had given me.
Devine Street Gospel Chapel
The petrochemical plants dominate the skyline to the south end of town.
Chemical valley
I biked south for some time seeking this brightly flaming stack, which could be seen from my mom's balcony.  I was farther than I wanted to go that day, so I turned back before reaching that particular facility.  
Burning off the exhaust gas

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Support the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Dear Family and Friends,

I need your help today. I’ve just registered for the Becel Heart&Stroke Ride for Heart in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and I’m raising money to help Canadians live longer fuller, lives.

Please help by making a donation today! It’s fast, secure and easy to make an online gift by clicking the donate button on my page. To support me in my ride, click here.

Any amount you can give will help, and if you can match my donation of $[enter the amount you donated to your own page], that would be amazing! Click here to donate now.

With your support, the Heart and Stroke Foundation can continue to:
  • Empower Canadians to make positive changes and prevent disease
  • Save lives at the moment a health emergency strikes
  • Promote recovery, where and when it’s needed

Did you know that if things don’t change, the average Canadian will spend their last 10 years in sickness due to heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions? Together, we can change that.

Thank you so much for your support. Every little bit helps Canadians live longer, fuller lives.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Disney Princess Half -- Race Report

The drive to Florida was a nightmare.  Night fell as we entered Ohio.  It was all blowing snow and whiteouts. Kentucky was snow, with a slippery, slushy road.  Only one lane was manageable.  Some people passed us, but it was a bad idea.  We saw several cars off the road, and one that had a collision.  Someone spun out right in front of us, doing a 180 in the road.  Jen was in the trunk, and checked the rear window to see if she was about to be killed by the oncoming car.  Everyone stopped, and there was no damage to anyone.  By Tennessee it was mostly rain, with snow along the roadside and in the fields.  It was much thinner on the fields there.  By daybreak we had made it to Georgia.  No snow, and the rain let up, but it was overcast and cool.  Eventually we came to the Florida border where it was sunny, hurray!

The racers assemble before dawn
Half-marathon day was Sunday, and the alarm sounded at 3 am.  Saturday was the only rainy day of our trip.  We went to the beach.  At Cape Canaveral Seashore, it was an utter downpour when we arrived at the entry kiosk.  As if on cue, it changed to a light misting as we found parking, which quit entirely when we headed to the water.  It looks just like our own Lake Erie.  Water out as far as you can see, but here the other side is thousands of kilometers away.  The kids an I managed a few minutes in the water.  It was enough to get wet and know that you had swum in the ocean.  It felt like a typical cold summer day at Lake Erie.  No problem for the hardy Canadians.  Then as the sun came out, the kids collected shells for an hour.  Heading back to Orlando, the rain picked up again.  Not a problem;  Jen and I have raced the half in the rain before.  For once we made it to bed at a reasonable hour.  Every other night had been past midnight, even Thursday when we went to the Kennedy Space Center, which closed at 5.  We stayed until 9 to watch the rocket launch.  That's something you can't see every day.  On Sunday, we had to abandon the rental in the morning, so we left the car with the family and took a taxi to the race.  The rental condo had a full kitchen so we could feed ourselves.  You need to do your own cooking to prep for a race.

Captains Jack Sparrow and Barbosa brought a pirate ship (Captain Hook's?)
The runners were lined up as far back along the road as you could see. 25,000 people.  That's the largest group I've ever raced with. That day's starting line was a 20 minute walk past the parking lot.  The fireworks went off at 5:30 for first wave.  Disney knows how to put on an event.  They brought many of the Disney princesses out for photo ops.  The most impressive setup was the pirate ship for the Pirate's of the Caribbean group.  We stopped for a pic with them in the dark.  Next up was Princess Atta.  She was across the road on the return lane, so we ran over there for a pic since no one was on their way back yet.  No lineup.  Also made use of the porta-potty on that side of the course too.  

Misty morning on the way to the castle
The course goes from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and back.  By the time we made it to Magic Kingdom it was daybreak, but with a misty fog hanging above everything.  We didn't wait in lines for photos here, but stopped for several poses.  

We ran through Cinderella's castle.  I yelled, "storm the castle".  Jen yelled, "sacre blue, invaders".  Trumpeters played a fanfare as we arrived at it. 
Storm the castle
Most everyone dressed in costume for the race.  There was no talk of PRs and times.  This day was for fun.  If we passed a character and knew their song, we sang it.  Others would always join in.  

Buzz Lightyear -- Best toy ever
Jen was welcomed as Princess Leia.  It's actually Episode II Amidala.  For an upcoming event, Jen could add tiger slashes to it.  That should make it more recognizable.  There were several Princess Leia's, including a couple of slave-girl Leia.  One Cinderella ball gown.  That's just who we saw.  With this many people, there's lots of variety in themed attire.

Thou shalt not pass
On the road back we stopped for official pics with Mrs. Incredible and Army Man. Get the pic and run off quickly to let the next ones in.  
Drop and give me three, he ordered
There's a couple cloverleafs at the end.  Never ran one of those before.  It's really slanted, which no one liked.  It made it great for staging the event, since the exit from the parking lot was available to traffic.  We ran across the bridge looking down on the cars of racers on their way past. Visitors were also entering the park by then.  My outfit was a brown Jedi robe.  It was much more popular than I expected.  Seeing the pictures, I think it looked poor when in motion, but lots of people recognized it and wished me well. 

Under the bridge, around the cloverleaf, over the bridge
A girl went by and asked for Advil.  Jen offered a Tums, shaking the container.  "You'll be minty fresh", Jen offered. "That won't help", she responded. 

Everyone dresses up
By the end we were both tired, but still good. Jen's cotton shirt and pants were soaked and clung tightly.  21 km is a long way, even so slowly with so many stops.  I suggested that we drop to the half distance in our May race.  Nope.  She wants to do the full.  

May the force be with you

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Cinderella 5k - Race Report

The challenge of Disney race weekend isn't in the races, it's the stress of getting up so early every day.  For the Cinderella 5k, the alarm went off at 5 am Friday.  Race start was 6:30.  

Just after dawn
My big concern was parking, but it was easy.  Everyone parked in the big lot at Epcot, with marshals directing us to fill all the spaces.  The security fencing of the starting area meant we had to take the long way around to get to the start, but for us there was plenty of time.  Runners arriving closer to the starting time should find it easy to make it in time, since the parking was so well arranged.  

There were five corrals, leaving at 8-minute intervals.  Jen and I were in the last, so the winners had arrived back by the time we headed out of the corral to the starting chute.  
Everyone dresses up
Most everyone was dressed up.  There were plenty of skirts, themed costumes, including ball gowns in the Cinderella style.  Jen was in her Miranda dress.  I wore the gray shirt provided for the half, with the pink sash that we got for racing the half as a team. The sky was cloudy, gloomy in the morning mist, as everyone got under way. 

Skirts, dresses
 The course is one lap of the international lake area of Epcot, and back to the parking lot.  They had a few Disney princesses on the course for photos.  Princess Atta was there.  We didn't stop for that.  There were line-ups at each of the characters for the photo ops.  The whole course is wonderful scenery.  You are racing around the world!  Better off to bring a camera and do it yourself. It was cold before dawn but warmed up nicely by the time the race started, making the weather fine for both skimpy outfits and full-coverage costumes.

Must stop for photo opportunities
The race expo was on Thursday.  I got a tube of liquid Body Glide which should work well with my wetsuit.  I also got some min Body Glide sticks to use on Sunday for the half. I bought Jen a shirt with glow-in-the-dark fairy wings.  It's lovely, but would likely work better with reflective paint instead.  Maybe it's good for both, I haven't seen it at night. The shirt for the 5k was only cotton, and a dark navy which I'm unlikely to wear. I didn't see anyone wear it for the race.  I wore it for the day at the park after the race on Friday.  It was okay that day.  Run 5k slow and easy, then walk the Magic Kingdom park for 10 hours.  Glad I'm not racing Saturday.  Jen is on her own for that one.  

Saturday, the alarm was 3:30am for a 5:30 start.  This after getting home at midnight.  Racing the 10k and the half gets Jen a fourth medal for the Glass Slipper Challenge.  She raced in the Miranda dress again.  The 10k goes from Epcot parking, out to the main road and back, then the same loop of the international area as the 5k.  I walked her to the corrals, then went out to the road with my cowbell.  You can always use more cowbell.  There was 5 waves again, with a couple thousand people each, so I couldn't find her in the crush of people at all.  She was an early wave, so after the last wave went by me, I was just in time to make it to the finish to see her come in.  

What a great set of races.  Everyone is there to have fun and is infectiously happy.  There's none of the usual race talk of times and PRs.  Dress up and smile.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Why can't they make a decent lamp

How hard is it to make a decent bicycle light?  It needs to be easy to use, and durable enough to survive frightful Canadian conditions.  I've gone through many headlamps over the years.

For a long time, I kept to the Cat Eye brand.  About 5 years back, they started to disappear from stores, and I would have to ask for them to be ordered in. This is a good one of theirs that lasted me several years.  

Cat Eye headlamp
Eventually the switch quit operating.  That's a common failure mode.  I had two, and they both had the switch go bad. 

The new big name in headlamps seems to be Blackburn.  Here's the first of theirs that I got.  It had no water resistance.  On a rainy day it would quit working due to water getting into the mechanism.  The switch was small and hard to operate when wearing gloves.  
That turned out so poorly, I went back to Cat Eye.  I don't have a picture since the quick-release failed and it went skittering down the road.  That's the next-most common reason for failure -- having it come off the mount and smash itself on the pavement.  I didn't like the lamp anyhow, because they went with the modern practice of adding features by using multiple presses of the switch. For a headlamp, these are on steady, or on flashing for choices. I don't need that.  Does anyone really use a flashing headlamp?  Isn't that annoying in the dark?  Don't you need a second lamp to see by at night? 

The computer chip decides what to do when you press the switch.  Turning on and off requires push-and-hold instead of just a click.  When the battery gets low, as well as going dim, the operation gets erratic, so that the power switch stops working, or goes into some strange mode where you have to hold forever to keep the light on, or it only comes on some of the time, or it comes on but in flashing mode.  The chip doesn't get the power it needs, so it goes brain-dead.  You pressed the button? Let's spin the wheel to see what happens next! How it got like this is that management insisted that the engineers change something.  Continuous improvement is a great idea, except that when you already have something that's excellent, you are likely to make it bad by insisting on change for the sake of change.  It's essential to be sure you have an actual benefit from doing a modification. They were the leader in bike lamps, and engineered themselves into selling crap.  The taillight on my cruiser is a Cat Eye.  I have to lean on the button for several seconds hoping it will turn off. Can't use gloves either. Stupid engineers.

This lamp was from Gotham (now known as Fortified).  Rugged like a tank, except that the solid case made it a nightmare to change the battery.
The Gotham defender
I needed pliers to unscrew the containment vessel, and couldn't get it back together.  The battery pack was a flimsy thing like the cheap $5 flashlights that are so common now. Tough as steel outside.  Cheap crap inside. The LEDs were in a strange array that didn't direct a lot of light onto the road.  I ride at night for my commute, so I don't want it just so drivers can see me.  I need a good light so I can see the road.  It's a complete fail.

Stores are selling LED flashlights for about 5 bucks nowadays, so I thought that if I could get one of them secured to the handlebars, it would work well.  I found this angle bracket that seemed to fit the design idea.  It didn't exactly fit the lamp or bar, and I had to wrap it in electrical tape to stay in place.  That made it tough to get the lamp off to change the battery.  The battery packs in them aren't very sturdy, and didn't stand up to more than a couple battery changes. 

This is what I have now. It's another Blackburn.

Blackburn Scorch
This one is rechargeable.  I didn't think I would like that idea, since if you forget to recharge, you're out of light.  It's working out fine.  I take it off regularly anyhow, so putting it on the charger daily isn't something I forget to do.  It is really bright.  It's got that stupid multiple-mode feature like Cat Eye tried, except these guys did a good job with it.  With this one, after 20 seconds, it knows that your next click is to turn it off, so that's what happens.  You don't have to cycle through the remaining modes to get it off. Click on.  Click off. It has a dim mode that I use sometimes in the daytime if it's cloudy out.  The switch is big and gives a solid click when pressed.  I like that.  Not only can I click it using gloves, but I can feel that it switched, so I don't need to check to make sure it's working. Hopefully the battery lasts a few years for me.  The case is thick aluminum, so it will stand up to being dropped.  Anything the matter with it?  It was really expensive, almost a hundred dollars; certainly the most expensive headlamp I've ever acquired. The mounting uses a rubber band to secure it, making me worried what I will do if the band breaks.  The recharging attachment can be jacked in the wrong polarity, in which case it doesn't charge.  I also worry about the charge cable breaking.  The lamp itself is working out well enough that I bought a second one so both my commuter bikes have one. At least that gives me a second charge cable in my spare-parts drawer.  Hopefully it lasts the winter.  The weather is sure testing it this year.