Friday, August 31, 2007

CC 2007 Trip Log Update:

OK....this is less of an update then it is a confession.

I haven't even started the CC2007 trip log...sorry folks! So to those of you that have emailed me wondering when it will be posted...I can't give you a definite date, but I assure you that it will be posted fairly soon.

Summer is almost over....that means...HOCKEY, HOCKEY, HOCKEY!!!

Have a great weekend everyone!!

New tri bike? Who needs a new tri bike!

Still pumped from my first triathlon I have committed to doing 3 sprint triathlons and my first Olympic distance tri next year. With all the cycling I will be doing I thought that I would need to get a new triathlon bike. The bike I have been using is awesome, but it is a road bike and can not give the rider the advantages that a true triathlon bike can.

I good friend of Gerry's named Gewilli had some great advice.(Thanks buddy!) He recommended upgrading some key components on my current road bike to match the geometry of a tri bike. So I did some research and for under $350 I can upgrade my bike to perform "like" a tri bike, but without the 2-3 thousand dollar sticker price. SWEET!

So here is my off season shopping list:

  1. Profile Design - Fast Forward Seat Post: This changes my seat post angle form a road bike angle of 73 deg. to 75 degrees. Although it may not seem like a big change, it pushes the hips forward and allows less strain of the muscles used for running.
  2. AirStryke Aero Bar: Allows rider to keep upper body low, allowing for increased aerodynamics and speed while reducing overall drag and energy output.
  3. Profile Design- AeroDrink: Aerodynamic water bottle with built in straw. Bottle attaches to Aerobar and allows rider to rehydrate without slowing pace.
  4. Wind Tunnel tested Tri Helmet:Increase aerodynamics, but man it looks silly!
  5. Profile Design - Tri Styke Saddle: Triathlon specific design, Transition rack friendly with areas on both the front and rear that make it easier to rack your bike, Cut-away with vents for comfort and easier moisture transfer after the swim, Additional padding for all day comfort.
While searching for the theory of why these upgrades work, I found this well written explains the science of cycling better then all the others I read.

Can you put aero bar on a road bikeProper
Hip Angle on a Road Bike Over millions of years of evolution the bike/rider system has evolved to create certain joint angles to yield the best combination of power generation and comfort. Take a look at a rider in the tour in a long, solo breakaway. His most likely riding position is with hands on the hoods, forearms parallel to the ground. Or he may be riding with forearms on the tops of the bars, hands grasping the brake cables, forearms parallel to the ground. If we drew an angle, centered on the ball of the hip, with a line running forward from this point through the shoulder, and another down his straightened leg to the pedal spindle, this hip angle would be approximately 90 degrees. The geometry of the bike frame supports creating this 90 degree hip angle. Add Aero Bars If we add traditional aerobars to this bike (ones where the elbow rest is basically located on the tops of the bars) the athlete is forced to reach a bit forward to reach the bars. They are stretched out over the top tube. Two considerations here: We’ve closed up this optimum hip angle, created above. If you take a close look at roadies hammering on a long breakaway, you’ll often see them riding on the nose of the saddle, as their body seeks to regain this hip angle by riding closer to the front of the bike and opening up the hip. Jump back to the position in the first paragraph. On a well fitting road bike, forearms on the tops, hands lightly grasping the cables, your torso and upper arm form a 90-100 degree angle. More importantly, you weight is supported by bone, not muscle. This is a comfortable, well supported riding position. However, now you are stretched out over the top tube, opening up this upper arm/torso angle. You are now supporting your weight partially with your lats and lower back. Add a Forward Facing Seat Post Recall how I described the rider scooting forward on the nose of the saddle to regain this hip angle. A common solution is to add a forward facing seat post, with a sharp bend in the post to help the rider move the seat much farther forward. This will open up the hip angle again. However, your bike was designed to be ridden with x% of the weight on the back wheel and y% on the front. You’ve now essentially moved your body significantly forward over this frame, changing the handling characteristics. Can you be powerful and comfortable? Yes. Have you compromised the handling of the bike? Yes, but only a minicule amount and you gain far more.
Enter the Tri Frame The term “triathlon bike” should only refer to the geometry of the frame, not the handle bar system attached to the stem. This geometry is characterized by a seat tube that is kicked forward, thus shortening the top tube. This “steeper” seat tube angle allows the rider to: Ride in the aero position and retain the optimum hip angle. Do so while retaining a comfortable torso/upper arm angle. Do so while keeping the optimum weight distribution on each wheel and therefore maintaining the safe handling characteristics of the bike. “Shorty” Bars In my opinion, the better solution for adapting a road bike to a time trial position is a ‘shorty’ bar, such as Profile’s Jammer GT bars. With these bars the rider supports their weight on the forearms, not the elbows. The rider is less stretched out, retaining the proper hip and upper arm/torso angles. I have a pair that I toss on my road bike for long, solo rides where I’m pushing my own wind. The added speed gets me home faster J. As a reminder, Brandon Heflin and I are offering bike fits at Incycle in Pasadena. We will take great care to explain all of this to you in detail, so you know what and why we are making changes and understand a plan for changing things as you adapt to the position. Cheers, Rich Strauss USAT Certified Coach A Joe Friel Ultrafit Associate

Core Training Update:

As I mentioned in my last post, I did my new core training program yesterday morning.

The first thing I had to do was decide how many reps I would do and I decided on the "intermediate level" of 15 reps. I then do 15 reps of each of the 15 exercises for a total of 225 reps. I was tempted to try the Elite level of 25 -30 reps, but decided to take it slow and learn the proper way to do them first... and just in case that wasn't enough, the 225 rep total sure was!

I did my usual routine of weights, running and stretching, then did the core training. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I am pleased to tell you that it was almost enjoyable. They were challenging, but not over the top and it only took about 20 minutes. The only one I found really tough was #3 the hip was that ever difficult...but good difficult. It was cool how you used your own body weight for the resistance and judging by how sore my mid section is today it really worked my abs hard. Thanks god I didn't do the Elite level reps...Phew!

Not sure if it's just coincidental, but my back felt great yesterday too! No pain or anything all day. I am sure it had more to do with the rest day I took the day before, but it already has me thinking that this may work.

If you are even considering doing it....just try it once and see if it works for you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Core Training: The end of Back Pain?

As I have often complained about here, I have recurring problems with pain in my lower back. I can go months without any pain or discomfort, but then I bend a certain way or go to tie my shoe and it comes back with a vengeance. When it's really bad, all I can do is sit in a chair and the pain is extreme. Since CC2007 I have been more or less pain free, but I still get the odd twinge...nothing serious, but it freaks me out 'cause I never want to experience that kind of pain again.

I go to an awesome Chiropractor and this has made a HUGE difference. I first went to him about a year ago and within a month my pain was cut in half. After 2 months I had no pain at all...the guy is amazing!

Despite my "Chiropractic miracle", I still have periods of pain after a hard run or cycling session and struggled with why it was happening? I am a healthy guy...I eat right, exercise and lead a very active lifestyle, so why do I have back pain?

The answer came to me while researching training methods for future triathlons. I found this video and it really spoke to me. Feel free to watch the whole thing...but the real "that's totally me" moment is from the 30 second mark on....

I am now convinced that core training, in addition to my tri training and weight program could be the difference maker. The reviews of the video they are selling were not good though, so I did some looking and found an AWESOME program on

This core training program is simple and adaptable to any lifestyle or fitness level....and best of all, you don't need any equipment! I am going to add it to my routine and tomorrow morning will be my first time. I will let you know how it goes.

Interested in trying it yourself?


Computers: I love and Hate you!

I have been trying to re-install Roxio Media Creator 9 on my new laptop and as you may have guessed from the title of this post, it's not going well! Although this suite comes with a host of utilities, the only one I use is the video editor and have grown to love it. Desperate to get my new laptop updated with all the software my old one had I have spent a collective total of 4 hours trying to get it to work and have finally said forget it! The software suite is good, but not 4 hours wasted trying to install it good!

Long story short....I tried to install it, but my system froze when the program was about half installed. So I uninstalled that and rebooted. it wouldn't accept my serial and after 2 hours talking to customer support and about 20 different "solutions" still didn't want to install. So I have abandoned the Roxio Suite and in doing so have found an much better application. It's a stand alone video editor called Power Director 6. I am still in the "honeymoon phase" with it, but so far I am impressed....hey, it installed the first time!

In a recent post Gerry talked about how Facebook has taken a real nose dive by allowing all these 3rd party applications. Man...I could not agree more! I love the networking part of fact I have reconnected with and become friends with several people because of it, but I can't stand all the stupid requests from these Apps. It has turned me against Facebook so much that I hardly login anymore.

My Most Despised Facebook Requests:

  1. "BLANK" want to add you to their Top Friends List
  2. A Werewolf has bitten you
  3. A Vampire Has bitten you
  4. A Zombie has bitten you
  5. And the dumbest of them all...."You have a Virtual Cocktail waiting"...Gee thanks here's a virtual $100 which is almost as useful!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

750 meter swim, 33 km bike, 7 km run...INCREDIBLE!

I competed in my first triathlon last Sunday and I have been trying to find the words to describe it ever since. I wrote a few drafts to post here, but they just didn't do justice to how it made me feel....I am telling you, it was incredible! My friends and family keep asking me what it felt like and that was the only word that came close to describing how it felt. I just kept saying, " was incredible!", while sporting this big shit eating grin. It's crazy....the race was 3 days ago and I still haven't stopped smiling! This story is what it was like and I hope it gives you some idea of how much it meant to me.

Saturday morning I woke and my first thought was "...tomorrow is the day!" and I instantly felt excited and a bit nervous ...."But nervous was good", I told myself and with that I was out of bed. Tanyia was a bit more reluctant to get up, but before long she joined the kids and I downstairs as we went about our morning routines. My morning was spent assembling my gear and checking lists, packing the car and tuning my bike.

By eleven almost everything was done. The one exception was body hair removal. I am a fairly hairy guy and was looking forward to seeing what I looked like "behind the curtain of hair". I had done my homework on what method would be best and was surprised that depilatory cream (Neat) was best suited for me. It removes all the hair, but does not grow back coarser and you avoid the ingrown hairs and razor bumps that come with shaving. Cool...what could be easier? I had Tanyia do my back first. I don't have much back hair, but I figured it was a good place to start. The instructions said not to leave the cream on for more then 6 minutes and worried it would burn me, I showered it off just past the six minute mark.....PRESTO no back hair! Awesome! I then did my legs, arms and chest. My chest was easy, but my legs and arms had to be done twice and although it was easy, I had now been at this for about 40 minutes! This was crazy! I have new found appreciation for the time it takes for women to get ready to go out. If I was a women my legs would be so hairy that when I wore nylons they would be so puffed out it would look like I was wearing snow pants! All said it took me about 90 minutes to shave, cut my own hair and remove my body hair. I was pleased with the look and feel. In fact I really like how my legs looked/felt. I know that sounds gay, but they felt soft and it was quite a change from my normally hair covered gams.

My in-laws who have been visiting us from Nova Scotia agreed to watch our kids overnight, so Tanyia and I could have the weekend away together. By two we were on our way north. I was so excited to have an evening alone with Tanyia that we hardly discussed the race on the way up. Instead we just talked, sang to the radio...both of us taking full advantage of the chance to act like kids, instead of a parents of 3.

We arrived at the hotel in Orillia late afternoon. I was looking forward to spending some time with her, but also wanted to drive the bike course in the car, so I could visualize it the next

It didn't take long for us to get set-up in the hotel and I snapped a few pics of us goofing around. I was going to leave my bike in the car, but a friend who did this tri last year warned me about doing so. I guess last year 20 or so people woke
to find their cars had been broken into and their bikes were gone! After training for 5 months I was leaving nothing to chance.

We went out for dinner to very elegant Italian restaurant. I wasn't drinking, so Tanyia was "drinking for two". Tanyia is a funny girl at the best of times, but after even just one drink she's
even funnier. We took our time and enjoyed our meal almost as much as the many laughs we shared...being married to your best friend has so many advantages! We then left to drive the bike course. A now very sober Tanyia drove, while I rode shotgun and shouted where to turn. The course is 33 km total, with 6 in town and 27 on paved country roads. As we made our way out of town and were looking for the first of 4 country roads Tanyia was convinced that I had missed the road, but I insisted that we had not. After another few minutes of driving I saw the road and announced it to Tanyia. She quickly made the right hand turn and then had these motivational words for me on the eve of my first triathlon "...this is really far Jim and we're not even a third of the way yet!". I had to laugh and even before I did she realized what she had said. Only she could get away with saying that! We continued to drive the course and it was far hillier then I had been told.

As we made our way back to the start it was getting dark and the arrows they painted on the
road to show the way were getting hard to see, but before long we were back at the transition point. We took a walk around the transition area (where I would return after each stage to change gear) and walked over to the finish gate. I thought about walking through it, but went around instead and when she noticed, Tanyia smiled and said " superstisous much?". Maybe I was, but I also wanted the first time I came through the finish gate to be the real finish. We spent a few more minutes down at the beach and struggled to find the buoys that marked the swim course. When we finally did they looked far...really far and I was instantly nervous. It was getting dark, so we went back to the hotel after I laid out my gear we went to bed.

BEEP BEEP BEEP...The alarm clock went off at five and after showering I had my pre race meal
of Vector cereal and protein powder. I was feeling back pain or discomfort of any kind! While getting dressed I realized something I had overlooked while! I had worn dress shoes to the hotel and although I had my running shoes with me, they had to left in the transition area, so I had no other shoes to wear. So I got dressed in my tri shorts, warm up clothes and leather dress shoes....classy touch! It looked really goofy actually, but it didn't bother me much....I had bigger things on my mind.

By 6:15 we were at the transition point and people were already starting to arrive. After unloading my gear, we made our way into the gated transition area. A large sign hung above the entrance "ATHLETES ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT...YES THIS MEANS YOU!" It took some coaxing for Tanyia to defy the sign, but she reluctantly did and we weaved our way through the many bike racks that filled the area. The racks are each designated by age group and I was quick to find what I thought was my 35-39 rack. Before I had a chance to even put my bag down Tanyia says "...unless you invented a time machine overnight, you're in the wrong rack". She was right, I was in the 20-25 year old rack and we both laughed as I moved my stuff to the correct one.

I made quick work of racking my bike and laying out all my
gear in the order I will need it. In triathlons there are many things that can get you disqualified. Most are major infractions like drafting or abuse of officials, but some are minor and those were the ones I was most worried about. The two I was most focused on were making sure I had my helmet strap done up BEFORE I remove my bike from the rack and having to be on/off you bike at the "Mount line". A screw up on either would flush 6 months of work down the drain! With that in mind, I set my bike gear out so that I would be forced to put my helmet before I do anything else.
With all my gear, gels and sport drinks laid out we went about the process of signing in, receiving my race bib, being
marked (age on calf and number on bicep), getting my chip ( Velcro leg strap worn to calculate time on each leg) and get my swim cap. (Neon green....for my group). The process was seamless and we were done in about 10 minutes.

The MC came on and announced the was 7:15. Cool we had some free time, so Tanyia
and I went down to the beach to see the water course. The small markers we had seen the night before had been replaced with large (8 ft high) orange markers and it made me feel better to know I wouldn’t have to struggle to see where I was going. It still looked far though and I was starting to feel very nervous. I continued to think positively and stood on the sand, holding hands with Tanyia. It meant so much that she was there with me.

The next 40 minutes passed by in a heartbeat as
the crowd continued to grow and grow. I had given my dress shoes and warm-up gear to Tanyia and she gave me a kiss before leaving to find a spot on the pier. I was alone and my internal voice began to speak to me...calming my nerves and keeping my thoughts of " can't do this" at bay. I put my swim cap on and secured my goggles...I was ready! My training was over and it was time to prove to myself that all the work was worth it!

I was in the 3 rd waive of swimmers and I was glad I had a chance to see how it worked. Each age group starts together and the first waive are
elites and then every 3 minutes another waive would be started. At 8:06 the announcer yelled “...ten seconds third waive". I took a deep, anxiety filled breath and waited. The horn went off and I ran into the water, bumping and smashing into people as I did. I dove and started to swim. I made an effort to slow my pace, as the last thing I wanted to do was to go out to fast and be gassed half way. "Pace yourself...this is a marathon, not a sprint" I said to myself. I was punched and kicked more times then I can remember. One of the harder punches to my face was delivered by my training partner Joe....thanks buddy! The water was calm and I picked up my pace. I was past the farthest marker in what I figured was decent time and now made my way back to the beach. I didn't feel the slightest bit of fatigue and cranked up my pace even more. My confidence was soaring, "you can do this" I yelled in my head and pressed on. I passed 10 or more people when my hand smashed into a rock...what the hell? It was the shallow and I stood up in shock that the swim was over and ran through the gate and into the transition. As I did, I heard someone yell "...the hard part's over hun...go...go!" I looked back and it was Tanyia, just gleaming with excitement! I felt so PUMPED!

I quickly found my gear and threw my shirt on, but it rolled up on my wet back, so I had to take it off and try again. Damn, it rolled again! I would have to do it 4 times before it would go on right and it cost me serious time. I then clipped on my helmet, threw the gels in my pocket, put on my cycling shoes and grabbing my bike I ran for the bike exit. The sound of my cleats striking the pavement sounded like tap shoes as I ran to the bike mount line. Once just over the line, I threw my foot on the peg and while still rolling mounted the bike and clipped in. I took a look back and watched most people coming to a complete stop and mounting awkwardly. All the practice had paid off! The first 3 km are in town and uphill. I felt tentative and 3 guys passed me as a result. As I watched a fourth person pass me, I made a decision to screw caution and just go all out. If I could make it through the swim, I could do anything and I said aloud " one will pass me again" and nobody did. For the rest of the bike, it was me doing the passing. In the first 25 km I passed 58 people, among them were the 4 that had passed me! But it was the last 8 km that I am most proud of. While others were slowing, my pace increased to 37 km/hr. I sped by another 28 bikes on my way back to the transition and felt incredible! I jumped of my bike before the dismount line and sprinted to the transition. I saw Tanyia again and felt a surge of exhilaration!

Tanyia shot all the video and as you can tell from the out of focus video...she is "electronicly chalanged".

This transition went much smoother. I traded my bike shoes for runners, took a get in and was off. As I entered the 7 km run course I started to smile as I spotted Tanyia again, only this time she was crying. I had told her that if I came out for the run with a smile on my face it meant I was doing better then expected and she knew it at a glance.

Head down, I pushed to a 4:30 km pace and pressed forward "...almost there" I thought. The course was hilly, but it made little difference to me. My performance on the bike had cut a good chunk of time off, although I didn't know it...I just felt it and that added confidence went straight to my feet.
Funny things happen while running races. One of those things is when people who don't know each other, find someone who has a similar pace and without saying a word you form a bond as you run together...pushing each other to go harder then you could on your own. At the 2 km marker I had found that in a 41 year old, man and it was a perfect partnership. Whenever I would slow my pace, I would know instantly as he pulled ahead and corrected before I lost time. I could see that he was doing the same thing and so, we raced against, but with each other.

At the 3 km mark I voice came from behind us "....out of the way old dudes!". I looked down at the calf of the person passing us and wasn't surprised to see his age was "17".

The rest of the course was great I continued to run with my new "buddy" and by the 4 km marker we were running a 4:00 km pace....smoke'n fast! I felt strong and despite the ache in my legs, had lots of wind left. I felt untouchable!

As we approached the 5 km marker we saw our 17 year old friend. He was walking, bent over and was out of gas. Looked good on him! As we passed my 41 year old friend yelled "...that's right keep walking punk!". I laughed and for the first time he looked my way and smiled. I smiled back and then regained focus; this was coming to an end fast...."just 1.5 km or 6 minutes more" I thought.

With about 3/4 km remaining my partner said "Are you going to sprint?". I replied "Yeah, you?". 'No" he replied. I gave him the guy nod that says more then words ever could and he returned it and I was off.

With only half a km left I went into an all out sprint. I wanted to finish strong and pass as many people as I could. There were 6 runners within my range. I poured it on and could feel the blood pounding in my legs as they screamed for rest, but they could rest later. I passed 2 more.....only 200 meters to go and I pushed it harder then ever before. I blew past 3 more and with only 50 meters to go I passed one more. Now within 10 meters of the finish gate I was overcome with emotion...." I've done it!!! I've done it!!". 5 .....4......3....2......1 DONE!!!

I ran through the gate and touched it as I passed through. Tanyia ran to hug me and I was overcome with an avalanche of emotion. I started to cry hugged her while she said over and over "You did it Jim....You did it!"

We stood there holding each other, completely caught up in the moment for over a minute. Everything around me seemed in slow motion, as people removed my ankle chip and pressed bottles of water into my hands. It was the most spiritual moment of my life. I can't possibly describe how it felt, except to say it was the most pure, honest moment I have ever experienced and it was simply incredible.

My final time:

SWIM 16:44
BIKE 1:04:34
RUN 33:29

Transition #1 4:36 Yuck!
Transition #2 3:13


My goal was to complete it in 2:00 - 2:15 and would have been ecstatic if I could have broken 2 hours. I am very pleased and I am already planning to do better next time.

Things to Change:

  • Bring Sandals- Dress shoes are no good in the sand

  • Quicker transition- should be no more then 1:30

  • Get a wetsuit- would shave off over 3 minutes

  • Have Triathlon Water bottle - straw is in you mouth no grabbing

  • Upgrade Bike- I know I can do it in under 53 minutes

Plan for next Season:

  • First Olympic Distance Triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run)
  • 2 (or more) Sprint Distance Tri's

Thank you to everyone the supported me and thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rock Lake Solo Trip: July 10 - 13, 2007

This is the LONG awaited and much delayed trip log. I apologize for the delay in getting it posted, but I really wanted to be sure all the details were included and took my time doing it. I hope it was worth the wait! Without further it is!

WARNING: This is VERY LONG...enjoy!

ROCK LAKE SOLO TRIP LOG: JULY 10 -13, 2007 ( least that was the plan)

Tuesday July 10, 2007- The Trip from Newcastle to Rock Lake

I woke at 3:30 am and went about showering, making breakfast and getting dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before. I checked the Weather Network site and was pleased to see only a 30% chance of thundershowers. I had already put my gear in the trunk before going to bed, so after giving my wife a kiss (...she woke up just long enough to mumble "love you") then I was off. I pulled up to Tim's and ordered a Large coffee ( 3 milk + 2 sweetener...just in case you're interested) and a toasted bagel. Initially, I was surprised when the girl at the drive-thru told me they don't have bagels yet. "What?" I thought. Then quickly remembered it was 4:30 in the morning after all! So, with coffee already in hand I settled on a bran muffin and left Newcastle eager to get started.

I was renting my solo shearwater canoe from Algonquin Outfitters on Oxtounge Lake and finding it was my first goal for the day. The trip there was fairly uneventful. There were some periods of rain on the way north, but they were brief and since I had already checked the weather report I was not concerned in the slightest. On the way up the truck in front of me struck a deer. It was awful to watch its carcass be thrown through the air and land hard in the tall grass that lined the side of the road. I stopped to make sure the driver of the truck was OK and both he and his vehicle were fine. I thought about going over to see the deer, but chickened out. I had visions of it jumping to it's feet and stomping me to death and I made myself feel better about leaving the injured animal by saying "...what could I have done for it?". That said, I felt bad for not at least looking. On the way up I saw 4 more deer on the side of the road and it made me feel a bit better about punking out.

I arrived at the AO on Oxtounge Lake at 7:15 and since it didn't even open until 8:00 I used the time to take some pictures, write in my journal and study the map. While walking around the grounds I noticed they had these large canvas tents setup along the lake with signs numbered 1-6. I guess they are for rent? Not something I would want to do, but good for them for making money on what would be otherwise unused space. The staff arrived at 8:00 am and seemed genuinely surprised that I was there waiting for them. They took 15 minutes or so setting up their computers and were apologetic that I had to wait. Like I less then an hour I would be on Rock Lake. The staff were awesome! I had arranged to transport the canoe to Rock Lake using my vehicle ( $5.00 charge) and supply the straps, foam and show you how to do it. They were great and the two young guys ( I forget their names) were more then willing to explain why they do certain things and how to tie the cool knots they used. I chatted with them for a while about my trip and their Algonquin experiences...great guys! A little behind schedule, I pulled out at 9:00, with my canoe neatly secured to the car and headed into the park!

I had not been on Hwy 60 in a long time and I forgot how beautiful it was! As I made my way east towards Rock Lake it was cool to see the signs for all the Lakes that others had mentioned in the countless trip logs I have read since becoming interested in canoe trips a few short years ago. At first it felt a little weird driving with the canoe on the roof. Mostly because I was afraid it would fly off and become a 38 lb Kevlar missile, but it didn't even wiggle!

I arrived at the Rock Lake Permit office at 9:30. The young guy there looked up my reservation and asked all the usual questions,”licence plate number". I responded "XXX XXX". He then asked about my tent colour and I responded with a smile "...I don't have a tent, I use a hammock", trying to make it sound like I did this kind of thing all the time. He asked me a few more questions about the hammock and I told him where I got it and gave him the website. He continued to ask more questions about what it looked like and how it worked, so I gave him the web address for the blog and told him about the video Gerry and I had posted a while ago. He was very appreciative and before long I had my permit in hand and was about to leave the office. As I opened the door I turned back and asked the guy if he could look up the weather for me. He was so eager to help he was almost tripping over himself. He informed me that "... they are calling for a 40% chance of thundershowers this evening". I thanked him again and was on my way!

Tuesday July 10, 2007 - Rock Lake to Pen Lake

At 9:45 I pulled up to Rock Lake proper. I got out of the car and just stared in amazement that I was actually here and this was really happening! It looked just as Mark in the Park had described and now it was official....I was excited! Despite the numerous cars in the parking lot there were not many people at the put in. As I assembled my gear and released the straps from the canoe a small group of kids returning from South Rock Lake arrived and any silence I was enjoying was quickly broken. As I brought my pack down to the dock it was hard not to notice the tension in the voice of one of the leaders of the group of kids. "Don't throw the paddles...what are you doing?" he barked. I laughed to myself and thought of my own kids, much younger, but at times all capable of getting me in the same state. Before I had left, my daughter had drawn me a picture of here to take with me for good luck. I taped my pocked to make sure I had it with me and the crinkle of the paper was assurance enough.

Removing the canoe from the roof of the car by myself proved much easier then I had anticipated. I just lifted it up, took 3 steps back, and then placed it on the ground. Then with relative ease, moved it down to the dock and went about bolting on my cushiony Yoke pads to the removable yoke.

The canoe was light and it was very easy to lift. I was not expecting the removable yoke though, but after seeing that the seat is in the middle (I would find out later that this is standard for solo canoes) it made sense that it had to be removable. Duh! The seat was different as well. It was not fixed and could be slid forward or back....I am still not entirely sure why, but would guess that it would limit the head space while portaging?

This would be the first real field test for several new pieces of gear. The Bent Paddle, Amigo Pro Water filter, Yoke Pads and the Hennessey Hammock.

At 10:05 I loaded up my pack and took a few pictures before climbing in. I looked back at my car, took a slow deep breath and quietly said to myself "you can do this". I pushed off and paddled south.

I immediately felt the speed and ease of paddling that the bent paddle provided. It was almost effortless and I was impressed with how little energy was needed to propel myself with great speed. The paddle was awesome! Phew....I was a little worried about how it would work and with that load off my mind I weaved my way down the narrow waterway into the expanse of Rock Lake.

Before this trip, the only Algonquin experience I had was Access point #27 in Brent. It didn't take long for me to see just how different Rock Lake was from Brent. There was a lot of traffic, motor boats, canoes and kayaks streamed in every direction. Some coming from the beach just off the car camping sites and others from the countless cottages that dot the shore of Rock Lake. I could see the appeal of a cottage here, but for someone like me who only goes to Algonquin for interior trips, they were a bit of an eyesore and took away from the natural landscape.

As I continued south some very dark clouds moved in. Only a few at first, but soon they were everywhere until I could no longer see anything but a sea of gray. Once I was about half way down the lake it started to rain. Just lightly at first and I remember thinking how it felt refreshing. It was at this point that I remembered packing my rain gear in a now unreachable part of my pack. DOH! Well that gentle rain didn't last long. The sky opened up and it continued to rain hard for the next 10 minutes. Oh well, I continued to paddle south thankful that the rain had not brought any wind with it. Then without warning it just stopped and the rain disappeared as quickly as it had come.

I reached the portage from Rock to Pen Lake at 11:45 and man was it busy. There were over 10 canoes and I would guess at least 20-25 people standing, talking and portaging. It was crazy and I had never seen anything like it! I wanted to get out of there as quick as possible, but wanted to find the spring first. I had been told that there was a tapped spring here and I had no trouble finding it. After the first boardwalk follow the path to the right and it will take you right to it. I filled both my nalgene bottles and had a few sips. Ahhh great water!

I then collected my gear and walked the portage. I decided to double carry the relatively small 375 meter distance taking my pack first. The portage was easy. Some decent inclines at the start, but nothing difficult. This was my first time using the yoke pads on a canoe (Remember the Yoke pad gear test?) and they were great. Worked just as described and before long I was sitting on the dock on Pen Lake enjoying my cheese bagel lunch.

With lunch out of the way I paddled South on Pen lake and spotted a site with an awesome sand beach. On the Algonquin map it is the 3rd site down on the East shore. A bit of a peninsula that from the water looked much better then the site I had planned on staying on which was further south. I paddled over to take a closer look and it looked great, so I decided to get out. What a great site! It had everything you would want, a beach, 2 spots to put in, hills, trees and even a table that was made by tying a board between two trees. That was all I needed to convince me to make this my home for the night.

It was kind of funny how quickly I was able to set up camp. I guess when you don't bring much; you don't have much to set-up! Within 30 minutes I had set-up the kitchen, found a good spot for the food bag, hung the tarp and converted my thermarest into a chair. All I had to do now was to choose where I wanted to have my hammock. I had one place that was protected by the wind, but would not have much of a view. The other spot was on the crest of a big hill and gave views in all directions, but was very exposed to the elements. After a great deal of thought I decided on the hill top because the chance of thunderstorms was so low and I was sure the hammock could handle a minor storm, even if it was exposed.

With the hammock up I made this video tour of the site. This would be the last time I would use my camera today...shortly after this video was shot this turned into one of the most frightening experiences of my life. Please make note to the time near the end of the video...

Tuesday July 10, 2007, - Mother Nature is one Pissed Off

4:35 pm

I now set about getting diner ready. The fire pit had a great grill so I built a fire and started to cook my meal of Italian sausage on a bun with Pino Grigio. The sausage was just about cooked when it started to rain. A little at first, then an all out downpour. I grabbed the sausage and ducked under the tarp I had set up over the kitchen area. I didn't think much of the heavy rain as I ate dinner. The sausage was a little undercooked, but still good and the wine was terrific. As it continued to rain I decided to read, propped my thermarest chair on a stump and sat with my back to the wind. I continued to happily sip away at my wine as I read, all the while oblivious to what was brewing in the sky behind me.

5:05 pm:

I had been reading for about ten minutes, when I heard a loud rhythmic crashing. I looked up from my book and to see 2 foot waves smashing into the shore just north of the little cove I was in. It was at this point that I looked around and realized how dark it had become. I was thinking " ...that's's only five o'clock...” when a suddenly a huge gust of wind came out of nowhere and at the time I heard a loud CRACK! I jumped to my feet and looked behind me and was shocked by what I saw. I looked up the hill and witnessed two of the 4 ropes that tie down the tarp covering my hammock being ripped out by the force of the ever growing wind. I sprinted up the hill as the rain started to come hard and the wind continued to become more and more violent. I knew that if the other two ropes holding my tarp to the ground broke before I got there the tarp would be blown into the lake and I would be in real trouble. I was half way up the hill when I hear another loud SNAP and watched as the third rope was ripped away. The tarp, not only held on by one support rope was now being thrashed about by the now gale fore wind. I remember yelling " No....", thinking that it would let go at any moment.

I continued to run up the hill, it felt as though everything was in slow motion. The wind was now so strong that it pushed me back and it took even more effort not to be pushed down the hill. The rain was insane! It was coming down so fast and hard that it actually hurt as each drop struck me like a very truck. It wasn't even raining down anymore; the wind was pushing the rain sideways making protecting myself all but impossible. I reached the flapping corner of the tarp and it slapped me in the face for my trouble. It friging HURT, but I continued to real it in.
It was at this point that I realized three things:

1) I had put my sleeping bag and small pillow in the hammock and it was now as soaked as I was
2) The sky was a dark green colour and this storm was far from over
3) I might be in serious trouble ...

I did my best to hold the tarp over my now wet sleeping bag, all the while fighting with the wind that continued to try and rip it away from me, but I would not let way! I pulled the tarp over my head, desperate to escape the liquid bullets that pounded my body. I had never felt more scared or alone in my life and I questioned why I was here by myself.
I couldn't walk away or seek shelter for fear that I would loose my tarp. After a few minutes I came to the realization that all I could do was to stand there and wait for it to be over.

I could hear faint screams coming from a site just north of sounded like children and I hoped they were OK.

5:40 pm:

The wind, rain and hail continued to pound away for 35 minutes. I stood there with my upper half covered by the tarp until the rain and wind just stopped. I came out and surveyed the damage. Several trees and broken branches littered the ground. With some trepidation I inspected the tarp. The wind had ripped the ropes and the fabric loop that held them clean through. They appeared to be gone. I then spotted a large knot at realized what I was looking at. The wind had wound the three ropes into a hardball sized ball of knots and I spent the next hour and a half untying them. It was no fun, standing there, freezing cold and wet, but the fear of the storm returning was all the motivation I needed to get it done.

7:10 pm:

The ball of knots now returned to ropes. I assessed the condition of the fabric loops, found on the corners of the tarp. Three were ripped away and needed to be sewn back on. One was so badly, torn that I only had a tiny piece of fabric to sew back, but with the weather still holding I managed to sew all three back in place in an hour and fifteen minutes. My fingers were raw and bleeding from the countless needle pokes and I was getting tired, but I knew I still had work to do. I started to think about my family and my home and wished I could be transported there. I pushed these thoughts aside...I had to focus. "...c'mon Jim", I remember saying aloud, and then with tears forming in my eyes, I started to dismantle my hammock.

7:55 pm:

I needed a place with more protection from the wind...make that ANY protection from the wind. I ended up setting up the hammock in the "other location" I had considered when choosing sites just a few hours felt like days ago that all that happened. The bottom third of my sleeping bag was soaked, but my pillow and most of my bag remained fairly dry. Finally some good news! Before long I had set-up the hammock and was preparing to go to bed. I peeled off layers of soaked clothes. They were, so wet you would have thought I had jumped into the lake and it felt good to get them off. I got into my sleeping bag and decided to read to get my mind off of things. I reach into my pocket expecting to pull out my headlamp, but instead a color blotched piece of paper appears. I unfold it to see the picture my daughter had drawn for me, now ruined by the rain. I stared at it for a few moments and I began to feel sad. I missed them. I fell asleep within minutes.

Wednesday July 11, 2007

1:30 am:

I awoke to the feeling of rain striking me on the face. One of the fabric loops had broken again and the tarp flapped in the wind. It was raining, but not nearly has hard as before and I was thankful. I found my headlamp and my sew kit and got out...I had to sew it back on in the rain. It didn't take me as long to sew this one (only about 15 minutes), but I was standing there in my underwear and was now colder then ever. I had been using a lighter to push the needle through the thick fabric and just as I was about to tie it off the needle ONLY needle. I had done all I could do. I was about to get back in when I thought I would tie rocks to the corner ropes in case the wind picked up again. That way, the tarp would not be wiped around as much. I made quick work of it and by 2:15 I was back in the hammock and drifting back to sleep. I would wake-up a few more times throughout the night...mostly when the wind would rattle the tarp.

8:30 am:

When I woke I was pleased to see that my tarp had held and was quite proud of my idea to tie the rocks to the corners. (I would find out later that had I read the instructions, I would have already known that this is exactly what Hennessy Hammocks tell you to do in high wind...Doh!)
I was alarmed to see that my canoe had been flipped over by the wind and had a large branch in it. I approached it fearing that it had caused serious damage. The branch was 6 inches around and had landed directly on the seat, crushing it in two. The canoe however, looked fine. I took the canoe out and was relieved that it had somehow escaped without any damage. Phew! I used duct tape to piece it together and then put my nalgene bottles under the broken seat. Presto! It was a little wobbly, but it worked.

The weather was better. Still the occasional dark cloud, but no rain to speak of. I made breakfast (chocolate protein powder and Quaker instant Oatmeal....Yum!) then sat and considered my options. I still wanted to continue, but with a broken seat, damaged tarp and me being more then a little gun shy about the weather, I decided to head back to Rock Lake and go home. I then began packing up.


After I had my bagel and cheese lunch, I took a few pictures, loaded up my canoe and pushed off. I paddled out a bit and looked back at the site...did all that really happen? Just crazy!

The paddle north on Pen was fine. The wind was high and blew me around a bit, but the waves were still manageable. I pulled up to the dock at the portage going into Rock Lake at 12:45 and there were many people just as eager to go home. I single carried this portage and at the other end a young woman helped me, put my canoe down. She took one look and my blood and dirt stained clothes and said ".you must have been on Pen Lake to?” I introduced myself and her name was Cathy. We shared stories of our experiences the night before and it turned out she was on the site just north of me with 15 kids and 3 other leaders. The screams I had heard were when one of their tents had blown into the kids in it, but the tent and the gear of 4 kids were gone. We talked for a while and she wished me well...nice girl!

The portage was even busier then when I had been here the day before. I put my canoe in the water and pushed off. I had to navigate around some guys fishing from a motor boat. They pulled out their lines, so I could pass and I waived in appreciation.

The trip back was fast. I put the bent paddle to the test and made it from the portage back to the Rock Lake take out in and 65 minutes. I was pulling up to the dock the same fisherman that I saw at the portage were just motoring by and yelled " Nice Job buddy!", noticing how quickly I had made it up the lake. This made me puff up with pride and their were a number of people at the take out that looked in my direction after that. Very cool!

After a change of clothes. I loaded the gear, strapped down the canoe and before long I arrived back at AO to return my canoe. A young guy came up and began to help me un-strap the canoe and as he did casually asked me "Where are you coming from?". "Pen Lake" I responded. He stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said “You were on Pen Lake last night?". "Yeah" I said, half wondering why he was staring at me as though he had seen a ghost. He continued to stare at me a blurted out "...there was a tornado there last night!” Then it hit me like a sky, sideways rain, gale winds, hail...oh my god of course it was a tornado!
As we started to remove the straps again, he asked me a bunch of questions about what it was like and I answered as best I could. I helped him carry the canoe over to the shop and told him about the seat and how it had happened. He didn't care about the damage in the slightest and we talked for a while, before I left to go settle up in the main office.

This was the official tornado warning:

5:20 PM EDT Tuesday 10 July 2007

Tornado warning for
Fenelon Falls - Balsam Lake Park - Algonquin Park- Northern Kawartha Lakes -

At 4:40 PM radar showing rotation in a line of severe thunderstorms from east of clear lake to near bolsover. Storms are moving eastward about 80 km/h.

This is a warning that severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are imminent or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions. Take immediate safety precautions.

The girl in the office had pulled my reservation and had just said "...oh, you're back a couple of days early...", when the young guy that helped me with my canoe burst in saying “He was on Pen Lake last night!". Then all the 5 staff wanted to hear all about it, so I told them all the full story and they all looked at me with amazement. This single experience made the ordeal almost worth it! I then settled up and left for home.

Before pulling out of the parking lot I called Tanyia to let her know that I was OK. My fear was that she had seen the tornado warning for that area and was worried sick about me.


Me: "Hey Tanyia....fist off I am OK and everything is fine."
Tanyia " OK...why are you back"
Me:" There was a tornado on the lake I stayed on last didn't know?"
Tanyia: "No...I didn't want to know, so I skipped watching the weather"

Funny! Well, at least she wasn't worried!

I arrived home and my family was there to see me! I hugged and kissed them all and decided to spare the kids from hearing the details, but spilled it all to Tanyia. After I was finished she gave me a hug and said " smell, go have a shower"...she always knows just what to say! LOL!

What I learned:

My goal was to learn about myself and although I didn't go the full distance, I feel I learned more about myself in 24 hours then at any point in my life. I was able to make decisions on my own, prioritize and when needed fly by the seat of my pants and these were all things I was unsure about before. I have always been an insecure guy and to some degree, probably always will be, but this experience left a positive imprint on me that have changed me for the better. I find I don't second guess myself as much anymore and I answer others with more confidence that my decision is the correct one. When I am wrong, I don't get upset about it like I used to...I just try to learn from it.

I guess the most important thing I learned was not to put limitations on myself, like " I can't do this or that because I know that if I could handle all the problems that occurred on my trip and still come out smiling...then maybe I could handle anything that came my way.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Where has the time gone?

The last week has gone by in a blur, but I have not forgotten about updating...I've just been a bit distracted. I don't have much time today, so I will just do a bullet point update for now...

  • My first Triathlon 5 days away- This Sunday Aug 19th I will be competing in my first ever Tri. I feel ready and look forward to the race. Tanyia and I will be going up Saturday evening (it's in Orillia, Ontario) and staying overnight. This will be one of only a handful of times that we have had a full night to ourselves, but no alcohol for me, so Tanyia will have to drink for both of us. The race starts at 8 AM and I have to be there for 6 to do all the prep and sign in stuff. I have trained for almost 6 months for this, so despite how I may finish, in my mind I have already won
  • Solo trip write up still coming- I wish I could tell you it's done, but I still have some work to do on it before it's ready.
  • CC 2007 was Awesome- I haven't started the trip log for it yet...but it is on my to do list. It was by far the best trip to date and was filled with fun and interesting times. I took a great deal of video and will be editing and posting in the very near future...Friday maybe? I will post as soon as it is done.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

We leave for CC2007 today!

Well.....all our new methods and equipment will be put to the test tommorow morning, but we leave for Mattawa in a couple of hours! We will stay the night at the Welcome Inn and I am sure visit McCools for a drink or two!

I wish I could say my back is in better shape, but it's not and I am more then a little nervous about how it may effect our trip. Last year my back was much worse and it was brutal dealing with the pain on out first day out. I guess I just don't want a repeat of that. Either way, I can deal with the discomfort....I am in Algonquin after all!

Things we hope will make our Trip from Brent to Robinson Lake a little easier this year:

  1. Bent Paddles- I tried mine out on my solo trip ( Trip report still to come...) , but this will be the first time Gerry has used his. I am looking forward to trying them out with both of us using them...mostly 'cause I was told that we will "rocket" accross the water.
  2. Yoke Pads- These are awesome and should make those long portages more managable
  3. Lighter Load- We packed much smarter this year and are mostly bringing what we need and a few luxery items. That goes for food too.
  4. Experience- Last year was our first time and it showed. We wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what we were doing, so I expect that it should only take us about 12 hours to get to robinson...maybe less?
  5. Water shoes- I bought these cheap running shoe type water shoes, so I can keep my comfy hikers dry.
  6. Water Proof Digital Camera- My camera this year is a light, shock proof and WATER PROOF camera. In the past I have always been a little nervous about pulling the digi cam out while out on the water... no worries anymore! It's also lite and only needs one battery instead of the 12 AA's my old one uesed. It has a 2 gig memory, so I plan on taking some video as well.
  7. Amingo Pro Water Filter- I already fell in love with it on my solo trip, but can't wait for Gerry to try it out. Last year we used a hand pumped MSR filter and it was good, but took forever! It needed to be cleaned after filter only a liter of water or it jammed. Gerry ended up pumping most of the water and by the end of it I could tell he wanted to chuck it! This year all we have to do is scoop up the water and let gravity filter it. It does about a liter a minute! Not only will it make camp life easier, but it is also about a quarter the weight of the MSR.
Well that's it for now! We leave in about 2 hours and I want to spend a little more time with the kids, so wish us luck ( NO Tornados this time would be nice...) and I will report it all when I return next week!

Lastly, I just wanted to say a word of thanks to all of you that read this blog. I know I am not the greatest writter and that my spelling and grammar are far from perfect, but I love Algonquin and this place gives me a place to share that passion with all of you that feel the same way about the park. Thank you all!