I’ve just received a plaintive plea for advice on cycle touring from a friend about to embark on her first Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour – the annual pilgrimage of ~2000 cyclists from Ottawa (or Perth) to Kingston and back in one weekend. So here, in no particular order, are some thoughts on safely (and hopefully comfortably) getting through a large tour.

1. Make sure your bike is well fitted to you and in good working order. Carry a spare tube and bike tool (make sure the valves are long enough for your rims, and have more spares in your luggage if your tubes are non-std – the onsite mechanics may not have unusual sizes).

2. Pack for extreme warm weather and extremely cool, damp and windy weather. (Just ask anyone about the 2010 tour for an example of crazy conditions)

3. Get your miles in before you go (if possible!) but be well hydrated, fed and rested the night before departing.

4. Pack some extra chamois butter in a small canister (like a film canister) and stash in your toolkit. A refresh of your chamois butter halfway will really help the nether regions. (oh, and remember to do any ‘undercarriage maintenance’ a few days in advance or whatever strategy you find best for chafing management.)

5. Clean, spare kit for day 2 or launder as needed. Save your plushest chamois for day 2 when you’ll really appreciate it.

6. Eat and drink regularly on the ride – even if you aren’t hungry or thirsty. A bonk can come on with little warning. Have some caffeinated gels or similar as a pick-up for the last few kms. Red Bull and potato chips are great bonk busters in a crisis.

7. On the road – form a paceline if it’s windy and you are comfy in a close riding formation. Don’t let the gap between riders get too much as it’s super challenging to get back on.

8. Hold your line and signal any road debris or potholes and always signal your intent to stop (pull off the road if possible). There are some very fast paced groups on the road and they sometimes pass extremely close to other riders without realizing how much that can spook someone or that they are putting others at risk. ( sadly, you will likely see some really reckless maneuvers – like passing people on a blind crest on the centre line). Cops do patrol but they can’t be everywhere so be careful.

9. If you have to stop, pull off the road but don’t use any local residents’ driveways. Some can get mighty angry at the intrusion on their ability to travel easily due to all the bike traffic and a cyclist blocking their laneway is mightily aggravating. Same for nature breaks – don’t be inappropriate.

10. Support the businesses that are participating – the gas station in Westport, the little corner shop 30km from Kingston etc.

11. Thank a volunteer.

12. In the event of hypothermia – warm water in a Camelback doubles as an excellent hot water bottle.

13. Have a ‘getting home if something catastrophic happens’ plan. This could be bike failure, weather, illness. Hopefully the plan is redundant.

14. Change, stretch, rehydrate and refuel as soon as you can after arriving. Ibuprofen and/or muscle balm can be a godsend. If you have a willing partner to trade massages with – even better (or perhaps you’ll find the room of guys with the crazy massage machine like we did last year 😉 ).

15. Start day 2 as early as you can so that you get a good distance before the afternoon breezes pick up.

16. Pace yourself on day 2 and expect it to take a few km before your legs warm up and your butt forgives you.

17. You can make it up Westport Hill! (oh and going down Westport Hill on day 1 – watch out for any pesky stop signs in inconvenient places. Don’t get a ticket!).

18. Remember to smile, have fun and encourage other riders.

What have I missed? Please add your tips to the comments section…

Happy riding!

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Posted by: tgrevatt | February 17, 2011

What the heck is a TweetUp?

So you’re new to Twitter and starting to get the hang of connecting with some interesting people. Now you’ve started to see lots of them getting excited about an upcoming ‘Tweetup’. What the heck is a TweetUp? What can you expect? Who can go? Will they be friendly? Will they be cliquey? (urgh, no one wants to feel like they are in High School again)

One of the best things about Twitter (and I unashamed to admit that I enjoy using it hugely and benefit on a professional and personal front) is that it is an open platform – you can freely follow and interact with people unlike other services that are permission based such as Facebook and LinkedIn. This seems to give Twitter the vibe of a cocktail party where it is entirely appropriate to overhear a conversation and go and join in. In fact, listening, joining in and sharing is the lifeblood of the community on Twitter. It’s attracted many users who are open to meeting new people and exchanging ideas and we enjoy doing the same thing in real life.

So a TweetUp is an informal meeting advertised through Twitter. As Twitter is public that means all are welcome to join a TweetUp. There’s usually a host, or several, who you can ask for intros when you arrive (or before). If in doubt, drop the organiser a quick message and ask them to look out for you. You can follow the hashtag e.g. #ThursPintsW to see what other people are saying about the event or to find folks going. Contrary to mainstream media belief, Twitter users are not a bunch of basement dwellers who never see daylight and only communicate through the intertubes. Twitter is just another way for people to connect and it makes meeting in the real world easier because you already know a little about them already.

What if you are not on Twitter but have been invited to a TweetUp?
Heck, go along, you will probably be asked your Twitter handle since that’s how we mostly know each other but if you don’t use it, so what? Remember, a TweetUp is just a get together of folks who want to meet other folks. So don’t worry and get nattering! If you prefer to talk less and people-watch more go along anyway. The folks I’ve met at TweetUps have interesting lives and are often great story tellers so just enjoy listening.

Will it be full of smartphone obsessed folks talking tech or business?
Whilst some TweetUps may have a specific topic (I’ve gone to several running ones where we tend to talk running in gory, obsessive detail but that’s just what happens when you throw a bunch of runners together nothing to do with Twitter) ones that are not around a specific topic tend to cover many different subjects just like a night in the pub with your mates. Sometimes getting heard over the raucous laughter can be a challenge but that’s not a bad problem to face is it?

Good advice before heading there. Check out the profiles and Tweet streams of other folks who are going along – that way you can know a little about someone before meet them in person, perhaps you have a shared interest – this is especially helpful if networking is a scary prospect. If networking is still scary, take a wing man. Apart from that, all the usual tips for networking and meeting new people hold true.

During or after the tweetup follow any new folks that you wish to keep in touch with. A Tweetup is one place where having your smartphone out won’t be frowned upon, but you’ll be surprised to see how many folks don’t bring them out at all focusing on the in-person connections.

Go on – try one out, you never know where it may lead…

Posted by: tgrevatt | February 12, 2011

An English-Canadian (Wo)Man in New York

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in Manhattan attending Social Media Week: NYC. Here are a few of my observations:

  • New Yorkers are masters of jaywalking and nothing matches the indignation of a jaywalker confronted by a driver.
  • The grid system and bus transit rocks for out of towners getting around, bus routes are cross-town or up-down town and named by the street they are on.
  • Go eat breakfast in the smaller, grittier looking delis and cafes not the fancy tourist traps. Prices are better, food tastier and you get to interact with the little old Italian New Yorker guys with the brash manners.
  • Contrary to television/movie representation the locals are very helpful and friendly. Complete strangers helped me at the subway, and I struck up conversations with all sorts of interesting folks.
  • Catching a cab at shift change and/or trying to go in an inconvenient direction for the cabbie makes it difficult to pick up a lift (the Mayor has designated that some streets do not allow turns at peak traffic periods).
  • Travelling with dietary restrictions is a complete pain in the a$$. Carry a stash of emergency snacks and plan extra time to find places where you can eat.
  • Asking shops/restaurants if they have food that accommodates your food sensitivities can be a demoralising experience.
  • Subway ticket machines require you to enter a Zipcode to use a credit card. Not great for international travelers.
  • Comfy shoes are a girl’s best friend, but oh how I admired the folks striding along in the stylish stiletto boots.
  • Cupcakes are everywhere. What the heck is the fascination with cupcakes?
  • New Yorkers are as obsessed with dog ownership as the Parisians and sadly the sidewalks reflect this.
  • There is a pharmacy on every corner.
  • You can get anything and everything delivered at anytime of day or night.
  • Posted by: tgrevatt | September 8, 2010

    A year of tri-ing

    Before The Canadian Triathlon 113 Sep. 2010

    It’s been a rough sporting summer for me. This year I decided my big challenge would be to take up open water swimming and move from duathlons to triathlons. Swimming was progressing – in February I struggled and spluttered my way along, barely managing a lap or two before needing to cling to the wall and recover. I had some patient friends who gave me lots of tips and encouragement and I slowly built my endurance.

    Cycling started early with some great riding South of the city around Merrickville – and the requisite outing to the Yellow Canoe Cafe – check out their baking, oh my! Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour from Perth to Kingston (and Donna’s first 100km ride) was the early season target – atrocious conditions on day two meant we abandoned, oh dear. I managed some early season speed, getting a new 10km TT best but then the heat hit. Urghh.

    My first triathlon in many years resulted in a wee stint in the medical tent. I had completely underestimated the impact a swim had on my biking abilities, messed up nutrition and the heat (racing a 5km the day before probably didn’t help either). Wow, heat exhaustion really knocks you out. A couple of weeks later I attempted another tri, this one had the longest open water swim I had ever tried, plus it was hilly and super hot – I’m not built for hills or heat. This time, I paid heed to the warning signs and bailed before the run. A DNF, I knew it was wise, but disappointing all the same.

    I struggled in the heat for the rest of the summer, finally managing to salvage a few long runs but no rides over 60km. Surprisingly it was the open water swim that I enjoyed the most, I finished a 3km swim race which was a distance beyond my wildest dreams as I struggled back in February. And did you know that the swag from swim races is pretty damn fine?!

    The Canadian is an Ottawa triathlon festival which includes iron (226km) and half-iron (113km) distances as well as many other races. It’s a great local day out, racers do multiple laps on Colonel By from Terry Fox stadium and it’s good for spectating and supporting other athletes. No hills either- hurrah! Well, it seemed like a great idea to enter the 113 Tri last November. Last week, looking at covering that distance with too little training – much less so. My grand plans for high mileage and plenty of weight loss had disappeared in the heat and work (or lack thereof) stress. I was undecided about the race right up until the day before. I committed to it by telling my online friends that I would do it and invited them to come out and cheer – I couldn’t let them down so off I went.

    Bloody good job I didn’t look at the weather forecast – last one I had seen had 10km/hr winds. Yeah, right. On the bike it was gusting up to 50km/hr – hang on tight and try to keep in a straight line conditions. The swim was fine. On lap three of the bike I wanted to quit – seriously wanted to. Then I realised that it was all about finishing and getting through so stop thinking about a goal time and suck it up. I eased up, focused on nutrition and taking enough salt tablets – new motto “keep out of the med tent”. And try not to think too much about the ‘hoo ha’. Lack of miles in aero position equal very unhappy girly bits.

    The laps chugged by – and eventually I was off the bike, a joyous feeling. Then a strange thing happened, I started the half marathon and didn’t feel too bad. In fact, it was one of the best runs I’ve had all summer. I had friends bring me ice – my new secret weapon in heat survival. Other competitors were super encouraging and the two aid stations completely rocked with fabulous service and cheering. At this point there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish – it was actually enjoyable. Here’s to slow and steady finishing the race. Chatting and encouraging other runners helped make the miles pass, and I’ve got to confess the ‘scenery’ at these races really doesn’t hurt either.

    So I completed it – it was slow, a smidge over 8hrs all told. The longest race I have ever done. I’m not going to break any speed records but many self-doubts were conquered. My stupid grin is outlasting the crazy aches in my body and it’s time to fathom out my next goal. If I can do it, so can you – it just takes great supporters, patience, persistence and a whole lot of Rule #5.

    Thank you to all the spectators, organisers and volunteers – you make this race special. Special thanks to those friends who have encouraged, cagoled, trained and suffered (with) me all summer. So… what shall we attempt next?

    Posted by: tgrevatt | July 17, 2010

    A little running levity

    I love my sporty life and my running/cycling/swimming community. Every now and then I’m reminded that our world can be a little ooky and rather off-putting to newcomers. It’s been a few weeks since Ottawa’s fabulous running festival – Race Weekend. This year I had a blast as a pace bunny and was immensely grateful to blogger friend Natsbrain who came to my rescue with a thermos of ice that I dumped down my cleavage at approx 17km – utter bliss. She tells her side of the story here.

    I’m really enjoying local blogger and all round interesting soul Susan Murphy – although we rarely meet in person, we raise a virtual glass often on Twitter (we ought to do it in person since we are practically neighbours AND she has a pool, doh!). Susan is a new runner and very gently reminded me today that going public with the details of my wobbly toenail is not encouraging to new runners; other friends had a pool on Facebook to guess the date of their own nail departures and don’t even think about chatting with cyclists! She also had a blog posting today encouraging us all to lighten up a bit on the web and not take ourselves so seriously. My philosophy is share the silliness that happens to me so that someone else can learn from it – yup, ever the teacher. I commented on her post about my awesome 80’s hair and alluded to an embarrassing running moment. So now I share it with you…

    In the summer I like to run from Westboro beach over the Champlain Bridge to Aylmer – it’s cool near the river and shady on the bike path on the QC side, an added bonus is a dip in the river at Westboro beach afterwards to chill the legs. On the day in question it started to rain and got fairly heavy as we were crossing the bridge. Now it’s a well trafficked road, and there’s nowhere to hide if, say, your shorts had not been well rinsed in the laundry and have a smidge of detergent remaining in them. Imagine if you will the chafing action that occurs when someone of my stature goes running (hence my love of Bodyglide). Add in some rain and Tide. Now think of how a racehorse starts to froth and sweat and you start to get an idea of what was occurring right at my crotch. Of course, I don’t notice this for the longest time, so I’m lathered up pretty good. I would’ve blushed if I wasn’t already my usual red shade from exertion. So I ran across the bridge, facing traffic, whilst trying to squeegee away the crotch froth periodically, bent double from laughing. Seriously, if this wasn’t a laughing moment – then I don’t know what is.

    Folks – rinse your sports kit well and avoid the perils of suds in entertaining locations….

    Posted by: tgrevatt | June 24, 2010

    Ahhh, so that was an earthquake….

    We’re really lucky in Ottawa, nothing too alarming on an environmental front seems to happen here (at least since the ice storm which I wasn’t here for or a big snow dump) so we can get pretty complacent.
    At 1:41pm on Wed June 23 the weirdest thing happened – I was sitting at home, pottering on my computer and waiting for the Germany game to start (to see if England would be playing them next, groan, yes we are) when a bloody awful rumbling noise started that increased in intensity, my AC remote fell down the stairwell with a crash and the rumbling continued to increase. Not being from an active earthquake zone I didn’t immediately realise that it was one but my befuddled brain really didn’t have an answer either. It wasn’t a Donny Darko plane engine falling moment and to be honest sounded like there were ten huge, off-balance washing machines dancing across my roof.
    As the rumbling and shaking intensified I took shelter under my dining room table (plenty of company down there from the dust bunnies, oopsie). Eventually it abated, I went outside to confirm that others (and not just crazy ol’ me) had experienced it. And then I tweeted… no cell phone coverage but twitter confirmed that it was felt across the city. My hands were shaking and legs were jelly – I think because of the unknown – and they took a while to return to normal.

    Lessons: yup, I probably should prepare an archive of important documents (I still haven’t done that – have you?) and I’m happy not to be in a high rise.

    What was your experience of Ottawa Trembles 2010?

    Oh boy!! Today I am bouncing off the walls with glee! We’ve cracked integrating a calendar from Betidings – our social calendar tool – into WordPress. In fact, it’s an RSS atom feed so it’ll work with any RSS reader.

    Quick and dirty instructions here – if you’ve got a blog and want an easy way to add an event list to it, try this out. All you need is a Betidings account for your own calendar – add or share events into your calendar then copy the calendar url into the url entry field of your RSS feeder and append the url with ‘.atom’. Hit save and bingo a feed of the next 10 upcoming events in your calendar. And don’t forget that for now you can also import/export calendars with a Google Calendar account.

    Here’s the neat stuff – when you hover over the event, you’ll see a summary and date/time, when you click on the event you’ll be taken to the external event url you listed in Betidings – we’re trying to be plumbing not drive you to Betidings. If there is no external url, it’ll go to the event listing in Betidings.

    You can check out how it works by looking at the list on the right. Hurrah! And thanks to my fabulous tech guy for working the magic!

    Posted by: tgrevatt | January 18, 2010

    Errr…you do this for pleasure?

    Yesterday I ran a local 5km race. I was apprehensive beforehand, despite having no ambitions for a fast finishing time – not fit enough to harbour those thoughts at the moment. Probably it was because I know that a 5km can hurt and that once it’s underway I’ll get the ‘gallops’ and pick up the pace (can’t seem to help it, oops). I did have a time in mind beyond which I didn’t want to finish, despite being many lbs above my normal running weight, and having no tempo training under the belt. Yeah, yeah, not rational at all but it’s what my mind does.

    I had a lot of fun, but after we turned around, I started to ‘bolt for the barn’ (thanks Laurel for the company and support!) and we dropped a minute per km from our pace. Oh dear, I had probably got carried away – mild temps, no snow on the road and lots of people to pick off – it was just too much fun to move from Zone 1 plodding. Needless to say, the finish line kept moving away and when I finally crossed it there were some dry heaves and a heck of a lot of coughing.

    But what a good feeling, running at tempo really makes the body feel alive, I felt like my furnace was really cranked for the rest of the day – the sort of feeling that doesn’t come from a zone 1 workout.

    So yes, I do run in all sorts of silly weather conditions, sometimes slowly and with heavy, sluggish legs. Sometimes faster with a spring in my step. Sometimes I go beyond my fitness dictates I should and dig really deep – those are the most memorable ones!

    Posted by: tgrevatt | December 27, 2009

    Conquering the elements

    In the best tradition of an Ottawa Christmas the freezing rain arrived today. Urghhh! What we really needed was more snow to top up the ski trails up in the Gats – they’re getting a bit thin and patchy. Managed a short ski on Christmas day as per the tradition which is now at 9yrs, I think. Conditions were slow and the weather misty and damp, scenic in a dull, grey kind of a way.

    The freezing rain started early this morn, so I lurked inside all day. Finished the enormous new Stephen King novel, Under the Dome (why do I feel so depressed when I finish a good book and don’t have another one lined up? Does it happen to others?), mooched around the house, and started climbing the walls by 7pm. Nothing for it, I had to get my run in. Far better at 7pm, than the 11pm dose of madness that roused me from my bed on Tuesday eve – yes, in terms of goal setting the Slowtwitch 100 runs in 100 days challenge seems to have lit a fire under my proverbial @$$.

    Tonight’s run was, apart from the soggy feet, quite magical. The branches were heavy with ice and the streets eerily quiet. I chugged around my 4km loop and smugly posted on Twitter that I had showed the freezing rain just who was boss. So what allowed my to go out and run safely with good footing? Here’s a pic of my favourite emergency training gear for freezing rain days – my Get a Grip Advanced ice grips

    And here’s a pic from my Christmas ski – just a few km along the Gatineau Parkway from P6/McKenzie King. Slow snow conditions (coupled with my poor skiing skills) but still nice to get out there.

    Posted by: tgrevatt | December 15, 2009

    Getting antsy for a new goal/adventure

    The itch is coming back. Finally, after a year of injuries, low sporting motivation and general athletic apathy, I am getting antsy for a new adventure/challenge. Perhaps I blame Ray Zahab, who spoke inspiringly at TEDxOttawa about his transformation to ultra-runner extraordinaire. Or perhaps I blame my friends who continue to push their physical limits with yoga challenges, new schooling, trips to the Arctic and Ironman races. But whatever the attribution, the time has come to get back into a routine of physical challenge.

    I went x-c skiing twice this weekend, the first outings of the season were humbling, as ever, but I relished the aches that come with leg muscles well used. Curse driving a manual though!

    This is right on schedule for me, every two years I need to do something that adds a new story for my old age. Two summers ago I completed my first half iron distance duathlon, it was a great year of achievement, but I probably overdid things and paid for it last year.

    So folks, help me work out what my next adventure is…current thinking is use the year to prep for something particularly exciting in 2011 (one of those milestone birthday years, eek).

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