Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cross Training Toronto Style

Or.. Do one thing per year that scares the shit out of you. 2013: check!

After a really crappy 1:45 hrs treadmill run, some rest, and a pastrami sandwich lunch, it was time for some cross training. Toronto style!

The Edge Walk at the CN Tower sounds just like the perfect thing for that. Especially since we have perfect weather for that today!

Walking some 350 meters above ground with no railing or anything like that. Well, a safety harness to be fair. But since we already have to wear the harness, might as well have some fun with it. Leaning out on your tippy toes and leaning backwards over the edge and shenanigans of that sort.

After being suited up, harnessed, triple checked (they do take safety very serious!), shuttled up, and given some final dos and don'ts, Elina, Rodrigo, and I stepped out on the ledge - err edge, whatever.

Out of our little group of three (not counting our guide Aussie Joanne) Elina, hailing from Israel and living in Toronto for 11 years now, was by far the most courageous. I bet she was some sort of Israeli special forces commando or shit like that. When Joanne told us about the first activity - Toes over Toronto - she was first and almost ran to the edge. I thought she was going to jump! (Which would have been pointless given the harness.) Rodrigo, Elina's just boyfriend, part-time boyfriend, or soon to be boyfriend, or something like that, hailing from Brazil and living in Amsterdam, was actually kind of chicken. At first anyway. He soon got the hang of it and was fine. Really nice guy in any case.

So... Toes over Toronto, eh? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Walk to the edge, put the toes of one foot over the edge and then the toes of the other foot. Then remove your hands from the rope of the safety harness. Easy right? Fuck no!

As endurance athletes we are quite used to the concept of "mind over body". This was more of a case of "body over mind". Certainly not a strenuous task. Just two tiny, short steps. Except my mind was screaming "NO! WTF?! DO NOT DO THAT! ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?" It took all I had to put one foot forward. It was just like my other foot was paralyzed. Eventually I managed to have both set of toes over the edge - sort of - and very briefly let go of the rope. After a split second that felt like an eternity I nearly jumped back.

The next activity was "Lean Backwards". Sit down in the harness, walk backwards until heels are well over the edge, straighten legs, lean fully backwards, let go of rope, and enjoy. Strangely though this is much easier than toes over. Probably you don't look down. This was fun from the start.

For the record, I did 'toes over' several more times when the opportunity allowed for it. Just to prove I could do it. It really does take some time to get used to height. Even Joanne who has been a guide for over a year at one point went 'uhhh' as she was pointing out the sights and mentioned that every now and so often she gets caught of guard by the height. And she was standing and walking right on the edge all the time.

Speaking of sights... The weather today was sunny and crisp and almost no wind. Absolutely perfect conditions. The ticket includes a video of the whole walk which we have on DVD and I will post later. It also includes two pictures in printed format of which I took a picture (I know, very analog) and attached to this post. I also got the USB key with all the pictures Joanne took and some of which I'll post later as well.

Other activities were "Edge Walk" were we were literally walking right on the edge - hands off the rope! (yeah, not for long) - and walking backwards which was kinda lame.

In the end it was a totally awesome and kind of unnatural experience. Now I am chilling with a local (the other attached picture).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

$200 Training Ride in Toronto

This weekend I have to stay in Toronto for work. No big deal in general, except that I cannot afford to lose anymore key training sessions since the first 3 months of 2013 were something of a write off training wise because of project demands.

Since I don't actually have to work on the weekend and really have no other distractions I was (am) hell bend to get all my training in - at least on the weekend! Including a 5.5 hours bike ride.

I didn't come to Toronto directly but had to go to Chicago for 2 days first. This would have made shipping my own bike challenging and I doubt that I would have done it even with a direct flight.

With some research I found Exclusive Sports Rentals a couple of dozen miles north of Toronto. They were the only ones who seemed to be able to rent me a reasonably proper road bike including SPD-SL pedals and all the stuff one needs for a long ride (helmet, tools, pump, spare tube). Since I didn't have time or the means to pick up the bike and bring it back, Alex from ESR (he must be the owner) offered to drop it off at the hotel on Friday and pick it up on Sunday. Still as a 1-day rental but I have to pay a fee for the dropping off /picking up. Fair enough. I *really* want to do the ride!

I get myself some chocolate bars and Gatorade for ride at the convenience store and am all set.

Now I consider myself extremely privileged to be staying at the Shangri-La hotel! It is super nice and the staff really treats you like royalty. That said, they clearly don't have a microwave oven in the rooms :-)  And the various food service they offer is qualitative outstanding, but, well, not exactly inexpensive.

This morning I figured 'what the heck' and decided to get room service for breakfast. I really didn't want to get dressed for the restaurant and then change for the ride. I ordered the steel cut oatmeal with stewed apples and brown sugar ($11), the Bircher Müsli with honey roasted almonds and orange segments ($9 and kick ass good!), and a French pre coffee ($7). I ordered it via the iPad in the room. (the same fucking iPad that told me for days that today will be 14°C and sunny... but that's a different story.) As I am completing my order I realize that (roughly) $5 delivery charge, $5 gratuity, and $5 tax is added to my bill. Fuck! This is now a $42 breakfast!! Are you kidding me?! Oh crap, let's go for it anyway.

The earliest I was able to order for at 6:25 AM was 6:55 AM. OK, good things take time. Plenty of time to get ready ready and just as I am sitting on the potty, the door bell rings! (yes, they actually have a pleasant door bell) Damn! They are 15 min early!! Scrambling to get into some decent shape to open the door. Guy rolls in the cart and asks me if I want the (hot) oatmeal first or later. So he gets that there is only one diner - as I had also indicated during the ordering process. So he sets me up and gives me the check to sign which had prominently a space for tip. Errr, sorry buddy, but this is not going to happen!

Once he's gone and I sit down to eat, I noticed a few odd things...
1. There are 2 place settings
2. They are set up with knife, butter knife, and fork
3. Both my dishes are "spoon" dishes and there is no spoon to be found. Well, except for the coffee spoon.

Ah, who cares? Definitely first world problems and the Bircher Müsli was still ridiculously good. And the breakfast was so filling and lasting that aside from 2+ Gatorade bottles I needed nothing else on the ride.

I rode along the famous Waterfront Trail west towards Niagara Falls and made it to past Burlington in howling head winds, freezing cold, flurries, and for about 10 min an actual snow storm. I am neither kidding nor exaggerating! Because of the head winds I decided to go out a little longer - 2:55 instead of the exact half 2:45. The ride back was much more fun :-) And I made it back to the hotel in just under 5:30 total.

All in all an expensive ride but totally awesome! Happy to have done it. Just to round out the story, the bike rental was $60 as was the transportation fee. Plus add on some smaller fees and taxes and the total came to $155-ish. Add to that the event super expensive breakfast and we have a $200 training ride.

Time for a light lunch now and some more rest before an easy 20 min treadmill run.

Update: attached the only picture from the ride when I was not completely frozen yet and only had light flurries to deal with.