challenge · cycling · fitness · Zwift

8 days to finish Zwift Academy 2021! Here’s my plan

I have eight days left to finish Zwift Academy 2021. It’s been both easier and harder than in past years. Past years were a mad dash to the finish. It’s been easier to complete and schedule the workouts but I’ve also been finding the workouts themselves tougher. I feel more than a bit out of bike shape after a summer of more low key outdoor pursuits.

I did the last workout, #6, this afternoon. It was supposed to be the afternoon of the Guelph Fall Colours Ride organized by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transit but that was rained out. Instead I hopped on the trainer and slogged through the last of the formal structured workouts.

Zwift Me. Sam’s Avatar doing the workout on her pink Tron bike

Here is Zwift’s description of the workout: “When you attack in a race or surge over a short hill, an intense burn always follows. This workout ensures you’ll hit these types of efforts stronger, pushing through the burn and helping maintain a high pace without fading after each effort. The anaerobic capacity (AC) effort at the start of this workout helps build up high lactate concentrations, essential for building FTP. The 1min rest that follows is enough to help recover adequately so you can complete the workout strong, but it doesn’t leave so much time that lactate concentrations will decrease. The workout is key when it comes to boosting your FTP and tackling longer segments with a higher level of fitness.”

GCAT Fall Colours Ride postponed to the 23rd due to rain

Here’s my riding plan for the next week:

Monday: Casse Pattes course ride over with TFC Dynamite team mates

Tuesday: Race Casse Pattes with TFC Dynamite in the Zwift Racing League

Wednesday: Zwift Academy Recovery Ride

” A Zwift Academy Recovery Ride is a social ride and an essential part of any training plan. Recovering from hard work allows you to adapt and develop. To do this you need to learn how to go easy and that is exactly how you should pace yourself on this ride. You will need to complete at least two recovery rides in order to graduate from Zwift Academy. These rides will be available exclusively in the event calendar so make sure you plan accordingly for these events. One recovery ride will need to be completed during the 1st block and one will need to be completed during the 2nd block to graduate. Recovery rides for block 2 are available from October 3 – October 25 . If you missed completing a recovery ride, recovery rides will also be available during makeups from October 11 – October 25.  Recovery Rides must be done with the group, and cannot be completed alone.”

Thursday race: Team Time Trial with TFC Phantom

Friday rest day

Saturday: Rescheduled Fall Colours Ride

Sunday: Finish Ride

“A Zwift Academy Finish Line ride is specifically designed to capture your gains over the duration of the Academy. It is set up identically to the Baseline Ride and will measure the exact same segments you started the Academy with. Riders are challenged to get PR’s on the segments and ride easy between the segments. There is no drafting and no leader. “

I’ll report back and let you know if I improved!

commute · cycling

From contemplation to action: Bettina’s e-bike is here!

In my last post, I shared that I was contemplating the purchase of an e-bike for my commute with tiny human in the bike trailer. Well, that escalated quickly – I ordered one the next day! I spent a weekend thinking about it and researching, and then a great offer came along that I couldn’t refuse. And now it’s here: my Bergamont E-Grandurance RD Expert (mine is the 2020 model and this link is the 2022 one, but you get the gist). And here’s a picture:

Bettina’s new e-bike leaning attractively against an industrial staircase, black and new and shiny in the sun.

It’s basically a gravel bike with a motor, which I really like. What I like even more is that it comes with all the trappings to make it road safe and comfortable (rack, fenders, lights etc.). It’s marketed as a commuter bike, which is exactly what I need, and it’s sporty, which is exactly what I want.

So far, I’ve tried it on an even surface and using the motor (which has three levels of support) is like someone pushing you along. Zooooom, swoooosh!

The reason I haven’t used it for its actual purpose yet is that we’re currently lacking the correct through-axle adapter to attach the bike trailer. It took me longer to research the bloody adapter than it took me to find a bike I liked, and in the end it turns out I have to have it shipped to Europe from the US *facepalm*. Apparently, through-axles are a lot less standardised than would be good for them. I mean, we have two adapters already in the house and neither one fits, and the trailer’s manufacturer doesn’t have one that fits my through-axle. It took us several e-mail exchanges with their customer support to work that out. In the end, the good folks at the Robert Axle Project came through for me and set me up with the right thing (if you ever need a through-axle adapter, these are your people – stellar customer service and they really do seem to have everything!). Let’s hope it doesn’t get held up in some global supply chain debacle.

So far, even though it’s mostly been sitting in our basement, I’m thrilled with my new toy. Will report back on how it goes with the trailer-pulling and commuting!

cycling · fitness · inclusiveness · weight loss

What’s an argument you’re sick of having?

One of mine is the link between bike riding and weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE BIKES.

Painting on a building of a stick figure person painted in black lines hanging from a heart painted in red.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I think our cities need more cycling infrastructure. I think safe cycling is a disability rights issue. I think low car cities are feminist cities.

For me, the best holidays involve bikes.

Riding my bike puts a smile on my face.

And I think cycling is good for the planet. Cars are dangerous and polluting the planet. We’d all be better off if people rode and walked more and drove less.

But one of these things is not like the other…

Fewer cars won’t make people lose weight. In fact, what we need to get more people on bikes is a more inclusionary cycling culture. It’s not all thin men in lycra. Sometimes it’s chubby middle aged women in lycra. And sometimes there’s no lycra at all.

Here’s our posts about the lack of a connection between bike riding and weight loss:

Reasons to Ride a Bike (That Don’t Include Weight Loss)

The benefits of exercise are many, but long term weight loss isn’t (necessarily) one of them

“On yer bike” for oh so many reasons, but weight loss isn’t one of them

Big Women on Bikes

“Pretty fast for a big girl”: Notes from the road, #2

(Updated) Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

Nightmare Stealth Spot (Guest Post)

In the space of a few days, I had both the worst and the best campsites. 

I was in Thessalon on September 14th, when I had an utterly nightmarish campsite. Hopefully this gives you a laugh without giving my mom nightmares! It began with an electric storm that kept me up terrified I’d be struck and with no idea what to do to protect myself… something I didn’t research before leaving home! I tried googling this info, but my internet connection was the speed of dial up… so while I waited, I continued freaking out about the possibility of being struck by lightning. Eventually I managed to read a few articles that were only marginally helpful and then climbed out of my hammock to begin looking for a safer space to wait out the storm. Since I found nothing within close proximity, I figured curling up in my hammock on a thermarest was probably safer than being a tall thing seeking shelter in a fairly open area. 

As I returned to my hammock, I noticed a small plant in the middle of my “campsite.” Not knowing how to identify poison ivy, I freaked out… another thing I didn’t research before leaving home! After yet another extensive and painstakingly slow Google search, I concluded that it was in fact poison ivy. If I’d stepped in it while setting up camp, I’d long since spread it all over my clothes. In the morning I would need to figure out a place to wash my clothes and shower carefully just in case I’d stepped in it… something fraught with other risks since I don’t do well with many types of laundry detergents and artificial fragrances… both of which laundromats are full of.

Finally the lightning ceased and I fell into an exhausted but fitful sleep. I woke up to my 7am alarm, but I desperately needed more sleep so decided it was worth the risk of someone finding me there. By this time I’d been discovered stealth camping a few times and it had always ended in a great convo and laughter, so I wasn’t concerned. I figured the worst that would happen is they would tell me to leave… and I would leave… no big deal. 

Around 8am, I awoke to trucks sawing down trees on the next lot and approaching my “campsite” …which was also a construction site.* I have never scrambled out of my hammock and packed up camp as quickly as I did that day! Don’t worry though, I paused to snap a photo before tearing down and did a quick vlog before racing out of there. I did not look back. Really wish I’d left behind a note for the unsuspecting construction workers: “Thanks for the campsite… and not felling a tree on me! My day would have been soooo much worse if you weren’t skillful at guiding the trees as they fell!” (Note to those absolutely horrified by this story: I would not have stopped to video or even packed up if I didn’t think it was safe to do so.)

Idyllic spot on the beach? Maybe not…

Even with anxiety a trip like this can be fun… and vlogging my mishaps has been a great way to gain perspective and find humour in the challenging aspects of my adventure. Don’t worry… most sites are nowhere near as dramatic as this one!

Down the street, I paused to pick up my bear bag from the portapotty at the nearby park and to rearrange my load which was very higgilty piggilty. For some time I stood in the wind beside the playground alternating between feeling amused at the absurdity of the story and anxious about poison ivy. I was grateful that the rain held off until I could assemble myself and plan my next steps. 

It took a few hours, but eventually my day began to turn around, thanks in large part to another visitor to Thessalon who asked if I was biking across Canada, was empathetic when I immediately burst into tears, looked at the “poison ivy” photos I had taken and confidently told me it was not poison ivy. Thank you environmental guide turned musician visiting from the states for the first time in two years! We ran into each other a few times during the next few days and both appreciated the company of a new friend in the midst of our solo travels.

What I thought was poison ivy…
My second night in Thessalon I slept peacefully at the city run campground across from this beach.

Delightfully, a few days later I was gifted with the best campsite imaginable… a much needed reprieve! More on that another time!

*Yes, it was a bold stealth spot that likely only felt like a reasonable risk because of my social location as a white thin female. I can get away with things many others could not.

cycling · fitness · gear

It’s not you, it’s the valves: gear maintenance and learning curves

This week, a FB friend reported some problems with a deflated tire on their road bike. They didn’t know that there were two kinds of tubes and valves (FYI: Shrader and Presta) and accidentally deflated the tube by using the wrong attachment from the pump.

They said, “I’m feeling like an incompetent novice”.

Oh, no…

Sympathetic pink creature, saying "oh no".
Sympathetic pink creature, saying “oh no”.

When I read this, I immediately thought: this is a perfect example of the gear maintenance learning curve.

It’s not us– how would we know that bike tires come in two different forms (and, btw, multiple sizes, for which appropriate tube selection may be a non-trivial process)? The answer: experience. Experience with gear involves a lot of steps, including

  • buying basic good tools
  • watching youtube videos
  • occasionally buying specialized gadgets (like a presta valve extender depending on how deep your wheel rims are and how long your tube valve is)
  • watching friends do repairs and maintenance tasks
  • getting help from friends in learning how to do tasks ourselves
  • trying things ourselves and then asking for help from friends or a friendly local bike shop
  • taking a class, maybe one for women in our sport, on common maintenance and repair of our gear

Of course, before checking off anything from the above-mentioned list, the natural thing is to just get out there– ride or skate or swim or paddle or sail or whatever it is that is filling us with joy in movement. Which is great. Once out there though, things will happen. Rigging breaks, tires get punctures, screws come loose. That’s life. That’s gear. That’s what activity friends and cell phones are for.

One more thing: we can choose how much we want to geek out on gear and its care and feeding. I freely admit that I don’t change my own rear cassette or do my own bike tuneups. For me, knowing how to change a tire, pack and unpack my bike for travel, do a few side-of-the-road adjustments with tools in my saddle bag, and clean my chain stands me in good enough stead. But it took a long time for me to get there. And I’m still a little anxious with dealing with through-axles. Luckily, there’a a youtube video for that.

Readers, are you gearheads or devoted mechanics for the activity gear you own? Is your mechanic on speed dial? Do you make a point of avoiding gear as much as possible? Do you just walk or run, avoiding most of the gear debate entirely (except for shoes, I guess…) Let us know in the comments.

accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Bike Tour Voting Challenges

Over the course of about ten days, I spent several hours on the phone with Elections Canada being transferred to one person after another as I tried to get correct information about my voting options, figured out how to vote by mail, and how to resolve complications with the process. I could have voted at any Returning Office before the 14th, but by the time I learned that I was in Espanola and was under the impression that I still had plenty of time to vote by mail since September 14th was listed as the deadline to apply.

Unfortunately, this is misleading since in reality it wouldn’t allow for enough time to receive the special ballot via Canada Post and then get it back to Ottawa by 6pm on September 20th. That’s right, post mark dates aren’t what count here; it has to physically arrive in Ottawa by the 20th. That sort of turn around *might* be possible, but only for those who can afford $85+ to courier it there.

Why is the government not footing this expense for all mail in ballots given the impossibility of the deadline they have listed? Disabled folx and those in remote communities (like Northern Ontario) will be disproportionately excluded by this process. How many ballots will arrive late and thereby be excluded? During the last election “11.1 percent of national ballots and 11.8 percent of international ballots were returned late” (Elections Canada Vote by Mail FAQ). Clearly this is a significant issue even outside of a pandemic.

I applied on September 9th, but even this wasn’t enough time by regular post and maybe not even by express post. My ballot finally arrived to Iron Bridge on September 15th. At that point I was in Thessalon and had been told by Canada Post that the mail left at 5pm. Express post should get it there in three days – just enough time. I packed up as quickly as possible and rode hard and fast to get there in time. 

On the way I made a quick stop at Little Rapids General Store for food. I’d heard they had lots of delicious smoked meat and cheese and I needed food anyway to get through the next stretch without grocery stores. Little Rapids did not disappoint. The smoked rainbow trout and taco flavoured cheese curds were delicious. Beyond that though, the town is a beautiful hole in the wall spot that most drivers would likely miss. I was disappointed that there wasn’t time to hike out to see the salmon spawning or take in the heritage museum. It also had lots of spots that looked great for stealth camping.

Standing outside Little Rapids General Store with dinner and on the go protein (taco flavoured cheese curds, smoked rainbow trout, dried turkey, and dried elk!)

About half way to Iron Bridge I realized that without taking the highway I’d never make it. Pro tip: avoid this stretch of highway 17 at all costs. There’s no paved shoulder and drivers will risk your life here. If I hadn’t been so emotional about the messed up system I likely would have bailed and hoped it would get there anyway. As it was, I plowed on.

My cousin didn’t have time to drop my ballot off and I knew there was no way I’d get to the their place and then the post office in time. A random kind gentleman in his driveway picked up the ballot from my cousin’s (only a few blocks away) and dropped it off at the post office across the road. I made it to the Iron Bridge post office just before 5pm! 

But I got misinformation for the bajillionth time: mail left at 3pm, not 5pm. Couldn’t have gotten there earlier anyway. I cried… not for the first time about the likelihood of my ballot not being counted. I jumped through so many hoops trying to get this ballot in – including changing my route multiple times. Right now it’s not looking hopeful – as of now it’s showing a Tuesday arrival and has no updates since it left Iron Bridge on Thursday. 

Giselle (Canada Post staff) and I crossing our fingers in hopes that the ballot arrives in time to count.

As someone who has lived in poverty since my teens, the right to vote is a huge deal. It’s how we raise our voice, call for change, and hold our government accountable. If you weren’t planning to vote today, please get moving and go vote. My vote probably won’t be counted, but yours still can (if you have the privilege of accessibility). If transportation is a barrier phone the office of anyone who is running and a volunteer will help you get there!

221 in 2021 · commute · cycling

Bettina contemplates an e-bike

The truth is, my high-flying fitness plans aren’t going all that well. I’m swamped at work and life is… well, being life. I miss moving, but I just don’t have time to do more than swimming once a week and maaaaybe a run, if I’m lucky. I look at my count in the 221 in 2021 challenge and it’s just laughable at this point. There’s no way in hell I’m going to make it, and as a completionist this bugs me more than I’d like to admit.

A person on a teal-coloured e-bike.
Photo by Gotrax on Unsplash

So I’ve been thinking about how I could get more movement in. I used to get a lot of my exercise through my commute, either biking or running. But now that the tiny human goes to nursery at the staff kindergarten where I work, I’ve been going by car every day and I’ve completely lost those workouts. If you look at the old post about my run commute I’ve linked above, you’ll see that I work up a very steep hill from where I live. Biking up with a normal bike and a kid’s trailer is just not feasible.

That’s why I’m very seriously contemplating an e-bike. I see other parents with kids in the same daycare do it and I get an itch. It would be perfect. I’m going to do it, I just need to find the right bike and make friends with the idea of parting with a whole bunch of my hard-earned euros (wow, these things are expensive!). Wish me luck on my search!

accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

Rest and Spoons


By the time I reached Whitefish Falls on September 7th, I was tired. More tired than I realized at the time. 

An incredible view of the escarpment as I left Whitefish Falls en route to Espanola.

I called my cousins who recently moved to Iron Bridge to let them know that I was heading their way. They asked if it would be cheating for them to pick me up. I was *relieved* at the offer. My body needed a break. I told them I wanted to bike one direction, but didn’t need to bike both ways. Miles are fun to celebrate, but for me it’s about the adventure far more than kilometres ridden.

The next day I biked to Espanola, had a delightful visit with Ben & Hector (en route to Victoria), bought a few necessities for the cooler weather, and then loaded my bike into my cousin’s car. In the next couple days, I was surprised at how frequently I conked out on the couch in the middle of an admin task, too tired to even bother moving to my hammock. 

Inside my cousin’s car trunk with my bike and bags loaded for a lift to their farm.

People who have chronic health conditions marked by fatigue often call ourselves “spoonies” or make comments like “I’m low on spoons today.” I’m a spoonie, so in contrast to the average person with a full set of spoons it’s easier to overdo it (even when I’m *not* on a bike tour!) and more challenging to return to my baseline after overdoing it. On the Patients Rising blog, John provides a great overview of what Christine Miserandino‘s Spoon Theory means to so many of us with invisible chronic health conditions.

I’d always planned to prioritize pacing and sufficient rest, but this is easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug of war with myself… trying to find the ever elusive line between challenging myself *just enough*, but not so much that I push into a crash. 

Ableism makes this more challenging as well. People who have never done bike camping generally think that 30-60km in a day (my original goal) is an astonishing amount to aim for, while many (most?) people who have done bike camping think it’s a really slow pace. These opposing perspectives on what constitutes a great accomplishment mean I must pay close attention to my own goals and not allow my sense of success to be swayed by how others view me or my abilities. As far as spoonie life goes, paying attention to my physical and mental health needs are key, which subsequently means that flexibility is key… so focusing on numeric based goals feels like asking for disappointment. 

Freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a spectacular sunset from the dock at Roe Park.

After four days of rest, on Sunday evening I rolled onward with strategies for a slower pace including: scheduling rest days, scouring Google Maps in advance for mid-ride rest spots (which could double as an early overnight spot), and ordering freeze dried meals so that running out of food doesn’t force me to ride further than I have energy for. Sunday evening I employed many of these tactics after leaving later than I’d planned. I rode 10km before enjoying a freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a beautiful sunset at Roe Park (aka Sunset Beach). It was perfect. 

For those of you who are wondering, I’m writing this from the cute city of Thessalon after a very eventful night… but that’s a story for another time!

I couldn’t resist adding one more photo from Sunset Beach (Roe Park)… this one looking out at the dock and lake was taken during sunrise.
blog · camping · canoe · cycling · family · fashion · fitness · illness · nature · season transitions · Seasonal sadness · traveling

Blogging in September: My birthday, the blog’s birthday, back to school, and other themes

There are lots of things I could write about today. I’ve spent a fair bit of time pondering my choice of topics.

I was going to write about my annual thyroid cancer check up. It’s today. And if all goes well it’s my last annual check up. (Fingers crossed.) After today they’re every five years. My birthday last week was also mammogram day. It’s as if September weren’t a busy enough month for an academic. It’s also cancer screening season for me.

I thought about writing whether Tracy and I want to write a turning 60 book, to follow up our turning 50 project, Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. We’re having dinner together tonight and no doubt the subject will come up

Let’s see. It’s also blog birthday season. As Tracy posted, happy 9th birthday blog! We’re nearly at 5000 posts too. That’s hard to believe. This post is 4990!

And the blog’s birthday and my birthday, not surprisingly given how the blog got started, are pretty close together. Another possible topic, what does 57 mean anyway?

Here’s a photo from my birthday bike ride!

Jeff, Dhurin, me, Kim, Ellen and Sarah on the birthday bike ride

At this time of year I often write about back to school and trying to stay physically active as work gets busier and busier. This year, unlike last, I’m back in my office. I’m not yet back at the gym.

I’m having big busy days filled with work and people. So many people! I gave a lecture to O-Week students (photo on the right) and hung out with incoming College of Arts students at our Food Truck lunch meet and greet (photo on the left.)

I also biked around meeting parents and students on move-in day. (Round photo at the bottom.)

Sam’s pink Bromption outside Zavitz Hall at the University of Guelph

I’m back in the office now, wearing (mostly) real clothes. I looked at my clothes the other day and wondered why there were so many pairs of yoga pants. Who needs five pairs of yoga pants? Oh right, work from home and the pandemic. I could write about wearing clothes again. I’m working my way back to real shoes but I am not there yet.

In recent years I’ve been suffering a bit from seasonal sadness and trying to tell myself new stories about fall and winter, leaning into the time of cold and dark. I’ve been trying to extend outdoor activities into the fall. We’re going canoe camping again one more time this fall. And we are also looking at more fall gravel riding plans. So there’s that.

I’m a bit nervous that the no travel thing is continuing and it looks like this will be another year in which I don’t get to go somewhere warm with my bike for the winter. I miss the southern US! I miss Florida and Arizona for winter cycling.

In the end, I just want to let you know how much we’ve been enjoying our time in Prince Edward County and likely will continue that into the autumn too.

How’s your September starting out as we move into the fall?

Here’s a farm frog and a some pumpkins.

Frog and pumpkins
cycling · fitness · sailing

Labour Day weekend, last summer days cramming in all the fun

On Saturday Martha suggested that we aim for a labour day long weekend triathlon, one in which we walk, breathe, and connect.

If you substitute “biking” for “walking” (which given the state of my left knee, I have to do) I think our long weekend worked out pretty well. We rode bikes, raced sailboats, and connected with friends. It’s the weekend before the university opens to students and classes and so it wasn’t all leisure. But I feel like the work/rest blend was pretty balanced.

On Friday after work we biked in Prince Edward County with our friend Alex. The trip included three of my favourite things–connection and conversation, observing alpacas, and eating ice cream. The Millennium Trail is pretty wonderful. This time we rode from Wellington to Bloomfield and back, just over 20 km all told.

And then on Saturday Sarah and I raced our Snipe in the Guelph Community Boating Club flat water race. Usually it’s out to the damn and back but the wind died and the course was cut short. We’re getting better and working lots on our boat speed. We finished in the middle of the pack, 5th out of 10 boats.

And then we snuck in a short 15 km ride on the riverside bike trails in Guelph with our friend Rob who stopped by for a bike ride and pizza.

Sam, Rob, and Sarah riding bikes

Sunday was a fun day on campus for me. I was part of the team greeting parents and first year students moving into residence. I rode my pink Brompton. My sparkly bike helmet got a lot of positive attention. The bike allowed me to move between residences saying hi to a lot of the new University of Guelph students.

Sam’s pink bike and sparkly helmet in front of Zavitz Hall at the U of G

I know the next few weeks will be much less balanced. More work and more stress as we navigate our way back onto campus for the fall semester. It’s a time of vaccine mandates and hybrid meetings and long work days. But it sure felt good to get outside and have some fun this long weekend.

How did your weekend work out on the balance front?