Mar 31, 2008

Scantic Race Report

The results were very good, second place, and we were only beaten by 15 seconds in a very competitive race. Looking back, it's pretty easy to see where we could have easily made up the time, but it's tough to know during the race how close it will be with the staggered starts. Ultimately we had a great time, and so the race was a success!

We got there in plenty of time for registration and to watch a bit of the video slide show from last year. Spotting my brother and I coming through the rapids section without dumping the boat was pretty nice, and we hoped a good sign for the race to come. We scouted a bit of the staircase rapids, the final set of drops right by the finish line, and noticed immediately that the water was quite a bit lower than last year. It was clear that the line we took successfully last year was still available, a quiet holding eddy right between the two drops. Once again, we planned to get over the first drop and into that area then carefully come across the ledge and line up the second drop. We would have time to make sure we hit the chute square and run right through it.

Heading up to the start, we dropped off the boats and shuttled the vehicles back with my brother-in-law Sean who had come to watch and was going to keep my daughter so that she could watch the race as well. It was pretty cold and windy still, I was wearing a wetsuit with one shirt under and one thicker shirt over it. The waiting is the coldest part since you don't want to overdress and then be hot during the race and you need to leave all your warm clothes at the other end of the river. Finally the novice racers had all started and they were ready to start the full course paddlers.

Our class was pretty big (it turned out to be 14 boats) and we started 5th I believe. We jumped in the boat and hung out waiting for the go signal. After the start, we almost immediately passed 1 boat, and then 2 or 3 more. It's a relatively straight shot to the portage, 2 miles or so worth of turns but no significant drops so while you need to stay sharp there isn't a whole lot of risk. The portage comes up right where the novice class gets out, and the tough stretch begins.
We jumped out all alone and headed up the step climb to the water stop, grabbed an orange slice and headed down the steeper slope back to the river. Basically, you hang on to the rope and let the canoe slide down. We came up to another boat at the bottom, but passed them getting into the water and pushing off faster.

Almost immediately, you come to Stockers Rapids, a steep chute with an optional portage. We elected to run it of course, it's no fun to go around, and headed towards the left. Unfortunately, we had not scouted it prior, and with the water level a bit low we had virtually nowhere to go when we got to the drop. There's a huge chute that we were going to go over, probably a 4 foot drop or so and no way to avoid it. We did manage to stay upright, but got enough water in the boat that shortly thereafter we rolled when hitting another rock. We pushed it quickly to the side and jumped back in. I think we actually lost more time 1 minute later when we got hung up on a rock and had to jump out of the canoe to push off. We also took the time to empty all the water at that point as well.Moving on from there, we made good time and didn't see any other boats. We navigated the rest of the river pretty much without issue, going through the chimney pretty smoothly and only pausing a bit to bail out a little water. We approached the finish rapids and saw our first boat in a while, they were having a bit of difficulty but we went through just as we planned. I saw my daughter and brother-in-law on the side and heard them yelling as we dropped through the chute to the bridge. This was also the point where another boat passed us, a couple who win the Male/Female division every year. They went by us pretty quick, but we pulled to the finish and jumped out happy with our race.
As I mentioned, we ended up in second place, getting nipped by just a few seconds. We hung around and watched the race video and ultimately got a little wooden canoe plaque. You can page through the Pictures here if you like, there's no good ones of us other than waiting at the start line but you can get a feel for some of the rapids.


Mar 30, 2008


Great race... we finished in second place by 15 seconds, and only went in the drink once! Pictures are posted on the site, but I haven't had time to look through them yet....


Mar 26, 2008

Three days till Splash

Three days to go until the Splash!

Here's the view from the finish line bridge. Lots of action as you can see, it's worth a trip out!

Here's one shot of my adventures last year, my brother is pretty cold at this point I think!


Mar 25, 2008

Canoe "dry" run

Matt and I took a run down the Hockanum river this past Saturday to get our rhythm set in the canoe and scout a bit for the upcoming races. We'll race the Scantic Splash this Saturday and then the Hockanum River Race a week later.

We ran a few rapids similar to the one on the left... well similar but minus about 5 feet of drop! The Hock has a few drops, but mostly it's tricky corners and some sweeping currents which push you into obstacles. It also features a flat section across Union Pond where staying straight and strong paddling are the keys to a fast transit.

We worked on our communication and re-establishing our feel for the boat so we wouldn't be entering this weekend's race cold. The keys for us in the Scantic Race are going to be staying upright and picking our way through the obstacles. The Scantic is much more challenging from a whitewater perspective than the Hock, it has more and larger drops. Last year we went in the water three times and beyond being very cold (it was 32 degrees), falling slows you down quite a bit. We need to focus on slowing down and setting up each drop better and staying back in the boat to keep the bow out of the water.

If anyone is interested in watching the race, there is a really good spectator spot where the finish line is. The largest set of rapids are right before the bridge and the action there will be a lot of fun to watch. Getting there is pretty easy, and there is some on street parking available nearby. Keep in mind that the bridge over the river will be closed to cars, so whichever direction you come from you wont be able to drive to the other side although you can certainly walk. You can check out for more details, and use the map below to find your way to the finish line area. Hope to see some folks there. Oh, and if you're looking for us, there will be two guys in a green canoe, both wearing wetsuits, and I'll probably have a red shirt on.

View Larger Map


Volleyball Recrap

Not a particularly good result last night, we lost the match 1-2 and tripled our loss total for the year. The good news is that we are still solidly entrenched in first place, but we didn't play well at all. Even worse, the team we played was my brother, uncle and cousin so I'll probably have to hear about this for a while. They took advantage of us pinching up on the ends to cover the drops over blocks and in general were more fired up then us. I think we've gotten in a bit of a lull lately and been playing below our abilities.

Personally, I think that I played pretty well. My bumps have improved drastically since I've focused on hitting with flattened arms and my spiking has been really good as well. I need to work more on blocking, getting both arms up. I deflected a couple spikes last night, but not enough to reject them straight back and the would drop in anyway.

We also played a bit of racquetball last night. It's been probably 10 years since I've played, and it was a lot of fun. I'll have to try playing more in the next few weeks. Last night was the signup for the next session for Volleyball and I've decided not to sign up. It's a bit of a let down, I've really enjoyed it and improved tremendously, but my schedule just doesn't work well over the summer. Racing season is approaching and I have a lot of other stuff going on so I'm going to take the summer of from Volleyball. Hopefully I won't get too rusty over the summer and I'll start back up in the fall.


Mar 24, 2008

How to install your wheel...

This post is specifically for my brother Matt!


Front Discs

As I mentioned last week, I installed the disc brakes on my front wheel of my mountain bike this past weekend. My brother helped me with the job and it went fairly well. We had some fits and starts with trying to figure out all the adjustments but ultimately got it all set up.

We started by heading to Tolland Bike to get a new cable for the brake, the distance is longer and obviously I couldn't use the existing one. I got there pretty early and noticed that the bike shop was still closed, but I headed around to the side when I saw Dave the shop owner. He laughed at me for showing up so early, but ultimately took care of me. As a side plug, if you need any bike work go see Dave at Tolland Bike, he will take care of you and you'll get solid work for reasonable prices. We headed back to Matt's house, set the bike on his jury-rigged bike stand and got too work removing the old brake. The screw out pretty easy, and that part was pretty simple.

The directions included with the new brakes aren't great, the diagrams are a bit hard to read but we started by mounting the rotors on the wheel as directed. It's pretty hard to screw that part up!

Next we attached the caliper to the fork and here's where we had a little trouble. Dave at the bike shop mentioned that we should keep it a bit loose to allow adjust me, the squeeze the brakes and tighten the bolts with the brakes on which would keep the caliper centered while it was being attached. Our problem here was which bolts to tighten! In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that the mounting bolts we left loose were not the ones he meant. There are two bolts underneath that do the "macro" adjustment, then the red knobs let you do a "micro" adjustment after the brakes are set up. We tightened up the main bolts and discovered we had no clearance for the front of the disc, and the brakes didn't grab well. After fighting with it for a while it was clear we were missing something and finally discovered the right adjustment bolts. After figuring that out, it was a pretty simple matter of setting the right clearance and moving to the next step. Routing and mounting the cable is also easier than I expected, and we added a single wire tie to hold it in place.

As I suggested above, the only really difficult part was getting the adjustment right, and now that I know what bolts to use, I should have no problem when my rear wheel comes in this week and I can set that up.

I took a few more shots of the brake, it definitely looks much more cool than the rim brakes I had. The real test was a ride though, and I headed out Sunday AM excited to try it out. It was an ideal test, once again temps were in the teens, and it was wet and muddy. Shortly into the ride, my rear brake became fouled with ice and mostly useless, but the front stayed nice and crisp. Halfway through I got a bit of play in the cable, I suspect it either stretched a bit, or needs tightening but the good news is that since I installed it myself I'm confident in making adjustments. I also have to get used to the throw and how fast it grabs when you squeeze it hard! My v-brakes I could really yank on not have to work about them locking. This brake would have good touch on it, but also allow me to stop in a hurry if I grabbed it completely. I almost went over the front a couple times until I got used to it!

So far I'm loving them though, I'll post another review after I put the rear ones on as well.


Mar 19, 2008


I haven't been feeling to well for the last couple of weeks, my workouts are starting to drag and I'm just not feeling energetic. I think the brief change in my diet was helping but then I yoyo-ed back to poor eating habits. Spring is coming, and with it a lot of hopes for feeling better, riding and running faster and looking slimmer. Unfortunately, the hopes haven't yet turned into actions, but I'm once again going to try and restart my motivation.

Other news, I ordered a rear wheel that is disc-compatible, but it will be a week or two until I get it. I'm going to try and do the front brake this weekend anyway... take it in steps. I'm also hoping to get out in the canoe in preparation for the Scantic Splash. Take a look at some pictures or here from last year... it was a blast then, hope it's even better this year.


Mar 18, 2008

Oh... I did go for a short moutain bike ride on Sunday. A bit of wrenching on the ride, and lot's of people but not a long duration. It was fun though, here's the whole group minus one who walked back with total equipment malfunction and of course me holding the camera :)


Disc brakes...

My disc brakes came in yesterday, now I just have to get a new wheel/hub and some cables and I can start setting them up. I would still like to do this myself, perhaps this weekend with a little bit of help if I can find a volunteer! They are definitely a timely addition, I once again had some braking issues this weekend, partly because my pads are worn. The cold and muddy weather doesn't help the performance of my current setup, so it will be a relief to change them.

I promise lots of pictures of the debacle if it happens :)



Another week, another 3-0 set... ho hum.

We actually had a lot of fun last night, the second game was very hard fought and we had some long volleys. The final results were good too, we won all three and still have not lost a game since the first week of the season. Our record is something like 17-1 I believe, I'm not sure how many weeks we've played so far.

It's fun being on a dominating team, however we have had a few lapses lately where we played down a little bit or screw around. This almost cost us the second game last night as we were a bit lazy or trying to get to fancy and ended up in a tight game. As the game got closer to the end, we played some nice volleys and went back and forth but ultimately found ourselves on the lower end of a 23-21 score. After we won the serve to get to 23-22, the other team took a timeout and we talked about focusing on getting 3 points for the win. I was on the front line, and got two straight kills to get us to 24 points, then hit one just wide to give them the serve back tied at 24 apiece. We got the win when there server hit it just long and my teammate in the back row jumped out of the way at the last minute! It was a great game and a lot of fun! As is often the case, the losing team let's down a bit after a close game and we pulled away to win the final game easily.

Personally, I felt that I played pretty well. I tried to focus on bumping with my arms flat and it definitely worked much better! It made a huge difference in my passing, however it was easy to fall back into old habits in the craziness of a game. I talked to myself before every point, and if I received the serve I was able to make a good pass. I messed up a bit on some subsequent plays if the volley went long as I would drift back into the old habit, but overall I was very pleased with the difference. On the front line, I also played quite well. My blocking and hitting are both improving and I can consistently get an attack off. I don't always get a kill, but if I have a bad angle I can usually put it in a good spot to at least make the return tougher on the other team.

Just a few more weeks until playoffs...


Mar 12, 2008

Volleyball skills?

I've been mentioning in my posts for a while that I feel like the two weaknesses in my game are passing accuracy from the back row and blocking, and so I've tried to do a little research on technique. This morning at the gym, my uncle gave me a good tip for passing. He suggested that I focus on turning my arms out more so that instead of bumping with the side of the arm, I bump with the underside. In essence, focus on twisting the arms out when I bump since there is a bigger surface area and you have better control over where the pass goes. I've been focusing on bending my legs and getting solidly under the ball, but I think he's right in that I can't be consistent without changing my arm technique a bit.

I tried doing a little research online for technique tips or instructions and found some interesting stuff on suggested bump drills and things to practice. I also founds some cool videos here and this cool online book put up by Google. Starting on page 29 of the book is a good description of how to bump, and I'm going to try and keep most of that in mind, specifically focusing on getting a good platform to hit the ball with, for next Monday.


Mar 11, 2008

MTB upgrade

I finally ordered the disc brakes that I've been looking at for a while. They are the Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes that should bolt on in place of my current v-brakes. The main consideration for me is inclement weather riding, when v-brake or rim brakes get cold and wet they don't stop very well. This weekend, I again lost brakes at a downhill and managed to get off the trail in a spot where I could stop without killing myself.

Upgrading to disc brakes requires a few changes, but I've already started the process. My new replacement frame has the tabs needed to mount the brake cylinders and pads on the rear, the previous frame didn't. My front fork will also support disc mounts and when I recently had to replace my front tire I got a hub that was dual-purpose so I could attach the disc brakes if I chose them. I suspect my one remaining issue will be the rear hub, I'm going to be doing a little research to try and find the most economical way to mount the rear discs on the wheel.

The mechanical disc brakes don't require new cables and levers like a hydraulic version one at the expense of some braking power. They are as good as v-brakes, just not the big stopping power of a hydraulic set. They're also a lot cheaper both to purchase and install, and I'm hoping to be able to do most of the work myself. I'll post some pictures of the new setup when I get it working.


Volleyball update

A mixed evening for me... we won all three games, but I didn't play great. The games weren't real close, we played a pretty poor team and won handily while even fooling around a bit. The first game we only rotated four times, I never got to serve and we won big even after relaxing and letting them get 5 straight points on there serve while we were at 24 points. Final score was around 25-8 I think, and it really wasn't even that close as we started to try and get fancy instead of focusing on the game. The second and third game were closer, as we tried tougher serves or getting better passes, but it was clear the whole time that we were going to win all three.

I played poorly the first game, whiffing completely on one spike, and making a bad pass from the back row. Most of the game was standing around while the other team muffed our serve return, so it was hard to get into a flow and it didn't feel like we even got warmed up. Things got a bit better later in the third game, but it wasn't until we started pickups that I could get going a bit. I made a couple good plays, and got stuffed a few times, but it was fun. I also managed to crash and run over another player and got my finger sliced on her earring but it wasn't too bad. Fun night overall, but I'm looking forward to better games next week.


Mar 10, 2008

Spin up

It feels great to get back to a good spin class, what a difference the instructor makes! I was back in the gym for a Monday spin class for the first time in a few months, and got my butt kicked. With Volleyball league on Monday night, it's a bit tough to do Mon. or Tues. morning spin, which is when the tough teacher is there. It's a totally different mindset the other days of the week, where it's work for a song, then take a break and have some water. Deb stays on you the whole time, making you work harder and harder. We finished with a full on sprint where she walked us through the process similar to the end of the race when you are going for the line. High resistance, start standing and sit as your legs get fully spun up. I was very close to puking at the end of 30 seconds but it felt great when we were done.
I also managed to get out on the mountain bike this weekend with my brother and two cousins. It was cold, in the high teens, and very muddy since it's been raining quite a bit. Overall not too bad, although Justin had a tough time when he crashed over the handlebars crossing a stream and landed face first in about a foot of water. It's tough to warm back up, and we had to swap out some gloves to keep his hands warm towards the end of the ride.
The poor kid was having trouble figuring out which way to go the whole morning :)

We also saw some more animals than usual yesterday morning, a good sized doe crossed our trail and the dogs went tearing after her. They didn't have much luck, and returned shortly only to get distracted a few minutes later by this. A fisher cat cut across the trail about 5o feet in front of Justin and I and once again one of the dogs went running after it. I tried to call it back since I don't think that it would really want to mess with the cat, but fortunately it didn't catch up anyway. There was some debate when my brother caught up about what it was, but seeing this picture now, it was definitely a fisher cat. It was a good ride overall, even with the muddy conditions. Hopefully it will continue to warm and we can get some better rides in.
Volley ball tonight, if I'm lucky my legs will be recovered by then...


Mar 5, 2008

Under a 100 days...

My uncle pointed out that we have less than a 100 days to go until Mooseman, I guess I'd better get serious.

I've just this week made some serious changes to my diet, it's time to refocus and take the next step down. I've plateaued over the last year around 220, and I need to make a significant effort to change this. I'm doing a sort of South Beach diet approach where I cut almost all carbs for a couple of weeks to try and break my sugar addiction. This approach worked to get me started almost 4 years ago when I dropped from 260 plus to where I am now.

I also need to start riding more regularly and running consistently now. Over the winter I've done what I could to stay active and enjoy myself. The swimming and mountain biking have kept me going and I've enjoyed it. I don't want to get too serious, but with an Olympic and 1/2 Iron distance triathlon back to back I need to be in significantly better shape. It's time to get back to consistent morning workouts at the gym in addition to riding and volleyball.


Mar 4, 2008


I have been considering moderating comments as I've gotten a little spam. I'd like to keep it off for now, it's not that big an issue, and it's easier to comment if it's open.

Just please, be careful about clicking links in the comments!


Volleyball Week 4 - Season 2

A very grandiose title I admit, so I'd better back it up with some substance. The good news is that I can, we played probably the 3 most fun games I've played in the league last night. We went up against my uncle, cousin, and brother in a match up of two of the best teams. Our team was in first place with only a single lost game in 3 weeks, and the other team was currently in third.

All three of the games were intense and closely fought games, and my uncle summarized it well afterwards by saying "We battled like crazy and seemed to be exhausted after playing for a long time when I looked up and the score was 2 - 2". It seemed that every volley, especially in the first two games was long... and not just get it over the net multiple times, but bump, set, spike, with a nice dig out on the other side and it would repeat back and forth. It wasn't a case of not getting a good attack, but more outstanding defensive plays to keep the points alive.

The first game was close as I mentioned, and we managed to win by a few points. It seemed to take me much of the game to get back in the groove after missing two weeks. I didn't make a lot of mistakes, just felt tentative and I couldn't make good plays. The second game I felt much better, and this game was very tight! I had rotated out and we lost a few points to go down 24 to 20 when we won the point to get the serve back and I came back in on the front line. We needed to get four straight points or we would lose and everyone on both sides was all pumped up. We got the first two behind solid serving by Greg, and you could feel the pressure ratchet up. At 24 to 23, my uncle went for the spike directly across from me. He didn't get a good hit on it and it dribbled on the net for a second before I got just enough of it to make sure it fell on his side. 24 to 24 now, the last point, the gym was really humming, this game had been a tremendous battle. Greg got the serve in and the other team made a poor pass to the front. The setter went far to my right to get the ball and Eric followed her over. She made a perfect set, right back to the spot where Eric would have been if he hadn't followed it across. I could see his eyes get real big when he realized he wouldn't get to it. It dropped and we took the second game. Trading "good games" on the way under the net, we really meant it this time!

The third game didn't quite measure up, I think they were a bit emotionally drained and we pulled away pretty easy, sweeping the evenings game 3-0. It was a great return for me personally, and as I mentioned, a lot of fun. I stayed for pickups as well and played okay. It's definitely different than playing as a team, as you don't have a good feeling for how the other players are going to move and what balls they can get to. Still a good workout though.


Mar 3, 2008

Volleyball restart

It's been two weeks since I got to play Volleyball, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've heard that my team has been playing very well while I was gone, so I'm excited to be playing and gearing up for the playoffs!

Recap to come tomorrow morning.


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