Ironman Mont Tremblant

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Forest City Velodrome (London-Ontario)

On Saturday, a bunch of us triathletes decided to drive to London, Ontario which is about a two hour drive from Toronto.  Here is Ontario's only indoor velodrome and while I've seen it on TV (olympics), the thought was intriguing.  Lisa had ridden several months ago and wanted to go again so she booked a bunch of spots.  I emailed a bunch of friends and Rom, Rob N, Mike A, Lisa and me all headed out for some fun.

I told everyone to meet at my house for 9:00 am as our track session started at 12:00 pm but you had to sign paperwork so we wanted to be there for 11:30 am.  I knew people would be late in showing up and I was right.  By the time everyone got to my house, it was about 9:20 am.  Then we hemmed and hawed about who was going to drive.  I volunteered to drive but no one wanted to drive so Tammy said I could take the Honda Pilot.  The only trouble was, that I thought I was driving my car (along with someone else driving) and took out the car seat and gassed up my car.  So I had to put the car seat back into my car (so Tammy could drive it with the kids), take the car seat out of the Pilot, clean and wipe the seats, gas up the Pilot and then pick up Rom along the way to the highway.  By that time, it was after 10:00 am. 

The drive down was fun and all non stop Ironman talk as everyone had done an Ironman.  It was pretty funny as the conversation turned to Slowtwitch and the best threads of the years:
  1. Girl gets dumped by boyfriend before IMFL and then cuts the course during race
  2. Ex-wife tries to sell IMSG finisher jacket husband gave her volunteering
  3. Investment advisor who steals from his clients so he can go to Epic Training camp (You have to qualify to attend this camp)          
We stopped at a rest stop along the way and everyone got Mr Subs because the line for Tim Hortons was crazy.  I got a foot long sub and woofed it down while driving.  I can't remember the last time I ate a foot long sub but figured it was okay as we were going to be hammering it on the track.  When we got there (after missing the turn off), naturally we were late.  The first thing I noticed was how much colder London
(-10 C) was than Toronto (0 C) even though we were only 200 km away.  The second thing I noticed was the hallways in the building were the same temperature as outside.  Clearly heating the building wasn't a prioirty.

The building itself was an old rundown hockey rink were the London Knights (local junior hockey team) played several years ago.  All the seats were still intact but they built a track inside the rink.  Needless to say, the building was a dump.  We signed our waviers and got changed in the crappy old unheated dressing room and headed to the track. 

Another surprise was that all the bikes were Fixies (ie no brakes, gears or peddling backwards).  We brought our own pedals and mounted up.  The first drill was simply to ride inside the track, on the concrete rink floor just getting used to the bikes and learning how to slow down and unclip.  It was a little nerve racking at first.  Eventually we rode around with little jaunts on to the track until we were riding entirely on the track.  The track had different color rings painted around.  Black was the lowest ring followed by red, blue and then at the top of the track, yellow.  No one went above the red line.  The track was very short and only 180 meters around so it took about 10 seconds to complete one lap.  The hardest part was trying to keep the pacing.  I often found I was going too fast and it didn't take long to get too close to the rider in front of me.  Seeing that I didn't have any brakes, the only way to slow down was to back pedal a little or ride higher.  The other problem was that if you didn't pay attention, you ran the risk of crashing into the corners as the straight aways were only about 50 meters long and at 30 km/hr you only had seconds to start turning. 

After a couple of drills, we were split up into two groups of four and five riders. I mentioned to Scott, one of the trainers, that I'd be interested in picking up the pace.  I wore my heart rate monitor and while it was impossible to look at my watch while riding, I knew I wasn't working up a sweat.  Scott explained that this session wasn't about hammering it and more about learning control of the bike.  Because the track is so small, the reaction time to a mistake is literally seconds but he said we would speed up a little bit.  While one group was on the track, the other group was in the middle taking a rest and chatting.  There was a thermometer and at track level, it was 8 degrees C (46 F) and at least this part of the building was heated.  The hallways were much colder. 

On the next run, Scott did pick up the pace to 35 km/hr but I found I was drifting a lot more.  Holding the black line was much harder and required a lot more attention.  I also found that my neck and shoulders were beginning to ache as I was riding by the drop down bars.  They were much more stable and offered more control of the bike but also an unfamiliar position.  The other problem was that the group became more spread out. With only four riders, that wasn't much of a problem but if we had both groups riding it would have been.  I tried to glance back to see how far we were spread out and almost lost control of the bike.  Definitely it takes time to getting used to this bike and track.

The last drill involved everyone but one rider would drop lower to the apron and the whole group would ride higher to pass him and then he would hammer it to catch up to the last guy.  This was much more interesting and a little bit more of a workout.  We were only going at 30 km/hr and while that's a good pace outside, on the track it was a pace that you could hold all day long.  I think it would have been like riding about 22 km/hr outside.

I think we missed the last drill as other people started showing up for there session.  Lisa thought we were either not as skilled and couldn't handle the last drill or we ran out of time.

All in all, it was great fun and I would love to back for session two but it is a long drive which makes it a long day.  We left my house around 10 am (after all the dicking around) and got back at 5 pm.  For the upcoming Pan Am games in 2015, they are building a velodrome in Milton which is just west of Toronto.  That would be a 45 minute drive and much more manageable. 

Rom chowing down


  1. OK, this is COOL!! It is something, I want to try, but I dont have one anywhere close to me

  2. Man, how cool is that! A fun roadtrip and getting to ride a velodrome!

  3. How much more fun can it get? Enjoying a nice ride with chitchat Ironman talk can never be boring. That Velodrome is quite enormous, I’m pretty sure that you guys have a lot of fun. By the way, I just can’t ignore the fact about your driving experience that day. I’d like to say that you should drive safely. Have your car regularly maintained so that it can be reliable for a long ride.