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A Week of Mountain Workouts in Kananaskis (Canada)

Well that was a busy week.  Phew!

I left Paris early Monday morning for the annual ANT+ Symposium, located about 75 minutes outside of Calgary (Alberta, Canada), in the Kananaskis Country area.  Basically, the mountains.

The Symposium is where the majority of sports technology companies come to collaborate for a few days and discuss upcoming protocol plans, but also just a lot of integration plans.  If you go to an event like Eurobike and Interbike – it’s all about marketing and PR.  Whereas the ANT+ Symposium is all about the lead engineers and program owners from all the companies you know and love, discussing tech goodness for a week.

Of course, given everyone at the event is fairly athletic – there’s many an opportunity to go out on rides and runs.  It’s a bit of a revolving door of activity.  The event’s held at a mountain lodge with nothing but gazillions of miles of hiking/riding trails around, adjacent to a ski area.

I was on the stage twice.  Once as part of a round-table session talking about the quantified self and data capture & interpretation, and then another presentation of my own, talking to launching a sports technology product.  Once I get the video I’ll circle back next week with another post.

In the meantime, here’s a look at an impressive slate of workouts.  Every activity I did had a specific purpose though, all of them trying to test something or other.  Usually a few somethings or others actually.

Monday – Iceberg Swim:

After 10+ hours of flying I landed in sunny Calgary.  I can’t remember the last time I actually landed in this city during the day, I’ve historically always come in at night.

From there I drove up to Ghost Reservoir.  I had asked the ANT+ folks as to where I might be able to get in an openwater swim.  Their response seemed to indicate that I might be delusional, but did give me the suggestion of this nice big spot that was roughly along my route from the airport to the hotel.

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The Epix pegged the water temperature at 51.8°F, which is a brisk 11°C.

So I plopped on my wetsuit and headed on to the water.  I stood in the water near the desolate boat ramp for a while – happy that I had drank plenty of fluids beforehand (like any true triathlete).

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I didn’t plan on a super-long swim.  I was really trying to get some initial openwater data with the HRM-TRI strap.  I’ll have tons of opportunity next week for plenty of openwater swims in warmer waters, thus was just…well…testing the waters.

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I swam across the lake to the other side, passing some sailboats along the way.  Then I angled out a bit to make another point on a triangle:

Finally, I worked my way back to the dock.  All in about 20 minutes long.  It really only took a minute or two of swimming (after standing for 10 minutes in the water) to get warmed up.  I could easily have swam longer, but wanted to be up in the mountains by dark.

After my swim, I played around on the dock for a few minutes…just cause I could:

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Here’s the Epix & HRM-TRI strap concurrently.

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I also recorded it with the FR920XT & HRM-TRI:

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And that’s all in addition to the Fenix3 acting as the reference on the swim buoy:

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More on the swimming straps after next week.

Tuesday – Banff National Park Ride:

I headed out early Tuesday morning to meet up with the 4iiii engineering crew to go for a nice long ride.  There wasn’t any particular testing purpose here, other than just going for a ride.  We cruised down a valley for a long while, mirroring the Trans Canada Highway, on rolling hills.

Eventually this would take us towards the famed Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.  We climbed up to Lake Moraine first, and stopped for a few minutes to get all assortment of photos.

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Then we backtracked down to Lake Louise, and again, got a few more photos.

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After that we may or may not have stopped for donuts.  Pics or it didn’t happen.

Then from there it was back along the rolling Bow Valley Parkway towards the cars.  On the way back, I got myself one animal on my Canadian Animal Bingo card – a coyote:

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All in, the ride was some 55 miles (~88 kilometers), so not too shabby.  A little bit of elevation tossed in there of course, given we were in the mountains.  Thanks to the crew for the borrowed bike, as well as the great day to ride!

Wednesday – Mountain Riding & Running:

Just after lunch on Wednesday, I decided to just head out for a simple 40-45 minute run.  Nothing too fancy, nor with anyone else.  Just me and the mountains.

Armed with the TomTom Spark, Garmin Epix, and Forerunner 25, I worked my way down the road and eventually down to the river:

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I then ran along the river a little bit before coming back up the beast of a hill on the running/cycling path that winds through the forest.

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As is customary for me when running and riding around the area, I completed one loop of the scenic overlook trail before coming back to the hotel.

As I walked back into the hotel I checked in on how much it might cost to rent a mountain bike.  My thinking was perhaps later that afternoon or the next morning.

Turned out that Wednesday was their last day for rentals, before they sold off their rental fleet – so it was now or never!  Well, obviously, now it was.

I went inside and found a sucker to go with me, Chip from Wahoo Fitness.  We picked up our bikes about an hour later and headed out for a ride.  On past runs and rides of ours here, we’ve even seen a moose.  For this trip, we were aiming to upgrade to a bear.

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Unfortunately, no bears were in our deck of cards.  But we did have fun with the wearable gimbal a bit more.  Here’s some clips during the ride:

As I had noticed while in Vegas, the wearable gimbal works fantastic while in a chest harness, but utterly sucks when attached to mountain bike bars (but is mostly OK when on road bike bars).  The sharp jolts on a mountain bike when attached to the handlebars are just too much for the gimbal to compensate for, and it basically gives up and falls out of alignment.

But when attached to either the GoPro or Garmin VIRB chest harness, your body absorbs the sharpest points of the shocks, and I never saw failures there.  Worked great!

We’d eventually come out on the roadway and take the highway back to the hotel.  It was somewhat downhill, so our speeds were nice and quick!

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As we neared the hotel, we managed to spot a few deer on one of the cross country trails, though they don’t come out well in the photos. No worries, still counts!

Thursday: The Trifecta

Somehow my days kept on getting busier.  On Thursday, immediately following my roundtable/panel discussion, I headed out for a short 5K run.  The route was an abbreviated version of what I ran the day before…just without the extra river portion along the flats.  I don’t have much in the way of photos from this run, so here’s one as we completed the scenic overlook portion of the loop back near the hotel:

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I then went back in to the conference area and grabbed lunch before delivering my presentation in the early afternoon.

After which, I stalked the Specialized guy to try and get a bit of ride time on their crazy Turbo Levo e-bike.  This was the one with the Connect IQ app for it.  At the same time, Mateo from Strava was also trying to swindle some time on the Specialized bike, so we decided to go splitsy’s on it and headed outside.  He stole another bike and we’d just trade off on the bike.

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I got first dibs and it was certainly impressive.  It’s motor was speed-capped at 20MPH, which is required per various US regulations for different categories.  It was definitely entertaining how easy it was to come back up the main hill to the hotel with it.  Here’s a short video I shot of that:

We’d then take it off-road and climb up the mountain above the hotel into the woods.  About half-way through that we switched bikes and Mateo gave it a whirl.

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Things may or may not have gotten a bit dirty.

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We arrived back just in time to see pretty much the entire contingent of attendees preparing to load the busses to another venue (for more riding).  Coming back from a ride covered in mud was sorta like when someone walks into the kitchen and you’re eating straight from the ice cream tub.

No worries, we made a quick turn-around and soon found ourselves down at the Canmore Nordic Center, about 40 minutes away by car.  It’s here they’ve got a slew of mountain bike trails, as well as cross-country skiing trails and quite a bit of infrastructure for biathlon.  It was originally constructed for the Olympics in 1988.

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They had arranged for mountain bike rentals here, and soon we were out in the woods, climbing up the hills and gasping for air.  Being at 4,600ft (1,400m) of elevation didn’t help any of these workouts.  Nor the fact that it was my 3rd workout of the day.  Or that the trail was actually called EKG:

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We travelled in a group of about 6-8 people – folks from Quarq, Stages, Garmin, Wahoo, Dynastream, Magura, Kinomap, and more being in my group.

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Here’s a Hyperlapse video I put together of the entire ride, using a GoPro Hero4 Silver mounted to my chest harness and then run through the Hyperlapse app.  It’s the first time I’ve tried the app.

Eventually we wrapped up at sunset and I took care of a few photos off to the side.  I love mountain locales for product review photos.

Friday – A Test Ride:

Much to basically everyone’s chagrin, I’m all about squeezing every last second of time out of the day.  But in particular, days where I may have flights on the agenda.  On Friday my main limiter was sunlight.  I needed to get some product review shots, but really had to wait for the sunlight to be bright enough to get what I wanted.  So I wasted a bit of time in the duller light with the drone shooting a few things:

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Once the sun broke over the mountains and illuminated the scenery I was able to get my shots done in a few minutes and head towards the airport.  But first I’d stop by the 4iiii offices in Cochrane to get in a short test ride.

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We had planned to ride about 45-60 minutes, but due to none of us apparently having coffee first – that got sliced down to 30 minutes while we troubleshot us collectively being brainpower limited caffeine challenged and pairing to the wrong device and not figuring out why it wasn’t working right.

No worries, we still got in some riding – another beautiful day in the area.  A wee bit windy on the outbound (with a slight climb), but it made for tons of fun coming back into town.

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More details on what I was testing sometime later this week.

By time I got back, my schedule for the day was sorta blown.  I usually have things planned down to the minute, with a small buffer for issues – but this made things a wee bit tight. So there are no further pictures between leaving the bike and getting on the plane.  No worries…I always make it. 🙂

With that – I’m now on a flight from Chicago to Paris (wrapping up writing my slightly delayed Power Meter Guide), headed back for an insanely busy weekend with The Girl (it’s the CupCakery’s 3rd birthday, so we’ve got lots going on!).

Have a great weekend all – and thanks for reading!

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34 Comments

  1. Sebastian J.

    Breathtaking panorama!
    Great stuff here.

    Gimbal is interesting on the chest strap but somehow not sure this is the best way for that. Would not mind to have a little more shaking going on during a mountain bike ride.

    What ear plugs are you using during your run? Are also using the Jaybird? Love them…

  2. John

    That hyperlapse is awesome!

    But just a coyote?! Where are the moose?

    • MattB

      Cycling in trees just looks terrifying to me at hyperlapse speeds, especially when Ray appears to be yanking the handlebars side to side wildly… though I would imagine in real life those slalom steering sections are actually the slow bits!

  3. JP

    This “blog” is so awesome; I don’t even have a bike yet but I’m checking it like 4x a day…

    Thanks DC.

  4. I’d say moose sighting is an upgrade over bear. Up here I’ve seen a moose twice in 30 years. Bears: couple times a year.

    • fraser

      I stood in front of a moose with its young baby moose in the middle of a night in sweden. It was a bit scary because I did not know how she would react (they can attack when they have young to defend it), but they just stood there, looked in my direction and left towards the forest. An encounter I will never forget.

      Plus I had a blackbear ratteling at my food-box in the yosemite NP while i was in my tent. I almost craped my pants. 😀 I stoped breathing for half an hour or so just to avoid making any noise. 😉

  5. KantoBoy

    Shame on me having chosen to go elsewhere instead of exploring my homeland (although it’s actually more expensive to travel around Canada than just to go overseas).

    and that’s one heck of a busy week but I’d exchange anything to do your job Ray.

  6. Happy Runner

    Not the keynote this year? That does it. I’m gonna sell all my ANT+ stuff and go exclusively BT Smart from now on.

  7. Kris

    The yellow trees in the photo from your Thurs run look like they could be larch trees with the pine needles turning a bright yellow that is Spectacular this time of year. Did you see them up close?

  8. John

    LOL at 1:11 on the gimbal video, where the bike computer is suddenly tilted 30° to starboard!

  9. wow, I’m impressed with the gimbal ! Can you sometime tell us how to mount he VIRB on this harness ? thanks

    • Ray Wright

      Second that question. My wife almost hit me on the head when she saw me looking at GoPros again just for this gimbal. I have 3 Virbs.

    • Unfortunately gimbals tend to be very camera specific, mostly because they need to balance the weight very carefully. To date, I’m aware of no VIRB gimbals.

      For example, even the Hero4 Session wouldn’t work in these – though, this one project I saw on Indiegogo is planning on making an adapter for theirs: link to indiegogo.com

      We’re seeing a small explosion of gimbals (and interest in them) over the last month or two, so much so that I’d be willing to bet we’ll see companies like GoPro simply make their own within a year. Thus hopefully, Garmin and others do the same.

      Lastly, fwiw, the actual harness is the standard GoPro chest harness. I’ve also used the VIRB XE harness too (with a GoPro in it), and no issues. The gimbal attaches using a GoPro mount and slides right in.

    • Victor

      I found one that would work with some counterweights. Check out .

  10. Guillermo

    Hey, hope you are going to run the Paris 20K on Oct 11!

  11. Steven

    Thanks for the teasers Ray, hope it is some awesome news on the 4iiii front 🙂 I’m half installed on the precision so far while they work out the kinks on the two side solution.

  12. Theo

    For years the quintessential trail guide for the Kananaskis area was this book:
    link to chapters.indigo.ca

    But it looks like it might be hard to find these days.

  13. pfff, that MTB ride video is looking so steady. Incredible

  14. Sean

    Hey! I live in Calgary!

  15. How does the gimbal wearable mount coop with running? (with chest harness?)
    Looking into buying the newly announced gopro hero+, would be awesome to use it with (TT) biking and (trail) running.

    Any other suggestions for this are welcome ofcourse:)

  16. Nathalie

    My head hurts imagining going in this cold water. You must be made of another material than I!
    Love the rest of the trip, life is good!

  17. JP

    “No worries…I always make it. :)”

    Famous last words…

  18. Nando

    Hope you had a good time in the neck of the woods that I grew up in!

    While the speed/pace of life in general got a little too slow for my liking once I got older but the main thing I’ll always remember in my travels around the globe was that the quality of life and access to Alberta’s breathtaking nature & Rocky Mountains from Calgary was unparalleled.

    The fresh mountain air cannot be appreciated enough…especially when I was returning home for the holidays from daily living in a heavier polluted metropolises such as New York where all you really can smell is rotting “garbage juice”! Haha.

    My only gripe with my home stomping grounds is that they didn’t build enough switchback roads that go “up” the mountain for road cycling. MTB trails yes but not enough smooth asphalts road that make use of the elevation. Lol.

  19. Runner Rob

    You are the only person I know brave enough to swim Ghost lake in the fall!

  20. Mike

    Hope you had a great time up here, it was great to meet you in person! Really enjoyed your presentation and the panel you guys participated in. Hope to see you back again!!

  21. Hey Ray,
    So great to have you at the Symposium. It wouldn’t be the same without you! Our members always appreciate your insight and expertise. We can’t believe you went swimming in Ghost Reservoir, you are brave!

  22. Seems to be missing a picture after this: “angled out a bit to make another point on a triangle:”

    Also really bad JPEG compression and banding on the Wednesday-Friday photos. Dunno if that’s a problem with the source photos (from a Session or regular GoPro, perhaps?).

    Bonus points for spelling Kananaskis correctly, or at least consistently 🙂