Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Free speed

Heads up...this post gets a little graphic, so if you are squeamish, close this link now!

At 6am on Monday morning, I checked into UBC hospital for the first surgery of my life (wisdom teeth don't count!).  As someone who spends countless hours training and exercising to be in top form, the prospect of being operated on was pretty I was more than a little jittery when my sister dropped me off.  Mantra of the day:  be tough.

The issue?  A uterine fibroid, not so affectionately named Freddie, that had grown to about 8cm in diameter.  These kind of tumors are typically not malignant, but can cause issues if they grow too too big.  For a small and active person, toting around a tumor the size of an orange is pretty damned uncomfortable, never mind racing full distance triathlon.  Freddie was a real jerk and had to go.  
Freddie, the jerk.  Live and in person.  Buh-bye!
After a number of false starts and second opinions over the past few years, I was fortunate to find an incredible female surgeon, well-regarded in the field and extremely understanding.  In particular, she was open to trying minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures and she was appreciatively sympathetic to my preference to continue to have the option of having children.  Of course, in medicine there are no guarantees, but she promised to do her best.     

The nurses, residents and medical staff at UBC hospital were incredible.  I was made to feel at ease  right up to the point that they walked me into the OR, and for that I am so appreciative.  Needles, IVs and operating rooms = scary.    

When I woke up in recovery, I had several nurses fussing around me and there were tubes everywhere.  I asked the resident if everything went fine, and she told me there were complications that forced the surgeon to abandon the laparoscopic procedure and perform a laparotomy instead (aka abdominal surgery).  I was later told that I had lost nearly a litre of blood during the procedure (about 1/4 of my blood volume), which is needless to say a pretty good reason to get 'er done the old fashioned way.  The good news? Freddie is gone.  

So while the recovery will take a little longer than I expected, I am grateful to be back home and starting the process of getting strong.  Being healthy is truly a gift, and I am so very, very excited to spend my days going forward without that jerk Freddie hanging around.  He was never a very good running partner. 

So, in closing this chapter and starting the road to recovery, I thought this Freddie-related clip was so very appropriate.  To Freddie the bad-ass fibroid, I bid you adieu and eff you!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


By the end of this week, I will have 38 years of experience at this life thing.  So, in honor of those years, here are 38 things I know to be true....

1.  Cupcakes are a food group.

2. Dogs are good people.  Even if they do track mud and throw up on your new bedding.
A face only a dog-mom could love.
3. The things you have done matter not. The things you are doing matter more.

4. Unabashed pop music is entirely appropriate on a running playlist.

5. Green and leafy is actually pretty tasty.

6. Running in the rain is fun.

7. Three things one should be able to say, and mean: I am sorry. I love you. I was wrong.

8. Nothing is impossible.

9. All the cool kids wear sunscreen. #lilywhite

10. I may be a tax nerd, but nerdy is sexy.

11. Germans are damned good engineers.

12. The best things made of carbon are not diamonds.

13. A magic transformation happens when you swim at 5:30am!  By 7am you are guaranteed to feel like you can conquer the world.

14. Soda water, not vodka cocktails.

15. It’s okay to say I love you. Often.  Even if the person you say it to squirms.

16. Anything done with a smile hurts a whole lot less.
Kicking it to the curb in St. Croix. 
17. Food can be function…but it can also have soul.

18. If you are honest, you never have to remember.

19. The glasses and braces you had when you were 13 may go away.  The pimples never do.

20. Don’t regret mistakes, just learn from them.

21. Everything happens for a reason.

22. Show appreciation.

23. Training is training. Racing is racing. And sometimes jogging is simply the best!

24. Grace trumps arrogance.

25. Surround yourself with genuine, smart and kind people, and give no time to those that hurt you.

26. Laughing at yourself is awesome.
Stuck upside down?  Oh well.
27. Buy sh*t local. Even if it is cheaper on the internet! 

28. Ignore anyone who belittles you. Great people will never bring you down.

29. Being different is just...different. Embrace your individuality.

30. Alone is not lonely.

31. Training never hurts less. You just get faster (sometimes!)

32. Be unreasonable in committing to your goals.

33. Age is boring and irrelevant.

34. Wearing good shoes is worth every cent.

35. Have an excellent massage therapist, chiro and physiotherapist on speed dial.

36. Life is too short to wear uncomfortable underwear.
Kona undie run.  It doesn't even LOOK comfortable...but those boys are pretty cute. ;)
37. One glass of delicious wine is better than a cheap bottle.

38. Don’t dream. Do it NOW!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review and renew!

A month has passed since I arrived in Kona in (what I thought was) the best shape of my life. Enthusiastic.  Upbeat.  Ready to go.

20/20 hindsight is beautiful.  Oh, what could have been.

Instead, I caught pneumonia. More than two weeks post-Kona, and three weeks since I first started coughing, I am still breathing with half a lung and can barely get out of bed.

"But you raced with pneumonia". "You did amazing all things considered". "Just think what you could have done healthy". Yes.....I do think of this. Often. And it doesn't help.

These are the facts. They are not excuses. I gave Kona everything I had, and came up very short of what I had dreamed. Frustrating, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing short.

It takes a while for these things to sink in.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have raced in Kona, twice. Every moment I had there is a gift, and any day that culminates with crossing the finish line on Ali'i Drive can never be entirely bad.

Being who I want to be is a delicate balance of goal setting, hard work, breaking down, taking small steps, failing sometimes, putting things back together and renewing those goals. A rebuild is needed, and warranty coverage has been called in.

Great things are not built in a day. Or a season.

My initial reaction was, of course, to immediately fill the void with racing, right away. Another triathlon, a road race, a marathon.....all kinds of crazy thoughts entered my head. Yet, I reasoned that reaction was just a band-aid - my disappointment manifesting into unproductive thoughts, and not reaffirming what is important to me at all.

So, the 2012 season is over, for me. And now there is time to reflect.

I am on the reserve list until at least January. And this forced rest for my body will require me to use my head instead. It get to think, really hard, about who I am, what drives me, what I want to succeed and what goals I want to reaffirm.

I get to catch my breath, look inside (even at the things that scare me) and invest in my potential. Rest. Recover. Dream.

Down time also creates space for me to accept failing as a catalyst to reaffirming my path and not a final destination for my dreams. Failing in Kona had nothing to do with my will, or determination, or drive.  Some days are just not meant to be my day, no matter how much training and planning has been invested.

But I know exactly what it feels like to have the race of my dreams.  How great it feels to set a goal and crush it.  And that memory is far stronger than any failure.

The pieces of the 2013 puzzle are slowly coming together.  Stay tuned.....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kona, redux.

My day in Kona can be summed in one word:  disappointing.

Putting it all in perspective (as though possible while the coca cola still has its hold on me), there were many things that went well.  Training leading into the race had gone extremely well under the watchful advice of coach Bjoern, and arriving two weeks early to acclimatize was a good call.    

I learned well in 2010 that Kona can be extremely unforgiving, and that understanding was reinforced today.  As with any race, I have to be flexible around the things I cannot control, but Kona is particularly unkind when things go wrong.    

In the days leading up to the race, I swam daily on the course to get comfortable with the aspect of the race that I find the most uncomfortable - the chaotic swim.  I ate well.  I rested.  And I caught a nasty cough.
Posing at Dig-me beach before a practice swim.
The head and heart were there.  The training was there.  And my body said no way.

I finally gave in to the cough and cold meds on Friday morning when it became apparent that I was not going to get any sleep without shutting down the incessant cough.  Needless to say, not the wisest start to a seriously tough race.    

The swim was just as I remembered it - terrifying.  It was rough, congested and violent.  The swells felt enormous, and the battering never eased up.  I stayed calm, swam the entire time and did not fight it.  At one point I sighted, and there were swimmers ABOVE me in a was just nuts.  There is an enormous advantage to a swimmer here and unfortunately, that I am not.    
I love my bike.  I love riding.  In fact, the fact that I get to get on my bike and ride like a banshee is basically the only reason I endure the aquatic version of WWF wrestling that precedes the ride.

The weather forecast this morning called for overcast skies, and (I kid you not) "winds from the SSW shifting to WNW in the afternoon".  For those familiar with the Kona bike course, that translates to tailwind in both directions.   The weather forecaster should be handed a pink slip!  The day turned out to be more like "blazing sun and relentless crosswind", aka classic Kona.  Heat, wind, humidity.  

I learned two things in 2010.  One, you will get baked out there if you do not protect yourself against the sun, and two, the ride always feels easy on the way out.

This year I opted to wear a Compressport triathlon shirt with full arm sleeves over my Sugoi RS tri shorts, and also opted for Sugoi RS half gloves on the bike.  I was extremely diligent about applying, and reapplying, sunscreen to my face during the ride.  (And, yes, I did carry SPF 50 chapstick!)  It was worth it.  Whereas in 2010 I was horribly sunburned and in pain by mile 80, I suffered absolutely no burn today at all (well, except for a little sliver of burn on my wrist!).

My usual feeling of "woo-hoo, I am on my bike", however, was noticeably absent.  My energy was low from the get-go and riding felt like an effort.  After realizing that my get-up-and-go had simply failed to show for the day, I rode conservatively and within myself.  This turned out to be wise.  I stopped at every aid station for two bottles of water, and ensured I was riding in an easier gear than I thought necessary.  When the wind started spanking us at about 60k and it started getting hard, I was passing way more than I was getting passed.  And in Hawi, when the headwind from hell hit, my flat legs were able to get me through. 

When your body repeatedly tells you "no" and you keep ignoring it, the troubles manifest in other ways.  I lost my voice from coughing so hard, and started throwing up my fluids on the bike.  Cola in, cola out.  I did discover, however, that one way to ensure no one drafts you is to keep throwing up :)  

I rode a 5:35 today in seriously tough conditions, on a day that my legs failed to show up.  The split itself may not scream success, but it was one of the highlights of the day to me.  I felt more confident handling my bike in the crazy wind, and knew to ride my own race.  The training paid off.

One of the other highlights of the day was looking up and seeing the infectious smile of none other than Chrissie Wellington, about 30k from the bike finish.  "You go girl" has never been so inspiring.

Luckily, my decision to change clothing for the run enabled me to leave my seriously raunchy ride clothes behind.  To the poor volunteer that had to pick up that pukey mess....I am sorry.  My glacial T2 is reflective of some porta-potty navel gazing while I composed myself and dealt with the GI distress that plagued the remainder of my day.  Between my coughing, nausea and potty troubles, I should have been labeled a biological hazard!       

The run was just ugly.  It was a big, long talk with myself punctuated with an embarrassing amount of walking, coughing and willing myself to go on.  When I saw my parents and Gregg cheering from the driveway of our rental house at the 4.5 mile mark of Ali'i Drive....I cannot tell you how much every part of me wanted to call it a day.  I was so happy to see them.     

Kicking down Ali'i...Iron-Gregg in the foreground.  So happy to see those familiar faces !
As any of us do, I went in to this race gunning for the race of my life, and in the end settled for the best I had on the day.  Kona remains an enigma, and my heart is as unsettled as it was when the gun went off.  It will take some time for me to fully put my day in perspective.

To everyone who was here today in person and in spirit - I thank you.  I appreciate all of the encouragement and your unconditional support for this sometimes silly and (at times) consuming hobby of mine.  I think I hear off-season beckoning....      

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Taper. Not crazy.

Something has happened to my taper crazies.  They are inexplicably absent.

I arrived in Kona late Friday evening and have melted into the aloha life.  It is sublime.

Riding on the Queen K on Saturday brought me more emotion than I expected.  Or perhaps I should have expected it - after all, it has been an interesting few months.  It was a rush to the senses, a feeling of absolute calm and breathlessness.  The smell of the air and the flowers, the wind, the crashing waves, the stark contrast of the black lava, and the nervous energy abound.

I love it.

This is a place that exists somewhere between my dreams and real life.  Miles away from home, and yet so real.  

Wrapping my head around what will happen here in 11 days is a heavy load.  But I approach it with calm....not crazy at all, in fact.  For the first time in months, I am giving my body the gift of rest, but it is not rebelling.  I accept this time as a gift, as a chance to put my head to work.  The day may break my heart, but it will not break my resolve unless I let it.

Will I be forced to reach deep, have a hard conversation with myself many times over and summon everything I have to give?  Yes.

Does it scare the shit out of me?  Yes.

Insurmountable?  No.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aloha.....and mahalo

The universe told me this morning that without a doubt, on this golden day, amid my dancing manifestations in a perfect world on an emerald planet while my heart beats, my blood flows, and angels peer over my shoulder, that I just might be the *luckiest* person alive.

I believe it.

One more day until I leave for Hawaii, and the sun is still gloriously shining in Vancouver. What a summer it has been. I truly feel that I have been blessed with the spirit of aloha.

The term “aloha” means more than hello, and there is really no other word that describes it.  You can feel what it means, but it is bigger than any description.   The term comes from “alo”, which means presence, and “ha", meaning breath - the literal meaning of the term is therefore “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life”. Aloha is positive energy, living in harmony, affection, peace and compassion.

I feel blessed that my heart beats and the sweat drips.

I feel blessed for the sunshine that has uplifted my spirit and made training in September a pleasure.

But most of all, I feel blessed for the incredible people who surround me and share with me their passion, inspiration and compassion.

….the lovely friend left me a treat in my gym bag at the pool. Notwithstanding that anything that conjures up visions of food is particularly motivating these days, I was truly touched.

….the friends who joined me on Saturday to partake in four hours of hard bike intervals. That is serious inspiration, serious dedication and serious positivity. 

...the friends who, amidst their incredibly busy lives, have still had the time to spend with me, listen to me, and from time to time, talk down that little devil that sometimes sits on my shoulders.

…the girls who suffered along with me on my crazy Sunday brick run. It was hands down the hardest workout I have ever done – and yet, the two of them hung in for 51 laps of UBC track, smiles on their faces until the end. There is an unexplained joy in that feeling of accomplishment together.  (I will admit that the smiling may have been caffeine-induced delerium...but it did feel pretty good.)

…the colleague who called me last night to wish me luck, and to tell me that I inspired him to wake at 5am for a run workout.

…the friend who selflessly offered me a ride to the airport at 5pm on a Friday night (because no one ever really wants to drive to Richmond in Friday afternoon traffic). 

I love you all, and have such incredible gratitude for you.  Mahalo.

The flip flops, lycra, sunscreen and bike are packed.  Trepidation and anxiety are waiting in the wings, but I have no intention of packing them along for the trip.  My belief that anything you dream is possible is still well in hand. 

Yes, I may just be the luckiest person alive.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Letting go.

“Frustration and love cannot exist in the same place at the same time, so get real and start doing what you would rather be doing in life.  Love your life.  All of it.  Even the heavy shit that happened to you when you were 8.  All of it was and IS perfect.”  - Jason Mraz

Having ten months to train for Kona seemed like a luxury, but now with just over a month to go, the long days of training are back.  Eat, sleep, work, train, rinse, repeat.  

I love it and I hate it in equal parts.  Only an endurance athlete could explain why.

The last few months have been a roller coaster ride.  And not a fun, Disney-style ride but at times a heart-stopping, grueling, take-my-breath-away-with-trepidation kind of ride.

I have learned a lot on this journey about myself, about others, and most of all, about the truth.  And the latter, well, suffice it to say that it is not always obvious.

While I can easily say that 2012 has not been the year of my dreams thus far, it has been of my making.  I chose it.  I do not regret it.  It was perfect. 

A reflection of the 2012 that has been thus far and the lessons I have learned....

Life may not always be easy, but it will get better.  Things happen for a reason.  It is not always clear at the time, particularly in those instances where I have been so paralyzed with emotion that I cannot even react, but every experience means something.  And in those moments when things are so terribly wrong, those dark moments, there is comfort in knowing that a wrong turn will eventually turn right.  And, if all else fails, there is always ice cream.

Regret not.  Don't tell me you feel sorry.  I'm not.  Every sweet (and sour!) detail add up to make me who I am.

Detractors deserve no place.  People who bring me down or are unwilling (or unable) to support my dreams are not worth my time.  I totally understand why not everyone shares my goals, and I respect that.  But I will not tolerate being belittled - if I am less than perfect to you, so be it.  I will *learn* not to let you upset me, because after all, it is not me you are unhappy with.  

Be a better judge of character, and never sink to it.  You can tell how someone will treat you by the way they treat animals.  I am absolutely convinced of it.  They treat their mother, their spouse and their friends the exact same way.

It may hurt, but never stop feeling.   Bruises, broken hearts, athletic injuries – no one wants them, no one deserves them, but they do happen and eventually they do heal.  Feeling makes me human.  And, as with training, taking the time to recover makes me stronger, tougher and more resilient.

Anything is possible.  Cannot is not a term that rests well with me.  You bet I can.

Breathe.  Everything is easier with a bit of oxygen (and the occasional nap).

And so, for the remainder of 2012.... 
I will love, share, sweat, forgive, dream, laugh and cuddle.
I will challenge myself, and challenge those in my life to be up for it.
I will go to bed at 8pm if I feel like it.
I will eat cereal for dinner if I feel like it.
I will live aloha (September 28th!!!)
I will be true to myself.
I will be unrelenting in living the life of my dreams.    

It will be perfect.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

(Mis)adventures in Basque Lands: a 154 kilometer misadventure.

I usually like to wait to write my race reports so the events of the day can really sink in.

This race, however, is one I just want to let go.  So here goes....raw, unedited.

Racing triathlons is equal part training and luck.  Control what you can control, and accept that there will be many things that you cannot control. 

Today I raced the ITU long course world championship in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.  With a 4k swim, 120k bike and 30k run, the distance was not one I am familiar with, and to be honest, did not play to my strengths at all.  As a weak swimmer, I need a proportionately longer bike ride and run to be competitive.

And let's be honest.  4k is a frighteningly long, long way to swim.

But it was not the long swim that was my undoing.  Quite the contrary, I was quite content with my swim split.  Despite some sighting issues and some age-group chaos when our wave caught up to the men in front, I managed to catch a group of swimmers for the second half of the swim and stick with them.  4k in under 1:15.  I'll take it.
Women 18-39 wave start.  I'm 7th from the left! 
The bike course in one word: stunning.  Incredible Basque country-side, fully closed course and great crowd support.  There was one section that was full of sunflowers in bloom, another with sweeping views of the countryside.

The glorious sunflowers.  
The bike course was also extremely fast, and I split 3:19 and change (that's 36kph).  Second fastest in my AG and as good as many of the pro women.  Pleased as punch with that....but the unraveling was already well on its way.

The uncontrollable was the horrible side stitch that started halfway through the swim, spread during the ride and rendered me immobile by the time I arrived in T2.  

Riding with a stitch is one thing, but running with one is another.  I spent four minutes in T2 trying to put my runners on because I simply could not bend over, and started out the run bent over in excruciating pain.  

I ran the first few kilometers in tears.  Every step felt like it was driving multiple knives into my ribs, and I helplessly watched the women I had worked so hard to stay ahead of on the bike stream past me.  The first 10k took me nearly an hour to complete.  And running is supposed to be my thing.  

I breathed, listening to the sound of my breath in, and out, trying to will the pain away.  The mental battle I waged for 30 kilometers was all about breathing.  Run, breathe, walk, breathe.  Count to 10.  Remember to breathe.  Repeat.  Distract, distract, distract.  The mind is truly a powerful thing.    

By the third lap (there were four in total), I was in so much pain that it transcended any feeling whatsoever.  My legs were fine, no GI issues, but every muscle in my abdomen felt like it was being seared.  I wanted to quit every single step, but my heart told me that quitting was simply not an option.  I am incredible fortunate to be in good health, to be able to race and to be given the opportunity to be at an event like I could damned well be mentally strong and finish, even if it took me hours.  

2nd place in my AG was my dream to chase, and lose.  And that I did.  All I had to do was run like I am capable of doing on any other day...but unfortunately, running like I can was simply not available to me today.  

And while I failed in my goal of reaching the podium at Worlds, I feel accomplishment in simply refusing to quit.  I chose intention and sheer will every step of that 30 kilometers.

Big hugs and thanks to all the Team Canada racers and supporters out there.  In particular, Joyce and Dave, our managers, were steadfast in their support and encouragement.  You're awesome!


Paula Radcliffe, the world record holder in the women's marathon, withdrew from the London Olympics yesterday.  Her statement spoke volumes to me.

"My sport is a beautiful sport, it gives so much fun and enjoyment, I believe it helps me to be a better person and I have been very fortunate to experience some great success and have so many beautiful and happy memories.  However, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over when your body is simply unable to match what your heart and brain want it to do.  Sadly mine is not a career or a hobby where mind over matter can work when your body is hurt, nor where giving less than your best each day can ever work.

No one tells us in advance where the limits of our own bodies lie, and pushing these limits is the only way we can ever achieve our highest goals and dreams."

Beautifully said.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

(Mis)adventures in the Basque Lands: Bilbao

Traveling is always fraught with unexpected challenges and bizarre experiences, never mind when you are a female traveling alone, with a bike bag that practically weighs more than you, and to a country where you do not speak the language.

And so my (mis)adventure to the Basque Lands began....with a few loops thrown my way and some unforgettable moments.

Rather than go on a tirade about how airlines treat bikes (anyone who travels to races has been through this) and how blase they are about missing luggage, notwithstanding how personally meaningful the contents of said luggage are, I will take a pass.  Daisy arrived after a little side trip, messy but unharmed, and 48 hours after my arrival in Bilbao, the universe was as it should be.

The first four days of my trip to northeast Spain were spent in Bilbao, a gorgeous little city with stunning architecture, great public spaces and amazing food.  I was suitably impressed with the location of my hotel directly across the street from Frank Gehry's titanium masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum.  The Spanish do urban design like its no ones business.  The streets, walkways, buildings, public spaces....amazingly planned, and stunning.
A giant puppy made out of flowers?  Awesome! 
The indescribable Guggenheim and walking paths along the river
Even the pool that I swam at, located in a wine warehouse from 1909 that had been coverted into an arts and leisure complex, was designed by Philippe Starck.  Seriously....a designer 16-lane glass bottomed pool with a sun terrace overlooking the city?  I can love that kind of swimming!

The architectural pool at Alhondiga. 
Notwithstanding that the Basques have produced their fair share of professional cyclists and triathletes, and that it is the homeland of the Orbea brand, Bilbao is not exactly a friendly place to ride.  I made an enquiry at the front desk and she happily gave me a 6k "bike route" around the river.  When I said "road bike", she looked at me in horror.  I am used to this, but in this case, she was right!

Knowing that Sunday morning traffic would the the lightest, I set out for an adventure.  Indeed, the first 5k out of town were more than a little interesting and not bike friendly at all.  Bilbao's unique geography (crushed between some seriously steep hills) and bizarre road system meant I immediately got lost and found myself riding up a 8% grade in a tunnel on the freeway.  Oops!  Luckily, there was very little traffic, and I was able to negotiate my way back down to the local road leading out to the coastal suburb of Getxo.

I was very relieved to see a number of cyclists as soon as I got out of Bilbao.  Not surprisingly, Orbea was the most popular brand with about 50% of the riders on the brand.  Good to fit in...although less so with the tri bike.

I spent an awesome, sunshine drenched morning doing a "tourist ride" along the coast, checking out a few of the beaches and taking in the breathtaking Basque countryside.

Pretty beach at Plentzia!
My ride was also not without a number of funny incidents and interesting observations about riding in Spain....
  • A riding first: getting stopped at an alcohol check-stop by the local police!  While I assumed I could ride through...they actually pulled me over and asked for my licence.  I think they were messing with me!  :)
  • Although the roads are distressingly narrow and cobbled in places, the traffic was extremely respectful of road riders in general.  The Europeans have traffic flow totally figured out - traffic circles just make so much sense and are much more civilized than lights.  And where there were traffic lights....let's just say I was the ONLY one stopping.
  • If you make a wrong turn in Basque country, you are best off to drop into the small ring immediately.  It is a seriously, seriously hilly place.
  • While riding the local brand seemed to earn some respect with the roadies, who let me follow them, they most certainly did NOT appreciate being passed by a woman on the hills.  Learn how to climb like a Canadian, eh?   

There is absolutely nothing like a sunny ride to wipe away jet lag and stress.  But then again, anyone who rides knows that already!  After an amazing post-ride lunch and some rest in the sunshine, I was rejuvenated and ready to take on my next (mis)adventure in the Basque Lands - traveling to Vitoria-Gasteiz for pre-race prep and taper!

Ride hard. Cause chaos.

My uncle and aunt have a gorgeous house in West Kelowna overlooking Lake Okanagan, and each summer the Frank Family Summer Vacation descends upon it. Note, I did not say "rest and relaxation", because this family tradition has a history of being nothing less than a tornado of destruction. Unforeseen disaster is the name of the game, and the Frank family plays it well. In fact, this year we arrived to find that my aunt and uncle's home is up for sale, and I am fairly certain that it is the Frank Family Summer Vacation that has driven them to such drastic measures. When they fail to send any of us their forwarding address, we will know for sure.

Aside from its longstanding mission to cause the maximum amount of disruption in the minimum amount of time, the Frank Family Summer Vacation 2012 had two specific directives: celebration of my mom's birthday (ice cream cake!!), and the RBC Kelowna Gran Fondo. And, no, I did not make my mom ride the fondo for her birthday.

This year's pilgrimage started off in excellent Frank Family Summer Vacation form. I caught a ride with my sister and her family, aka auntie-in-the-middle. Add extra excitement for the fact that not only was I traveling with a 2-year old and two dogs, but the back window of my brother in law's SUV had been smashed out that morning, requiring a plastic patch job upon departure.

 Joey, the dogs and I had some quality bonding time on the drive up.  I have now committed to memory Toy Story III, have learned how to hold a juice box without wearing it and have answered the question "where are we going" exactly 3,462 times. This conversation goes something like:

Joey: Where are we going?
Richele: Kelowna.
Joey: Why?
Richele: To see gramma and grampa.
Joey: Why?
Richele: To go swimming in the lake.
Joey: Why?
Richele: Why do you ask why so much?
Joey: Why?
Richele (pointing): Look at the nice (insert here: train, car, tunnel, squirrel, valium), Joey!
Joey (attention momentarily diverted from the why game).

At any rate, I digress. But it is always interesting.

This was my second year riding the Kelowna fondo and I continue to have the view that the organizers put on a first-class event. I absolutely love it as an opportunity to do an all-out catered training effort, essentially on a closed course! Unlike the larger Penticton and Whistler rides, this event is accessible, not congested and more low-key but has the benefit of being a really challenging ride. The course winds north of Kelowna along the lake, climbs an absolutely wicked hill to the top of Predator Ridge, through Vernon, and then winds its way along the lakes back to Kelowna. Wicked good fun!

Last year, I had some "technical difficulties" on course (aka, I was steered off course and ended up riding a little extra), so this year I was resolved to stay in one of the front packs and put up a good time. With the help of my new climbing machine Rosey and the added incentive of a 7 km “climb to royalty” at Predator Ridge, it was a fast ride.

Of course, Rosey really wanted to be Queen for a day....
Queen of the Mountain!
I learned some good lessons about bike racing tactics...enough to know that I am really happy to be a triathlete and not have to play the head games!  I also learned a lot about teamwork and integrity, which can be found in the places that you least expect (you know who you are!)  All in all, a fantastic ride and a well-run event.  And I will be back next year for that 4/10ths of a second :)

Best of all, my aunt and uncle's home is miraculously still standing after yet another successful Frank Family Summer Vacation.  Again, we proved that there is nothing that a few band-aids, some alcoholic beverages and a top-to-bottom house cleaning cannot fix.  And, unlike 2011, no mice lost their lives.

So....anyone in Kelowna interested in hosting the Frank Family Summer Vacation, version 2013?

Thanks to Speed Theory Vancouver and Murray for building me one hell of a climbing machine, to Steph and the others from team lululemon for motivating me to ride hard out there and to other awesome riders I spent my day with!  

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I have participated in the Subaru Vancouver triathlon every year since 2009 - it is one of my favorite races! Transition a mere 5 minute drive from home, a race course that is pretty much in my backyard and familiar faces racing, cheering and volunteering, what is not to love?  There is simply no better location for an urban triathlon than Jericho Beach on a sunny day.

Truth be told, in the days before the race, I was feeling less than sunny. I had not tapered and the three days beforehand were unfortunately more stress-filled than I would have preferred. Rest? Ha. Pre-race nutrition? Ha. Both were completely out the window, including a number of stress induced eating sessions that involved Ben & Jerry's and several large bags of kettle chips. The best laid plans? Well, they oft go astray.  A huge mood adjustment was required.

Nonetheless, a sunny Saturday morning lifted my spirits and my sister and I brought my niece Lily down to the race site to participate in the kids fun run. Her very first race!

Pre-race hydration is critical.  Note the contemplative expression - that is one serious game face. 

Checking out the competition's gear.  Are those shoes faster than mine?

First race in the bag!  Ribbon pinned on by an Olympian, no less!

Recovery face painting and nutrition is key.  Ice cream contains protein for recovery.
Children racing are seriously awesome. Pacing is unheard of - they just run with abandon as FAST as they can. Some stop, some pick up ladybugs, some trip and then they get right back up again. It is pure joy to watch, and my sister and I laughed hysterically at the total mayhem. As Lily crossed the finish line, third from last place, she was happily yelling "I'm winning, 'chele, I'm winning!!". Yup, you are indeed winning, Lily.

The kids race was a game changer for me. Instant mood boost. Watching Lily "win" reminded me of the joy in racing. Forget all the excuses and reasons and head games and negative thoughts....the only one holding me back is me! So with Lily in mind, I made it my mission to run with abandon.

My mood was further lifted by an absolutely stunning race morning. It was one of those (unfortunately rare) amazing sunny Vancouver summer days that induces complete June-uary amnesia and makes me swoon over the place I am lucky to call home. The ocean was calm and clear, and there was a beautiful hazy mist over downtown as the sun peeked out.

The gun had not even gone off and I loved racing.

The swim start was particularly nasty, with a running beach start. I got kicked in the face, the right lens of my goggles broke and I did the entire swim with my right eye closed. I was resolute. Nothing was getting in my way.

I transitioned out of T1 in 36 minutes. For me, that is blazing. I had no idea how far back I was, but it was closer than I usually am. Which means one thing....ride like there is no tomorrow.

I won't lie - the next two hours, thirty minutes on the bike was a journey into the pain cave. I worked hard the entire time and kept a smile on my face. It hurt in the best way possible.

Grimacing....but happy.
The run was hot, demanding and glorious.  I love this course!  I would be hard pressed to think of a more scenic triathlon run.  The serpentine loop around Jericho is awesome  - it is so fun to be able to yell (and receive!) encouragement to friends on course and it is a huge pick-me-up to run past transition several times.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a my sister and my nephew Joey out on the course, as well as several other friends cheering loudly.  It is hugely motivating....and a good reason to suck in the gut and smile!

Digging deep at the end.
It was an incredible day and a huge personal best for me....12 minutes and change faster than last  year.  And honestly, the time mattered less than how I felt at the finish - it was awesome to feel that I had not let life get the best of me and truly know that I gave it everything I had.  

Huge thanks to Speed Theory Vancouver for their unfailing support and for volunteering at the event, to all of the amazing volunteers and organizers, to Coach Bjoern for tough coaching that reaps rewards, and to all my teammates and friends on course and off.  

And the biggest thanks of all to Lily, for reminding me to put away my sh*t and run like a kid. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Paying it forward

Four years ago, I hosted a Canada Day BBQ during which Bogey decided he had had enough and ran away.  When I realized he was gone, I was distraught.  My best friend was missing.

Four hours later, a lovely woman contacted Vancouver animal control to say that she had found my Bogey wandering a few blocks from my house.  I ran down the block, breathless, to meet her...and cried when I saw her standing there with my wonderful little companion.  I was so very, very thankful that day for the kindness of a stranger, and so grateful to be reunited with my best friend.    

And yesterday, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pay it forward.

A couple friends and I were riding along Marine Drive in West Van when we passed a rather frantic Bernese mountain dog running in the opposite direction, in traffic.  The poor dog was dodging cars and cyclists, and obviously terrified.

I didn't even think before turning my bike to chase after the dog.  My heart could never forgive me had it been injured by a car...the what-ifs were too much to bear.

The three of us were able to catch the collarless Bernese, not without a little effort, after abandoning our bikes and running up a steep driveway along Marine Drive.  Honestly, we must have looked like ten kinds of crazy...three lycra-clad cyclists chasing this poor dog!  The owners of the house were kind enough to bring down some water and a makeshift-ribbon collar while we called the SPCA.  West Van bylaw services wasn't picking up the phone (shame on you!), and since the SPCA was not able to come pick up the dog, we resorting to calling North Shore Taxi (listening to my friend explain that we needed a van to transport three cyclists and a lost Bernese to the SPCA was priceless!).

Fortuitously, bylaw enforcement happened to drive by about fifteen minutes later before the cab arrived and was able to take the dog to the SPCA.

Twenty minutes later, the lovely Bernese was safely at the SPCA and they called to inform me that the dog was microchipped.

When I arrived home, the SPCA called again to tell me that the dog and her owner were reunited.  My heart was full.  The owner asked to speak to me, and I told her that a kind stranger had returned my best friend four years ago, ironically, to the very day.  It was the least I could do.

To my tolerant, animal-loving friends who selflessly joined in the adventure....thank you.  You have good hearts.

To Mishka, the Bernese, I am overjoyed that you found your people!

And my best friend Bogey....well, he got lots of treats and hugs, and a trip to the beach!  :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Personal policies

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. - Henry David Thoreau

Just as companies have mission statements, I have discovered that it is invaluable to have a set of personal value statements. I call these my "personal policies" - they are simple reflections of who I am that remind me to be true to myself.

Sound silly? Well, it isn't.

To me, personal policies are a precursor to goals. You cannot know where you are going without establishing what is important to you first. And we all know that a life without goals is a life that will go unfulfilled!

A certain degree of discretion is required at times, because life ebbs and flows and inevitably requires adaptations. So I think it is fair to say that my policies are guidelines, not absolutes, and I afford myself the flexibility to modify provided I am staying true to myself. This is not to say that failure to maintain integrity to myself is ever taken lightly -  I am quite cognizant why I have policies in the first place!

For example, "do not work Sunday evenings" would typically be a personal policy....but under deadlines, I am from time to time forced to do so because NOT doing so would cause me to fail to maintain my integrity towards my career responsibilities.

It also goes without saying that my policies have changed over time, and they will continue to evolve. As I grow older I have gained a greater respect for different priorities than I had, say ten or twenty years ago. However, the most important thing to me is that I maintain policies to enable me to live my life by design, rather than by default. It is easy to get caught up and lose yourself....personal policies keep me grounded and focused.

Here are some of mine!
  • Eat something green and leafy every day.
  • Don't dream. Do it now.
  • Live with integrity. And should integrity fail....restore it.
  • Have a dog in my life cuz dogs are good people.
  • Finish everything and anything I start.
  • Avoid gluten whenever possible. 
  • Whatever the weather, run. No excuses.
  • Never put in less than 100%.
  • Drink soda water at cocktail parties.
  • Wear sunscreen always.
  • Treat people the way I want to be treated.
  • Never regret.  Learn.   
What are yours!??

Monday, June 4, 2012

Splashing in the puddles

My friend took this photo this weekend of his daughter and I had to share it.

Truly living is not about the destination, but the path we take on the journey and the choices we are faced with along the way.

And sometimes, despite best intentions, we end up on a path full of puddles.

But you can dance in those puddles.

Joy and hope and love and laughter are never too far away.

(Thanks to Greg, Tanu and friends for the beautiful picture, and especially to Meela for reminding me to splash in the puddles that get in the way.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Drown, bike, run. Just don't give up.

My coach is a very wise man. Were it not for him I can definitively say that I would not have crossed the finish at the Shawnigan Lake half-iron.  As a consequence, my race report will wax rhapsodic about Coach Bjoern and his innate ability to inspire me to dig deeper than I otherwise believe possible.

Every race, you learn something about yourself.  In Shawnigan, I was reminded that no matter how bleak the prospects are, you never give up.  You cannot always have your A game, but when your C game shows up you still need to suit up and play.

Lance Armstrong (whether you are a fan or not) was spot on when he said "Pain is temporary.  It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place.  If I quit, however, it lasts forever."

Quitting does last forever, and it is a personal policy to require a pretty compelling reason to give up on a race.  Do not start is acceptable - discretion is the better part of valor.  Do not finish is simply not.  You made your bed, you lay in it.  Yet, as much as I believe this to the core, left to my own devices my brain becomes a pretty powerful enemy at times.  Quitting is a cop out...but as much as I know it, sometimes I need someone else to straight-up call me on it.

The past few months have been stressful for me for many reasons, and during the last week it really caught up with me.  I had been fighting fatigue and a sore throat all week and nearly pulled the plug on the half-iron on Friday.  Although I had an amazing sleep the night before the race (perhaps also reflecting that my heart was not in the race...usually I am too nervous to sleep), I woke up congested and sniffly.

I went through the motions of the pre-race routine, but felt blah.  The fact that it was a sunny and beautiful morning was really the only motivator!  Surprisingly, the lake was not as cold as I had expected it to be and I felt comfortable during my short warm-up swim.

The gun went off, the usual mosh pit ensued, but at 200m I was struggling to get air.  My breath was raspy and short, and it was impossible to clear my throat.  I moved off to the side of the mosh pit, but each time I start swimming again my congested lungs forced me to stop.  It was awful.  I flipped up my goggles and watched as the other swimmers pulled further and further away.

One of the paddlers came over to me and asked if I wanted to hang on - so I did.  I coughed, sputtered, wheezed and thanked her for her help, then proceeded to breaststroke the rest of the first lap before exiting the water.  Standing on the shore watching the rest of the swimmers was humbling and awful, but my wheezy lungs reminded me why a second lap was improbable.

Before the swim volunteer could take away my chip, Coach Bjoern came over to the shore for a little talk.  I figured not being able to breathe was a pretty compelling reason to stop, but he called me on it.  Was I dying?  No.  Was I uncomfortable?  Yes.  I was literally between the devil and the deep sea (well, in this case, a weedy lake) - two equally unappealing alternatives.

He suggested that I turn the day into a training session, slowly finish the swim and go ride my bike.  Doing another suffocating lap would be terrible, but so was the prospect of dropping out.  That DNF would be beside my name forever and it was not acceptable to me.  And besides, I actually like riding my bike.  Deep sea (weedy lake) chosen, I got back in and accepted that my only goal was to finish.   I was not going to break any speed records, but I would finish what I started.  I could learn to suffer a bit.

The second lap was not any less painful, but the pressure was off.  Even though I was swimming slow, it felt like drowning - my legs were heavy, my throat was stinging and my breath was raspy.

Game face on the ride.
Congested lungs = wheezing for the first hour on the bike.  Brilliant.  My legs felt like lead and my heart rate was ridiculously high.  All I wanted to do was stop pedaling.  I promised my legs they could quit "after just one more lap", but each time I saw Bjoern cheering, it freshened my resolve to stay on.  I laughed out loud (well, kind of a wheezy laugh) after lap 2 when he said "now it's time to open it up!".      

Arriving into T2, I rationalized that I would run the first 14k loop slowly, and go from there.  My first kilometer was a glacial 5:30/km as I stopped for a potty break and gave myself a pep talk.  Go legs go.  Shut up lungs.  

The most interesting observation I had about the run was that I did not hurt, I just felt sapped.  My legs felt heavy and my breath was short.  I kept the mantra "light, smooth, easy" in my head and refused to look at my watch.  

Running across the trestle

The Shawnigan run course is fantastic - entirely unpaved but non-technical trail, with a section over the Kinsol trestle as a highlight.  It was warm and sunny, and the out and back provided an opportunity to cheer everyone else on.  Imagine a race set up exclusively for you and your training friends, and you have this race.  The Life Sport and Mercury Rising squads were out in force and it was a pleasure to see so many friendly faces out on the course - the time certainly went by much quicker!

At 16k, Coach Bjoern told me that there were two girls about 2 minutes in front of me, in fourth and fifth place, respectively.  Even though the effort was laboured, I was moving through the field and there was one more pass to make.  With 5k remaining, it was very simple - either I needed to speed up or they needed to slow down.  

At 18k, I knew I was closing in on #5.  My heart was willing to go, but at first my legs were not.  At 20k, the gap was down to about 50m but I knew I had to get moving.  The only thought in my head was "I wonder how this is going to play out", because I assumed that she knew I was behind her (the volunteers were blowing a whistle to warn the traffic control that we were about to cross the street and had blown twice in succession).

So if you are wondering whether I pulled a "Richele" finish....why yes, indeed I did.  I talked my legs into a 4:09 final kilometer to cross in 5th place, two seconds ahead of 6th.  Even my dead legs knew you just don't give up a sprint finish opportunity!
Sharing the W35-39 podium!  
While triathlon is usually a "come from behind" affair for me, this race was ridiculously so.  Choosing to start a lake swim with a chest cold was a bad decision on my behalf (lesson:  recognize when you are not fit to start), but I needed to tough out the decision I made to start.  Coach Bjoern's willingness to coax me back from defeat forced me to find the will to persevere through a bad race. It is a good reminder not only for racing, but for life.  You choose the tough spots, and you choose your way out of them too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

St. Croix 70.3 puddle jumping

Ah, St. Croix 70.3.  You are so beautiful, yet as beauties tend to be, you are a difficult and stubbornly relentless. 

The abbreviated version of my race experience goes something like this:  Showed the Beast who’s boss.  Survived the (arguably) hardest 70.3 around.  Have the medal to prove it.  Saw Lance.  Enjoyed the run.  4th in AG, 9th amateur. 

Triathlon in St. Croix has a long history.  The race has been around, in some form, for 24 years and my guess is that the notoriety of the course, the engagement of the community and an enthusiastic race director are all reasons for its continued success.  

I knew in advance that this would not be a fast race - in fact, just the opposite.   On Saturday morning, we checked out most of the course (in absolutely perfect conditions) and I understood why historically the AG race results are quite slow.  The course is visually stunning, but also strikingly difficult – in fact, nothing about St. Croix is easy.  No wetsuit open ocean swim, hills, heat, humidity all add up to one seriously tough half iron, and a great practice race for Kona.

I was cautiously optimistic.  I have been nursing a foot injury and knew in advance that my run would be sub-optimal, so my focus was on being consistent with my nutrition, getting some heat racing experience and enjoying the day.  Because the course is so difficult, there was absolutely no pressure in terms of setting a PB.

On Sunday morning, however, we woke to heavy rain.  Sigh.  After a long, rainy winter in Vancouver, I was relishing the thought of enjoying the tropical splendor.  It was not to be.  As daylight broke over downtown Christensted, it was gloomy and grey.  While the downtown area was spared the worst of the torrential downpour as we set up in transition, there were ominous clouds in all directions.

Swimming out to the cay
At 6am, we jumped off the dock to swim about 200m to a small sandy cay in the middle of the harbor.   Those nice calm turquoise seas we observed the day before?  Nada.  Although the Caribbean Sea was warm, the harbor was murky, dark and full of debris.  The wind was also starting to kick up a little, so there was a bit of chop in the unprotected section off the cay. 
Pro mens start
At 6:30, the wave starts got underway with the Pro Men.  There was a lot of commotion with Lance Armstrong in the field, and many of the age-groupers jockeyed around trying to watch the beach start. 

W35-39 was the second last AG off the beach about 25 minutes later, and it had gotten quite cold waiting on the shore.  Nervousness or cold air, I cannot be sure.  The beach start was exceptionally violent and the normal open water jousting continued for several hundred meters as we rounded the buoy line out to the open sea.  (My experience has been that women are particularly nasty in open water swims, and this view was reinforced!)   Despite the nastiness, I forced myself to stay with the nasty kicking and hitting group of green caps because I really wanted a draft through the current.

Although the current felt strong against us during the swim, my little group of thrashing green-caps quickly caught the back of the age-groupers in front.  Unfortunately, shortly before the first turn someone kicked loose the garmin strap on my wrist and I had to flip over to tighten it back up, losing my draft.  This is one of my big issues with the 70.3 age group starts – if you are unfortunate to draw a start at the back and you lose your draft pack, it is a total mess to get through.  What was already a challenging and slow swim was made frustrating by having to weave around everyone on the last corner and into transition.  Slow swim time, 17th in my AG. 

It was steadily raining when I exited the water, and the grassy transition area was a mucky mosh pit.  I jammed my muddy feet into my shoes and slipped along the grass to the bike exit. Learning how to mount with shoes attached is definitely on the to-do list - it would have really come in handy!

Hanging on through the Hot Corner

Under optimal conditions I would describe the bike course as challenging and technical.  On Sunday, it was nothing short of treacherous.  Although the officials swept the course the day before, it rained heavily (read: poured) Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning and the ensuing flood covered the roads with a nice slick coating of washout, debris and gravel.  Oh, and squished toads.  Blech!!   In places, there were deep puddles covering large sections of the road (and masking some nasty potholes).   With limited visibility due to the rain, dirt and humidity, I jammed my sunglasses into my back pocket and took on the slippery roads with an overabundance of caution.  The road surface in St. Croix is a little “challenged” at the best of times, but with the added weather-related obstacles there were people flatting all over the place.  It was one scary ride! (btw – if you think I’m telling a big Caribbean fish tale, look no further than the post-race reports!  Crashes, flats and road rash were the fashion of the day).

Like the end of the swim, the beginning of the ride was a total traffic jam and it was necessary to pass a continuous line of riders (I was passed by only one woman on the ride).  It made for extra fun that most of us are accustomed to riding on the right….switching it up and riding on the left was pretty strange, and there were a lot of people blocking the right hand pass.  I resorted to passing as safely as I could, sometimes right, sometimes left, whatever I could to stay out of harms way.   

I reached the Beast in around an hour and dropped into my 27 for the tough ¾ mile climb, which has grades of up to 25 percent.  Not only is it steep, but the pavement is extremely rough and there were people struggling all over it.  I kept my head down and focused on not getting knocked off my bike, choosing the easiest line up the steep switchbacks (in some sections, the “inside” corner was 25 percent grade whereas the outside line was 18 percent or less).  By the time I reached the top, the only people around me had dismounted and were walking up the hill.  There was even a sag wagon at the top collecting dejected riders beaten by the Beast!  

After cresting the Beast, I saw very few other riders for the remainder of the ride.  Although getting to the top was a relief, the Beast is really just the beginning of the race – the rollers that follow are relentless and the headwind comes out to make your legs feel really heavy.  We were lucky in the sense that the wind was relatively low, but the slick conditions demanded diligence.  Even on the backside of the course, there are four or five steep hills and the last 15 miles were extremely challenging and technical.  Normally I like drop the intensity and spin into transition, but it was not going to happen here.

Very much like IM Cozumel, the entire community gets behind the race and it was welcoming to have friendly faces and cheering crowds on the bike course.  We were cheered along at every aid station by enthusiastic volunteers (and lots of kids!).  You cannot help but smile when you hear "Yo lady, you be riding fast!" during the hardest moments :)  Even the police officers (who did an excellent job keeping the course traffic-free) were quick to jump in with encouragement, although they had their hands full with a great number of crashes.  I was very relieved to get into transition without incident.

Puddle jumping on the beach!
I left T2 feeling a lot like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown – coated in mud from head to toe!  A few glasses of water over the head made for an impromptu shower, and the fun started (I always really like getting off the bike and onto the run...relying on only my two feet is so good!).  At this point, the sky was a little overcast but it felt extremely hot and humid.  My run plan was simple – to focus how my bum foot was doing and run accordingly.  No point in doing more damage.  This approach turned into 3 miles of running followed by 10 and 1’s, but even so, I had a lot of fun with the amazing volunteers and cheering on my teammates (racing, after all, is much more fun when you are smiling and happy!).  I even started asking for rum punch at the aid stations…which to my chagrin, they had none of. J  The two loop course traversed the grounds of the Buccaneer hotel, including a seaside gravel trail around the golf course - it was not easy, especially with the humidity, but the stunning ocean views and incredible crowd support made it a pleasure.  My favorite part was the steel drum band playing on the beach as we ran past!

On the second loop, the course adds a final kilometer through the “hot corner” in town.  I was so very appreciative that we did not have to run 20k through the streets of Christensted!  The air was still, humid and stifling and the last uphill section on the uneven pavement was hard work.  But, a quick turn later, and a few blocks back to the seaside transition and I was home!  I felt fantastic – my foot had held me back enough to finish the run feeling like I could keep going (which, after all, is the real goal) so it was a win to me, even though I only finished 4th in my AG and had a “personal worst” time. 

St. Croix lived up to its reputation as a tough, must-do destination race experience despite the very Vancouver-like weather at the beginning.  It was a little disappointing not to experience the course in its full, sunny Caribbean splendor, but it still delivered and I will be back! J

Congrats to my teammates Geoff, Christina, Elliott and Stephanie for gutting it out in challenging conditions, and thanks to Coach Bjoern for supporting us all.  Also, big thanks to Speed Theory as always for ensuring that Miss Daisy rode spectacularly in those tough conditions!
Yes, we really did ask Andy Potts to pose in our picture! :)