Tuesday, July 30, 2013

140.6 Whistler...on the home stretch

2010 was my "freshman" Ironman year.  I have incredibly fond memories of that summer - those long training days, the never-ending feeling of absolute exhaustion and some pretty interesting rookie experiences.

It was definitely a summer of firsts, notably:

  • my first time being flipped by the wind like a piece of lettuce on my new triathlon bike, resulting in me quitting the sport immediately and subsequently being coaxed back onto my bike by my training partners;
  • my first 20 hour training week;
  • my first big bonk (root beer at the Bear fruit stand, anyone?);
  • my first time abandoning a workout in favor of pie;
  • and best of all, my first Ironman finish.

Being a rookie was terrifying and enchanting in equal parts.  While there was definitely a fear of the unknown (i.e., can I really swim/ride/run/crawl 140 miles before midnight?), there was consolation in the fact that many of my friends and training partners had previously completed Ironman Canada and were more than willing to share their tips.  Though it was a new experience to me, I had a lot of strong advice backing me up that I am grateful for in retrospect.

Three years later, and with less than a month to go until Ironman Canada in its inaugural location in Whistler, I am still consuming root beer during hard long rides, training ridiculous amounts, being flipped around by wind and regularly motivated through my workouts by dreams of ____(insert here:  pie, cupcake, slurpee, popsicle, burger).  There is comfort in knowing that I am supposed to feel this way:  endlessly hungry, tired, irritable and ready for the whole damn thing to be over with.  But I'm pretty okay with all of that. It's just Iron-normal.

The "first" this year is not the race distance or the training leading up to it, but the course itself.  And this time, there is no experienced advice to rely on.

Having trained in Whistler on several occasions over the last month, I have a pretty good idea what the race has in store.  While I certainly do not want to understate the difficulty of the venue, this is, after all, a race constituting 140 miles in a mountainous area (ahem...it's not supposed to be easy).  And yet, if I were to truly believe all the blog posts and course preview notes, I would be a total nervous wreck.

The hype is unreal...and terribly amusing.  There are complaints about everything from swimmer's itch to wind to rough road conditions.  Too hot.  Too cold.  Too hilly.  The water tastes funny. (what?!)  Scary triathlete-eating bears.  (Do you see any lycra in that bear scat?  No.  Just berries!).  Posted elevation not accurate compared to GPS.  Run route not lit with twinkly lights.  Seriously!    

It's all enough for me to declare a personal moratorium against all of this nonsense.

The one lesson I have learned about racing is to simply aim to deal with that which is under my control:  training, sleep, recovery.  Execute the plan, embrace the dark moments, deal with issues as they arise.  Accept that everyone else is racing the exact same course at the exact same time, and train to enable myself to race to best of my abilities on that day.  And as for the hype and the blogs and the facebook posts...it's time to forget about the things that simply are out of my influence.

So, off to Whistler I go for one last long training weekend.  Hills, heat, wind...bring it!  :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The dog days

I love summer.

And not for the same reasons most people do.  Lazy days at the beach, patio time, picnics and fireworks are wonderful, to be fair.  But in addition to all those blissful things associated with the summer months, June through August represents the height of race season.  Sweat.  Bikes.  Sunshine.  Long days of training and the lure of all kinds of fun events to partake in.  

I returned from France / Spain at the beginning of June to the (joyful) knowledge that the next eight weeks were jam packed full of summer fun...of the triathlete persuasion.

Ride to conquer cancer 

Since 2010, the Ride to Conquer Cancer has been an annual event for me.  And this year, the sunshine even decided to show up!

It was two days and 310km of fast, sunny riding for a fabulous cause, the BC Cancer Foundation. This year marked my final turn as a co-captain for the KPMG team, and I am proud to have ridden with such a great group!  Our team raised a tad over $200,000 this year, bringing our total local fundraising to over half a million dollars in three years.

Participation in sport, to me, has to be about more than chasing fast times.  The philanthropic aspect is integral to time spent on two wheels, and to all those who have (repetitively) supported my ride with donations to the BC Cancer Foundation, I truly appreciate your dedication to a cause that is so important to me personally.  (That being said, you are not off the hook yet because I have signed up for my fifth year as part of the Wedgewood team!)  

One of these is not like the other ones.
Valley First granfondo Axel Merckx

Axel and his team put on a first class event!  This was my first year riding the 160k granfondo in Penticton, as in past years it has coincided with the Subaru Vancouver half-iron.  With a change in date for the Van half this year, the fondo was a must-do and a good excuse to make a trip to the Okanagan.

I have a soft spot for p-town, and traveling there in the summer evokes fond memories of my 2010 freshman year of racing, training and post-ride wine touring.  The friendly people in Penticton are incredible and welcoming, and make traveling there a worthwhile experience.  Particular props to the wonderful staff at the Penticton Lakeside Resort who simply cannot do enough.  Friendly service reigns supreme. 

My goal of a long, hard training effort...accomplished!  The highlight of the day was hanging on to the back of Trevor Linden's wheel for the better part of 100 kilometers (which I am sure he was less appreciative of), although I did take my turn at the front of the peloton as needed.  The lowlight was a tactical mistake at 120k that resulted in me putting in 20 minutes of solo riding through a fairly rough (literally and mentally) part of the course.  I'll chalk this up as good Ironman training :)

The very best thing about working hard on a ride is that it ends faster, and in 4:17 I was back at Gyro Park with a serious hankering for a slurpee.  Dan (aka sandbagger), at a distance exactly 60% further than he has ever ridden, cranked out a respectable 4:41.  There was grumbling that he would have been faster but for the *heavy* bike that I put him on.  If he continues to progress at this rate, I may have to weigh that bike down a little more.... :)

Team Wedgewood capped an incredible day with a fantastic dinner in scenic Naramata, where we celebrated our mixed and women's team wins over a glass of Hillside Estate wine.  A great evening of food, laughs and war stories!  

I won the bike draw!  How cool is that?
The kick-a** Wedgewood mixed team FTW!
Subaru Vancouver half-iron

I followed up the granfondo in the manner that any reasonable triathlete would, by racing the BC Provincial and Canadian national long-course championship a week later.  Sunshine, home-course advantage and provincials to boot?  I'm in!

Waking in my own bed a few hours before race start is a luxury, and possibly the most irresistible part about this race.  The streak of summer weather absolutely did not disappoint and we were treated to an incredible morning on Jericho beach.  Calm, serene waters with a backdrop of mountains...oh wait, that peaceful scene was before the herd of smashing, bashing triathletes got in!

For some reason (probably for a photo op), the organizers opt for a sprint-style beach start.  With just under 400 half-iron athletes plowing into the water at the same time, I have always found this start (particularly as a small person who is a nervous swimmer) unnecessarily violent and unpleasant.  This year, the congestion and bashing continued well into the second lap, particularly at the buoys.  Not fun at all for an average-at-best swimmer.      
What we looked like at the turn buoys.
Coach Bjoern was cheering at the mount line and yelled something to the effect of "now go do what you are good at".  That made me smile...and hit the gas.  For the next two and a half hours (exactly 2:30:00), I got to ride my wonderful new P5 like a crazy woman.  How fun is that!?

Because the event was a sell-out with 50 percent more participants than in the prior year (including sprint and Olympic distance races, as well as relay division), progress on the bike was not quite as uninhibited as I would like during a race.  Forward motion was brought to a screeching halt a number of times due to several no-pass zones and a lot of (what I hope was inadvertent) blocking in other sections of the course.  While frustrating in terms of overall bike split, my hope is that the other racers heeded the no-pass rules to make for a fair race.  On the plus side, the noodle through the no-pass zone was a perfect opportunity to eat and drink.

My fifth place out of T2 faded to ninth at the finish.  It was just one of those days that the engine was stuck in the middle gear - I felt ok puttering along, but had no speed.  Notwithstanding, I always enjoy the fantastic, soft gravel run course that loops around transition.  Passing through the crowd several times is definitely a smile-inducing pick-me-up, as is getting to cheer on the other runners and my teammates (who were kicking some serious times out on the race course).

Smiling through the pain!
Luckily none of those eight girls in front of me were age-groupers as old as me (!) so I was still able to salvage an age group win.  Not the most smashing of days, but a good consolation prize to retain my BC provincial champ status for a fourth year.  And besides, there are lots of dog days left to improve that run speed!

Big hugs 

The dog days would simply be less awesome without some pretty incredible people.  Huge hugs and thanks to:

Speed Theory, and in particular Jeremy, not only for your incredible support but also for the hours at the Van half race site doing mechanical assistance.  I am proud to rock my Speed Theory kit for the most awesome tri shop in Vancouver!

Coach Bjoern for all the time you invest in making me as tough and fast as possible.

My teammates and friends who raced, cheered and supported at the R2CC, granfondo and Van half.  Those smiles out there make it worth it!

My training partners who willingly show up for whatever the coach dreams up.  Really, who doesn't want to run 30k in the blazing sun or be snacked on by a Kits harbour seal at 6am?  

Dan, Jill and Mark for your support, encouragement and for accepting that smelling like SPF50 and waking up at 4am is just my version of normal.