Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The sunburn trifecta

The comfortable routine of [train, work, eat, process laundry, sleep, repeat] was interrupted in mid-April for a triple threat of travel to sunny locations...one stop which included the kick-off of the 2014 tri season. Whereas in previous years, these trips may have been worthy of multiple blog posts, this single post will serve as the full run down of the Maui-St.Croix-Miami sunburn trifecta. Who has time to blog...I have two weeks of laundry to do!

Playing bikes in Maui

Easter long weekend meant a whirlwind trip to Maui.  A much needed battery recharge and dose of aloha.  Is there a better place to vacation/train on the planet?  Not a chance.  Bikes!  Beaches!  Birthday boy!

The road to Hana...a ride like no other!
One of the most stunning rides in the world, for sure!
Upcountry vista
Beach time!
Recovery cocktails
In addition to a little R&R, several days of fantastic riding and (ahem) a few fruity cocktails, Maui was a good reminder that training in Vancouver spring rain does nothing to prepare you well for heat, humidity and wind.  The Paia blast furnace with gusts up to 55kph was a pretty stark contrast from the early season riding I had done to date.

The road to Hana is seriously one of the most gorgeous rides I have ever done.  While driving it in a car is certainly impressive (albeit nausea inducing), slowing down a little and relishing it on a road bike is an entirely different experience.  The road is twisty, hilly and seriously awesome to zip around on.  A road bike enables the full experience in 3D...the glorious smell of the lush greenery, the sounds of the birds and the feel of the road.  Trust me, that roadside coconut water tastes even better when you have earned it.  Amazing!

Onto St. Croix....

A quick repack, some laundry (the recurring theme), and I was off to St. Croix for the Captain Morgan Ironman 70.3.  Such a gorgeous place...such a tough race.  But alas, you don't come to St. Croix expecting to come by that finisher medal easily. 

I love this race and it is an absolute must-do.  It is totally low-key with a fantastic Caribbean vibe, yet attracts a Kona-quality field like no other I have experienced outside Hawaii.  A good early season a**-kicking courtesy of the elements, and a seriously fast group of women to play with!  

My "fruity" sun protection!
In my attempt to remain as lily-white as possible before the race, I picked up some SPF 50 children's sunscreen.  Unfortunately, the "fruity fragrance" meant that I smelled curiously like rum punch.  However, I can attest that I did not actually dig into the 26er of spiced rum that came along with the race packet.  Odd choice for a triathlon...but it is the Caribbean after all!

Race goodies.  Didn't fit in my bottle cage.
The days preceding the race were really relaxing, and a lot of fun.  Because St. Croix was a solo mission, I chose to travel with Ken Glah's Endurance Sports Travel.  Having heard all the hype, I was intrigued by the "show up and race" philosophy and really appreciated having all of the details taken care of.  Ken, Christine and Randy were incredibly helpful, supportive and made my entire trip to St. Croix seamless.  Along with them was a group of inspirational, accomplished and wonderful athletes.  I'm pretty sure that amongst them, there were at least 10,000 Kona finishes...9,000 of them Ken's alone!  (Well...possibly an exaggeration...but seriously, Ken is a Kona legend!)  Far from the "solo" race I thought I would have, the race course was full of newly acquainted friendly faces!

My pre-race run "buddy".  I'm pretty sure he wanted to eat me.
The swim course...displaying its calmer side.  Not as lucky on race day!

Wind?  Hills?  Sun?  Check!!
The race itself delivered pretty much as promised.  A hard, choppy swim.  Relentless hills and wind on the bike.  Heat, humidity and sun on the run.  

I had wicked good fun on the swim and the bike (the Beast is best climbed in the 28...!), and suffered the run.  It was fantastic mental training to drag my slow rear end around that sauna of a course for two loops.  A slow, personal worst...but an achievement nonetheless.  Even the uber-runners in the field were clocking 10-15 minutes off their "normal" times, and my AG was even further disadvantaged by our late wave start.

As the "back of the pack", so to speak, the women contended with more of the direct mid-day sun than anyone else in the race.  My Castelli bike jersey did a fantastic job of keeping me covered on the ride, but the sun was a force on the run.  Needless to say, the Ocean Potion SPF50 did not fare well...and I was totally scorched.   

Ouuuuuch.  Sunblock fail!
Homeward bound...via Miami

There are certainly worse ways to recover than spending four days in Miami...I just can't think of many.  Late nights, overindulgent food, too little sleep.  At least there is a pretty boardwalk for recovery runs!  

You guessed it...more sunburn!
The South Beach life was brought to a screeching halt with the "12 weeks to Norseman" e-mail from Coach Jasper.  Maybe he subliminally detected the poolside cocktails.  At any rate, snap back to reality...and bring on the laundry.  I have some training to do!   
Four days back...and already well into the next laundry pile!

Friday, May 2, 2014


Returning to a familiar place evokes memories.  Arriving in St. Croix on Wednesday quickly took me back exactly two years - the humidity, the smell of the Caribbean air, the familiar surroundings.  The best adjective I can conjure for the sea here is simply dazzling.  Sparkling azure lit against a backdrop of hot sunshine, and lush green.      

And yet, to think back two years, it is remarkable to not only find myself here in this physical space, but also to find myself here.  In this headspace.

There are times in your life that you are simply holding on.  It is not so easy to see at the time, but very clear in retrospect.  The illusion of physical strength can hide a great deal of emotional disability.  The last time I was here, I may have raced well, but was deeply bruised on the inside.  Despite being here with friends in 2012 (and having an incredible race-cation), the world felt terribly alone.

And, while my fear of the "Beast" and the treacherous humidity that beholds me out on that race course Sunday, there is so much I am no longer fearful of.

This year, I am here alone.  And yet, not alone at all.

What has blossomed over the last two years is more than I could have ever wished for, and a life that I am grateful for every day.    

As to how the race goes on Sunday...it matters not.  Do not mistake this for ambivalence, this is contentedness.  I feel grateful to have the opportunity to race once more in the dazzling Caribbean, for being healthy enough to race, and for the people in my life who add boundless positivity.  You know who you are...and you are simply dazzling.

Not a postcard...the view from my patio.  

So much blue in the harbour.

The beach...to myself.

Seaside riding...with views for miles.

Even the dogs are blissful.  Rolling around happy!
Rum sponsor...and a 26 in the race packet!