Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Century of Pain!

Okay, maybe that's a bit melodramatic for a title. But I did ride over 100 km on the weekend for the first time. (What's that you say? A century is 100 miles? Aw crap, I really suck.)

Well, it did hurt. A lot. As in lying on the side of the road wimpering kind of hurt. As in good thing I didn't have my cellphone or I would have called for a ride and been disappointed with myself kind of hurt.

The day started innocently enough with the weekly Saturday long ride. The rules are show up, and be totally self-sufficient, and the starting point alternates. This week's meeting place was at the church near the intersection of Rocky Ridge Road and Crowchild Trail. I was almost late, but made it to meet up with six others. My plan was to ride to Cochrane for some ice cream, and tackle the big hill.

I slapped on some sunscreen, did a quick gear check, and we were off. I got a little ahead from the start, so I waited at the lights, and kind of led the pack for a little while, until three stronger riders blew by me. They were keeping a pace that I preferred, so I hopped on the end of the line. I took a few turns "pulling" at the front of the group, and we made quick time to Retreat Road, the top of the Cochrane hill.

At this point, one rider peeled off-- she had other plans later in the day. The other three were nowhere in sight, and I was feeling good, so when Gary told me they were planning to go all the way to the Ghost Reservoir for the start of the Calgary 70.3 course, I jumped at the chance.

After a fun cruise down the hill through Gleneagles (off the main highway, less traffic and a lower speed limit), we all took turns at the front, chugging slightly uphill and into that ever-present west wind. At the Ghost, I still felt great, had another Larabar, and bought some water.

The next leg of the trip was where the wheels fell off. Back on the highway to Cochrane, we were making great time (averaging almost 40kph)-- that is, until we turned lfet off the main highway onto the loop of the 70.3 course. The road got much, much rougher, hillier, and pot-holier. 20kph was a challenge, and by the time we made it to the high point, I was fading. A right turn made for an easy cruise, and another right turn put us onto some gloriously smooth pavement, that looked like it was mostly downhill. I hoped it would be all downhill.

On a bike, gravity seems to be perversely reversed: "What goes up, must come down" becomes "What goes down must come up"! In the foothills, rarely is there such a thing as a steady downslope- it's all rolling hills! By the second rolling hill (which, because we're on a "secondary highway" is actually pretty steep), I was whimpering and barely moving. In my bottom gear way too soon, dropped like a ton of bricks, head down and feeling sorry for myself. My riding partners kept waiting for me, I think just to make sure I hadn't passed out!

The ride back to the main highway seemed like an eternity. The smallest uphill was agonizing! My legs felt empty- like there was no energy, none of the usual power there. They weren't cramping, but rather they felt like thousands of tiny daggers tearing into the deep tissue of my thighs, and they just flat out refused to go. I started to regret not having a more substantial breakfast, and not grabbing a couple of gels on my way out the door.

By the time we rolled back into Cochrane, we were at about 3.5 hours of riding, about 4 hours trip time. I told Gary and Heather to go on ahead, I'd need to take a long break and probably a sandwich before tackling the monster hill. I have to say, for near-strangers, they were great to ride with, and almost seemed reluctant to leave me. But I'm sure they recognized that I needed a break. We stopped at the gas station, and as they refilled water and gatorade, I stayed outside watching the bikes. Right next to the payphone.

Even as I was telling them I'd take a break, then tackle the hill, I kept glancing at the payphone. I started daydreaming about making that call. I reasoned that my parents only live a few minutes away, my bike would fit in either vehicle...I'll have to go to the bank and get cash, then buy something to get change...Maybe I'll go have a sandwich first. Maybe my legs will stop screaming at me, and I'll regain feeling in my butt if I sit down on something other than my saddle. I'll probably regret it if I don't make it back unter my own power. But my legs! They've never hurt this much! Sandwich, then maybe ice cream, more water and gatorade, and then if I still feel crappy, I can make the call...

..."You've got everything you need to fix a flat?"
"Wha...? Oh, yeah, and then some."
"Okay, well, we're off then. Bye!"

It's amazing how quickly a footlong sub will disappear! Add some chips for salt (apparently it helps with cramps-- at least, that's how I justified it in my mind). Ice cream was a no-go, just because the lineup was out the door, but I was starting to feel better.

After about 45 minutes, I felt that I could probably make it. I started slowly up the hill, taking the Gleneagles route, and feeling okay. The legs weren't complaining quite as loudly. Until about halfway up, where I stopped, stretched, and kept going. Stretching did nothing. There's a point on the hill where there's no houses, just grassland between the golf course neighborhood and the houses on top of the hill. At that last intersection, there's a bit of lawn, and it just looked too inviting to my now screaming legs to pass up. I laid there for about 20 minutes, hoping the pain would subside enough to get up the hill. It wasn't.

So I started walking. Shuffling. Hobbling up the hill, pushing my bike. Half steps, really, and even those hurt. Twenty, twenty-five minutes later, I was only a few hundred metres further, but there was a bit of a respite- a dip in the hill. I got on the bike, got up as much steam as I could muster, and willed myself up the final pitch to the highway. I made it! I wanted to yell and scream!

From there, the road is generally downhill, and the morning's headwind was now a glorious tailwind, ushering me home. As much as my legs hurt, as powerless as they were, I still did 40 the whole way back to my car. The lone car in the parking lot.

Since my parents live nearby, I headed to their place for an icebath and a hot shower. After 6 hours on the road, nothing is better.

I'm glad I didn't call for a ride. I'm proud of myself for making it, and glad that I did it. I've never, ever pushed myself and hit that kind of a wall. Oh sure, when I was playing team sports, coaches always pushed us to max cardio, but I've never had muscles just tell me to stop. I've done very long hikes where I've been sore the next day, I've done runs that really hurt, I've had races that hurt... but nothing compares to that. But now I know my limits. I know how important nutrition and fuel are. I know what to prepare for, and that I can get through it.

Maybe it's a little masochistic to say so, but I can't wait for the next time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chinook Heat and Bow Pathway Speeding

Busy, busy weekend! Nicole's out of town, and I really miss her, but fortunately I kept myself occupied, which helped.

Saturday: cleaned house at 6am, volunteered for the Chinook Half/Oly, picked up the bike for a quick ride, went for dinner with my cousin who was in town, then had a few beers and japanese-hobbit-style second dinner sushi, then a late movie (Angels and Demons- good if you haven't read the book, bad if you have).

I didn't realize until that evening that I'd forgotten the sunscreen- I was a little pink around the neck and face, and my calves still feel a little tender. I spent the early part of the morning watching the race starts, chatting with fellow volunteers, and wondering/asking what I was supposed to do. I had time before I had to be out on the bike course at the (third) aid station, so I cheered people on with the cowbell, and directed traffic as the Olympic racers were coming out of the water. A lot of UCTC folks were there-- about 8 by my count (I have to admit I recognize everyone, but sometimes it's hard to learn names...) including coach Tony. I don't know how anyone felt about their race yet, but I noticed that the club took two age groups, and 4th in another.

I've been reading a few blogs by some of the participants, and it sounds like it was a tougher day on the Half Iron course... and I've been thinking. It was not a super-hot day, but it was very sunny, with just enough wind to make you feel it wasn't that hot. Which might explain why I felt so drained, even though I didn't race!

Sunday: hike in Kananaskis with Dad and brother Dan, dinner at their place, then grocery shopping. Poor Milo was starved for attention-- and worried that he'd run out of food. (He was fine until this morning, when the dish was *gasp* empty. He tap-danced on me at the crack of dawn to let me know, though). The hike was great, though overcast and a little damp. Maybe dad will send me some pics to post.

Tonight's workout was supposed to be "Cruisy Monday", but it turned into anything but "cruisy". I'm not complaining, it was great! It was me, one of the gals who is fast in the pool, Mike, and Tony. Because of the looming rainclouds and the wind, we decided to go west instead of east, and stay along the Bow River Pathway. Pretty soon, it was just me, Mike and Tony-- apparently our fourth rider felt slow (I don't think she was that slow), and told us to go ahead.

Without really talking much, we kept picking up speed, staying in a tight pack. I have to admit, Tony and Mike did most of the leading, but I did take a turn or two at the front. We went all the way from the Zoo to Edworthy Park, saw Coach Jill running with a few ladies, and decided to do a couple of hill repeats! I zipped through the parking lot to try and get a head start (I'm a Clydesdale, not a climber!) and kept looking behind me. I was shocked that Tony only caught up to me on the last pitch, but apparently he stopped because Mike had a flat.

After two times up, we zipped back on the south side of the river-- I'd never ridden the first stretch, and boy does it have some tight corners! I dropped right back to give myself a little more confidence, so I didn't feel bad about not leading, because I was gapped anyway, not getting pulled in the slipstream. It was a fun, challenging ride, and felt really good. I have to say, though that we were lucky not to run into a radar gun.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Perfect Ride Up Highwood Pass

...Except for the blown spoke halfway up.

The most excellent day really started the night before. We drove out to Canmore for the night – crazy Alberta thunderstorm most of the way—and had dinner at the Crazy Weed Kitchen. Someone had suggested it to Nicole, so that was the plan.

“So where is this place?”
“Let’s see, I’ve got the address ri..”
“Wait, don’t tell me, I know where it is. Let’s see if my memory is right.”

When I lived in Field, we’d come into Banff and Canmore all the time, and Crazy Weed was one of those great little hole-in-the-wall places with food that blew your mind. I was sure that it was on Main street next to the Bear’s Paw Brewery… we drove past slowly…

“There! That’s where it… was. Crap. What did you say the address is?”

Well, we did find the new building (It’s now next to the tracks at the west end of Railway Ave) and had the best meal we’ve had in a long time. The consensus among our friends is that with the boom over the past five or so years, service in Calgary has been horrible. So the combination of great food and great service has been rare, at best. Or, we’ve found that maybe the appetizer was good, the main not so much, or the presentation is good, but the food is over-complicated but falls flat, and we’re left feeling like we paid too much.

Crazy Weed was phenomenal. From the complimentary flatbread and red-pepper dip, to the mussels, to our mains, to the wine, through dessert, the food was fabulous. Unique without being pretentious or over-thought, we could taste the high quality of the ingredients, and the perfect preparation. And the view! The skies had cleared, and the large windows offered a fantastic view of the mountains. We will definitely be going back.

The next day, we met Kim and Dan, Steve and Heather at The Summit Café for a great breakfast, sitting outside on the patio. I highly recommend the Maple Latte! Fuel tanks full, we caravanned into K-Country (Kananaskis for you non-Albertans) to meet up with Kaely at the end of the road. That’s right- the End Of The Road. From December 1 to June 15th every year, a section of Highway 40—Highwood Pass—is closed to motorized vehicles, making it the Perfect Ride, if you get the weather. Last Saturday, it snowed, so was probably un-rideable, but we had Perfect Weather!

About an hour after leaving the café, we were at the gate. As we crested the last rise before the gate, it was obvious we weren’t the only ones hoping to ride the traffic-free highway. Judging by the number of vehicles parked on the side (and how many people we saw), there were easily 200 cyclists. And everything from mountain bikes, tandems, parents hauling chariots, to “sponsored”, fully spandexed, full carbon-fiber riding serious cyclist. The variety was expected, the volume was almost . Though there were so many out enjoying the weather and the view, it certainly did not feel crowded once we got going.

We took our time. Our group was somewhat varied: two every-day commuters, an Ironman who hasn’t ridden much this year, a Marathoner, a Ride-to-Conquer-Cancer participant, and two evening-and-weekend triathletes. Ironically, the smoker was by far the strongest rider—but he also commutes by bike daily. We rode hard in places, easier in others, a few of us looped back once or twice, and we all took a lot of breaks on the way up.

Minor Disaster

I was having fun with my bike computer – probably not super-accurate, but it was fun to see how fast I could go on the two downhills we faced on the way up. I hit 61 km/h – but it was starting to feel a little wobbly, so I backed off. Good thing, too. As the uphill began in earnest, just as I dropped to my bottom gear for a long slog, PTWAANGG….CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK.

I looked down, twisting out of my pedals as I lurched to a stop—broken spoke. It sheared off right near the rim. As everyone pulled up around me, I worked it free from the hub, wondering what I’d do next. Steve, the self-made bike mechanic, rambled on about spoke wrenches and trying to true the now-wobbly wheel, and how Clydesdales like us need more spokes than I was riding (love you, dude), Kaely cut to the point—yeah, we could try and fix it, but we could also royally f*** it up. Best thing to do would be to unhook the back brake (that was rubbing against the crooked wheel), and either keep going, or turn back.

After a few experimental meters, there was no way I was NOT going to make it to the top – not on a day like this, on a ride like this, with great friends like this. I was less worried about the climb, more worried about the descent. No speed records for me.

According to “Done In A Day – Calgary, The 10 Premier Road Rides” – the guidebook I’d picked up at MEC earlier in the week, the final pitch to the Pass would be rated a Category 1 ascent, and I have no doubt it’s true. Dan was ahead of me coming up to it, so I pushed a little to get on his back wheel, and just stayed on it for the whole final grind. Despite the cool breeze (there was snow just off the road at this point), the hot sun and effort had sweat and sunscreen pouring into my eyes. I didn’t dare stop, I had to stay on Dan’s wheel!

Just when you’re starting to wonder if it will ever end, you see the festival that is the summit. On either side of the road, two signs that both say: "HIGHWOOD PASS 2210 m 7250 ft" and what first registers as an accident – cyclists and bikes lying on the road, bikes everywhere. Dozens of people milling about. It’s no accident—we’ve made it!!

Slowly, the rest of the group pulled in, and we spent a good half an hour lounging around, snacking, sunbathing, and talking to other victorious cyclists (some of whom were there for the second time that day, having climbed the opposite side, coasted down to where we were parked, then climbed back up). Such a great feeling!

The Descent

I headed down first, because I knew I’d want to go slow. My back brake was still disconnected, so I was riding the front the whole way, sitting up in the saddle to offer as much area to the wind as possible, instead of riding low and aerodynamic. Still, I slowly built my way up to about 55, without feeling too unsteady. At one point, though, I passed Nicole, and she yelled at me to “slow down!! Your back wheel is wobbling!!”

Of course coming down was a lot faster than going up! We stopped a few times, and after the first of the two minor hills we had to climb, Kaely crowed: “Dude, I just passed two sponsored guys on that last hill!”

“What were they wearing?”
“Matching jerseys with (name of a local bike shop) all over them!”
“You know you can buy those, right?”
“Ha! That’s so lame!!”

I don’t know if any of you readers wear shop jerseys, but I kind of agree that it’s pretty funny when someone wearing a jersey like that gets passed by some dude on a cyclocross bike (with knobby tires) wearing a plain t-shirt and baggy shorts. But who am I to talk? I’ve got all the gear, and buddy was passing me, too.

Just after that, we were flying down the hill again, when I spotted two riders on the side of the road, standing next to their bikes, staring at what turned out to be a very flat tire. I slowed down, turned around, and cranked back up the hill to check it out. They were about 5-6 km from the gate, heading up the hill, and had nothing to fix the flat!

Well, maybe it was the sprung spoke, or the beautiful weather, or the recollection of the half-dozen flats I’ve suffered (at least one of which I was similarly unprepared for), I pulled off my backpack, fished out my gear, and started pulling the back wheel off the bike. The sheepish rider was very, very thankful, as I showed him my tire levers, how to take the tire off and the tube out. I pulled out my pump, and tried to find the leak to see if it could be repaired, but it turned out to be more than one pinch flat—not worth patching. I had no less than three spare tubes on me, so I wasn’t going to miss one. I made them promise to go and pick up some spare tubes, tire levers, at least one pump, maybe a patch kit, and suggested a floor pump with a pressure gauge would also be a good investment, since pinch flats are usually due to a lack of tire pressure. Most bike shops have courses showing you how to fix a flat—and YouTube has some pretty instructional stuff, too.

I’ve learned all those lessons the hard way—it’s much better to have an extra spare to help someone in need!! I have to say too, that most of they cyclists who passed us while we chatted and fixed the tire, slowed down “Got everything you need?” “Everything okay?”.

What a great sport, a great day, and a great ride. The ice cream at the gas station just capped it off!

Pictures are coming—that’s a whole other story of the sneaky camera that didn’t make it up the hill because it was hiding. Fortunately, Kaely brought a camera, so I just have to get the pics from him. I'll post them when I get them...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Data, Gearing and Highwood Plans

Went on a bit of a shopping spree yesterday at MEC. Like a kid at a candy store!

The main thing was to replace the pilfered pack and it's contents. You can never have too many spare tubes, either. Or snacks: Clif bars, Clif Shot Bloks, Honey Stingers, Sharkies... And having lots of water is important too, so I broke down and bought a Platypus "bladder" for the backpack.

I've been thinking about picking up a cycling computer for a while. A Garmin Edge 705 would be great, but I just can't justify spending $600 on something that only works on my bike, and that--according to my wife-- I'll probably just break/lose anyway. So, in an uncharacteristic move, I went for the cheapest 'puter I could find. 22 bucks for speed, odometer, tripmeter, clock, and cadence. That's all I need right now-- we'll see how well I've calibrated and installed them. Yep, got one for my gal, too. She knows generally what her cadence should be, so now she'll be able to see if she's over or under.

I also made a brief stop at Pedalhead to chat with the guys about gearing. Nicole rides a Frankenbike that she bought second-hand, and it has a smaller cassette on the back wheel, meaning that her bike is potentially faster, but requires more effort, especially uphill. Pedalhead had suggested rather than a "granny gear" (a third smaller, "easier" gear near the pedals), switching the cassette for a slightly larger one, ie more teeth, making her gearing slightly easier overall. Since that conversation, I realized that my cassette is larger, and that I could maybe handle the extra effort.

So we're going to experiment. After installing the cycling computer, I swapped our rear wheels, so we can both try the different gearing. I tested both bikes, and had to fine-tune the front derailleur on mine, but hers ran through all the gears no problem. The big test will be tonight-- it's Wicked Wednesday.

If all goes well, I'll bring the bikes in on Thursday for the swap (so I can get my "fast" wheel back) ;) and we'll be ready to rock up to the Highwood Pass on Saturday!

The plan so far is to meet for breakfast in Canmore at 10am, then be at the gate around 11:30-12:00. We'll ride to the summit (if we can), then probably just head back to the cars. I doubt anyone (aside from me) in our group will want to do the climb twice.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vulcan Tinman 2009

The day did not start off very well at all. You might think I’m referring to the weather—I wish. We weren’t running late, either. Nor was the excellent Moroccan Lamb I had the night before at Escoba bothering me…

It seems that every year or so, something happens that tarnishes my faith in the goodness of my fellow man. Hopefully, this will be it for at least another year.

When we went to the bike locker (a chain-link cage with bike stands and about 30 or so bikes in it at any given time), I noticed that my under-seat bag was open. Then I noticed it was a little light. Then we both noticed that Nicole’s was completely gone! Grrr…

So after a brief stop at Pedalhead for some spare tires, we headed south. I was simmering, but tried to put the theft out of my mind, and focus on the race.

Here’s something not too common—snow on the ground, in June! (Well, it might be common if you live in the southern hemisphere, but that doesn’t count) We could see the snow out our window when we woke up, but it was still shocking to see the snow-covered hills that popped up on the horizon just as we passed Chaparral.We had both filled the car with extra clothes- gloves, tights, rain pants, toques, extra shoes, extra sweaters, even wool socks. We even stopped at Walmart to buy two plastic bins for transition, even though I’d always silently mocked guys at other (sunny) races who toted around similar kits. I figured we were so over-prepared, the weather just had to improve—that’s just how the weather works in Southern Alberta!

And, for the most part, it did get better. We were pretty cold getting organized—especially the body-marking part!! (For my non-triathlete readers, there are three ways that race organizers keep track of you on the course: a computer chip strapped to your ankle, a numbered “bib” that you usually pin to your clothes, and the same number written in permanent black marker on your calves and upper arm). Peeling ones shirt off in the blowing rain will chill anyone—even someone as hairy as me!

Because quite a few people didn’t show up, and because Vulcan has a small pool, meaning the heats are VERY spread out, we had our choice of spots in transition. We got organized, and went to watch the action in the pool. Because so many people had wimped out, the lanes were pretty wide open, and they were allowing people to get in early. The only downside to this was that it made it a little more difficult to figure out when to jump in—no one was standing on the pool deck discussing lap times like usual!

Despite the less than ideal weather, the worst part of the race was stripping down, and getting onto the pool deck, waiting to get into the water! I could tell that Nicole was having second thoughts…so I put on my coach hat: “C’mon, get going! Give me your jacket, just get in, focus on the race, and you’ll warm up real quick! Go! Go! Go!”

You know what, it actually worked! (That, or she’s getting good at blocking me out). She got out there, swam great, had a very slow T1—but that was expected-- finding that I enjoy watching races almost as much as I enjoy competing! I get a blast talking to first-time athletes, (not so long ago I was one myself!) first time spectators (“how many of these marathons have you done?”), and lending out the cowbell to whoever asks. Even in the rain, sleet, snow and hail, there are people out cheering at every race supporting friends and family. It’s just such a great atmosphere.

But I wasn’t in Vulcan just to watch. Because people were getting into the pool early, I needed to get ready shortly after I watched Nicole cross the finish line. And I needed to get warm! Fortunately, the change rooms are indoors, so I went in, went through the race in my mind as I got ready. I was hoping to be able to get into the water quickly, but it seemed like forever before they gave me the thumbs up, even though there was no line on the deck. I’m sure it was just the goosebumps.

Once I finally got in the water, it was great! Sooooo warm—like a hot tub! At least compared to the air; I’m sure it was only a few degrees warmer than usual. Right away, I settled into my stroke. The goggles were great, and I felt strong. On lap 8 though, my cap was starting to come off, so at the wall, I tossed it. The goggles also fogged up, but they didn't leak. I think my eyeballs just run too warm for them.

Out of the water, short quick steps, I didn’t even notice the cold concrete. The usual fuzziness, but I got to my gear no problem. I’d packed the box in the order that I’d need things- towel, tech shirt, tech sweater, tights, socks, jacket, race bib, gloves, sunglasses, helmet, bike shoes. That’s a lot of crap to put on!!! The usual 30 second transition became 4-5 minutes.

The bike is pretty much a straight-shot out-and-back on a great little highway- not much of a shoulder, but a typical Alberta prairie view—gently rolling hills, gold and green fields, an old homestead or two, and wild skies. I don’t remember what anything looked like on the way back. It was head down, make myself small, and focus on circles!

T2 felt really fast—change shoes, change hats, and go. Despite the tights, my legs were almost numb for the first few blocks. I kept them going, turning over as quickly as I could, then settled in to my usual pace. At the halfway point, I shed my jacket, and picked up the pace just a bit, but my hip flexors felt a little sore, and I could feel a bit of a stitch coming on. If I can work on my core, and do some more speed work, I think I could push more. Anyway. Saved enough for a final kick—I was so fast, this was the finish line photo:

On the social ride last night, someone asked me what the best part of my race. My answer was the first part of the swim, and the final kick. But really, the best part was how quickly I recovered. I was really surprised how quickly my breathing and heart rate came down.

Overall Place: 35
Age Group Place: 4/15
Swim Rank: 18
Swim Time: 9:17
Bike Rank: 55
Bike Time (includes T1 and T2): 34:40
Run Rank: 42
Run Time: 23:38
Total Time: 1:07:34

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vulcan Tinman and Chinook Half

The Vulcan Tinman is looking like it's gonna have crappy weather for the second year in a row- hopefully it doesn't get canceled again! I'm bringing lots of clothing choices and a rubbermaid box for transition just in case. Race organizer Barb has some great info on their website - basically, the show must go on, but some folks might miss the bike portion if the road is unsafe (they'd just give everyone the same time...) I, for one, will not be missing the event; they have great food, and a decent race package. Here's my packing list for racing and spectating, aside from the usual gear:
  • umbrella
  • chair
  • rain jacket and pants
  • sweater
  • full finger gloves
  • tarp
  • extra shoes
  • knobby bike tires (although i haven't decided if this will help or hinder if things get icky)
  • rubbermaid box
  • ski goggles (?)
On the other hand... it is Alberta, and the weather can change so fast around here, that you never know, it just might be okay by the time I race.

Since I'm not really doing anything better that day, and I'm not planning to race, I decided to volunteer for the Chinook Half (and Oly) this year! I'm looking forward to seeing a race from another perspective, and checking out the course... maybe I'll do it next year?

Open Water Mele

Swimming in open water (ie a lake or ocean) is a lot different than swimming lanes- so of course it's important to practice, to get a feel for what it's like. One of the big differences is dealing with the crowds that happen at a mass start--okay, it's not quite as bad as the video, but swimming in a pack is a whole new game. Sighting can be practiced in the lanes, but it's kind of tough when you don't have much to look for, but cornering is strictly an open-water skill.

So last night, we pushed back the bulkhead that usually splits the 50m University pool in two, cleared out the lane ropes, and dropped four "buoys" into the corners. Most of the team have wetsuits, but I haven't been able to justify the purchase yet, so I was one of only a handful that went without. But I can't really blame the crappy swim on not having the buoyancy of a wetsuit.

Yep, you read that right... it was a crappy, crappy swim. It felt sloppy, I couldn't find my rhythm, and I think I was just tired from Wednesday's training ride. I did about 90% of the workout, then did some core work on my own before calling it a night. I tell myself I would have pushed through it if I didn't have a race this weekend, but I still feel bad about not quite finishing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

9x Up and Down

Ah, Wednesday hill repeats. How I love/loathe thee.

Love it, because I'm clearly seeing improvements in my leg strength, endurance, and bike control. And, it's kind of fun. Loathe it, because it hurts. Well, I kind of like the hurt too... at least, the muscle hurt. The coughing so hard I almost pass out because I left my inhaler at home, not so fun.

We're supposed to go easy the first time up, then a little harder, then really push on the third before coming down for a 5 minute run. I thought I had warmed up pretty well along the river, and thought I was taking it easy the first time up, but my legs told me otherwise! It was weird; my thighs were beyond burning, but not cramping. They just felt really thick, like I could feel ever fiber of muscle, and not really in a good way?

Fortunately, that only lasted two reps. After my first run, I felt pretty strong, and managed to keep it mostly in third gear for the rest of the workout- a total of nine times up the hill.

90 minutes - 9 hill repeats - 3x 5 minute runs

Just started following Chuckie V- great tips, funny guy. Here's his latest article on the taper.... good stuff

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Flying Lesson

So we missed the social ride last (Monday) night... sometimes it's just a pain to drive across the city.

Instead, we went for a later ride through Fish Creek Park. It was pretty chilly, butI think we both felt weird bundling up after Sunday's relatively hot ride in Drumheller. As we were getting the bikes out, I was a little worried I'd overdressed, but as soon as the wind hit me, I was glad for the layers!

(I got bored trying to re-trace the same route, so I just hit "loop"... you get the idea.)

The coolest thing about this ride was that we saw a family of owls! The two babies were learning to fly... well, one was, the other was pretty convinced that he couldn't do it, and just sat there. The adults were flying from branch to branch every 10-15 minutes, silently graceful and composed, coaxing the young ones with hoots and purrs. We watched one of the juveniles for about half an hour- he flew from one tree to the other, but chose a very twiggy branch to land on, and kept getting tangled in the smaller branches and twigs. He kept trying to turn around, slowly and clumsily walking towards the trunk, looking like he wanted to fly, but was scared. It was pretty cool to watch, only about 20-30 feet away.

About an hour of actual riding

Monday, June 1, 2009

Badlands Bike Ride

For the past few years, my parents, brothers, and our significant others have had an annual "Family Adventure". Last year, we went to Waterton Lakes National Park. The year before that, we went whitewater rafting near Longview. This year, we went to Drumheller for the weekend.

Saturday was really hot, even in the morning. Four of us went running-- we just kind of explored the neighborhood we were staying in, and tried to run as much in the shade and near the river as we could. It was a pretty good run- a few fartleks mixed in, some slower stuff, and some time closer to race pace. Roughly 42 minutes.

We spent the rest of Sunday at the Royal Tyrell Museum - and even did a "Dino Site" interpretive walk. I found a fossilized tooth! We all found some petrified wood, and chunks of fossil bone. Don't worry, it was part of the tour, and no one kept anything, it all went to the guide. That night, we went to Rosebud for their famous dinner theatre--what a buffet-- and saw a great rendition of "Man of LaMancha".

Although I heard mention of getting up early to avoid the heat, our planned bike ride on Sunday didn't start until about 10:30 - which was just fine, because it wasn't as hot. Our little peloton was made up of myself, Nicole, my dad, brother Chad and his girlfriend Laura. We rode through town on a nice bike trail along the river, east towards Rosedale and East Coulee. The highway had decent shoulders, and the traffic we did see was very generous, usually changing lanes one the two lane highway to give us lots of room.

For a while, I was a little worried about dad, as he was the only one without a roadbike and clipless pedals (as we were leaving, he was singing "one of these things is not like the other...") but he held his own, and we made time. I'd have to get the exact distances from the people with the cycling computers, but I think it was about 16 km to the Hoo Doos. I've seen countless pictures of them, and they're smaller than I thought they'd be!

We had a little bit of a headwind on the way back, but we made it back to the Newcastle Inn in about the same amount of time (roughly 50 minutes each way).
I found out that my company is doing a "200 minute challenge" where you submit the number of minutes you exercise every 2 weeks, and you're supposed to shoot for 200 minutes every 2 weeks... I work remotely, so any chance to connect is great. I guess I've already hit my total for this week! (Not that that will stop me from training every day this week!)

Vulcan Tinman on Saturday! I'm excited!!