Monday, August 28, 2017

Grafham Anglian Water Triathlon 2017 European Triathlon Championships Qualifier

My best result to date in a tri.  When the effects of Alpe d'Huez combined perfectly with a flat, fast course.  It disintegrated quickly into history as my adventures in Penticton, Canada replaced the memories.

It was good for 115% on the ITU Qualifier scale but in retrospect that's not brilliant.  It might still see me in but as it's one week before Alpe d'Huez, might not happen anyway (or at best be inconvenient).  It's good to have options right?

Thoughts on the day:
Swim - Say what now? (awesome!).  Where did it come from?  How can I repeat this next year?
Excellent image from the race photographer
Showing the early signs of athletic palsy

Bike - short, boring but enjoyable flat-out riding.  Having alps in the legs helped with the short climbs.  Would have been faster if I hadn't dropped my chain.

Run - Ow.  Someone collapsed in the heat. Must try harder to get faster times again.
Clearly pleased with myself

Swim: 25:45, 21/31, 107/159, 328/427
T1: 1:48
Bike: 1:09:42 11/31, 61/159, 302/427
T2: 1:23
Run: 50:10 15/31, 85/159, 329/427

Overall: 2:28:50 16/31, 80/159, 160/427

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Penticton to Princeton

Hello Lower mainland
Getting home on tired legs.

Not wanting to spend one more moment in the Okanagan.
Good bye Okanagan

Reminded why I left the country.  $27.50 to post my race rucsac home.  It will arrive in "about 2 months".  No insurance.

I was gone by 10am.  Fairly impressive since I had to pack.  I knew my schedule now.  Three 80 mile days and one 40 mile day.  In any order.  There was nothing else to do but get going.  I couldn't face Greenwood Forest Products or Green Mountain Road.  The highway wasn't too busy and I soon realised that the benefit of Twin Lakes was a service station where I could stock up on cold water for my camelbak, iced tea and a muffin.

At Keremeos I started to dream of salad and pulled into the Organic Farm Shop which only offered baked goods so I made do with an over-priced sandwich.  Air con set to high so I had to take my slushy outside to melt it to a drinkable temperature.

Headley came sooner than I expected but as I walked through the door was greeted with, "Hi, you came back!"  Sweet!

I drank tea and iced water.
Bathroom humour

It was still 23 miles to Princeton but the promising old road was still there with its campgrounds and swim pools all the way along and so I ploughed on up the raod keeping one eye open for bears and one ear open for cars.  Thankfully this rewarded me with a bluebird sighting as I neared princeton.

The swim spots were unappealing in my fatigued state and I didn't fancy getting cold and wet, despite the heat.  I had run out of enthusiasm and just wanted to flop into a restaurant for dinner so I set about making the campsite at the edge of town.

Apart from having enjoyed my stay there, I also left my battery and solar charger there on the way out so needed to return to relaim it.  When I walked through the door, the manager proclaimed, "Hey, you came back".  More sweet!

I dropped my bike and took my shoes off and walked straight into the river fully clothed.  Cue, friendly concerned conversations with the local tourists (if you catch my drift).

I had the most awful fish and chips (since when are we asked "one piece or two?").  Beer was nice though.  Walked back to my campsite.  Less impressed to find the Weyerhauser plant running 24 x 7 (did I not notice last time?).

Breakfast was eaten one last time at the cafe where a local wanted to know all about the Penticton race and insisted on getting a photo with me.  We obliged eachother and I promised to visit his place on Wong Way some time - well now I have the picture to prove I'm welcome!
Mr Wong

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Totally distracted

Things I usually do on my ex-wedding anniversary: fret and mope

Things I did on this one:

  • Outdoor shopping
  • Tried a new juice bar and bitched about how Ironman has changed with a complete stranger
  • Met a new friend and had breakfast in her caravan whilst scratching a dopey blonde labrador
  • Waking to the sound of honing geese.
  • 6:30am run in my tri suit then straight in the lake for a swim
  • going back to bed
  • Booked 2 nights in a hotel
  • international race briefing
  • Photographed a woman reclining with a chihuahua on her boobies.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Canada 2017: Day 4 - Riding Into the Smoke

At 9am I left Princeton campsite, joined the highway and cycled down the hill.  After 10 mins I noticed my Garmin telling me I was off course, except the route was just on the other side of the river.  It would join up  "soon", right?

I didn't want to retrace as I was concerned about this cold I'd picked up and went with it for the moment but as the traffic kept coming I longed for that other road.  I checked.  It went on for miles and there were no bridges.

I'd only been riding 15 minutes so I turned around, headed back and justified it with the opportunity to have a second breakfast at a nice-looking cafe in town.

The chocolate croissant was big and the breakfast tea went down with lots of sugar  and two bike packers turned up for a chat - one from Seattle and the other "just finishing off" his Tour Divide South to North ride.

As I struggled to get out the words of a sentence, sputtering out the words over my cold which bit at the back of my throat like a bee-sting, they both nodded and said, "it's something in the air".  I explained my track record of 1 in 1 occurrences of a cold appearing right before an international competition but they both confirmed they were suffering the same condition - "it's the smoke!".

Cue long discussion about how we thought it was over etc. but I set off down the valley again with renewed optimism.  Not for the ride into smoke but for the not being sick part.

The optimism continued as I first followed the trail and then a perfectly surfaced road past some of the most beautiful swim spots I have ever seen.  Campgrounds abounded and kids played and I rolled by, thinking I'd definitely stop for a swim on the way back (note to self: should have sopped because it wasn't nearly as idyllic on the way back).

After not long enough I rejoined the main highway and my joy decreased.  The mumbling of traffic led to the haze of smoke from the wildfires in the interior and the distant peaks gradually turned silver through the haze.  My throat started to itch and I felt the need to somehow protect myself.

The government guideline was to avoid hard physical exercise but I'd been on the road for a few days and all hills were hard by now.  I tried breathing through my nose thinking the nose hairs would filter the particulates but even at an easy gear I couldn't seem to get enough air through my pathetic nasal passages to fuel my muscles.  I tried to breathe out through my mouth to improve flow but I was gradually desiccating, breathing in dry air and breathing out all the moisture.  My head started to sting as I pushed less and less oxygen through the contracted airways until eventually my nose burned intolerably dry and I took my first few tentative mouth-breaths.

Finally relief.

I pulled into Hedley cafe for a rest - a truckstop style caf in a gold mining town where the museum is "temporarily" closed.  Since there was nothing until Keremeos where I would be around 3pm, 11:30 transpired to be lunchtime.  French toast and a plate of chips later and I resumed mouth breathing with sips from my Camelbak, supplemented with ice water.

The route to Keremeos was also supplemented with a few minor (although rewarding) detours off the main road to pass through tiny native villages and then the main crossing over the river via a big red road bridge I had always admired but never crossed when I lived here.  The detour through the fruit trees cheered me up no end, as did the diversion into Keremeos - historically avoided via detour around the "bypass".

The cafe had run out of icecream and soda so my much-anticipated milkshake was downgraded first to fruit soda and then to sprite plus syrup.  Shocking in a town selling fresh fruit from the trees and they still charged me $5.  Added to the list of places NOT to stop on the way back.

When I left town I was pleased to note an alternative organic farm cafe on the way out.  Plan formed.

When I came out, the air felt clearer - or maybe it was the $5 ice cubes.  The first short hill was enough to remind me it wasn't completely clear but I settled back into my routine of going easy on the climbs then standing up on the descents to recover my bruises and let circulation back into my sit bones.  I finally reached the Green Mountain turn off in mid afternoon, having debated this turn all day.

I was looking forward to the picturesque traffic free option but not the climbs, extra distance and lack of anything.  Still, I plunged into instant relief as I realised that the trees which give the mountain its colour and hence its name were filtering out much of the smoke and dryness and the air was relatively normal.

My legs, however were not and as I watched the bear scat roll by I doubted my ability to out sprint a bear, no matter how much adrenaline. I focused on trying not to wobble off the road.

Eventually I passed that familiar turn off to Apex mountain resort, pleased to have avoided the rush hour that would coincide with bumping into my ex-husband (only chance I might see him) and enjoyed the lovely descent through to the reserve.  At one point I thought I'd been sworn at by a motorcyclist which left me dismayed as Canadians tend to respect, not heckle cyclists.  Then I realised he was warning me that the road surface approaching was "feckin awful" and appreciated his words as I skittered across the gravel.

I dropped out at Greenwood forest products completely spent and starving.  The factory was closed and anyway I was heading straight to the donut shop across the road.  Sadly now a Tim Hortons but I could at least get a salad and devour the milkshake I'd been harbouring all day.

For once I shunned the cold, air conditioned indoors and embraced the heat and remaining smoke to enjoy a meal in a familiar environment.  With 8 miles to go it seemed irresponsible to adjust to a different climate.  Besides, even outside was starting to feel "a bit chilly".

I shivered my way back to life and warmed up with a ride along the channel path (still an awful surface) before deciding not to risk the worse lakeshore trail with a fully loaded bike but stick to the highway that I know.

Uphill but at least not as daunting as the precipitous drop to the campsite.  I realised I was going to become familiar with the lakeshore path.

I had no energy left to argue with the campsite steward who stuck me between two roads and the bins.  I tried but sulked off and kept myself to myself.  I spent a good 20 minutes trying to see any flat ground on my pitch then threw up my tent and went to sit in the shower and do my laundry.

I was to suffer this campsite for as little as possible before moving to town.  The lakeshore path was tollerable to ride along and overwhelmingly pleasant to run along.  I hated the campsite but I liked its location.  As soon as I could I moved into town for 1 night then into a hotel before the race.

My deal with Penticton was done by then and my enthusiasm for Canadian lakeshore camping was over.  The Kaleden campsite kept me away from the cryathletes withering around town in self importance and allowed me a quiet swim twice a day away from the crowds of kids but that was it.  I'd never go back there again unless seriously out of season.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Canada: Day 3 - Hope to Princeton

There's more things I forgot to bring - hair bobbles (borrowed one from Tan but it's too loose and I keep losing it); earplugs (I really can't live without them no matter how tired) and suncream (for obvious reasons).

Everything comes in packs of 10 or 15.  I throw away most of the ear plugs and some of the bobbles (though elastic bands are always useful so many stay).  I buy a stick of suncream as it's the only thing in a small bottle so I can colour in my limbs. The nice lady in the shop explains it's "for the face", I rudely point out that it will go wherever I put it, I'm so frustrated about the over-shopping.

It's all delaying that innevitable first climb up Highway 1 to the Crowsnest with its memories of thinking, "are we supposed to be on this" as we scale a 3-lane "freeway"(motorway) section but sure enough there's bike symbols on the hard-shoulder.  It's a relief to turn onto the Crowsnest past and leave the 3 lanes behind and I just focus on mashing the pedals as far as the Hope Slide Memorial which I decide I don't need to revisit.

I'm peckish when I pass Sunshine Valley at 10:30am but I decide not to stop as I'm going downhill, freewheeling and I've already missed the turn.  I ride on nibbling on the supplies I have with me and knowing that Manning Park resort is also ahead.

On and on... to Allison Pass summit where I have a slightly annoyed looking selfie and continue on some more.  I kind of know this doesn't let up but the short shallow downhills followed by more climbing... they're starting to drag on.

There are road signs, boasting of "Canada's 10 year plan" to build roads and keep people in work.  All yay! But they seem to be in the same places they were last time so I just wonder if this is a genuine Forth-Bridge project which needs re-surfacing and rebuilding on a regular 10 year cycle.  I doubt I'll be back in another 10 years to find out.

Finally, I crest a descent to Manning Park and the lodge looms into view.  I lock up DB and head inside to find pasties, chocolate ice cream and coffee with some extras on the side.  I've eaten every bit of food I own except the desiccated emergency food and I'm starving.  I sit in the shade, wilt and look at my lovely lovely bike.  A group of Americans are crowding around her and marvelling at my set up.  One guy refers to her as "Some European thing" and my blood boils but I'm too tired for a conversation so I stay in the shade of the building.

Finally he starts peering at my Apidura wondering, "how does it stay up there?" and I can't resist saying, "by magic".  He asks "Oh, is this yours?" and when I answer "Yes and explain about straps under saddles and harnesses",  that seems to be enough for him and he wanders off.  Great to have some human interaction.

Inside I grab some more food and then head back out into the sunshine.  At least there's a bit of downhill before going back up again.  The forest wanes into Sunday summit where the trees become more spread-out and sparse, giving way to brush, rocky faces and quarries.  It looks like a valley has been dammed for flooding.  The dam in still in construction and looks hideous.  Its surface is like the moon compared to the surrounding pink rock and green trees.  It makes me say, "oh no Trudeau, you di'nnt", but you have to watch "The Last Leg" in England to get that one.

I finally come across the gut-wrenching whoop-dinger of a descent I have been looking for all day.  As I approach it a logging truck pulls out of a truckstop behind me and then its draft whoofs me along upto 40kph as I reach the top of the descent.  I drop into a tuck and just as I've started to really enjoy the wide open road and sweeping bends, the passenger in a camper across the road screams "Yee haw" at me and I whoop down the rest of the descent.  Max speed 68km/hr. (43mph).

The best thing about that descent is Princeton is right at the bottom.  For the first time this trip I am scared by wildlife as a massive red deer, grazing by the road side sees me and is spooked.  Thankfully there's no traffic near me and I pull over to give her room but she bounds off in the opposite direction.  The village is abounding with monk deer so it must be a real thing here.

I rumble up at the nearest campsite to town so I can go and get myself some food and check in, completely spent.

Time: 8h:25m

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Canada Day 2 - Langley to Hope

Pancakes, bacon, maple syrup and love are my send off.  Everyone, including me is excited although - unlike everyone else, I am somewhat daunted.  I ride into Langley to Mountain Equipment Co-op to get a bear scarer (useful for UK motorists?) and stove fuel and to see if the lovely mechanic will cut the lock off my bike frame.  I stupidly locked it there and then brought the wrong key with me.

(c) Tan-Ya

The shop doesn't open for an hour when I arrive and I almost leave to cope or find a hardware store for help but then remember the gas and return to chill out, sit in the sun and banter with the local lonely cyclist (on first name terms with the staff when they arrive). 

90 minutes later and I leave with fuel, an air horn and knees liberated from being knocked by a lock.

I've plotted a route through the burbs.  I have to stop after 1 hour for lunch.  Ignoring the chain restaurants I find a cafe that's only been open 7 weeks and I am their first international customer. 

A delicious salad and properly served tea.  Canada is looking up.

As factories and offices give way to farm holdings and acreages, my options are done.  One last jaunt through Chilliwack's highlands and then into town, briefly crossing highway 1, onto highway 7 and the start of the Hope Road.

There's a headwind all the way which I can just about cope with but dread meeting it on the way back.  It's interrupted by the whistle and rumble of a Canada Pacific train and my thoughts focus on counting the containers its pulling.  238. 

That haunting whistle brings back so many memories and before I know it I am at the campsite at hope.  There's space and I am clean.  I bike into town for dinner.  My new lock keeps the bike safe and it's a successful day.  There's just that haunting wail of trains that keeps me awake late and then the light wakes me up early and it's time to hit the road.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Post Alpine Drizzle

Looking at social media.  All these Athletes getting ready for their big races this weekend.  Oh, I'm so fit.  I've had my last pre race massage.  Eh, all I need to do is rest now.


Here I sit with a resting heart rate 24 bpm higher than it should be and not going down and I'm like. Meh.  Like Sofa.  LIKE FUCK I'M RACING THIS WEEKEND TOO. Like I'm so sitting on the sofa eating plums out of the box but just because there's no nutella.

Yep, that's right.  I'm racing this weekend.

Weeks ago, when I was ill, I gave up coffee.  I hadn't drunk it for days due to the illness and so I'd gone through the worst of cold turkey whilst ill, I thought I'd see it through and just keep on cutting out coffee.  That was 10th June.  I lapsed once - which is unusual for me.  A lapse is usually the end.

I haven't felt any different for giving up coffee but also I haven't been ill and I haven't had any sleepless nights.  I haven't stopped caffeine intake - I still drink tea though more herbal teas get drunk to substitute coffee so I've definitely cut down.

When I'm feeling this bad, I wonder if I should go back to drinking coffee but I won't because I don't miss it as much as this great relief that I permanently feel well, even when I'm feeling rough from recovering from a race.  I'm at home resting today to attempt to recover a bit faster before my race this weekend.  I don't even need the coffee to feel better about my working day... but it would be so nice to have a cup of coffee... but I won't.

I have attempted to qualify for this years world champs twice this year and failed both times.  I don't really mind.  The world champs is in Rotterdam and so not particularly exciting.  It is also on a date that would leave me rushing to get back from the Torino Nice Rally and that is NOT something I want to do.

At both races though, I would have got a Euro's qualifying time... had it been a Euro's qualifying race... but it wasn't.  So this weekend I am going to be attempting to qualify for the european team.  And if I do, I will hang up my bib for the tri season because the other race means me rushing to get TO the Torino Nice Rally - also not really something I want to do.

If I don't qualify, I won't berate myself because I do feel rubbish and I just did a shit hard race which was shittier and harder than most people will realise.  I will glow in the outcome of racing twice in two weeks and pat myself on the back, commit to racing at Bala and try harder next time... but in the meantime, I might also have another day off.

I've read a blog by a blogess who always inspires me.  She writes honestly about how hard it is to train for Ironman as a pro and also about how much she likes beating people when it comes to racing.  Somehow I have lost that connection between the satisfaction of being near the front and racing and a need to train.  I find myself scrambling for ways to remind myself of it - short of reading other people's blogs and occasionally from when I re-read my own posts about past races.  I didn't do a particularly great race at Chester (I mean, it was OK) and Ripon was a bit of a write off because of all the tired from all the Alpine strength training I had been doing and I pushed too hard on the bike to the detriment of the run.

So, despite having a day off, I remind myself that I've promised every race a plan and so here it is for Sunday:

Swim: 30 (but not holding out for this as I've REALLY not done any training except a very steady one last Thursday).
Bike: Another attempt at 1:14 and 19mph but without the headwind at Ripon I might get 20mph for a 1:10
Run: I'd be so chuffed to run a 49 again.  Who knows, it might just be possible on altitude training if I recover in time.  Speed - 7.6mph.

Allowing for 2 min average transitions this would give me a finish time of 2:33. 312/545 (10th FH and 5th FI) at StN Q or 312th/700 in the last qualifier on this course (5th FI 10th FH).