Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Training Camp Part Deux - Things Get Serious (and the weather turns terrible)

On Tuesday the camp started in earnest. We got our first crack at parts of the course and the workouts got significantly longer.

As per every day of the camp, we started out with a swim. I sneezing heavily after due to water up my nose but didn't think much of it at the time.

Bike – OK Falls (marathon turn around) to Osyoos and back.

Time: 3hrs
Ave Speed 28.69
Max Speed 53.87

We had a fantastic tailwind on the way down to Osoyoos, I didn't notice how strong it was and just thought I was riding like a god. Teresa and I mostly keep in sighting or talking distance and made sure to see Karen was doing okay. We got to the Oliver half bike course and I joked with Teresa that I wanted to stop and find the water bottle and bottle cage I lost on the race. At 1:20 Karen caught us up (after a mammoth sprint to catch up) to tell us that Andrew called her and that the headwind back was killer and we should turn back ASAP.

Due to the wind we decided to do a pace line back. Karen had never done one but after about 15 seconds of instructions (don't use your brakes, try to stay 6" off the person in front's back wheel, point to junk on the road, indicate when you want to drop back) we took off and she was doing it like a pro. About 20 minutes in I realized I'd told her not to use her brakes but hadn't told her the signals for slowing done and stopping – potentially a cause for concern! We fixed that at the roadworks.

Somewhere around Vassau Lake we lost Karen. She had a flat and had intelligently crossed to the shady side of the road to change the tube, meanwhile Teresa and I were looking for her on the other side of the road (we have how many years of post secondary education between the two of us??). Once we though to look 30' to thr right we found her! Karen told us she was okay and told us to go on. Teresa and I pacelined for a bit then decided to ride solo (I need the practice riding into a headwind). I saw a pile of glass too late to avoid it - just as I was about to swerve I heard the puncture and felt all the air run out of my tire. Teresa caught up with me and was eager to help, never having changed a tire, but I told her "Back off - it's my flat!" It was one of my fastest tire changes ever (still not very fast so I'm not telling you the time).

At the end of the ride we packed up the bikes then ran from the park along Eastside Road towards Penticton, our first crack at the run course. Karen was a great runner - turns out she's a coach for Team In Training so will have a HUGE cheering squad at IMC.

My HR was too high (171 ave), probably from trying to keep up with Karen, but it was a fun social run.

This was our first ice bath day – a shock for some of the club members who hadn’t done it before. We got some serious stares from some of the motel guests – apparently people standing in garbage cans full of ice water in a parking lot isn’t something they’re used to seeing. Later in the week we were asked if we were with the group in the garbage cans.

I was sneezing a lot and wondering if it was allergies or what? Figured too much lake water in my nose and didn’t think much of it.

On Wednesday the rain began.

We start with a short am swim. For some reason I adamantly didn't want to wear a wetsuit, can't remeber why now, but I relented.

After the swim I realized the sneezing wasn't because of allergies but due a sinus infection. I was hopefully some salt water up the nose would do the trick and I'd be over it.

While we were have breakfast and the rain started coming down harder and we went out for our tempo run into some fairly nasty weather.

After the run I decided to do the salt water up the sinuses trick to kill the infection and figured I could do up a solution myself, forgetting the results of the last times I’ve thrown table salt and tap water up my nose. There was less swearing than previous times I’ve done it but it hurt unbelievably and I decided I had to find a drugstore to get the sinus-ready saline solution.

We decided to move the bike repair session to the next day and go earlier for our ride. The law of group dynamics meant that we didn’t actually get away from the hotel that much earlier than planned but it felt like a victory anyway.

The plan was to ride from the top of Richter to the top of Yellow Lake but as it was so cold and wet and miserable we decided starting with a long descent would be a bad idea and we opted to start from the base of Richter (turned out to be the base of the second or so roller, but close enough). The ride out with Princess was initially a somber affair – this was our first crack at the Ironman course, our first real test of whether we were up for the challenge or not and we were a little tense. Luckily Teresa had the perfect remedy to hand – ACDC. We cranked Thunderstruck and headbanged, air guitared and howled our way through Keremeos and Cawston. As we kept going and going, and we ran out of tunes, the mood turned somber again. For me this was the part of the course I’d never seen (I’ve driven Yellow Lake tons of times, been to Oliver quite a few and to Osoyoos more than once) and boy did it seem like a long stretch of road. The weather didn’t help, it ocaissionally relented to only being driving rain but we drove through several hailstorms. We finally had to crank Thunderstruck again just to get us into the right headspace.

The rain let up a bit when we stopped and unloaded the bikes. The fast folk (Bronwyn, Chung & Stephanie) took off and disappeared pretty quick. Teresa, Karen and I followed at a more sedate pace. The rain quickly got back up to a fairly serious intensity. The three of us occasionally regrouped to make sure we were all okay (and once to redistribute cell phones) and on one of these times Teresa, with no thought whatsoever for karma or Murphy’s law, blithely said “Ladies, at least you know it can’t get any worse than this!” Thunder claps followed this statement and within minutes it was hailing. Thanks Teresa!

It weather was so ridiculous all I could do was laugh. While we were still in the rollers I saw a figure with a flowery umbrella standing at the side of the road and I wondered what kind of nut that could be. Wasn’t a nut, it was our coach! I gave him a thumbs up and kept going.

I got into a good rhythm and got lost in my thoughts so I almost missed the turn off at Becks Road. I waved at Andrew and kept going and had to do a quick stop to turn and keep going.

Teresa and I regrouped and rode to Yellow Lake together, Teresa insisting Olalla be pronounced “Ooh-La-La!” The climb to Yellow Lake was steep but not too bad. At what I had thought was about halfway – Yellow Lake – I saw Andrew and said I wanted to keep going to the top. Apparently Yellow Lake is at the top of Yellow Lake Hill. Who knew! Suddenly the second big climb of the race was a lot less than I’d expected – very cool!
I was happy to keep going and made it to what I had thought was the top (the second roller, just before the fun descent) and got ready for a fun ride down. I was at about 64kmh when a Winnebago in front of me felt the need to slow down to 40 and take over the entire road so I lost my speed and actually had to pedal – stupid motorhomes. Met up with Andrew at the bottom and was instructed to take 97 towards Oliver. The road was terrible – minimal shoulder, lots of traffic and the road was so busy that the cars and heavy trucks couldn’t give us much space. It didn’t thrill me too much and I cut the ride a bit short (turns out I was supposed to ride for three and a half hours so I cut it more than a bit short!).

Despite the insane weather it was a fantastic ride, on seeing me at the junction of 3A and 97 Andrew commented “You’re on a high!”. Strangely, riding in the pouring rain was when my sinuses felt their best all day.

We drove back to where we’d left the cars at the base of Richter and Teresa and I drove back the long way – backwards along the course route over Richter and up 97 through Osoyoos and Oliver. We decided Richter was a tough looking climb but not as bad as Cypress or Seymour and very doable.

I desperately needed French fries so we drove through A&W, at which point it seemed logical to get a burger at the same time (my 20% for the day - at his nutrition talk Andrew'd told us we should try for at least 80% healthy food). I realized, after I’d eaten it, that this was my first fast food hamburger since my pre-vegetarian days.

We hit a mall on the way back and while Teresa grabbed food I picked up saline solution for my sinuses, hoping that would clear out the infection.

LETC Training Camp - Full Crew

While I'm still working on the next installment of the training camp write up, here's the entire crew from the training camp in "Triathlete Action Figures" pose.

Back Row: George, Kathy, Stan, Andrew H., Joanne, Andrew T, Elvis
Front Row: Karen, Stephanie, Jean-Yves, me, Bronwyn, Chung, Teresa, Kristina

(Photo courtesy of Joanne)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Peach Race Report

My long delayed, and just plain long, weekend race report.

Race: Peach Classic (Penticton, BC), July 15

Distance: Olympic

Goal: Under three hours. I knew I wouldn't get a PR as the course is hard

Actual Time: 2:51:42 (includes 2 minute penalty - apparently I was drafting)

The Gory Details:
I knew that this would be a tough race, both becuase of the course and because it was the provincial championships and there'd be some fast folk. I was looking forward to it, however, as I'm getting to a point with racing where I find the challenge fun.

It turned out there were 20 people from LETC in the race, which was almost half our members and an amazing turn out, even better as we had both the coaches racing. We later claimed a couple of others to our number, but those details will come later.

Our hotel was very close to the start area so it was an easy and relaxed morning. I think I've got race prep figured out now so I had everything I needed and there was no panic. I got body marked and in to transition reasonably early and was set up with lots of time to spare. I did a run and bike warm up then gabbed with fellow LETCers and other people I knew and took my time getting into my wetsuit.

The men started 5 minutes before us so we cheered them on then lined up ourselves (thanks to Stephanie/Tim for the picture).

The swim course is pretty basic - swim from the Peach to the SS Sicamous and back. They had to change the direction of the swim this year (out on the beach side of the buoys, back on the lake side) as water is quite shallow and last year people were walking in the shallows on the return leg of the swim.

I placed myself so I'd have clear water, conveniently forgetting I need to practice swimming in a melee, and sighted off the Sicamous rather than following the buoy line. I ended up swimming almost entirely alone as most people followed the arc of the buoys rather than taking the shorter direct route. As I didn't do any drafting on the way out I probably didn't get that much of an advantage.

I felt slow in the water and was a bit frustrated, but I was only a little slower than previous 1500m swim times.

I had a quick transition then hopped on my bike. The course started with a flat out and back along the beach, essentially retracing the swim, and past my motel. Once we came back past transition we went up Vancouver Hill, a steep climb of about 1 km. The course then went along the Naramata Bench and followed Okanagan lake North. I'd thought Vancouver Hill was the worst of the hills but it was rolling hills from there and with few flats and quite tough.

I got quite aggressive, for me, on the bike and went hard on the course. I enjoy hills and am weaker in comparison to other riders on the flat so this was my kind of ride. Eventually I was with a group where we would leap frog each other depending on our strengths, generally me passing on the uphills and getting caught on anything vaguely flat. I spotted a woman in red about 500m ahead of me and decided she was going DOWN. We were a similar pace so it took some effort to catch her but I eventually managed to pass her. This turned out to be a fateful moment as the TriBC officials whizzed by on a motorbike and yelled something incomprehensible - not sure what it was but I got a penalty and two minutes added to my bike time so I guess I was doing something wrong. (I go out of my way not to draft so it took about a while to stop being angry about this.)

Red Lady and I leapfrogged a bit but I believe I beat her to transition, I was having so much going down Vancouver Hill (67kmh max speed) at the end that I forgot about her.

A quick T2 then onto the run and totally different race strategy. The course was just over 1 km of flat (same stretch of beach as the bike out and back) then 3km of a steep climb, the end of which conned you into thinking it would eventually flatten out but was gentle rolling hills to the turn then back the way you came. My goal was to take the run at tempo and if I had anything left after the turn around to pick it up on the downhill then go hard on the flat at the end.

One of my other goals was to beat the leaders out of transition, meaning I wanted to be out on the run before anyone finished the race. I was successful and got to see the leader loping in, making it look easy.

As both coaches were racing and I knew Andrew would be in the front pack so I counted the men as they passed me, when I saw Coach Drew he was 15th. I stopped counting as I didn't expect to see Coach Alan, who'd only just figured out asthma issues after several years of being unable to train, so soon but he was only 6 or 7 back from Andrew. Obviously the breathing difficulties are behind him! The coaches ended up 18th and 20th overall.

I was ready for the ascent, mentally at least, so I kept an even tempo and just kept moving forward. I saw almost everyone else in the group as I was climbing, the only person behind was Teresa, who'd dropped her chain on the bike. I tried to yell encouragement but it got a little tiring (I have to do races where I know less people!) as I was somewhat out of breath on the hill.

After the turn around I saw Teresa was close on my heels and hoped I could stay head of her. Near the bottom of the big hill she blasted by me, yelling "C'mon Alison!" There was no way I was going to keep up with her so I just watched her go. Hitting the flat after 3km of running downhill was a bit of a shock, it was surprising how hard it was.

As I neared the playground and water park across from the beach I spied Claire and my youngest nephew. I tried to do the run-by high-five with him but missed so had to backtrack and do it again!

My legs came back a bit after that and I picked up the pace as I neared the finish and managed to do my traditional 200m sprint to the end.

The run was 55min, my slowest yet for an oly but considering the course I'm happy with it.

The post-race barbecue was a lot of fun as we had four club members on the podium, Andrew and Martina won their age groups, this was provincials so they are also provincial champions, and Jessica and Stephanie came second in theirs. The second woman overall had trained with us once or twice so we decided Rachel was ours as well. Then Joanne's uncle came second in his age group so we claimed him too! We're a greedy lot!

It was a hard race, by far the toughest Olympic course I've done, but it was a blast and I think I'll be back next year.

Monday, July 23, 2007

IMC Training Camp - It Begins!

The Cast:
Coach – Andrew T.
Calves/Thumper – Bronwyn
Princess – Teresa
Club Reporter – me
Mom – Stephanie
Trooper – Karen
Thumper – Chung
Rumour Mongerers – most of the above
The family – Tim, Thomas, Matthew, Jessica

After the Peach Classic awards ceremony the massive LETC crew thinned out as the non-training campers headed home. Left at the Bowmont were Andrew, Teresa & Bronwyn (in the Party Room), Stephanie and family and Chung & I.

We gathered at the Peach for the training week overview session. Of the six people participating in the full week camp five of us were LETC members. Karen was the only non-LETC member and joining into a pretty tight group but that fact that we’re a friendly (if somewhat gossipy) bunch and Karen is a thoroughly nice person meant that she fit in right away. Well, "fit in" might imply she was as cooky as the rest of us, which didn't seem to be the case.

We had a chat in a coffee shop about the camp and what was coming up. Overviewed the schedule etc. then headed back to the hotel for what became a common occurrence – a potluck feast.

I believe this was night when the Kieffer boys were swimming the length of the hotel pool apparently trying to drown each other - Stephanie said they were playing "Ironman swim."

Monday - The Camp Starts
As we had all raced the Peach on Sunday, Monday was an easy day – light workouts and getting to know each other.

Easy swim – 30 minutes continuous at a relaxed pace in Okanagan Lake.

We changed, washed off the duck mites (or whatever it is that causes duck itch) then got into our workout gear for a core strength and stretching session in the park across from the hotel. Unfortunately my camera had dead batteries, which is too bad as it was a beautiful day, one of the few we had over the week, and a beautiful setting.

After the workout I got in touch with my sister and hung out for most of the day on Lee Ave with her and the boys. Apparently the key joy in the inflatable pool isn't swimming in it but filling it with water (possession of the hose being of paramount importance).

Next installment - Getting serious and testing out the course.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Updates are Coming!

All right, all right - I'm working on updating the blog. I've been a little busy what with racing (Peach Classic) and training camp and all.

I was commanded by Teresa to write a report about the training camp, I can't disobey a Princess (even if she did cede her crown to Jessica Kieffer), so I'm working on it. So much happened that the report is turning into a monster - I'll try to break it done by day so it's a bit more readable.

The Peach feels like it happened months ago, so much happened in between then and now, but I'll try to fire up some brain cells and recall what happened.

So keep watching this space!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


The theme for the weekend seemed to be forgetting to check my schedule - kind of pointless to get a personalized sched if I'm not actually going to pay attention to it!

I showed up at Sasamat with no idea of how long I was supposed to swim and only a vague idea of how long I was supposed to run for (I recalled a "3" being involved). Nothing like coming prepared.

The IMC crew did a 70min swim almost all the way around Sasamat and then back again (when we stopped after 35min and wondered what to do next the logical suggestion seemed to be to retrace our steps/strokes). As usual I was at the back of the pack, for the first half I managed to draft off Bronwyn but on the way back she decided to draft off faster folk and I lost everyone.

It was a bit of a sombre swim for me, I'd gotten some sad news the night before and I spent much of my time in the water trying to come to terms with it. Being overtired from a late night (up until 11pm) didn't help my emotional state much. Not my most focussed swim ever but sometimes other things in life take precedence.

After the swim Bronwyn, Heather, Teresa and I headed out on a run route suggested by Joanne, which promised to be much flatter than the previous weekend's hike. We ran along 1st towards Ioco then followed a section of the TransCanada Trail into Port Moody. It was a fantastic route (thanks Joanne!), mostly flat and on soft trails and the occaissional boardwalk through tidal marsh.

We did an out and back but lost Heather/Turbo on the return. She was far in front and when she backtracked to find us it happened to be at one of the few places where the trail split in two - she was on the upper trail heading back while we were on the lower trail going the other way. A bit of a goof up but I think it all worked out okay (you'll have to get Heather's opinion though).

Coach Drew was hosting a barbecue at his retreat in Belcarra but we were all tired and needed to get home (to nap, houseclean, do laundry, etc.) so we were typical antisocial IM trainees and opted to go home rather than hang out.

NOT the Four Horsemen

So Elvis has arranged a couple of psycho, hard core, high tempo, bleeding out your eyes rides. Not something that would work for my training schedule or, to be brutally honest, that I could keep up with (I think bleeding out your eyes is not recommended for contact lens wearers). Didn't stop me from wishing I could keep up with the "big boys" though!

The second Elvis/Four Horsemen epic was to conquer two peaks - Seymour & Cypress. that sounded like a great idea but I had no intention of going Elvis' pace so Teresa and I made our own plans, with directions given to us by Elvis. Luckily Heather (aka Turbo) joined us so we had a rock solid navigator and

We started at Park Royal then Heather took us along bike routes to Dollarton then up Riverside to My Seymour Pkwy. We had a quick stop to doff layers then headed up. The first four-five km were brutal as usual, someone told me the grades are close to 9% in that part. After that, even though it gets less steep, you're so done in from the start that it hurts the whole way. A few km into to the climb we saw a doe, a deer, a female deer (sorry!) on the side of the road munching on a tree. She was unfazed by cyclists, I swear she gave me the "Roadie Head Nod." We heard woodpeckers and grouse further up the hill, very cool.

Time up: about 1:12

Down was more fun than last time (more comfortable with the road), aside from the occaissional idiotic mountain biker trying to ride me off the road.

We went back the way we came to Park Royal then Elvis' route up to Cypress. The turn off Marine Dr. onto 31st was blind corner so I was completely unprepared for the sudden steep ascent. I was yelling behind me to Teresa to gear down so she wouldn't stall like I did. Getting to the highway was probably tougher than getting up Cypress!

I didn't start my watch until we got to the "official start" (where club had started on our Wednesday climb a few weeks ago). I was okay on the first flatish bit but as soon as I ronded the first hairpin bend and hit the hill I was seriously struggling. I was getting a little demoralized, unprepared for how tough the second ascent was. Then realized I was in my big ring and was much happier, although somewhat sheepish, when I geared down.

I saw another deer, a male this time (I passed the buck!) (sorry) just before the picnic area. It was standing in the trees about 50m back from the road, in just the right spot to show off its beautiful rack of horns. We saw more wildlife at the top, although having vultures circling us when we stopped was more disturbing than cool.

Time up: about 1:02 - 4 min slower than the Wednesday hill climb but I was happy with it.

It wasn't my fastest time down Cypress but still a fun ride nonetheless. We then did the boring route back to Park Royal via #1 & Taylor Way.

We then ran from Park Royal along the seawall to Ambleside. I thought this would be a nice long stretch of beach to run on but apparently Ambleside has shrunk since I used to hang out there as a 13 year-old. Still a decent run, even if we had to weave through parking lots and amblers.

We ended the run by hitting the schi-schi-est coffee shop in that side of Park Royal, always fun to do when your grimy and smelly from 6 hours of exercise, and loaded up on food and caffeine.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hill Week

This past week was up and down, then up some more then down some more ....

Hills was the word of the week! I don't know if this was to toughen us up for the Peach Classic or because the coaches hate us, but there were some tough workouts.

Wednesday's bike workout was two repeats of 1min ALL OUT up Belmont (stupidly steep road close to Spanish Banks) on min easy then four repeats at pace riding up Spanish Banks hill. Thursday morning's ride didn't involve hills (yay), but rather multiple 1:30min "ALL OUT, SUPER HARD" intervals. Thanks Alan.

Thursday felt like deja vu all over again. Two repeats running 1min ALL OUT up some stupidly steep trail off Spanish banks then five repeats of 4min at pace up Spanish Banks hill. Somehow I ended up in the lead pack for the at pace pieces. "Somehow", okay it's not a mystery, I'm incredibly impatient and wanted to get the freakin' hills over with so I didn't take a break after the all out pieces and went straight to the next set. Elvis was the only person less patient than me. Yay for Elvis - makin' me look patient (by comparison).

I came to the conclusion that I am not a sprinter, I've lost what little fast twitch muscle I once owned (it's probably hidden under the bed with my HR monitor strap and various left socks). I vastly preferred the longer at pace pieces over the all out ones.

In case you think that was the end of hill week, there's more to come!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Canada Day Challenge Race Report

Race: Canada Day Challenge

Distance: 4km open water swim

Results: Character building?

I've been looking forward to this ever since I found a Canada flag towel (my parents were actually getting rid of it in a garage sale!) in the spring. Sort of a silly reason to be pumped for a race but I'll take what I can get. Also there were about 14 LETC'ers doing the race so it would be a fun crowd.

I have issues with crowds in the water and wanted to improve my drafting skills so this was my race to work on both. There were only about 50 women in the 4km swim start so this was a nice, small group and it would be easy for me to stick with the pack. I did the 2km race last year, it was after my first half iron where I'd conquered my fear of open water and the two swims were some of the best I've ever had. So I had high expectations for this year.

After a very relaxed, but somewhat cranky, morning I suited up and joked with my friends. I got into the water and had a nice easy warm up The a bag piper played (why are they at all the races I've done this year?) then we all proved that we're swimmers not singers when we belted out the national anthem. The 4km men's race started first and we waved and cheered as they took off. We went 5 minutes later and I was chatting and joking with my friends until the countdown and we were off.

The plan was to stick with the pack, work with swimming in a group of bodies and find a set ot toes to follow. The reality was a wee bit different.

As I started the swim I panicked. Not a high strung screaming and gasping panic, but an absolute and unshakable conviction that I DID NOT want to be there, I DID NOT want to do this swim, I DID NOT want to be in the middle of a pack. All I wanted to do was turn around and go back to shore. I did head up front crawl just to keep moving forward and, when no one was around me and there was no risk of taking anyone's teeth out, breast stroke. The pack quickly disappeared in front of me and I was on my own. A totally disastrous first 150m.

I finaly found my pace and got to swimming but spent the next 1,850 metres beating myself up for the crappy start and doing what a good friend of mine calls "catastophizing" - if I couldn't do this easy swim start how was I going to deal with the IMC swim start with 3,000 people and if I had a bad swim it would wreck my whole race and would I even be able to do the IMC swim and was all my training going to be for nothing and would I disappoint all my friends and family, etc, etc. Totally stupid and I knew it at the time but I was indulging my inner drama queen.

The second 2km I let up on myself a bit, largely because of the monotony of the swim. It's very hard to stay mad when you've spent 40minutes engaged in a something so incredibly repititous. And distance swims when you do them solo are an exercise in sensory deprivation.

At the end I was tired and disappointed, and didn't want to talk about my race. Happily all my friends had great races but they of course all wanted to know how my race went. I did hit the time I set for myself, which was under 1:30 (I was 1:25 something), and done with zero drafting so it was actually a good time and I should have been happy with it.

Alan asked me about my race and I refused to comment, then he gave chocolate and everything started to seem all right!

This was a regular training day so no rest for the wicked! I got my head on right and Bronwyn, Teresa and I took off for a 3 hour trail run. Bronwyn wanted to to Buntzen Lake and run the loop, Teresa wanted to do something flat and I absolutely didn't want to drive anywhere and find parking (it was now 10am on Canada Day, parks and their parking lots would be filling up). Turned out Bronwyn and I got our way and poor Teresa got a run route about as far away from flat as you could get without needing climbing gear.

We took a ridiculous route that was almost entirely steep uphill or a steep down, took us from Sasamat to Buntzen and covered part of the Diez Vistas trail and the Buntzen loop. At one point as we were scrambling uphill Teresa asked "Is this what hiking is?" I don't believe she was impressed!

It was a long, hot run but boy did getting back in the lake at the end feel great!