Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kakwa Falls Mountain Bike Trip

Last weekend was one of those epic rides I'll remember for a long, long time. It sounded like a lot of fun when I signed up three weeks ago, a 40km ride through the beautiful mountains south of GP with an incredible waterfall at the 20km turn around point. There were a lot of local athletes there and I was really looking forward to a fun day. It started early with a 6am meeting at a local coffee shop and about 25 people were up and ready to caravan out to the start. It was a long drive to get there but I carpooled out with Denis and Robert two great brothers who are also Ironman athletes and love to talk about IM. We chatted about this year's race, what we would do differently, what we did well, and what we're planning on doing this year, it was a lot of fun. After a couple of hours we were starting to wonder if we missed the rendezvous so we were looking around frantic for 20 or 30 minutes.

Fortunately we did end up finding it and we let out a huge sigh of relief. The weather was cool but it looked like it was going to get warm later in the day. Robert and I were debating if we should pack jackets or not and decided to play it safe and take one. The beginning of the ride was a lot of fun, tough, tough terrain with a few river crossings which meant your feet were wet and cold right from the start. After a few steep hill climbs I warmed up and just my feet and hands were cold. Robert, Denis and I were far ahead of everyone else, we stopped for lunch at the falls and right away it started to snow! Yes snow! We took some quick pictures and high-tailed it out of there right away.

The way back was absolutely brutal; cold, wet, muddy, and I was exhausted from the jackhammering downhills and steep unrelenting climbs in the mud. I couldn't wear my glasses anymore because they kept fogging up and without them the mud would hit my eyes every minute or two. It was an extremely difficult 20kms to get back to the car, I was so cold my hands and feet were in a lot of pain, hanging on to the handlebars was very tough and changing gears was nearly impossible with the mud clogging up everything. I made it back shattered and beaten it was a day that really tested me but those are the rides that true life experiences are made of. I'm definitely doing it again next year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Tribute to the Greatest Athlete Ever

It's hard to define what makes someone the greatest, is it the will, the determination, the strength, a combination of all three? If you asked me ten years ago who I would consider the greatest athlete ever I probably would have mentioned a few names but in the last ten years one man has shown the world what it means to be the greatest. It's hard to really know what a bike racer goes through during a day of racing unless you race a bike yourself but imagine pushing your body so hard that your heart and lungs are near collapse, 180bpm! Your legs are so full of lactic acid that they feel like they are on fire as you are turning over the pedals. Every thought in your brain is telling you to stop and just relax but you continue to push.

I can't think of a more difficult job than being a bike racer and I can't think of a stronger athlete than Lance Armstrong. I think I feel a bit of pride knowing he started his career as a triathlete and progressed to being the greatest who ever lived. Remember as you look at this montage that Lance is suffering more than anyone else out there, he just knows how to deal with it better having come back and beaten cancer. He makes it look so effortless as he passes other professional cyclists like they were standing still but remember he is hurting, he's just found a way to turn his pain into progress. We can all learn something from Lance, don't ever give up, keep pushing your limits, who knows how far you can reach.

Who would have thought the greatest athlete ever would be from Texas! Be proud of where you are from, don't ever be ashamed and live your life like there is no tomorrow. Keep pushing those limits and you will find you can reach places within yourself you never thought were possible. We thank you Lance, thanks for showing us that the only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Glorious September

September is a great month after a summer of a lot of hard training, this month is a great time to just relax and not worry about any sort of structured regimen. Today I had a opportunity to come home early and go out for a fun ride with Amber. We cruised around the city trails and had an awesome afternoon hanging out on an incredible September day, 28'C!! I'm loving every minute of this abnormally hot weather.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Enjoying The "Off-Season"

It's been a nice couple of weeks of recovery after IMC I haven't done any swimming and only some casual biking and running with friends. Amber and I have almost finished our yard projects for the year and I have to say our house looks a lot better than it did just six months ago. We've completed our deck, landscaped the back yard with rocks and trees, bought a new BBQ and patio set. Next year we'll complete the front yard and over the winter we'll paint the interior of the house.

I haven't felt any pressure to do any sort of training and I know my body is thankful. It's the first time in a long time that I have felt like I'm healthy. This summer it seemed like I was always fighting some sort of cold or flu and my body was struggling to stay strong while completing some tough training days. I am very thankful that I had a terrific race and I obviously don't do well without having a big goal to shoot for because I only made it one week before deciding on my next big race, the Las Vegas marathon!! I'm really excited, I've never been to Las Vegas and Amber is taking a group of her "learn to run stronger" girls down for the 1/2 marathon so I thought I'd tag along and concentrate on finishing a marathon for 2009. I've completed at least one marathon every year since 2000, 7 Calgary Marathons (2000-2006), 1 Kelowna Marathon (2007), and 1 Boston Marathon (2008), this will be #10! I'd like to do a "destination marathon" every year with AD, it's a great way to see new places and definitely a bonus to not have to lug around your bike on a couple plane trips.

I have a 10km race in a couple weeks in town and I'd like to set a new PR, I know I'm capable of running under 36 minutes I just have to work on a little more speed. After that I'll concentrate on putting in some distance work and I should peak again by December 6th. I'm not too concerned with setting a PR in Vegas, I just want to go there and have a good time with Amber. Placing in the top ten would be nice but is secondary to catching some awesome shows and losing a $100 bucks gambling (that's all I can stand to throw away and not be completely upset with myself).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No Going Back

I admit I was a little apprehensive leading into this years' Ironman Canada. I kept having this panic that I just hadn't done enough training leading into the race. Amber was great at keeping me calm and relaxed when I would talk about the fact that I haven't done enough swimming or long riding before the race and I wish I had another month to prepare. I tried to remain cool and I knew that I couldn't do anything to change the result now all I could do was rest up and go for a few open water swims to sharpen up. There is something about living in a smaller centre when all of the other local athletes are looking at you to make sure you're doing well, you feel a lot more pressure. However, it was great to have so much support leading into the race and the Grande Prairie community is absolutely an awesome place to be from, I feel really proud to call it my home.

The night before the race Amber and I went over to a local campground to meet some other GP athletes doing the race. We had a great pasta dinner and talked race strategy, training days, and race goals. It was a lot of fun and nice to know other people were feeling a little nervous as well. I had a good strategy leading into the race, don't push too hard on the swim, pace myself and eat as much as possible on the bike, and run fast while taking in water and coke for the marathon. The plan was great but even the best laid plans can fall apart when you're in a race environment for 10 hours. There was no going back now, it was time to step up and show what you are made of.

I woke up at 4:30am ate and packed up everything I needed for the day. We made our way down to the start to see that 2600 other athletes were just as nervous and all thinking about what their day would bring. There is a lot that goes through your mind right before the swim start, "am I going to drown in this madness? Have I done enough to get over the mountains on my bike? What are my legs going to feel like after 6 to 8 hours of racing when I still have a marathon to complete?" Ironman is one of the most nerve wracking days I'll ever experience in my life but part of the reason I love it is because after an Ironman, everything else in your life is easy.

The swim start was a mass pile up of people, arms and legs flying everywhere, people crawlng over you, pushing you from the left and right, causing you to get a mouth full of water whenever you wanted to take a breath. I did get into a rhythm after the first 1500m turn and found some feet to draft off of for a little while. The swim back to shore is about 1800m and it feels like an eternity! I was getting really tired of swimming but managed to stay fairly strong until the end and finished with my best swim time (1:02.01) I guess the $780 new wetsuit was worth it.

Starting the bike at Ironman Canada is one of the best feelings in the world, the crowd is going crazy all around you cheering and yelling as you make your way out of Penticton going 40 to 45kms/hr. I felt like I was in the Tour de France and it's probably the closest I'll ever feel to being a professional athlete. Definitely one of those rare moments in my life where I understand why I killed myself for 20 hours a week training throughout the summer. In that instant I was Lance Armstrong flying through Paris on my way to another decisive victory. However after I left town and the crowds died down I got back to earth and focused on the job at hand, finishing this race.

The first 65kms to Osoyoos is very fast and there is usually a tailwind and today was no exception. I was flying through the first section at an average of 39 to 45kms/hr and making sure I was eating as much as possible. I ate half a sandwich, two gels, two fruit bars, four salt tablets, and drank two bottles. It wasn't hot out yet but I could tell that it was going to get very tough, very soon. The climb up Richter Pass is a series of climbs and plateaus and although I was being passed by quite a few riders, I did my share of passing others as well. I made it up without too much effort and stayed in control of my heart rate (very important in a race this long) and I was happy to have done a lot of climbing on my bike all summer long. I saw some other GP riders out on the rollers after Richter Pass and I did my best to try and not let them get too far ahead but in a race like this if you let your ego take over and push too hard on the bike, your day will be over before you ever start the run. I stayed patient and didn't let anyone else influence my race and I knew it would pay off in the end.

At the special needs bag (120kms into the bike) I grabbed a bottle of coke, a couple more sandwiches, fruit bars, gels, another bottle of nutrition and made sure I took in as much as my body would allow. It's so important to take in as much as you can on the bike because if you wait too long, your day is done. After the special needs my chain dropped and I had to take a minute to fix it but other than that the rest of the bike went fairly smooth. I was really worried about the climb up Yellow Lake that's usually where I end up losing it but I was a lot stronger on the bike this year and had the legs to get me through the entire 180kms. Near the end I could feel my calves cramping but I took the rest of my salt tablets and it seemed to help. I finished the 180km bike with another great time (for me) of 5:17.02.

By the time I started the run I had been racing for 6 hours and 25 minutes and I was so incredibly tired. It's very daunting to know that you have to complete a marathon at that point of the day, it's 1:30pm and the heat was incredible. I did everything I could to keep myself cool, dumping water and ice on my head and body every mile of the run. It did seem to help and I kept ticking of the miles one by one. I saw Amber at mile 18 and I was really hurting at that point, she yelled some encouraging words and let me know how well I was doing. My legs were cramping like crazy, I was dehydrated, and severely calorie depleted but I was going to keep running for as long as it took. Unfortunately I fell apart in the last mile of the run and could barely managed to walk, let alone run. I was "bonking" I tried to down a gel but it was too late all I could do was try to jog and walk in the last mile. The crowd was cheering me on and Amber was urging me to keep running, I summoned up any last bit of energy I had left and managed to run through the finish chute. Completing the race with my bast time ever (9:38.12) finishing 29th overall and 3rd in my age group. I was so, so happy to be done and needed to be carried to the message tent where I met Amber. I was completely out of it mentally and could barely manage to string two sentences together but I definitely knew that even though I qualified for the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships I was not going to put my body through that again in another 6 weeks. I was happy to end my season with that race and have some much needed recovery time. I just had the race of my life and all of the hard training was worth it.

I owe a lot of thanks to some great Grande Prairie triathletes for supporting me and training with me during some tough days this summer. There have been some real memorable moments leading up to the race, riding in 40km/hr GP winds, riding from Grande Cache to Grande Prairie, and many others. My biggest supporter is and will always be my beautiful wife Amber, thanks babe I couldn't have done it without you and H-dog (my running coach) if you're not running fast with Harley, your not running hard enough.