Tuesday, July 26, 2011

30 Hours of Biking in 7 Days

Well Amber and I didn't exactly live like bike pros but this was probably the hardest Tour BC both of us have ever been on. This is the 4th tour for both of us and every time we do it we both agree that it takes our biking to a whole new level. Unfortunately (or fortunately after this year) it is the last tour they are offering and we're going to have to look into other options in the future. Our week long bike vacation started off great, we spent Friday night in Jasper and woke up to sunny skies so I let Amber sleep a bit and hit the Pyramid Lake loop. It's about a 20km beautiful trail run up a mountain to the lake and back. I felt a little stiff and couldn't quite get going but I did just jump out of bed and put the runners on so I was probably still a little groggy. After the run and some breakfast we made our way to Kamloops and got there in enough time for the bike check and to get our 'dorm room' for the night. The start point was at Thompson Rivers University and we were assigned dorm rooms for the Saturday night before the tour, if you ever wanted to feel what it was like being a prisoner go to one of those dorms- 4 rooms connected with a common bathroom and prison white cinder block walls.

The first day everyone was excited to get going, the weather was beautiful, everyone was fresh and ready to go! A brief pep talk and we were on our way... Amber and I wanted to make this our bike focus training week of course and we planned on riding hard every day. I wanted to alternate 180k and 120k days every day for the entire week. That meant I should be able to get in 4-180k days and 3-120k days for a total of 1080kms for the week, that was the plan anyway. The first day everything went great and although some of the roads were a little rough and I was stung in the finger by something I managed to get in my 180k for the day and was completely spent by the time I got to the campsite. The rest of the afternoon and evening went well, we were eating like ravenous animals again, hung out with some friends from GP and that night everything changed. That's when the rains came, it start raining that night and was not letting up by morning.

One of the things I love about this tour is that you HAVE to bike every day, no matter what the weather, how sore or tired you feel you HAVE to get on your bike and get to the next destination. However there are some days you wish that you could just take a pass. Everything was muddy, cold, and miserable for most of the day until the afternoon when we got closer to Lumby and the skies started to clear. Finally the day turned around but the damage was done, my bike was running like an old mule and there was dirt and mud in everything. I managed to get in my 120k and even pulled out a 10k T-run, but the rest of the night I was very, very tired and sleeping on an air mattress was not proving to be the best recovery solution.

The third day was probably one of the hardest days of the tour, up the Monashee mountain range. The day started off alright even though it was extremely cold for July there was enough climbing that I warmed up fairly quick. After the water stop I hit the climb and I couldn't believe how steep a lot of the sections were, some near the top reaching 15%! That's when my knee started bugging me and I wish I had a couple extra gears to get me up those mountains, I was literally using the entire road going back and forth to do anything I could to get up to the top by the time I did get there I was done, my legs were cooked. My plan to get in 180k today was scrapped and I just wanted to limp in to the finish. Amber had her shifter break off the aerobar and she had to call it a day at the top. I'm glad she did because the next 20kms of descending were some of the most dangerous I've every been through. The rain started hammering everyone and I couldn't see a thing through foggy and wet sunglasses. I took it easy all the way down to the ferry and when I reached the bottom I heard that someone had crashed, it was bad and he had to go to hospital but after a few stitches he came back and rejoined the tour with a lot of road rash on his face, wow. That day and night were tough, I set up the tent in the rain (there were no hotels) and everything was wet, the suitcases, the tent, the chairs, the food, your clothes, everything. After that day most people decided to hotel it the rest of the way, including us. I still managed to get in 120kms for the day and considering what we went through I'd call it a successful day.

The next day was a short 60km jaunt to Nakusp and Amber and I were looking forward to some nicer weather and a hotel at the end of today. It was still cloudy and cold until we arrived in Nakusp but any thoughts of adding kms, swimming or running were out the window. We both just wanted a shower and a latte. The town was nice and we finally saw some sun that afternoon but we spent most of the day doing laundry and fueling up for the next day. Nakusp to Revelstoke is a beautiful ride with 4 good climbs and descents but the rain started again and at the half way mark we were all soaked to the bone. On top of that the luggage took hours to arrive after we got to the hotel so I was sitting in wet bike shorts and I knew that was not a good idea if I wanted to avoid saddle sores. Another tough 120km day in the books.

Finally by Friday the weather was supposed to clear up a little and the sun was going to come out but it started off cold again. At the first water stop the sun did show and I was shedding layers, I was determined to get in at least one more 180km day so I started doing 5km out and backs at every break. The day was scheduled for a 135kms so I'd have to add another 45kms but by the time we got to Armstrong we were cruising around town so much that I ended the day with my 180. We stayed in a nice B&B that Amber had found and spent the evening and early morning watching the final stages of the tour, that was fun.

The final day back to Kamloops was the best weather of the week but I could feel the 6 days of hard riding starting to take it's toll. For some reason my groin decided to act up and it made turning the pedals very tough, also my right knee was really hurting from pushing hard for 6 days straight. A nice easy cruise into Kamloops would be a great idea but unfortunately a strong headwind was making life difficult for everyone. After the water break a group of strong riders caught up to me and we all started working together in team time trial format to get through the next 30k, it was a lot of fun and exactly what I needed to push me a little harder than I wanted to go. After lunch I took off a little early and pushed as hard as I could for the final 60kms. I got back to Kamloops tired, sore, beaten, but satisfied with what I'd done for the week. I may never know what it's truly like to ride a bike for a living but after this week I'm not sure that I care. It was a challenging physically and mentally and I'm glad this part of the training is done. I have a couple more long rides planned before IMC but now I need to focus on my open water swimming and distance running. This weekend is a tough 180kms from Grande Cache to Grande Prairie something we've been planning and talking about all year and now it's go time!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Tour

No not the Tour de France, although I have been watching a lot of the coverage especially now that they are in the mountains, but I'm talking about something even bigger- Tour BC. Okay it may not be as big as the Tour de France but to Amber and I it's more exciting. It's a week of riding through the mountains in BC where you think of nothing but riding, a little swimming, a little running and relaxing. This year's tour starts in Kamloops which is awesome for us because it's only 900kms away, normally it's at least a 12-14hr drive to the start but this year it's only 8-9hrs. The longest day is the first day at 132kms from Kamloops to Salmon Arm and the shortest day is day four from Fauquier to Nakusp 58kms. I'm going to try to alternate between 180km rides and 120km rides every day so that should give me over 1000kms for the week. I'm not sure if there will be much energy left over for swimming or running but I'll try and get in a couple runs afterwards, short but IM pace and a couple open water swims.

This is the week I really start to feel like I'm prepared for IMC and I hope everything goes according to plan. Amber and I missed it last year and I didn't feel like I had the summer holiday I always look forward to. Not most people's idea of a great vacation but a lot of riding, camping and enjoying the sun, that's my idea of a great holiday.

Monday, July 4, 2011


What a fantastic weekend in Stony Plain with some great friends, great results and time away with Amber. I think a lot of people who don't do triathlon really have a hard time understanding why Amber and I do this sport and honestly while I'm out there racing hard and really suffering badly I wonder that myself. However, I know the pain is always temporary and no one can take away the feeling of accomplishment you have after leaving every ounce of yourself out on the race course. I know Amber feels the same way, when your in the moment and going through all the physical turmoil you ask yourself if it's really worth it but it takes real mental toughness to not listen to those voices and to just keep pushing. A person that can do that is someone who is going to be successful, no matter what the day brings.

This week I tried to limit my workouts to very short and slow swims-bikes-and runs and I managed to keep my desire to push hard in training in check. Amber says that my success this year is all do to training a lot smarter, listening to my body when it needs a day off and focusing diligently on recovery, I have to agree. I don't worry anymore about not getting in my three swims, three bikes and three runs every week I know that if I have a week where I'm swimming a lot then I just won't have the energy to run and vise versa. So the plan this summer is to train smarter not harder and focus on a great peak of IMC in 8 weeks.

The build up to the race was a little nerve wracking because I put my race goal times out there and honestly if the day had been different anything could have happened. But it was an absolutely fantastic day for racing warm enough in the water not to freeze your face, hands and feet but cool enough not to over heat on the bike and run- and NO WIND! Wow I haven't had more that a few days on the bike in GP where the wind wasn't howling and there was no wind on the way out and a slight tailwind on the way back. People were saying that the wind picked up later in the bike but it was still a tailwind so it was an extremely fast bike for most racers. I started out in the water feeling a little beat up, it was my first open water swim in a long time and I forgot how brutal it can get in there. All I needed was a good elbow in the goggle and I was back into race mode. The first lap was tough, the turns at the buoys were brutal with people crawling all over you but it's all a part of the race experience I guess. The second lap things started to stretch out a bit and I was able to catch a few feet to draft for a while but it never lasts too long with people pushing you from every direction and swimming off course. Still I had a great swim for me, 30:58, a minute slower than I was hoping but I gave it everything I had and couldn't have swam faster. Also it's a 2k swim as opposed to the standard 1.9k most 1/2 IM's have.

I had a bit of difficulty in transition with my helmet strap (a Chris McCormack moment) but I kept it together and started riding fairly smooth right from the start. After the initial climb out of the lake I noticed I was passing A LOT of people in the first 10- 20kms I was pushing pretty hard but I wasn't expecting to be passing that many people. I finally caught up to a group of 4 other guys that were all riding about the same pace as I was. I would pass them and then they would pass me, mainly on the climbs- something I obviously need to work on before IMC. I was going a lot faster than I was expecting but bike training has been going so well that I just decided to go with it and if I blew up later I would figure it out then. I was surprised when I hit 80k because that's traditionally where I would fall apart on the bike but I was able to hold on right to the finish this year and completed the bike in 2:18.56 (including transitions) a minute faster than I was predicting and setting me up for a PR if I could have a good run. I was 12th place at the turn around and passed another 4 guys on the way back so was sitting in about 8th going into the run.

Bike Profile

I kept telling myself during the swim and bike that I just need to do my best and let the swimmers have their day and then let the bikers have their day and save something for the run, my speciality. By the time I got to the run I immediately thought I had screwed up everything, I went too hard on the bike and I didn't have any pep in my legs. It was a struggle to just keep my legs turning over especially in the first couple kms but everyone else was having an even tougher day because I passed two or three guys right off the start. I was trying to hold my regular run race pace but I felt like someone had been pounding on my quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves for 3 hours and now I had to try and run a half marathon. I my head I was so disappointed in myself for not being able to run as fast as I knew I could run but everyone who was cheering me on kept telling me how great I looked, I sure didn't feel great. I was just thinking of survival and had to walk a few seconds at some of the aid stations but I could see guys bearing down on me at the turn arounds and I just kept telling myself that you need to keep moving, just keep running even if it's slow.

The fourth place guy was so far in front of me at the start of the run I had absolutely no desire or will to try and catch him, I was just trying to stay within myself and keep the legs moving. Eventually I did catch him though and I must have been running just a couple seconds per kilometer faster because he didn't stay with me. Honestly if it had come down to a sprint finish I don't know if I had anything more to give but I did what I could to keep the negative voices away and to just keep moving. I had a much better run than I thought- 1:21.29 and it was the 2nd fastest on the day! That broke my longest standing PR (in 2008 I did a 4:16 on this course) and I was ecstatic to find out I placed 4th! I knew it was going to be a great battle between Kyle Marcotte, Paul Tichelaar, and Jeff Symonds but I didn't expect to be behind those three elite guys. 4th place and a 4:11.23 and $600 bucks to boot! That paid for our weekend in Stony and more importantly elevated my confidence going into Ironman training. I can't wait for Ironman this year I'm finally excited to be back in the game and racing well again.