Whistler Weekend

We just got home from a weekend in Whistler. Exhausted. I LOVE Whistler and always have such a great time there! It's a magical place. Friends Catherine and Denise were headed up for a mountain bike skills camp, Jason was scheduled to do an off-road tri (which unfortunately had been cancelled), and I'll take any excuse to get there for a day, a weekend, whatever I can get.


Friday I snuck out of work early, as we had to catch the ferry to the mainland and I also needed to get a good road ride in. The solution was to ride to the ferry, so I packed my stuff and made sure Jason would load it in the car, along with my mountain bike since I was riding my road bike to the ferry. I rode the twisty rolling back roads, through Chemainus, Saltair, Ladysmith, Cedar, and got to Nanaimo in record time. Yay, but that meant I had some time to kill as I wanted to ride for four hours. I found a route through town, more rolling with one big climb I'd never done before. It was near Norm & Wendy's house, and although I'd driven it thousands of times, for some reason I'd never ridden it. Well, it was long and challenging, and near the end of my four hours. I did some cool-down and clocked 4:15 of riding, then waited for Jason, Catherine and Denise to pick me up. The four of us chatted for the duration of the ferry ride and drive up the Sea to Sky Highway to our rented condo, got some snacks, and settled in for the weekend.


Catherine and Denise were up early for an 8 am start for their camp. Jason and I headed to the aquatic centre to get a swim workout in, then back to the condo and changed for a ride on the trails. There are no better mountain bike trails anywhere in the world than Whistler. I just wanted an easy ride since the previous day's was more taxing, so we headed to Lost Lake and rode the singletrack there for a couple of hours. It was a nice day, warm, sunny, and everyone out and about was in a great mood.

After two hours, I headed back to the condo and Jason kept riding. I got some peaceful time to myself, and hung out at the condo pool for a bit then back inside for a rest. When Jason came back, we headed into the village for some window shopping, then to dinner when C&D had finished camp for the day. Another evening of laughter and chatting!


I had been dreading Sunday as I had a two-hour run on the schedule, and I hadn't run that long in nine years (last week I ran 90 minutes for a training program high this year). I was pretty sure I would struggle and I really hoped I'd make it. I headed back to Lost Lake to run the gravel paths, met up with Jason at about the half-hour mark, and I was feeling good. I asked him to run a particular trail with me, as it was kind of out of the way, and I had a feeling it would be a bear hot-spot. Every time we're in Whistler we run into black bears when we're out running or riding, and I prefer company when in the presence of large predators. He ran a bit ahead, and it wasn't too long before he came trotting back announcing there was a bear on the trail just ahead. I saw the bear around the corner, and much to our surprise it wasn't a black bear, but a grizzly! It was small, probably a yearling. I shouted the obligatory "whoa bear!" to let it know we were there, and it took a quick glance at us and kept walking. It didn't care about us at all. It meandered down the trail for a bit while we kept a healthy distance, and then veered off over a hill. We joined back with the main trail network and I stuck to more traveled trails for the rest of my run.

When I hit 90 minutes on my watch, I expected to feel tired, fall apart, or have something happen to let me know I wasn't fit enough to run that long. But nothing - in fact the last half hour I kept the same pace up and still felt great. I was surprised at how good I felt, and how I could have kept going even when I arrived at the two-hour mark. Hooray! Kirsty must be doing something right with my training program!

After my run, Jason and I went for lunch, then more pool time and a nap. C&D came back full of great stories from riding some pretty cool stuff in the bike park, and we went to our favourite pub for dinner. A third fantastic evening in a row of laughter, conversation, and this one included some beer and wine for all!


We had to be back at work, so woke up early Monday morning (like, 5:30 early... yuck), packed up and drove back to the ferry to head for home. It was a mere 24 hours ago we were sitting on the patio at the Longhorn, and already I'm planning our next trip back. Those sweet trails are there waiting for our return!

Haiku - The Lake At Night

Still water glistens
Diamonds in the evening sun
The sky fades to black


Sir Isaac Newton was sure perceptive. He stated that bodies maintain uniform motion (which includes not moving at all) until an external force is applied. That's commonly known as Newton's First Law (let's call it NFL for simplicity's sake), and Galileo simply referred to it first as "inertia". I suffer from NFL all the time. For example, today at work I was thinking how I didn't want to go for a ride, but instead just hang out at home for the evening. But along came an external force, Ironman training, and that applies just enough force (i.e. it scares the crap out of me) to get me going. Of course, as soon as I'm on my bike, I realize there's no where I'd rather be. I just have to overcome that initial inertia.

I see this all the time outside of Ironman training. There's a cliche that goes something like, "If you want something done, ask a busy person." They are in motion, therefore easily maintain that motion. Have you ever tried to get a couch potato off the couch? They are displaying uniform motion (zero), and the external force needed to change that is massive.

Sometimes I just need to find that motivation to overcome inertia. But when I look for it, I find it. Of course, that leads to Newton's Third Law, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Riding my bike (action) leads to more laundry (reaction). Dang that Newton anyway.

New Balance Sprint Tri Race Report

Yesterday I raced my first triathlon in many years. The last one I did resulted in a DNF, so I should have been nervous for this one. Instead, I hadn't really given it much mental energy, and I raced well and had a great time. Here is my race report.

The Day Before

The day before a triathlon, the usual rules are you put compression socks on, lay low, and put your feet up. Well, my day did not go exactly like that. Or anything like that, actually. I had one of those days where you're constantly on the go, watching the clock, moving from one thing to the next. Hardly ideal race prep.

A week ago I tried my new wetsuit for the first time. Didn't fit - too big - and with only one week to my race, it didn't leave much time to solve that problem. I called my friend Sean (who is the sales rep for Blue Seventy), who reassured that the next size down would indeed fit, and that he'd pick one up and switch with me before the race. That meant I had to head into Victoria early to meet him and try the suit out. That wouldn't normally be a big deal, but that evening I had the graduation banquet at work, which meant dressing up for a formal dinner, something that doesn't normally go well with an early swim in a skunky lake.

I met Sean and Tara-Lee, and went for a swim in the new suit. Fit perfectly, like a second skin and it felt great. Problem one solved. Problem two, check in and pick up my race package, with enough time to get home and to the banquet. Registration was to open at 2pm, and we were in the line up and ready... only the race organizers weren't. They opened about 20 minutes late, and Jason and I grabbed our packages, had a quick chat with good friend Steve King, and headed out from the lake.

Got ready for the banquet, and arrived just in time to see the kids pull up in their limos. A formal evening meant standing (and dancing) in heels for four hours, not exactly the feet-up-relaxing I mentioned earlier. Oh well, it was worth it as this year was a great group of students and I wouldn't want to miss seeing them off.

Race Day

The problem with triathlon is the early start. I cursed my return to the sport when my alarm went off at 4:15 AM. Yeah. I am not a great morning person when I see a time starting with 4, or even 5. Groggy, I packed up my gear, forced down some food, and Jason and I stumbled to the car for the hour drive back down to Elk Lake.

Race morning was calm, cloudy, and cool. Perfect race weather. Jason's race (he was doing the half iron distance - 2k swim, 90k bike, 20k run) started at 6:45, so I watched him finish the swim before I had to get in the water. Mine (sprint distance - 500m swim, 22k bike, 5k run) started at 7:30, and once the gun was off and I was around the second buoy I caught some of the slower swimmers from the half iron event. Yikes for them. I swam well, but I didn't push as hard as I probably could have. I jumped onto some fast feet for a bit, but then someone cut me off and I hesitated. The moment that happened, my fast feet got away and I couldn't catch her again. I saw her come out of the water about 20 seconds ahead of me. Doh! I swam the same pace I'd swim a distance event in, when I probably should have been sprinting. Oh well, I wanted to swim under 9 minutes, and my swim time ended up being 9:02. Close enough. I came into transition and I was the first one to my bike rack and the one next to it. Sweet!

I headed out onto the bike course with the goal to push hard. Last week I rode two loops of the course, so I knew where to go hard and where I could recover, and what gears I should be in. I rode the whole course a gear or two above what I was riding in last week, evidence that I was indeed pushing the pace. I wasn't going so hard that I didn't think I could hold it, but I did beat my goal time of 50 minutes by a whopping 4! I looked down at my legs at one point and thought they looked strong! I traded places with another woman back and forth, she'd pass me on the climbs and I'd pass her on the flats and downhills. We started saying "hi again" to each other as we'd go past, and we decided near the end of the loop that if we could combine our skills, we'd be a really fast rider!

Back into transition, I was the second bike back on my rack (and the one next to it). Double sweet! I dumped my helmet, changed shoes, and I was out of there onto the run course. I ran a steady pace, but I didn't push as hard as I hoped to originally. I have to admit I was a bit scared to really go for it; I didn't want to go so hard that I thought I'd blow and have to slow down. I know I can probably go harder than I think, but for whatever reason I just mentally couldn't do it. However, my goals are distance racing, so being able to sprint for 5k is not really a priority. I exchanged short phrases with the odd familiar face: "looking good", "way to go", that sort of thing. Didn't stop at any aid station (duh, it's only 5k) and I was still buzzing from the half-bottle of Vega Sport I took on the bike. I enjoyed the run, loved the feeling of working hard, and really loved that the whole way back on the out-and-back course there were still people headed out to the turn-around. What I didn't enjoy was my decision to skip putting socks on, and by about 4k I could feel the blisters starting. When I finally took my shoes off after the finish, my feet were bloody and I had some nice big blisters. Oops! Luckily I have lots of flip-flops, and I'll be sporting them for a bit while my feet heal.

Once my race was done, I watched Jason come in on the bike, changed into dry clothes, chatted with long-lost friends (and not-so-long-lost friends), hung out with Norm, Wendy, and Tycho, and watched Jason sprint in to the finish. He finished 5th overall (and beat several pros), and 2nd in his age group. He is not slowing down; in fact the 40-year old guys were faster than the 20- and 30-year olds!

All in all, it was a successful return to triathlon. I called Kiki as soon as we got home to give her a full report. I know she's going to celebrate my race with a REALLY tough training schedule for the next few weeks - she's like that. Bring on Vineman - four weeks to go!

Weekends Are Too Short

Weekends are simply too short. Who decided that of the seven days in a week, we'd only get two off from work? I'd like to talk to that person. Here it is, 8 pm on Sunday evening, and I feel like I need at least another day before going back to work. Don't get me wrong, I have a fantastic job where I laugh all day, but COME ON, how can it be Sunday night already?

Friday I took a group of 15 of my students kayaking and camping. We paddled for a couple of hours to a secluded cove, set up camp and spent the rest of the day playing on the beach. Evening campfire, to bed, then Saturday morning we broke camp and loaded up the kayaks again. Paddled another couple of hours, had a spectacular lunch on another secluded beach, a few of us braved the frigid ocean for a swim, then an hour paddle home.

Home mid-afternoon, unpack, grab Jason and we headed up-Island to a surf shop to buy him a new paddle for his stand-up paddleboard. Head back south. Saturday evening we met our friend Tim for a swim in Westwood Lake in Nanaimo (where I learned my brand-spankin' new wetsuit is too big and I have a race in a week - argh!), dinner of fish tacos and wine at Tim's, then home and to bed.

Sunday morning sleep in a bit, breakfast, a couple of tasks around the house. Put elastic laces in new running shoes, then discover they're too small (argh! again). Get ready to drive to Victoria for a ride and run. Ride a couple laps of next week's race course, then a quick run on the trail at Elk Lake. Head back home, do some errands on the way. Get home, clean up all the stuff from yesterday's kayaking. Laundry. Stupid laundry. Grocery shopping. Unpack groceries, make dinner, eat. Make tomorrow's lunch. Check the weather forecast. Fold laundry and put clothes away. And here we are, after 8 on a Sunday night... next is hot tub, book, and bed. Where did the damn weekend go?

The Year of Laundry

I am beginning to think the Year of Alison should be changed to the Year of Laundry. This ironman training is creating a lot of sweaty clothes. I did 12 workouts this week, so you can imagine the pile in my laundry basket.

If I was inclined to conspiracy theories, I'd say Ironman was dreamt up by a consortium of laundry soap companies. I'm surprised that the World Triathlon Corporation, owner of the Ironman brand, doesn't have a laundry soap licensee. Especially considering how willing they are to stick that logo on, well, pretty much anything that will pay them. Maybe I'm onto something - Ironman Laundry Soap - strong enough to get the 180 kilometer stink out of bike shorts, but nice enough to be kind to that technical gear.

I don't use my dryer, and hang my clothes from a rack suspended just under the ceiling in our laundry room. Lately that room has looked like a hanging garden of technical fabrics. More laundry, but less time to do it.

The Fossiliferous Forties

I had a birthday extravaganza this past weekend, and extravaganza it was. My head has finally stopped hurting from all the drinks I consumed Saturday night (while I am truly young at heart, I am too old for that). I wanted to recap one particular event, a definite example of "no-fun fun", the Fossiliferous Forties.

My friend Tim suggested that one way to celebrate turning forty would be to do 40X100 in the pool, on 2 minutes. I was obviously sniffing too much glue the day he suggested it, as I agreed to do it. In the couple of months leading up to the end of May, I realized I was nowhere near the swimmer I used to be, and that this workout was going to be tough. I tried to get out of it a couple of times, but could never come up with an excuse that wouldn't make me seem like a total pansy.

The morning of our swim dawned, and Tim, Jason, and my friend Corinne showed up to swim with me. We jumped in and started at exactly 10am, thinking that way we wouldn't have to count since our interval was 2 minutes. I weakly tried to say "It's 40X50, right", but Tim declared that was for wimps and we were off.

The first one went by like nothing. Good thing since there were 39 to go! When I hit the wall, Corinne started counting back in years, saying "it's 2009 - what was important at age 39...", and each rest break was spent recounting highlights from the past. Traumatic injuries, hiking the Inca Trail, defending my M.Sc. thesis, counting porpoises, getting married, graduating university, counting sea otters, meeting Corinne, meeting Tim, meeting Jason, sailing from Victoria to Miami... these things all helped pass the first 20 years away.

The first 20 felt easy; I was hitting the wall consistently at 1:45. In fact I think I was getting cocky. "I've got this - what was I worried about?"... Yeah, and then everything started getting tough. Really tough. By number 25, my swim time had increased to almost 1:55, and my rest was shrinking. Numbers 25-30 were a struggle, and I started to think I wasn't going to make it. At 27, Corinne decided we'd increase the interval to 2:10 starting at 30.

I hit 30, and was glad to be getting at least 15 seconds rest again. Tim was really encouraging me on, and the next 10 went by really quickly. Tim made some crazy suggestion about doing one fly (I'm pretty sure he was joking), so I countered by saying the last one would be IM. (For any non-swimming readers, the Individual Medley consists of one length each of butterfly, backstroke, breastroke and freestyle.) I was dreading the fly, but it wasn't bad. It was the breaststroke that was brutal; that 25 seemed eternal. Finally I hit the wall and it was a last 25 free to the end.

The four of us cheered (I'm sure the entire pool wondered exactly what was going on), and immediately hit the lazy river for some relaxation. Now 40 laps around the lazy river would be actual fun!

What did I learn? I learned I'm in half-iron swimming shape, and after July will have to do some more serious work in the pool for that second 2000. I learned that I don't want to do that workout again. I learned I have a great group of supportive friends that will do crazy things, just because I asked them to. I also learned that a grilled cheese sandwich and chocolate milkshake from the Dog House goes down super-smooth when you really deserve it.