Mid Season Break

Since Vineman I've been on a mid season break. Last week was no training at all, and this week is no schedule, just do a bit of training when I want. I've been doing a bit of swimming, cycling, and running, and have also been hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, wandering around the house aimlessly (mostly in the morning, now that the Tour de France is over), watching TV, reading, surfing the net, sleeping in, shopping... and thinking about how much I want to get back to training!

That's not really like me. Usually I'm thinking of how I can weasel out of my workouts. I have been known to get creative with why I can't do things sometimes. Good thing my coach can see right through my crap and won't take any excuses. But I'm actually itching to get back to my training schedule, as it has become routine to rule my life according to my workouts. I'm starting to enjoy that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the down time. There's no need to point out that in October I will be begging for some respite. I've trained for Ironman before; even though that was ten years ago I know how it goes. I've never trained for a November Ironman before though, and it should be interesting to see what that's like, when the evenings are dark and the days are rainy. But I feel optimistic that we'll luck out with great weather this fall.

Just a few more days, and then it will be back to the proverbial grind. That's good, because if my break lasted much longer, Jason would probably expect me to do some bigger tasks like paint the fence. I've got way too much training to do for that!

The "Other" Vineman

Deep down inside, humans usually have ulterior motives. I had one in regards to Vineman. Yes, there was the race I was itching to do, especially since I was sidelined last year. But in addition to that, Vineman takes place in a fabulous wine producing region. Tim is a huge wine fan, and turns out so is Wendy. Jason and I try not to be slouches in that regard, either. So the day after the race we had another event to attend, the post-Vineman wine tour.

This time, unlike nine years ago, we decided to sign up for a guided tour rather than drive ourselves, mainly because none of us were offering to be the designated driver. The resort we were staying at recommended Stacy's Wine Stop, and we lucked out when the fancy-schmancy Town Car pulled up to pick us up, and our tour guide turned out to be the owner of the company, Stacy, herself!

The four of us piled in, and right away Stacy was a wealth of wine info. We got to sit back and enjoy the ride along the same roads we'd raced the day before. We told Stacy we really only had one wish for the tour, and that was to visit wineries that we wouldn't be able to find their wines anywhere else. They had to be special.

We ended up visiting six different wineries (yep, good thing we had a driver!): Kokomo, Peterson, Mercury, Stryker, Hawkes and Harvest Moon. Each was quite different from the other, and of course the one thing they had in common was fantastic wines. My personal favourites were Mercury and Hawkes. My least favourite was Stryker; although it had a fabulous setting the wines just didn't appeal to me as much. Plus, the staff wasn't as helpful and welcoming as the others. At both Mercury and Harvest Moon we got to meet the winemakers, which was a treat as well.

Jason, Wendy and I enjoying the wines at our first stop, Kokomo.

The four of us at Mercury. The tasting shop had a really cool vibe, probably
thanks to the Coltrane album bring played on the turntable. Nice!
That's Brad, the winemaker, next to Wendy. He was really passionate
about his wines, and really interesting to listen to. I'd definitely go back to
Mercury next time I'm in the Geyserville area!

Harvest Moon - last stop of the day. That's Stacy, our guide, behind us.

We had definitely hit our saturation point by the time Stacy returned us to our condo. I don't think I yet count as a full-fledged oenophile, but I'm working on it!

Food for thought - we learned at the border that duty on wine (we all came home over our limit) was a whopping 85%! Thanks so much to the border agents who just waived us through with a warning.

Thanks to Tim for all the pics I've posted here!

PS - I just thought I'd throw this picture in as well, seeing as the pool
at our condo is where we spent most of our pre- and post-race time.
That is, when we weren't eating candy (oh sorry Wendy, I wasn't supposed
to mention that... apologies for the rest of us being such bad influences!)

Vineman Race Report

Jason, Tim and I headed down to the Sonoma Valley to race one of my favourite all-time events, the Vineman Ironman 70.3 (or 113.1 as Norm would say, being true to our Canadian metric heritage). I first did Vineman nine years ago with Catherine, Corinne and Kirsty. We all loved it and vowed to go back. Jason raced it last year for the first time, was third in his age group and couldn't wait to go back. Tim was a first-timer, and I knew he'd have a terrific time and it would end up on his "must repeat" list as well. Tim brought his friend Wendy (not this Wendy) to be racer support, and she turned out to be racer support extraordinaire.

Pre Race

We were up before dawn on race day. My fault. Vineman has over 2000 athletes, and the swim is in the Russian River. It's narrow and meandering, and certainly cannot accommodate a mass start; instead there are waves that are eight minutes apart. My wave was the first after the pros, which meant I started at 6:38 am, which in turn meant that we were leaving our condo around 5. Tim didn't start until almost 7:30, and Jason not until almost 8:00 - sorry guys!

As it's a point-to-point event, all we needed was our swim and bike gear, since our run stuff was already at T2, Windsor High School. We arrived at T1, set up, I got into my wetsuit, and it seemed pretty quickly that I was heading into the water for my start.

The Swim

I decided that I'd start somewhat aggressively. I wanted to get a good draft, which meant I had to be off with the faster girls. I waded over to the far right, which is where the course marshall recommended the good swimmers to start. The gun went and we all flung ourselves past the start banner.

I'm in there somewhere...

My strategy was a good one, as I got on some fast feet by the bridge. I stayed on those feet, and a bonus was I didn't really need to do any sighting as I was just swimming behind her all the way. It seemed like it took longer than expected to get to the turn around, and just before the turn the water got extremely shallow. I had to change my stroke a bit as my hand was scraping the bottom. We turned around the buoy and headed back to transition. The return trip seemed much faster, and there were people on docks along the river cheering as we swam by.

Once we hit the bridge a couple of hundred meters away from T1, I could feel that the fast feet I was following were slowing down. I jumped around her and sprinted the last bit to shore. I was pretty surprised when I saw the clock, as I knew I'd had a good swim but didn't think it would be that much under my goal. I wanted to swim 37 minutes, and my official time was 35:35! A decade ago, when I used to swim a lot, I had some sub-35 and sub-34 half ironman swim times, but didn't think I'd be anywhere close to that anymore. Hooray!

The bike

I ran into T1, and could see Jason and Wendy cheering. I heard Tim's voice yell "Go Wombat!" and knew he was nearby. My wave had the worst possible racks in transition, over to the right, away from the path out so it meant running farther than everyone else. I got to my bike as the first one out of the swim for my rack. Sweet! I really fumbled getting out of my wetsuit and getting my socks, shoes and helmet on. I could hear Kirsty's voice yelling at me in my head to hurry up. I had to pee, and decided I'd take the time now to do that instead of somewhere on the bike course. So I ran with my bike over to a porta-potty, then ran out of transition. Pretty slow transition time, and I knew I'd hear about it later from Kirsty. Dang!

Just after transition there is a steep little hill that pops up into the town of Guerneville. I had geared really low in anticipation of that, but it seemed no one else had. I jumped on my bike and spun up the hill, passing a bunch of people that were grinding in their big ring going nowhere.

I love the Vineman bike course. It rolls through hundreds of vineyards, is super-scenic and lovely, and is somewhat challenging but doesn't kill you. Since it's close to the coast, starting so early means there is a marine layer of low clouds, which mean the temperatures are pretty low in the mornings. I was pretty cold for about the first half of the 90k, and my feet were almost frozen for I'd say about three-quarters of the ride. Could have used toe-warmers, mental note for next time.

The roads were pretty open since I was one of the first waves. People were steadily catching me, although I knew I was riding well and pushing big gears. I rode almost everything in my big ring (which would come back to haunt me later), and felt strong. Vineman was really supposed to be a test of my swimming and biking, and so far I knew it was going well.

First few miles of the bike course.

I turned onto Chalk Hill Rd, which had the one major climb of the race. It was hard but not too hard, and then a fun, fast descent which seemed to go on forever, almost all the way back into the town of Windsor. Once back in town, it was flat all the way to T2, and I keep pushing as hard as I could. I was wearing a watch but didn't have it on the chrono feature, so I only had a rough idea of my bike split. My goal was 3:15 and I knew I was close, so I didn't let up all the way to the line. I waved to Wendy as I pulled into the parking lot, and could hear her cheering as I went by. I ended up with a 3:12, so second goal of the day accomplished.

The Run

Vineman has a ridiculously long run-in to T2 after the dismount line. It's carpeted which is nice, but somehow I ended up taking a couple of steps just off the side of the carpet and ended up with a sock full of burrs. Great. Pretty happy I decided to wear socks on the bike though, as otherwise those would have been sticking in my skin. I was also the bike rack waaayyyy at the end of T2, and it seemed like I was running with my bike forever to get there. I was the first bike to get to my rack though, but again had a long transition as I was picking burrs out of my socks before putting my running shoes on. I swapped my bike helmet for a visor, grabbed my food I had waiting and shoved it into my pockets, opened my coconut water, and ran out of transition. I had to go to the bathroom again, but didn't want to stop as I knew Jason and Tim would be coming, and didn't want to miss them while in the porta-potty.

Out onto the run course I went by Wendy again, and asked if Jason and Tim had come into transition yet. She said they hadn't, so hooray - final goal accomplished! As I ran away from the high school, the pros were coming in to the finish. I clapped as they went back, then cheered loudly for Melanie McQuaid as she ran by to what looked like a strong 4th place.

As I was running the first two miles, my quads felt hammered. I didn't expect to have a good run as I knew I hadn't put the miles in running, but I knew I was in trouble. Turns out pushing a big gear on the bike doesn't do me any favours in the run. Oh well. Jason caught me at mile 2 and blew by. The first four miles really hurt and my quads were screaming. Instead of channeling my inner Jan Ullrich on the bike, I guess I needed to channel Lance Armstrong and spin instead.

Jason came running the other direction as I was just approaching the fifth aid station. I was waiting for Tim to catch me, and every time I passed a porta-potty I wished he'd hurry up and go by so I could stop. Finally, at the La Crema winery (where we run a mile loop through the vineyards) I couldn't wait, so jumped into a porta-potty and hoped I didn't miss Tim. It was starting to get hot, so I walked through the mister they had set up, ran the loop through the vineyard and could see Tim on the other side of the pond. I knew he was coming, and he caught up with me at mile 8. We ran together for a few steps, then Tim carried on ahead.

My left calf started cramping just before mile 9, and it didn't seem like there was much I could do about it. I didn't know if it was because I wasn't quite trained for the run, if it was because it was hot and I was sweating out a lot of electrolytes, or some other mysterious reason. It did mean that the last four miles were a struggle, with more walking than I had planned, and probably more walking than running. It was hot, but I wasn't really feeling the heat. I was grabbing a cup of ice at each aid station and dumping it into my bra, and that seemed to be keeping me cool. One thing I could feel, however, was the sunburn beginning on my shoulders. Someone please give me some advice on this - I can put sunscreen on at 6am before I start the race, but it doesn't last through the swim, the bike, and almost 6 hours into the race at that point. So I savoured every bit of shade on the run course for my shoulders.

It seemed like forever went by, and I knew I was on my way to a really slow run time. It didn't matter that much to me, but I was getting anxious to be finished so I could stop. Finally I made the turn into the high school parking lot, where Wendy guided me around the corner, and onto the grass in the finishing chute. I ended up with my second-slowest run time and finish time ever in a half, but I had made my swim and bike goals so overall I was pleased with how it went. Jason was at the line waiting, having placed first in the men's 40-44. Sweet, especially as it meant he won a bottle of wine! Tim and I were pressuring him before the race to do what he could to win some.

Finally getting to the finish line.

Post Race

We headed to the food tent, found Tim, and told stories of our races. It was getting pretty hot outside at that point, and I knew my shoulders were fried. We decided to get our stuff and head back to the condo. The car was parked about a 10 minute walk away, and Wendy left us lying on the grass in the shade to get it and pick us up. Thanks Wendy! Back at the condo, we showered, changed, ate some candy and headed back to the finish line for Jason's award. Once he got his trophy, we hurried out of there, bought some wine and pizza and settled in to watch that day's Tour stage.

We all had a great time at the race. I accomplished my goals, Jason won, and Tim had a strong race and, as predicted, loved the course as well. Vineman, we will see you again someday!

Coming Soon...

Yes, my Vineman race report is coming. I just got home, and it's on my to-do list for the next day or so. Let me at least do laundry first.


The mountain behind our house has a bit of controversy. The lower slopes of Mt. Tzouhalem were purchased by a developer with grand dreams of putting in a fancy-shmancy residential community and championship golf course. He went and cleared all the trees before all the proverbial t's were crossed and i's dotted, and lo and behold turns out there was no water source. The development is now in bankrupcy and sits like a big ugly scar on an otherwise lovely forested mountain.

Today my friend Dane took me 4x4-ing up there in his Suzuki LJ. I didn't feel too bad about it, as it's a giant scorched and stripped piece of shale, with no vegetation to disturb. Primary succession waiting to happen! We got stuck, but let me emphasize that it was Dane driving and not me backing up. Luckily Dane is resourceful, and we weren't stuck for long. I ride my mountain bike up there all the time, but the mtb trails are in the trees. The view was amazing!

The view looking northeast.

Dane pondering the situation.

Getting unstuck.

Another view.


Last night I went for a run. It had been a busy day, and was therefore after 8pm before I was lacing up my shoes. My plan was just to go for another quick 30 minutes down Maple Bay Road. Imagine my surprise when Jason offered to come with me!

I don't like running with Jason because he is so much faster than me. He claimed fatigue, wanting an easy run having earlier that day won a local triathlon. He collected ribbons for first overall, first 40-44, and first master's athlete. How indulgent, three ribbons (I wouldn't know). Nonetheless, I know I still can't keep up to Jason's "easy" pace, but he seemed keen so I suggested we take the dog (it had been so hot she hadn't been running for a couple of days), a bike, and head to the Cowichan Valley Trail west of town.

I run out there often, near the river, but avoid the area during a heat wave as it is smoking hot that far from the ocean. It was also late evening, and I never run there that time of day. I try to avoid the more remote wilderness area at dusk when I'm alone. I have an over-active imagination, fueled by birthday parties of the late 1970's and early 80's, where my friends and I devoured every campy horror movie with relish. I've done a few sunset solo runs in the woods, and with every crack of a branch in the distance, every shadow, every dark area I can't quite make out, every figure in the distance, my heart races and my thoughts progress from: bear? cougar? psychopathic killer? preternatural monster?

Instead we chatted as I ran, with Jason pedaling his single-speed beside me and Humu romping through the bush. No imagination running wild, no moments of heart-pounding fear, just a family run in the cool twilight.

Heat Wave

A summer heat wave is upon us. At exactly the right time I might add! After a disappointingly cool start to the summer, I was starting to get concerned when I would do my daily surfing over to weather.com's "Windsor California" forecast: a solid run of 30 degree Celsius temperatures. With no training under my belt in anything over about 23 degrees... what was going to happen race day?

Cloudy skies began to give way this past weekend, and the mercury has been climbing ever since. I was a drippy, sweaty mess after yesterday's run. Our deck is now at the point (it gets direct afternoon/evening sun) where it's so hot out there it's not usable (I'm not complaining...), my dog has been panting for days (although she loves to lie on the floor with a wet cloth on her belly), and the true indicator of a heat wave came this morning. I headed out for a ride at nine in the morning. I couldn't go earlier as the Tour was on, and I couldn't go later as Tim was coming over. We live at the top of a hill, so every ride starts out fast and cool. I like starting out cool, because then I know that once I'm warmed up and start working, I'll be at the right temperature. But at 9am, going down that first hill from home, it was already hot!

I rode a quick 90 minute loop, through some windy, shady roads. One of my favourite roads is called Richard's Trail, and it loops up and down, winding through tall Douglas firs. My little forested route, usually a cool gem in the summer, felt a trifle stifling. I popped out into some open farmland, where I worked on my cycling shorts tan. I time-trialed home down the highway, figuring it was up to me to get some air moving. A zig-zag through town, then uphill to home. Another drippy, sweaty mess. Loves it!

We don't have air conditioning in the house (fine with me, although I'm sure Humu wishes we did). Last summer we turned the heat off to the hot tub and turned it into a "cold tub". It was awesome - jumping into the cold tub just before bed to get nice and cool for sleeping, or right after a workout to bring your body temperature down - perfection! I think it's time to go out on the deck and turn off the heat again. My next run will end with some cold tub therapy.

The dog days of summer.


I'm two weeks out from Vineman 70.3, which will be the best test of what I've been doing for the past several months. I have been thinking lately about goals, but it's a bit nerve-racking to post them for anyone to see, as I feel pretty vulnerable doing so. If I keep them to myself and don't make them, then no one knows I failed! However, I'm taking the leap and putting them out there, so please go easy on me if I'm in over my head.

I did this race nine years ago, and was pretty pleased with how I did then. I've never been fast, just content to keep going. I'm now 40, and by conventional wisdom I should be slower. In many ways I am, but I don't think that's the end of the story. Some of my goals are actually faster than nine years ago.

I was thinking of me just a mere 18 months ago... I was recovering from a stupid injury which put me in the hospital having emergency surgery. I smashed my radial head to bits, and now have a new elbow. I definitely notice that my left arm doesn't have the same power as my right when I'm swimming. Swimming and weights help, but that arm tires more quickly and gets sore. I think I'll be dealing with that for a long time. 18 months ago I couldn't walk without a cane from partially tearing my right LCL, ACL, meniscus, and a lot of bone edema. Now my knee doesn't seem to bother me; not anymore than my left one does anyway from a history of knee problems.

With that in mind, the fact I haven't done triathlon in many years, and that before I started recovering from my injury I spent the last several years going from very active to weekend warrior... I have come up with some goals for Vineman.

The swim - well, I don't swim as much as I used to. And there's that whole left arm thing. Nine years ago I swam 36:51 there. I didn't have a great swim that day, so I'm going to set my goal as 37 minutes. Scary, because I don't know if I can make that goal, but I'm going to try. I'm hoping for a good draft...

The bike - I have been working hard on the bike this year. It's also the one thing I've been somewhat consistently doing over the past decade. My goal bike time is 3:15. That's 3 minutes faster than I rode nine years ago. I think I can ride that, but don't think I've set an easy goal there.

The run - hah! I have no goal for the run. 18 months ago I was not really walking. I have not run that distance since 2001. These are not excuses, but I'm trying to be realistic. Nine years ago I ran just over 2:30 there, so yep, I've always been a slow runner. Wait, I do have a goal... it's to run a solid pace, power-walk the uphills and really work the downhills.

Transitions - last time I did Vineman, apparently I blacked out for a while in transition as each of my transitions were five minutes! My goal for this year is under four.

A really fun goal I have is to beat Jason and Tim out of T2. My wave starts at 6:38, Tim starts at 7:26, and Jason starts at 7:50. Tim's never done the race before (he'll LOVE it!), but is an amazing swimmer and good cyclist. Jason, well, last year he was third in his age group there with an overall time of 4:29. My goal of beating them onto the run is a solid goal, not too easy but I think it's do-able. It's going to be so fun to see them twice on the out-and-back run course!

My final goal is to finish with a smile. Even if I don't make my other goals... this is the one I can control the most. Sometimes, you're out on a race course and things hurt, things aren't going your way... but you have to keep in mind that it's supposed to be fun! I chose to do this, and want to do triathlon as it's enjoyable (mostly!). As Kirsty says, "If it's not fun, you're not doing it right"! I'll let her have the last word.

Summer Brain

Now that I'm on summer holidays, my brain has turned itself off. This was some automatic, internal switch, as I would prefer it remain on, or at least on a stand-by mode.

Case in point: Jason's away for the weekend with some friends, and he had to catch an early ferry to the mainland this morning. I wanted to sleep in, so I told him to drive himself to the ferry and I'd ride up to get his car. It was a perfect plan as I needed to get a 3-hour ride in anyway.

He departed as I was still sleeping. I awoke, got my cycling stuff together, and headed out. It's Canada Day, which usually means I like to stay off the roads as everyone else has their brains turned off, or turned on to jackass mode. However, the day dawned cool and damp, so the roads were quiet as I pedaled along.

I was almost halfway to the ferry terminal when I realized I didn't have the car keys. Ah, the joys of summer brain. At least my summer brain isn't malicious; it didn't allow me to arrive at the vehicle, dripping wet from the rain and cold in my cycling clothes, and then realize I forgot the keys.

I rode home, experiencing some shifting problems along the way, of course, because Jason's not here to fix it. I stopped on the side of the road to see if I could solve the problem, but my patience is thin when I'm standing on the side of the highway with cars zooming past and rain coming down, and I couldn't find the problem. I'll put it on the stand tonight, and if I'm still mentally incompetent (i.e. summer brain), I'll take it to the shop tomorrow.

Thanks, Pete, for driving me up to Jason's car.