T-12 Weeks and Counting...

It's T-12 weeks to Ironman Arizona. (Insert NASA-styled countdown here.) I remember when it was 12 months to go. I suppose I'll be saying the same thing when there's only 12 days left.

Perhaps in addition to my idea for Ironman-brand laundry soap,
the World Triathlon Corp. should license an hourglass you
get upon registering for an Ironman. Just to haunt (or taunt)
you for an entire year.

So, yes, 12 weeks. Gulp. The training now begins in earnest, where a 4-hour ride will seem short. Big gulp. 20+ hour training weeks will start piling up. Super big gulp. And I have to go back to work next week. Double gulp!

I remember a conversation I had with my friend Laura back at my birthday party in May. We were talking about training, and about how much time I still had to get ready. We also laughed about how at some moment, some moment not too far in the future, I wouldn't be able to talk about how much time I still have. Well, that time is now. Not that I'm under the wire, behind schedule, or anything like that... no, it's just time to focus.

Focus. Not my best quality. I'm not scattered, instead I just always seem to have a lot going on. A lot on my mind, and always looking ahead to what's next. For the next three months I'm really going to try to not look past Ironman to the next-and-latest thing, but to really give it the attention it deserves. Let's see if I can concentrate on only one thing for once. Super-super big gulp!

The Weather

You have got to be kidding me. This is the forecast for the next few days:

This is the last week before I go back to work, the last week I can train whatever time of day I want, the last week for my skin to remember what mid-day sun is like before I get to Tempe...

I guess my new plan is to "practice" fall training. It's not actually fall yet according to the calendar, so I get to pretend it is next week. Practice wearing a rain jacket, arm warmers, knee warmers, all that stuff I kind of forgot existed. Next weekend we're in Whistler, so hopefully the sun will reappear for those few days.

There's one thing in life you truly can't do anything about, and that's weather. I may as well enjoy it!

My New Bike

Check out my new bike:

Confession: it's not actually new. Another confession: it's not actually mine. It's Jason's, but he's done racing for the year (well, he still has Xterra Canada but he's obviously not going to be needing that bike), so I have taken it over as mine for the rest of the year. Perfect Ironman Arizona ride.

I've been sloooowwwly pimping it out to make it my own, just one tiny change at a time. My saddle. Higher stem. My pedals. J-bend instead of R-bend aerobars. Dale at the shop crimped the cable ends with pink anodized ends. Higher seatpost. I plan to change the bar tape to something more "feminine" (ideas?)... and hopefully by the time my race has finished, Jason won't even recognize this bike and I'll get to keep it.

It is so fast! I want to keep it. I even dropped Jason a couple of times on Saturday. Granted, we were going kind of downhill with a tailwind, I was on the Transition and he was on his cyclocross bike, I was running road tubeless and he had knobby CX mudders, I caught him off guard... but I'll take what I can get from someone who's ridden sub-5 at Ironman. And ran sub-3. And swam sub-1. Never mind that he could really drop the hammer on me anytime he wanted.

But yes, say hello to my new ride!


I arrived in Leadville (10,000 feet) on Thursday, and got lucky as my body gave me one day grace before I felt the altitude. Friday, however, gasp! I was there to crew for Kiki's Leadville race with her awesome friend Heidi, and while Kiki had spent weeks sleeping in an altitude tent, Heidi and I were fresh from sea level. Gasp.

Friday morning I went for a ride. I started with a loop of the Mineral Belt Trail, and climbed up to 10,600 feet on my mountain bike. Gasp. That afternoon Heidi and I went for a swim in the local pool. Gasp. Just walking around town left me out of breath. Gasp.

Summit of the Mineral Belt Trail, above Leadville, Colorado.

Saturday was the race, and Heidi and I spent the day running around the course supporting Kiki who had an awesome race. Just watching everyone hammer for 100 miles at altitude was tiring. Gasp. By this point, I was really missing oxygen; I'm quite dependant on it actually! My sea level body was pushing the limit, and was letting me know by the constant altitude headache, with temporary reprieves thanks to coca tea and caffeine. Gasp.

Sunday dawned, after another fitful sleep thanks to the altitude. Heidi had to leave that morning, but Kiki and I were staying for another few hours as I'd signed up for a 10k road race. Gasp. Why did I think that would be fun? That was the hardest 10k I've ever done, with the last 5k being all uphill. Gasp. I thought I may run faster than normal, as there are fewer O2 molecules to get in my way and all, but I set a personal worst. Gasp.

We headed to Vail, still 8000 feet, still headaches, still fitful sleeps. Gasp. Monday I rode part of the Vail Triangle, from Vail over the pass, climbing 3000 feet to the 10,600 foot summit, then descending to Copper Mountain, where I turned around and climbed the 1000 feet back to the summit. Gasp. There were a couple of times I actually had to stop and catch my breath. I now know what it feels like to have asthma! Gasp.

My little alpine friend, found when climbing Vail Pass.

I left Vail this morning, heading for home. Back to my oxygenated life. Driving the Interstate through western Colorado was spectacular, with several viewpoints (especially through Glenwood Canyon) taking my breath away. Gasp. As I descended, I felt my headache disappear and my chest felt lighter.

Passing Fruita, I had a pang of regret as Kiki and I originally planned to head there to do some mountain biking after her race, but I bailed on her. I woke up Monday wanting to go home, as either homesickness or panic set in. Both of those are new emotions for me - gasp! Homesick perhaps because I wanted Jason to come with me but he was busy at work. Panic because I realized I am three months from Ironman Arizona, and my workouts this past week made me feel out of shape (yes, I know they were at altitude). Gasp!

Tonight I'm in Salt Lake City, a mere 4300 feet above sea level. I was looking forward to taking a deep breath full of glorious oxygen, but there's an air quality warning due to the heat and smog. Gasp.

Road Trip

I have been on the road for three days. I feel like I've been driving incessantly for the entire time, and have crossed practically half a continent. Indeed, as I've even driven over the Continental Divide, where one would naturally assume the rest of the journey would be downhill. That would be in error, however. Here is what I have seen so far:

1. Ferries in the summer are busy. Duh. I knew this already. While I love living on an island, the drawback comes when you have to get off. Most of the time I go about my daily life without leaving The Rock (no, I am not incarcerated at Alcatraz, that is also the nickname for Vancouver Island. That, or simply "the Island"). The ferry can serve as a nice someone-else-take-the-wheel conduit to Vancouver. But there are times when taking a ferry can be painful, and that time is summer.

Busy morning at the Duke Point ferry terminal.

I am no stranger to ferries. When I was a little girl, my Nana lived in Victoria and my family in Saskatchewan, and it was always a treat to take the ferry to visit her. It felt like we were going somewhere exotic. Back in my grad school days, one of the elements of my thesis was to see if the ferry between the Island and the mainland could be used to assist in quantitative surveys for marine mammals. So I have ridden the ferries hundreds of times: as a tourist, an islander, a commuter, and a researcher. This time, however, it meant I had to think about exactly what time I wanted to leave, whether I want to spend the extra money on a reservation (I did) or gamble that I could get on without one, and it also meant adding several extra hours to my journey.

2. Eastern Washington could not be more different than the Pacific Northwest. There are no trees, and seems more like a prairie. There are a lot of dams, which mirrors the western part of Washington, but they seem more obtrusive. I guess I knew this already too, but when I spend most of my Washington time along the western edge, eastern Washington always catches me off guard.

A different side of Washington.

3. My new car is great on gas. I've been filling up about every 800 kilometers, which is pretty much double what my VW van would get. But I can't sleep in it as easily, and I require extra accessories to keep food cold.

4. Coeur d'Alene has a beautiful bike path around the lake. Well, I don't know if it goes all the way around, but I enjoyed the section I rode.

Lake Coeur d'Alene.

5. Montana seems determined to re-surface the entire I-90, all at once, and right when I'm trying to get through.

6. Montana really does have an endless expanse of sky. I haven't been to that state in maybe 20 years, and the celestial vista is remarkable.

Montana's sky.

7. Despite Wyoming having spectacular landscapes (Yellowstone, Devil's Tower, the Grand Tetons - beautiful craggy mountains whose name unfortunately translates to "big tits" in French), the I-90/I-25 corridor is mind-numbingly boring.

Wyoming from my rear-view mirror, which is all I want to see of the Interstate.

8. I didn't see any cowboys in Wyoming, but I did see two "Go Western!" billboards. I'm not exactly sure what is meant by going western, perhaps donning cowboy boots and exerting a general cruelty to livestock?

9. Seeing the Rocky Mountains on the horizon in Denver evokes the same feeling I used to get driving east of Calgary to Banff as a kid. A kind of mystical, powerful yet grounding feeling.

Colorado Rocky Mountain high on the horizon...

10. How is it I've been gone for only three days, but have amassed an entire load of laundry already? A couple of runs, ride, workouts in hotel gyms, walks, I guess the year of laundry is going strong.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting up with Kirsty in Leadville. I can't wait to be in one place for a few days, go for some mountain bike rides in a place I've never been, and oh yeah, run at 10k race at 10,000 feet elevation. I must have been drunk when I signed up for that one.

Sooke Sprint Tri race report

I ended off my week back to training with a sprint race in a nearby town. It was actually all business, the only reason I did the race was because Subaru was a sponsor. You see, I bought a Subaru earlier this year, and they have a deal where if you do two of the Western Tri Series races, you get a $750 rebate off a car. Well. I did the one in Victoria in June, so that meant I had to do one more, and this one was the closest to home. It was like I was being paid to race.

I wasn't sure how it was going to go, what with Vineman three weeks ago, then a two-week break, then a week of high-volume, low-intensity training. Turns out it went just fine. Besides having to get up at 5am, that is. Jason and I drove to the venue, had a pretty low-key morning getting set up, and then just when I was about to get in the water to warm up, the zipper on my wetsuit stuck. Jason wrestled with it for a few minutes, then said "You may be swimming without a wetsuit today". That wouldn't have been a big deal as it's been really warm lately, but he took a closer look and saw a tiny little pebble stuck in the zipper pull. He jimmied it out, zipped me up, and I hit the water with ten minutes to warm up.

The start line was mayhem; it seemed everyone wanted to be where I was once the gun when off. And by gun, I mean gun - the military was there with this huge Howitzer that scared the crap out of everyone when it fired. I didn't think the Canadian army had anything that big. Anyway, I digress. I got pummeled and did some pummeling for the first 100 meters, then found some good feet to follow for the rest of the quick 500m swim. I swam well, and ended up 45 seconds faster than I swam in June (and the fastest swim in my age group, I might add). My swim has really improved over the last couple of months.

Onto the bike, and it was a twisty, turny, hilly, rough 26k. I really wanted to be under an hour, but wasn't sure because of the monster climb about three-quarters through the course. The rest of the ride was fine, but that climb was tough! I just sat up and spun (as best I could) up the thing, and there were people paper-boying up the steep section (for any non-cyclists, that's when you go back and forth across the road - like a paper boy delivering papers - to make the steep parts functionally less steep). Apparently a couple of people even walked the steepest pitch. The climb seemed to go on forever, it was 5k long and that's a big portion of a 26k ride. Downhill into transition, and I made it under the hour with a whopping 4.5 minutes to spare!

The run was hilly; I'm a slow runner but I decided I wouldn't zone out but instead I'd push myself the whole way. It was fairly uneventful, and I ended up running 25 seconds faster than the sprint tri in June. Doesn't sound like much, but the June run was pancake flat on a forgiving chip trail, and this was a hilly exposed run on pavement. So I'm OK with that.

Back at home, I've filled out the paperwork for the rebate on my car... a pretty good work day I guess! Now it's on to packing, as I'm leaving tomorrow morning to drive to Leadville, Colorado to crew for Kiki's race.

Right Back At It

Break is over, I'm right back at it. Today was a four hour training day, which almost equals my last week! Went for a three hour ride this morning, and the biggest change was the bike I rode. Jason has offered me his Specialized Transition for the rest of the year since he's moving on to off-road events only for the next few months. Today was my first substantial ride on the Transition. It has a more aggressive and lower position than when I ride clip-on aerobars on my road bike, so it will take some getting used to.

I felt pretty tired after riding for three hours, something I haven't felt for a while. Shows that even though I enjoyed these last couple of weeks, I've lost some fitness and need to do some work to get it back. I know it will come back quickly though. I also didn't have enough to eat before my ride, only some yogurt, and didn't eat anything during the ride. I was hungry when I got home!

After riding, Jason and I headed to the lake for a swim. Today is a holiday here, which means the pool is closed so no master's workout tonight. I pulled my wetsuit on, but regretted it about five minutes into the swim as I was starting to cook. The water is so warm right now, as we've had a really nice July and it hasn't rained at all in over a month. Pretty rare for coastal BC. Had there been a race in the lake today, it definitely would not have had a wetsuit-legal swim. Jason was swimming in his speed suit, so he was fine.

I figured I wouldn't swim well after a tiring ride, but I was surprised by how smooth my stroke was. I followed Jason's feet pretty much the whole way around the lake. The beach was packed, and it was like running the gauntlet between inner tubes, air mattresses, and rowboats out in the middle of the lake.

Right back at it is an understatement; upon closer examination of my training schedule, I have 14 hours of training this week (PLUS a sprint race on Sunday). How'd Kiki sneak that past me?