Hills and Farm Animals

I was supposed to do a hilly ride yesterday; I hope this qualifies:

I actually got to skip two major climbs that are usually part of this loop. I was only doing the short version so I bypassed them, hooray! But it was hot, and the heat made these relentless little poppers seem even harder!

On the plus side, I wound around through farm lands and vineyards. These two little guys made my day, they were so cute. And smart enough to be in the shade.

Where's My Voodoo Doll?

Kiki said if she felt any back pain while I was doing yesterday's workout, it was because I was stabbing a voodoo doll of her. Where can I get this said doll - I need it! Ha ha. She knows the kind of workouts I like (generally long, cruisy ones that keep me in my comfort zone), and knows the kind I don't. This was a don't. But... it was fun - on a no-fun-fun level that is.

I convinced Jason to do it with me, which was great not only for the company, but because I was feeling pretty dorky bringing my bike and trainer to the track. Of course things are much less dorky when you have company. We're super-lucky to have an amazing sports facility here in our little town, and even luckier that it wasn't busy. Well, there was a lacrosse practice in the box, a field hockey game on the pitch, a softball game on one of the diamonds, a bootcamp at one end... but the track itself was pretty empty and there was no soccer on the infield, so it didn't seem busy where we were. We were also lucky that it was cloudy, as there's no shade on the track and sometimes summer afternoons there can be downright scorching.

The workout consisted of bike and run intervals, and I gave everything I had. After the last run interval, my legs were shaking so much I could barely clip into my pedals for the cool-down spin. Jason said he knew I was working hard at how I could barely say anything to him in between gasping for breath when he would blow by me on the run. And Kiki - you would be pleased to see I beat him in transitions every time. It was surprising how quickly a workout of almost two hours went by. By the end it looked like we must have thrown a swim in there somewhere as well, we were that soaked in sweat. Good times.

Smiling because it's only the warm-up.

Trying to run "fast".

Jason blowing by me like I was standing still.

You know it's a hard workout when you can
literally wring your clothes out after.

Summertime SUP

I love it when I can get out on the stand-up paddleboard. This afternoon the weather was perfect so we had to go... we loaded the boards up and went out in Cowichan Bay. Tide too high for the seal haulout to be occupied (but lots of seals in the water watching us closely), and Jason made an osprey a bit pissed off by paddling too close to a piling that happened to contain a nest. But a great afternoon out in the sun.

The town of Cowichan Bay.

We love summer!

I Am A Style Icon

Don't you just love the sundress with compression socks look? I think we'll see it on the runways for next year. (Jason's finger also makes a nice effect, don't you think?)

One-oh-one (part two)

You can find the first part here: Part One

22. Highway 101, snaking along the US west coast.
23. Driving home and seeing Lil Hooter - the resident owl - chilling on a fence post.
24. Watching the Tour de France every morning for most of July.
25. Having so many more hours in a day once the Tour wraps up for the year.
26. Pulling out the box of xmas decorations and starting to decorate the tree.
27. Holding my own at run group and not getting dropped.
28. Popcorn for dinner.
29. Movie popcorn... so much yummier than the air-popped home popcorn.
30. How much crisper the world looks when I wear my glasses.
31. Dinner with friends I haven't seen in a while.
32. The smell in the woods in Whistler.
33. Full moons.
34. Singing along to the car stereo.
35. Cherry blossoms in the spring.
36. Tubing down the river on a really hot summer day.
37. The feeling of my stand-up paddleboard cruising over glassy water.
38. Fresh corn on the cob.
39. The peaceful sound of ukelele music.
40. Thunderstorms. We hardly ever get them here on the island, so it's a super treat.
41. The good feeling I get thinking of things I like.

Juggling Act

Ah, the best laid plans. I had the rest of the summer all planned out in terms of racing. Just had a long talk with Coach Kiki about it tonight, and just after we got off the phone, changed everything.

I did some shorter races in the spring - 10k, sprint tri... then switched to long rides on the bike in preparation for STP. The overall goal this year was to work on my running, and rather than running long, stick to the 10k distance and hopefully get faster. So I found a triathlon in Oregon that fit the bill. End of August, with a longish bike (80k) and shortish run (10k). Perfect. Then the next week we planned a holiday in Whistler, and I figured I'd jump into the Xterra sport distance to finish the year off.

But don't you know how plans change, especially when you least expect them to. I'm not the only one who races in the house, and Jason is prepping for Kona, for which he qualified at IM Coeur d'Alene. And while the race in Oregon would be a good prep for him, the timing wasn't ideal (especially with coming home and heading to Whistler immediately afterwards for a week's vacation). So we spent some time online tonight looking at other options.

Parameters were not more than a few hours drive, mid-August, and good shopping (ok, that one was my rule). Jason's arrow landed on Lake Stevens 70.3 in Everett - a ferry ride away, Aug. 14, and near an outlet mall. Problem... I haven't been running long enough. Swim and bike would be no sweat (well, not literally), but I haven't run more than 10k since November. Do I want to gut it out and have a brutal run/walk? Not particularly. Do I want to choose to DNF after the bike or after 10k of the run? Seems odd to enter a race I'm not planning to finish.

Another glance at the race calendar, and turns out there's a women's only sprint tri in Seattle on the same day as the 70.3. A sprint is maybe a bit shorter than I'd like, but I guess I'd get to practice getting some speedwork in for real. So we hatched a plan that's a bit of a juggling act. Jason would sign up for Lake Stevens, and I'd sign up for the Danskin sprint.

Gives Jason some more training time before our Whistler holiday, I can still do Xterra, and maybe even throw in another sprint race in September before concentrating on running in the fall. The only catch is how we can each race in different cities on the same day. They're a 45 minute drive apart, so it will take some fancy footwork to make it work.

Here is our plan so far (warning: may be tweaked if we can figure out a smoother plan - feel free to send your suggestions!). Friday take the ferry to the mainland, do some shopping, and hit Jason's package pickup. Hotel near Lake Stevens that night. Saturday head to Seattle for my package pickup, do a bit of shopping, and head back to Lake Stevens for Jason's bike check in. Back to hotel. Sunday morning drop Jason off at his race start, and I head down to my race in Seattle. I finish my race, come back to Lake Stevens for Jason's finish (if I can make it on time, depending on my wave start). Take the ferry home.

Should be interesting!


The Seattle to Portland (STP) has been on my to-do list for many years. Finally this year I decided to do it, and coerced my friend Corinne into signing up as well. It’s a two-day (although there is a one-day option) ride from Seattle to Portland (duh), covering more than 300 kilometers. 329 to be exact (204 miles).

Day One

We started early, although not as early as most. It’s a rolling start, and riders can start anytime between 5:15 and 7:30 am (the one-dayer’s can start as early as 4:45). We started at 6:40, on a beautiful, cloudless northwest summer morning. It was a bit cool, but temperatures were forecasted to be pretty warm by the afternoon.

Corinne and I at the start line

We were treated to spectacular views of Mt. Rainier as we wound around Lake Washington and out into the countryside surrounding Seattle. We passed hundreds of riders and rode hard to get around groups. We hopped on trains whenever we could, and noticed trains forming behind us when we were riding well. The aid stations were super-crowded, what with 10,000 riders taking part, so our plan was to grab handfuls of food and stuff our faces quickly and get back out on the course.

Mt. Rainier in the distance

The first day went by pretty quickly and uneventfully. The course was pretty gentle, one big climb but most of the day was flat to rolling. Most of the route was on backroads, a couple of highways, and a paved path through Nisqually National Park. It was great to be away from the traffic on the path for a bit, and ride side-by-side without worrying about vehicles coming up from behind. It was also a nice break from stop lights which plagued much of the course.

We hit our end point for the day in early afternoon, Chehalis, where we were staying with friends. Chehalis was about 10 km past the official halfway point of Centralia, and in Centralia they gave us creamsicles as we rode through, which went down pretty nicely as the day was getting hot. Mmm, creamsicles… In Chehalis we collected our bags, stored our bikes for the night and my friend Katie picked us up.

End of day one.

First day mileage: 172 km; ride time: 6:11

Day Two

We started a bit later, as the first day didn’t take as long as we thought and now we had a little less mileage to do. That turned out to be a mistake – more to come on that. Another beautiful, cloudless day, with a view of Mt. St. Helens for the first few miles. Our friend Kris had done STP last year in one day, and assured us the course was flat, with one climb in the first half. As we rode, we questioned Kris’ sanity as we kept going up and down, up and down the second day… I hate to see what he thinks as hilly!

Elevation profiles from my Garmin. Day One was pretty gentle with one major climb, but Day Two was not flat!

Me enjoying a downhill.

A highlight of day two was definitely crossing the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Columbia River in Kelso. We rounded a corner and the bridge loomed into sight, only 210 feet high but it seemed to tower over the mighty Columbia. We were only allowed to be single file on the bridge, so we climbed up and rode tempo over it’s almost 1 km span and descended the other side.

Lewis & Clark Bridge

STP attracts all sorts of bike fashion…

It was after the bridge that our decision to start later came back to haunt us. We had started behind many beginner riders, and were forced to ride around large groups of inexperienced cyclists. I was in front of Corinne, and passed a woman who was riding way to the left, pretty much on the white line of a fairly busy road. I had a bad feeling about this particular woman, she seemed uncomfortable on the bike and visibly nervous with the speed riders were passing her. I was relieved to get around her safely, but that inner voice was right as she ended up swerving into Corinne as Corinne came up around her. I heard the crash behind me and turned to see Corinne, the woman, and another rider go down hard.

I pulled over and ran back to see if Corinne was ok. Some road rash, but she’s a pretty tough chick and was up on her feet quickly. The bike was another story, the rear brake jammed into the wheel, the rear derailleur hanger was bent, and both hoods were askew. Unrideable. An official stopped and cleaned up Corinne’s wounds, and called a sag wagon. We hatched a plan of her hitching a lift to the next aid station 16 km down the road where a mechanic could check things out. I’d ride and meet her there.

Once the bike was fixed up, we were back on the road again, albeit a bit later than planned. Once again we were behind a lot of beginner riders. It took Corinne a bit of time to get her mojo back, but soon enough we were riding hard, passing people, and hooked up with a couple of guys (one from Seattle, the other from Colorado) and made a mini-train the last couple of hours to the finish.

Crossing the finish line

Second day mileage: 157 km; ride time: 5:49.

Later that night at our hotel, where the front desk clerk told us we “cleaned up nicely”. We must have looked pretty grotty when we checked in!

The total mileage was 329 kilometers, which we finished in 12 hours over the two days. On the Amtrak back to Seattle, we started musing about doing the one-day next year, stay tuned…

One-oh-one (part one)

In honour of my 101st post, I thought I'd start a list of 101 things I really like. I won't subject you to it all at once. It's not a countdown, therefore there is no particular order to this list; it is just off the top of my head.

1. Riding my bike with friends, enjoying the company and the exercise.
2. Riding my bike alone, enjoying the solitude and the exercise.
3. Swimming in a 50-meter outdoor pool.
4. Listening to the frogs chorusing in the spring.
5. Time to sleep in, but waking up early and just getting to lie in bed for a while.
6. A really nice glass of wine.
7. Hot summer days.
8. Laughing so hard I cry.
9. That fragrant smell when you step off the plane in Hawaii.
10. Really bright starry nights.
11. Planning a new adventure.
12. Carrying out said adventure.
13. The sound a disc wheel makes.
14. A new, cute running outfit.
15. Snorkeling with green sea turtles.
16. Freshly picked strawberries from a local farm.
17. Sitting on the deck on a summer evening.
18. Taking Humu up the mountain in winter and watching her run in the snow.
19. Gray, misty fog.
20. Finding money in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn in a while.
21. Watching a sea lion playing in an eddy.

To be continued...

The One Thing

There are so many things beyond our control. Most people I know, myself included, work hard on controlling as many things as we can (Type A, anyone?). But sometimes life tends to sneak in and throw a few monkey wrenches into the mix.

There is still one thing you can control, even when it seems you're in the middle of a tempest. That one thing is your reaction to what is beyond control. You can curl up in a ball and cry, or you can face things head on with a smile. I watched Jason give a lesson in controlling the uncontrollable at Ironman Coeur d'Alene this year.

A couple months out from the race, Jason was in peak form. Splitting his fastest times in at least a decade, not bad for a 42-year old. Then six weeks out, he tore a calf muscle. No bawling in the fetal position, but he faced it head on. Physio, IMS, chiro, ART, massage, water jogging; all of which kept him in great shape up until race day. Maybe not blistering marathon pace, but solid none the less. He could have chosen to bail on the race and feel sorry for himself, but instead he chose to control the uncontrollable situation by staying positive.

Race morning he was feeling great. The water temperature was reportedly in the low 50's farenheit (his assessment was "friggin' cold"). It's pretty tough to control water temperature in a lake, although I know many triathletes would like to. After becoming near-hypothermic in the swim, setting a relatively slow swim time for someone who is normally a 58-minute swimmer, and bumbling through transition with frozen, non-functional hands, he could have chosen the fetal position and cried again. His goal was a Hawaii spot and a podium spot, so a 7-minute deficit right after the first leg would lead many to give up. But he was smiling as he pedaled out of transition, determined to not let the setbacks get to him. No hypothermia here, he controlled the uncontrollable with a positive attitude.

Of course with any big event, we try to control all the variables. One obvious one is tires... they should be in flawless condition. But halfway through the second lap, a piece of metal decided to lodge itself into Jason's tire, and that's pretty tough to control no matter what tire you choose. So he fixed the flat, hopped back on and once again controlled how he reacted. No giving up, no self-defeat. A 5:10 bike split, flat tire not withstanding, is someone who controlled the uncontrollable again, smiling every time I saw him.

Charging hard through the bike.

Onto the run, he ran himself into a podium position. But who can control the guy coming from behind, coming off the bike in 18th place but running a blazing 3:02 and bumping you off the podium? Uncontrollable... except that positive attitude that kept Jason running to a 3:18 marathon (despite several weeks off running leading up to the race).

Running strong.

Not a PR, but a Kona spot nonetheless.

Through the minefield that is life (and the minefield that is Ironman), the only thing you can truly control is how you react.