Tales of triathlon, travel, and trails

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Coeur d’Alene 70.3

I had sort of been considering doing Coeur d’Alene 70.3 for a while but I kept ignoring it and putting it to the bottom of my priority list, thinking I might not actually do it. So by the time I registered a couple weeks before the race, it was the most expensive tiered price ($293USD+processing fees) and when the charge came through on my credit card it was $487CAD. For a half ironman. I pretty much immediately regretted my decision and wished I hadn’t signed up after all! But what was done was done so I actually had to do this thing.

My last 70.3, and actually my last IM branded event other than running in a relay at Calgary 70.3 last year, was at Vineman 70.3 (RIP) in 2015. What happened to the last two years?! I wanted to take a break from the full ironman this year, mostly because of the training. I don’t like training as much as I probably should, especially for a full ironman. I prefer 10-12 hours of training a week (this makes it difficult for my coach Michelle I think! Sorry!) I can do more hours in the summer because of longer weekend rides but I really don’t like feeling ALL I’m doing is training. This obviously limits my potential but I am totally ok with that. So for half ironmans I think 10-12 hours works pretty well for me. But my other problem is I get distracted by so many other things, it’s almost impossible for me to focus solely on triathlon. Ultrarunning – yes! Gravel grinders – sure! Trail running – why not?!

Rob wins best shirt award

This year so far has been all about the bike. I am not a good cyclist, although I’m trying to become better. The BWR especially took up a lot of my time and focus for the first part of this year and I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual on the bike. It’s been awesome. I feel like I was also sick more often than usual this winter and spring so I had to keep taking little breaks from training to recover. Those breaks plus riding more than usual meant a lot less running than I’ve ever done. So heading into CDA 70.3 I really had no idea where my running was at because I actually can’t remember the last time I ran 20km. Probably early April. But, this was not my first 70.3 rodeo (I think I’ve done more than 10 now?) so I knew I would finish, and I trusted Michelle, so I just had to get it done! No problem!

With my Betty teammate, MacBeth before the start. She is such a joy to be around! So positive!

Swim 38:38

Standing on the beach of Lake Coeur d’Alene Sunday morning, I *thought* I had lined myself up with the 35-45min sign. It’s a rolling start based on your predicted swim time. Of course most people really overestimate their swim ability, or are nervous, or whatever the issue is, and people who have no business being at the front, or even where they placed themselves, are in the way. The pros went off at 6am and the age group start was at 615am. I had told Rob it was a rolling start from 615am and I was thinking I would swim around 38min, so he was basing his spectating on those numbers. However, they were letting people through single file into the water and somehow before I knew it, I was tossed to the back of the pack. Like the very back of last the wave to enter the water. Maybe I had fallen asleep somewhere along the line?! So much for the 35-45min group! I was in the last 100 people (out of almost 2100) to enter the water. I wasn’t worried about me, it just meant a lot of people to pass throughout the day, but I was worried about Rob because I didn’t get in the water until 6:41am, 25min after he thought I would be starting but I couldn’t find him in the mass of spectators to tell him this.

I swam on the inside, to the left of the buoys on this course, as I prefer to do, because as long as you go around the corner buoys, you can swim wherever you like. It’s always clear water on the inside because everyone else is fighting and punching to be on the right side. I love lake swimming. I love fresh water. As long as I’m not in chlorine, I completely love water and it’s always my favourite part of the race. I chose to swim in my sleeveless Roka wetsuit because I think I swim better in it, and I HATE being hot. Lake CDA has a reputation for being cold but it was absolutely perfect. Because I pretty much got to see everyone go in the water, there were a few people who even swam without wetsuits!

Not from the race, obvs, but a pretty cool shot I think!

The swim was uneventful, I loved it, swam comfortably, and ended up coming out of the water at 38min. Not bad for 1 swim/week, if that. And the best part was Rob actually found me coming out of the water and got a great photo!

Even after starting 25 min later than I was “supposed” to, Rob still found me out of the water!

Rob and I had a long (probably too long) conversation in T1 and I also saw my Betty teammate Yvonne who was racked right near me!

Bike 2:52:00

I haven’t been on my tri bike outside since July last year. I’ve been riding it lots on the Kickr, just not outside. I was not at all worried about my bike handling skills because I’ve spent my spring on mountain bike trails on my road bike 🙂 so riding in a straight line is a piece of cake. I felt strong right away. Rob told me to go out at a pace I didn’t think I could hold (haha!) and try to hold it. Good advice, right?! It just felt so… easy. It was smooth asphalt, on a fast bike with skinny tires, in a straight line, like what more do you want? Hills or not (CDA 70.3 is pretty hilly) it felt like I was flying compared to what I’ve been doing! And even better, these damn gravel/off-road races have been 6 hours. To only have to ride for 3 hours was the best thing in the world. Oh yeah, and even better, I had most of the field in front of me to try to catch up to and pass, so it was like hundreds and hundreds of carrots for me all day! All of this lead to me overcooking the bike a bit. I probably *should* have rode 3:10 or so but ended up at 2:52 and I REALLY cooked the last 10km trying to get in under 2:50. Sorry Michelle! I was having fun!

At the end of the bike

Run 1:58:09

As I’ve stated before and I will continue to state, I am the worst triathlon runner in the history of triathlon. I’m a pretty good runner in standalone races (I qualified for and ran Boston!) but put me on a bike before, and I completely suck. I can’t run whether I take it easy on the bike or push it. The running result is the same, but if I slow down on the bike all that happens is I lose 10 or 20 minutes because I don’t run any faster!

So here I was starting the run. I felt good actually! I had absolutely no expectations for this run (or this race) so I just went out, knowing I probably couldn’t hold the pace. And I actually held it for about 13km. I was pretty happy with myself! I stayed positive and most important I did my best to stay cool. It was really hot, over 30c, and as I’ve got older and living in a cold city, I have zero tolerance for heat. I just can’t do it. But, I was doing it!

Early on in the run

Rob was out on the course. Near the end of my first lap he yelled some cheers at me, ending with “are you coming back?!” to which I replied “yes!” His response was “good for you!” What kind a response is that? Like I had a choice! I was trying to focus so I didn’t have any energy to waste on replying to that comment!

At 13km I started to suffer a bit. I was quite hungry so somewhere along the line I didn’t eat enough. I could feel the energy draining from my body. My legs were getting harder and harder to turn over, and the heat was getting harder to bear. It was awesome to see so many Betty teammates out there and them to cheer for – Kayla, Jordan, Jess, MacBeth, Yvonne – and I tried to stay strong to be able to cheer for them. At 17km the wheels really fell off and I had a ride on the struggle bus to the finish. I managed to mutter only a couple words to Rob at about 19km, mostly “don’t get me disqualified” as he was riding his bike beside for a few seconds.

Total 5:38:21

The run down Sherman to the finish chute was awesome, and it never ceases to amaze how I can be barely moving to seeing the finish line and suddenly I can run again. My run ended up being 1:58, which is pretty bad for what I think I should be able to run (and what it seemed like everyone else was running!) but actually for me, it’s only the second or third time I’ve ever run under 2hrs in a 70.3. Considering my run training was very, very limited, I can only be happy and I really think I’ll be able to better in a month in Whistler!

On the way to the finish line!

As I crossed the finish line, the first words out of my mouth were “Oh! That’s Andy Potts!” as he was handing out medals. So obviously I bee-lined towards him. Sorry to the other volunteers, but it’s Andy Potts! He said something about how I did great and probably went faster than him to which I had no reply other than “uhhhh, I don’t think so!” Very embarrassing!

Me, Andy Potts, and Allen having ice cream together the evening of the race 🙂

Overall I am very happy with my effort and results in Coeur d’Alene. I think my result reflected my training, and actually, I probably did better than I should have! The race organization itself was excellent. Coeur d’Alene has the perfect setup for ironman and the local support is wonderful. There were so many aid stations on the run plus random people out on their lawns cheering or spraying us with water. The decision of the mayor to discontinue the full distance is a big mistake and I think the town will come to regret that decision as Penticton has. At least the 70.3 is continuing. It was definitely one of the best 70.3s I’ve done and I would love to do it again.

Trying to cool down! It was WAY too hot for this Canadian!

Thanks as always to Rob for his support and cheers and awesome photos! His photos are better than the ones we pay too much for!








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Ghost of the Gravel Fondo & Race

Rob and I had such a fun time at the Belgian Waffle Ride we decided to keep the fun going and entered last minute into a gravel grinder race in Alberta, the Ghost of the Gravel. We really enjoyed training for the BWR because we were able to ride almost entirely on the city bike paths since we didn’t need long straight roads to get into aero like for triathlon. And because we needed to practice on trails we could dip onto the dirt whenever we saw it then back on the bike paths. Too many cyclists are getting hit and injured or killed by cars these days. My FaceBook feed is filled almost daily with stories of cyclists’ encounters with cars and I’ve had my fair share as well. It’s almost becoming not worth it to ride outside anymore. But as I said, training for these gravel or off-road road races has been a super option this year.

Before! We were not smiling like this after!

The third edition of the Ghost of the Gravel is put on by Shawn Bunnin of Deadgoat Racing. It starts and finishes in Water Valley, Alberta, about 1hr northwest of Calgary. There were two distances this year, the out-and-back Friendly Ghost 78km and the big loop Scary Ghost 118km. As I’m a sucker for punishment I naturally signed up for the big Scary Ghost.

In contrast to the BWR which is primarily a road race which is why I was fine on my road bike, The Ghost is almost entirely a gravel race. Less than 10km of the entire race is on paved roads. Therefore I didn’t have much choice but to ride my cx bike. I ride a Kona Jake the Snake and it’s been great for cx races since they usually last about 1 hour. However it starts to hurt my back over 1 hr so I made some changes to try to improve my comfort by adding a new saddle and a longer stem. I think the changes worked because my back was not really an issue. Tire choice is again a big deal. We decided to go with Continental Gatorskins 32mm. They were awesome! No flats again, so that’s 2 for 2 in off-road races with Gatorskins. I’m a big fan!

My goal was to keep up with Rob’s friend Kendra, who is a previous winner of this race and an awesome cyclist, for as long as I could. Spoiler: I made it about 83km before I got chewed up and spit out and I was left in Kendra’s dust!

This is how I spent my day, trying to hang on to Rob’s wheel

This ended up being a pretty massive ride. 118km. 5hr 13min. 6200ft ascent. And the gravel makes it *that* much harder. The first 40km or so was pretty smooth, hard pack gravel. After that, the road surface kind of went to hell and got much more bumpy and difficult. But nothing was technical, I was never scared of it, compared to the BWR where I was scared to death on pretty much every off-road section. Overall both races offered up a big dose of suffering but for me the BWR was a lot harder because of the technical off-road sections, even though the Ghost had about 1000ft more ascent for a similar distance.

Very little of the Ghost is flat. You’re pretty much either going up or going down. I am still a pretty poor climber, I get dropped quickly on any sort of incline, so these races are hard for me and just give me something to improve upon!

I hate hate hate Texas gates. HATE them!! I screamed over almost all over them.

Early on we were in a big group of mostly girls. Total girl power. It was awesome. Those girls are so strong. I think gravel grinders bring out the more “hard core” people compared to a typical road race (I am NOT calling myself hard core!) so maybe the calibre of riders is stronger. Well before 20km we were cruising along, I was already feeling like I was riding as hard as I could and on an incline of course, the girls pressed hard and I got dropped like a bad habit. I wasn’t too worried, I couldn’t imagine them continuing at that pace for over 100km more so I said to myself I’ll catch them later. I never did. Wow *face palm*. I have lots of work to do on the bike!

It was a beautiful day!

I had a fun time descending gravel roads. It wasn’t scary to me, although I probably should have been scared. I think I’m a little wacky with what I find frightening and beyond my capabilities and what other people think.

I had two big problems that day. The first was my bike pretty much stopped shifting. It has never been a problem in cx races because I never get out of my small chain ring (ha!). But here, I needed to be shifting quite often with the varying terrain, and I think the bumpy roads bumped around the cabling too much causing too much friction and the front derailleur was almost impossible to move. It was really difficult to try to hold on going over bumps while at the same time using all the strength in my left arm to shift. Something for Rob to look at and fix!

Dirt road climbs are steep!

The other big problem was all the 5th wheel campers racing by us. We were literally in the middle of nowhere and it felt like the Deerfoot. Every redneck Albertan with a 5th wheel and a quad was out, I suppose looking for a place to camp and shoot things, and blasting by us. Like every 5 minutes. And in their wake, spraying us with huge dust clouds. I have enough dust in my lungs to last a lifetime and I was actually cleaning dirt out of my ears after the race. It was incredibly irritating. I definitely lost my shit for far too long over those damn 5th wheels.

Totally smashed

I had a great time, I definitely was in the pain cave for a while which is always a fun place to be! I highly recommend trying a gravel grinder for a new experience in cycling, and in particular for Albertans, the Ghost of the Gravel was an awesome race!

Forcing a smile and trying to stay upright at the finish line.

Thanks to Rob for the rad riding photos! He was risking life and limb to take photos while riding sketchy gravel roads! This also means we weren’t riding fast enough for him because he was able to take photos and talk the entire time!


Belgian Waffle Ride: The Wafer!

I definitely thought I had written something here so far in 2017 but it turns out my last post was 6 months ago! Wow, how time flies!


In those 6 months I’ve mostly just been working and training, trying my best to survive the Calgary winter. I got a break in February when I went to Cambodia for 2 weeks to do dental work for those less fortunate and who really need the help. It was my 7th trip with Kindness in Action and my first time to Asia. It is always such a rewarding experience. As much as we’re really helping (hopefully!) those people, I think we get more out of these trips than what we put in. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work and not exactly a vacation but it did help to have my birthday in there, celebrated in style in Phnom Penh, and to be with my really great friends.

Dentistry in Cambodia

As expected, I did zero training in Cambodia, but I did drink a lot of beer. And passionfruit mojitos. Probably enough beer and mojitos to last the rest of the year! Now that I’ve been training with Michelle and TriSutto and I’m back on the TrainingPeaks, it was really shocking to see how fast fitness is lost when there’s no training but lots of beer drinking. And I wouldn’t have it any other way! It was totally worth it.

Working at a centre for people with disabilities, outside of Phnom Penh

Working at a children’s school in Battambang

The only problem is upon my return I was faced with the task of getting fit for this thing I had signed up for: The Belgian Waffle Ride (wafer).

Betty’s with Kristin before the race start

In December 2016 I suddenly found myself registered for the wafer. Funny how that happens! Actually I know exactly how it happened. I can’t say no. And I especially can’t say no to an epic race adventure that involves something I’m really not good at, specifically riding off-road. There were, what seemed like, a bunch of Betty’s signing up and I got caught up in the excitement, but when push came to shove, there ended up being only two of us (read Alison’s blog here!) and Kristin (creator of Betty Designs) at the start line. Rob decided to tackle the full Waffle as did my friend/LA roommate James (and Kristin did the Waffle too! omg!)

With my friend (and BWR course crusher) James

Back for it’s 6th year, The Belgian Waffle Ride bills itself as “the most unique cycling event in the country” and is meant to be a homage to the one day Belgian spring classics. It is a road race but because north San Diego county is lacking in pave, the cobbles are substituted with off road dirt trails; basically single track mountain bike-style trails.  This is my worst nightmare!

I made it up Double Peak!

There are 2 distances; the full waffle is ~210km with ~60km of dirt sections, the wafer ~110km with ~40km of dirt. The stats for the race are always changing as the course changes every year, but my Garmin had a little over 5000ft ascent. The worst part is it ends with the the real treat of climbing Double Peak with 10km to go. The ride starts and finishes at the Lost Abbey Brewery so that sort of makes everything better.

Riding through a little creek bed

This race is definitely a choose your own weapon (wisely) type of race. There were all sorts of bikes out there, including mountain bikes. The male winner rode a straight up road bike set up. I rode my Argon road bike. I am not as comfortable on my cx bike so I chose comfort first. The race recommends 28mm tires, tubeless if possible, but I could only fit 25mm tires on my road bike so that was that. The only thing I bought new for the race was Continental Gatorskins 25 tires. I didn’t think 28s would help me significantly more on the dirt anyway, I would still be going slow whether on 25 or 28s. Same water bottle cages. Same road bike gearing (compact + 11/28). Same stock wheels with rim brakes. I put my mtb pedals from my cx bike on and used my mtb shoes, because I knew I would be walking with my bike more than others.

Me and my rig the day before the race

I was not brave (or stupid?) enough to sign up for the full Waffle, given my lack of skills and confidence on dirt and in the end, it ended up being the perfect challenge for me. I was quite nervous leading up to this race which is a pretty unusual for me because I typically don’t get anxious before races. But honestly, I really wasn’t even sure I could make it through all the off-road sections.

Not ashamed to carry my bike!

Rather than go over all 110km in painstaking detail, I’ll just go over 25 highlights here!

Pre-race waffles!

  1. I forgot to buy CO2 cartridges for an off-road race on a road bike. Clearly my brain was trying to protect me from having to think too much about this race because I was nervous about it. Thankfully we were saved by my friend James lending us his spare cartridges. Thanks James!
  2. The pre-ride waffles were so good. Berry topping and whip cream. I put one in my jersey pocket for snacking on later.
  3. I started off with my Betty teammate Alison and her friends from Victoria. My race strategy was survive the off-road sections, just get through however I could, and then ride hard on the road. There’s a fairly long road section to start including the first KOM. Near the top of the climb I was feeling pretty good and especially on the climbs I didn’t want to slow down so I just went with it. But I ended up with a small gap on my friends, assuming they’d catch me later on since they all have mountain bike experience.
  4. The first big descent was on loose-ish gravel. Looking back, maybe the 25s did slow be down more than usual here because man, I was really snaily. It seems like most people, especially guys, didn’t slow down AT ALL! I was amazed as I was terrified and grasping my brakes as hard as I could.
  5. Back on the road, I’m not used to riding in a pack (I’m a triathlete after all!) and as I said, my plan was to push hard on the road. I was getting annoyed sitting at the back of a big pack of guys when I felt like I could be going faster, so I made my way up to the front. At some point, a couple guys rode up to me and told me I was towing 20 guys behind me! I looked back and sure enough, there they were. They were probably the smart ones conserving energy but I felt better being able to ride at the pace I wanted to.
  6. It was hot. Over 30c. Really hot. Things probably would have gone better had it not been so hot but it’s pretty much impossible to adjust to heat in a May race coming from Calgary.
  7. A lot/most of the dirt sections were single track, mountain bike-style trails, complete with mountain bikers out for a Sunday ride! I rode what I could and actually surprised myself by riding some uphill rocky sections that never in a million years did I think I’d be able to ride.
  8. I walked a lot of Sandy Bandy, the deep sand section. I really don’t like sand. But there was another girl doing the same as me, so we commiserated together.
  9. I had only one fall, but I was basically stopped so it wasn’t too bad. It was an uphill rocky section that got too steep and too rocky. I couldn’t get my leg down fast enough and fell into the bushes on the side of the trail. Luckily for me, no one was there to witness that embarrassment!
  10. I got about 100 compliments on my Betty Designs bar tape!
  11. No flats! I think it’s because I’m lighter and I ride slower off road than most. But in any case, Gatorskins FTW!
  12. It was really irritating riding on a bumpy dirt path right beside the nice paved road. But, we were Waffling, so what else could we expect?
  13. I held my shit together really well until about 92km when I was really sick of the dirt and really, really, really hot. I had a little bit of a moment but persevered.
  14. The last King of the Dirt section was pretty annoying. Upill. Railway ties to direct water off the trail. And I think the steepest Man, it was a hard section.
  15. There was one section for sure that was unrideable, even for the pros, so I really didn’t feel bad about having to hike my bike there! But really, I have no qualms about having to get off my bike. Doesn’t bother me!
  16. I unintentionally went off a “jump” on the end of a small foot bridge. I didn’t see the bridge coming and I definitely didn’t see the drop off the end. If I had seen it NO WAY would I have rode it! But before I knew it, I was flying through the air and landing with a thump, rubber side up. Rob said he even dismounted there! That one could have been a disaster!
  17. I was NOT the worst rider out there! There were people worse than me off-road! How is that even possible?!
  18. Part of the melt down at 92km was that my feet were sooooo sore. I’m not used to wearing my mtb shoes more than about 1 hr during cyclocross races so after 5 hours, my feet were screaming. The worst was coming off that last KOD section and then heading up towards the left onto Double Peak Rd. At that intersection there was a guy sitting on the side of the road recovering in the shade of a tree, before starting the big climb up. I wanted nothing more than to sit down, take my shoes off, and rub my feet. I looked and looked and looked for a suitable place to sit down and I couldn’t find one. So I just kept pedalling along, but wanting to stop so bad. It was pure and simple torture. I never ended up stopping to sit down!
  19. I took a whiskey shot from a guy in a thong bikini bottom with about 200m to go to the top of Double Peak. I think only 6 people stopped all day and I was the only girl. C’mon people! How can you ride past a whiskey shot?! It was hard to get going again but they gave me a push!
  20. Double Peak is a real bitch but I rode the whole thing.
  21. The worst part about Double Peak was getting to the top and thinking you get to enjoy the fast descent on the road, only to be directed to a gravel descent. I just about started crying. Everyone says that descent was easy – don’t listen to them. It wasn’t easy. Easy is bombing down the paved road. Slippery gravel is not easy!
  22. After that hellish dirt descent it was all paved to the finish. I knew I was getting close to 6 hours and I really wanted to try to sneak under so I pushed hard and passed a couple guys a couple miles from the finish.
  23. My total time was 5:56:03. According to my Garmin I had less than 3 min of stopped time for aid stations. So efficient! I also ended up 18/55 women in the Wafer! Top 20!! That totally blows my mind.
  24. The post-ride waffles, this time with ice cream, were even better than the ones in the morning!
  25. Finishers get a t-shirt and 2 pints of Lost Abbey beer to bring home. Best race swag ever!

Beer me!

Will I return to do the full Waffle? I’ve learned to never say never, but that would be a BIG undertaking. I don’t think I’m strong enough or confident enough off-road yet and honestly, when I finished my 110km, no way NO WAY could I have gone out for even another 1km, let alone 100km. I can definitely see me doing the Wafer again, it was just the right amount of suffering without being out of control and it was really difficult but not impossible. The full Waffle still seems impossible for me! But special thanks must go to coach Michelle at Trisutto because without her help in getting me stronger on the bike, I never would have finished!

Whiskey shot on Double Peak

Rob and I pre-race. We have no idea what’s about to come our way.

I would highly recommend anyone to try the Belgian Waffle Ride if it interests you. It is truly an unique experience and for real, if I can do it, anyone can!

So proud of Rob for finishing the full Waffle!