Tales of triathlon, travel, and trails

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Noosa Triathlon

To say that I am thrilled with my performance at the Noosa Triathlon would be an understatement. Spoiler: I was 4th place in my age group in the biggest triathlon in the world!

The reasons why I’m in Australia for 3 months is another post for another day as right now, I’d prefer to look forward rather than behind.

I’ve been training a bit more than usual, well any amount of training was more than what I was doing in the last little while before I left! Mainly, I’ve just had more time to relax and chill! My beach time has been at an all time high – just the way it should be!

I had no expectations for Noosa and Michelle just told me to GO HARD. My “race plan” was to over-swim, over-bike, and hang on (try not to shit the bed) on the run.

As an aside, two days previously I participated in the Arena Noosa 1000m swim off Main Beach in Noosa. Looking back, I think that really helped me in the triathlon because I felt what it was like to really go hard. I had never done a swim race before, let alone a ocean swimming race, and I was completely intimidated by all the Australian super swimmers but I just got on with it and did my best! The conditions were pretty choppy, nothing crazy, but definitely not flat and calm. We had to exit the water onto the beach at half way so that meant two beach entries but also running a little bit on the sand! I just swam as hard as I could and tried to use the waves to help me into shore. The beach run was horrendous! I was gasping for breath so much but no one was wasting any time getting back in the water so I had to go to! I came through the finish line completely spent. I ended up in 16/66 age group which I was totally ecstatic with competing against the Australians! Not too bad for a Canadian.

Race day morning, Meredith picked me up at 5am so I wouldn’t have to deal with parking. I’m not sure of the exact numbers but I’ve heard more than 8000 people were competing and Noosa isn’t very big, so parking is a bit difficult, at the best of times.

I had a later start time, 8:20am, more than 2 hours after the pros went off, but still transition closed at 6am. I found my new friend Richard to hang out with because his wave was starting 10 minutes after mine so we had some time to kill. We cheered for our friends at the start and out of the water then went for coffee! Richard was a great guy to hang out with before the race because he doesn’t get worked up so it was just chill and relaxing.

Eventually it was time to get going. I lined up on the beach with the first wave (alphabetical last name) of 35-39 year old girls. I lined up in the second row because I have no business starting on the front row with the Aussies! (Probably second row is pushing it but whatever, it was ambitious, and maybe I could catch some feet). I’ve only ever done a few ocean swims, mostly when I lived in California, but somehow, maybe from surfing, I am pretty good at beach starts and getting out through the surf. There wasn’t a lot of fighting in the water, probably because the Aussies just know how to swim properly, so it was really nice! I just wanted to make the swim hurt, really push it. Pretty early on I found a girl who was going a but faster than me and decided to try to stay on her hip.

She was awesome. We swam almost the whole swim together. As we came around the buoy at the far end of the course so we were looking into the sun, we couldn’t see the final turn buoy. I was planning to just follow the pack and swim parallel to the shore, but I wanted to see the buoy! Turns out she couldn’t see it either so we sat up a few times looking for the buoy and discussing the situation because I finally found it and told her to follow me. We came out of the water together and thanked each other for the awesome swim and make our way to transition.

Out of the water waving to Meredith!

It’s a pretty long run over to transition and I thought I was pretty quick through but it appears I still dawdle a bit too much!

With 8000 people in a race, the bike course tends to be a little packed and that was certainly the case. The worst sections were the couple km in and out of town where the road got narrow so it was just important to keep your head up and watch out of those around you. Triathletes aren’t known for their bike handling skills!

Again, early on I saw a girl who looked really strong on the bike and told myself to keep her in my sights, since the plan was to over-bike as well! The bike course is mostly flat with one hill at around 11km that isn’t too bad because even I can get up it in my big chain ring.

And then there was the mostly annoying guy who couldn’t deal with a girl passing him. So for almost all of the 40km I would pass him and try to put in a but of a surge to drop him but in a few minutes he would be passing me again then slowing down forcing me to pass again. He was doing the same thing to the girl I was trying to keep up with so I was talking to her trying to get her to ride with me away from him but we couldn’t organize. She was getting frustrated with him too. He was so obnoxious! Then he started passing people on the left! Even I know in Australia you stay left, pass right! He was just annoying and dangerous. Although he probably helped my bike split because I was so annoyed by him, it gave me lots of extra fuel to try to ride fast. I beat him into transition can gave him a mental “F you!”

I can’t believe I have a bike photo without the wheelsucker!

After all that, I came away with the fastest bike split in my age group! Wow. That’s absolutely insane and shocking to me! Never in a million years did I think I was capable of something like that!

Now that I had over-swam and over-biked I was preparing to die a slow death on the run, as usual. I started out a bit hot, also as usual, and told myself to slow down! I was really diligent about getting water to drink and pour on myself at every aid station and so many of the locals were out in front of their houses with hoses so I ran through all of those. Michelle has me do build runs in training, building every 15 minutes. Since I can’t do math at the best of times and especially not when I’m racing, I decided to build every 18 minutes and see what happens. From the start I was passing a lot of people which was quite worrisome to me because I shouldn’t be passing people on the run! But they all seemed to be running Ironman pace but this was just 10km! So I just kept picking people off and checking in with myself and I kept feeling ok! I never had a low moment and all of a sudden I was running in the last km. The spectators were like 3 rows deep on both sides of the road, the atmosphere was absolutely electric. As I came down the finish chute I was trying to place myself for a clear finish photo but I had to keep dodging guys and with a busy course, it was all but impossible to get a clear shot!

I crossed the finish line and I didn’t even need to lie down. I should have run harder but I have never raced like that before and didn’t know I was capable of that. Well I guess now I know I can and should push more on the run!

All I can say was there were lots of wave starts!

When I got to my phone and saw a bunch of messages, especially Michelle’s saying “you got 4th!” I was thinking “104th? sure that makes more sense!’

I am extremely satisfied with my race. It’s so crazy to think I could come all the way to Australia, to a super competitive location, and have my best result ever. This was at least a 15min Olympic distance PR and the first time I’ve ever run under 50min off the bike (I know, I know).  Huge thanks of course goes to my coach Michelle for believing in me more than I believe in myself and getting me stronger and more fit than ever. Hervey Bay 100 is up next!


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Lake Chaparral Olympic Distance

It turns out I have a little bit of talent for time-trial (flat) and Olympic Distance (short) races. To me, that just seems wimpy. Can’t everyone and anyone do a short, flat triathlon? But if I think more about it, I guess it actually is a specific type of racing that not everyone is good at. In the Tour de France, not everyone can time trial well. There are time trial specialists just like there are sprinters and mountain specialists. And in triathlon, although now a lot of the top Ironman athletes are coming from ITU short course racing, it doesn’t always work in reverse, that long distance athletes are good at short course. Unfortunately for me, I love the challenge of long course triathlon precisely because I’m not good at it! Not that I’m particularly good at the short stuff but I do place significantly better in Olympic or Sprint distance races than in Ironman.

This also reminds me of this article in Outside Magazine. If you apply yourself fully then short races are every bit as difficult and impressive as long races. Gwen Jorgenson racing ITU Olympic Distance and destroying the competition is definitely just as remarkable as Rinny/Daniela/Rachel racing Ironman. I just have to start remembering this and believing it myself!

Anyway, Michelle asked me with a few days notice if I wanted to jump into an Olympic Distance triathlon in Calgary. Not one to say no to a challenge, I entered the Chaparral Triathlon.

When the gun went off Sunday morning, the lake was warm and calm but I felt like a brick being dragged through the water. Not sure what the problem was but I just wasn’t feeling it. I couldn’t get a good rhythm going and instead of gliding through the water I felt more like I was fighting the water to get it out of my way. I actually really wanted to call it a day at that point because I just felt so off. In reality I didn’t swim too bad, just normal for my swimming now with no swim training.

The bike course was 5 laps of a 7.8km loop. The officials had made a big deal of enforcing a 12m draft zone which was clearly impossible with 350 athletes on a 7.8km loop. I also never saw a race official but I don’t think drafting was a big problem at this local race.

Right away I actually felt pretty good with two wheels under me. Michelle had just told me I run better off the bike in training when it’s a big gear session so I just decided I was going to push some big gears and hopefully big watts on the bike and see what happened on the run. The first lap was really nice, the course was pretty empty so it was smooth sailing. Throughout the race the course got more and more busy so it became a bit of a game of dodging other athletes. There was one pretty significant hill that obviously we had to climb 5 times. I felt better and better throughout the ride and for the first time ever, I came away with the fastest women’s bike split! Thanks Michelle!!

I think I came off the bike as second place woman (what?!), although I only found that out after the race by looking at the results. And it didn’t really matter anyway because I was promptly passed by 3 women and then another a few km later. What else is new! My run didn’t feel too bad. I was running better than I expected but still not up to the standard I should or could be running.

I didn’t have my personal photographer (Rob) with me at this race so this is the only photo I have!

Overall I finished as 6th woman overall, 3rd age group! And of course when I actually get a podium, there is no podium for prizes or photos! I’m really happy with this race especially considering I didn’t do any training specific to Olympic Distance racing. I’ve really enjoyed this year off Ironman, so maybe I’ll continue it into next year, unless of course I get a lottery spot into Norseman 🙂



Whistler 70.3

I had really great plans of running a bunch in between Coeur d’Alene 70.3 and Whistler (5 weeks) and of course, those plans got blown apart. I feel like I haven’t been able to get anything going this year, no real consistency or big blocks of solid training which has been frustrating but I’m working on changing that for the future. So with no real runs under my belt, coach Michelle and I decided this would be a tutu race. Just go out and have fun. Really for me, every race is a tutu race because I don’t like to put performance goals on myself, but this one actually involved a real tutu.

Betty sisters pre-race

I stayed in a big condo, the Gluk-haus, with my Betty sisters Mel and Quinn, coach Michelle, and all the hubby’s. One big happy family!! It was an awesome time and I think we all decided we got along well enough that we could do another family trip (hopefully with Rob!)

Pre-race swim in Lost Lake

The couple days before the race were filled with last minute preps, meeting new friends, and eating as many carbs as possible. The carb count in our condo was out of control. Whistler is a two-transition race so logistics are a little more complicated but the shuttle system worked really well between T2 and T1. We did not pre-swim at the race venue and instead opted to swim in Lost Lake closer to our condo. We did a small ride on the course Saturday morning and the only thing I gained from that ride was there was really no flat! All up or down! Fun!

The unveiling of the tutu!

Race morning dawned early as it always does. We were able to take one of the last shuttles to Alta Lake because the 70.3 was starting at 845am, 2 hours after the full. When we arrived, the suckers doing the full were already on their way through the rolling start. We had all made the mental note never to do a full ironman when a 70.3 was happening on the same day. The mental battle of seeing the turnarounds for the shorter course and seeing or hearing other people finish while you still have to go for hours would be awful.

The full ironman on the way to the swim start. No thanks! I’ve really enjoyed not doing an Ironman this year!

It was really cool to be in transition when full ironmen started to come out of the water. The 70.3 had a separate transition so we were able to enter and exit as we liked until our race start. We saw Rachel McBride come first out of the water. She was so happy and fist pumping her way through transition and on to the bike.

Over the 2 hours we were waiting to start, the wind really picked up. I think the full ironmen had a pretty flat and calm swim but the 70.3 swim was anything but flat and calm. We had full on white caps from the wind whipping down the lake. The first stretch into the wind was pretty bad, head on into the white caps. I felt fine, I’m not scared in the water, I just knew my time would be slower than usual. At the first buoy turn I completely misjudged the turn. I *knew* it was more of a 90 degree turn from the diagram but that didn’t process in my head when I made the turn and I couldn’t see the next buoy because we were staring straight into the sun. So I made the rookie mistake of following the crowd pretty sharp to the left. Sooner or later (more later than sooner) when I looked up and could finally see something, I saw I was WAY off course, basically heading halfway down the backstretch of the course! Never follow other people! Finally I made it around the second buoy and started the long stretch with the wind. I was able to slow my stroke rate a bit to try a surf with a waves. It was really fun and it really felt like I was flying. I had started at the back of the rolling start again so I felt like I was passing a lot of people (not sure if that was actually the case).

The last turn towards the finish was pretty brutal. I think this is where a lot of the weaker swimmers had trouble, or those that can only breathe on one side. I grew up in swimming lessons with the Canadian Red Cross and bilateral breathing is firmly entrenched in me. I breathe equally on both sides, I don’t have a weak side, which serves me well in conditions like this because I think it was important to breathe only on the right side, away from the wind, so you didn’t get a big gulp of water breathing on the left.

Swim was 39:07, a couple minutes slower than my “new normal” but considering the conditions, I think everyone was a minute or two slower than usual.

In T1 I threw on my special weapon for the day, my rainbow tutu. Right from the change tent I was getting comments and as I jumped on my bike I heard someone say “now there’s somebody who’s going to have a FUN day!”

Up the hill out of T1

As expected, the bike was hilly. No problem. But maybe one day I’ll actually do a course I’m suited to, because as much as I try, I am not good in the hills! Early on I rode up to a guy who saw the tutu and said to me “I hope my 4 year old sees you with your tutu. That will make her day. She doesn’t give two shits about me being out here but she would absolutely love your tutu!” That really made me smile.

Too bad for the photo bomber!

I did not enjoy the first half of the course. Our lanes were very narrow and there were a lot of people on course between the two races so I found the road very crowded. This was made even worse by the windy conditions making it harder for people to control their bikes. Most triathletes have sketchy bike handling skills at the best of times and I saw far too many athletes swerving all over the road. I found myself yelling “on your left!” a lot more than I would have liked.

We we finally passed Whistler village on the way to Pemberton, the road was fully closed to traffic so we had a lot more room to ourselves. The descent towards Pemberton was really fun, except for the poor guy laying on crumpled on the ground waiting for an ambulance. It was super fast but the whole time I was whizzing downhill I was dreading the climb back up. The turnaround was interesting. Rachel McBride was on her way back from Pemberton in first place just as a few of us were making the U-turn to merge with the 140.6 course. At that moment when Rachel passed, the girl in front of me had slowed so much to make the turn that somehow she flipped straight over her handlebars right in front of me and into the merging full ironman athlete lane (thankfully Rachel had a big lead so she didn’t cause anyone else to crash). It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it. The turn was tight, sure, but not *that* tight. She seemed to be ok so we all continued on.

The climb back up to Whistler was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. My power meter never turned on for some reason so I have no idea what my power was but I felt strong and consistent enough that I just kept going. I got lots of cheers from people making the descent yelling “tutuuuuuuuu!” Lindsey Corbin passed me after the top of the climb like I was standing still and Jen Annett proceeded to do the same. Impressive.

Always looking at the scenery, not really focusing on racing

I biked 3:04 on a hilly course with less than ideal training and fitness leading into the race so I was very happy! Good to know I have something to improve upon!

I was pretty much alone in the T2 tent for some reason, so I had a fabulous young volunteer all to myself. She basically ran after me saying she loved my tutu and had seen me earlier and she wanted to help me because she was wearing a tiara. It was awesome. She got me water, put sunscreen on the back, and got me out of there super quick!

I felt pretty much like I always do starting the run, happy to be off my bike, but noticing I didn’t (couldn’t) come out too hot from T2, which I guess is a good thing, but my legs just felt a little flat. Then I noticed I didn’t have to proper setting on my garmin to lap every km so I walked for a bit trying to fix it to no avail so I just tried to forget about it.

At about 4km I came up to my friend Chelsey (who has run 100 miles TWICE!) volunteering at the Lost Lake aid station. As I ran up I saw only like a thousand kids and wondered why Chelsey was volunteering at the kid aid station. She had such great cheers for me and I find her so inspiring, it was awesome having her out there.

Lost Lake aid station. Photo from Chelsey!

At about 6km Gary in his black ninja kit came flying past me on the way to the finish. I yelled some words of encouragement at him as he ran into the distance. Then like 30 seconds later, I see his wife/my coach Michelle barrelling down the path after him! She was almost catching him! Turns out Gary kept his lead by about 20 seconds at the finish but he really had to work for that! Since Michelle can run so fast (off the bike or not) I’m just waiting until that speed rubs off on me! Hasn’t happened yet but one day it will!

At least I’m smiling

I kept a really positive attitude for probably 21.5km of the race. I had a little walk and chat with my Betty sis Alison, cheered for every girl wearing Betty I saw, and had so many high fives with my Betty teammates because there were 15 of us racing! The pro ladies continued to speed past me like I was standing still. I just can’t even comprehend how they can run so fast. I guess that’s why they’re pro and I’m not!

Both feet off the ground!

I was getting a little grumpy after 14km when we would see 1 sign for 14km and then another 14km sign a couple hundred meters later. The double 20km signs really pissed me off because I was really hoping the course was short but then, it wasn’t. The cheers for “Go tutu! I love your tutu!” really kept me going and I think any aero penalty or whatever is made up for in motivation coming from other athletes’ and spectators’ cheers. I almost missed the left hand turn to go under the bridge at the finish because all I wanted was to be done, so I started heading straight towards the finish before the volunteer basically had to throw me to my left to do a add-on down and around a bridge to the finish. Super annoying.

Finally the finish!!

The finish chute was fantastic as finish chutes tend to be. Immediately after crossing the finish line, Gary and Michelle were there waiting. I usually don’t have people I know that close to the finish line and they had like a hundred questions about my race! I felt like I could barely stand up at that point, let alone answer questions so eventually I had to tell them I just needed to lay down for a bit! I got very consumed with laying down and then chatting with Chelsey that over an hour passed (!) and when I found them again, I was feeling back to normal so I could talk better! I’m not great right after finishing races, I usually need to lay down in silence for a bit, which always freaks out the medical people so I try to do it in secret.

Oh man! There’s a ladder in my finish photo!

My run was 2:05. The same pretty shitty run I usually have but I have this feeling that one day, everything will just click, and I’ll run like I never have before. I know it’s in me, so I can’t wait for that to happen!

Even I think all these colours are outrageous

Overall I am very happy with my race. I kept a super positive attitude for almost the whole race, just the last km was a little grumpy-Amy. Although it was far from a PR (5:56) I ended up 15th in my age group. I have never been in the top 20 before so to make it to 15th totally blows my mind! Now I’ll aim for top 10, which is something I never, ever thought was achievable for me. I can’t wait to continue on with Michelle because she’s really helped me over the last 8 months and there’s more work to do! And maybe I should do more races in a tutu!

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Mantrackers Sinister 7 Relay 2017

After a four year hiatus, some girlfriends asked if I would run a leg of the Sinister 7 100 mile trail race as a women’s relay on the Mantrackers team. The answer was a no-brainer, of course I would! I last ran with pretty much the same group of girls in 2013 when the race was about 94 miles and I ran the last leg. It was a super fun event so I was excited to return to the Crowsnest Pass in southwest Alberta for another fun time.

Crowsnest mountain

The Crowsnest Pass consists of 5 small towns just over 2 hours south of Calgary. It starts at 7am on Saturday in Blairmore and with a 30 hour time limit, finishes in Coleman at 1pm on Sunday. Runners can run the whole race solo (crazy, crazy people) or as part of a team consisting of anywhere from 2 to 7 people to run the 7 legs. The relays can be all men, all women, or mixed. I think the relay aspect is pretty unique for trail ultras but I love it because it gets a lot more people involved in the trail running scene without the scary ultra distances. The legs range from ~11km to ~32km and the overall running time for a team can be from 14 or 15 hours all the way to 30 hours.

I ended up with leg 5, ~27km with rolling terrain. I’ve been getting more fit through triathlon (mostly cycling) training but trail running hasn’t really been on the schedule this year – something that will have to change I think because I really enjoy it!

Rob was running on the associated men’s team and also drew leg 5. We drove down to Crowsnest Friday after work, just made it to the end of the pasta dinner, and arrived in the campground just in time to set up the tent and have a Friday evening beer with our teammates. I did not sleep Friday night. For some reason I couldn’t get comfortable in the tent, I was too hot, then too cold, but just generally uncomfortable. I read more to try to fall asleep, it didn’t help. Finally I ended up moving to the car and managed to close my eyes for about 2 hours until Rob woke me up at 5:45am. I do not, and never have functioned well in a sleep-deprived state. My mom will attest to that fact. More on this later.

We hit up Tim Horton’s and found our way to the start line where I really wanted to say good luck to my friend Chelsey who was running her second 100 miler. I found her just before the start and wished her a strong race.

Morgan was our first runner, about 18km through Frank Slide. The Frank Slide is a massive debris field of huge boulders caused by the collapse of Turtle Mountain that partially wiped out the town of Frank at it’s base. It’s a pretty weird place to drive by because the highway and the railway line had to be carved through the landslide, so running through it would really be interesting! Morgan had a great run and put our team right near the top of the leaderboard.

Next up was our pinch hitter Suzanne, filling in for an injured runner last minute. She ended up being, not surprisingly, a total badass runner and put our team right into first place in the  women’s team standings!

By this time, around 11am, it was getting really, really, uncomfortably hot. The forecast was for somewhere around 35c and that ended up holding true. Debbie ran the brutal leg 3 that apparently in some exposed areas was reaching 40c. I honestly would have melted but Debbie totally rocked that leg.

Trying to keep cool at the river

Dianna set out for leg 4, also in the scorching heat. We sort of found of after that this leg was changed quite a bit from last year and made to be a lot harder with a big exposed climb but just like everyone else on our team, she kicked ass.

Finally after waiting all day I started about 7pm, taking over from Dianna. Rob’s runner had come in about 30 minutes prior so he had a good head start out on the trail. The first part of the run was not very scenic, just running in the ditch beside the highway and then a road, straight into the sun. It was a little demoralizing but thankfully the sun would be getting lower in the sky soon. Almost straight away I was catching my feet on rocks and tripping quite a bit. I  yelled at myself in my head to “watch your step!” and “pick up your feet!” and carried on.

Rob and I before the start of leg 5

I made decent time to the first aid station and mentioned to them I was thankful the sun was starting to go behind the mountains. Most of this leg was run on quad tracks. I don’t like quads and turns out I find the tracks they make quite annoying. I prefer single track mostly because it’s more beautiful, and believe me, quad tracks are not beautiful. It was basically a highway of quads tracks up there. This was a dry year so where there are normally mud-filled pits, it was just pits. It was about this time that I really noticed I was having trouble sort of seeing and placing my feet. I wasn’t feeling comfortable on the trail and every step I took I felt like I was going to fall.

And then I did fall. I took a big spill on a non-technical part of the trail. I landed pretty hard on my right side and immediately started crying. The girl behind me stopped to ask if I was ok and tried to help me but I was sort of beyond help. I told her she should just continue on. I needed to cry a bit more. I fall a lot when I trail run, almost every time I bail so this was nothing new, and normally I just get up and continue on. But for some reason I just couldn’t keep going. When I stood up I was really shaky and my legs were wobbling. I started to walk (and cry) and berate myself for being so stupid after I told myself not to fall. After that, every time I tried to run I would catch a toe and trip, like hundreds of times. It sucked. Every runner that passed me (there were a lot) asked me if I was ok. I didn’t think I looked too bad but maybe I was weaving around the trail or something because they ALL asked if I was ok.

The blazing sun finally setting providing some relief

At the second aid station I was revived by lemonade which I think was the only reason I finished this damn run. I drank so much lemonade there. As I was drinking my lemonade, about 10 quads came whizzing by on their quad highway. And that’s the way it was for the rest of the run. I was constantly looking behind me for fear of getting hit by a quad and then breathing in their dust once they sped past me. It was pretty miserable, especially combined with my apparently inability to run. It was basically a 27km pity party and crying-fest until finally the misery ended. Right at the end I actually caught up to the girl who tried to help me when I fell and I apologized for not being nicer to her at the time. I passed the timing chip on to Megan who ran off into the night.

Somehow I’m smiling right at the finish

I was, and am, really upset with my performance. This leg is really runnable and I know I could have been pretty easily 30 minutes faster. And I feel like I let my team down which is the hardest part of this whole thing. If I sucked and I just affected me, that’s one thing, but letting down my team was the worst part. I think all of this was caused by lack of sleep and too much stress because I just didn’t have my normal grit and resilience to be able to pick myself up and carry on.

Not feeling like I could run left me with some time to take photos! Dusk.

Megan ran super strong through the night under a full moon and tagged off to Agatha who brought it home for our team at 4:30am! We ended up finishing as the 4th place women’s team because Agatha made a pass in the last kilometre!

I really did have a lot of fun, I just wish I could have run better. Rob had an awesome run, he thinks it is one of his best runs ever, and he even made a video of it! My friend Chelsey finished solo in an incredible effort that saw only 46 soloists finish out of about 250 that started, including only 9 women! I would like to come back to leg 5 at Sinister 7 for some redemption because I *know* I can do much better!

Team Mantrackers at the finish! 430am!

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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!