Swimming Through 2013

So far this year, as of today, I have spent more than 135 hours in the pool.  That is up from 113 last year - when I was doing Ironman.  It's actually only an average of 2.5 hours a week all year... so it doesn't really seem like that much.  But the increased swim volume - and yes, I know it's more about what you DO with your time, rather than the amount of time in general - really got me back to the swimmer I used to be many years ago.

Noa writes amazing swim workouts and I got a couple of strong lessons from them.  One is the ability to do constant variation in speed.  She has a lot of main sets that will throw in some "fast" work in the middle of long tempo or steady sets.  I figured out the point of that during my swim in the Leadman 125... whenever I was falling off the feet I was drafting off, it wasn't a big deal to sprint back up to catch them again.

The other lesson was if you swim hard in training, it's not that hard to race.  I know, you're thinking: "DUH!"  But... with every tri I did this year, I'd finish the swim and my heart rate would recover almost immediately, allowing me to push the pace early on during the bike.  It used to take me awhile to settle into riding; I'd totally be red-lining starting the bike, gasping for breath with my heart rate sky rocketing.  This year with the increased swim volume and (probably more importantly) the increased intensity, when I exited T1 I was ready to push the pedals without needing to recover from the swim.

I am hungry to improve in 2014, so look for me at the pool even more and working even harder!

Winter Ride

I had to get out for a ride today - while it's been sunny for a few weeks and we haven't yet had our rainy PNW winter, it's been crazy cold!  We had about a week of freezing temps during the day, and I think that's a record.  Needless to say, I haven't ridden outside for a bit.  But the mercury was rising today, so I bundled up and headed out.
Booties, jacket, thick gloves,
toque, base layer... 

I ended up being way overdressed for the weather as the temperature was pretty much back to normal for this time of year.  However, I'd rather be sweating under too many clothes than freezing with not enough.

It was a gorgeous and quiet afternoon on the roads, and I took some pictures to capture the day.

Another week of work, then winter break... happy holidays, all!

Triathlon Holiday Gift Guide

It seems like every blog is posting a holiday gift guide this time of year.  I thought I’d get into the spirit as well, but with my own take on it.  First of all, full disclosure: yep, I do love gear and all kinds of “stuff’;  but several years ago I decided that the most valuable things to give are time and memories.  I no longer exchange gifts with Jason, family members, etc., but we choose special things to do with each other instead.  Here are some suggestions for “gifts” for the active people in your lives.

The swimmer
A super-fun, yet challenging, swim workout.  My most memorable swim was of course swimming 100x100m with Jason in Hawaii.   Another was last xmas when we swam the “12 Days of Christmas” swim: 78x75m (5850m).  We’ll be doing that one again this year together, but starting at 12 instead of 1.  You see, the workout goes just like the song, where you do 1x75, then 2x75 , then 3X75… so on.  It didn’t take long to get the first 6 “days” out of the way (1575m), but the last 6 (4050m) took forever.  This time will start with 12x75, then 11x75, then 10… same mileage obviously but mentally more fun to be counting down rather than up.

The cyclist
How about a ride on a cool, out-of-the-way route that you don’t normally ride?  Get your cycling buddies together for some flowy singletrack, or a sweet road ride on backroads where you don’t have to worry about traffic and can ride in a group and chat.  Or create a fun mock-cyclocross course through some local parks and share the laughs with your best riding pals.

The runner
Meet early one morning for a long run, then head out to the best brunch place afterwards.  Mimosas and carb-overloading feels soooo good after up to two hours of pounding the pavement or trails.  Or maybe a shorter run, but try to find one of those Participarks to play on the fitness circuit while running!  Participarks may be a strictly Canadian thing – they were built in parks around the country in the early 80’s to encourage Canadians to get more active.  It’s basically a fitness circuit with 12-ish exercise stations, placed throughout a 2-3km loop through a park or trail.  Fun!

The water lover
Even though it’s wetsuit season here in the PNW, get out the SUPs and go for a paddle.  Find a calm morning, or brave the afternoon winds and have some fun in the chop!

The hiker
Scout around the rumour mill for some off-the-beaten track places and go exploring.  The other day my friend Candace and I (and her dog Shadow) poked around an abandoned property to find a fabled waterfall – involved some scrambling, climbing over fallen trees, tall grass, jumping creeks, eating dirt… and was fantastically fun.

The multi-sport athlete
Do some chores or something to free up some of their time, which they could use to have a nap.  'Nuff said.

The special someone
Book a trip to a training mecca (Kona, Tucson, wherever…), and up the mileage in this offseason by training like crazy and creating your own triathlon training camp.  All it takes is the desire to swimbikerun every day in a warm, sunny spot, a comfy couch to recover on, and some good food to fuel up with.  And of course, time with the peeps most important to you to create those special memories.

Cross on the Rock

Cross on the Rock is the name of the local cyclocross series here on Vancouver Island.  It's put on my two of my best buds (Norm & Wendy), and they have done an amazing job of pretty much personally accounting for the explosion of 'cross here.  They put on the island's first 'cross race in 2004 (I think there were about 15 of us, all friends in a single heat), and since then Wendy has been the women's elite National Champion several times, Norm's been the masters National Champion at least twice, the island now has a whole series, has hosted Provincial and National Championships, and races get hundreds of people out in several different categories, from kids to masters to elites.

Despite all this awesomeness, I hardly ever take part.  It seems I dabble in a race or two every couple of years, and haven't done one since 2011.  Until the other day.  Why I'm not a regular, I'm not sure... maybe because the races are short, fast, and pretty dang technical for 'cross courses - pretty much everything I'm bad at!  But I've decided those are actually all reasons I should get back into it, so signed up for the beginner race last Sunday at Shawnigan Lake.

I definitely had it easy in terms of what the course could have been, yep there were some technical sections that really would have been more fun on my mountain bike, but overall the course was pretty forgiving in that it wasn't that tight and turn-y, the sand section was pretty minuscule, the mud was at a minimum (possibly because of a pretty dry October and November for the PNW, especially this past week), and the climbs were not too intimidating.  So yay for me - not too punishing!

Took my Garmin around for a practice loop. A bit more open
and wide than other courses, around some playing fields
at the island's most prestigious private school.

My biggest problem with cyclocross is I just don't know how to do that high-end, red line kind of effort.  Races are 30-60 minutes depending on your category, and honestly I'd rather ride for 4 hours than for 30 minutes because I know how to pace that!  I'm pretty sure that Sunday I rode my 4 hour pace, despite my race being all of 33 minutes (3 loops of the above course).  I need to learn how to go harder!  
Before the start.

I'm so lucky it had been dry or the grass sections
would have been a mud fest. 
Coming around after the woods
on an open part next to a rugby field.

Post race.  Not too muddy.

I ended up finishing 10th out of 16 women in the beginner category.  Got schooled by a few kids that appeared to be less than 12 years old!  It's so inspiring to see kids taking these races seriously - show up at a Cross on the Rock event and no lie, you will see kids in skinsuits with expensive race bikes and sponsors - how awesome is that!

I had a great time, not only in my race but then watching the other categories for the rest of the afternoon.  I am hooked, and told Jason that next year I am in for more races, and will try to do most of the series.  Maybe even a race or two in Seattle and/or Portland.  Next year it will be some 'cross on and off the rock for me!

Offseason Is Over

Well, it's time.  It's time to "officially in an unofficial way" start training again.  For the last couple of months - pretty much since Leadman 125 - I've just been goofing around, doing what I want, when I want and basically staying active.   But even though the cold, dark winter has arrived, it's time for the off season to be over.

I don't really know what to call this season... if anything.  Maybe I'll call it "winter".  Now that's original!  So my winter training is pretty simple and consistent, and for the next few months will look pretty much like:

  • Monday: swim & run
  • Tuesday: trainer & weights
  • Wednesday: swim & run
  • Thursday: trainer & weights
  • Friday: yoga
  • Saturday: swim & ride & weights
  • Sunday: run

Then somewhere around February, it will turn into real training, which I am not sure what exactly that will look like yet.  I've got some time to figure that out!  The best thing I learned over this past year is to be consistent, so for 2014 that will be the plan.  Consistent consistency.

No Knee Surgery For Me!

I have been battling knee problems all year.  Basically, the more I run, the more inflamed and sore my knee gets.  I went for an MRI locally in August, and rather than a visit right away with a local surgeon, I chose to wait for a referral with one of the best orthopaedic surgeons in Victoria - what's a few months and a 40-min drive anyway?

I live in a small city, which is served by a "mobile" MRI unit.
Very cool in that there is virtually no wait once you've
been referred.  Unlike the larger hospitals.

Yesterday I got in to see the surgeon, who incidentally is also a triathlete.  The good news is that I'm not a candidate for knee surgery - which I am happy about as I really didn't want to do that (unless it was guaranteed that I'd never have trouble again, yeah right).  The bad news is that the damage is mostly from injuries I'd sustained in my youth, they're not entirely fixable, and the more running I do, the more I will continue to damage my knee.  Yeesh.

Rather than surgery, he wants to try platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injections.  They are showing a lot of promise in improving joint degradation, specifically related to arthritis which my knee now has a lot of for someone so young.  Yep, the surgeon said someone so young... yeah!  The bummer is they are not covered by health care and are $450 a pop.  I'll definitely be calling my extended health insurance to see if they cover the injections, although it's unlikely.  We're going to start with one in the spring and see about maybe another if there's any improvement.

Not taken with a filter, it was just that grey
of a day yesterday.  November on the west coast.

However... I did get the green light to keep running.  I am not supposed to run very much - we kind of agreed on around 3x/week, runs less than an hour (I'll probably add 1-2x/week water running once I get closer to race season), but with approval to gut it out if I want to do the occasional longer races on that minimal run training.  So I will continue to be the world's-worst runner in triathlon, but I don't have to give it up all together.  The surgeon said I will know at some point, possibly years down the road or possibly sooner, when it's time for me to stop running all together.  His suggestion (music to my ears as it's what I like anyway) is to maximize my swim and cycling training.  Yeah!

I'll be focusing on reducing impact by doing my runs mainly on trails.  I may even try out a pair of Hokas to see what they're like.  But honestly I don't mind this new plan (that I've basically been doing since the summer anyway) of running shorter... I'm going to work on my form and intensity, but don't need to kill myself on 2+ hour runs.  I will still do the odd half iron distance race (something tells me my run splits won't be any worse for the wear) and I would still like to do one more Ironman at some point.

In the spirit of maximizing my swim and bike, and not to mention my love of California wines and road tripping with friends, this morning I signed up for the Full Vineman Aquabike in July.  Yep, an Ironman distance swim and bike (4km & 180km) with no marathon afterwards!  When I told my friend Candace about that race, she said, "Yeah!  You're still in a good mood after the bike!"

At this point my race plans for next year involve a lot of local sprint races, the Vineman Aquabike, possibly the Bend 125 or 250, and possibly a November half ironman.  We are hoping to get another puppy this spring, so that means a year of lots of puppy training and walks in the woods!

Bikram Yoga

I know Bikram Yoga was the hottest thing around about a million years ago (ha ha, "hottest", that wasn't even an intentional pun!), but I just went for the first time tonight.  Yeah, I'm so cutting edge!  I really like yoga, but I find it doesn't mix well (for me) when I'm doing a lot of training, so I only end up practicing yoga for short bits of time here and there.  I'd always wanted to try Bikram, but for some reason that never happened.  Until tonight.  Here's what I thought.

I love practicing yoga, and am always really appreciative of the (few) times I actually do it.  Especially vinyasa yoga, which Bikram reminded me of in some ways.  I love the challenge of holding the poses, and how your body lets you in a little bit at a time.  So I enjoyed the series of poses that Bikram took me through, although it omitted a few of my favourites (like the sun salutation). 

I really loved the heat. I knew it would be hot (obviously), but it was waayyy hotter than I was expecting.  I loved how much I was sweating... basically at the end of the class I looked like I just got out of the pool (so did everyone else for that matter).  I really like to sweat, and I really like heat.  I enjoyed the feeling of sweat running everywhere.  I don't know why I like sweating so much.  I just do.  Except now I'm still beet red in the face, several hours later. I may look like I have a disease.

I didn't like how the instructor talked for the ENTIRE 90 minutes.  She never stopped talking.  One thing I like about yoga (bear in mind, I mostly do it at home) is the silent, meditative-like state.  Hard to zone out when someone is yammering away the whole time.  And there was no peaceful music in the background.  I love the peaceful new-agey music.  Boo to the non-stop talking and no music.

Because of my knee injury, there were a couple of things I couldn't do.  I didn't like how the instructor said I should do them anyway.  I'm pretty sure she's not qualified to say things like that, especially when I know it's not a "mental limit" like she was saying, it's actually an acute physical injury I'm seeing an orthopaedic surgeon about.

Finally, I don't really like group yoga.  I am not a fan of hearing a bunch of strangers breathing.  That's my own hang up, I guess.  I like practicing yoga at home, even with a small group of friends.  But I've never felt entirely comfortable in a class setting.  It was ok, but I'd rather be on my own.

Overall... I'd go back occasionally, but honestly I'd rather save the $20/session (yeah, expensive), and just crank the heat and do my own hatha routine at home.  I know it's not the same thing, but I don't feel like I need an official "brand" of yoga.  Bikram is also 90 minutes, and then add driving to the studio, showering after (there's no way I could have just pulled on sweats and driven home without showering first, who knew?) and then driving home... and it's well over a 2 hour commitment in an evening.  Hard to work that into a training schedule.

Verdict: liked it.  Not enough to make me a regular.  But it did remind me how much I like practicing yoga, so I plan to do more of that (at home) over the winter.

Welcome To The Off Season

I achieved a major goal for myself yesterday, one that I'd set quite a while ago.  Have one day where I accomplish absolutely nothing.  Yesterday... check!  Unless lying on the couch and reading a book counts.  Ha ha.  Welcome to the off season!

My off season started once the Bend race was over.  I spent one week with just light training (I don't like to go full-stop), then last week with no training.  This week I return to "training" but not really... just do what I want, when I want, for how long I want until the end of October.  For the winter when I get back into more structured training, I'll add in a few months of weights, yoga, etc - stuff that I don't get around to when I'm doing more race-specific prep.

I'm actually itching to get out on my 'cross bike and rip around, which is the intended effect of a week completely off:  to get me excited for what's coming up next.  It also gives me some time to think about plans for next year, and catch up on stuff on my to-do list.

I also have an announcement that I'm super-psyched about: I'll be part of the 2014 Betty Designs team! Kristin makes the coolest, edgiest stuff and I couldn't be more stoked to be involved in promoting her brand.  More details to come!

What does your off season look like?  

Leadman 125 Race Report

I don't know why it's taken me so long to write this, after all it's been almost two weeks since we raced.  Maybe because I've hit a major inertia slowdown now that I'm in off-season mode.  Anyway, without further adieu, here is my Leadman 125 report.

Jason and I drove up to Bend with the car absolutely loaded (as usual).  The forecast for race day wasn't great, so we were as prepared as possible, bringing pretty much every piece of cold-weather gear we could.  Good decision.  We arrived in Bend, which is a beautiful little town in central Oregon.  Did all the pre-race check in stuff, short ride, quick look at the lake and decided it was too cold to pre-swim (good decision), drove the bike course, etc.  We dropped off our swim-to-bike bags and bikes at T1, then bike-to-run bags at T2, and settled in for the night with an eye on the forecast and incoming storm.

We drove the bike course, and part of it was
through a controlled burn by the Forest Service.
That should make for some fun racing when our lungs
will already be working hard at the altitude!

Race day was an early wake-up, as the lake was way out of town and we had to catch a shuttle before 6 for our 8:30 start.  I was really glad I packed my down jacket, ski pants, toque (that's Canadian for beanie or knitted cap), gloves...  we were pretty bundled up as the temperatures were close to freezing.  But not actually freezing like friends racing IM Lake Tahoe experienced at least!  As the sun came up, it warmed up a bit, which was definitely welcome.  We got our bikes ready and then retreated to a heated tent to pull the wetsuits on.  

We waded into the lake for the short swim over to the start line and gasped - it was sooooo friggin' cold! I kept my hands in the air for as long as I could, and just laughed at how ridiculously frozen they were.  But that was quickly forgotten once the race started, and it was head down and go.  Almost right away I found a set of feet to draft off, and ended up staying on them for the entire swim.  I could feel the altitude right away (the swim was just over 4500' elevation, which is pretty significant for this sea-level girl) and had to switch my breathing to every two strokes instead of every three like I usually do in open water.  But my swim training has been solid this year, and every time the feet I was following pulled away a bit, I'd pick the pace for a few strokes to catch back on.  Major props to Noa for having me do "25 fast" in the middle of distance sets all the time; now I know what that was all about!

The lake was crystal clear, I had a nice draft, and got into a rhythm in the swim fairly quickly.  We hit the turnaround buoy and headed back, and soon enough hit the boat launch and exited the lake.  I looked at my Garmin... 34:05... so the swim was short.  I knew I was having a good swim, but not that good!  It was supposed to be 2.5km, but I'd say based on that time it was more like 2100m-ish.  I was kind of bummed about it, as I'd been working hard on my swim and had a goal time in mind.  It's hard to know if I was close to my goal when I don't really know what the distance was.  It had been pretty windy overnight, so perhaps the buoys blew around.  Or perhaps they measured the course in yards instead of meters, who knows.  But turns out I had the second-fastest swim in my AG (W40-44; the fastest went to a pro, but there wasn't a pro category so she was racing AG), so I'm happy with that.

T1 was a bit of a grind.  We ran up a boat launch, over about 100m to our gear bags, crossed the timing mat (so my official swim time was 34:50) and into a change tent.  I had decided not to change completely, but put on socks, arm warmers, a vest, and gloves.  It felt like it took forever to pull all that stuff on while wet... my T1 time was 6:17 (from my Garmin).  I stuffed my wetsuit into the bag, ran to my bike, and lucky me had the farthest spot from the exit onto the course... but soon enough I was pedalling away.

Bike course map.

Working hard.

The bike course was beautiful, but the day was cloudy and foggy so most of the views were obscured.  The earlier rain kept the smoke from the controlled burn down, which was great as my throat and lungs were already working overtime with the elevation.  I felt fantastic on my bike, knew I was riding well and was cruising along at my goal pace.  I was a little bit cold - could have used a jacket instead of a vest - but that just made me work harder.

It was pretty lonely on the bike course and for most of it I didn't see many athletes go by or get gone by :).  I was settling in, working hard, paying attention to how I was feeling and it was going by quickly.  Then I ground almost to a halt.  The course climbs gradually for the first half, then kicks up sharply at 5500' up to 6500'.  I planned to ride that climb aggressively, but that plan went nowhere.  I tried to push but was pushing a brick wall.  I'm guessing it was the elevation, but I just couldn't get anything extra... between gasping for breath, trying to eat, and trying to ride hard I just didn't have the extra gear I wanted.  So the climb became survival, and it seemed like everyone and their dog passed me before I got to the summit at the Mt. Bachelor ski area.  

Bike course elevation profile.
Nice roads to ride!

I was pretty happy for the descent into town, but honestly it was harder than I expected (which was my general impression of the bike course overall).  It was fast, really fast, which was good, but took a lot of energy to hang on and control the bike... I wasn't coasting but I was working the descent.  There were a few little ups just before the finish, and temperatures had warmed up in town so I felt my fingers and toes starting to thaw.  I came into T2 in fourth place (I was kinda hoping for third) with a bike split of 3:47.  I really wanted to ride under 3:40 for the 107 km, but knew my trouble pushing hard on the climb cost me that time.  

I peeled off my extra clothes and tried to move quickly through T2 (2:22).  Jason was waiting there, as he had just finished.  He was second overall (by 30 seconds to a 25-year old) and absolutely destroyed his age group, taking the win by 49 minutes.  Fun fact... there were a lot of fast girls in this race, but not that many fast guys as my swim/bike would have put me in 6th place in his AG (M40-44).

I knew the run would be difficult, to say the least.  The course was pretty, winding around a new development and golf course, and very hilly.  But the problem was not with the course, it was with me. I had an MRI for a knee injury a few months ago, and have been on a very restricted running plan.  Basically 30 minutes, 3x/week (or close to that).  So I knew the 12km run would not be my best performance.  It was a mixture of running and walking, but the good news is that my knee never really hurt that much.  It hurt to see my brutal run split (1:37, slowest of the day in my AG), and I came across the line in 8th place.  6:07 on the clock.  Would have been great to be under 6 hours, but I never pushed hard on the run - just basically relaxed and enjoyed it.  

Run course.

Finishing chute.

The race itself is an interesting one.  The course is definitely hard - they don't call it the Leadman Epic for nothing.  The organization is really grass roots, and there are some rough edges they could take care of... but overall I'd recommend it and race it again.  I'd like to try my hand at the 250 (5k swim, 223k bike, 24k run), and that's definitely on my list for when I feel like I'm really cycling-fit.  The bike course in the 250 would be off-the-charts hard.  It was our first time to Bend (Jason now wants to move there), and we'll definitely be back someday for more adventures.  Hopefully it will be warmer!

Open Water Swimming

I'm pretty sure today was our last open water training swim for this year.  Except we just spontaneously registered Jason for Austin 70.3 at the end of October... but I'm still pretty sure I'm not getting in the lake again for a bit.  One last race for me this season - Bend 125 next weekend! 

We are super lucky to live 20 minutes from a great little lake with horsepower restrictions for boats, meaning we usually have it pretty much to ourselves.  The other day I tucked my Garmin in my swim cap just to see what my route looks like.

One loop around, then an out-and-back to add some extra time in.
Another summer comes to a close, see you next year Fuller Lake!

Morning Ride

I rolled out early yesterday to get over 4.5 hours in before lunchtime.  It was a foggy morning in Victoria, which turned to rain, then turned to sun.  Sounds about right.  I did half my ride and snapped some pics before meeting up with my friend Catherine for the second half.  

Solo roll out from the lake.

All quiet on the roads.
Fog means calm on the water.

Looking across the Strait.


This morning's ride felt like September.  Maybe because there were overcast skies after a sun-drenched weekend, maybe because I stuffed a vest in my jersey pocket for the first time in a while (but at least it stayed in my pocket...), maybe because my mind has reverted back to work mode, or maybe because it actually is September.  This morning definitely had that melancholy and wistful feeling I always get at the beginning of fall.  By the afternoon, though, things had changed... halfway through our swim workout at the lake the sun came out.  I regretted the sweatshirt I had packed to wear home as it was 26 degrees C (79F).  We're not quite done with summer weather yet, of course!

I love summer.  That may be a huge understatement (right, Janet?).  No matter my age, summer transports me back to being a kid, with that feeling of never-ending play and no responsibility.  This year, because my job changed a bit (I went from teacher to Vice Principal), I actually had to be back at work a couple of weeks ago... but it still felt like summer.  Tomorrow is my real end of summer, when school starts again, the tank tops get relegated to the back of the closet (don't worry, flip flops - I'll never put you away!), and the blazers come to the front.

My race season is not quite over, however.  It ends on the official end of summer - I'm racing the Leadman Bend on September 21.  After that, my season formally comes to a close.

I know there are still lots of evenings on the deck to spent enjoying a glass of white wine and watching the sunset... but I'm seeing the shadows stretching longer and longer.  We're starting to use the hot tub in the evening again, and I just bought a wool skirt.   I'm finding myself thinking about packing a lunch again for work as the dog days are fading away.  Hello, September, welcome back (I guess).

IMC Whistler - the Swim

Jason and I were up in Whistler for a weekend holiday, and of course to watch the inaugural Ironman Canada in Whistler.  It was sad to see it move from Penticton after such a rich history there, but man did Whistler ever pull out all the stops and put on a world-class event!  I have never seen as many spectators at an IM outside of Kona, and let's face it - Whistler is one of the nicest spots in the entire world, so what a fab location for an Ironman.  It felt like the Olympics there all over again.

We wanted to be part of it, so signed up to volunteer.  We were part of the water safety team at the swim start, and spent the morning on SUPs on a flat calm and surprising warm Alta Lake.  I was a bit skeptical at first when I heard the swim would take place from Rainbow Park, and was absolutely floored with how clean the swim start was.  I couldn't picture how they could do a start line that wouldn't be incredibly crowded, but they obviously have a super-pro swim director.  The start line was the widest of any IM (apparently), and that was clear when all the athletes were lined up - they were only about 3-5 swimmers deep all along the start line.

Paddling to the start, loaded up with safety gear.
(shout-out to Beaver Boards who loaned us SUPs
for the weekend so we didn't have to bring ours)
Right from when the cannon went off, there was lots of room for the athletes.  Normally mass-start Ironmans see a lot of contact (see my IMAZ report from last year...), and while I'm sure there was a bit here, it was amazing how clean it was and how much room there was for the swimmers.  By three-quarters of the way through, swimmers were in almost a straight line in a big loop around the course - so different from the chaos of many IM swims.

Norm in his full-on cx super fan style.
Locals out spectating at the start.

A few swimmers needed a bit of encouragement not long after the start, mainly from going out to quickly and needing to catch their breath for a bit.  But mostly, we spent the morning paddling around making sure to help spot any emergencies or help any swimmers out.  I spent the last half of the swim tailing one of the last swimmers and encouraging her... she and another guy ended up missing the swim cutoff by four minutes.  Heartbreaking for them, and everyone on the beach and in the water trying to cheer them along.  But then Subaru (the race sponsor) announced they would cover their race entries if they wanted to try again next year - how's that for a super-keen sponsor!

Swimmers on the start line.

Second loop.
Volunteering is such a great way to be a part of an event when you're not racing, and of course gives you a different perspective as well.  I think it's important to get involved at lots of different levels, as it definitely enriches your overall multisport experience.  So I encourage all to spend a day volunteering at a local (or far away) event!

Some highlights from my impression of the Whistler IMC event:

  • amazing spectator support
  • lots to do in Whistler for anyone coming with you who is not racing
  • a tough but fair course
  • incredible scenery
  • run course on path/trail
  • lots of chances to see wildlife - there was even a bear that ran across the run course during the race
  • finish chute through the village stroll
  • lots of accommodation options - condos, hotels, houses, etc - and so many options so no price gouging
  • city that knows how to put on world-class event, and the locals want the race there.

I think IMC Whistler will become one of those destination events that everyone wants to do.  I imagine Jason will be signing up for a future date soon enough, and I may not be far behind.

Chariot Fire

Jason and I headed down to the San Diego area at the beginning of July for a bit of a holiday and training vacation.  We needed to get lots of miles on the bike in, as we were facing the Seattle to Portland shortly after.  I had planned a bunch of rides to do, one of them being the Sunrise Loop - I knew he'd love the climb, and I really loved the fun descent off the back side.

As the start of that ride is about an hour's drive from where we were staying in Carlsbad, we woke up early and headed southeast.  Here's the ride we planned to do:
Doesn't that descent look super fun!?
We started along just fine, and split up when we started the official climb on the Sunrise highway up Mt. Laguna.  About halfway up, near the mountain bike staging area, I could see a thin whiff of smoke coming from the other side of the mountain.  Jason tagged the summit then came back to find me, confirming there was a lot of activity at the fire station in the town.  

Jason self-portrait climbing up.

He always tags the summit then comes back for me.

When we got to the summit together, we stopped at the fire station to ask about the status of the fire.  They said they thought the road down the other side may be closed, and to check at the store as they'd know for sure.  Weird that the fire station is telling us to check at the store about a fire?! The store thought that was funny as well.  

We headed off down the other side, figuring we'd see how far we could make it.  We stopped at the scenic viewpoint which overlooks Anza-Borrego State Park, and there was a lot of smoke in the air.  We ran into a roadblock, turning us back around because of the fire.  A bit of a bummer as it turned our loop into an out-and-back, but also that meant we'd miss the fun, twisty descent from Cuyamaca State Park.  Next time I guess.

The view from the overlook, with smoke creeping around.

The fire service vehicles blocking the road.

You think?

We rode back up to the summit, and as an indication of how quickly the fire was moving: as we rode they started evacuating the campgrounds around us.  We bombed down the highway we rode up earlier that morning, and by the time we got the the bottom there was a State Trooper blocking access up.  Good thing we'd started early or we wouldn't have gotten much of a ride in at all!

The ride we actually got to do.

Back at the car, looking over to the smoke.

Later that evening we looked up the details on the fire.  The Chariot Fire started small, just southeast of Julian the day before.  Because of the dry, hot conditions it spread really quickly, and by the next day it had traveled up Mt. Laguna and burned over 4,700 acres.  It burned right over the places we had stopped, and even destroyed a historic lodge at one of the campgrounds we saw being evacuated.  A few days later, Jason and I were riding around the Ramona/Santa Ysabel area and could still see smoke from the still-burning fire, and were continually passed by firefighter vehicles and helicopters working the fire.

Last week, our friends Heidi & Matt went to ride the Sunrise Loop, and sent some pictures of what it looks like today:

Overlook we'd stopped at.

Next to the road.

Crazy that we were right there in the middle of it all...  Adventure is never far away!