Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Home Decor - Clocks

6:50 sunrise
21:11 sunset

I really want a starburst clock. In fact, this one would do nicely. I'd like it to go in our kitchen or dining area.

But I would like it to be less expensive ($135 for the above). And I want Ben to love starburst clocks too (and he doesn't really). I'm sure, like a lot of 50s/70s stuff I adore, I want one of these clocks because my grandparents had one on their wood panelled kitchen wall. You know, something that reminds me of happy times when I was a kid.

Um, that's it really. There are a lot of other 'things' I would love to have for our house but at least a funky 50s clock is in the realm of the possible. A new couch, fabulous easy chair, kitchen stools and dining room chairs are in the realm of not a chance.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cycling does not improve my running

6:33 sunrise
21:32 sunset

Went for a run tonight with my bike-wife and my husband. The Klondike Road Relay is in a mere 18 days and I have run a grand total of 2 (well, 3 after today) times this summer. I was reminded, as we trudged up the Miles Canyon hills, that I don't actually like to run nearly as much as I like to bike. I was also reminded that while my heart seemed to be in reasonable shape, my running muscles were not. Why doesn't riding a bike translate into making running easier?!? My hip flexors are killing me.
I always say that the KRR is great fun, but I am not sure how well I will be faring this year. But whatever, at least I chose the shortest leg this year (#2). Unfortunately, short means entirely uphill. It's going to be 9km of fun and games over the Skagway summit, folks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TransRockies - The Ugly

Really, there were only two ugly things about TransRockies - the weather and the terrain. And it was the weather that made the terrain ugly, so maybe there was only one problem with the race.

As I mentioned in the post that summarized my TransRockies experience, I am still struggling to find the right words to describe what it was like out there. To say that it was "muddy" sounds ridiculous - of course it was muddy. We were mountain biking. But the mud that we experienced - on days 1, 4, 5, and 6 - was serious stuff. It inhibited my ability to ride and at times made it nearly impossible to even walk. It was *super* frustrating. Perhaps the mud would have been okay - humourous even - if it hadn't been usually accompanied by rain, hail, and temperatures in the single digits.

I am a prodigious taker of photographs but when the going got really tough in this race, I actually took fewer photos. That said, here are a few images of the weather and the trails.

This is from stage 1 in Fernie on the Coal Discovery Trail. The mud here was sort of buttery in its consistency. Going down was okay, but going up was a challenge. Add roots and I was wiping out all over the place.

This lovely mud trail on stage 4 continued for 17km and took us close to 4 hours to get through. Can you see Sierra on the left in the bushes? You really should click on the image to see the awesome "trail."

More stage 4 mud. Sometimes I would try and ride through this, but it only took a couple of falls to convince me that I was better off walking.

This is the only photo I took of my bike and it was after I had wiped huge hunks of mud and horse poop off my wheel to help it turn.

Here we are on stage 4 when it started to hail. Sierra and I had taken cover under some trees but when it wouldn't stop we figured we had to just keep on pushing through. We finished that day in less than 1 second under official cut off time: 8:59:52!

This is Ryan (rode in the Open Mixed category) at the second checkpoint on stage 5. It was the second day that we experienced hail. Doesn't he look warm and dry?!

It's tough, in retrospect, to complain about the weather though. I mean, if it had been 40C and humid it would have killed me too. I doubt that I will make it back to Alberta to try my wheels on the TransRockies route next year... but part of me wants to.

TransRockies - The Bad

There were two articles about TransRockies in the Globe and Mail last week. In the August 7 edition, Stefan Widmer says: "You're so completely physically and mentally exhausted that every year there are moments when you say, 'This is the last race for me.' Then the mind forgets the bad things and the next thing you know you're signing up again."

It's so true.

There really were a lot of "bad" times for me last week. At some point, I think on stage 4 in the hail, I turned to Sierra and told her that I had never been so unhappy in my entire life. It's funny because now I hardly remember saying that, nevermind actually feeling that way. But there were bad times. They mostly occurred when I felt frustrated by my lack of skills and ability (day 1 riding wet rooty singletrack, day 3 pushing my bike for 5km up a 20% grade covered in alders, day 6 waking up feeling sick at the prospect of going out there again).

But the bad memories are fading. Fortunately, digital images stick around a little longer and I offer you these photographs to try and illustrate how I was feeling.

Stage 1 first checkpoint. I had taken a fairly significant fall on the first descent and it shook me. I was fine, aside from a large bruise on my thigh, but it freaked me out. It was not the first time I found myself thinking: "What am I doing here?! I should never have done this."

Stage 3 while pushing up the Continental Divide. I found this to be the most physically demanding day and I was exhausted early on. Bushwhacking didn't help my mood.

Stage 4 during the hail storm. I was hiding under a tree to try and get some protection from the hail stones which were pretty painful when they hit.
Good times.

TransRockies - The Good

If someone asked me what was good about TransRockies, these things would make the cut:

Stage 2
It started with a pretty good climb, but the day was sunny and the road was certainly 'rideable' (a word which, when they used it in later stage briefings only made me laugh). And then we were rewarded with a super fun ride down a trail called Porky Blue, a 1000m vertical descent over about 8km. I felt strong! I felt fast! I even felt moderately skilled as we made our way past slower riders!
It was amazing to have him on the trip with us. I can't imagine, actually, how we would have coped without him. We would come in each day, late, tired and filthy and Tony would grab our bikes, send us off to the showers and just take care of all the required maintenance. Each morning Bea (my bike) would be clean and ready to go. Fantastic.
The strongest, bestest partner I could have asked for. I knew she would drag me over the Continental Divide and she did. I'd do this race again, but only with her. And I promise her that next time I'll improve my bike pushing skills.
Stage 4
Strangely, this day goes on my list of the best and the worst parts of TR. We rolled out of Etherington Creek on a pretty nice Wednesday morning. They first half of the day was gorgeous and sunny and between the Grass Pass and Sullivan Pass climbs there were beautiful views and lots of fun trails. We even stopped to take a look at the scenery at one point. This was the kind of riding I had expected - challenging, but possible. We hooted and hollered and youpie'd our way to checkpoint 2.

Awesome people
I already knew the fabulous Jill Homer, but I also got to meet:
* her TR partner Keith
* the invariably cheerful South Africans, Mariesa and Ryan
* Invermereians Tim and my bike twin Ali
* the sibling dynamic duo of Sherry and Rory from the UK
* Bike Shop Boys Scott and Tim (I promise I will send your gortex mitts home soon!)
* Rogerio from Brazil who often rode with us and then injured himself at the end of stage 3
* Nir from Toronto who did TR two years ago and swore he would never do it again
Yeah, awesome people ride bikes.

Great organisation
The TR folks really had their shit together. This was not an inexpensive bikecation and I appreciated the good and plentiful food (with the exception of Rafter 6 camp), the super nice people, the well marked course, the fact that all the details were accurate and in place all of the time. Kudos to them for putting together a great event.

Stage 7
The beginning of this stage was frustrating because we got caught up in a group trying to ride singletrack and people ahead of us kept getting off on the downhills and then riding faster than I could on the uphills. But once we got to the Nordic Centre in Canmore we were pretty much alone and we could enjoy the swooping, fun trails. We rode (as I recall) Killer Bees, EKG, Orchid Trail, and Georgetown Trail. And then of course it was awesome to get to the finish line. Tony and Ben had apparently just ordered some food and weren't expecting us, but when I saw them hanging over the finish chute I actually thought they were completely prepared for our arrival and had just come out a little further to greet us.

So ya see, it wasn't all bad :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

TransRockies Report

6:13 sunrise
21:56 sunset

It was hard.

I don't really know what else to say because the fun of the post-race banquet, several beers and love and admiration from my dearly beloved have all made the hellish parts of last week fade. The sun even came out on the last day so our photos at the finish look like it was a great week:

But it was hard. The trails were muddy, rooty and cow shit covered. The changes in elevation often came at an insane grade. I learned that I am a lousy hike-a-biker. The weather was often abysmal.

There were times - especially on stages 3, 4 and 5 - where I was in the depths of a personal hell. Not exactly a pain cave, something different. I was desperately despondent and unhappy. I've never really felt that way before and trying to write about it now, days later, trying to recall my mental and physical state feels fake. The weird thing is that stage 6 was probably the most hellish day (they cut out part of the route due to horrific weather and the risk to participants of suffering hypothermia) but by that point I was almost accustomed to the suffer-fest.

Had I had taken the time to write about the stages as we completed them, perhaps my voice and recollections would have more purity. All I can say now is that I am proud that our team finished the race, disappointed that I personally did not complete stage 6, grateful for the support that Tony provided us, and thankful that Sierra agreed to be my partner.

Over the next week I might write reports for each stage, but that will depend on how I am feeling about the whole experience. You can read Jill's take on the week over at her blog, Jill Outside. Her August 16th post even includes a photo of Sierra and me on the rollout for stage 5. Jill talks about how some of her her racing experiences have 'torn her from her comfort zone' and I suppose that's how I feel about my TransRockies experience. It was hard - as I knew it would be - but what was hard about it wasn't what I expected. And I suppose that's a good thing. It's almost enough to make me want to try it again. Which is crazy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

4 days

5:44 sunrise
22:27 sunset

I leave for Edmonton on Friday morning. TransRockies starts on Sunday. I am nervous.

On the one hand I feel like I have been waiting all summer for this event but, on the other, I feel like I am not quite ready. But I am not sure what else would make me ready. We've put in the time (170+ hours over 14 weeks). I know a lot of it is going to be a mental thing, just believing that we can complete the race. But how do I know?!? I don't! That said, I am really, really sure that my partner (aka my bike wife) Sierra can do it, so I am going to rely on her mental and physical stubborness to drag my ass across the Rocky Mountains. She says she will - come hell or high water.

Last night Tony packed our bikes. Thank gawd we have him along with us on this trip as out mechanic and support. It has allowed me to worry about my bike a lot less.

If you want to see how we're doing, I assume that daily race updates will be posted on the TR website. You can look for our team in the Open Women's division. We are the Fat Tire Ballerinas. Our friend Jill is also racing in this event so look for her and her partner Keith who are racing as Rocky Mountain Trail Trash. And last, but certainly not least (in fact - I'm excited to see how competative he will be) is our friend Dave Gonda who is racing the TR3.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

5 days

5:41 sunrise
22:32 sunset

Packing and organizing and trying to stay calm.

Going to Sierra's shortly to box my bike and then on to the Edgewater patio for a beer in the sun (it's 29C out right now!!) with friends and well-wishers.