Monday, June 23, 2008

Will my rubber tires save me if I'm hit by lightning?

One nice thing about visiting Toronto is that not too far away, about 20-25k from my mom's house, I can cycle and find myself some rolling hills.

Unfortunately though, this particular visit, like the last, was threatened by rain, rain, and more rain according to the weather report.

I didn't care. The sun was shining and though there were some clouds, I said to myself, convinced it wouldn''t rain until much later.

Because it had been bright, sunny and hot when I started my cycle, I decided to wear a tank top instead of a racing jersey and carried food and other essentials in a money pouch. La-di-da ... and away I went for what I planned to be a metric century.

Once I hit farm country, the torrential rains started. The sky was black and the wind kicked me from all angles. I saw lightning and heard thunder in the near distance, which is never a good sign when one is out in the open. Will my rubber tires save me if I'm hit by lightning? But OH, how I had my heart set on a long ride! Tomorrow, I wouldn't have enough time, so it was now or never.

Do I turn back?

I looked at the hills beyond beckoning me to zip down them at super fast speeds and noticed that the skies above them seemed a lighter shade of gray. Would I be able to ride out of the storm? I decided to go for it and several kilometres later, though I was still being rained on, it wasn't that bad since it was only drizzling at this point. I could live with that.

One thing about riding in farmland is trying to figure out a place to pee. Not a ton of trees, except those indicating entrances to people's driveways. I've only pee'ed while riding my bike when torrential rain allowed the washing away of evidence from my socks and shoes ... meaning I wouldn't have to deal with any lingering smells ... but I just couldn't do it in this medium light sort of rain. Besides, Freida, my bike, would not appreciate it.

Then I saw it, a huge concrete slab blocking the entranceway to what appeared to be a condemned farmhouse. Excellent!

Aaaah ... and off I went again.

What's nice about hills, though they do require a bit of work to climb, is the incredible thrill to speed down them ... I totally LOVE THAT RUSH!! Of course, what adds to that thrill is the reward of seeing your bike odometer spit out and confirm your exhilarating speed.

But not today. Not in the pouring rain. Nope ... my bike computer had konked out and no reading was available, no distance, no time, no speed. Bummer. :-(

I felt like a computer freak user without internet or e-mail access.

So on I went, up and down and up and down, none of my climbing achievements being confirmed and my trying not to be phased by it ... Distraction: Oh that road looks good! Lots more hills! Then off I veered ... into the storm clouds once more.

The unfortunate thing about my choice of clothing that day is that rain has a tendency to cool things down. 15-17 C is not warm. 15-17 C is even less warm in a tank top in the rain. The big black clouds opened up and spewed out its angry storm and my bare arms and shoulders felt the wrath of sharp raindrops.

It was time to turn back lest I become hypothermic. Anyway, I didn't know how much more I would be able to stand of what felt like hail hitting my fragile, tired, discouraged body. Besides, I had not fully recuperated from the 85k I had cycled the day before on the same hills.

I got as far as that cement block on my way back when I realised that my peddle felt "off", strangely uneven, and my chain seemed to hit the derailleur no matter what gear I shifted into. I stopped in the rain and looked at my peddles and cleats. Check. Everything seemed tight, no loose screws. Then I looked at my crank. Not so good ... I could see too much space between my left crank and its insertion point into my bike. What to do, what to do. I thought, I'll have to get that adjusted when I get back to Montreal, but at least that would explain the chain rubbing problem.

I continued cycling and the riding only got worse, getting even more uneven. I looked down at my left foot while cycling and it looked and felt like I was peddling with a limp! Again, I stopped in the pouring rain and examined my crank. Good thing I had my handy little multi-tool gadget. Though I am totally inept bike mechanic-wise, I managed to tighten my crank. No choice. Figure it out or be stranded in no-man's land in the pouring rain holding my bike in one hand and pieces of my new compact crank in the other.

La-di-da (yeah right) ... and off I went. I finally got back home. 90k, I figured. Not quite the 100 I wanted but I was back home at my mom's where I could take a hot shower and get some food into me. The three hours in the storm was not exactly *fun*. And though I am a grown woman who can make my own choices, of course, this particular choice did not sit well with my worried mom at home who couldn't understand why anyone would want to cycle in that weather.

I told her I was fine and she needn't have worried so much, then went upstairs to shower.

What I REALLY wanted to tell her was, "I'm doing it for the thrill of the downhills, Mom!"

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good eats!

Most of us take our mobility and the subsequent freedom to do what we want and go where we want for granted. But some of us can't walk outside alone lest we fall. This means no unaccompanied outings, including dining out or grocery shopping.

So I took my mother out for supper and I took her grocery shopping and she savoured every minute, as did I, since this meant more precious moments with her.

There is nothing like sharing a tasty meal with someone you love, especially if it's with someone you love dearly and don't get to see often.

To take the pics, I had to slide past my mother on her bench so I could extend my hand properly to take the self-portrait. Since my mother has trouble standing up, I decided to get back to my side of the table via "under the table".

How embarrassing! Of course, this had to be THE MOMENT when the waitress came over to serve us while I was still in the midst of trying to manouvre my body out from underneath the table. I should have predicted my difficulty, being much bigger than my children and all, doh! I finally managed to wriggle out and up onto the bench and then, ahem ... apologized to the waitress, "I was just playing! Ha ha!"

Here's what we ordered:

1) Tofu and vegetable hot pot

2) Beef and green bean spicy satay

3) Salt and pepper shrimp

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My compact crank rocks!

I finally got a chance to climb Montreal's mountain via the steep road that the car takes Camilien Houde. Yesterday's ride was supposed to be 2.5 - 2.75 hrs long but my trip to readjust my gears (again) cut my time short and I was left with two hours and lots of traffic to fight through to get to the store and out to Mont Royal. It was worth it.

Though I wasn't very fast, and it was difficult, I made it up and over twice and if I had had more time, I would have done it another couple of times ... well, at least until I puked. Anyway, I ended up with only 40k (city riding and traffic, you know) but was happy to know that my new compact crank rocks and makes climbing just a tad easier. How did I ever do Richter's Pass during Ironman Canada with a small chain ring with 42 teeth? My new crank is 53-34 and what a sweet difference!

The last week's been a little crazy coming off of my theatre performances and finally having the time to catch up with everything. I swam, cycled and ran ... not exactly as my training schedule dictated as I couldn't remember where I left it, but enough to feel like I'm starting to get up to speed, including my social life.

Here's a joint Kickrunners/Meetin' gathering ... what fun to combine two of my worlds!

Let's see what the rest of the week holds for training ... well today, what does my schedule say?

200 warm up
8 times 250 with 20 sec recovery.

1 ½ to 2 hour ride

Hmm ... I'd better get off the computer.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oka Sprint Tri - June 8, 2008

Let's make things clear ... This race totally SUCKED. But I'm glad I did it since I got to open water swim and practice my transitions.

Basically, I was totally unprepared, both physically and mentally. I'd been through a hectic rehearsal schedule during a month and a half for my play Import/Export that had been all over the place, morning, afternoon, and evenings, with especially long hours the week before our performances of 11-12 hours/day.

In that last week of rehearsal, I barely managed over 100k of cycling, all on my mountain bike, since Freida, my road bike was in the shop getting fitted with a compact crank. On my one day off from rehearsal in that last week, I had to catch up on everything and could only fit in a short swim of 1000 m. I was happy the day before our opening when we only had an evening rehearsal of 5 hours, leaving me with enough time to get in a long swim of 3050 m. No time to run though that week and certainly no bricks!

The show went fantastically well. There was lots of celebrating and spending time with friends too, nevermind the constant going over lines. And I even got to do an interview for CKUT, McGill's cool alternative radio station. Hectic, challenging week ... but it was well worth it. The play was well-received and overall, I was happy with my performances. I've been very lucky to be part of such a wonderful production and cast.

Monday - Wednesday
A big NADA for training. Play opening and performances were just too intense and draining ...

I finally got my bike back and lacking time since I had my last performance that evening, I checked out my new crank with a short 14k cycle. Oh, shifting was difficult! I'd need the gears realigned, that's for sure!

I visited my LBS then got in a 46k ride ... woohoo! Followed right away by a short 20 min. run, just to see how it felt in the legs. Ugh.

After swing dancing for a few hours by the river in the hot and humid weather, I slipped in a short half hour swim. I made sure to hydrate myself well that day with E-load.

200 m warm-up
750 continuous swim with practising sighting
4 x 50m (25m fast, 25m slow)
100 m slow cool

Total swim = 1250m.

Sunday - Race day

Needless to say, I did not get much rest that week, and not even the two night prior to the race. I was shamelessly still up past midnight looking for my wetsuit, which I have not seen since Ironman 2006. I finally found it packed away in an empty suitcase in my living room closet.

Got four hours of restless sleep. Woke up at 5:15 am. Had some tea and tried to stomach a banana and some oatmeal. My friend AJ arrived to accompany me. I answered the door and the first thing I told him was how sick to my stomach I was felt and how difficult it was to eat.

We loaded up my car and drove out to Oka, a beautiful provincial park, and arrived at 7:15 am. We started walking to the registration area but I had to double back as we realised that there were no port-o-lets beside the race site, that one had to walk over to the beach chalet. That was a bummer since my nervous stomach had me visiting that chalet every 15 min.

Two electrolyte tablets
E-load, lots of it ... big bottle on bike and even bigger bottle to drink at transition
Two gels, one eaten before the swim, another before the run

A one-piece tri-suit that looks like a bathing suit but is actually quite comfortable and perfect for the day's hot and humid 29C, 38C humidex weather (yes, that's 100F!). Hey, it was free ... a friend had given it to me!

Here I am setting up at transition. I had used that red blanket to keep me warm for the first 15 min. after arrival as I had forgotten my jacket ... but I didn't need it for long since the day started to heat quickly, in fact, too quickly.

I realised I'd forgotten how to put on a wetsuit ... I've only used it twice! Once for my IM two years back and the first time, the week before that race to check it out and practice some OW swimming.

Alright, I finally figured out how to put it on but I'd forgotten how tight it felt, or was it just the extra ten pounds I'd put on since IM? Ugh.

The swim was way more difficult than I could have ever imagined. MUCH harder than my IM swim, which was kinda relaxing actually.

The swim started badly ... we weren't a big group so only had two waves. But the race was so badly coordinated that the first wave didn't even know the gun had gone off. The officials had to restart. My wave started two minutes afterwards and though I was already at the back, the one person behind me swam over me almost immediately.

I told myself, I can handle that! During my IM, I'd been hit and kicked, so this didn't phase me. Not even the cold water on my face and hands and feet phased me. What did phase me was the incessant current bringing me back to the shore or some other direction in which I was not wanting to go. My sighting became useless.

During the entire swim, not for one second could I feel that familiar and soothing water-rushing-past-my-body-feeling and this made me panic. I did not feel any forward motion at all, but just a bobbing of my body as I struggled to sight and breathe. My heart would not calm down and beat too quickly during the entire swim and I never managed to catch my breath properly. I swallowed lots of water, and even had to tread water a few times to fix my goggles (never EVER wear a new type of goggles at a race!) or just take a long slow breath. I couldn't figure out which side to breathe as I seemed to be hit by a wave no matter which side I turned my face.

I don't have much open water swimming experience, but folks, this was one time that I felt I was just barely hanging on ... My mind swirled with thoughts of DNF'ing and even of drowning. I had choked and coughed so hard at one point that another swimmer stopped to ask me if I was alright. Certainly the girl on the surf board ahead of me wasn't going to help and due to the lack of organization of this race, I doubt there was anyone behind me.

I concentrated hard and tried to be as calm and efficient as possible just to be able to finish the swim leg, and though I know I swam all over the place and that my sighting was ineffective to keep me on course, I finally managed to crawl up on the beach. Then I had the trek up past the beach and through the woods to the transition area. I'd made it through the first part. Thank God.

27:27 including the run to transition. My 750m usually takes me 15-16 min. This swim was pure hell. And I was not the last out of the water.

This was the first time during a race I had to get that wetsuit off by myself. Fine and dandy slipping it off the shoulders and down off the body. How does one get it off the ankles? I had ankel zippers and I still struggled.

Getting onto my bike was alright, though I felt dizzy and almost toppled over a few times, as you see in this pic of me losing my balance. Funny ... while I was getting body marked, I asked the volunteer which one was the better choice - bug spray or sunscreen. He promptly killed two flies that zoomed around in between our faces. Alright, I chose the bug spray. But now at T1, I'd realised that the bug spray had "erased" my numbers. At least I had my bib number and timing chip!

The bike course was tooted as a flat course, closed to traffic. Two loops. Flat and closed to traffic, my ass! I don't call rolling hills flat at all. I hit 59 km/h (37 miles/h) on one downhill and would have gone faster had I had the incentive to power down harder.

In general, yes, this course was closed to traffic ... outside the park. Inside the park was a whole other matter. I totally loved how the volunteer let the mini-van turn ahead of me. I went from 32 km/h to 5 km/h in a split second and was forced onto the gravel shoulder to avoid hitting that mini-van and the racer who was walking his bike back to the transition zone.

54:27 including T1 and T2. My bike computer said just over 21 km (???) Not very fast, but heck, I hadn't been riding much recently and I hadn't even practiced transitioning in training. When I had set up my plastic container of water for feet rinsing before the race, I somehow knew I'd knock it over. And of course, arriving at T2, I promptly did so and soaked my foot thoroughly. I'm happy with my compact crank though ... sure made those climbs faster. It felt good to pass some cyclists though I think they were the duathletes. Whatever!

The run was a little difficult since it changed directions several times, but pretty since it took us through some trails in the woods. I was glad that we were in the shade for most of it, but not very happy when they'd ran out of water. I finally got some at the turn-around at 2.5 km. On the way back, I almost got lost since there were no arrows indicating where to go ... all I could see were blank backs of signs and too many path choices.

One major thing that I learned in a bad way ... I will never ever run without socks again. Major blisters developed by the 2k point and I suffered in agony until the end. All to save a few seconds at T2 ... sigh.

Here I am coming down final stretch, sooo happy that my ordeal was OVER!

Final time: 1:53:35. Ugh. This was sooo much slower than my first tri when I even did an extra bike loop. Oh well. I finished. My back was beet red from being sunburnt but I didn't have one bug bite.

Monday after the race
Yesterday, I did as much of nothing as possible. No rehearsal, no laundry, no training, no performances, no socializing, no charity work. It felt good to relax. Actually, I did try to get out for a short swim that evening but the pool had changed its schedule and was closed. So I did some grocery shopping ... finally.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008


I'm happy to finally have my bike back after being in the shop for the past 11 days ... and ... after almost two weeks of not much training due to 10-12 hour play rehearsals, followed by a week of performances ...

I'm racing today!


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