Saturday, October 17, 2015

Victoria Goodlife Half Marathon 2015 race report, with some cyclocross thrown in for extra fun

I returned to Victoria for the Goodlife Half Marathon again. I hadn’t really trained properly for a long all-running race, but I knew I could finish it. My goal once again was to finish in under 2:00, and hopefully beat my time from last year. I went out faster than last year, but not super fast. Last year I was too cautious at the start. I didn’t want to get caught up in the rush and flag later, which was smart, but that meant I got stuck behind a lot of slower runners that were hard to pass and it cost me time. So I positioned myself better at the start and went out a little harder. Not too fast, but fast enough that I saved about 20 seconds in the first two kms.

It was a beautiful day to run. I wore short sleeves this year, as I was too warm last year. I still carried my own liquids and gels. I don’t really like running in a water belt, but I’ve found that my stomach really prefers the familiar on race day, so I do it anyway. I used 3 gels and drank most of the one small bottle of Nuun water that I carried.

My 10 km time was more than 2.5 minutes faster this year than last. And my overall time was 1:52:14, which is more than 3.5 minutes faster than last year. (I tweeted out a bigger improvement. Turns out I was computing the difference between last year's gun time and this year's chip time) I was hoping to beat 1:52, but in the end just couldn’t find the energy to keep up the pace over the last 5 km. But given my lack of long distance training, I can’t be too upset by my result. I placed in the top 1/6th of my age group (31/206), which is an improvement over last year too (63/302) although I did age up this year.

But it was a really great weekend. Husband and kidlet did a cyclocross race on Saturday before we headed over to the island. I didn’t ride because I wanted to save my legs for the half marathon. Unfortunately, I injured myself a little when helping out with the kids race (helping lift bikes over the barriers). I tripped over the barrier and scraped myself up. But it looked worse than it felt (although a week later I have a bruised and swollen foot in addition to the scrapes on my shin and hand). I was worried it would hurt while I ran, but it wasn’t actually too bad.

This was shortly after I skinned my shin, it got worse (looking) with more time.

Then on the Monday, the day after the run, we all went and did a Cross on the Rock cylcocross race. (Apparently it might have been the largest cx race in Canadian history. If so, totally cool that we were there for it. If not, it was still a super fun event.) My legs let me know after the first lap that this was a crazy idea, but it was super fun anyway. I got very muddy, and now feel like a legit cyclocross rider. I was not a kid who liked playing in the mud, but it's fun now. Or at least it's fun on the bike now. I’ll never be fast at it, but cyclocross has been really good for my bike-handling skills and overall comfort level on the bike.

Short (for me) and late race report on the Vancouver Triathlon (Sept 9, 2015)

Swim: I have decided that I am very unlikely to ever do a triathlon with an ocean swim again. I have no problem with open water swimming, but I find fighting current really difficult and tiring. We started late due to the tide (water was waaay out), which meant that the current was pretty strong when we finally did get in the water. The first lap of the swim went fine. Not too fast, but I wasn’t trying to go fast. My plan was to just get through the swim without being too tired out. It was chilly to start but once I warmed up it was quite a comfortable temperature. The second lap is where I really started to feel the current. There was a long stretch of the last part of the triangle (so the final leg to get back to shore) where I was working hard just to not go backwards. It didn’t help that I’d cut my foot on some barnacles starting the second lap. It was the top of my left foot – I hadn’t stepped on the barnacles I’d kicked them. The cold salt water stung quite a bit. The cold water also left me with numb feet for most of the rest of the race, something I’d never experienced before. But I’ll get to that later.

Swim: 48:00 (or thereabouts, they didn’t get me crossing the mat at the edge of the beach coming out of the water, so this time was extrapolated based on other times. Luckily they had all my other times, so they could reconstruct my time).

T1: 2:59 Not super speedy but I was really dizzy, so I had to take a few moments to deal with that. And my feet were numb, so getting my socks and shoes on was more difficult than usual.

Bike: 1:27:17 It was a nice bike course. One not to bad hill, and an easy decent. Saw a deer on the side of the road on my second loop. Only problem was my feet were totally numb the whole time. And man did I see a lot of drafting on the course, some of which seemed decidedly non-accidental. There were officials around, but they didn’t seem to see much of it. Oh well, no one was drafting off of me! It was worth the price of the tri to get to bike around Stanley Park without traffic. But man those roads are awful! 

T2: 1:45. Had a difficult time getting my shoes on because I still couldn’t feel my feet.

Run: 58:16 Slower than I usually go, but since this included a pit stop, I’m pretty happy with it. And looking at the times in my age group, not stopping (which was not an option) wouldn’t have changed my placing. My feet were totally numb at the start of the run. It actually made it hard to run, which I found surprising. My feet just didn’t know when they were hitting the ground. They did heat up  over the course of the run, which I discovered was not such a great thing. At least not for my left foot, as I started to feel the cuts on my foot and toes. Ouch my foot hurt!

I was undertrained and I knew it. I’d only done 3 swims since my oly in July. I’d done plenty of running and some limited riding though so I knew I could finish the race. It's amazing to me how far I've come in the mental part of training and racing. I remember my first oly being unsure I could make it across the line. Now the question is just how fast (or in the case of this race, how slow). I had decided just to make it a fun(ish) training day. I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself, and I got out of the race what I put in. As usual, I enjoyed the run more than the rest, but I am starting to enjoy the bike leg as well. A person I know mostly from twitter happened to be there as a spectator and it was really great to hear her call out “Go triprof!” (my twitter handle). My family didn’t come down to the race site until later, so I didn’t have a cheering section. But then I did! The spectators were actually really great. There was a trio that was walking around the park (obviously there to cheer for someone in particular) who gave me a big boost several times in both the bike and the run. My only gripe with the race is the t-shirt. It’s a cotton shirt. I’d rather pay more and get a technical shirt.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer trip – part 2

The plan was to leave the Okanagan and head off on a short camping trip at one of our favorite provincial campsites: Kettle River. We had to make sure we hit a few more wineries during the trip too of course. On the way east we stopped at Platinum Bench Winery, bought a few bottles and some of their delicious bread. (We’d been there before and really liked their wines. We still do.) And then on a bit of a whim went by Le Vieux Pin. They are one of the sponsors of the Axel Merckx Granfondo race; they made a special wine for the race and are the official lunch stop for riders on the granfondo who want/need a bit of a break. Husband had stopped there briefly during his ride, but had no strong feelings about going for a tasting. We got there and they were busy, not packed, but they didn’t seem to have space/time for more people. But the staff there were great. They were very attentive to us and another group that arrived at the same time despite not having room at the counter. And their wines are fantastic. Neither of us were huge fans of the special race wine they did, but their other wines were well worth the visit. We left with a few bottles. If we were still drinking wine like we used to (as in, before the boy) I might have pushed to sign up for their wine club, but we just drink too little nowadays to keep up with more than one wine club. (I’ll get back to that later.) If you like wine, I’d highly recommend a stop there. (Since this isn't my - basically now dead - food and wine blog, I won't go into any tasting details here.)

Then we were off to Kettle River for a few days of camping. The weather was great, no rain, not too hot. The highlights of the trip were getting a bit of a wasp sting on my tongue and getting in a trail run. Since my oly race I hadn’t been doing much. One day of commute-biking and a short hill workout in Naramata. But it was time to start moving again (especially given the fact that I was registered for a trail race a few days after we were scheduled to get back home), and I was looking forward to spending some time on the Trans Canada Trail – it runs right through the campsite. I got in a nice slow 15 km run, which was about 10 minutes past enjoyable. Some pictures taken on my run:

As for the wasp sting, well, just a friendly reminder to check your cans before drinking when there are wasps around. I was enjoying a nice post-run beverage, and left my beer unsupervised for a few moments. When I returned to it and took a sip I ended up with a not-too-happy wasp in my mouth. I knew what was happening pretty quickly and spat it out before it did too much damage. It stung a little, but didn’t swell up too much. It was mostly a graze with the stinger I think, and since I know I’m not allergic, I wasn’t too worried.

On the way home a few days later we stopped at 2 more wineries I highly recommend: Orofino and Clos du Soleil. They’re in a lesser known wine region in BC that is well worth a bit of a detour: the Similkameen Valley. We’d been to Orofino before (and planned on signing up for their wine club, which we did), but Clos du Soleil was new to us. We picked up a few bottles at each. Now we just have to have some friends over for a few (or more) dinners to ‘get rid of’ all the wine we brought back. With both of us taking our health and athletic activities more seriously (as well as getting older), we go through our wine stocks much more slowly than we used to.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Axel Merckx Granfondo 2015 Trip

We love the Okanagan region of British Columbia, and try to get in at least a little bit of time there every summer. Before we had our son, this usually meant trips to wineries and restaurants as well as camping, but more recently, it has mostly been camping, with a few stolen moments at a winery or two while the little guy gets in some ipad time. This year’s trip was a little different; it was focused on a race - the Granfondo Axel Merckx.

My husband was the person in the family who first got into cycling, and it was his influence that led me to buy my own road bike. I wasn’t as enamored with two wheels as he was, nor was I ready to give up on running, so I went the tri route. Racing for me is a way to ensure that training actually happens. But he had no desire to race. Criteriums with old-guy weekend warriors are insanity for a person who makes their living with their head (and has a young child to be a father to). And we’d heard about enough crashes on the local Granfondo course that he didn’t want to do a fondo either. But for some reason this past winter he changed his mind (I suspect that like me, he’s more likely to put in the training efforts if there’s a race to look forward to), and decided he was going to race the Granfondo Axel Merckx in Penticton. So he signed up, and when registration for the Piccolo Fondo (the kids’ race) opened, our little guy got signed up too.

I won’t give you the play-by-play on our whole trip to the area, nor will I write much about husband's race (he likely will do that on his own blog), but I will note a few highlights (and low-lights), places worth going (or not) if you happen to hit the area yourself.

We headed into Penticton on Friday afternoon in time to drop our stuff off at the place we were staying (a private rental on the Naramata Bench) and get back to the race expo/registration site.

Our view for the weekend.

Husband got his package and set off to see what he could spend his money on. I headed for the bouncy castle with the boy. (Yes, they had a bouncy castle set up at the expo – pure brilliance.) I’ve never bought anything at a race expo before, but even I bought something at this one – my first pair of bib shorts. Husband purchased some nutrition stuff, and headed into the racers’ briefing. He found it very useful, and so was glad we left early enough to get into town in time for it. He wanted pasta for dinner so we headed off in search of some, and happened across the Pasta Factory. It was awful. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, we won’t go back. Luckily we found the local Safeway later and got a few things to eat to tide us over until the next day.

The next morning we stopped by The Bench Market for breakfast, a place we always go when in town. It’s a great place for very casual small meals, take out, coffees, local specialty grocery items, things of that nature. Then it was off in search of some new tires for Husband. (There was a decent chance of rain on the Sunday, and he wanted to have his other bike prepped and ready just in case.) The details of this search could fill a page, but I won’t bore you with them. Eventually he found what he was looking for (thanks to the Trek guy at the expo). Back to the condo for some lunch, to pick up the boy’s bike for his race later in the day, and to sneak in a quick hill running session.

Off to the race area for the Piccolo Fondo. It was craziness. Loads and loads of kids, all riding around on their bikes, bubbling over with excitement, barely managing not to end up in crashes. And this was just the waiting around time! The actual races were great! They raced in age groups, with the youngest kids going first. Axel Merckx led each race, so the kids were trying to catch him. Riders who were part of his development club accompanied the kids, so even the child at the end of their race was not alone. There was so much joy on the faces of most of the racers it was so much fun to watch. My son was in the 6-7 year old race which was won by a very fast girl (who seemed to be at the end of 7). It became very clear to us during the race that he needs a new bike. He turned his tiny cranks as fast as he could, but they’re so short he couldn’t go very fast. Anyway, he had fun, and is excited by the prospect of a new bike, this one with hand brakes and he is insisting on gears as well. After the race it was time for some more bouncy castle fun, this time outside at the race site.

Smiles at the start.

Second lap almost done!

I have no idea how they managed to make that many waves with that many kids seem so organized, but it all seemed to run pretty smoothly, and I thought having AM there to start each of the kids’ races was a really nice touch. From my perspective as a parent it was nice to have a day that seemed to be about the kids. It wasn’t just the races; there were also some activities in the park for the kids. My son certainly had it in his head that we were in Penticton for 2 races, his and his dad’s, and that Saturday was all about him. The set up and organization on the Saturday really reinforced this. Partly this meant that he was a bit crazy in the morning (busting with excitement) but it also meant that he was quite happy to have Sunday be about his dad. It was a real family sort of race weekend, at least, it could be if you wanted it to be.

On the way back to where we were staying we hit La Frenz winery, one of husband’s local favorites, tasted a few wines and bought a few bottles. Later, we were about to head into a different winery for dinner when some friends who were in town for the race too called us on their way to the Bad Tattoo Brewing Company, so we changed plans and joined them there. My son thought this was great. I had noted that they make their own root beer the previous day, and he had been promised some if we went there during our visit. He’s never had pop before, at least, that I know of, so this was a grand treat from his perspective. Warning, it doesn’t taste like most root beer (the server warned us about this), but since he had nothing to compare it to, he didn’t notice. Their pizza was great, we all had radlers (which it seems they make to order) and plenty of water to drink. We left much more satisfied with dinner than we had the evening previous.

The next day we all got up very early and headed off to dad’s race. Parking was a ways away from race venue (start and finish and activities area) but that was fine, since me and the little guy had a few hours to burn. We got to see the racers all heading out of town, which was fun. We rang our cowbells and looked for the people we knew in the race. Got to see Husband go past, as well as our two friends who were also riding. We eventually got to cross the street, and headed off in search of coffee. The local Starbucks near the finish line was open, so we hung out there for a bit, mostly playing some games I’d brought along to entertain the 6 year old. While we were there the winners of the Corto Fondo raced past. Man they were fast. And young. But mostly fast. Eventually we made our way into the park that was the race area. There was a bouncy castle there, waiting to be set up, but it didn’t get blown up until the afternoon. (If I could make one recommendation to the organizers, it would be to get the kid’s activities up and running earlier on the Sunday. People who come in from out of town for the race often have to all come to the race together, and the rest of the family needs things to do from the start of the race, not just after 10 am.) But once it was up and running, we spent some time there, as well as a stint on the climbing wall.

While the boy was up on the climbing wall the first Granfondo finishers came through. It was very cool to see how fast that group was moving. We eventually made our way to the stands to sit and try and watch husband/dad finish. (We know we had a bit of time from when the first finishers crossed.) We cheered a bit, played swordfighting with the noisemakers, cheered some more, rang our cowbells. I saw husband finish (thanks to a friend, who’d already finished her race, who spotted him as he was coming up by the stands). He was exhausted, but really enjoyed his day. He was at the faster end of his predicted finishing window and is already plotting how to improve next year.

I had a great time spectating, the atmosphere was fun, and it was actually pretty easy to spend the day there was the 6 year old (who is not a sit around kind of kid). But I have to admit that I was a bit jealous of the riders. It looked like a great day. The whole event weekend was really well run, and we plan to be back next year if we can. But this time, if we can figure out what to do with the boy on Sunday, all three of us will ride.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Subaru Vancouver Triathlon Photos

I could wait until I look great in my race photos to post some, but that's not going to happen. This is what a real 45 year old triathlete who mostly does things other than triathlon looks like. Or at least, that's what this 45 year old triathlete who mostly does things other than triathlon looks like.

Exiting the swim with a smoky haze in the background.

Almost at the top of the hill - for the second (and last) time.

Start of the run.
Near the end of the first lap. (I think.)

Hitting the soft sand in the finish chute. I love this photo. I look totally goofy, but the sand is flying and I'm pretty sure I'm in the middle of saying 'WTF!"