Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Osoyoos bike camp fun!

You too could cycle here!

I don’t have any races planned this year (until cross season comes back around). I had signed up for the BMO Vancouver half marathon, but couldn’t run it due to some health issues. But other than that, the plan for this summer doesn’t include any events. I do have a work-related trip to France later in the summer that the husband and I are turning into a mini-cycling holiday, however. The plan is to rent some bikes and spend a few days cycling around some back roads. If you are like me, then that sounds as intimidating as it does fun – when we planned this, I had never ridden for more than 92 kms (in last summer’s fondo) and I’ve never done anything long (or even long-ish) on multiple consecutive days; I generally take the opportunity to get lots of rest after a long ride. Well, I am intimidated no longer thanks to last weekend’s riding camp with 337Multisport.

The overall: We really enjoyed it. It was a nice cycling holiday close enough to home to make it an affordable (in terms of money and time) getaway. We’d recommend it to others without hesitation. It’s great for someone from Vancouver, or even Calgary or Seattle, as it’s a pretty easy place to get to via a short airplane ride/drive from either of those places. The island is a bit more of a hassle/expense because of the ferry expense and time, but still close enough that it’s doable (and heck, you can probably fly in from the island too).

If that’s all you want to know, feel free to skip the details. There are lots of pictures below. Don’t miss those. You’ll see where you’ll get to ride if you sign up for next year’s Osoyoos bike camp!

The backstory: At the Kits Energy kick-off social evening someone made an announcement about a bike camp weekend that they were running in Osoyoos (Okanagan area of BC) in May. My husband heard it and declared that we were going. I was a bit less enthusiastic, mostly I was thinking about how we would manage to fit it in (i.e., what were we going to do with the boy). But it did sound like fun, and it would be good training for France, so I gave him the go ahead to at least get more information.

Fast-forward a few weeks, we found out more details, and sorted out arrangements for the little man (thanks Grandma!), eventually sorted out payments, and so were committed. Good thing I don’t like wasting money, because as the time came closer I was more and more anxious about the camp. Remember I said I’d never gone more than 92 km, and never done two long rides in a row? Well, the camp was three days straight of cycling, and at a pace that I knew I could keep up for one day, but was doubtful I could do it for two, let alone three. And I was still reacquainting myself with my bike saddle, so who knew how that was going to go. I reassured myself with the website for the camp, which gave a range of distances for each day’s planned ride. I took that to mean that there would be a longer distance for the fasties like my husband, and a shorter one for slower (i.e., less strong) riders like myself. Turns out I was wrong about this, but that was OK. (One of the things that makes riding something we can both enjoy is to not ride together. He’s much stronger, fitter, and faster than me. Works better for both of us to just be honest about this.) 

The camp was in Osoyoos, close enough to us that it was easy to get to, far enough away that it was a getaway weekend. It’s hotter there than here, and the terrain is different enough that the riding conditions are quite different from riding here in Vancouver. I’ll get back to this later.
We arrived and Tim, one of the organizers, came out to greet us and help us settle into our accommodations. We were staying in a local condo complex, the riders in one large condo and the coaches in another. This was the first time they had offered this camp, and it was super small, just us and one other couple. The other couple had done a previous camp with the same people in Vegas a few months earlier, which was a good sign. (They liked it enough to come back.) From Tim’s description of them I was a bit intimidated though; it seemed like I was going to be spit out the back or struggling to keep up all weekend. Turns out I was wrong, and even if I had been much less strong than everyone else, I totally would have been OK. 

The coaches’ condo served as the breakfast place and afternoon/evening hangout place, so after settling in a bit we headed downstairs to meet the other riders (Bassim and Colleen) and coaches (Tim, Ron, Rob, and later, Erin). As I mentioned, the two other riders already knew the crew from their earlier campy, so they were all there chatting and joking around. It was a very comfortable and friendly vibe, and everyone seemed really nice, so the two introverts (us) started to relax a bit if not totally join in right away.

I’ll spare you blow by blow commentary on the whole 3 days, and just give you the highlights/basic schedule.

Breakfasts were provided as part of the camp. They were self-serve style food good for fueling a ride: steel cut oats, fresh fruits, yogurt, granola, bagels (& coffee).
Lunches, also provided as part of the camp. It was make your own sandwiches with good buns and pita bread, a variety of meats and cheeses, hummus and veggies. Nothing fancy, but healthy and fresh real food. For both breakfast and lunch there was always plenty of food. Even someone with a very large appetite would not go hungry.
Dinners were a mix of joint and solo evenings (in terms of planning).
Thursday: dinner was as a group (everyone responsible for their own bills) at a local Italian restaurant. Good fuel for the next day’s ride. It was also a good chance to get to know everyone a bit.
Friday: riders were on their own for dinner, but we were invited to join in a bbq in the downstairs condo. They had sausages and buns, and we were free to bring anything else we might like. We chose to go to a local winery for dinner. We don’t get a chance to go out alone very often (we have an 8 year old), so took the opportunity for a date night.
Saturday: group dinner at a different local Italian restaurant. For this one, the food was included as part of the camp. Riders were responsible for their own drinks (totally fair).
Sunday: Sunday was another ‘on your own’ day. But we were again invited to head downstairs for a BBQ. They made up some nice simple pasta and Bassim and Colleen brought enough steaks for everyone (thanks!), so those got thrown on the grill too. We were all needing a little (or a lot) of iron by that point in time, so the steaks were especially good. There were a few bottles of wine floating around that evening too, and since it was the last day of camp (and no one had to drive anywhere), people felt a little more able to drink a few glasses.
Other: Tim and the gang had plenty of snacks and sparkling and still water, juice, and beer in their condo, which we were welcome to as well.

On day 1 there were 2 coaches out riding with the group and one person in the support vehicle, on days 2 & 3 it was three riding and one in the vehicle. As it turned out, my husband was the fastest of the riders by quite a bit, but the rest of us were fairly even, so he rode off the front with one of the coaches, and on day 1, we three were further back with one coach riding between us. I was a bit faster, but only on the hilly bits. I find that on hills if I don’t go my pace I have real trouble, so I have to do my thing there. On the flats I am happy to stay with a group and save energy (drafting is great). (Although as it turns out, Bassim was actually stronger on the hills than me, he held back a lot to keep Colleen company, and since he is not a fan of going fast downhill, ended up being a bit slower.) So in flatter areas the three of us were closer together, and in the hilly bits I rode a bit in front, stopping to wait at major intersections, etc., but only ever very briefly. On the second and third days there were three coaches riding with us, so there was a bit more opportunity to spread out and still be well supported. So all in all, the support level is good for 2-3 groups of riders of different abilities, which is about right.

Also under the topic of support: the vehicle was well stocked with water and snacks. Mostly we were encouraged to bring our own nutrition (which everyone did), but there was plenty of extra supplied by the camp if we needed it. Plus water to fill our bottles and salty snacks, which I wanted during the rides more than I would ever have suspected. One day we did just about run out of extra water, but the support vehicle made a hasty trip to a store to restock, so there was never a problem. (They noticed they might need some more water before it ran out.) It was also well stocked with supplies, as we found out when my husband blew a tire (yes a tire, not a tube) half way into the ride on the 3rd day. (He was riding tubeless, but always carries a tube just in case. But that wasn’t enough.)

There were plenty of stops planned along the way. That was where the vehicle stopped and we regrouped, got more information on the next bit of the route, etc. There may have been a few too many for stronger faster riders, but presumably, they could always decide to skip one or two. 

This wasn't a training camp, it was more of a guided cycling weekend 'holiday' (for people who think riding for hours every day is a holiday) so there wasn't any intense coaching. But the coaches did give the riders pointers, how many depending on the rider and their skill level. It was very individual. (For instance, I was reminded about my riding position.)  They were mostly more like guides who provided a lot of encouragement. Part of this is that they assume you have a certain level of skill on the bike. This camp is not a learn to ride camp or a learn to ride in a group camp. It's a go out riding with other people who enjoy riding, get support, and get better at riding kind of camp.

The routes:
Remember I said above that I thought there were going to be two different distances each day? Well, there weren’t. (Maybe there would have been had there been more people.) The plan was for 100+ish kms, 76 kms, and then 92 kms on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday respectively. The routes were great. There was climbing each and every day, but it was always accompanied by lots of encouragement and cheers upon making it to the top. Day 1 we climbed “The wall” which will mean something to people who ride in the south Okanagan. On Day 2 we conquered Seacrest Hill, and on Day 3 we rode to the turnoff for Apex. That day might have been the hardest even though it wasn’t the longest, partly because it was hot hot hot. But it was a beautiful route, with one of the funnest descents I’ve ever done. I’m pretty sure my husband is trying to convince a friend to go ride that day 3 route with him again right now. The team really did a great job picking routes that were just the right amount of challenging for less strong riders like me, but that were also enjoyable (and physically worthwhile) for stronger riders like my husband.

The accommodations:
Shared space in large condos. Each couple had their own bed and bathrooms. We didn’t use the kitchen in ours, as the food prep was all done in the shared condo, which was hangout central. We had the Giro feed on our ipads, and a connector, so it was on the big screen TV a lot that weekend. (Saved from a legal feed we’d paid for, so the time difference didn’t matter.) We really liked the other couple there, so this arrangement was perfectly fine. It also kept the costs reasonable. And really, when you’ve spent all day around someone in your spandex, sharing a condo isn’t really a big deal. There were washing facilities in the condo, so kit could get washed every day, which is a good idea even if you bring enough not to need it. (Keeps the kit less stinky.) The complex had a pool, but we never made it there. Truth be told we were usually too zonked to do much after the rides. (And had the Giro to watch, which would have been hard at the pool.)

I was actually kind of worried about a) being able to do long/longish rides for multiple days in a row (muscles, endurance) and b) whether my saddle would let me. My saddle was fine until the last day, and it never got bad enough that I considered not finishing. I have conquered my butt! But more importantly, I left with a much greater sense of what I am capable of as a rider. I am not fast, but I did finish, each and every day. I felt stronger as the weekend went on, not weaker. So I left with a confidence that I didn't have beforehand. And I am set up with a great base at the start of the season. It was totally worth it. I never would have done anything like this on my own. Thanks Tim, Ron, Rob, & Erin!

I think that’s it. Although I think that for next time, if they know they have mostly slower riders (like me), it might be a good idea to start a little earlier, so the ride finished up slightly earlier. Note: I am NOT a morning person, so starting at 9 is much more comfortable for me. I do regularly drag myself out of bed for early starts, but not without a lot of grumbling. Even so, I think that even 30 minutes earlier would be a better start time for the ride as a whole, given the potential for heat there, and the fact that most of the wineries close by 5 (and they are another major draw to the area, although we were quite fine with not going to many wineries this trip).

Photos! (almost all provided by Tim, another part of the package apparently)
Ready to get rolling on day 1

Making my way up 'the wall'

Waiting for Bassim (who could have beaten me) at the top of the wall.

Colleen, me, and Bassim enjoying the roads after the wall.
Someone came back to make sure I was still OK (and even better, still enjoying the camp) after the wall.

At the end of an 'I'll race you' moment (he beat me, but not by much!)

The group, happy after conquering Seacrest Hill



More scenery

More scenery