Sunday, November 15, 2015

Glorious Fall Riding

We have had a gorgeous and unseasonably warm fall this year, which is probably unnatural and worrisome from a scientific perspective, but it sure is nice when you are an Alberta cyclist! I was able to ride almost every weekend, up until yesterday, November 14! I rode alone most of the time this year since I am getting pretty slow and can't go far but I loved these wonderful, solo Saturday rides out in the country east of the city. This year, I saw the beauty of the prairies in a new light, having taken it for granted for too long. The Alberta sky is magnificent and the landscape is stunning in its expansiveness. What a treat to be out on the road so late into the season!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Roger's Harvest Ride

This morning, I did the Roger's Harvest Ride with two friends. There were 40, 60, and 100K route options and we had each chosen different ones but when we met at the start, we decided to do the ride together. I had I opted to do the 40K (which was actually 45K) and my friends decided to join me. It was a slightly chilly, lightly rainy day but the mood was great and we were excited to be there. The start line is at a community hall in a small town just east of Edmonton and the course winds around the countryside, past farms, lakes, and bush. It was a beautiful course, green, slightly rolling but not too much to manage at all, almost no traffic. We rode in a line and talked all the way. All of us were perfectly dressed so we were warm and didn't mind the drizzle at all. At the end of the ride, lunch was served in the hall. It was lasagna, kale salad, buns, and cookies and it was delicious! Once lunch was over, we went to sit in my Jeep and we toasted the ride with some wine (but not too much). It was a wonderful event and a great day with a couple of fun friends!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Race Report: ChelanMan Sprint 2015

After doing the Across the Lake Swim yesterday, I got in my Jeep and drove to Chelan, Washington to do the ChelanMan sprint triathlon. I've done this race before (the Olympic) and I decided to do it again since it worked timing-wise with the Kelowna swim and my trip onward to Seattle to see my brother. I also just wanted to do a race again and knew that this would be a good one in a very beautiful place.

Here in Chelan, I met up with a long-time friend, who came to cheer, sherpa, support, and take pictures of me. Once settled into the hotel, we went to pick up my race package and check my bike into transition. We went for supper and then to Safeway to get some breakfast stuff and made an early night of it. I slept like a dead thing. This is the first time ever that I didn't have any race anxiety.

This morning, we took the shuttle to the park where the race started. I set up my transition and took note of my bike's location. We were pretty early so we sat by the lake and enjoyed the view. It was warm and sunny and the water was smooth as glass. Eventually, I pulled on my wetsuit and walked down to the beach.

The Swim - 800 metres
I was in the third of three waves with everyone 40 and over. Apparently that's the old folks! There were about 100 of us. I got stuck behind a couple of people who waited to start after the gun went off but quickly found my way around them and got going. The water is gorgeous. It's perfectly clean and clear and bottom is sandy. It's almost like swimming in tropical water. As I swam, I found the white line that runs six feet down, which makes it easy to swim a nice straight line. Of course, everyone wants to follow that line so there was a bit of congestion along that narrow stretch and I never quite found that open spot to swim in. I felt calm and relaxed, although I realized that my arms still felt yesterday's 2100m swim. We rounded a couple of buoys and in no time we were heading back toward the beach. For the last 200m or so the water is very shallow. I swam over some rocks with only about 6 inches clearance. A couple of times, my hand touched the sandy bottom. Being that shallow, I think it made me slow down without realizing it because it gives you the feeling that it's time to stop and stand up. Once I was very close to the swim exit, I did stand up and run out of the water. My swim time was 19:23. I was OK with that but would have been a little happier with even a minute faster. I felt great in the swim and enjoyed it. Looking back on it now, I realize that there were some frustrations but they weren't of great consequence and it was definitely a pleasant swim.

T1 - Let me tell you, this took way too long! (3:41) Like a complete and total newbie, I couldn't find my bike! I had landmarked its location before the race but for some reason I couldn't get my bearings in the moment. I realized after the race that a neon flag that had been on the end of my bike rack wasn't there anymore during the race and the small tree I thought was by my bike was the wrong small tree. Sheesh! Finally, after wasting at least a minute, I found it and carried on with what would have been a good transition!

The Bike - 21 km
The bike course was an out and back that ran entirely along the lake. It was a beautiful, rolling course with good spectator support. This is the first race I've done in years in which I didn't ride my tri bike (I sold it last week). This time, I rode my road bike, which is more comfortable for me with my hips. It was a pleasure to ride and it performed well. I felt great on the bike. The temperature was heading for 36 degrees and already it was around 27 when I was on the bike course. I made sure I drank plenty of Gatorade and I ate a few Sharkies, too. I rode as hard as I could, playing leap frog with a 14 year old on a mountain bike (I beat him!). I totally loved the ride and loved how my bike felt. My time was 47:06, which pleased me, considering my "modest" training level this year and the loss of strength and flexibility that has come with the arthritis in my hips.

T2 - This transition went a little better! Bike racked, helmet off, shoes changed, off and running. 1:42. I felt like it was pretty slick. The extra few seconds were because of a bit of extra distance to run between the dismount line and the transition area.

The Run - 5K
The run follows the same course as the bike ride - out and back along the lake. This was the part that I knew would be impacted by my hip situation. I never expected this race to be a high performance event for me. I knew I would walk the run. For most of the first half, I did walk, although I tried to run for a minute or two here and there. At the turnaround, I felt suddenly peppy and thought, "I can run all the way back!" I must have warmed up and settled into the run. So I started to run and felt great! The turnaround is at slightly more than halfway so I probably ran about 2K. I was pretty pleased with myself, since I haven't run for a year and a half and my hips are pretty sh!#ty. I ran that glorious home stretch, finishing the run in 43:40.

Total time: 1:55:34 (I was not DFL at all.)

This is about 20-25 minutes longer than usual for a sprint for me. Reasons for the extra time: lack of training due to crappy hips, slowing down in the swim when the water got shallow, losing my bike like a fool(!), and walking most of the run.

All things considered though, this was a great experience! It felt so, so good to race again and it was a great event to do. I was happy with how I did given the circumstances. It made me feel like I was part of it all again. That, after all, was the real goal.

Chelan is a hot, beautiful wine-making region so naturally, some very excellent wine was consumed post-race.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Across the Lake Swim - Kelowna 2015

A few months ago, I was googling around, trying to find information about the water temperature in the lake near where my brother lives. As I wandered around the Internet, I happened upon a website that reported the water temperature in Lake Okanagan, which turned out to be the website for the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna. I figured the triathlon gods had led me to that website and were telling me to go do it!

I registered for the event and posted the news on Facebook. Right away, two of my friends also registered and we made a plan to do it together.

Today was race day! The conditions were absolutely perfect - clear blue sky, 22 degrees, water temp 22 degrees, calm water.

We drove to City Park in Kelowna and were early enough to get a parking spot right in the park. We pulled our wetsuits on halfway, checked our morning clothes bags, took some pictures of ourselves, and then hopped on the shuttle bus that took us to the start line on the west side of the lake. We were among the first of 1200 swimmers to arrive so we sat on a rock and chatted until we were able to do a warm-up swim. The water was warm and beautiful.

We started in waves. I was in wave 6 of 10. One friend was in an earlier wave and the other was in the wave after me. I stood and watched each wave go until it was my turn to get into the water. We had to swim out to a starting corral, which was about 100m off the shore. I took my time adjusting my googles and swam slowly to the start. I had just made it to the corral and the starter said "Go!"; at least I was close enough to the start to jump on it and get going!

The first couple hundred metres were in fairly shallow water, maybe 8 feet deep, so the bottom was visible. Sometimes I swam over weeds. Weeds freak me out. I always feel like they're reaching up to grab me. I tried to look at them as if they were lovely little gardens and that seemed to work for me. I was happy when it got a little deeper and I couldn't see them anymore.

I started with about 125 people but we spread out fairly quickly and were dotted across the surface of the lake. I felt like I was the only swimmer in the lake sometimes, although I knew there were hundreds of people behind me and others around me. I felt relaxed and comfortable and kept a nice rhythm. Sometimes I smiled under water at how lucky I was to be able to do that and to be there on such a beautiful day.

Sighting was easy all the way and as I neared the beach, I could see the finishing arch. It always seems that you can swim and swim and that point on the beach never gets closer! A few hundred metres out, I could hear the cheering and it made me swim faster. Finally, I stood up and ran under the arch. I heard my friend shouting my name. I saw the clock and wondered for a second whether I had swum to the wrong arch and maybe there was another one farther down the beach. It was a silly thought but I expected this to be a very slow swim since I'm not very fit this year. I'm not a fast swimmer but I did this 2100m swim in 47:17, which is a good pace for me and a bit of a surprise today.

I found my friends in the park and we got dressed and shared stories of our swims. It was a stellar experience for all of us - a perfect day and a very well-organized event. After we packed up, we went to McDonald's for Egg McMuffins and coffee and took them back to our hotel room. Once we were fed, we toasted our swim (at 10:30 in the morning) with some wonderful Okanagan wine. The perfect finish!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Allan Beach Triathlon

Today, my friend Marilyn and I did the Allan Beach Triathlon as a team. I've been swimming a fair bit with my triathlete friends and Marilyn suggested that we do this race together so that I could stay involved in the sport despite my crappy hips. She's been very encouraging and supportive.

We were registered for the Olympic distance with another friend but she called us on the morning of the race to say that she had been sick all night. Marilyn and I went to the race anyway. We switched into the sprint distance event and tried to recruit a runner for our team to replace our missing friend. Alas, we had no takers. Then we got the sudden idea that I would do the swim and Marilyn would do the bike as planned and then we would both walk the run together so that we could finish (Marilyn is injured, too, and can't run). 

The air was very cold on race morning but the water felt warm and wonderful. I very much enjoyed the swim. When I finished, I handed the timing chip off to Marilyn and she set out on the bike. When she came back, we both went out for the run. We walked at a moderate pace and enjoyed the sunny day, which had warmed up quite a bit since the race start. Our goal was just to bring the timing chip back to the finish line so we didn't stress at all about our speed. Some of our friends thought it was really cool that we decided to do that. We joked that it took two of us to replace our sick runner. One young guy who was volunteering said to us that he hoped he'd be as active as we were at "our age"! We said, "We're injured Ironmen, not sweet old ladies!" Seriously!

This was a great day. We were pleased with ourselves for getting the race done despite our injuries and missing teammate. We were happy to be there, to be part of the race, to see our friends. It was my first race since 2013 and it felt just great to feel the race atmosphere again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Hips Don't Lie

Once again, it's been a while since I've posted. I haven't been much of a triathlete lately because of my hips. They have been getting worse and it has interfered considerably with my participation in the sport. I've known for a while that I have arthritis in both hips. I managed to do Ironman Mont-Tremblant on pretty crappy joints but since then, it's just deteriorated. I decided to have cortisone injections last December and when I booked that, I ended up being enrolled in a "hip study," in which the researchers were investigating the effects of steroid injections. As part of that, I got two MRIs, two ultrasounds, and a physiotherapy assessment so I benefited tremendously by participating. What that study confirmed for me was that my arthritis is severe. I guess I knew deep down that it was getting pretty bad. I just didn't want to think about the ramifications of having severe arthritis. Triathlon is important to me and I imagined that this would mean the end of life as I knew it.

The time came, though, when I realized that I had to face it and deal with it, and see what life was like on the other side. I actually began to see that it would be better to have the surgery and restore my function rather than hold on the way it is now. I started to view hip replacement surgery not as the end of my life but as a renewal of it. So today I went to the Hip and Knee Clinic and was put on the list for hip replacement surgery. The left one will be first but the right one will have to be done, too.

The surgery will probably be sometime in the winter of 2016. While I wait, I still want to see myself as healthy and active, to keep moving as much as possible, and to build my strength and flexibility as much as possible so I keep living while I wait and go into the surgery from a position of strength.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, doctors don't tend to focus on health and well-being. They are interventionists who respond to illness and they aren't accustomed to working with triathletes! The surgeon I saw today told me that people with artificial joints play golf with golf carts and maybe take up bridge or go for walks with their dogs. I said, "I'm envisioning a very different life than that after I have this surgery!" He probably thought I was nuts but I have every intention at this point of doing another Ironman. And that is completely realistic: Swimming and cycling are great for people with hip replacements. Running will wear out the artificial joint too quickly but I can train in the water for running and walk a lot of the run during the race.

This has been a time of great change in my life and I wish I didn't have to lose my ability to participate in triathlon right now. It would have been a supportive aspect of my life. But it is what it is and so, all things considered, I am happy to be where I am now with this. This surgery will help me get back on track and be able to resume a fully active life. Onward and upward!