Monday, March 30, 2009

Things I have learned...

I probably already knew some of these but it is good to be reminded of them from time to time. However, first off, big congrats to Kirsten Sweetland for totally killing the first world cup of the season in Mooloolaba, AUS. What a great win to start the season.
So what did I learn:
1 - There are alot of streams and creeks in the Pisgah National Forest, NC where I am now doing most of my MTB training.
2 - When it rains alot, like say all week, these streams and creeks get much bigger.
3 - MTB trails in Pisgah cross over these creeks and streams alot, and even sometimes become streams themselves.
4 - If you decide to ride your bike through the stream instead of hiking it across you should always remember to gear down as the other side of the stream bed is usually pretty steep and if you don't you run the risk of not making it up the other side.
5 - I don't like biking with wet feet.
6 - Mountain bike shoes, while better than road biking shoes, have very little traction.
7 - Wet logs are very slippery.
8 - There is a lot of climbing in the Pisgah National Forest.
9 - Having lots of gears on your mountain bike only helps if they are working.
10 - Your calves really tighten up when you have to push your bike uphill endlessly.
11 - My enjoyment of mountain biking decreases exponentially the more I have to push my bike uphill, but sometimes you get a really great view at the top.
12 - No matter how good I think my mountain biking is getting there are still lots of things I can't, won't, and may never be able to ride, and there are alot of these in the Pisgah National Forest.
Yah, I don't think so
I'm not sure anyone is riding up this one, I had a hard time just climbing up it with my bike
Needless to say my ride on Sunday was a little fustrating, though I have to admit less frustating than two of the other groups of riders I ran into who were all sitting down next to their bikes looking rather defeated. Of course the third group of riders that flew by me going downhill on their big travel all-mountain bikes as I was struggling to push my bike uphill thought I was downright nuts. I haven't exactly figured out the best direction to ride the trails around here. It seems for the most part the best way to ride is up the fireroads and down the singletrack. Oh well, live and learn right?!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Raining Again

I realize that many of the posts lately have focused on the weather, but if you live in the East half of the country you know why. It just feels like it has been a really wet, cold winter and now spring. It started raining this morning and is suppose to rain solid until Sunday. While it certainly messes up my workout plans for the week, I feel so bad for all the Canadian cyclists that all seem to have picked this week to train in Greenville SC. Hope you brought your rain gear. It's been a while since the last post so I will try to update a little bit of all the goings on. Got back from Miami last Monday and took a couple of recovery days before getting back to it. Headed out with local cyclist Paul on Wednesday for a great road ride through the Asheville countryside. The great thing about winding country roads instead of the perfectly straight ones at home is there are never any long sections of headwinds. Thursday, on the recommendation of one of the local MTB girls that race the snake with me, I headed out to one of the local trails for some hill repeats. Trace Ridge Gap turned out to be one of the steepest, rockiest trails I have ridden, never mind tried to do hill repeats on. Hopefully it will be really good prep for the upcoming races, even had a hike-a-bike section to really get the HR going.
Saturday I had a good hard tempo run planned so Willie suggested I join "the girls" for the Dupont Forest 12km Trail Run just outside Brevard NC so Willie, Nicole, Julia, Tamara, Kimmie and I piled into Patricia's SUV for the quick trip down to the Dupont Forest. What a great race, a nice mix of single track and dirt forest roads with lots of climbing. Team Innov8 member and top USA trail runner Amber Moran took the pace out hard for the women and I settled in second with a really great group of men. We held a nice steady pace until the halfway water station, where the group mysteriously exploded. One minute I was running in a group of five, the next all by myself. Not quite sure what happened. Anyways, ended up second and totally scored some great prizes: a Nathan's water bottle, a race pint glass, and a $75 gift certificate to the local running store, wow! The race even gave out great wicking race t-shirts. Willie and Nicole also picked up 3rd places in their age groups and everyone had tons of fun. Sunday was a long MTB ride so I decided to head to a different set of trails further south in the Davidson River area of the Pisgah National Forest. Ended up being a combination of singletrack and fire roads and I only managed to get lost once, but got to see a great little waterfall because of it. As seems to be the trend here, there wasn't a flat section of trail so it was either straight up or straight down. I really feel like my skills are getting better as there were definitely sections I rode that would have totally freaked me out last year, lots of root gardens and big drops.

As I mentioned, Greenville SC seems to be a popular place for Canadian cycling teams and groups to train. Lots of great riding and plenty of rental houses. A group from my local bike shop in Guelph, Speedriver Bicycle, was down for the week and I made the trip down the mountain on Tuesday to join them for the ride to the Saluda Bakery. I think this is one of George Hincapie's favourite rides. It ended up being about a 120km out and back with the beautiful climb up to Saluda. The highlight of the ride is suppose to be sticky buns at the bakery when you get to the top, but someone forgot to check their hours and they just so happened to be closed on Tuesday. No sticky buns!!! Very disappointed, but we headed back into town to the local coffee shop which was sporting a collection of bikes learned up against the window. As it turns out a whole other group out of Toronto, Lapdogs cycling and Z-Team, were already inside enjoying latte's. We grabbed some coffee and snacks ourselves then headed back down the mountain. The problem with training with cyclist is after the ride they all get to sit down and relax, fix some dinner, while I had to jump in the car and get to the pool for a weight then swim session. Oh to be a single sport athlete again.

So that's about it. I am now sitting at my computer, hoping the rain will magically go away so I can go out and play on my MTB again. Probably won't happen but one can always hope.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Unbelievable... twice in the same weekend

I shouldn't have added the last sentence on yesterday's blog. Sure enough I arrive in Charlotte, no bike and American Airlines goes 0 for 2 on the season. Usually it's three strikes and your out, but I definitely will be booking a different airline next race.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Miami International Triathlon

Today was the Miami International Triathlon in, you guessed it, Miami. More specifically out on Key Biscayne where it is very windy. It wasn't exactly the race I wanted to have but considering the training I have been doing and the lack of rest I had going into the race it was a very solid start to the season. The weekend got off to a very early start with me leaving for the airport at 2am Friday morning. I rolled into Charlotte no problem with lots of time to spare. American Airlines dinged me for an extra $100 to fly my bike which isn't a surprise, but then they forgot to load it on the airplane. This I have a problem with. If you are going to charge me that much extra you at least better make sure it actually gets there. I arrived in Miami at 8:30am where my homestay host for the weekend Iliana was waiting to pick me up. We waited around for an hour and a half for my bags then were told they didn't make it. As I was filling out my claims form my duffel bag came out on the carousel but still no bike. They told me it would be on the next flight out that arrived that afternoon at 1:30pm and would be delivered to me. By 4pm there was still no sign of the bike and no update on the website. I scrapped the plan to go out for a spin and headed over to the pool for a quick swim, then to a surprise birthday party for one of Iliana's triathlon friends. At 10pm there was still no bike and the website stated that the bag had been picked up by the delivery company at 5pm and it was out for delivery, hmmm. Saturday morning Iliana headed out early to do some training while I tried to sleep in only to have strange dreams about my bike. At 7am I called American's customer service line to inquire about my bike. Not only did they not know why the bike hadn't been delivered but they couldn't get a hold of anyone at the delivery company. Not good. The race meeting was at 1pm and bikes needed to be check-in then. Trying not to get overly excited about the whole thing I sent a quick email to the race coordinator that I might have a problem and was there any options. She phoned me right back with a reassurance that there would be any number of triathletes from the local Miami triathlon club, the Hammerheads, that would provide me with a top of the line bike for the race and she would get right on it. 10am, she calls back with the news that the bike shop sponsor for the race was going to loan me a brand new Cervelo P3 Carbon with everything I needed to race, shoes, helmet, whatever. Of course as we are talking my bike finally showed up, though I seriously considered pretending it was still missing. A quick build and we were off to the race site for the meeting and a quick swim, bike, run. The race meeting was pretty much the usual except for the non-drafting rules which since I have been racing Xterra recently and ITU before then where a little new to me and a bit confusing. It's not that the theory behind the rules were all that tough to get a handle on, but rather that the pro's had one set of rules and the age groupers a completely different set and since it was a two loop course we were all going to be riding together on our second lap. The age groupers were to stay far right, single file, and 3 bike lengths apart except to pass and they had 15sec to complete that. We were using the stagger rule and 7 bikes lengths difference between you and the rider directly in front of you (which is the second rider in front of you because of the stagger). Add the two together and things start to get pretty confusing. Add to that there technically wasn't a center line as we were riding on one side of a divided street and things got downright ugly.
My bike finally racked up and ready to race
Sunday, race morning was another early one. Race start was 7am (sunrise was 7:32am?!!!) so up at 3:45am for breakfast and off to the race. They had plenty of lights so you could see in transition but warming up was in the dark. The only cool part was they had put glow sticks on all the swim buoys so it look like we were swimming down an airport runway. It ended up being quite light by the start so no worries there. There were only 8 pro women racing and we had our own wave so it was a clean start. I was hoping to catch Sarah McLarty's feet but missed them and ended up towing Jasmine Oeinck and Joanna Zeiger around the swim course. The other four girls weren't swim specialists. Out onto the bike course the first lap was great, lots of room, no drafting issues. The second lap was a whole different story and I unfortunately felt like I spent more energy trying to figure out where I was supposed to be riding than actually pedalling. As optimistic as I was about my fitness it was also pretty obvious that I had spent far more time on my mountain bike this winter than my TT bike and quickly lost touch with the girls that I had swum with and was quickly being reeled in by the bikers behind me. Jillian Peterson, who eventually went onto win, rode by me like I was standing still. I rode into transition with fellow Canuck Cynthia Wilson and headed out onto the run in fifth place. The run was solid but I lost another place to Michelle Leblanc and finished sixth. Lucky for me they paid six deep. As I said, not a great race but certainly a solid way to start the season.
Miami style, after the race Iliana and I joined up with a bunch of her friends that had raced or volunteered and headed to the beach for some relaxing. I didn't bring my camera so once they email me pictures I will get them up. I was a good white girl and remembered to put on plenty of sun screen. Tomorrow morning it is up bright and early again for the flight back to Charlotte and drive up to Asheville. Hopefully my bike will travel with me this time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Racing begins..

I am always a bit surprised when the first race of the season comes around. It seems to sneak up on me from nowhere. This year I am headed to the Miami International to get the season started. I haven't raced a road triathlon in a while so it should be interesting to see if mountain biking has strengthened my riding or not. I did a short set of intervals on the TT bike earlier this week averaging some end of season like power so I am very optimistic, and with no real pressure on this early in the year it should be a fun trip. The only sucky part is going to be that I have to get up at 2am to drive to the airport. I apparently didn't really think through the scheduling when I booked myself on the 6:10am flight from Charlotte to Miami and take into account it is a 2hr drive from Asheville to Charlotte. Oh well, I get into Miami around 8:30am so lots of time for a nap.
As mentioned I am now in Asheville, North Carolina. Last Friday I packed up all my junk and said goodbye to JR and Ollie, my surrogate family in Alabama for the past two months. I can't believe how much stuff I have with me. My car was certainly near capacity driving down, but I had both bikes inside the car to keep them out of the snow and salt. I don't remember acquiring much stuff while I was there, but somehow now with both bikes on the roof the car was bordering on full again!!! I really don't know how people manage to go on training camps where they have to fly. I would never make it home.

Poor little Toyota, any more stuff and I might have had to pedal my feet flinstone style

Saturday I towed the line again for the last running of the Snake Creek Gap MTB TT, my second time for the season, and what a difference. The conditions where near perfect and much drier than the last time. I also jumped in next to Craig Evans near the front of the waves and avoided getting stuck behind riders up the long single track climbs. Overall I shaved almost 30mins off my official time (about 20mins off my actual riding time as I skipped the tune-up at halfway this time) and had the fastest time for women outside the money class. Willow Koerber, mtb pro stud, showed up and pretty much worked over the women's field with a 3:17.

After the race it was a quick drive up to Asheville. Here I am lucky to be staying with one of the local cyclist/triathletes, Willie, who is also a member of an all women's cycling team based in town. In just a week I have had so many offers from people to show me the local trails and cycling routes I am a bit overwhelmed. I had heard great things about Asheville and how active the city is and it is certainly living up to its reputation. With the race this weekend I have only managed one outing on the trails, but I can't wait to get back and see all there is to offer. Hopefully the snow won't melt too quickly up North so I can spend some more time here. I guess that one is a little out of my control. Anyways, off to bed as 2am is quickly approaching, ouch!!!

The 'Ollie' Dog

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow in Alabama in March?!!!

JR's House - Can you believe it?
I woke up yesterday morning and after looking out the window could have sworn that I had been secretly teleported back to Canada. It had snowed about 3 inches overnight and turned everything into a white winter wonderland. All the local kids thought that it was great and snowmen sprouted up on just about every front lawn, even sleds appeared. I was surprised people here even owned them. I have to admit I was not as amused. I know that I am Canadian and as such should be used to this kind of weather, but I really dislike heading out to train in the cold weather, especially when I am down south on training camp. Oh well, my only outdoor workout was a long run so I headed out completely overdressed and ended up overheating for most of the run, figures.
MTB Clinic Classmates Getting out on the trails to practice new skills (still smiling)
It also figures that just as I am about to move training locations the weather is going to be beautiful. I wrapped up my mountain bike clinic in Vegas last weekend and now it is up to me to keep up with practicing all the new drills and techniques I learned. I finally got out for a ride on the trails on Sunday afternoon and besides my brain being completely overloaded it was a fun loop, lots of trail sections cut right into cliff walls and a nice set of whoop-di-doos. The trip home was a total pain in the behind as I had to drive back to LA to drop off the rental car only to fly back to Vegas for a 3hour layover on the way to Birmingham. I didn't end up getting in till 1am. I am finishing up my stay here in Birmingham this week then heading up to Asheville, North Carolina for the last couple of weeks of training before heading home. I have heard such great things about the trails there I couldn't pass up the opportunity to stop and do some training. I am making a short stop over in Dalton, Georgia Friday and Saturday to have another go at the Snake Creek Gap MTB Time Trial. Hopefully it will dry out nicely and the ride won't be quite the mud affair it was the last time.
View of Lake Mead from Bootleg Canyon