Friday, July 24, 2009

Refreshed and Recharged

Jeffrey Cottage
I have always felt that taking a good mid-season break is key to being able to perform well at the end of the season, so last week I did just that. I also got the chance to go watch my sister race in the Gravenhurst Triathlon and spend some time at the family cottage on Lake of Bays. Held on beautiful Lake Muskoka this triathlon race is similar to the Escape from Alcatraz race where the competitors are ferried out to the race start by two classic Muskoka steamships, the Wenonah and the Segwun (North America's oldest operating steamship). As this summer seems to be going the weather looked pretty iffy but ended up being dry and sunny throughout the race. Karen kept up the Jeffrey tradition and smoked the men and the women out of the water and finished up winning her age group. Must have been my awesome cheering.(check out all the pics)
Unable to simple do nothing for the week I decided since I was up in cottage country anyways and the weather was looking pretty good to jump in the 5th MTB race of the Ontario Cup series at Buckwallow. This course is really unique with virtually no hills but tons of bedrock and roots, big drops and tight turns. While I had a lot of fun and tested my technical skills, the lack of cardio busting hills gave advantage to the more experienced riders and I took 4th.
This week has been pretty mellow, just getting back into the training routine with next week back to the grindstone. I also finally uploaded all the pictures from the Vermont race.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Xterra Northeast Cup Vermont

After two beautiful sunny dry days the skies opened up as we were headed out to the pre-race pasta party at the Mt Ellen lodge, Sugarbush Resort and the rain poured down. Gallows humour was already in full swing as we all knew the bike course was likely a river of mud running down the mountain. It let up after a couple of hours and looked like it was going to clear but I remember waking up to lighting and thunder with pouring rain about 2am. After a rather fitful night of sleep it was up a 6am for a 9am start. In ironic fashion it was a beautiful sunny day and we were all going to get covered head to toe in mud!!! I had been trying to stay positive for the days leading up to the race and was only doing a mediocre job at it. I had aggravated my right Achilles on a running interval workout the weekend before and had come down with a cold Wednesday morning complete with sore throat and running noes. Add to that the muddy technical bike course and nothing but uphills and downhills on the run course and I was feeling rather unmotivated. I was surprised and happy that the stomach was full of butterflies and nervous energy was flowing as that meant that somewhere deep inside I truly did care about the race and just needed to get the brain on board and thinking in the right direction. As it was a two transition race Emma and I allowed a little bit extra time to get everything set up and ready to go. As it turned out one of the buses bringing racers down from T2 to the swim broke down and the race was delayed. Thankfully we decided to bike down on the road as warm-up and didn't have to deal with that extra bit of stress. The water temperature was 70deg. which caught a couple of people off-guard who were expecting a wetsuit swim and had forgotten to bring their swim skins but made me happy to have that little bit of extra advantage over the none-swimmers. Mel jokingly said before the race "just keep moving forward and you are doing good". As it would turn out this would be my motto as I slogged through the bike leg. Betsy and Bill, our homestays, even showed up to haul our gear, cheer us on and take photos. The pros got a minute head start on the amateurs and with a rather small field I got plenty of clear water to swim in. I took the lead around the first buoy with Seth and Brandon close behind me and pushed the pace as hard as I could. Again I was surprised and happy with how good I felt and within moments all doubt and negativity got put aside, the race was on and I was committed 100% to having a great race. As expected the bike course was a mess. I hiked most of the first couple of miles straight uphill and was off and on my bike the whole way, but I kept moving forward. Mel and Renata caught me early on and Shonny came by me a bit past halfway. I slide out a couple of times and hit the ground but nothing major and felt like considering the conditions and my whole 22months of mountain biking experience I rode the course to the best of my ability. I arrive in T2 still holding onto a solid 4th position with nobody in sight but knowing stellar runners Danelle and Emma were somewhere behind me. Heading out onto the run my legs felt light and ready to go and while the uphills still went on forever I kept up a good pace for the two loop course. 4th, done and covered in mud. Renata had a stellar race to pass Mel on the run for the win, and I ended up only a couple of minutes behind Shonny, having outsplit both her and Mel on the run. Danelle used her swift feet to move up into 5th with Emma right on her heels. The result moves me up into 3rd position in the overall US Pro Series, not bad, though Renata has only scored four races and will likely move ahead of me next weekend in Beaver Creek. After some quick post race food and a quick bike wash I decided to pack up and get on the road. It would make for a marathon day but would get me back home and able to do some work on Monday. I made the drive in just over 9hrs, pulling into the driveway about 1:30am exhausted. I parked the car, left everything inside except the toothbrush and crawled into bed. I had added Xterra Beaver Creek to the schedule as backup to make sure I scored the five races for the series, but after taking with coach Gareth post race and taking stock of the how the body and mind were feeling we decided to pass and take a nice mid-season break. Good thing because for the past two days I have been so sore just walking up and down the stairs has been tough and tons of bruises, cuts, scraps, and a sore wrist joint have appeared courtesy of the bike course. Up next I get to try something new and watch a triathlon as the sister, Karen, is racing the Gravenhurst Triathlon on Saturday, for now though, it is a nice week of relaxing and getting caught up on work!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Vermont is perhaps the only place that takes it's maple syrup more seriously than we do in Canada. A whole section of the grocery store aisle was dedicated to it here in Waitsfield, the small town just at the base of the Sugarbush Ski Resort. The weather here in Vermont has been even wetter than Southern Ontario which while hard to believe seems to be true. As such I had a bit of a scramble to find some mud tires to put on the bike instead of the "dry hardpack turn lethal in wet conditions" ones I have been riding all season. Thanks to Tim and Mike at Speedriver Bicycles, I even managed a few test runs on them before driving down on Tuesday. Even though it is almost a 10hr drive down I decided it was still better than the expense of a plane ticket, plus extra bike charge and rental car. I had planned to get up fairly early to try and clear Toronto traffic before it went to hell. I was about a half hour later than planned getting out the door, but it was still 6:30am so I thought it would be alright. Nope!! I got about 20mins down the road and ended up stopped dead in traffic. For those of you who know the area I didn't even make it to Guelph Line heading east on the 401 and I had to drive the whole length of the city stop and go. It took me almost two hours to go about 70miles. A pretty ominous start to the trip. Fortunately nobody seems to drive on the 401 east of Toronto and once clear of the city I pretty much had the road to myself. I had heard from many that listening to books on CD is the best way to pass a long road trip so when the radio stations whittled down to country and hard-core religious ones I put one on. What do you know they were right and the rest of the trip flew by. I rolled into Waitsfield about 4:30pm to Betsy and Bill's who are opening up their beautiful home to Emma Garrard and I for the race and after a quick unpack and grocery store run I crawled into bed for a nap. I could have called it a night but I needed to pick up Emma at the Burlington airport at 11pm. Good thing I set two alarms or she might have needed to find another ride in. Thursday morning Emma and I headed out to the race course to do a pre-ride and run. It is a point to point bike course so we parked at the top and rode easy down the road to T1. We had been warned that the course was really muddy and steep but that it was rideable. Really?!!! The elevation gain in the first mile was 700ft, most of which was hike a bike. It probably took us 30mins to ride (mostly walk) the first 3km of the course. At the rate we were going we wondered whether the rules stated that you actually had to be in possession of a bike for the bike leg of the race as running would have been much faster. Thankfully the second part of the course was quite a bit drier and more rideable. It still took about 2:10 to ride 17km and there is a 60% chance of rain forecasted for Saturday night!!! Once back at the car we met up with Seth and headed out for one loop of the two loop run course. More mud and more uphill. We reminisced about our high school days of cross country running and using duct tape to keep our shoes on as we slogged through what looked to be paths recently carved through the forest by a bulldozer between the ski runs of the resort and a stream crossing just for good measure.

Mud Bike

Today was pretty much a lazy day. A quick swim in the pond (the swim is in the ski resort's snow making pond) and a bit of running around trying to get Emma's front tire sorted out. It wasn't holding air and we had to stop about three times for her to put air in it during the pre-ride. It took three bike shops to find one that actually had a tubeless tire. Of course today the weather was absolutely beautiful and it seems all the local cyclist decided to play hooky as they were out in droves, of course the Tour always seems to increase the number of riders on the road. Race start is 9am Sunday morning and the women's field, which has been hit and miss this season, has a solid start list. Hear's hoping for good weather and enjoying lots of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream post race!!!

The Pond, uh Swim Venue

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Napping instead of blogging

That's my excuse. I have been meaning to update for a while but lately I have found myself on the couch thinking I would just relax for a moment or two and wake up several hours later. The fact that this hasn't affected how I have been sleeping at night seems to tell me that the body needs it. Since it has been such a long time since that last race I will keep the race report brief. Xterra Southcentral Cup - Little Rock, Arkansas
With the crash on the Wednesday and incredibly hot weather in the week leading up to the race, my preparation wasn't ideal but I was still feeling pretty good about having a great race. Race morning came around and Brandi dropped me off with plenty of time to get settled into transition and warm-up without spending too much time over-heating in the soon to be 100+ degree day. I hadn't been in the race venue water until warm-up on race day as the quality wasn't great and I was sporting some open cuts and when I got in it seriously felt like bath water. The race got started like usual with the pros in the first wave and Seth and I resuming are battle with each other. I was a little fustrated as this time we both lost and Craig put a couple of body lengths on us. Seth soon succumb to the heat of the water and backed off and I, despite trying really hard, couldn't shut down the short distance to Craig's feet and ended up swimming by myself the whole way. This is the first race where I felt like I really might not finish the swim. I was so hot I felt like either my head was going to explode or I was going to throw-up. I was looking forward to getting out of the water so I could cool off?!!!

Actually listening to the race briefing?

Out onto the bike I got into a pretty good rhythm, though I could tell I was being a little tentative with the crash still in the back of my mind. The bruises on my elbows were also giving me a bit of discomfort with all the jarring over the rocks and roots. Just as Mel caught me near the end of the first of two laps there was this short steep little climb and I dropped it into the small ring a little too late and made the mistake of putting too much pressure on the pedals in the middle of shifting and voila - broken chain, arrgh!!!! I had a master link and chain tool with me but had never actually repaired one before, never mind in the middle of the race, stuck on single track with rider after rider flying by me. I had no idea how long it took me, felt like forever, but I ended up back in 6th place by the time I got rolling again. I hammered the second lap as hard as I could and moved into 5th place coming into T2.

Yes, that is the run trail
The run, which we all knew was going to be brutal, didn't disappoint. It was hot, really hot, and the course had us running along the river trail, then scrambling up this steep ravine on something almost resembling a trail but not really to the top of a ridge line, across the ridge and back down the other side to the river trail again. Then right before the finish line we headed back up a road climb, down a steep shale slope and through a wooden section with absolutely no trail. After the race it seems as though most of us were thinking the same thing and hoping that miraculously they would take pity on us and omit the last hill section when we got to it, but no. I suffered like crazy through the whole run but I was too far out from 4th and far enough ahead of 6th, that I decided not to totally blow myself up and have to spend the next couple of days recovering. Another 5th and moved up into 4th overall in the series. Again not the race I was hoping for or feel like I have in me, but solid.

Rebecca Dussault, Mel McQuaid, Shonny V., Jenny Smith, CJ

Post race a bunch of us headed out for pizza and gelato. (Mel and Brandi displayed some complete lack of talent at guitar hero) Then I hooked up with the boys: Will, Dan, Craig, and Mike for some nightlife Little Rock style. We started at a duelling piano bar, not really my style, until we realized that there was a dance club in the basement. Sort of an odd combination, but tons of fun none the less. Since the race it has been a tough schedule of training. With three weeks between races it provided a good block to put in some quality miles - hence all the napping. Big congrats to the World Cup guys and girls who put on a awesome show at the Des Moines WC, Simon the big win, Lauren finally on the podium (3rd) and the relays 3rd and 5th.