Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First Snow

Or at least, the first snow that I think will stick around town for awhile.

2012.12.18 Snow (7)

2012.12.18 Snow (5)

2012.12.18 Snow (6)

2012.12.18 Snow

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Needle Trees

Hands down, our favourite backcountry ski route is Needle Peak on the Coquihalla.  We don't have that many to choose between so far, of course.  But it has never let us down.  This last weekend Tracey was here to visit Caroline, so I thought it would be a good idea to get out of town.   Obviously, Caroline was unavailable.  Dan was patrolling.  So I sent the following email to Andy:

Earlier this week, the Coquihalla received approximately a metre and a half of fresh snow.
Read: there is a ___-ton of snow up there.

Since then, temperatures have remained cold throughout the day.
Read: it is still light and fluffy.

Snowfall has tapered off, with little expected over the next few days.
Read: avalanche conditions are favourable.

Caroline cannot make it this weekend.
Read: I have two sets of beacon/probe/shovel available.

I was thinking of skiing the trees at Needle.
Read: 1. low avalanche risk. 2. it is straight up / straight down, so snowshoes are more than adequate (also available from my store). No splitboard required.

This doesn't happen very often. Whatever you have planned for Saturday, this will be better.

Apparently, this was such a convincing argument that two other guys from work came along as well.

2012.12.08 Needle (7)

It turned out that I was right in almost every aspect of that email. I took off my skis at the top, and fell in to my armpits.  I have never had snow that deep before.  I had also borrowed Mike's AT setup, so instead of trying to learn how to telemark in armpit deep powder, I could ski it normally.  Just fantastic.

2012.12.08 Needle (2)

The one aspect that I got wrong was snowshoes being adequate. They were not.  With all the postholing and slipping backwards, I think Jake and Andy climbed 5 times the elevation that I did.  Next time, with skis or splitboards, we can hopefully do a few more laps.

2012.12.08 Needle (10)

2012.12.08 Needle (12)

Full set here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zoa Peak: A Dog Experience

We went to the Coquihalla today for the first ski tour of the season.  The weather was pretty dodgy on the way there, but about half a kilometer before our pull off, the snain switched to proper snow.  It hovered around zero at the low elevations for the rest of the day, with wet snow off and on.  We only had to bootpack for about 50 meters before we could put on our skis, so it was definitely acceptable.

It was the dog's first ski tour ever.  First, he had issues with the rope:

2012.12.01 Zoa (2)

Then, he spent the majority of the ascent trying to hitch a ride on our tails:

2012.12.01 Zoa (11)

And when we finally reached the top, he required a restart:

2012.12.01 Zoa (13)

All in all though, a good way to start the season.  I think the dog is hooked.

2012.12.01 Zoa (8)

2012.12.01 Zoa (12)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Back on Dirt

We finally dusted off the Mountain bikes two weekends ago and headed up to Kamloops.  We had enough snow to make riding in the Kelowna area difficult, but not enough to go skiing - Grasslands Provincial Park it was.

We also got to ride with Dan, which was nice.  Plus he fed us dinner afterwards.

2012.11.15 - Kamloops (3)

This park is what sold me on mountain biking. 

2012.11.15 - Kamloops (4)

Perfect Singletrack.

2012.11.15 - Kamloops (5)

2012.11.15 - Kamloops (6)

We've come here to ride a few different times.  We have ridden two different areas in the park, and both were so good that we have never wanted to risk wasting time by exploring other areas that might not be as good.  Of course, they could be better.  If that was possible.  

2012.11.15 - Kamloops (9)

Kash was never far behind.

2012.11.15 - Kamloops (2)

Unless there were cows to be chased.

Maybe next year we'll take a long weekend so we can ride our favourite trails and explore some more.  It's almost a shame that the season is over.

2012.11.15 - Kamloops
(50% cow poo)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Bonk

Living and riding in Vancouver for the last few years, the "off season" has really just meant the wet season.  You ride less because you could be skiing instead.  Starting today's ride, I was faced with the thought that the Kelowna Off Season might actually force me off my bike.  Terrifying.


Luckily, my bottom bracket and I warmed up.  So far it has been the perfect temperature to keep the snow on the hills, but melt everything off of the roads.  The original plan was to do the Sunday ride, but no one showed up.  Sissies.  I decided to ride around the lake, which is something I wanted to try all summer - but the ride did not fit well with training for a Sprint triathlon.  I only had one Clif bar and one bottle of water, but on the past few Sunday Rides this has been more than enough.  I figured I could make it to Vernon and refuel there before finishing the ride.

Good fishing to be had off of log booms.
 In hindsight, there were a few problems with this logic:

- I had eaten a smaller than normal breakfast a few hours before leaving, rather than a large one 10 minutes before the Sunday Ride as usual.
- This route is 50% hillier than the Sunday Ride.
- Vernon is 90km into the route, not the 60 or 70 that I had thought.
- It is really cold out.  Apparently that burns calories.
- I have just had almost a month off.  Apparently that is not so good for fitness.

In any case.  I have never driven myself into such a deep hole before.  The first two hours got me 46 km into the route, at which point I hadn't eaten in an hour and a half, and had already done more climbing than the entire Sunday ride.  Things started to go downhill (figuratively only), fast.  All I could think about was Mars bars.  Baked Lays.  Tim Horton's. Gatorade.  Many Mars bars at once. At one point I actually caught myself riding with my eyes closed.  Things were not looking good.

What a 140km route looks like. An hour and a half into the ride - and I need to round the far end of this lake.
And then I saw it.  The convenience store. I would survive after all.


The brown bags are full of Chicken Samosas and Strawberry Turnovers (only 89 cents!).  After consuming almost all of that food, including the entire litre of orange juice, I felt a little better.  Not perfect though - I had to leave my stuff on the table to go to the bathroom.  I was very worried that someone might either steal or poison my remaining bag of candy, so I wrapped it up tight and took special note of exactly how it was sitting on the table.  When I got back, the candy was still there - and so was my phone and credit cards, just lying in the middle of the table.

I ended up deciding that I was too cooked, and there was too little daylight left to finish the loop.  Luckily, Caroline was able to pick me up in Vernon, so it was a relatively flat and easy 30 km into town for about 85 km total.

Next time: bring more food.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hiking the Burn

Original plans for this weekend - our first weekend of freedom - consisted of Mountain Biking locally on Saturday morning, followed by Ski Touring in the Coquihalla on Sunday.


As of last weekend when we drove by, the Coquihalla was under about a foot of water, and yesterday we woke up to six inches of snowfall here at our house.  Not the way things normally go, but I'll take some local snow without complaint.  We headed to our MTB destination on foot, so we could at least scope it out for springtime.

2012.11.10 MB Burn (6)

Gorgeous.  There is nothing like hiking through a burn after a big early season snowfall.  My pictures don't even come close to doing it justice.

2012.11.10 MB Burn (7)

We saw a large wolf as well.  Not pictured.

2012.11.10 MB Burn (15)

We ended up hiking (slowly) for about two and a half hours, doing a big loop through the park.  This was our first time, and we had no map - when we found our way back to the car, it had felt like a pretty long hike.  Without knowing anything about the park, I was worried that we had just spent a morning circumnavigating the entire park - it was fun, but if we could do all that in a morning on foot, we were going to run out of mountain bike real estate pretty quickly.


Not the case.  This is most excellent.  We will probably be able to spend all winter here on skis, and as soon as we have skiied it out, we can start exploring all over again on bikes.

2012.11.10 MB Burn (23)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Not Our Best Race

The title is a pretty accurate summary.  There were no catastrophic failures like flat tires or getting our goggles kicked off, but neither of us performed as well as we would have hoped, and the results showed it.

As an aside, a lot of people have told us that "we tried our best", and "just getting there was a victory", etc etc.  We both really appreciate the support, but I disagree.  Yes, there has been lots to gain in terms of life experiences.  But we signed up to race, not to simply participate.  Neither of us were as fast as we could have been - for example, I pre-swam the swim course two days before the race in 12:30.  Same course on race day, with the advantage of a pack draft, and I came in at over 14 minutes.  A minute and a half over a twelve minute race is a lot to lose, and I could list out similiar performance measures for all stages of the race. 

Now, even with our best race, neither of us would have won - but we could have done better.  I don't plan on sitting around and pouting about it, but I do think that it makes more sense to look at the race objectively and possibly find some improvements.  Trying to improve is what this type of sport is all about, and I would much rather take a hard look at what I did and find some improvement, rather than just write the whole experience off and get the same result next time.

With the aside aside, here is my race experience as best as I can recall:

Age Group World Championships

Support:  Cliff and Lori were in New Zealand on their Honeymoon during the race.  They took the time to come watch and support us, which was pretty awesome.  We also stole the pictures they took.

Age Group World Championships


Considering how competitive this race was, I was expecting a lot more violence and "accidental" grabbing and maneuvering here.  There was almost none, which was really nice to experience.  I swam straighter than I had in my practice runs, which was also nice.  On the way back, I felt someone on my feet, and had another person just beside and behind me, which convinced me that I was doing pretty well and was with the main pack, so I stopped sighting so much and tried to stay with them.  Eventually I looked up, and I guess everyone I was with had the same thought process - we were way off course, almost into opposing traffic, and were definitely not with the main pack.  Damn.  I spent the rest of the swim being very conscious of not swimming into any lifeguards as I got back on track.

Age Group World Championships

Transition 1 (Swim to Bike): 

I came out of the water knowing I was behind where I wanted to be, and feeling half drowned, as per usual.  I was also surprisingly thirsty.  I knew this transition was a long one, due to the organizers having to find space for 3000 bikes.  Like, seriously really thirsty.  What is the deal.  In any case, my on the fly strategy was to make sure I passed at least two people, but other than that not to kill myself here, so that I didn't fall off my bike when I tried to get on (I have done this once before).  I got to my bike at the same time as another Canadian four bikes down the rack.  He looked me in the eye, paused, and said "I really ____ing hate swimming". I decided he was my kind of person.

Age Group World Championships


In the week leading up to the race, I had practiced all of the hills on the course, and decided that I could get up all of them about halfway down my cassette in my big ring.  I got to the first hill with this in mind, and immediately almost passed out.  I think I was in the granny gear by the time I got to the top.  This was pretty much all I could think about until I coughed up a mouthful of phlegm, and then all I could think about was whether it would be considered unsportsmanlike to spit it out right in front of the rider behind me.  So I am going to put a bit of blame on being sick the two days leading up to the race.  I also have to admit a bit of a mental problem here too - normally the bike portion is my strongest, and being passed here by more than a few people definitely got into my head.  It was a really fun course though, and this was still my strongest placing in the end.

Age Group World Championships

Transition 2 (Bike to Run):

By the time I got my bike back on the rack, I was thinking that I was going to have to go home and measure just how long this transition was.  Pretty sure I had already done my run distance at this point.

Age Group World Championships


Sometimes, I really ____ing hate running.

Age Group World Championships

So.  A few lessons to be learned.  Maybe we'll do it again someday, but I think we will definitely wait for it to come a little closer to home.  For now, we have two weeks to explore New Zealand.

And then we will be home, probably just in time to start ski touring.  And I'm going mountain biking.  I'm looking forward to it already.

Friday, October 19, 2012

One More Day

...and I am super sick.

I have mixed feelings about writing that, since it sounds like I am already making excuses for a poor performance before I even race.  I thought it would be more heroic to just suffer through it, maybe.

Well.  I have been complaining to Caroline all day, and it looks like it will extend to the internet also.  It came on incredibly fast last night, and I have basically spent the day in bed.  My only hope at this point is that if it comes on fast, it will work its way through my system fast as well, and by tomorrow night I will be feeling OK.  Not the ideal race prep, but not really anything I can do about it either.


Yesterday the swim course was opened up for us to do a practice lap or two, and get used to the water.  This was pleasantly surprising - during the aquathlon a few days back it was so wavy and rough that people had to be pulled from the water.  The temperatures have been a concern also, with officials only giving a range of 14-16 degrees Celcius.  Most people, myself especially so, were pretty worried.  But - it turned out to be relatively calm, and the water was almost... refreshing.  Definitely wetsuits required, but nothing like Banff which we raced at the beginning of September.   The sprint course is below - the two yellow bouys have to be swum around for one lap total.  The Olympic course is twice as long, but instead of doing two laps, is just extended to a sort of T shape out in the harbour.


Today Caroline went down to watch the Pro Women's race.  They are pretty quick.  You should definitely click on the picture below (a few times) to maximise it to see the whole thing.  That section of whitewater on the right is them swimming.


Tomorrow is the Pro Men's race, and then we check our bikes into transition that night.  Getting close.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

3 Days Till Race Day

This is our first update from New Zealand.  The last few days have gone quickly.  The flight(s) over here were painless.  We arrived at about noon local time, and got right into the New Zealand timing, so jet lag has been non-existent.  Our bikes survived the trip with only minor scratches, so that was a big load off.


The first full day here started with a team bike ride on the race course.  Riding on the left side of the road is interesting, and currently terrifying. Especially starting out in downtown Auckland, you don't really have some time to ease into the concept.  We have a week to get used to it, and to get to know the course as well as we can.  Interestingly though, on race day the course will be run on the right side of the road - so hopefully I can forget what I have just spent a week learning as quickly as possible.  The course looks good though.  Fast pavement, a good variety of hills, and turny enough that being able to handle a bike well will be a big advantage.  The last five or so kilometers are flat and wicked fast back into the downtown transition area, which will be an excellent way to end the bike portion.

We also discovered an open air, salt water, unheated 60 meter swimming pool within walking distance of the hotel.  The unheated and salt water parts are the key parts, because it makes this pool a perfect way for us to transition from swimming in an indoor pool or a warm lake to the cold ocean that we will be racing in.  There is also a long stretch of seawall right next to the pool with a running lane.  Definitely no complaints about the training facilities that are available.

Today was a rest day, so we went and checked out the expo and the grandstand area.  It's pretty cool being able to race in a race like this, with the full ITU set up.  Feels very professional.


And then the athlete parade.  Also a very cool experience.  According to the MC at the athlete dinner tonight, there are 3001 athletes racing the age group races.  Of these, over 600 (20%) are from Australia.  Team Canada has just over 300, so at 10% we aren't doing too bad either.  There is also 1 athlete from Belgium.


I apologize for the crap pictures, by the way.  We'll work on it.