Thursday, July 31, 2014

Long Weekend Fun & A Giveaway!

I can't believe it's the end of July.  Summer is half over.  Whaaaa.  But, all is not lost, we still have two holiday weekends left to enjoy before things return to "normal" in September (i.e bumper to bumper traffic for my entire commute).   This weekend marks Simcoe Day and since it's summer, my office closes on Fridays so we get 4 days off.  Woohoo! 

This weekend we are headed up to our friends cottage in Dorset for a weekend of swimming, biking, running, lounging and of course, enjoying some adult beverages.  Because really, what's a cottage long weekend without a few of those?  Anyone that follows me on Instagram knows I enjoy a frosty beverage, especially after a race.  Just because I'm an athlete doesn't mean I shy away from enjoying a few cocktails now and then.  It's all about balance my friends!

Needless to say I was pretty excited when the folks at skinnygrape contacted me and asked me if I'd like to participate in Iron Girl Canada in Grimsby on August 10th (they are one of the event sponsors) as well as host a giveaway for two of my lucky readers. They also provided me with a bunch of their products to taste test.  So, I've got my long weekend beverages covered!  I sampled their Key Lime Lemonade wine spritzer last night and it was tasty.   They have 3 different flavours:  Strawberry Pineapple, Blueberry Pomegranate (next on my list to try!) and the Key Lime Lemonade.   You can get a 4 pack at the Wine Store for $9.99.  The best part?  They are only 90 calories a 330ml bottle and are sugar free compared to other spritzers which can be up to 165-200 calories per 330ml bottle (ouch!).  They are sweetened with stevia, which is a natural sweetener.  They contain 4% alcohol which is similar to other spritzers as well as light beer (but really who wants to drink light beer?!?!) They also offer a line of wines at $11.95 a bottle:  Shiraz, Rose, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.   The wines come in at a mere 80 calories a glass compared to approximately 125 calories a glass for other wines.  A glass being 142ml (5 oz).  Let's be real folks, it's rare to find a 5 oz wine glass anywhere these days.  Most contemporary wine glasses hold at least 8-10 oz and most of the time, we're filling those babies up to the top, especially after a rough day at work.  So in reality, you're probably consuming roughly 250 calories per glass.  2 of those glasses would equal roughly 500 calories.  For me that's an hour on the bike at a moderate pace.  All undone with 2 glasses of wine.  

Tart and refreshing!

 Stay tuned for a full review of the product line as well as a race recap / review.  I'm really excited about participating in this event.  I heard about it last year but was already committed to racing that weekend.  This year I happen to have that weekend free so when they asked if I was interested I jumped at the chance.

Now let's get down to the fun part!  The giveaway!  The generous folks at skinnygrape have offered up the following items to 2 of my lucky readers.
  • a skinnygrape green tin bucket
  • a skinnygrape branded beach towel
  • a skinnygrape branded umbrella
  • and, the BEST part, a $25 gift card to the wine store! (note, hat is not included in giveaway, I just thought it looked good in the picture)

The perfect combo of goodies for lounging dockside!

Entering is easy!  Simply complete the Rafflecopter form below before 11:59 pm on August 7th, 2014.  The contest is open to Canadian residents only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tri Talk Tuesday: Race Logistics

It's Tuesday and that means I'm linking up with the Tri Talk Tuesday ladies once again.  When I saw the topic for this weeks post, I HAD to jump in.  This week's topic is Race Day Logistics.  Most of the races that I've done have been local to me but I've done a few destination races as well (like this year's 70.3) and adding long distance travel to the mix can make things interesting to say the least.

Here are my 6 tips for destination race logistics:

1) So you've signed up for a destination race, now what?  Well, if you're like me, you've done a bit of research into the course before hitting the ENTER button.  If not, well then that should be your first order of business.  How you train for said race will be partly be determined by the type of course you're racing on.  Does the bike portion go through mountains?  If so, you'll need to get some good climbing & descending work in.  Swimming in the ocean?  You might want to get used to swimming without a wetsuit.  You see where I'm going with this, right?  Part of having a successful race is being prepared for the course you're racing on.  Nothing prepares you as much as being able to train on the course but that's not always feasible so if you're jetting off to some far flung destination to race, give yourself time in the days leading up to the race to either drive or ride some or all of the course (or at the very least the parts that scare you the most, ha ha).  I did that in Luxembourg and it helped immensely.

Bike Course Scout!
 2)  If you're traveling to a different time zone, give yourself a few days to adjust and get back on to a normal schedule.  A friend once told me that you need 1 day for every hour of time difference.  I didn't find that to be the case the first time I went to Europe but, this time around, I'd say that it definitely took me at least 3 days before I felt like I was on a regular sleep schedule.  Giving yourself those few extra days will also give you time to get your bearings.  Which brings me to my next point.

3)  Familiarize yourself with the race venue and it's surroundings.  If you're staying nearby, great.  If you're staying a bit further away and have to drive in, figure out how long the drive is.  Factor in traffic if necessary.  You may also have to figure out parking as you likely won't be able to park close to the race venue.  In Luxembourg they recommended parking in certain lots and offered a shuttle service for athletes to and from the race venue.

4)  Find out where the local bike shops are.  If you're flying to a race, you're going to have to dismantle your bike and pack it in a bike box.  Your local bike shop should be able to do that for you but when you arrive, you may need help with assembly.  You will definitely need to get CO2 cartridges because you can't fly with them so plan accordingly.  If you have bike tools, bring them.  My bike shop took my Vectors off when they packed my bike and they can only be put back on with a pedal wrench which we didn't bring.  So we had to find a bike shop and buy one.  While we were there we picked up some CO2 cartridges.

Flying to a race?  Pack your patience.  Hauling all this stuff is stressful.
 5)  When you're packing, put everything you need for the race in your carry on.  I took my Apera bag as my carry on and I was able to fit everything I needed for my race in it.  I had my aero helmet in the main compartment, along with my sunglasses, Real Deal racing kit, Garmin, heart rate strap & socks.  I put my cycling shoes in one of the outer compartments and my running shoes and goggles in the other.  That way if my luggage got lost, I at least had almost everything I needed for race day.  I put my wetsuit and race day nutrition into my bike box so all those items were together.   I'd like to think that the chances of a bike box being lost or left behind are less than that of a suitcase being lost or left behind.  Here's hoping I haven't jinxed myself for the next trip, ha ha.

 6) If it's a big race, you'll get an Athlete's Guide.  Read it.  There will also be a pre-race briefing.  Go to it.  It will give you the opportunity to ask questions and get clear answers.  Not every race is going to be the same.  For example, in Luxembourg the draft zone was 10 meters vs. 7 meters like it is in the US.  I never would have known that if I didn't go to the pre-race meeting because I'm 99.9% sure it wasn't mentioned in the Guide book.

Do you have any tips you'd add to the list?  Head on over to The Tri Girl Chronicles and You Signed Up for What to check out their tips and join in the link up!  The Cupcake Triathlete is on her way back from Lake Placid so she'll be joining back up next week. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Well That Was Fun! Bala Falls Race Report

Another summer weekend, GONE.  Although given the weather we had this past weekend, I'd hesitate to classify it as summery.  The weekdays seem to be lovely, sunshine, warm temps and then as soon as Saturday rolls around, the clouds roll in and the rain shows up.  This weekend was no exception.  Makes for less than desirable training and racing conditions.  But, we made the best of it, even if it was like pulling teeth.  I had a pretty solid week of training leading into this weekend and hoped to take it kind of easy on my Saturday ride but that didn't happen.  Oh well, it was still a fun day.   My week of training looked like this:

Monday: 2200m swim
Tuesday:  Strength workout, followed by an 8.5km sweltering tempo-ish run
Wednesday:  2500m swim in the a.m. and then a tough 20km bike in the wind in the p.m.
Thursday:  Strength training in the a.m.,  P.M: Busted out an old #Mingsanity workout on the trainer (23km total ride) followed by a short and fast 3km run.
Friday:  Took the day off and slept in (YES!)
Saturday:  1330m open water swim, 30km bike
Sunday:  RACE DAY:  750m swim, 30 bike & 7.5km run. 

Totals for the week:  

Swim:  6780m
Bike:  103.6km
Run:  19.30 km

That was almost 9.5 hours of training / racing.  Wheee!

Now, on to the "fun" part of the weekend...

G and I raced Bala Falls yesterday.  Bala is a small town in cottage country, about a 2 hour drive from Toronto.  This meant we were up early.  Like 4:30 am early so we could hit the road at 5:30.  We loaded up the car and were off just after 5:30.  A stop and Timmie's for coffee and we were good to go.  Of course, as soon as we got on the highway, I started to doze off.  I drifted in and out of sleep for a bit until we hit Barrie.  We had a pit stop here and when I got out of the car I was shocked at how cool it was.  It had been overcast the entire drive and the forecast wasn't great but I had hoped that the weather folks were wrong.

They weren't.

As we made our way towards Bala, a light drizzle started and the temperature dropped to about 18 degrees.  It's July people, it shouldn't be this darn cool.  The weather put me in a foul mood.  I really didn't want to do the race.  I want sunshine and blue skies.  Not grey and rainy.  Meh.   We drove along highway 169 and didn't see a single vehicle with a bike on it, which was weird considering last year we saw several.  We finally caught an SUV that had a bike on it and followed him towards the race site.  No surprise the lot at Jaspen Park was full so we opted to go park by the Kee.  We saw my friend David on the way over and he said there were lots of spots.

We pulled into the lot, and got ourselves sorted.  As soon as we stepped out of the car we were swarmed with bugs.  Awesome.  At least they didn't seem to be biting.  The drizzle was light but still kind of annoying.  We walked over to the race site and I went straight to transition to rack my bike.  I remembered my race number from the pre-race email so I knew where to rack my bike.  On my way into transition I ran into Irina who was cheering her hubby Zindine, on.  Right after I saw her, I ran into my friend Deanne.  I had no idea she was racing.  She was followed by her hubby Mike who was also racing.  This was turning out to be quite the party.  I spent some time chit chatting with all of them and then went off to rack my bike.  I found an open spot on the rack, hooked Scotty up and dropped my bags to go and get my bib number.  As usual it was a swampy mess in transition.  I always forget this.  I should have brought an extra bag or something to put my stuff on other than my towel, but I forgot. 

I found G in line to get his bib so I jumped in with him.  Mike came over and chatted with us for a while and then we ran into David who gave me some pointers on who I should see for body marking.  Apparently one of the volunteers didn't really know what they were doing and some people were ending up with their race bib number on their leg and their age on their arms.  Whoops.  G and I got our bibs & swim caps and body marking done and then I walked back to transition to get set up.  G came in a few minutes later and told me I had forgotten to get my timing chip.  Whoops.  I'm going to need that.  So off I went.

I got back to transition to find that I had racked my bike beside Irina's husband, Zindine.  Small freaking world.  It was odd that the women were mixed in with the men.  That would make it difficult to figure out where you were at in your AG after the swim.  Oh well.  I chatted with Zin and Irina while I got myself set up.  I was all over the place.  My head was totally not in the game.  I didn't even know what time my wave started.  So once I was set up, I ran back up to the pavilion to check.  8:42 am.  I had no clue what time it was.  I ran back down to transition and saw G getting into his wetsuit.  I pulled mine out of the bag and started getting myself sorted.  Everyone had filed down to the beach so I figured it was going to be go time soon.  I needed to get into the water to do a warm up.  G came over and I helped him with his wetsuit and he helped me with mine.  We made our way down to the beach with Deanne.  I quickly into the water and started swimming.  I normally really like this swim but I noticed that it seemed quite weedy this year.  I hate weeds. 

I did about a 3 minute swim before we started getting herded back to shore.  Totally not enough time.  I had a hard time getting into a rhythm on the way out and I kept taking in water.  My breathing was ragged.  I stopped when I got smacked in the face by a small wave.  I turned around and started making my way back but I took in more water and started coughing up a lung.  One of the lifeguards asked me if I was ok.  I nodded and said that the water had gone down the wrong pipe.  I did a quick swim out again and then turned around.  I saw G so I swam over to him on the opposite side of the beach.   We were being rushed out of the water so I started to head for shore and I ran into David.  I hung out with him for a while and then we were joined by G.  We watched the first wave go off and then it was time for them to make their way to the start.  I was in the wave after them.

G gave me a good luck kiss goodbye and he and David waded into the water.  I hung out with Deanne and her friend who were both in my wave.  I waded in to the deeper water and sunk in to get used to the cooler temps.   Everyone started jockeying for position so I started moving to the back.  My friend Joe also ended up being in my wave and he found me and gave me a big hug.  We chatted for a bit and he told me to move up.  I said I was perfectly fine where I was.  There seemed to be a lot more people in my wave this year vs. last year.  Maybe because there were 3 age groups lumped together.

The countdown started and the horn went off.  I hit my watch and stood there for a few seconds to let the throng go ahead.  I pushed off and slowly started swimming, focusing on my breathing.  I quickly caught the crowd and proceeded to get jostled around.  I looked for some clearer water and found it but my breathing had been disrupted and I couldn't seem to calm myself down.  I ended up back in another crowd of people and got panicky, ironically roughly in the same spot as last year.  I swam back out of the crowd and tried to calm myself down but I couldn't so I stopped and started breast stroking.  I looked back and saw a wave of yellow caps coming at me.  Included in this wave was my friend Joe, who fully admits to not being a great swimmer.   That seemed to light a fire in me.  I thought "Ok there's no way I can let Joe beat me out of the water.  Put your damn face in there and start swimming".  And swim I did.  As soon as I got around that first buoy, I started hauling.  I found my rhythm and my breathing and started passing people.  And I managed to swim in a fairly straight line!  Amazing!  I hit the second buoy very quickly and started heading into shore.  The way out and way back are longer than the way across but I was moving a pretty good clip.  At least that's what it felt like.  I caught a couple of folks from the wave in front of me.  I then found a pair of feet to draft off.  Sweet.  I hung on to them for a bit and then lost them.  I sighted and realized that I didn't have too much farther to go so I kept my eyes focused on the bottom, watching for sand.  But not before swimming through a large patch of weeds.  GROSS.  I started to see the sand and it got closer and closer.  I glanced up again.  Too early to stand.  Put my face back and swam some more.  My hand hit the bottom.  Time to get up.  I got up and started running and trying to pull my wetsuit off.  I was having a bit of a time with that.  So much so that I forgot to even look at my watch when I got into transition.  And I forgot to hit lap.  I realized this once I got out of my wetsuit and was grabbing my bike to exit T1.

Swim:  13:34.  1 second faster than last year, ha ha.

pic courtesy of Mike Cheliak - My Sports Shooter
 T1:  Not too bad considering it was raining and muddy.  Got my wetsuit off my legs relatively easily.  Yanked my shoes on and ran out.   Time:  1:30  4 seconds slower than last year.  Whatevs.

The Bala bike course is one of the hillier courses on the circuit.  It also had some pretty crappy roads.  They rectified that this year.  Everything is newly paved.  What a dream to ride on.  The minute you get out of T1 and get on to the bike, you're climbing.  So I had Scotty ready in my easiest gear so I could spin my legs up that first climb.  As soon as I got over that climb, it was big chain ring time.  It was really wet on the course and I'm pretty sure it was raining at one point.  I was in a small group with 2 other women in my AG and a couple of guys.  One of the women was the one that was tied with me for points.  My goal was to not let her out of my sight...or, even better, pass her and keep her behind me.  The group of us yo-yoed back and forth, passing people.   I thought things would spread out fairly quickly but the two guys riding with us stuck to us like glue.  I started to get really annoyed and dropped back.  I didn't want to get busted for drafting, although I didn't see a single marshal on the course.  Either way, I was starting to get frustrated with these guys sucking my wheel.  We were barreling down a hill and I could see the guy behind me sitting off to my left.  I turned and yelled at him to go by me so he did.  I slowed up and let him go.  I figured I'd catch him again at some point.   There were several cyclists that would just sit in the middle of the lane, which in the rainy conditions, with a road that was open to local traffic, was more annoying than usual.  I was yelling "on your left" a lot.  I caught an passed the one woman in my AG just before the turnaround (that I was tied with) but the other one had pulled away and was long gone.  I hoped she wasn't a fast runner.   We hit the turnaround and I pulled ahead of the wheel sucker dude.  There were some decent stretches of flat where I was hitting speeds of 40-42 kph.  I was definitely rocking the bike.  My quads were screaming at me but I didn't care.  I kept pushing.  I took a Roctane at 20km and that seemed to help a bit.  Those last 10km were pretty tough though.  There's a tough climb just before you drop down to transition and I kept thinking that the hill I was on was that particular hill.  It wasn't.  The second last hill I had to switch to my little chain ring and give my legs a break.  So I hamster wheeled it up that climb and flipped back into my big chain ring.  I was yo-yoing back and forth with a guy named Tom from the 50-54 year old AG.  I'd pass him on the flats and he'd pass me on the climbs.  I really need more gears on my bike.  Or a new bike.... ANYWAY...Tom left me in his dust.

I started heading up the last climb and I see a guy infront of me that looks like G.  I get closer and lo and behold it IS G.  I roll up beside and politely ask WTF?  He explains that he stopped to help a guy with a flat tire.  He's such a sweetheart.  We roll down the hill into transition and dismount.  I ran like a crazy woman into T2.  This time remembering to hit lap on my watch.

Bike:  53:09 -  2.5 minutes faster than last year.  That is all thanks to Ming.

Pic courtesy of Mike Cheliak - My Sports Shooter

T2:  This was a gong show because it was so wet.  I couldn't for life of me get my Zoots on easily so I had to stop and dry my feet.  Ugh.  So I may have beat G into transition, but he beat me out by a long shot.  Time:  1:25.  Last year I was 55 seconds, ha ha.

The run course follows much of the bike course except for the two little off road out and backs they make you do.  So, it's uphill right away as soon as you exit the park.  My legs were feeling like jello so that hill just about killed me.  But I passed people.  I knew there was at least one woman in front of me in my AG so I set about trying to reel her in.  I figured there might be a few others out there, who knew.  I had seen my friend David heading out for the run when I was coming in on the bike so I hoped that maybe I'd catch him.  He's a pretty strong runner so I figured I'd have to push it and I wasn't sure I'd be capable of that on this hilly course but I was sure as hell going to try.  I caught the woman that I had lost on the bike on the first climb.  My legs were slowly coming around.  There was a short flat stretch before the next climb where I pushed the pace.  Ahead on the next climb, I could see G and his bright green shoes.  And his distinctive run gait.  I can always pick him out of a crowd.  I started reeling him in.  He turned down the side road and I lost sight of him.  I turned down the dirt road about a minute later.  I could see him heading towards the turnaround.  I caught him just before the turn around and smacked him on the butt as I passed him.  I booked it back out to the main road and started climbing again.   As I got to the top of the hill, I came up on an older guy and as I passed him he asked if I had been with him on the bike and I turned and saw it was Tom so I said yes, I yo-yoed back and forth with you!  He said I helped push him.  I said that I was glad I could help.  He was running behind me and said he was going to draft off of me for as long as possible.  I said no problem, hang on it's going to be a fun ride.  We barreled downhill and started climbing again.  We were heading to the next turn off where there was a nasty little climb.  I had lost Tom when we started climbing the previous hill.  I made the turn off and started the descent.  It was a bit tricky because the road is a combo of pavement and dirt and it's super steep.  As I got to the bottom of the descent and started to run the corner, I saw my friend David.  He said something to me but I couldn't quite hear him.  I smiled and kept running.  I hit the turnaround and could see Tom so I yelled "Come on Tom".  Then I saw G and I yelled Go G!  He mumbled something in return.  The next thing I knew, I was back on the climb.  I shortened my stride and took baby steps up the hill in the hopes of not spiking my heart rate too much.  It seemed to work as I didn't feel like barfing when I got to the top of the hill.

With the out and backs done, I knew I only had about 3.5km left to go with about 2.5km of it mostly down hill.  I tried to see if I could spy David but he was far enough ahead that my failing eyesight couldn't pick him out of the crowd.  My legs were actually starting to feel good.  Yes, they hurt but they had returned to "normal" running legs.  I continued to push the pace.  I caught a woman on one of the climbs and she said Go Phaedra as I passed her.  I said thanks and then thought, Ok who was that?!  I didn't know anyone else racing and then I thought maybe my bib was at my side.  Nope.  Interesting.  I always think that only people I know read my ramblings but I know there are many other people out there reading that I will probably never meet and then there are those that I DO get to meet.  More on that later...

I was making my way to the final turnaround when I spotted David.  He was roughly 500-750m in front of me.  I had 2.5 km left to go.  Would I be able to make that up?  I wasn't sure.  I hit the turn around and let my legs fly on the down hill.  I was seeing 3:30's along here, it was awesome.  Of course the minute I started climbing, the chute went out.  But my pace never slowed below 5 min km on the way back.  I ran up the last climb and caught one of the Master's Elite women and a dude.  I let my legs fly on the downhill and was spurred on by the cheers of the crowd.  I drew a blank as to where I was supposed to turn until a volunteer pointed the way.  I booked it towards the finishing chute and saw David yelling GO PHAE as I ran towards the line.  For once there was no one else in the finishing chute so Steve Fleck announced my name as crossed the line and gave a shout out to Real Deal racing.

look at that awesome arm crossover! 
 I found David right away as well as Irina and Zindine.  We stood there chatting for a bit and then Connie, one of the Real Deal computrainer instructors came over and introduced herself.  I gave her a big hug and said it was lovely to meet her.  Irina took a shot of us together, which I'll have to post.  G crossed the line shortly thereafter and Irina got a great group shot of us.

Pic Courtesy of Irina Souiki
David and I went in search of food and we ran into Colin Campbell, fellow Real Deal athlete & computrainer instructor.  He runs a little pop up coffee stand at the MSC races so I always go get a post race coffee from him.   I was hungry so I wandered over to the table where the food was, juggling a coffee and a chocolate milk and a plate.  There was a woman beside me who turned to me and said Hi Phaedra, I read your blog.  That made my day.  Her name was Dana and she was the woman that I had passed on the run that said Go Phaedra.  We yammered away for a long time and eventually Irina joined us.  Dana said she also reads Irina's blog so it was a bit of a blogger geek out.  It's always so nice to get to meet the folks that take the time to read my ramblings and hopefully learn something from them.  Dana said that she is doing Muskoka 70.3 so I really think I need to make the trip out to Huntsville that weekend to cheer people on, I'm going to know so many people racing.

I eventually made my way over to the results posting and saw that I was first in my AG.  YEAH.  I was more curious about my final time:  1:42:26.  Over two minutes faster than last year.  If my transitions weren't so crappy, I probably would have made it on to the overall podium in 5th place.  As it stood, I was 6th place woman over all.  For a race I wasn't totally into, I ended up having a really good day.  And, more importantly, a whole lot of fun.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Back in the Game

Hey - O!  It's FRIDAY!  Finally!  These last couple of days have seemed to drag on, even though I've had things to do.  I hate it when it that happens.  But no matter, the weekend is here and it's time to get back in the game.  What game you may ask?  The racing game.  This Sunday I'm racing Bala Falls again.  It's been 5 weeks since Luxembourg 70.3 - I can't believe that!  I'm finally feeling recovered, which took longer than I expected, probably due to all the walking, drinking & eating less than ideal things in the weeks that followed.  I don't care, it was TOTALLY worth it.  What has suffered most is my speed on the run.  Mainly because I haven't been running fast.  These last couple of weeks I've done some shorter hard workouts just to get my legs moving and things slowly seem to be coming around.  Maybe not to where I was last year when I did this race but close.  I had a solid run off the bike last night even with tired legs so I'm pretty pleased about that (and I thought about tucking my pelvis in the entire time..coincidence?  I think not!).  I busted out one of my old #Mingsanity bike workouts just for fun.  Ouch.

The best part about this weekend?  It's going to be G's first race this season.  I'm so excited for him.  He's been looking forward to this for a while.  He's been swimming, riding and running really really well.  It's like the 4 weeks he took off due to his crash never even happened.   Last weekend he was a maniac on the bike.  I couldn't even keep up with him.  I'm pretty sure there will be no chicking him this year. 

This weekend is really the start of G's racing season.  He's doing Bracebridge in a couple of weeks.  I'm going to volunteer because I'm hopefully going to be racing the Iron Girl event in Grimsby the next day.  More on that next week!  We're both doing Toronto Island at the end of August and then he's doing Lakeside, which is the last event of season in the Recharge With Milk Triathlon series.  I may or may not do that race.  It will depend on where I am in the points standing.  Right now I think I'm tied for first with another girl.  She raced with me at Bala last year and I beat her so fingers crossed that happens again if she's there this weekend. 

Who else is racing this weekend?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Recruit the Glutes! The Results of my Gait Analysis

Well, the verdict is in.  It's official.  I'm a mess.  This past Monday I had my gait assessment with Babs at Pivot.  Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as uncomfortable (yet oddly fascinating) as watching yourself run.  If you thought race photos were bad, imagine adding motion to it.  Yuck.  But I digress.

Seeing myself in motion confirmed a few things that I already know:    1) My right side is weaker than my left.  2) I hold my arms out just a bit too far from my body.  I didn't realize just how far until I saw the video.  

It also really opened my eyes to just how poor my form is.  Now, that being said, I know I run differently on a treadmill than I do outside.  On a treadmill I am almost always looking down at either the display or my feet because I just don't trust myself enough to run on a conveyor belt and watch TV.  Looking down causes all sorts of unflattering things to happen, such as shoulder roll.  When your shoulders roll, everything else drops with them. You want to talk about unflattering.....

No, I'm not pregnant.  And yes, I know I drink the occasional beer, but I don't have THAT much of a gut.  The whole shirt tucked into the shorts thing doesn't really help either.  Anyway, because my shoulders are rolled forward, the rest of my body is following suit.  My pelvis has tilted back, pushing my abdomen forward.   You can also see that my arms are bent at 66 degrees.  Ideally they should be at 90 degrees.  I know I have a physically strong core but it is functionally weak because apparently I don't engage it when I run.  In order to do this, I need to focus on tucking my pelvis in when I run.   Normally I turn my brain off when I run but now I'm going to have to actually think about doing this until it becomes just what my body does.

I have tight hamstrings and hip flexors (along with other things I'm sure) so my range of motion is reduced.  My left hip also seems to be "locked".  It's very apparent in the video and you can also see it when I walk.  Heck, I can FEEL it when I walk.  I can't seem to fully extend my left leg.  This is going to require diligent stretching on my part.  As well as some quality time on the tennis ball and maybe a few elbows in the glute from my RMT.

You can also see that I am over striding.  Ideally you're landing with your legs not so far out in front of your body.  Essentially I'm slowing myself down by running like that.  Not to mention the jarring impact it has on my legs.  The "ideal" running gait looks something like this.  Notice the placement of the runners feet in relation to their shin.  They are driving forward with their knees, using their foot strike to help propel them forward vs. slow them down.

 Look at them and then look at what I'm doing....

There has been a ton of debate over the last several years about heel striking.  Is it bad, is it good, does it even matter?  After trying to change my foot strike and ending up injured, I've come to the conclusion that my feet are going to do whatever they're going to do.  There are things that I can work on to help my body move more efficiently but changing the way my feet land isn't one of them.

I also pronate.  Not a really bad thing either - it is natural to have some pronation, however, mine is excessive because of the way I toe out.  I do wear orthotics and I am wearing them in these shoes, however, these shoes are a less supportive neutral shoe I use for shorter distance racing.  For longer distance racing I use something that is still neutral but offers more cushioning and a bit more support.  I want the orthotics to do the work, not the shoe.  We did talk about orthotics and I may need a new pair but that wasn't the focus of this assessment.

The most interesting part of the analysis for me was what my hips are doing.  I know that my right side tends to drop or collapse easier than my left side (as evidenced in 99.9% of my race photos).  However BOTH sides are problematic when viewed from the back.  I have something Babs referred to as Trendelenburg gait.  In a nutshell, this means that my hip abductor muscles (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) are weak.

Yes folks, I have a lazy ass.  Because those muscles are not working properly, I am compensating elsewhere, mainly in my quads as it turns out.  This has led to incredibly tight quad muscles and IT bands, which in turn has led to knee pain.  Everything is so tight, it's putting stress on the joints and the tendons around it and everything becomes inflamed.  At least that's how I understand it.  So, ice and the occasional anti-inflammatory have become my best buds. 

Check out that hip drop! 
There are also some things I need to work on with my upper body.  Apparently I raise my shoulders while I run.  I know I do this on the treadmill for sure and I do it when I start to fatigue.  Babs said that most of that is due to my arm position.  I need to relax my arms a bit more when I run.  When I do this I will relax my shoulders.  My arms should be closer to waist level. I always wondered why my traps were sore after some of my longer runs.  Now I know.   I also have a lot of upper body movement when I run.  My torso twists and my arms cross my chest.  This is also very inefficient.  Take a look at the picture of all the "pros".  Their arms don't cross their chests.  They move back and forth from their shoulders, essentially helping their forward motion.  

You can also see that I have a very narrow base to my gait.  Which means that it doesn't take much for me to cross my foot slightly in front of me when I'm running.  I've even managed to kick my left heel multiple times during a run.  My right side seems to be more of the culprit with this than my left which is not surprising given that it seems to be my weaker side.  Ironic given that I'm right handed.

I know this all sounds horrible but, it is pretty much all fixable with a bit of work.  I have to be diligent about doing my glute strengthening exercises and I have to be doubly diligent about stretching and foam rolling.   I've even started stretching on days that I'm NOT working out.   The glute strengthening exercises are going to have become part of my regular routine.  Period. 

The plan of action right now is to do my exercises and continue my stretching routine for the next 3-4 weeks and then go back to see Babs again for a re-assessment.  If I'm still as sloppy as this, then we'll have to figure out another plan of action.  I'm scheduled to go back on August 25th, which is technically 5 weeks but that's the best I could do with my schedule. 

For anyone interested in getting this done, I highly recommend it.  Babs did an initial assessment of my feet and my ankle position as well as my orthotics.  He also measured my legs to see if there was any leg length discrepancy (there's a small one but nothing I need to be concerned about).  Afterwards, he took me through the video and explained everything that was going on.  He then did some tests with me to confirm that my glutes weren't firing.  My quads are so dominant, I had a hard time shutting them off during the test and when I did, all I could feel was the burning of my incredibly weak gluteus medius trying to work.  So very sad.

Had I thought about it, I would have actually taken notes because there is an additional charge for the video and still images with explanations.  If you're currently working with a physiotherapist or chiropractor then having these things would help immensely in your treatment plan because they'll be able to see what's happening in conjunction with your complaints about what's hurting.   I'm not sure if the initial $125 cost is covered by extended healthcare plans, but I don't think so (I haven't tried submitting my receipt yet, ha ha).  I know that the additional costs won't be.  The additional costs were as follows:

Gait Video only (no descriptions or markings) $35
Still images of gait with descriptions & markings = $55
Gait Video with descriptions & markings = $85

I'm guessing I've been running like this for a while.  Doing as much racing as I did last year, it's no wonder everything started to fall apart the minute I started building up my mileage again this year.  What amazes me is the fact that I was able to run relatively fast running as inefficiently as this.  I can only imagine how much faster I could potentially be if I actually manage to recruit my glutes!

Have you ever had a gait analysis done?  Did it help you improve your running form?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tri Talk Tuesday: Support Crew

It's Tuesday so it's time for another edition of Tri Talk Tuesday.  I'm linking up with 2 of the 3 tri ladies today (Courtney & Cynthia) as The Cupcake Triathlete (Miranda) is off to Lake Placid to cheer folks that are doing Ironman Lake Placid.   Which ties in perfectly with this week's topic:  Race Support crew.

I've been racing so long it's no surprise that over the years my support crew has changed.  My original group of "Tri-Friends" and training partners have had kids so it's not easy for them to get to races anymore.  Family has gotten older and a little less willing to drive crazy distances to cheer me on.  That and I race so darn much these days, well, it's hard to keep up.  That being said, we've had friends and family come out for our big events or races that might be close to home.  When I did my first Ironman in 2006, my entire family and G's entire family made the trip out to Lake Placid to cheer us on.  Not only that, several of our friends also made the drive to cheer us on.  It really was one of the best days of my life, other than my wedding day.  Last year our families came out to Belwood to cheer G and I on at a sprint race because it was close to my parent's home and we all went over for a BBQ after.  My folks got to see me on the podium so they were pretty proud.

The entire Kennedy / Rodrigues Fam Jam at Lake Placid 2006

Most of the Original Tri Gang, 2007
 These days my support comes in slightly different forms.  I have a new group of "Tri friends" (most of which are younger than me, ha ha) that I often race with and we're always cheering each other on either in person or virtually.  There's also the amazing folks in my run group, many of which are also triathletes.  My original "Tri friends" are still really supportive in that they always either call or send me text messages wishing me luck or congratulating me.  Back in 2006 when I did my first Ironman, Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy and I wasn't on either of them.  Instagram didn't even exist.  Now that we are in the age of Social Media, I've found that I am getting support from people all over the world.  The interwebz has made this world a much smaller place and has allowed us to connect with people we may have never have had the opportunity to connect with if things like Instagram and twitter didn't exist. Some of the messages I've gotten from people I've never met have really touched my heart. 

Jordan & Heather, part of the new Tri Gang
The triathletes from my run group. 
I'm also a part of an amazing team of athletes at Real Deal Racing.  The guys that run the show as well as my teammates are always so supportive.  As Mike likes to say, Team work makes the dream work.  So. Freaking. True.

And of course, there is G.  I cannot even being to tell you how lucky I am to have a partner that shares the same passion I do.  He is at almost every single running race I do and he's always at every tri because he's usually racing.  Yup, I count my blessings every. single. day.   Do I miss him when he's not there?  Of course.  Those are the days that I just have to dig a little deeper to get to the finish line and I'm ok with that. 

G and I on our cycling vacation in Lake Placid last year.  Yes, we're wearing matching caps from our favourite race series.

Who do you owe a big THANK YOU to for their support?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Breaking it Down

So on Monday I got the all clear from Peter, my chiro.  By all clear, I mean that I don't need to go back to see him again unless things start to flare up again.  He said my hip is a lot better and my IT bands were in really good shape.  I can thank my massage therapist for that.  He KILLED me last Thursday.  But it was exactly what I needed.

So with all of this good stuff, you'd think that my knees would have stopped hurting right?

They haven't.  I can't even begin to tell you how frustrating this is.  I went for a run on Tuesday night with my run club and the first 2-3 minutes of my run was pretty darn uncomfortable.  Once I got going, I was much better.  I don't have any knee pain going up or down stairs anymore so that's a plus.  I'm usually ok on the bike depending on the intensity of the ride.  It's the run that's the bigger issue and it just seems to be those first few steps when I'm running.  I'm beginning to think I'm doing something weird with my feet / legs because I'm anticipating the pain. 

I'm managing things with ice and lots of foam rolling and stretching.  I even took an Aleve last night, which I never do.  Anti-inflammatories do not sit well with me.  I find they knock me sideways and upset my stomach a bit so I try not to take them.  Obviously I can't continue doing this for the rest of my athletic career so steps need to be taken.

There are clearly issues happening when I run, and potentially when I'm lifting as well as riding.  My chiro says it's weak glutes and he's given me exercises to do.  That could very well be the case.  It could also be that my glutes aren't firing at all.  So, on Monday I'm heading to Pivot to see Babs Aiyede for a gait analysis.   I have to bring a few pairs of shoes (not my entire collection, haha) and wear snug fitting clothing.  No he's not a perv.  He has to be able to see what my upper body, hips AND legs are doing when I'm running.   So we're going to break down my running gait and see what's going on.  From this, I think he should be able to determine if in fact, I have a lazy ass.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue doing what I love to do: swim, bike, run.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What Next?

Now that #Mingsanity is over, so many people have asked me "what's next".  That's a good question.  Normally I have a solid racing schedule right through until late fall.  This year, I only have two more races officially on my schedule (meaning I've registered for them):  Bala Falls and Toronto Island.  I normally run a fall half and had wanted to do that this year but given the fact that my knees and hip are still bothering me, I don't think it's wise for me to register for anything until I have everything sorted out.   My run club is organizing a trip to Niagara Falls to do the Niagara Falls International Marathon / Half Marathon and I'd LOVE to do that but until I can run without pain, I don't want to commit to anything.

G thinks I'm going to actually have to take some time off.  Not just a week or two.  He's thinking anywhere between 3-6 weeks.   I hate to admit it, but I think he might be right.  I'm not ready to do that just yet so I'm going to continue with A.R.T, doing my PT exercises, getting back into the gym to rebuild my strength and doing my best to get to yoga on a semi regular basis.   That should help me manage the pain for the next two months.   If it's still lingering at the end of my triathlon season, then I will take some time off. 

The other thing I'm going to do is get a gait analysis done.  There are obviously some weird things happening when I'm running so I'd like to find out what's wrong and how to fix it. 

All of that being said, it's hard for me to sit still so of course, I was back at it this past week.  Albeit at a much lower volume.  I got back into the gym as well which I have missed SO MUCH.  I can't believe how much strength I've lost.  I know it will come back quickly once I get back into things.  

This is how my week panned out.

Monday: 2000m swim
Tuesday:  1 hour strength training + PT work, 6.9km run
Wednesday:  2000m swim
Thursday:  1 hour strength training & PT work
Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  1500m open water swim, 63.44km bike.
Sunday:  12 km run

Total time: 7h 52 minutes.  Hmmm...guess that's still kind of a lot.  I didn't feel like it though.  This week, I'll get back on the bike during the week as well since I've got a race coming up in a couple of weeks.  I'm also going to rejoin my run group on Tuesdays.  We'll see how my body responds to that. 

Saturday was too nice a day to NOT be out enjoying it.  Sunday morning was gross but then the rain stopped and I jumped at the chance to get out in the sun.  It was hot and humid but I ran slowly to keep my heart rate down and actually enjoyed myself.   I'm looking forward to getting out again next Sunday!

How was your week of workouts?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thinking Out Loud: Random European Observations

I was planning on writing a post about some of my favourite things from our trip but I figured that might get a little long and boring (my race reports are bad enough, I'm sure).   There were also many things in European culture that I found to be interesting in comparison to Canadian culture....again could be another looong post.  So I decided to lump it all together in a Thinking Out Loud post.  Two birds, one perfectly aimed stone.  

It's been ages since I've linked up with Amanda so I'm looking forward to joining in the fun again!

I'm going to start with my favourites.

1.  Dinner & wine in Luxembourg.  I had one of the best meals of my life at Le Sud in Luxembourg.  This was a pleasant surprise as we didn't have high expectations for the food there.  We also had a fantastic bottle of Cabernet Blanc, which neither of us had had before.  So good.  The meal was amazing and I wished I snapped some pics but I didn't want to be "that girl" sitting in a fancy restaurant taking pictures of her food.  But I did manage to snap a rather lame shot of the room.  It's crooked because I took it on the sly.

2.  Coffee in italy.  D'uh.  The Italians know their stuff.  They do coffee right.  I didn't have ONE bad cup while I was there.  So. Darn.  Good. 

3.  Beer in France.  Say WHAT?  Yes, you read that right my friends.  I had two of the best beers I've had in a LONG time in France.  THAT was certainly something I didn't expect. 

Grimbergen Cuvee Blanche

Pelforth Radler


4.   Once we arrived in Italy, it became very apparent that speed limits, lanes and parking spots were all just "suggestions".  People pretty much did whatever they wanted to do on the road.  It was a little scary at times but for the most part, people get out of the way and let the crazies go by. 

5.  That brings me to my next point.  Other than the Italians on the highway, people know how to drive in Europe. NOBODY sits in the passing lane doing the speed limit.  They all drive in the middle or right lane and use the left lane for passing ONLY.  Once they've passed you, they move over.  It's amazing how well traffic actually flows when you drive like that. 

6.  Speed limits:  130 kph for the most part.  110 kph if it's raining.  And people don't drive like idiots.  Canada needs to get with the program.  Stretches of the autobahn have NO speed limit.  You can go as fast as you're comfortable with.  I think that helped cut our driving time down a fair bit.  G took our rockin' Renault Scenic minivan up to almost 170kph.  Some guy in a VW GTI blew by us, probably going about 220.  The last time we were in Europe on the autobahn we were in a Golf and G got it up to 200 kph, with me freaking out in the passenger seat. 

That says 167 kph. 
 7.  Cycling is ingrained in the culture.  It's an acceptable a mode of transportation that is encouraged with plenty of bike lanes and beautiful roads.  It's a beloved past time.  It's a way of life.  People embrace the bike.  From kids to old ladies, it doesn't matter.  We saw a woman who had to be about 70 out on her bike with a basket it on it, heading off to the grocery store. 

8.  Speaking of cycling, let me just talk about the roads for a minute.  OMG.  Not a pothole to be found anywhere.  I can only attribute that to the fact that they probably don't get the same dramatic difference it temperatures that we do here.  Nor do they get as much snow.  The roads in Luxembourg were hands down the nicest roads I've ridden on.  France wasn't too bad either.  I could have done without the tar seal strips on the descent from the top of Alp d'Huez though. 

9.  I've also come to the conclusion that the Europeans know what it means to socialize.  They are always outside in groups.  Even when we were in Paris in December, people were sitting on patios drinking and talking.  And when I say socialize, I mean actually sitting down and having a conversation.  I hardly saw anyone on their smartphones.  I also noticed that there were a lot of families that would go out together.  Whether it be for dinner or after dinner.  Instead of sitting around inside, watching TV, they'd go out for a walk to get some gelato or an evening coffee or drink and sit they'd sit around and talk.  I think that's why their TV channels suck.  Nobody's watching because they're all outside being social.   Imagine that!  Although I think I'd probably be doing the same if there was no such thing as windchill and 4 feet of snow. 

10.  A little confession:  when we got back, it took me a couple of days to stop reaching to either the top of the toilet or the wall to flush it, ha ha. 

Your turn!  Tell me something random!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tri Talk Tuesday: Food, Glorious FOOD!

Now that things are somewhat back to normal, I can get back to blogging a little more regularly, yay!  That also means that I'm back to eating the way I normally do....which ironically is the topic of todays Tri Talk Tuesday.  I'm linking up with Courtney at the Tri Girl Chronicles, Miranda at The Cupcake Triathlete and Cynthia at You Signed up For What? to talk about one of my favourite things:  FOOD.

 While we were away in Europe, I tried to eat as normally as possible during the week leading up to the race.  That mean no real crappy food (i.e fried or refined or sugary).  We were staying in an apartment so we had the option to make our own meals.  We usually made breakfast and lunch and then ate out for dinner which was a nice compromise.  I indulged a wee bit here and there with the occasional dessert and I definitely didn't shy away from alcohol, although I didn't have any the day before the race.  The two weeks after the race all bets were off.  I ate more pizza, croissants and gelato than I care to admit...but I enjoyed every bit of it. 

I don't follow any really strict dietary rules, other than "don't eat crap".  I try to make a point of eating whole foods, nothing prepackaged.   I find the less crap I eat, the better I feel and perform.  Go figure.  That being said, I do enjoy a really good burger or pizza on occasion.  And of course a frosty beverage to wash it all down because, really, it's all about balance.  And I have a bit of a chocolate problem...

If you follow me on instagram, you'll see that I often post food pics.  I love to eat.   I also happen to love healthy food and I really enjoy cooking.  I like variety in my diet.  I can't eat the same thing day in and day out.  I am a big fan of salads but they need to have protein in them.  So you'll usually see a can of tuna or a chicken breast or if I'm in a vegan kind of mood, some tempeh mixed in.  

I try to do some food prep on Sundays but it was difficult when I was training for my 70.3.  I was usually pretty wiped out by Sunday afternoon so I wouldn't do much.  Now that I'm back home and won't be dealing with that crazy training volume, I should be able to prep a bit more.  A few of my staples are usually turkey burgers, lamb meatballs, quinoa and a big veggie frittata.  

A typical day of eats usually looks like this:

Breakfast - either a piece of fritatta, or a chia pudding (peanut butter / chocolate is my fave).  Pancakes on weekends! 

Post workout I usually have a smoothie with protein powder and some whole grain toast or an english muffin with some kind of nut butter or avocado spread on it + an americano with cream and sugar.  On days where I've done a really intense workout, I will usually have steel cut oats & fruit along with my smoothie.

Lunch will usually be a protein and a huge pile of veggies or salad.  Sometimes a bit of carbs, like sweet potatoes or black beans.  I find if I have too many carbs at lunch, I feel sluggish and lethargic by mid afternoon so I tend to shy away from them.

Mid afternoon I usually have a snack.  Sometimes its greek yogurt and fruit, or a chia pudding or some nuts and veggies.  In a pinch, I'll have a Lara Bar (love them!)

Dinner will usually be protein & veggies.  If I've done an intense workout, I may have a big bowl of pasta or a homemade pizza. I'm also a big fan of breakfast for dinner so sometimes I have pancakes.

And of course there's usually dessert.  Sometimes its a couple of squares of dark chocolate.  Other times its fruit or a mug cake.  Or, my favourite, chocolate cherry "Ice cream"

When I'm busy and we're shooting, my normal eats go right out the window.  I usually over indulge in all the less than ideal things no matter how hard I try to be "good".  And I generally pay for it by the end of the day.  I always end up dragging my butt and feeling like a sack of hammers.  But that's ok, I usually bounce back fairly quickly. 

I've learned over the years that what you put in to your body has a direct result on what you can get out of your body.  I didn't always eat this way.  I changed my diet almost 4 years ago and lost over 20lbs, most of which I've kept off.  I can honestly say that eating the way I do has helped me perform better.  It's gotten me lighter, it's kept me healthier (I don't often get sick whereas I used to get at least 2 colds every winter) and it's given me an appreciation for what REAL, good for you food tastes like.  
What are your go to healthy meals?

What's your favourite indulgence?  I have a few:  burgers, french fries, pizza, ice cream.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Climb: Alp d'Huez

I can't believe that our little adventure is over.  It seems like ages ago already.   Back to reality.  I will probably do a post later on in the week recapping some of the highlights of the trip as well as some pointers when traveling to destination races. 

When we were planning our trip, our main goal was to get to Italy as I'd never been there before.  Having to go to Luxembourg first meant that we were either flying into Paris or Frankfurt and driving from there.  Cost and flight availability had us going in and out of Paris, which wasn't a bad thing.  We figured that if we had to drive back into Paris that we might as well explore a bit more of France after spending time in Italy.  I honestly could have stayed in Italy longer it was so beautiful.  But had we done that, we would have missed out on the stunning scenery of the French Riviera and the French alps.  Once we realized that our route back to Paris would take us close to the French alps we decided that we should spend a couple of days there and tackle one of the Tour Climbs.  Thankfully it was closer to the end of our trip so I would be recovered from the race.  We decided on doing Alp d'Huez.  It wasn't a long climb but it was definitely challenging. 21 switchbacks in roughly 14km and over 1000m of climbing.  There was no way I was going to do it on my tri bike so we rented these sweet Pinarello Dogma's.  Full carbon and super light. 

We had looked at trying to stay in Alp d'Huez or Le Bourg D'Oisans but every single place was booked.  We had no idea what was happening but we assumed it was some kind of cycling race.  So we ended up in Grenoble, which was about a 50 minute drive away.  When we left Nice to head to Grenoble, G figured that we should go and scope out the bike store in Bourg D'Oisans first and then make our way to Grenoble.  We had roughly a 5 hour drive from Nice to Bourg, most of it on the highway.  French highways are the bomb by the way,there are rest stops, restaurants and gas stations every 15-20km so you don't need to worry about emergency pit stops.  And the scenery was pretty darn nice too given it was a major highway. It's not every day that you drive by old ruins and huge churches as you zoom along the highway.

As we got into the mountains, we knew we were heading into cycling territory as the roads were becoming populated with cyclists.  There were tons of people on the road. We even saw vans with bike racks in them.  We figured they were tour groups of some sort.  The closer we got to Bourg, the more cyclists we saw.  There was even a bike lane painted on the two lane highway.  We were in cycling Nirvana. 

We rolled into Bourg and stopped at a little restaurant to grab a bite to eat.  They even had a "cyclist's menu".  There were tons of people whizzing through town on bikes, along with guys in spandex with shaved legs sitting eating bowls of pasta and drinking espresso.  Go was so excited he could barely contain himself.  We finished our meal and went into the bike shop.  OMG it was JAMMED.  We spent a fair bit of time looking at clothes.  There were a few really nice pieces of kit that I liked but just couldn't justify the $$ on.  I had spent a fair bit of money in Italy and a ton of money at the race expo so I felt the need to restrain myself.  Plus I didn't really NEED anything.  I'm so bloody practical, haha. 

We chatted with the sales woman, confirmed our rental and dropped off our pedals.  I had been concerned about gearing but G checked the bikes out and told me I didn't have to worry about a thing.  The bike had a triple crank set on it, which meant that I'd be able to spin my legs up the mountain without killing myself too much.  Sweet, give me all the granny gears!  We made arrangements to be back for 9:00 am the next day and then headed on to Grenoble. 

The next day we packed up our gear and drove in to Bourg.  We totally lucked out with the forecast,it was supposed to to be sunny and really hot. The day before had been overcast and cool.  We got to the bike shop and the mechanic pulled the bikes out for us and had us take them for a spin.  Mine seemed to be ok but I couldn't really tell.  It was weird to be riding a road bike again, I'm so used to riding my tri bike.  The mechanic said we should go and do a loop of the town to get a warm up in because the climb was only about 1km away.  So we took a spin along this little path around the outskirts of Bourg.  During the ride I realized that my saddle wasn't in the right position. I felt like it was too far back and it wasn't comfortable. So we made o ur way back to the bike shop and and them move my saddle frown a bit.  I got on and started riding.  Much better.  Now I really had a feel for the bike.
Not pictured - the TRIPLE crank set

We followed the stream of cyclists out of town to a roundabout and took the first exit which turned out to be incorrect but a quick u turn rectified that and soon we were heading towards the alp.  There was a line painted across the road that signified where the climb started. It was also where they had the timing chip start timing your climb.  When you rent bikes from this shop, they give you a chip to time your climb.  Apparently this is something they do for all the major Tour climbs.  You get a little chip that you put in your jersey and it starts when you cross the line at the base of the climb and then stops when you cross the line at the top of the climb. The bike shop will then print out a copy of your time when you're back.

I knew the climb was going to be long.  People told me that the first 3-4km was the hardest part.  The grade is steeper here so you're struggling to get into a rhythm.  They weren't kidding.  As soon as the road started to go up my heart rate spiked.  I immediately got into my granny gears and started spinning my legs.  I wanted to take it easy because I knew it was going to be a long way up.  The road was much wider than I had anticipated.  Most of the mountain roads we had been on were insanely narrow.  This was a pleasant surprise. There was plenty of room to pass other cyclists and cars still had a good amount of room to get by.  I tried to keep my breath in check and just focus on the road in front of me.  I didn't want to look up because I knew I had a long way to go and seeing how far would have messed with my head.  So I looked at the road in front of me.  I'd glance up every so often to look out over the guard rail and check the view. 

G was in front of me but seemed to be struggling a bit so I passed him.  I looked down at the speedometer on my bike.  I was chugging along at 10kph.  Sometimes it dropped down to 9, and at one point it got as low as 8 kph.  Those first few kms were a slog, no doubt about it.  What makes the climb difficult from a mental perspective is the fact that all the switchbacks are numbered, starting at 21 and counting down until you cross the top.  And it's not like the switchbacks are close together either.  Fun fact:  each switchback is named after a winner from this stage.  I think at this point each turn has two names on it, although I'm pretty sure Lance Armstrong's has been removed.  I didn't think to check as I was too busy grinding my way up the mountain. 

Once I got through the first few turns, it started to feel a bit easier.  I started seeing 11 kph on and off on my speedometer.  Sometimes I'd get as high as 14 kph in the turns.  Woohoo!  I never got out of my granny gear either, no matter how fast my legs were spinning.  My legs were feeling ok and I wanted to keep it that way.  I chugged along.  I got to a turn, looked around and didn't see G anywhere so I figured I'd better stop.  There were some turns that had a wide shoulder and somewhat flat shoulder that you could pull over and stop on so the next one I came to, I did just that.  I was probably about 1/4 of the way up and I was hot and sweaty.  I made a point to drink something.  I looked back and saw G grinding his way up.  As he got closer, I got back on my bike and started moving.  But not before I snapped this.  It's foggy because I didn't even think to clean my camera lens off.  I didn't realize just how sweaty I was.

G caught up to me and I hopped back on the bike and started grinding away again.  I was loving the granny gears and the bike itself was amazingly nimble and light.  I actually caught and passed two guys.  They caught and passed me when I stopped again a few turns later.  Then I caught them again.  It was like playing leap frog.  I kept pushing on.  I realized once again that G was nowhere to be found so the next opportunity I had to stop, I did so.  It was at turn number 11.  We were just half way up.  Good God.  I thought about turning around right then and there.  I sat there, caught my breath and waited for G.  I didn't feel like I was breathing hard when I was riding but every time I stopped I was gasping for air.  I figured it was probably the altitude.   G caught up to me and we took a breather here for a while.  I had a GU and drank some more fluids.  My legs were just starting to feel a bit tired so I figured I needed a little something.  I'm not sure how long we sat here for, probably a couple of minutes.  G was in a bad position on the bike, he felt like he didn't have any power, thus his slow ascent.  Normally he's way ahead of me on hills, he's a really strong climber.   We hopped back on our bikes and motored on. 

The next few turns went by in a bit of a haze.  I was clearly only focused on the road in front of me because the next time I looked up at anything, I saw I was at turn number 6.  WOOHOO, only 5 left to go!  This definitely spurred me on.  I kept on rolling.  I came to a wide turn and there were a couple of older guys sitting there chilling out and a younger dude who was just getting back on his bike.  I chugged past him.  A few seconds later, he blew by me like I was standing still.  Amazing.

I started to look around a bit more.  I passed a nice little village.  I noticed that there were multiple bus stops on the way up but nothing on the way down.  I came across a photographer at turn 5 but he didn't get me because I was behind another guy.  I passed that dude and then at turn 3, there was another photographer who got me and then tried to hand me the card with the website info to order pics.  I laughed and said I wasn't taking my hand off the bars so he laughed and shoved the card in the back pocket of my jersey.  I was soooo close to the top, I couldn't wait to get off my bike.  The last little bit kicks up again in grade, ever so slightly.  Especially closer to the top.  The last little climb into the village seemed so much tougher.  I pushed it up that last bit and rolled into town.  I kept going until I saw the checkered line painted on the ground.  I figured that had to be where the timing chip stopped recording your time.  I crossed it and rolled the bike to a stop.  My legs were shaking a bit as I got off.  I leaned the bike up against a post and waited for G.  The town was FULL of cyclists all sitting on patios either eating or drinking coffee.

G finally rolled in and we made our way over to a patio for a coffee.  It was hot and sunny out and I easily could have spent the afternoon sitting there people watching.  We had our coffee and then checked out a few of the stores - all filled to the brim with cycling gear.  G bought an Alp d'Huez jersey.  We had seen people taking pics in front of an Alp d'Huez sign so we went and did that of course.

 Then it was time to head back down the mountain.  This is what I was dreading.  I asked G to stay with me.  He started moving and I followed suit, immediately grabbing the brakes and pumping them to keep me from going too fast.  I slowly made my way around the first corner and then stopped, my heart in my chest.  I was petrified.  I told G I didn't think I could do it so we sat there for a bit.  I got back on the bike, rolled around the next couple of turns and pulled into a little park.  I had a bit of a meltdown here and G was clearly frustrated with me.  So, I made the effort to go a little further but with all the cars and speedy cyclists whizzing by me, it was just too much for me to take.  I am not a good descender.  I don't mind going fast in a straight line downhill but add in turns and it makes me very uncomfortable.  This is something I clearly need to work on.  So I made it to this small little village that had a nice little viewing area that overlooked the descent.  I was nervous about being left there but I figured G was a good descender so he should be fine.  He headed down the mountain and I sat there and watched people whizz by.  It was a beautiful sunny day so I sat in the grass and soaked up the sun.  Roughly half an hour later, G rolled up in our rockin' Renault Scenic minivan and rescued me.

We made our way down the mountain and went back to the bike shop to return our bikes and timing chips.  The sales woman we had dealt with the day before downloaded the info from the chips and then says to me, Oh wow, you beat Gary?  I smiled and said Yup, and that was with 3 stops.  The chip time keeps going, even if you stop.  It took me 1 hour and 16 minutes to get up and it took G 1 hour and 20 minutes but to be fair, he stopped to adjust his saddle towards the end of the climb.  Even if I didn't make it down the mountain, it was still a pretty amazing experience.  It really goes to show you how incredible these tour guys are - they RACE up these mountains.  It's one thing to see it on TV but seeing it in real life....WOW.

Of course, I wore my Garmin.  I didn't use my Vectors so I don't have power data for the climb but, I've got everything else.  The route map is what kills me.  Look at the zig zags.

 It was an incredible experience, one that I'd love to do again once I get a bit more comfortable with descending, ha ha.