Blog site has moved...

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We've got a new format for my blog.  The link remains the same through the www.trainharder.com site, but in case anyone has a bookmark to this one, the new webpage address is above.

Hugh



Another week in review


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Now with greater than a week between today and my previous post, I find myself straining my pea- brain just a little to remember what training has actually transpired since then.  Let's see...well, let's work backwards:

Today: easy half hour run - I was initially thinking of longer, but I needed to take my three paintings to the Community Arts gallery beside the Sussex Building as opening night is tomorrow.  The latest one was framed today and I have finished it more or less to my satisfaction.  It does, however, feel unfinished, and there are certainly touch-ups required, but it's at least sufficiently complete for public display.

Tuesday: after coming home to work on my painting immediately, later in the evening I managed a quick run to gym, a short ride on exercise bike, weights, calisthenics, run home - afterward I finished painting at about midnight. 

Monday: no training at all, and although I thought I might get out for some sort of easy ride, it didn't happen - the day seems to have faded in the mists of my memory, and I can't remember clearly how the day was spent, though it was generally relaxing...

Sunday:  ran for 1hr 20 minutes in and around Cobble Hill/Shawnigan Lake area, about 18km

Saturday: three hour ride - plan was to hook up with the Burnside group, but ended up missing it.  I sought to cross-paths with the group along their usual route, but it didn't happen, so I proceeded along the usual Lands-End/route alone until I ran into Clare H-P near Sydney and joined her for a while back into town

Friday: nix

Thursday: met up with Ased right after work for three loops at the top end of the Cedar Hill golf course; we did the second loop hard, while the rest of the run was fairly comfortable - total distance on the day was about 10 miles, I estimated

Wednesday: easy two loops around Beacon Hill and home (I think) - about 40minutes

Tuesday: so this brings me back to last Tuesday, and the only thing that makes sense was that I ran to the gym for my weight-training workout.

Again, the idea for me is consistency of training - I'm not worried about intensity or volume, and for the time being it can be alternately running or cycling.   Just a bit more than two weeks until I travel to Costa Rica, where the plan is to do a lot of volume for both, plus a fair amount of intensity. 

Tomorrow is opening night for the Legal Services Branch art exhibit.  Apparently, most of the pieces will be photography, or other artistic forms, with only two or three painters, myself being one of the few.  Quite a good idea to organize a Branch exhibit.  Apparently opening night two years ago was a big hit - which I missed as I was on a temporary assignment with a different ministry at the time.  I am glad to have pushed myself to prepare another piece for the exhibit, since I would not have done it otherwise.  I am, however, mildly disappointed with how the piece turned out in the end.  There is, I think, a certain richness to some of the colors I used, and my human figures are, to me, as dynamic as always, but there was some sloppiness in the end amid my urgency to complete it, and I feel the theme, both in terms of the configuration of the painting components as well as its colors, is incomplete and underdeveloped.  This is unlike my previous painting, which I feel was adequately complete thematically in terms of composition and color and attention to detail.

The big switch


Monday, November 5, 2007

With a few hundred WordPress blog page themes to choose from, I found myself clicking through them like one might watch television and flip through channels endlessly and mindlessly.  While I have effectively sworn off television, I cannot say the same for the computer, which has become nearly an equal replacement in its capacity to mire me in a quicksand of misspent time.   The choices were hypnotizing, as there were so many good ones.  I am not ordinarily prone to lingering in deciding upon selections of pretty much anything, but oddly it seems to matter more to me how the background will appear for my blog page than many things of arguably greater importance.

Wordpress is the online blog platform that we will be switching to soon.  Pano, website owner, had long ago provided the option to switch platforms from Pivot, which is this one, to WordPress.  I have been a bit tardy on that front, but with a little gentle nudging and assistance from Pano, I'm soon to finally make the switch. 

On that note, below is an update of the last week.  Owing to a lot of time spent on courses, preparing a third painting for the little Legal Services Branch exhibit upcoming on November 15, among other things, I have been finding less energy available to keep my blog updated on a daily basis.  I'll also be starting a few Spanish lessons as well to prepare me for my trip to Costa Rica.  Despite these things, it is always a priority to sustain, at the minimum, some base fitness. 

The week was largely a recovery week after the Shawnigan Lake half last weekend. So, working backwards from today:

Today - no training

Sunday - a 3 hr ride in the afternoon at a brisk, but not hard, pace - about 100km

Saturday - a one hour run at a comfortable pace, with a few gentle accelerations

Friday - easy run to gym, light weights, calisthenics/stretch, run home

Thursday - 1hr 10 ride easy

Wednesday - easy run to gym for light weights/calisthenics/stretch, 10min ride on exercise bike, run home

Tuesday - easy 1 hr ride

Monday - off

Sunday - Shawnigan Lk half

Shawnigan Lk Half

Monday, October 29, 2007

Last week looked a bit like this:

Sunday: Did the Shawnigan Lake half marathon, somewhat spontaneously.  As I have not really done much running of any real significance since the Victoria Half three weeks ago - no intervals and no long runs - running a half marathon this weekend did not seem like the best of ideas.  I had already given the Provincial x-country champs on Saturday a miss, also because I hadn't done any hard runs in three weeks.

But after a short run of my own on Saturday that consisted of a couple of 800s on the Oak Bay track and realizing I felt quite good, I figured if I felt good in the morning that I could probably run the Shawnigan Lake half.  I wouldn't have lost all my fitness in three weeks, I reasoned.  After the 800's I also popped into the gym to do a circuit of weights, but made sure to keep all the weights at about 60 percent of what I normally do them at.  The idea was to prime the muscles for the half-marathon, not fatigue them to the point where I would really hurt them during the race.

It seemed to work reasonably well.  After awaking on Sunday morning, the legs felt a wee bit sore, but limber and so I figured I might as well do the Half.  The course was a bit longer this year - about 150m longer it seemed to me - as it started in a different place from two years ago when I did it last.  Conditions were fairly good - no rain, and about 9 degrees.  That's a bit cool for me, but still warm enough for shorts. 

I was tentative off the start and at first was content to watch Trevor Wurtele zip away.  However, after the first 500 m I realized I had a bit more zip in me and closed the gap to Trevor.  He and I stayed together to about 5km when he started to pull away and I thought it not prudent to follow.  He gained about 20 seconds on me, until the gap held steady for the next 8 km or so, when Trevor began to flag just a bit and I caught back up to him.  At that point we ran together until the bottom of the last long climb before the descent to the finish.  We had eased up a bit before the hill, allowing us both to gather some steam for the last punch to the finish, but he had more strength than me on that climb and opened a gap on me.  When we turned the last corner to the descent, Trevor kept ahead at full-gas and proceeded to a 9 second lead at the finish in 1:16.31, to my 1:16.40. 

I hadn't realized how close behind Mark Knoop was, only 15 seconds.  I imagine he closed a larger gap between us in the last 2km when Trev and I slowed up just a bit.  In any event, a fun race, and I was happy that my legs felt pretty good through it, although my aerobic system didn't feel quite capable of handling a much harder pace.

I've been second in that race now four times - once to Bruce Deacon, once to David Jackson, once to Kelvin Broad and now to Trevor. I won it once.

Saturday - that was the warmup to Oak Bay with a couple of 800s and some light weights, 10 mins on the exercise bike, and the run home.

Friday - no training

Thursday - easy run with Ased from work to Cedar Hill where we did two loops around the top and then back to work, for me, and home

Wednesday - 1hr 15 ride - legs felt quite good - pushed the pace a bit

Tuesday - easy run to Oak Bay for weights with an extra 20 minutes of running to warm up thrown in

Monday ??

Sat/Sunday last week - Saturday I did a hard ride in the afternoon from Cobble Hill, out around the east side of Duncan through Cowichan Bay, then across the highway to Lake Cowichan and back - that was almost a three hour ride and owing to the descending darkness, I pushed quite hard, but felt good doing it.  Sunday, I ran for about an hour back in town up the water front, with the legs having felt nicely recovered from the hard ride on Saturday. 

That, I think takes me back to the last update, more or less...

The boy who knew too much


Thursday, October 25, 2007


"I once was a boy, just like you - just like every man," said the man, gesticulating his hands  palms up, rather like he was handing an invisible plate to the gypsy cyclist.  "And I was an ordinary boy except for one thing - and this was something I did not learn until I was older, but was told to me by my mother, and was something I studied myself.  Perhaps you know of this.  Perhaps this is not news to you at all.  Forgive me if this is nothing new to you. 

"There is a biological process - one that happens to every many-celled organism to some degree, and no less to humans than to any other creature on earth.  That is the process of apoptosis, or cell-suicide.  It happens all the time: the webs between your fingers disintegrate as your foetus develops into a baby, cells of the skin die and slough off.  Indeed when a cell becomes infected with a virus, it dies to prevent the proliferation of viruses, a very handy mechanism indeed. 

"But the most interesting form of cell-suicide also happens before we are born.  Did you know that it is estimated that there are as many as 1 trillion neurons formed in your brain before birth and that nearly ninety percent of them commit suicide before you are born? Did you know this remarkable fact?"  The gypsy cyclist stared at the man and shook his head.

"That", continued the man, "leaves us with 100 billion to play with for our normal development as we grow to adults. But what would happen if those 900 billion neurons didn't die?  You may be astonished to learn that for me the process did not occur as it does for most everyone else, but I am telling you this now, as much as you may not believe it to be true.  Will you allow me to tell you?"

Although he was cold and tired and hungry, the gypsy cyclist responded in the affirmative.  He did not have much energy to speak and was quite content merely to listen. 

"I will tell you that when I was born I had lost far fewer than the average number of neurons due to cell-suicide.  I don't know how many fewer - no one knows - it cannot be known, for it was never tested.  So how do I know this?  Because when I was born I could speak several dialects of Hindi and Punjabi and remembered clearly a life from which I had just come, a past life.  But my motor ability to use my tongue was undeveloped, though I endeavored to strengthen the muscles of my larynx and tongue quickly.  I wanted to shout out to my mother and father in Hindi that I was living proof of reincarnation.  I wanted to describe in exacting detail the memories of my life and the images I held in my brain for which I said to myself when I was still in utero: "remember! remember! remember! When you pass through from the womb to light, you will remember the life from which you have just come. You will remember fine details and speak the language of the life you have just led, and you will proclaim to the world when you are born that you have not forgotten the life from which you have come.  Listen to me my new mother and father, I would say, if we go to northeast India I will take you to my village and tell you who my friends and family were. 

"But let me tell you: it was not just languages, or past lives. There were mathematical formulas that danced in my mind, but I could not speak of them or write them down - the muscles in my hand were weak and soft like butter and for every effort I made, they would not respond.  For this I wanted to shout out, "my newest mother and father, listen to me!  I know how space is curved around every object and the equations for it all and for every interaction and motion in the cosmos!  Listen!  There are things I know but which I cannot begin to tell you.

"Instead all I could do was to cry aloud and make infant sounds and flail my tiny arms around.  Can you imagine the frustrations?  Can you imagine being such a prisoner to your body?  There are no bonds with which anyone could constrain me now to match the bondage of my own infant body!  But then I became content, with a plan - simply to wait, to wait until my body strengthened.  When the muscles of my hands and larynx and tongue matured, then would I reveal to the world these amazing facts. 

"But do you know what happened?  Will you believe that one day in my crib during a fit of pique I flipped out when the poorly fastened cage door fell down?  I landed on my back and hit my head on the hard wooden floor.  I could feel changes in my brain occurring even then, and I cried out in my mind, and all that came was the shrill sound of my infant strains: "mother, father - let me speak to you now before I lose it all! You must listen, for it is happening at last - I feel the memories all fading and while you comfort me I am learning this life anew.  Please hold me! Hold me and let me speak Hindi and Punjab to you and recount the story of my life!

"But when they picked me up, I was just a baby. Just a baby like you were a baby, with no Punjab or Hindi remaining and no clear image left of my life before.  Why have I not forgotten even that?  Because I said this much to myself "remember this much: remember that you once knew these things - remember when your mother tells you that you once fell from your crib that you once did know many things.  If you cannot remember what they were, then at least you will remember that you had these memories.

"To this day I try to remember what they were, but there are only fleeting images now and again.  I do not know if it was Hindi and Punjab anymore, and I will forgive you if you believe that I am inventing this entire story.  But one thing you must know: it happened to you too.  It happened to every one of us.  We knew so much more before we were born than we can possibly imagine, and then it vanished by apoptosis.  Do not for a moment believe that those 900 billion neurons were inert and empty of knowledge.  They were alive, just like yours are now, and deeply interconnected - by virtue of their existence and vitality, they contained vast amounts of knowledge.  This much I know is true."

The gypsy cyclist, tired, thanked the man for his story and said he must eat or risk fainting.  He turned away to seek his primary requirement: nourishment for his body. 






Update


Friday, October 19, 2007

Short update since the Royal Vic Half two weekends ago, as well as my memory serves me.

  • Monday after the race - rode about an hour, easy
  • Tuesday - off completely
  • Wednesday - slightly harder ride for 1.5 hours
  • Thursday - run to Oak Bay for weight room workout - kept all weights light as sartorious is still a bit tender - stretch/calisthenics - run home
  • Friday off completely
  • Saturday off completely
  • Sunday - two hour ride
  • Monday this week - 40 minute run, easy
  • Tuesday - 1.5 hour ride mostly relaxed with some efforts - legs felt really good
  • Wednesday - run to Oak Bay for weights - added two new adductor and abductor leg exercises to routine, again kept weights light, but increased over last week - ride exercise bike for 10 minutes - stretch/calisthenics - run home
  • Thursday - 1hr 5min run, relaxed but quick (sub-tempo) - felt good, but could tell legs were a tiny bit tight from previous four days in a row
  • Today will be off, with plans for longer rides/run this weekend
The idea at this point is to build consistency into the program - nothing too structured, hard, or long at the moment.  Still need to be careful about the sartorious as well.  As I now plan to train quite extensively while in Costa Rica, the objective is really to build enough of a base so that I can actually train hard while I'm there for three+ weeks and possibly do a local race or two.

Not bad, all things considered


Sunday, October 8, 2007

So, in the end I made the decision to run the half-marathon this morning, knowing full well how risky the venture was given the tenuous state of my sartorius muscle.  However, in the last few days it seemed increasingly like it would hold out for the race.  I had taken Trevor O'B's advice about an easy run Tuesday after physio treatment Monday and a 45min run Wed (although I went easier than he suggested), then had taken Thursday off completely.  On Friday I did 1/2 an hour on the treadmill with 3X2 min race pace pickups (35min 10k pace), and part of them at faster than race pace.  My leg held up, so I thought that that was sufficient confirmation I was ready for a full half.  The plan was then to take Saturday off completely and hopefully to be ready today. 

So late in the afternoon yesterday I finally registered for the race, despite already developing some heaviness in my legs after standing in the cold for nearly four hours for the "New Balance roll-the-dice give-aways" yesterday morning.  I had volunteered for that as part of my sponsorship obligation with Frontrunners to volunteer at a few odd events.  The event was part of the marathon exposition, and the idea was for registered runners to roll a big foam die and win a prize behind a locker door that corresponded to the die number.  This was actually quite a hoot as Kim Shortreeb-Webb, fellow volunteer and sponsored FR runner, and I managed to keep each other in stitches the whole time and had great fun faciliating the "roll the wet-foamy dice on the soggy pavement" expo event outside the NB store on Government St.  After a while we were recycling the same lines to people about "here is the dice, freshly squeezed," or " or "good roll, no whammies", or "the dice is definitely weighted, with water, in favour of the two", or "wash your hands after touching the dice, we don't know what's been on the sidewalk" (which was very good advice).  As much as an introvert as I usually am, there are some situations where I can actually ham it up relatively well, and we had a hoot.  I would definitely do that again next year, although it isn't the best thing for the legs the day before a race, especially given how cold and windy and wet it was yesterday morning.

In any event, as for the race: firstly I nearly missed the start, since for some reason I had it in mind that we started at 8:30 (I think that's what I had seen on the website), and at 7:00 after awaking at 6:30 this morning, figured I'd better double check the race bible.  To my horror I discovered I had to be on the start line in half an hour.  Fortunately it only takes 10 minutes to jog down there, so I whipped on my running attire with a belly full of porridge and zero coffee and  gently eased my body there.  The morning was relatively warm (about 11 degrees) and not raining, which was a positive start to the day.

The jog down seemed ok - legs a bit heavy maybe from standing around yesterday and perhaps a bit heavy even from the treadmill run on Friday, since that was the first time I'd done anything at race pace since straining my sartorius 10 days prior.  But there was no pain in the sartorius on the jog down, so I figured I was ready.  As it turned out the sartorius did hold up, although admittedly I stopped twice to walk a bit when I felt it tightening on me, which I think saved it from deteriorating again to a cramp and resultant injury.  I ran the first 13k with Lucy Smith, women's winner, until she did a short surge that forced me to drop off the pace a bit, and soon afterward began to feel the legs begin to tighten like a vice, which in turn forced me to stop.   Both times I stopped I thought I would turn off the course and walk home, but each time I started to go again the leg held up and eventually I was close enough to the finish just to keep chugging it in for the finish.  My time was 1:17 something, and somewhere in the  top 20 still, though I'm not sure where - 17th? 

So, in the end I was actually happy with it.  Also, given that I've only just gotten over a battle with the mono virus, which I've heard from yet more people still about how devastating it can be, in the end, all things considered, I had reason to be thankful that the day was as good as it was.

A reason to fight

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Spreading its arms across the morning sky and kicking up a jig to celebrate the departure of so many overcast days, sunlight at last had banished the clouds.  Aroused since crimson light flicked over the horizon, the gypsy cyclist pondered his vast and strange surroundings.  He did not move quickly and each thing he accomplished, from rolling his sleeping bag to preparing a bowl of muesli, was done in time only with the changing colors of the morning sky as red shifted to purple, purple to blue, as all the stars faded, closing their eyes for a sleep of their own and were gathered up and calmed to stillness in the arms of the sun. 

The gypsy cyclist's languor and calm was to be shortlived this morning, however.  In the distance he became vaguely aware of the sound of shouting men. The voices grew louder as the group evidently approached his location amid the jungle trees just off the roadside.  From the brusqueness of their tones, it was quickly apparent the group was military in nature.  But their shouting was unclear and the gypsy cyclist could not understand what words were exchanged.  He was uncertain if he should be afraid, but decided remaining in place was the most prudent course of action.

"Here, here!" he heard a man shout, as the group was running.  "Turn into that clearing, there! Now!"  Six soldiers thrashed through a trail from the road straight into the clearing where stood the gypsy cyclist with his bicycle held at his side. 

"Well, what have we here?" said the first, the one who had shouted the directions to turn.  The group stopped at the behest of their leader and examined the gypsy cyclist.  Some chortled.

"What brings you here?" the leader asked. 

"I have been travelling with my bicycle around the world," replied the gypsy cyclist.  "I hope I am not intruding." 

"Intruding?" replied the leader. "You are not intruding at all, but this is a military exercise, and we need this space.  You are a civilian, and I have no authority to order you to leave as you are on public government property.  But if you wish to stay, you will observe a lot of rapid movement among my troops, and if you get trampled on in the process then I would suggest that you have been warned.  The choice is yours."

"Sir," piped up one of the men. "I've been radioed and C Company approaches easterly on the road we were just on.  Radio control has asked for a response on our coordinates and plans."

"Private Ongodo," replied the leader, "inform radio control that we are distributing resources.  One man stays here, and we spread out in a circle into the woods surrounding this clearing.  The man remaining will draw C company into the clearing."  The leader looked at the gypsy cyclist. "Would you like to be part of this?" he asked.  "This is an exercise only, and you will not be hurt, but you can help us by drawing C company into this clearing.  Private Oloono will stay with you.  You are free to leave if you wish."

"Thank you," replied the gypsy cyclist, hesitant but somewhat excited by the prospect. He was reassured by the man's respectful demeanor, and he thought to trust him. "I'll, I'll stay," he said.

"Move out !" shouted the leader. "Spread in a semi-circle and take positions 200 metres into the bush.  How long until they arrive?"

Ongodo replied, as he hustled toward the edge of the clearing. "If they find us quickly, I estimate it will take them less than ten minutes. If they pass by, and turn back, maybe thirty minutes."

As the others moved out, Oloono lay down on the ground beside the gypsy cyclist's bicycle.  "You can stand," said Oloono.  "They won't hurt you, but they will see you and come into the clearing.  If you don't want to stand, you should lie down beside me.  Leave your bicycle upright to attract them."

Still the gypsy cyclist sought to trust these men.  For him the road to this clearing had been arduous and silent, and just for the opportunity to interact with people for a while, the risk of harm was strangely worthwhile.

Ten minutes passed, and there was no sign of the other group, and those who were hidden in the area surrounding the clearing were silent.  Oloono became impatient.  "I don't think they are coming," he said. "Seargent can be an idiot sometimes.  But don't tell him I said that.  The orders were that we were to leave traces of our presence, but not so obvious as to make it easy for C company to find us, so what does Seargent do? He puts me in here with you."

The gypsy cyclist laughed. "Well, maybe we have some time to waste then," he said.  "Tell me something about yourself."

"Ok," said Oloono.  "I will tell you that my mother just died."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," said the gypsy cyclist.

"I cannot get it out of my mind," said Oloono.  "Four days ago, I held her slender hand. How limply she had laid her hand, given in resignation, to the hand I had offered.  In her hand was no more strength or desire to clasp eagerly but tenderly, as she had just days before.  There was only resignation and exhaustion.  But so much love.  She said to me 'I'm just going to close my eyes for a minute'.  And she did while I held her beautiful slender hand."

Oloono looked deeply into the gypsy cyclist's eyes.  He continued,  "Three or four times, she opened them, my mother, and looked at me, until eventually she looked up one last time and said that she was going.  In that moment, I knew she was ready to die, and it saddened me immensely, for it seemed that with all the love that was in her hand only a moment before, she could offer no more to me and was relieved to be leaving."

"You, strange man," Oloono continued, "are the first I have told this to.  Yes, they all know my mother died, and that I was there.  They are not unsympathetic, but I have not shared this with them.   I have asked for bereavement leave, and was told I will have to wait until this exercise is finished tomorrow because I will have to fly to Uganda for the funeral.  But you see, strange man, it isn't just her death that is haunting me, but the relief in her eyes; there seemed no remorse in finally leaving me."

"Oh, I am sure she was not relieved at leaving you," replied the gypsy cyclist. "The relief was from whatever suffering she endured in her last days."

"No, no," said Oloono. "Thank you, but you do not understand.  I held her hand because I loved her, but in my twenty six years of life, even as a boy, I forever distanced myself, and yet she always welcomed me.  Strange man, her fight was for me - how much love can a mother give her son and have it rejected over and over again?  It was from that - from that was the relief I saw in her last glance to the sky, and that is the image that will haunt me until at last I too find relief."

Oloono looked at the gypsy cyclist sternly. "You and I have just met.  You cannot know how immensely this haunts me, " he said.  "For these exercises here today and for my mother's relief, I have volunteered to fight in Congo after the funeral.  This is my reason for fighting.  I do not hope to return."



Planning Costa Rica

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

With a run today of 45 minutes to test out the sartorius, as Trevor had suggested, there is some room for optimism about running on Sunday.  While I was still pretty gentle with it, I did 3X800 meter pickups during three loops around Beacon Hill, along with an overall slightly quicker pace than what I had done yesterday or on the weekend.  These pick-ups were not at race pace, mind you, as I was being pretty cautious, and were done at maybe 90 percent 1/2 marathon race pace.  I'm still not ruling it out.  I've now heard from others, such as Rob B, who notes a similar sartorius strain healed in about 10 days, and the injury I have is not a serious one.  Nevertheless, there's no need to make it worse - but I am certainly still not ruling out the race. 

Costa Rica planning is, for now, mostly complete.  I've booked myself four different places to stay over the 23 days I'll be there, primarily in the northern/western regions of the country. I was originally planning only three different places to stay, but I realized one of the places was at fairly high altitude (nearly 5000 ft) and that it can get pretty chilly up there along with a lot of mist - not really what I want.  If I wanted cold and wet, I'd stay in Victoria.  Maybe that is why I can get a cabin for $25 there (!), although apparently the hotel in the cloud forest is very popular. 

Regardless, the location is a tropical jungle, and the whole experience will be very different from anything here - so, three days up there will be ok.  Besides, I can ride down to sea level on my bike, and then ride back up for some brutish nasty climbing, then go sit in the hot tub and crash, pleasantly exhausted, and maybe mumble a few Spanish words I'll have learned before departing to whomever happens to be nearby.  Speaking a foreign language while bonking after a hard bike ride will certainly be a whole new experience in looking completely idiotic.  Perhaps I can be a source of some entertainment to the locals.

In preparation for leaving, I want to finish two more courses.  After my A in Math215 (stats), the latest course I'm now taking, Statistics in Evidence (Communications 308), seems relatively straightforward. Still a lot of work, but I'm cruising through it like a hot knife through butter.  The next course, Econ401, The Changing Global Economy should, with some diligence, be complete before I leave as well.  I'll decide if I want to take another course with me to work on there, or if I'd prefer simply to relax and perhaps take a book of fiction with me.  I had thought I might like to work on a painting, perhaps, while there, but it might be cumbersome to travel around with. 

On that note, the Legal Services Branch is, at the end of November, holding its second branch employee art exhibit at the Community Arts gallery in the Sussex Building (where most of our branch is located).  I've committed to displaying three pieces, including one that I've only just begun, but hopefully will finish in time. 

I have a lot on the go right now, but knowing I have all of December off to spend in sunny climes is sufficient reward to put in some hard work over the next couple of months.  The Tour of Costa Rica is seeming to be a bit less possible, and frankly I think I'd rather just enjoy my time there rather than worry about training for the race in the rain here in Victoria and then busting my butt for 12 race stages at the end of December. So I won't be very disappointed when it's certain that I can't do that race.   There is another local two-day race on December 9/10 which I can probably enter just be showing up with my Canadian Category 2 UCI licence, which might be just enough to give me the experience of racing there without taking a huge chunk out of my holiday.

Cat feet

Monday, October 1, 2007

Carl Sandburg thought the fog rolled in on little cat feet.  So much in contrast to the silence of a San Francisco fog, here in Victoria, October rolls in on massive cat feet, perhaps even thunder feet, or feet as big as lakes.  So much like winter already, and September has only just rolled out on feet as big as moons, following on a summer that stomped around like elephants.

So, as an update on the lighter things in life at the moment, I ran gently on Saturday on a treadmill for half an hour, mixed with a bit of stationary bike riding.  The strained sartorius held up, but no chance of really striding it out.  I then ran slowly on Sunday for an hour in and around UVic, hoping to catch Cliff at the finish of the Run for the Cure, but missed him.  Still it held up, but even the very thought of really striding out could have caused the muscle to seize. 

So today I went in to see Trevor O'Brien for some physio, who gave me the full treatment, from yanking my legs around to pull out my hips a bit -- a slight misalignment and tightness in my back  are largely the source of the problem, he thinks -- to electro-stimulation and ultra sound.  If we're lucky we'll have me running on Sunday, but Trevor suggested testing it on Wednesday, and if it's tight and stiff even by Thursday morning, then I should give the 1/2 marathon a miss.  Better to miss the race than to be out for a month afterward.

On that note, there is still an outside chance I could race the Tour of Costa Rica.  More about that later.

In any event, regardless, I have now booked my ticket to Costa Rica, December 3 to 26th.  If I end up racing, I'll need to return a bit later, but I'll cross that bridge if it comes.  If I get in to the race, I'll need to begin training immediately.  If I don't race, I have so far reserved three different places at which to stay, and prices are amazingly cheap - $38/night US for a single room; $35/night US for a cabin in one place!  A third was $50/night, I think.  My return flight from Seattle cost me $650, versus $900 from Vancouver.  The US/Can dollar parity comes in handy, and the holiday itself will not be egregiously expensive.

In the meantime the plan is to take some Spanish lessons before I leave, and have signed up for some with someone name Anna (ad on Craigslist).  I figure 2 hours/week for about 6 weeks should give me enough to be able to get around down there a bit better than I did the last two times I was in Mexico.

Now to bed, where at least perhaps my sleep will be carried on little cat feet...

possible injury

Friday September 28, 2007

It seems I may have pulled a sartorius muscle (right leg).  It has been a bit weak for a while and aggravated mostly by weight-training with fairly heavy weights.  It had been hanging in for quite a long time without injury and as a mild strain, so it seemed I could just keep pushing it.  However, during yesterday's 20k approx, and less than a km from home, it yanked a bit when I was forcing the pace to the end of my run. 

I think I really pushed it with the workouts the last week - Tuesday a few treadmill intervals plus weights; Sunday 20k, mostly easy; Saturday 20k hard fartlek intervals; last Thursday; 16km hard tempo intervals.  I have been careful not to train more than two days in order to ensure the mono is not going to return, but my workouts have been good quality, and I've done mostly tempo runs since I began running again a month ago, and have been feeling as strong as ever.

It may be that with a few easy days the sartorius muscle will be fine, but I can tell it is weaker now and and probably vulnerable to further injury.  So, I will have to see whether the Victoria Half is even in the cards at all.  If not, then I may shoot for Shawnigan lake.  I can tell my form and strength are very good right now, so I am looking forward to testing it out in some race or another.  It doesn't have to be the Victoria Half, but that is a popular race and would still be fun to do.  But we will see.



A fleeting meeting


September 24, 2007

Lovely was the breakfast and the dinner the gypsy cyclist shared with the tall blond man and his daughter, and healthful was the sleep he had and the bed they provided him.  And while the man was tall and muscular, how gentle were his slender hands, inherited also by his daughter, as they clasped the mugs and plates in which he and his daughter brought him water, oatmeal and eggs in the morning, and beef, beens and potatos in the evening.

And after two days of rest, the gypsy cyclist - after the welcome and the care they gave to him, and his bicycle retrieved and repaired and his body on the mend - was on his way once again.  How fortunate he considered himself that his bicycle was retrieved and all his paniers too, and that nothing was lost in the rapids of the river.  He could not thank them enough before he departed, and they asked nothing in return except that he should have a safe journey and for a wind at his back and always for blue skies, or, if there should be rain, that it always be soothing.  

But the gypsy cyclist was uncertain of the direction ahead.  Is it time to return home, he asked himself.   There is a fresh start, he thought, and I am replenished, but after such a fall I now am not so clear whether I have begun to weary of the journey.  I have looked at the map the girl provided me and this is the road I am taking, and that road is the one upon which I will take a right hand turn, and I know, for now, where I am going.   Indeed, they offered me a ride to Brussels, which I did not take, all for the sake of my bicycle and a few more pedal strokes. But there is no certainty now that this is the medium I should be traveling by.

The gypsy cyclist, hollowed by his doubts, stopped by the roadside and dismounted his bicycle.  There were no vehicles on this silent country road, and the sky was dimpled with greys of many shades that obscured all but a few fingers of sunlight that seemed to reach through and gently rake through the mists ten thousand feet up, revealing a few lines of brazen blue sky. 

As he stood to survey the flatness of browning oatfields to the north and breathe deeply the cool air, a woman on a horse appeared from a side road that parted the yellow leafy collage that upward rose from the thicket of straight and slender trees to the south.  She stopped when she saw the gypsy cyclist.

"Do you know where you are going?" She asked, her long brown hair billowing slightly in the first inklings of a morning breeze.  "I can see by the look on your face that you are lost."

"Oh," he replied.  "Is it that obvious?  I think I know the road ahead, but at this very moment, there is not one pedal stroke more that I want to take toward it.  Only for this moment, mind you.  The feeling will pass, I know.  But that is why I have stopped. 

"Four days ago." he continued, "I fell off my bicycle and it vanished in a river, until some wonderful people retrieved it for me.  They fed and cared for me and offered to drive me to Brussels.  But I chose to ride instead, and now, suddenly, at the moment that you have found me, I wish that my bicycle had never been found."

"I am sorry to hear this," said the woman.  In the sky, sillouetting her face, the clouds seemed to part a little more, and blueness enveloped her.  "If you did not have your bicycle with you, I would offer you a ride on my horse, and I would take you to Usterckx, a town not far from Brussels.  Of course after that, the roads become too heavy with traffic, and from there I could not ride my horse." She paused, while the sun flicked a line of light from the edge of a cloud, obscuring her face.  The gypsy cyclist adjusted his line of vision to see her more clearly, but he could not. "Feel free to abandon your bicycle," she continued. "Feel free to abandon your bicycle if it wearies you too much, and I will give you a ride."

The gypsy cyclist looked up at her, astonished at the words he had just heard. For a moment he imagined it: removing the paniers from his bicycle, and leaving it by the roadside; mounting the woman's horse and resting his head upon her shoulders and clasping his arms around her waist.   He looked into her eyes as the image came upon him, but still he could not clearly see her face, sillouetted by the sun.  She did not look away. 

"Thank you," he replied. "That is a thoughtful offer.  I cannot have imagined I would ever hear such words from anyone.  But I must mount my bicycle and proceed upon my way.  You know that your words will haunt me for the rest of my journey."

"You are welcome," she said.  The horse was becoming impatient, lifting first one front hoof and then another and swinging its tail.  "I can sense the weariness in your face.  I see it in you.  But I have given you strength to move on, and for that I am glad.  I hope that the rest of your journey is as pleasant as this meeting I have just had with you.  Take care."  She pulled at the reigns slightly; the horse proceeded, and the two soon disappeared.

The gypsy cyclist looked off in the distance where he lost sight of the horse.   Why do I doubt what I have seen? He thought.  In a moment that strange woman was here, and now she is gone, and the moment so fleeting that I can barely believe the meeting was real.  The gypsy cyclist mounted his bicycle.  "Come to me in a dream," he whispered, pushing down on the pedals. "Come to me in a dream for that fleeting moment you were with me that I cannot believe was real.  Come to me in a dream and prove to me that you are just a dream; maybe there, in that dream, then I will believe our meeting was real.  Dear woman on the horse, if you come to me in a dream and tell me those words once again, then I promise to abandon my bicycle and ride with you."



Goodnight Benny Vansteelant

Monday, September 17, 2007

Three days ago Benny Vansteelant, multiple duathlon world champion (both short course and long course), passed away after being hit by a car during training.  While there exists a core number of passionate duathletes, their numbers are small in comparison to other endurance sports like triathlon, cycling, or running.  That is why to lose even one of the passionate few represents a massive blow to the sport. 

There are some who occasionally compete in duathlon but whose primary discipline is triathlon or running or cycling, but not duathlon.  This may be understandable when duathlon is not an Olympic sport and is not supported by the same critical participation mass and wide distribution seen in  triathlon or the other more established sports like cycling or running.   But Vansteelant seemed to love the sport for the inherent nature of the combination of the two disciplines, and called duathlon "the most beautiful of sports". 

But Vansteelant was from Belgium, a landlocked country where cycling is King and gods like Eddy Merckx, still regarded as the most successful cyclist of all time for his combination of victories in the Classics and grand tours and his domination of them (1), are pre-eminent in the national psyche.  In the 60's and 70's a host of Belgian runners won gold medals at the Olympics in everything from 800 meters, the steeplechase, 5 and 10,000 meters, to the marathon (2).   There have been a handful of Olympic level swimmers from Belgium, most of them from the turn of the twentieth century (3), but their numbers are small compared to the grande magnitude of Belgian successes in cycling and running.  Since I have not spent more than a week in Belgium, I cannot vouch for the prevalence of swimming in the national consciousness, but I suspect swimming takes, by far, a backseat to cycling and running in Belgium. 

This is the athletic environment in which Vansteelant was raised, and to combine running and cycling in one sport could only represent the merger of the highest pursuits in Belgian athleticism.  Vansteelant epitomized the greatest of the Belgian athletic talent in two sports combined in one, and while he was competitive as a pure cyclist and as a pure runner, he obviously loved duathlon the best, and to the exclusion of all other sports. 

For me, having devoted substantial energies to duathlon, the loss of Vansteelant is something of a personal shock.  I cannot profess to love duathlon as much as Vansteelant did, and obviously I did not know him well: I shook his hand on the start line of the duathlon World Championships in Corner Brook, Newfoundland in 2006 and found myself dancing beside him at the after-race party (during which he took an obvious shine to one of our female Canadian team members); shared a brief light-hearted moment with him and Kyle Marcotte in Switzerland, 2003 - and that is all I personally know of him except to have been in the same race as him three times. 

But his passion and love of the sport can have been nothing less than monumental and inspiring, and anyone who has seriously been involved in duathlon will very much notice the absence of the name "Benny Vansteelant" in a host of races in the future. 


(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddy_Merckx
(2) Bosch, Ed.  Mons Magic Continues in Leuven? Alan Webb's 3:46.91 mile http://www.runnersgazette.com/features/monsmagic.htm
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Belgian_swimmers

 




The Trouble with Men

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The latest edition of Scientific American contains an article (which I've so far only seen the abstract of online) called the "The Trouble with Men", noting that sons reduce a mother's life span by an average of 34 weeks.  Yikes!  Doing the math, Mom, with five such sons, therefore has had a reduction from her lifespan otherwise of nearly three years and four months!  Given my general temperamental nature as a child (and grown man to be sure!), coupled with being asthmatic, I have no doubt I took off more than the average! 

The first part of the abstract is as follows:

"Insights: The Trouble with Men; October 2007; Scientific American Magazine; by David Biello; 3 Page(s)

Sons are tough on their mothers. Whether it is heavier birth weights, amplified testosterone levels or simple, hair-raising high jinks, boys seem to take an extra toll on the women who gave birth to them. And by poring over Finnish church records from two centuries ago, Virpi Lummaa of the University of Sheffield in England can prove it: sons reduce a mother's life span by an average of 34 weeks."

Well that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about being a man. 

But changing the subject abruptly to avoid further reasons to begin self-flagellation, I put together a couple of runs this weekend, including a 15k run yesterday with about 6km of hard tempo in the middle, and a 20k easy run this morning, twice around the lakes.   This follows a very hard tempo run on Thursday - also 15km, but with about 10km at tempo.  Tuesday I did only an easy run to the gym and some weights, where I was happy to discover I have not lost any strength.  I sense the overall strength is paying off in increased stride length and power, but obviously I won't know whether I've benefitted until I race again. 

People are warning me of the dangers of starting hard workouts so soon after having mono.  I feel I am being careful, but perhaps am beginning to up the ante a tad sooner than is good for me.  This week, though, will similar to last - no running tomorrow, and only an easy run Tuesday with weights.  So not until Thursday again will I do a hard workout.

It was not so tough today to watch the Bastion Sq from the sidelines when I was registered to race the elite men's race.  It was raining lightly, just enough to slicken the course and make it highly dangerous.  There were several crashes in all the races, and with that degree of carnage I was quite happy not to have been racing it.  So, not a whole lot of disappointment there.  Still, with the fitness I had accumulated, it would have been nice to cap off the season with a relatively big local race.  But, I think I'm over it!



EBV and a couple more runs

Monday, September 10, 2007

While the Epstein-Barr virus (mono) continues to harbour itself within the confines of my body, the collosal struggle between it and my white blood cells seems to be abating as the headaches and body aches have diminished, and the eyelid edema (swelling) is the least it has been in a week.  Lymph nodes are still inflamed, as is the throat still tender and there remains a general weakness in my body and tightness in the lungs, but I have awoken this morning feeling as close to normal as I have in a few weeks.  I have gotten off lucky, I think - I have heard how severe the virus can be for some people, and how long it can linger.  

On the plus side of the ledger, I have learned that there are actually some positive benefits to acquiring the EBV.  A recent article in Discover Magazine summarizes a study done by a viral immunologist from the Washington University School of Medicine that shows the EBV creates some  immunity to certain types of bacterial infections. The study showed immunity to a common kind of food poisoning and to the bubonic plague.  As those were the only two types of bacteria studied, it seems likely it creates immunity to other types to.  So, next time I'm way down south, I won't be as worried about food poisoning!

Mono is a variant of the herpes virus, I've learned, but apparently the simplex herpes types (cold sores and genital), neither of which I have, fortunately, do not establish the immunity that the EBV creates.  So my advice is: if you're going to get a variant of the herpes virus, go for mono!

After last weekend's heroic attempt at three rides in three days ending with 150km Jordan River ride - at the height of my infection I'm sure, but before I'd had a positive test - and awaking to devastation in my body the next day,  I have learned to be more careful and to not do more than two training sessions in a row at the moment.  And with the up coming Bastion Sq cycling race weekend nixxed off my schedule, I've decided to run more.  So, this weekend I put two runs back-to-back.   Saturday I did one loop of the lakes, beginning very easily and gradually increasing to finish the last couple of km at a quick pace and a time of just over 40mins.  Yesterday, although the legs were a wee bit sore, I ran to Beacon Hill for 4 loops there, each one also gradually increasing in speed with the last one pretty much flat out with a slight relaxation for a few seconds at about 800 metres.  My left quad was very tight by the end of it (not injured just tight), and I walked home from Beacon Hill. 

I can tell I will regain running fitness very rapidly, so long as I don't get recurring bouts of EBV - knock on wood.

Blog networks and mono+

  
Wednesday, September 5, 2007

This is interesting.  It is from a fairly new application called TouchGraph, available on Google and accessible through www.touchgraph.com .  I typed in the words "trainharder blogs" and the following blog network was returned:

blogs

(use Acrobat to open)


Interesting to see all the different blogs that have linked to our blogs on Pano's Trainharder site.  Most interesting for me was to discover that a site called "Physics of Happening" has a link to my site, as does one called "After Hours Blogs - Arts & Events (washingtonian.com)".  Jarhead has a number of Gobi related links to his site, among others, and Running Diva has several pool running sites linking to hers, among others.  Great little application.

On that note, I've learned that I'm positive for mononecleosis.  At least it explains what's up.  The doctor suggested I would likely feel too fatigued to train much and that I could use my own fatigue levels to guide me.  He noted that many patients with mono feel the need to sleep 20 hours a day.  Evidently he has not dealt much with well-trained athletes with mono, since I went for a 150km ride on Monday with it, and did reasonably hard rides the two days previous.  Granted I was not 100%, but was still able turn the screws on the others heading up the Shirley climb toward Jordan River on Monday.  Of course the next morning I awoke to the effects with eyelids the size of Manhattan and more aches and related symptoms. 

What this means is that the Bastion Square weekend is out. There is no way I'll be in race shape by then.  I may be able to train at some low level, and probably will not need to sleep much more than I do normally if at all, but there's no point in trying to prepare properly for the race - better off just letting it go and taking the rest as needed.

A viral event

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The other day, whilst in the throes of studying for a stats final, I ran into Sean C who said he had heard that I had retired from running.  Hmm, I thought, where did you hear that from?  Then it crossed my mind that at the relatively midling level at which I run, is it even possible to "retire" from it?   I suppose I could "cease and desist" or "quit the habit" or "move on to other things", but it had never occurred to me that I could "retire" from something that was neither a profession nor something to which I've aspired to make a full-time endeavor.

But that would be to take a narrow interpretation of the term.  Upon a review of the definition from www.dictionary.com:

re·tire      [ri-tahyuhr] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation verb, -tired, -tir·ing, noun –verb (used without object)
1.to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion: He retired to his study.
2.to go to bed: He retired at midnight.
3.to withdraw from office, business, or active life, usually because of age: to retire at the age of sixty.
4.to fall back or retreat in an orderly fashion and according to plan, as from battle, an untenable position, danger, etc.
5.to withdraw or remove oneself: After announcing the guests, the butler retired.
–verb (used with object)
6.to withdraw from circulation by taking up and paying, as bonds, bills, etc.; redeem.
7.to withdraw or lead back (troops, ships, etc.), as from battle or danger; retreat.
8.to remove from active service or the usual field of activity, as an army officer or business executive.
9.to withdraw (a machine, ship, etc.) permanently from its normal service, usually for scrapping; take out of use.
10.Sports. to put out (a batter, side, etc.).
–noun Literary.
11.a place of withdrawal; retreat: a cool retire from summer's heat.
12.retirement or withdrawal, as from worldly matters or the company of others.

A few of these definitions do fit quite nicely, so Sean's choice of words was actually more than apt.  In any event, I mentioned to him that while I've been focussing on some bike racing for a couple of months, I haven't quit running forever, and chances are I would do one or other of the run events on the October long weekend if I can whip myself into shape quickly enough after the Bastion Square weekend two weeks from now.   I have run about four times in the last month, and do actually feel like I could get into half decent shape in three weeks - not peaking or near my best by any means, but the kind of shape which could allow about a 1:17 half, or a 28min 8k.

However, while I've signed up for all three races on the Sept 14-16 weekend (hill climb and two criteriums), the state of my health is sufficiently tenuous so as to leave me questioning whether I will do any of the three races.  I'm still fighting an odd virus of some sort that has not yet been diagnosed.  It is flu-like, but  is absent any obvious respiratory tract symptoms (it seems), which for me is unusual.  One doctor thought perhaps it was mono, while another thought I would be exhibiting far more extreme fatigue if that's what it was and described it simply as a "viral event".     Although not 100 %, I was able to ride three times in a row this weekend, including a Jordan River ride with four other amigos, so extreme fatigue probably does not accurately describe my state.  Regardless, I'm still awaiting results of a couple of tests.

And while I thought I was well on the mend, this morning I awoke again to the balloon-eyed appearance that was starting to subside before the weekend, and it felt rather like the whole process was starting all over again.  Not to mention the scare when I thought I had bloody stool, only to realize later that the offending discoloration was probably due to the beet/barley salad (fantastic) I had had the night before.

But whatever, I think it is dissipating, albeit perhaps more slowly than preferable.  I just go about my business.

From the cot

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The gypsy cyclist turned beneath the blanket on the cot the girl and her father had brought him to.  The girl watched as his closed eyes twitched and his arms began to shift.  Morning sun too was stirring, sighing gently as it slipped through an open window that framed open oat fields and cattle, most of which were still sleeping, scattered in locations near the farmhouse all the way up to the horizon.  "Pater, come quickly!" She shouted through an open door to the next room. "He is awakening!" 

The tall blond man ducked as he entered through the doorway.  "Well, so he is," he said.

The gypsy cyclist turned one more time onto his back, threw an arm so that it hung off the cot, and opened his eyes.  He looked upward at the high wooden ceiling, unpainted, his eyes focusing on fine planks that revealed swirling timber grains. Disoriented, momentarily he wondered what type of wood it was.  He blinked, then from his peripheral vision could see the two figures standing near him. He turned to face them.

"Hello," he said. 

"Hello!" said the girl and the man in unison, smiling.

"Let me guess, I passed out."

"Yes," said the girl. "Something like that.  You weren't conscious when I came back with Pater.  You had a great fever and we brought you in here.  You have just slept for nearly thirty hours!  We thought you were in a coma!"

"Oh," said the man. "You must be very thirsty.  Let me get you some water!" He rushed off.

"Yes, thank you," said the gypsy cyclist. "Wow, thirty hours?  Look you've given me pyjamas!" He lifted the blankets weakly to study his outfit.

"Not easy to get you into!" said the girl.  "But, can you guess what Mr. Sir?"

"Mmm, no, what?"

"Pater and uncle Hansed have retrieved your bicycle from the river!"

Lumpy lymphs

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Despite a few untoward aches in my body and a couple of swollen lymph nodes, I elected, against my better judgment to ride this evening and toss into the mix a few Mt. Tolmie intervals.  The last couple of days I've noticed that I'm fighting some sort of infection, although it isn't entirely clear what it is.  The lungs are clear and I've got no head congestion - just swollen lymph nodes and some general muscle achiness.  I was sporting a mite of a fever yesterday too, but this morning a couple of Tylenol with caffeine seemed to quash all symptoms and I was feeling more or less on top of the world.  The effects of the drugs continued to linger after work and, when I eventually made it onto my bike, the legs exhibited some strength and I thought to stick with my original plan of some intervals. 

So, it was up the waterfront for a brisk warm-up, then a swing left over through Uvic and to Mt Tolmie, where I subjected myself to six of the best lashings up the Beast.  I considered a couple more, but decided that was sufficient to open my system up without overdoing it, given my somewhat tenuous condition.  I didn't have a watch with me, so I can't report times, but the first was fastest and the rest all about the same, but a tiny bit slower.  Of course when I returned home and finally dismounted my bike, I felt a bit like I'd be hit by a Mack semi as I was promptly reminded in no uncertain terms that indeed I am fighting some sort of invasion by the little guys. 

Today's effort followed a couple of hours easy yesterday, when I felt particularly weak, but I wanted to make sure I got the time on the bike.  This followed on a hard weight session on Tuesday, where I found myself hoisting weights that in the past I could only have imagined.  There is definitely some good strength, and hopefully it will result in some extra jump and ability to go anaerobic when the going gets tough in Bastion Square, coming up in a couple of weeks or so.  I'm hoping I will have a little extra juice in the pedal stroke for the Bear Mountain Hill Climb, as well as the Oak Bay criterium, all three of which are on the same weekend.  That will be my last hurrah for the year, unless I can squeeze myself into the Tour of Costa Rica in December, which at this point I have done little to investigate.

I'll take tomorrow off in hopes my body will kick this bug in the behind and leave me reasonably able to train on the weekend.  There is a Masters 48km TT on Sunday, but if I'm feeling at all pekid, I'll be canning it.  It would be good to do, just to ensure maintenance of the aerobic threshold, but I don't need to thrash my body into submission quite that badly.   Hokay, to bed now.



Wayward waters

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


"Mr. Sir, won't you tell me where you have been?" asked the girl, perhaps seven years of age. "You look tired and muddy and wet, and I can see that you are shivering.  But it is warm here.  See? The skies are blue; there are no clouds.  Where have you been?  Where ever you have been, you should become warm beneath the sun, and I think your shivering will stop.  Your clothes are so strange!"

"You are right," replied the gypsy cyclist. "I fell into the river, not far from here.  The water was cold and muddy.  I have lost my bicycle. "

"You had a bicycle? Oh dear!  How did you lose it?"

"It flipped away from me into the water where it was very deep, and it sank to the bottom.  I tried to retrieve it, but the water was too fast and deep in that place with sharp boulders, and it wasn't safe enough to swim."

"Well, then," replied the girl.  "You are lucky that it was the bike that landed there, and not you!"

"Hmm - I'm not so sure about that..."

"Oh you poor man!" said the girl. "I will ask my father to see if he can get your bicycle back..."

"No, no. It isn't safe. It's ok.  I'll be fine without it.   I can walk back to the village and catch a train to Brussels.  I will fly home from there.  I have lost my money as well, but I have a friend in Austria who can wire me some money.  It is ok.  I've been fighting a cold and I've been weak, and it is time for me to go home."

"But it is twenty kilometers to town!" said the girl, her blonde hair flicking to the motion of her head as she spoke.  "I will ask my father if he can drive you.  Will you wait here, while I fetch him?"

The girl ran off to the farmhouse in the distance.  The gypsy cyclist relieved the aches in his body by sitting at the grassy edge of the gravel road.  He removed his cycling shoes, his wet socks and jersey.  What a long and beautiful journey, he thought.  But perhaps I have lost my bicycle for a reason.  Yes, I think that is it: this is the right time to return home. 

He closed his eyes and, in a moment, all the purples and blues that danced behind his weary eyelids transformed into a thousand faces and voices.  Images and sounds of all those he had encountered during his journey coalasced into a single voice and a single face, at first unrecognizable.  He lay back on the grass, felt a thousand blades gently strafe his back while the heat of the sun pressed upon his own face; the single image persisted before him.  

Then at last he knew who it was.  Beneath the warmth of the sun and the weight of his fatigue, he turned to one side, and held his face in his hands.  Tears streamed, clearing in little salty rivulets the dirt from his face, seeming to forage pathways along his cheeks where new tears, and new tears, and new tears followed.

Update


Monday, August 20, 2007

There seems to be some amensia as to exactly what sort of training I did last week, although generally it was not a difficult training week.  I think Tuesday was a reasonably hard couple of hours on the bike, and I think perhaps I ran on Wednesday and took Thursday off entirely.  On Friday I recall a session in the weight room and some easy riding thereafter. 

Ah yes, it's all coming back to me in a cascade of synapses.  Following on some weight training advice from Rob B, I am looking at shifting from my past approach of low weights/high repetitions, to high weights/low reps to stimulate some fast-twitch muscle growth.  My weight training session Friday was likely harder than any I've done in recent memory, and I found it interesting the sort of strength I had in my hamstrings and gluteals compared to when I was doing weights while running - generally when running, my max strength was significantly lower.  Max power gained while cycling for most leg muscles is substantially higher for me, it seems - and which makes sense: cycling is all about high power output capacity.  So is running, obviously, but it seems to me the ability to put the same kind of maximum power output is reduced when running - something worth researching a bit more. 

In any event, my legs felt somewhat weakened for Saturday.  Still, when Brett and Jon W and I met up for two jaunts up Bear Mountain before joining the regular Burnside ride, I was reasonably strong.  I didn't have a watch, but I was about 30 seconds ahead of Brett on both efforts to the top (a bit more on the first one I think), who was another 30 seconds or so ahead of Jon.  We estimated I was up in 8 minutes and something, while Brett was up in 9something (based on Bretty's watch time).  The balance of the ride consisted of mostly sub-tempo type riding punctuated by a few harder efforts, and some solid paceline work by a few guys including Matt, Roland, myself, Jon around Lands End.  The total ride for me on the day was about 145-150km - a good solid day after a couple of easier weeks since the Kelowna races. 

Sunday was an easier ride of about 55km to flush the legs out - enjoyed taking a jaunt into Genoa Bay near Duncan, the road to which takes my vote as perhaps the most scenic 8km stretch of road on the entire Island.

Saluddin's Lamp

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Saluddin was a heavy set boy of twelve whose father and mother together toiled in the hayfields and gathered water from the stream that divided all the rocks, the red clay and dark topsoil into a crevice a hundred feet down and barely three hundred feet across.  For two years, though, the stream was nearly dry, yielding only a trickle, but still just enough for Saluddin and his parents to meet their needs. 

Although Saluddin was portly and his parents kept him so, he was asthmatic and sickly and was frequently prone to fits of painful coughing.  Due to his allergies, he could spend no time in the hayfields, so, while his parents worked, he was left alone to spend much of his time exploring the bottom of the gorge, wheezing often and moving gingerly, rather like a groggy slovenly bear over the rocky stream bed.   Sometimes during times of more extreme asthmatic discomfort he would sit on a boulder or a fallen tree, hold his head and clutch his soft dark hair in his hands, and wait for his lungs to relax just enough so that he could resume enjoying, on his naked shoulders, the warmth of the sun as it shone at the best angles in the middle of the day, and continue inspecting the rocky outcroppings and their amorphous geology in hopes of discovering the singular, as yet unknown, motherlode of fossils that would make him famous.

But one day, as the sun lowered and spread itself against the horizon, Saluddin's last moments of the day before departing were interrupted by a strange man who stood atop the highest bank of the gulley with a bicycle beside him, shouting down into the ravine, echoing.  "Excuse me," implored the man, "is there a bridge across this gulley?  The road ended back there," he said, pointing, "but I can see where it begins again on the other side of the ravine, but there is no bridge to cross."

At the moment of answering Saluddin was having great difficulty breathing, but between shallow breaths, he said, "No my mother... and father... removed the bridge to keep the chickens...and the goats on that side of the ravine...  If you want to cross, you... you must go that way for a few hundred meters and there... there is a path that comes down on your side.  At the bottom... you must walk along the stream... back toward me... and there is a path on the other side... just over that way.  Be careful, though, there... there...are many sharp rocks down here." 

"Thank you," replied the gypsy cyclist. "I will look for the path up thataway and come down.  Are you ok?  You don't sound well."

"I'm ok," said Saluddin.  "I've got... just got... the wheezies a bit.  So I cannot move... much to help you, but you... you can call out to me if you want.  It is getting dark... you should not waste any time. You be careful... on your step down.  My mother... broke her ankle once... once coming down that slope."

The gypsy cyclist had miscalculated the rate at which the sun was setting and, being in an equatorial region, it did not linger on the horizon.  When it pressed the earth in a ball of flame, the horizon became like quicksand and the sun was rapidly swallowed up.  The gypsy cyclist moved quickly to find the path into the ravine.  "I am not sure where it is!" He shouted back to Saluddin, hesitating "and my bicycle light is beginning to brown out.  Maybe I will wait until morning now to cross."

"That is fine!  You can... wait until morning if you choose," replied Saluddin.  "But I will...I will guide you if you want!  I have spent... all my days in this ravine, and I know... every inch of it.  I know every rock... for I have touched... and examined them all; every piece... of driftwood, every layer... of earth along the banks, every... sandy outcropping and... every branch.  I have measured them all... and know all the distances and the number of steps... between everything down here.  This is not my home... but it is where I have studied...studied the nature of the earth... and learned of its ancient history.

"From the bottom of the path... when you find it... I will guide you... step by step until you are here, and then I will guide... you to the path that goes up the other side.  Do not fear...old man!" 

In an instant the gypsy cyclist's hesitation vanished.  "Thank you.  I am relieved.  Please guide me, my boy," he said.  Then, in the darkness, he listened intently for Saluddin's every word.

A couple of runs


Tuesday August 14, 2007

With the close of the Kelowna Stage Race, now two weekends ago and rapidly fading into the past, I haven't quite decided what the plans are now, racing-wise.  Do I maintain bike-racing fitness for the Bastion Square weekend in early September, or do I begin running now at the risk of taking the edge off my bike racing capacity, but building for a fall marathon (perhaps)?

Given that I've actually reached a decent level of bike fitness, by my standards, it makes some sense to maintain it, or at the very least maintain some semblence of race fitness for a while.  At the same time, if I want to get in shape for a marathon, I will certainly lose my bike racing fitness. 

I've been eyeing a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) 12-stage race in December in Costa Rica.  My plan is to take December off work, and if there was some way to get on a team for that race, it may be doable.  Although the race is ranked as a UCI 2.2 race (the first digit 2 means it is a multi-stage race, decimal 2 means it is ranked for UCI points and allows division I and II pro teams) -- I've checked past results, and it is usually not contested by European or North American teams, and is primarily a South American specific race.  That doesn't mean it will be any easier to do as a race, but it may be easier to get into, and there are ways to get on teams for races like this for a Category 1 or 2 rider like myself, and I will investigate.  Two stages are 194km and 190km respectivly, but the rest are quite a lot shorter.  With my current level of fitness (plus some higher mileage) it's the sort of race I can probably hang in and finish.

That said, if I want to do that, I would need to be in very good shape for it and would need to do some serious training and some racing somehow in the months before it.  Not an easy task in these climes.  And perhaps not realistic with two additional courses I'll be taking starting in September too.  But no more about that until I investigate some more about it -- it's just an idea at the moment.

In the mean time I did a couple or runs last week.  One last Wednesday, about 35minutes, for which I felt a bit tight, but surprisingly limber given I haven't run for six weeks; the second was on Saturday when I ended up getting lost in the roads of Cobble Hill and ran for at least 15km for an hour and a half.   I had planned on only 10k, but from Hayley's place in Cobble Hill there are myriad twisting subdivision roads, and I managed to get myself a bit backwards, making for an extra long run.  Surprisingly, while I felt a bit tight, I loosened up as I went, and by Sunday when I went for a couple of hours on the bike, I actually felt loose and limber.

So, we'll see how the running progresses in combination with the cycling at the moment, and see where it takes me.

Grabel's Law


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

        "Two is not equal to three -
        not even for very large values of two."
                - Grabel's Law.

The gypsy cyclist once met a man, perhaps from an antique land -- but of this there was no certainty, for the features of the man, neither his face nor his clothing, betrayed anything other than a man of northern European descent.  But about this man, who was neither old nor young, was the general characteristic of one whose knowledge of history, archaeology, and perhaps ancient sanskrit literature permeated through his pores.  Indeed, in the oddest of fashions, the man simply exuded the odor of one from an ancient land, and all the words that he spoke served as ample confirmation of anyone's suspicion in that respect. 

    "Like the application of the Rosetta stone," he once explained to the gypsy cyclist, "One day I sat down with pen in hand, and sought to prove the equivalencies between the content of two ancient texts: one found in the Tigris valley and one from the rainforest of Peru. 
 
   "They were not contemporaneous," he explained, "but were separated in the times of their creation by at least two centuries.  And I had nothing to do with their translation - believe me, I am not a linguist.  Too, not even the contents were related - one was an epic tale of war, not unlike Homer's Illiad, while another was a collection of mystical teachings, not unlike the Upanishads. 

    "But," he continued, "I sought to quantify the images presented in each text, developed a system of assigning values to these images and equations for equivalencies in the content of their information.  I began with a simple hypothesis:  these two texts contained nearly identical underlying quantities of information.  This was not planned by the writers, but nor was it coincidence. There is a hidden order, I believe, to the creation of literature that reveals itself only on the rarest occasions and only when circumstances are just right for one to see the order there. To realize this I discovered key markers at identical junctures within the texts that suggested that these texts, informationally, were identical. 

    "I know, some thought it was crazy -- in fact I doubted it myself for a very long time, and wondered how I could even intuitively sense that these equivalencies existed.  But when I read them -- and I have read thousands of pieces of ancient literature -- there was a similarity between these two texts in a way I did not at first understand; that is until I read them both twelve times and came to realize they were one and the same.   This was despite the fact that Tigris text contained nearly twice as many words as the one from Peru - for it was the images that matched at a precise scale, revealing a hidden shared structure to their creation.  This was the key feature by which I deduced the equation for their equivalencies. 

    "What does this mean, you ask?  I have yet to understand it.  But of all the thousands of texts I have read, these are the only two that share this deep structure.  And what this suggests to me is that there is a kind of order that develops among the writing of billions of words contained in collections we call books - much like fractals in nature. It was not planned, but it is not a coincidence - rather it is part of the nature of the universe.  It is very hard to find, but it is there nonetheless.  And what is interesting to me, is that it allows me to see all literature as a deeply connected tapestry."
   
    "That," said the gypsy cyclist, revealing his ignorance, "is hard to believe.  Doesn't it violate Newton's second law or something like that?"

Kelowna results


Results of BC Cup #7 are now up.

I see that I ended up 15th overall in the final General Classification.  Being only a few seconds out of the next few places, it goes to show it's worth fighting for every second you can get.  Brett ended up 33rd on the day.

Also of note is that it looks like they sorted out the alleged fastest times in the TT - it looks like the fastest time was 9:13, not 8 minutes flat as was rumoured, a bit more than a minute faster than my time. 9:13 was posted by Rob Britten of Lazy-Boy Furniture.  


BC Cup #7 Kelowna

Monday, August 6, 2007

There were four stages to the "Fantastic Four" BC Cup stage race this weekend in Kelowna.  For the Category 1/2 race, the stages were:

1.  Hill Climb - 3.4km up Knox Mountain on Friday evening
2.  Road Race. 108km Saturday morning, 9 X 12km hilly circuit, technical winding course (shortened from the originally advertised distance of 132km)
3.  Time Trial - 8.2km Saturday afternoon/evening - point to point, rolling, but with a strong tailwind
4.  Criterium - 48km - Sunday mid-day - 28 X 1.7 km circuit, short hill, but fast wide-open course.

55 cat 1/2 riders were on the start list.

Brett and I made the trek out Friday morning, after Demian was kind enough to pick up our race packages the day before.  Demian was up for the Category 3 race, for whom the RR was shorter (60km) and the Criterium shorter, but the HC and TT were the same.

1. Hill Climb

My legs were a bit sore and tender during the warm up for the HC, and my plan was to not completely kill myself for the climb, in order to ensure I was adequately fresh for the RR in the morning.  So, I went relatively comfortably for the first 400m of the climb, before gradually winding it up.  The evening was quite warm, mid-20s, but not scorching hot, and pleasant to be able to warm up along the waterfront on the back side of Knox Mt, where Brett and I did a few efforts up one of the climbs there.  Oddly at the moment I have amnesia as to what my exact time was, but it was about 10mins and change, putting me in 27th overall, with the winner up in the low 9s.  Brett deliberately took the climb easier, with much the same plan as me - to ensure freshness for the road race in the morning. 

2. Road Race

We managed to find someone to help us in the feed zone, which, on a warm day is necessary, even for a relative short race of 108km.  I was a little worried, given my legs still felt a bit tender.  Still, I felt adequately recovered from the Hill Climb and well carbo-loaded from the meal the day before. My heart rate in the few days leading up to the weekend was good and so I was reasonably confident in my preparation, although one is always uncertain. 

The course being hilly and technical, the race went out hard. It felt like it was going to be a long course criterium - fast and brutally hard.  Right away guys were being shelled as Christian Meyer of Symmetrics and a Red Truck Ale guy (I think, and who's name I've just forgotten) blasted away early, and ultimately stayed out for the top two places.  For me I knew it was essential to be continuously aiming for the front of the peloton as the back of the pack was shattering on the one longer climb, and on the technical twisty sections.  I'm generally not a great technical rider, but once I got comfortable in the group and with the course, I was picking my way to the front at every opportunity, and headed the steepest climb at the front as much as possible. 

Small groups got away to chase at various times, but were always brought back.  At one point, I made an effort to bridge to a two-person chase, but being caught in no-man's land, gave up the chase.  Those two were brought back. At about lap five, an H&R Block guy from Calgary initiated a chase group shortly after the feedzone on the descent, and I took up the chase.  Dan Macdonald of Masi-Adobe came across along with one other, forming a four man chase.  Within about 5km, Rob Britten (current leader of the BC Cup series) and a couple of other Lazy-Boy's got across to us, and we had an 8 man chase.  I thought this might stick, but eventually what was left of the peloton made it across. 

On each lap, the group dwindled, and by the finish there were about 15 guys left in the peloton as the rest were lapped out, with two guys off the front, and two who got ahead of us by a few seconds.  I came through in the group sprint in 16th overall, with all of us in our group receiving the same finishing time, 2hrs 45 mins and change, I believe.  Brett had two flats that sidelined his day, much to his disappointment and ended up being lapped out. Lapped riders were given calculated times and were allowed to start the next stage, however.

At the end of a hard race I was elated with my result in the road race, bumping me up in the General Classification to 16th place. 

3. Time Trial

The course was a point to point 8.2 course, with rolling hills, and very fast with a tail wind.  This was an effort I simply wanted to get through.  Unless my time was disastrous I wasn't going to lose my spot in the general classification. I also knew that, without great TT equipment -- I even loaned my front Zipp wheel to Brett, who was hoping to redeem his misfortune in the RR with a fast TT time -- and not having done many TTs this year and none particularly fast, I was unlikely to move up much either.  

On the day my time was 10:18, and I'm not certain of the placing, although many guys posted times in the 9s. Two highly questionable times were at about 8mins flat (!) These time were questionable as they would have had 60km/hr average speeds, which, when most of the fast guys were going in nine-something, there was a lot of speculation that these guys had the benefit of some drafting or that the times were messed up, and one of the guys apparently admitted his time was erroneous. 

Brett posted a time about 15 seconds faster than me, which he was a bit disappointed with.

In any event, I was glad to get the race overwith.

4. Criterium

The course being wide open, a short hill over some railway tracks covered with rubber matting, the day being warm, guys being tired, the group was destined to stick together.  While a breakaway of four guys slipped away, I was mostly content to stick in the pack.  I did make a couple of hard attempts to get across to small chase groups and found myself a couple of times in solid six or eight man chase groups.  Still I for one didn't have a lot of extra will to pull much at the front, and I think the will generally was lacking among many others as well, resulting in the main pack ultimately together.  I preserved my 16th spot on the GC (although I haven't seen the official results yet), which I was more than happy to do. 

Overall I was happy with my race.  There has been continuous improvement since I started training in earnest specifically for bike racing at the end of June, and I'm finally where I would like to be with my fitness.

After departing immediately after the race, Brett and I caught the 7:00 pm ferry home, and today my legs felt incredibly good - I was wishing for a fifth stage, perhaps a long road race.  Nonetheless, I am elated with how things went for me. 

Demian, I have learned, missed the start time for his TT, and so missed the opportunity for some upgrading points.

A fellow duathlon/runner turned cyclist, Frank Woolstencroft from Calgary, had a good race in the Cat 3 race, and had the fastest HC time for the Cat 3s.  So, we should see him in Cat 2, soon, I think.

Turbulent flows

July 31, 2007

"But," said the woman with a smile, an index finger raised, looking up at the gypsy cyclist. "There are places in our infinite universe where there are no constants from day to day: where the sun does not rise or set in any place you would expect, and the stars achieve a new configuration in the sky everyday; where flowers and leaves flit randomly from color to color, where all living things are forever changing their form - gestating, growing, and dying at unpredictable rates.  If you were human there and could measure rates of change, you might be born in three weeks,  grow to be a man in three years, and die at five.  But you see, in such a place time does not exist, because there are no constants, and no way to measure them. 

"Our world," she continued, "is set by the rhythm of the sun, and everything you know and understand is wrought and tempered in the context of its incessant beat, as it rises and falls from day to day.

"Ah," she said, gazing deeply into his eyes. "We have only just met, but because you remain before me now, willing to listen, I believe you have considered these things before."

The gypsy cyclist nodded, entranced by the woman's words.  By happenstance they found themselves facing one another, nearly having collided as he strolled his bicycle centrally along a downtown sidewalk adjacent a street called Broadway, dense with walkers.  There is a Broadway  in every major city: it is the universal street, he'd concluded.  But unlike many of his pedestrian counterparts, the gypsy cyclist was unhurried, and so, apparently, was the woman.  Seemingly compelled to respond by the reflection of the sky in her liquid eyes, he said, soporifically, "Yes, I think I understand - at least about the rhythms of the sun.  But I must say I'm not so sure about these other strange places you talk about."

The woman continued, almost unaware of the passing of the crowds or of the unusual nature of their encounter.  But theirs was a mutual sensation, and they stood like boulders in the middle of a stream, around which the turbulent waters of humanity swirled and eddied in its passing.

She said,  "if you are a subject of the sun and its rhythms, how could you ever know that there are places so different from your experience?  Are you worried about the physics of it all? This is not a matter of faith, young man.  There are scientists who say ours is but one region of an infinite multiverse in which all the constants of our universe are very different in other universes.  If it is infinite, then there is a place, too, where there are no constants at all - it is a foregone conclusion."

The gypsy cyclist replied, "That seems to make sense, I suppose.  But what is the point of speculating on things we will never know to be true?"

"Silly boy!" exclaimed the woman, her smile dissipating.  "Never believe we will not have the tools to fathom the nature of the universe!  It is true, some things we can never know - they are proven to be excluded from our experience.  But you have met me here, I believe, so that I may teach you to consider the differences between faith and curiosity; between proof and superstition.  I know that this is so because of the question you have asked of me.  Go past me now, my boy, into the river and may you think on these subtleties."

The gypsy cyclist looked away, and moved past the woman, and became part of the eddy that swirled around her.  There were shallows and deeps, and fast currents and slow currents.  The gypsy cyclist looked back: she too had become part of the river.



Oak Bay Masters Criterium

Monday, July 30, 2007

After the hard race on Saturday and the somewhat obliterated state of my body as a result, I wasn't convinced of the wisdom of doing the Oak Bay criterium on Sunday.  Originally I thought I wouldn't do it and, even as I donned my gear on Sunday morning and felt my legs shout out in distress for the very short and easy ride up Yates street before the road leveled and descended into Oak Bay, I was muttering to myself, wondering what I was doing in directing myself toward the race course.

Strangely, however, as much as I felt surges of acid in my quads on even the shallowest of inclines, I had a bit of punch on the flats.  And, as I neared Oak Bay, I decided that it was a low pressure event, and that I might as well get a few more hard miles in before the weekend was out.  Even if I felt crappy, I should be able to hang in for a Masters criterium, I reasoned.  There are many strong guys over the age of thirty, make no mistake, and when the Worsfold twins, Don Gilmore, Bob Cameron, Dave Mcleod, Vaughn Hildebrand, Jon Watkin, and several other very strong riders appeared, I realized it was set to be a fast race. 

The course is something slightly less than a km, I think, around Windsor park in Oak Bay, and for the 30-44 yr group, our race was 50mins plus 5 laps, about the distance of a regular Cat 1,2 race.  For the older group, their race was 40mins plus 5 laps. 

After several warm up loops and some additional riding on the roads, I was definitely still somewhat tight and sore from the day before, but aerobically I knew I was ready to handle another hard race.   So away the race went, and after getting comfortable for a few laps, I made my way to the front for some hard pulls, a few attacks, a few bridges to other breaks and some time spent pulling breaks back.  At one point, shortly after pulling Don Gilmour back from a breakaway he was on, I slipped away for a solo breakaway of my own for about 3 laps before I saw Vaughn H attempting to bridge across.  After slowing up a bit to allow him to catch me, the two of us went for a couple more laps before the group hauled us back.  The race was nearing completion by then, and while I made a few more half hearted attempts to get clear, the ten or twelve guys that remained from the original pack of about 20 was not letting anything go.

Not being noted as a sprinter, when the final lap came I let myself slip toward the back and watch from that position as Don Gilmore took the sprint and Chris Worsfeld took second.  A fun race, and I was happy to have had the strength at least to attempt a breakaway.  For me, as a non-sprinter, breaking away is the only way to place decently in a race like that.  I've certainly managed it before, but in flat criteriums, it is a relatively rare occurrence for me.  I am generally much more suited to hilly circuit races, such as the course on Saturday.  

In any event, I need to figure out how to be properly rested for the BC Cup #7 Kelowna stage race this weekend.  The race consists of four stages - a hill climb on Friday, a road race on Saturday morning of 132km and then a time trial in the evening, and a criterium on Sunday.  I'm not quite sure yet, but it should begin with a good nights sleep tonight, I hope...

BC Masters Metchosin Road Race


July 28, 2007

This afternoon was the BC Masters Metchosin race, and I also understand it was the designated championship road race for the BC Masters Association.  Ordinarily the format for Masters races is an Australian Pursuit, where the oldest age group start first, with the youngest groups going last.  The idea being for each group to catch the group ahead, and the first person to the line wins, regardless of age group, although there are also category awards. 

For the race today it was not an Australian pursuit format, and there were two groups only - ages 30-44 in one group, and ages 44 to 79 in the next group, although awards were still given for each sub-category, as for the Australian pursuit.

There were about 20 in our 30-44 group.  The course was 6 laps of a 10.5km course, with some difficult climbing up Rocky Point road, and onto Liberty, lots of false flats and just generally a very hard course.  It is the same course used for the Provincials Road Race several years ago when I finished was 4th behind Roland Green, Jeff Kabush and a fellow from back east whose name escapes me. Then the race was 160km, rather than 60 today.   Even so it is a hard course, and 60km on it seems like a very hard day in the saddle.

I felt fairly fatigued from the racing last weekend in Delta and, when Demian, Roger and I rode out together to Metchosin, meeting up with Derek Tripp along the way, there was some unpleasant burning in my legs.  Even so, I have finally developed some very good intrinsic fitness, on which I can rely even when tired or when my legs are feeling a bit knackered.  So when the race started, by the time we hit the Liberty climb, I was pushing the pace.  The group stayed mostly together until the second time up the Rocky Point climb I started to push the pace again and, when we hit Liberty again, I took Demian and Jamie Falk with me.  Jamie had some trouble on the false flat, and it was down to Demian and I for a two-up.

Demian was recently sick and after taking some time off was feeling a bit flat himself today, but he took more of the pulls on the descents, while I took the pulls on the uphill - this was more advantageous to me, since the energy savings for me was greater while he was pulling downhill.  With about two laps to go, Demian dropped his chain up Rocky Point road - he told me to keep going, which at first I thought I would do, and then decided to slow up and wait for him. It didn't seem fair that I would beat him because he dropped his chain.  As it turned out, I was able to escape at the top of Liberty in any event, and solo'd the last lap and a half for home, while Demian came in about a minute behind me.  Jamie was third while Menno Jongsma was fourth. 

All in all, I was happy with how it went.  It was nice that even feeling a bit fatigued I could draw on the well of fitness I've now accumulated.

Brett had come out to watch the end of the race after he'd put about 220km on the bike, and he, Roger and Demian and I made the trek home, for about 120km of riding on the day for us (a heck of lot more for Brett of course).

Sanguine River

July 26, 2007

A sanguine river ran, serpentine and, from the hill top, as he followed along its length with his eyes, the gypsy cyclist could see its fingerlike, delta separations spread shallow, lingering with the dark glassy sand upon which birds of every color chuckled uproariously in all the pitches of the flute and clarinet while they danced, lifted and landed again.

But the river was silty red, and the shallow banks were all of sand, and the ocean, where the river and the saltwater joined, was green where mangrove trees showed their roots in the water, even from far off in the distance where the gypsy cyclist stood.

"There was once a thriving city here," said the voice of a woman behind the gypsy cyclist.  "Did you know?" 

The gypsy cyclist turned to see a couple walking toward him.  They had parked their car on the roadside and were walking up the hill to share the gypsy cyclist's vantage point. 

"No," replied the gypsy cyclist. "I would never have guessed.  How do you know?"

"It was millenia ago.  I myself was involved in a study several years ago to unearth the remains of a great settlement here.  I am an anthropologist.  We found evidence that the city was only for old people.  Unusual, yes, but we did not find any evidence of young people here."

"Oh well, very interesting," said the gypsy cyclist. 

The woman continued, while her partner surveyed the landscape. "You see," she said, "their gravesites were distributed seemingly at random throughout the settlement.  We tried to find a pattern to the locations of the gravesites, and there were many theories as to what it meant, but they are all only speculative.  Are you sure you have not heard of this?  There was much media attention, at least in this country, at the time, but the news was covered all around the world."

"Several years ago?" Asked the gypsy cyclist.

"About ten years ago.  Have I got that right?" The woman looked to her partner.

"Yes, ten or eleven years ago," the man replied. 

"Well, I do have a vague recollection, maybe." Said the gypsy cyclist. "But if it were big news where I'm from, I'm sure I would remember it more clearly.  What came of the study?"

"No worries," continued the woman. "My husband keeps reminding me that my memory is bad too..." She and the man laughed, and the gypsy cyclist smiled.  "Well, we abandoned the study when the river flooded the delta one year after months of heavy rains.  Most of the remains of the settlement are under water, and have been for centuries, but parts were accessible when the water was more shallow.  For one year this whole valley was flooded and the water was thirty feet higher than it is now."

"So, where did all the old people in the city come from?" asked the gypsy cyclist.  "Were they banished to the city?"

"I've given many tours of this site, and everyone wants to know the answer to that question.  It is actually a great mystery.  There were other human settlements in the region, so we can speculate that the elderly were sent to this city.  We have no documentation of how and when this would have occurred. 
  
"We do know that they were a fantastically artistic people, as there were many remains of paintings and sculpture and crafts, but most of what remained when we were finding it was lost after the flood.  It is interesting that in the other settlements, the populations were not nearly as artistic, so we think the old folk were provided for very well in their old age.  But there is essentially nothing left for us to retrieve, and even most of the gravesites were eroded away beneath the turbulence of the rising waters.  We were lucky to discover and document even what we were able to. 

"You know what is so interesting though?" She asked. "We did manage to plot the locations of all the gravesites we found and, when we published the relative locations, we had many elderly people tell us they would like to set their gravesites in similar relative locations to each other.  In fact that is why we are here today.  My husband, Allen, here has decided to do the same."

The man nodded. "I'm not dying yet," he said.  "But I will be soon enough!"

"There was a particular gravesite that I showed to him," the woman continued,  "And we wanted to double check its location.  We won't find it, but we just wanted to reference our site map to see how it sits in relation to a number of others.  As much as we do not know with certainty the meaning of the configuration of the sites, we do believe that it meant something."

"Yes," said the man. "We can't know, for sure, but there was a pattern - we just don't know what it was.  There are patterns to our lives as we live them and the connections established between people everywhere.  Scientists are just now beginning to understand them.  Often we can't know what they are.  But by planning to be buried in this way, I am excited and aware of the existence of these patterns in life, and in fact it has changed entirely the way I see the world and the universe full of things that interact.

"To me these people, in their death, are a symbol of the great patterns among all that is living.  I do not know if that's what they intended, but that is what they have given me."

"That is interesting," said the gypsy cyclist, gazing at the birds as they danced, lifted and landed upon the delta over which the sanguine river ran and where the estuary was green and the roots of the mangrove trees could be seen.  The man and woman bid him good day as they walked down into the valley, hand in hand.  He watched for a time longer, and set on his way.



A few notes

Monday, July 23, 2007

Here are a few brief follow up notes to the race yesterday: I was 39th in the end, with a finish time about five seconds from the winner of the bunch sprint.  Notably, our group was only about 15 seconds behind the breakaway group of three by the finish in a time of 3:20 and change for 140km.   54 riders finished and about 45 dropped out, including a lot of very strong riders - many of whom may have been quite tired from a week's worth of racing, including the criterium the day before, although only 43 finished that race as well.  The Navigators Insurance team from the States had a noticeably bad race as all their riders, save one, dropped out. Results are here:


Also of note is that for preparation during the week, I didn't ride at all last Monday after the White Rock RR (the 110km I was in it for and the 1/3 of the criterium I finished the day before), did an easy ride on Tuesday of just over an hour, and a hard 3 hour ride on Wednesday that included Munn Road backward (from Millstream road) and then a ride out to Triangle Mountain in Metchosin for a jaunt up the steep part, down the backside and then up again from there, and then a few efforts on some of the other roads at the top before descending and returning home.  I felt really strong on this ride, and could tell I was rested from the weekend. Thursday I didn't ride, while on Friday I rode for about an hour with a few short efforts.  Saturday, instead of the criterium in the rain, I rode Brett's wind trainer for half an hour before dinner.  This was nearly perfect preparation for the road race on Sunday.
_________________

On another note altogether, an article in the this month's National Geographic, called Swarm Theory, happily for me, helps to popularize one of my favourite subjects.  The photograph of starlings in collective motion is astounding, and I have seen film footage of starling swarms which is nothing short of breathtaking.  Today, while reviewing the second last unit of my stats course from one of the local Starbucks, I found myself observing the movements of starlings as they flew in their collectives back and forth between trees, or in group "jumps and landings" on a single tree.  Given that I was engaged with numbers and statistics at the time, I couldn't help but consider how one might go about quantifying these collective movements and discerning what patterns may exist.

These are the factors I've come up with so far:

Firstly for single tree movements (ie. when birds have landed on a tree and alternate between sitting on the tree without flying, and then flying collectively above the tree briefly before landing again):
  • Number of birds moving simultaneously (N)
  • Average maximum heights (H) of N above tree top during a "collective jump" (cj) before landing again (Hcj)
  • Time between Hcj (T_Hcj)
Secondly, for tree-to-tree movements:

  • N (as above)
  • Number of birds moving from tree "x" to tree "y", or tree "y" to tree "x" or any combination of trees (Nx to Ny)
  • Time between Nx to Ny movements (T_nx to ny) - possibly best taken as an average of the time between the landing of the first bird and the last bird in a group.
If one were to take video footage of several instances of starling tree movement patterns and the values above (or others) gathered and graphed, I would imagine the data to exhibit a number of patterns, one of which I hypothesize would be what's called self-organized criticality - a pattern where there is an inverse relationship between the size of an event and how often it occurs (its frequency).   In other words there would be a small number of instances where all the birds would fly up simultaneously from the tree before landing, and a large number of instances where only a few birds would fly up simultaneously.   This is a universal phenomenon, exhibited in avalanches, sandpiles, earthquakes and many other physical phenomena (see for eg. Per Bak, How Nature Works - the Science of Self-Organized Criticality (1996)).  However, it would be interesting if that is in fact the case with starlings, as perhaps there are other discernable patterns, and perhaps more interesting ones involving oscillation or synchronized patterns as they move between trees. 

Some food for thought.

Tour of Delta

Sunday July 21, 2007

This was a very different weekend from last.  Brett Boniface and I made the trek over this weekend for the Tour of Delta, for the criterium and the road race portions of it, but skipping the short hill climb on Friday.  Both Brett and I bailed on the criterium after witnessing no less than four major crashes in the Cat 3/4 race that went before our Pro/cat 1/2 race.  It was pouring rain and one corner was very slick, and neither of us considered it worth the risk.  This morning, we had heard from Bruce Tonkin, one of the commissaires, that "only 9 or 10 riders" went down in one crash in the criterium yesterday, which we didn't stick around to watch.  Although it wasn't the carnage of the 3/4 race that saw one guy taken to hospital, it made Brett and I both feel relieved that we hadn't done that race. 

The wet weather did not bode well for the road race either, but I am happy to finally report that I finished the 140km race and finished somewhere around 30th in the group sprint at the finish.  I actually felt incredibly strong, and I can tell the training to date is finally paying off in some good strength.  The course consisted of 4.5 loops of an 8km circuit in North Delta before about 20km or so out point-to-point for 10 more loops of another 8km or so circuit through Tswassen.  On both the circuits there were some decent climbs, and an especially hard one on the second circuit, but nothing of the pack shattering intensity of White Rock last week.  So, of the 110 riders that started, about 60 or so finished, substantially more than in White Rock. 

Unlike White Rock, the Delta races included the Health Net team from the States, and more guys from Jittery Joes team as well, both strong continental pro teams, so the pace was very fast.  The first loops were wet and at first I was very cautious and hung basically right at the back.  Brett crashed on the first loop, but got back up and, very impressively, managed to chase back on, though it took him about 35km to do it.  Once I got comfortable I began moving up and continuously aiming for the front of the pack.  This avoids crashes and ensures you stay with the front group on splits.   A few times splits occurred, and I made the front group, as guys were continually dropping off the pace and whittling down the size of the pack.  A couple of times I went up the climb on the second circuit right at the front, and even when the pace got very hard there, I was able to stick near the front.  Around the corner was the feedzone, where Hicham was again providing fantastically well-time bottle handups.  I haven't heard yet how Jaymie did.

In any event, while three guys were off on a breakaway including Andrew Pinfold from Symmetrics, who won in the end, Symmetrics was doing it's best to control the pace, while Doug Ollerenshaw from Health Net was also in the break, so Health Net weren't working much.  This left Team Rubicon (I think from the States), and Navigators doing much of the chasing. The break gained three minutes at one point, before being whittled down to less than a minute at the end.  By the last lap I was actually feeling strong enough to position myself to go for a placing in the bunch sprint, and even just before the last corner was in a decent position near the front.  I took the last corner poorly, and lost my good position near the front as guys crowded by me, and so was out of the running for a top 20 placing.  Still, it was somewhere around 30th, and I was elated for it. 

Brett, after chasing for so long and then just missing another crash, ended up on his own a couple of  minutes back of the main pack.  After the race he and I had to ride back the 25k or so to the start, making for a total ride of 165k or so, easily my longest ride of the year.  So, aside from the criterium, a good weekend in the end.

What story?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When evening shaded in the spaces between buildings only blocks from streets dense with revellers, the gypsy cyclist marvelled at how the region in which he found himself, in the midst of such an enormous city, could be so bereft of travellers.  There were cubicle dwelling places, vacant alleys and commercial complexes, but everywhere was quiet and no fumes from cars clouded the air between the buildings or mingled with the reds and greys that flicked upward from the horizon.

But in a city one does not expect such moments to last, and no sooner did this cross his mind when a cry, just out of sight, thrust into his wonderment.  The gypsy cyclist turned his head variously to locate the cry and, when it came again, he directed himself around the next corner.  Curled in the gutter of the street lay a man in a pool of blood.

The gypsy cyclist proceeded to his side.  "What happened? Can I get you help?" He asked.

The man groaned, and looked up at the gypsy cyclist.  "It is too late, my friend.  And please do not ask me how this happened, it does not matter."

"No," said the gypsy cyclist. "It can't be too late.  I will find you help."

The man lifted an arm.  As much as he could hardly move, his voice exuded vibrancy and confidence.  “Look at me," he said.  "I tell you it is too late.  You can only stay with me now for the few minutes I have left." 

The man continued. "Do I pain you to tell you that I am filled only with regrets? You, strange man, must bear the burden of hearing this from me, for I know you will not leave me now, alone, here at the roadside, the blood slipping from my veins and pooling in the gutter and running like a little stream.  There, can you see it?”  The old man turned his head slowly, and weakly pointed a finger toward the gutter without raising his arm.  “It is thick where it mixes with the dust.”

“Look into my eyes, strange man,” he continued.  “Can you not see how I was never driven by any passions of my own?  Can you not see how my entire life passed in the cause of vengeance, hate, or love, and how what I thought were passions all disintegrated when their causes either crushed me or fled me?  If I had time, I could tell you of a thousand things at which I excelled in the cause of vengeance; a thousand things at which I excelled in the cause of love or hate, but there are no stories of anything I achieved because I loved them for myself.  And for that, there can be no blood that drains from empty vessels. See how it runs? I do not know from where it comes.

"I am dying. You can see. Do not call or leave me for help, it is too late for that.  But I beg of you one thing.  Hold me in your arms, strange man.  Hold me in your arms, and tell me the story of a passion of your own. And if you do not have one, then you must invent one for me, because I am too weak now to dream of one.  With all my might, I will cling to life until your story is done, but if I go before your last words, then even a beginning will do... Hold me, please.”

The gypsy cyclist hesitated only for a moment. Then, bending down, he pulled the old man into his arms.  When blood covered the gypsy cyclist’s arms, he wondered momentarily what the police would think when they questioned him, but that, he decided, was a bridge he would cross when it came.

The old man, curled and unmoving in the gypsy cyclist’s arms, turned his eyes weakly to meet the gaze of the gypsy cyclist. “What story will you tell me, strange man?” he asked.



White Rock criterium/Road Race

July 15, 2007

Well...there were some positive signs this weekend, but my suspicions were ultimately borne out; ie. I didn't finish either of the races.  

On Saturday evening beginning at 6:30 was the criterium - 60km, or 60 laps of a 1km circuit with a gradual descent down by the finish line, and uphill on the far side. With a short warm up I could tell there was a certain soreness in my legs, indicative of too much intensity recently without sufficient base (so I'm theorizing).  It's the way I was feeling about this time last year after racing too soon after the NB 1/2 Ironman relay, which led to being terribly flat for the duathlon Worlds at the end of July.

In any event, with lap speeds in excess of 50km/hr - I think the fastest lap was done in about 55km/h or 1min 7sec, I actually held on for 17laps before finally being popped.  Aerobically, I was handling the pace, but there was a fierce intensity to the burning in my legs that accumulated from lap to lap and, when there was nearly a crash in front of me and I had to put the brakes on and sprint back onto the back of the pack, I could give no more the next time up the climb.  I rode around for a couple of laps with another guy before being lapped out of the race.  I can take some comfort that I certainly wasn't the only one - about 75 riders of the total 110 on the start line finished. 

So, this did not bode particularly well for the road race, and I had visions of barely making it up the first climb up Columbia, which is about 1200m at 8 percent, followed by a blazing descent, some rapid braking before a tight corksrew before some flat and then the climb up Magdellen, about 600m of 15 percent, and painful as daggers.  There were 11 long laps of 10km each, and 6 at 3.8km.  If you don't make it through to the short loops before the leaders make it about half way around the first short loop, the barriers are erected and you're out of the race.

But despite how the previous day went, I actually felt reasonably good on the day, especially on the climbs, and was keeping with the front group on all the splits except one for the first 6laps (but the group came back together), and even poked my nose at the front a couple of times - once up Magdallen on the second lap and once when the pace was slow on the flat.  On the 7th lap, when the pack had already been whittled down to about 50, a significant split occurred at the top of Columbia and, along with several others, was not able to bridge the gap on the flat before Magdellen.  About 30 made the selection ahead, while the small group I was in dawdled for a few minutes while recovering.

Still feeling strong on the climbs, the next time up Columbia I left the group I was in behind.  So, for the next three laps I rode on my own, far from an ideal situation, catching a few others who had already given up and were just riding for a few extra miles.  Even so, the last time around I did not make it through the barriers before the short laps, which was unfortunate, because in terms of actual time I was probably about 6 or 8 minutes behind, and fully felt good enough to finish.  In a bike race, 7 or 8 minutes is a long way, especially when I lost all that time in the 40k between 70k and 110k, but even so, if I were to have ended up 10-12 minutes back at the finish, it is still a respectable finish over a 134km of a race that hard, and at least you would see on the results that I had finished the race.  So, the result is disappointing in that respect, since the results will only show a dnf.  About 25 riders made it through to the final circuit, and Symmetrics took three of the top four places (possibly the top three, but I didn't clearly see the result of the group sprint for third).  That was against a strong contingent of Jittery Joe's, Navigators, other US based teams and a handful of other Canadian riders.

Regardless, it was encouraging for me - I came back from a very poor race the day before and proved that I was worthy of being in the race against a high caliber field, finishing more strongly than essentially everyone except for the 25 who made it to the final circuit.  Definitely the lack of mileage and racing is costing me, but I know I'm not over the hill yet for bike racing - which is a nice feeling.  My strength on the climbs was particularly encouraging - and on an older bike that I'm fairly sure weighs five pounds more than everyone else's in the peloton (!).

It was fantastic to have Hicham in the feed zone.  Hicham was there with Jaymie, who competed in the women's races, and struggled among a very strong women's field.  I would not have fared so well without the continous lap-to-lap feeds that Hicham provided.  At one point, from the feed zone I heard someone shout out "Hugh Trenchard! I thought you were dead!"  I learned later it was Jeremie Storie, a fellow competitor back in the 1990's, and who is now coaching and heavily involved in the Lower Mainland cycling scene.

Jaymie and Hicham will be back in Delta next week, so it will be great to have Hicham's help there too. 

Overnight I stayed at the Hazlemere campground, a few km from the course.  Although I slept in my car, the campground had washrooms and showers and a small corner store.  It felt quite cozy, especially since the evening was warm.  I actually slept quite well in the car.  On the ferry over a teenage boy sang a song for me, while his friends gather round, oddly enough.  On the return, I ran into Rachel and Jamie Falk, returning from holidays.

So next week is Delta, and perhaps I will finish one or more of the races!

update

Thursday, July 12, 2007

As an update to my training/racing plans, this weekend I'll be heading over to White Rock for the Cat 1,2  Criterium on Saturday evening (60km) and the road race Sunday morning (134km).  I'll skip the hill climb on Friday, which is part of the omnium, but not necessary to finish to do the other stages of the race.

At the moment I am not optimistic they will go well.  On Tuesday I did the Sidney TT in what was likely my slowest time on the course ever - 25.40, or thereabout, for the 18km course.  It was hot and windy, and I didn't use tri-bars, which certainly slowed the time, and most people noticed their times were slow on the day. Even so, back in the days when I was fit on the bike, I once did a 23.49 without bars or any special equipment at all, so if that's any indication then I can't use the absence of equipment as much of an excuse. 

On the positive side, I felt good during a hard group ride on Saturday, but I think the whole training schedule has been a bit top heavy on intensity with insufficient bike mileage base, meaning I'm starting to hit the skids after several weeks of solid intensity but relatively low mileage.  Also, because I haven't done much bike racing this year, and particularly nothing long or at the Cat 1,2 level, the reality is it will be something close to a miracle if I can finish either one of the races this weekend. 

My hope is that I may be better off for the following weekend in Delta, where the RR is apparently a tiny bit longer, but with fewer nasty climbs.  I've done White Rock four times, twice not finished the road race, and twice finished - my best place being about 30th.  This is a relatively big race, as Division III continental pro teams will be there, including our own BC pro team, Symmetrics; some of Navigators, Health-Net, Jelly-Belly, all US based.  Apparently Gord Fraser,  the winningest pro cyclist in North America - a fierce sprinter, but mediocre climber -- is coming out of retirement for the race. Victoria's Laz-y Boy team is also stacked with talent. 

Both the criterium and the RR are going to be flat out the whole way - the crit will be done at average speeds of about 50km/hr, and the RR, even with all the brutal hills will be at least 40km/h for the leaders.  Oh well, we will know in two days what the damage is, and at the moment the very thought of either of the races is a bit daunting.  Cycling can actually be a very demoralizing sport if you aren't fit...more on that later - after the races...

Guided by moonlight

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Guided only by the ubiquitous half-light of the moon, magnified as it lingered a few degrees above the horizon, at last there was one pedal stroke the more for the gypsy cyclist's legs at the crest of a hill, and one reverie the less for his mind as the moon faded behind trees and entranced him no more.  How the broad moon emptied his mind and replaced all his thoughts with only the presence of dim light, purgatorial, semi-pale and colorless, sufficient for him to see the roadway ahead but insufficient to imply any more than all that was really neither dead nor alive.

But downward he sped, and the moon shifted its relative location and slipped behind trees, and sloughed off its hypnotic grasp.  Then flooding his mind were intricate fleeting images: of crumbling architecture once viewed and yet to be viewed; of thin air and heavy air; of cold passages and withering heat; of the lines in faces still to meet and of those long passed; of thousands of hands of all human colors waving through the air, gesturing stories and entire lives for every trajectory and configuration of every motioned palm or pointed finger.  For every gesticulation there was a birth, a few illumined images of passion, desperation, tragedy and happiness; there was a death and mourning and more passion, desperation and tragedy. And when it tapered and forebore there was silence, calm solitude and happiness again.

As he plummeted in the night, his breathing stabalized, his energy expenditure minimized, and all the light and shadows that betrayed their colorless exaltation of all that was neither living nor dead, shouted out to him, "take you passage here delicately lest one of either light or darkness, color or grey vacancy, life or death, should crystallize and displace the others, and you cannot know which. When you pass through here, be very certain that sunlight rises over moonlight when morning comes, and then you shall rest. Only then shall you rest." 

The gypsy cyclist hit the bottom of the descent, felt his speed decline, and began to turn the pedals again, his heart-rate rapidly rising.  There was plenty of moonlight to guide him until morning.



Weekend summary

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The weekend now veritably seems like a lifetime ago, and I can scarcely even remember what happened.  But if I scratch my head just a little I can recall that on Saturday I began with about 100km of riding - up Munn Rd, up the back side of Mt. Finlayson, down Finlayson, up the Malahat, around Shawnigan Lake and backwards exactly the way I came, with the addition of a jaunt up the waterfront on the way home and a stop at the waterside near Beacon Hill to dip my legs in the cold water. 

In the evening on Saturday, I nearly missed the start of the Sidney Twilight Criterium, organized by Adam Lawrence.   The Cat 1,2,3 race -- a figure 8, 1km circuit that was to be 50 mins plus 5 laps -- was originally advertised to begin at 7:40, with the noted possibility that it could start at 7:30, or earlier.  But I arrived at about 6:55 just as the riders were all at the start line, with only a few minutes to spare before it was to begin at 7:00. 

Fortunately Adam was good enough to pin a number to my back while Gerry E put one on my bike for me, and with the one minute countdown I was ready to go.  Good thing my legs still felt primed from the ride in the morning or, in the absence of a warm up, I would have been hooped from the start. 

With Lazy-Boy team riders putting the hammer down right from the gun, I was hanging on the back.  Riders were popping like flies in the first few laps, and I was happy to close a few gaps and stay in touch - for about 25minutes that is, until I myself eventually popped and rode with an Aviawest guy for another 15minutes until we were finally lapped.  I was actually quite happy with how it went, being my first criterium in years, and being quite unsure how my legs would respond after the long ride in the morning.  I'm not sure it would have made any diference to the result had I not ridden in the morning, and so I got a full training day out of it  -- exactly the kind of training that makes you fit on the bike.  The hope is to be more or less riding well for White Rock and Delta coming up on the 14th/15th, so if I haven't overcooked myself, I think I'm on track. 

Sunday: the informal Hurricane Ridge challenge.  This year, like last year (which ride I missed but went over later in the year), about 60 riders caught the 6:10am Coho to Port Angeles for the 17km boot to the top, measured from the ranger station, which is already 5km up the climb. I was definitely depleted from the efforts the day before, but simulating stage-racing is the best way to get fit. 

I was surprised how many fit guys were out, and apparently there was more depth down the middle this year than last, although Max Plaxton (under 23 mountain bike world championship podium finisher) wasn't out this year.  I suffered and was 8th or 9th on the day, up in just over 57minutes, while Mike Vine got Bruce Schlatter by half a wheel in mid 54 minutes, with the next few guys not far ahead of me.  I recall going up last year in about 55 minutes, so I was definitely more tired this year (but not less fit, I don't think).  Melanie McQuaid, three time world X-terra champion, was the top woman, coming in about 40 seconds or so behind me, with Judith Leroy and Pam (just forgot her last name - Mountford?) a few minutes further back.

I decided not to take the option of riding another 80km to Sequim and back, and chose to come back on the faster ferry with Roger and Bruce instead.  The intensity of the two days was sufficient training for me, as I was feeling quite exhausted.  Monday I rode for only 1.5 hours easily, and the plan is to take three days with no riding Tues/Wed/Thurs, and to do easy-ish stuff through the weekend, and a couple of days of intensity next Tues/Wed before a couple of days easy leading to the White Rock criterium and RR that weekend.

The Dhelsium Grove


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A grove of bushes of multi-hued flowers, thirty feet high, raised up as the gypsy cyclist approached them.  Such an exotic collection of broad-plumed golds and reds, flecked with blues and purples, and strokes of greens he had never seen, particularly on bushes that stretched so high.  The sky was cloudless; the air humid and warm and every exotic petal and leaf seemed saturated with moisture, nearly bursting with puffs of steam, shimmering in vibrant time to every wave of warm air, that, like the rising and falling of a sleeping lover's breast, gently lifted and fell across every living thing and every patch of rich black soil or rocky interruption.

The gypsy cyclist ceased his pedaling, placed a foot to the ground, and paused to behold it all.  There was rustling beneath the bushes, and momentarily a woman and a baby, suckling at her breast, appeared, crouching at first to navigate her way through a space in the flower grove, and rising upon her exit.  Her hair was bleached almost white by the sun, while her skin was coffee, clothed in a serape of green and white stripes.  "Oh, look, babychild," she said.  "There is a stranger here. Perhaps he knows where your father has gone.  We will ask him." 

She looked up at the gypsy cyclist.  "Kind stranger," she said, "Have you seen where Totsoulos has gone?  He was supposed to have returned three days ago. We have been waiting here, among the Dhelsium grove, and I am sick with worry that he has abandoned us.  I only hope that something has detained him, and that he is trying his best to return."

"No," replied the gypsy cyclist. "I have not seen Totsoulos.  I only saw this fantastic grove of flowers and thought to stop and look at them more closely.  I hope you are all right." 

"Oh yes," she said, rather sadly.  "On the other side of the Dhelsium grove, where you cannot see, is a grove of Glume Pears and Honey Apples, an enormous Wilnut bush and a creek of flowing clear water, and an eddy where Ulama fish sometimes become trapped.  I could raise my son here and we would never go hungry."

"Where did Totsolous say he was going?" Asked the gypsy cyclist, with curiosity.

"He told me his father was dying and needed to see him, far off in the village.  But he said he would come back the next day by horseback with news of his father. My mother, too, is in the village, and he would bring her back with him."

"But why did you not go with him?" Asked the gypsy cyclist.

"You see, my son was born the day that Totsolous left.  It was only by great fortune that we arrived at the Dhelsium grove when I was in labor.  Of course, I was too weak to go into the village, and our son too soon from the womb.  But I lay by the creek and picked fruit nuts from the Wilnut bush until I gained my strength, and nursed my babychild... Today I picked fruit from the Glume pear bush."

"Well," considered the gypsy cyclist. "Perhaps Totsolous' father has died, and he is in mourning, and will return when his grief has been relieved enough for him to travel." 

"Perhaps that is true," said the woman.  "Could you ride your bicycle into the village, and find Totsolous for me, and return with news of him?  The village is that way." She pointed to a road that forked east from the one he was on.  "It isn't far, perhaps twenty miles.  It is a small village, and if you ask around, you will discover that everyone knows Totsolous and his family, so you will learn quickly what has happened to him.  And please tell them where I am."

The gypsy cyclist agreed, and rode off on the dusty road toward the village, arriving in less than two hours.  There were grass huts and cubicle square dwelling places, and there was a market place and people all around.  "Do you know Totsolous," the gypsy cyclist asked the first stranger he saw.

"Totsolous?" Replied the man.  "How do you know Totsolous?" 

"His wife and child are waiting for him in the Dhelsium grove...that way," replied the gypsy cyclist.

Said the man, "The Dhelsium grove?  We must go to her immediately and remove her from there and bring her and her baby back safely!" The man began calling out to neighbours, informing them of the location of the woman and her baby. 

"Thank you, kind sir, for telling me, " continued the man. "How fortunate you are to have found me.  I am Totsolous' father.  It grieves my heart immensely to tell you that Totsolous has died.  His body was found two days ago, not one mile from the village.  We think he consumed of the poisonous Glume Pear bush, but the bushes are everywhere...And we do not understand why he would take of it.  We are all taught when we first begin to crawl of the dangers of the Glume Pear bush."

"You are his father?" Asked the gypsy cyclist.  "But Totsolous' wife said that you were dying...And she herself talked of the Glume Pear bush, but did not say that it was poisonous." 

"Dying? The Glume Pear bush...not poisonous?" The man replied.  The man considered the words as his face grew pale.  He began to shudder. 

"Oh," he said solemnly.  "There are always secrets, even for all the words exchanged between father and son, and husband and wife, and mother and stranger.  Totsolous had cancer; I do not." 

The gypsy cyclist perceived in instantaneous accumulation all the magnitude of the gravity beneath him, the intensity of the sun and the heat of the air.  "Oh!" He cried. "His wife said she also ate of the Glume pear bush!" 

The man slumped, and began to sob. "Oh no," he said. "Then it is too late.  Perhaps he told her, though he swore to me he never would.  What else has he told her?" He looked up at the gypsy cyclist.  "Leave me here, strange man, there is nothing more you can tell me that can satisfy the questions I have.  And if I said anything more to you, you would know of the thousand lies every one in this village has told beneath the Dhelsium groves and before the pristine flowing streams.  You cannot begin to imagine.  That baby is my child.  We have everything we need, and nothing better to do... Please, please leave me, sir."

To the gypsy cyclist the sun seemed in an instant to radiate tenfold more brightly, and then to shrink again.  And in that instant, every petal and leaf on every stem seemed to straighten and fall limply; and all the colors on the Dhelsium tree grew vastly more colorful and paled, and the thick air bore clouds from which a rebuking rain seemed to fall.  The gypsy cyclist set on his way.


____________________

Tomorrow I'll update my weekend's activities!

Jungle Roads

Sunday, July 1, 2007


One dusty road diverged into two dusty roads, and at the crux of the divergence was a thicket of thorny bushes and a man who sat in front of them, clothed only in a sarong to cover his waist.  The gypsy cyclist carried no map, and he hesitated as he approached the fork in the road.  It was not unusual for him to hesitate, but never once had he encountered a man sitting in such a fashion at the junction of the place of his hesitation. 

The gypsy cyclist applied his brakes, his rear wheel locking, causing him to skid slightly on the dusty road.  "Can you tell me what is down each of these roads?" asked the gypsy cyclist.

The man, with a mass of grey hair and black skin, sat on his knees holding a gnarled ivory cane in his hand.  He tried to stand with the assistance of his cane, but failed in his attempt and collapsed, returning to his kneeling position.  His pale grey eyes looked up, but did not meet the gaze of the gypsy cyclist.  The gypsy cyclist surmised that the man was blind. 

The man replied with a weak and rasping voice, gazing generally in the direction of the gypsy cyclist. "You are the first person to come so far down this road since I have been here.  No, I cannot tell you what is down these roads behind me.  I have never been along them.  I can tell you what is on the road upon which you have just travelled, but that is all.  Even then I can only describe how the road appeared ten years ago, when I still could see."

"Why are you here?" asked the gypsy cyclist.  "Here at this juncture - where do you live?"

    "I have been left to perish by my sons and daughters.  You see, I cannot stand anymore, my hands are arthritic and I am blind.  I can tell from your voice that you are a stranger here.  For my people, when you are like this, there is no purpose left for you but to be taken by the jaguar and to provide for its nourishment and the nourishment of its offspring.  But I have been waiting for three days and the jaguar has not come." 

    "Yes," said the gypsy cyclist.  "I am a stranger here.  But for me that would be a terrible way to go.  Has your family no compassion?"

    "Compassion?" retorted the man, finding strength for his voice. "It's been two years since I could do anything more than to be fed by the hands of my children and my grandchildren.  To be helpless - these years are the cruelest I have lived.  It is true, though, that my children believed my ailments could be healed; that for a short time they sought assistance from people with voices like yours.  But there was no hope.

    "When you are like me, you will know that it is the greatest compassion to be left for the jaguar.  Besides, only Ullu, my youngest granddaughter, cried when they left me here.  Such a pity that she should be sad, since it is a time of great rejoicing, and I thanked them all deeply with a smile they had not seen for two years.  'Sing for your grandfather,' said Bhuppa, my son, to Ullu when she wept. 'Sing this song with me,' and together all my family sang as they were pulled away on their oxen carts. 

    "But my throat is parched, and where is the jaguar?  My family did not leave me here to die of thirst.  There is no dignity in that.  And so, you, stranger, are here and uncertain of which road to take.  That is your quandary, but there is none for me. And so I must ask you if will take this cane from my hand and beat me until I am dead."

The gypsy cyclist stared at the man; the man held his gaze generally in the direction of the gypsy cyclist.

Momentarily confused, the gypsy cyclist was uncertain of how to respond.  Perhaps when he was younger he would simply have ignored the man and kept on his way, but what, in fifty years of life, had he learned if he could not find the strength to respond?  He said, "But there is no quandary for me that I absolutely cannot do that for you, old man." The gypsy cyclist dismounted his bicycle, took the two bottles of water from cages on his bicycle, and one from his jersey pocket.  "Here, drink all of the water from these bottles and the food in these pouches.  When you are done with them, I'll return on this road and will find more water and food for you.  I think I passed a stream forty miles ago, or so.  I will return every two days until the jaguar has taken you.  When that has happened, then I will decide which of these two roads to take."

The man tried again to stand, collapsing a second time.  "Don't be a fool, young man!" His voice rising. "What if the jaguar never comes?  There is no shame in ending the misery of others."  He paused, shifting his weight on his knees.

    "Besides," he continued. "Can you not understand that I do not ask you to kill me?  That is my demand, but that is not what I want.  Comply with the last demands of a powerless man, and there lies the greatest act of kindness.   Therefore, listen to me, strange man: I demand that you take my cane."

The gypsy cyclist was resolute. "In that case, old man," he replied.  "I can take neither of the two roads beside you, and I must turn back on this road.  You may keep my water."

The gypsy cyclist mounted his bicycle, and turned in the direction from which he had come.  Behind him, in the distance the old blind man shouted at him, until finally the gypsy cyclist could hear him no more.  Evening began to descend upon the land around him while myriad strange bird and insect calls rose in their own jungle cacaphony. Somewhere amid the calls there were jaguars and families, and clouds and stars, and a universe that turned.  The gypsy cyclist switched on the headlight mounted on his handlebars and decided to travel through the night.

Caleb Pike race

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Despite questioning whether I should be racing this evening after a harder ride yesterday than planned and after some hard races on the weekend, I made my way out to the Caleb Pike Wednesday night circuit race.  I rode out the Munn Road hilly route, making for a medium hard warmup.  I felt good for that sort of medium intensity up the Munn Road climb, but when we started racing -- 16 laps of a course about 2.5km long -- I generally felt in distress, shall we say. 

There were 28 starters in the A race, apparently the biggest turnout of the year so far.  I had no intentions of attacking in the fashion I did on the weekend, and the plan was to sit in and to get comfortable in the pack and with cornering.  When the pace hotted up, it was very fast, at least so it seemed to me. I could tell I was going to be hanging on by the skin of my teeth the whole race long. Still, after three of four laps, I found myself at the front a couple of times bridging up to short-lived breakaways.  But I felt pretty cooked all around and a couple of efforts like that were all my body would give me on the day.

For the most part, the pace was relentless for the entire duration of the race, and finally with a lap and a half to go I pulled the plug and cruised the last bit to the finish, a minute or two back of the 15 or so that finished in the main bunch ahead.  There was a crash that marred the finish, and I felt fortunate to have missed that.   There was also a crash in the B race that saw a woman taken off to the hospital possibly with something broken. 

The Caleb Pike course is about 25km out of town, so with the ride there and back and the race, total mileage for the evening was about 90km or so.   The plan now is to take Thursday and Friday easily, and then to do about a 100km Saturday morning before the Sidney Criterium in the evening; the Hurricane Ridge challenge on Sunday, aiming to get maybe 120k in total Sunday, and possibly a longer ride on Monday of 150-160km.  After that I'll take the next week pretty easily (with possibly about three days off completely), with a gradual buildup and some shorter efforts during the week leading up to the Tour de White rock on the 14th and 15th.

Noteworthy was that Jon W, who raced all three stages on the weekend, said he was feeling good this evening, while I was not.  Larry, who raced the RR only on the weekend, said he was struggling today, but had a good finishing sprint taking 4th in the bunch sprint (I think there were two guys off the front at the end).  I noticed one of the guys who raced well on the weekend was struggling today and I think dropped out.  Interesting to see the range of recovery among those who raced on the weekend.

Cloudy day, tra la

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another cloudy day, ho hum, ho hum.  Just another, cool, real cool, cloudy day, ho hum, ho hum, tra la, tra la.

There was some sort of prediction I seem to recollect, distantly, that today was supposed to be beaming with a high of 25 degrees.  We were lucky if it hit 17, I think, beneath the darkness of the ever-cloudy skies.   Somewhere in the world it was 25 degrees today - I'll take comfort in that.

In any event, after no riding/training yesterday, I rode along the waterfront and caught up with the Aviawest group ride as they exited Mount Doug this evening after their traditional short pit stop there.  There were about 20 in the group today.  The loop they do is about 75km, with a few hard efforts thrown in.  My plan was to do an easy ride, and though I missed the higher intensity stuff they did along the waterfront, I'm not sure even the few efforts they did while I was among them did me any good.  I'm hoping the ride won't set me back, but I do feel now like I shouldn't race tomorrow (Caleb Pike circuit race) which I had originally planned to do, had I gone completely easy today.  We'll see how I feel. 

Yesterday I felt surprisingly good all around - mentally sharp and physically invigorated after the racing on the weekend.  However, after a poor night's sleep last night, today I felt like I'd been hit by a cement truck, and was really dragging my butt through the day.  I felt better on the ride this evening, but I do think I should have kept it easier than I did. Oh well, too late - I can only monitor how I feel tomorrow and decide what training I should do over the next couple of days.  There is the Sidney Twilight Criterium on Saturday evening, and the informal "Hurricane Ridge" race on Sunday.  I want to use it all for training, including some sort of longer ride before the criterium on Saturday if I can - but will need to play things by ear.

Three races


Sunday, June 25, 2007

That was a fun but hard weekend.  Three stages, including a 16.5k TT Saturday morning, a 50min plus one lap circuit race in the afternoon, and an 80k RR today (I misread the description for the race today, and thought it was 65k, but that was the B race - the A race was 80km).  Jon and I managed to arrive at the race sign-on with plenty of time to spare for a decent warm up.

Interesting, and nice, to see Graham Cocksedge over, who has decided to focus on bike racing for a while before picking up running again in time to be ready for duathlon Nationals in late September.  Graham was 6th on the time trial in 22.51, while I was 7th in 23.18.  Demian drove up in his new beater with about 15 minutes to go before sign-on closed, sporting that "I've just drunk six coffees" wild look in his eyes, and managed second or third in the Time Trial (I can't remember exactly which) in a time of 22.12, won by John van der Vliet in 21.50.   The course was a single 16.5 k loop that climbed gradually for most of the first half, and a gradual descent with some short hills on the way back.

Afterward we met up with Jon's friend Andy, who did 22:50 for the TT.  He showed us his art studio where he would allow us to stay for the evening.  His artwork, in a traditional native style, was fantastic. 

Prior to the circuit race, the skies opened up in a torrential downpour.  This sent Demian scurrying home.  While the roads were very wet, it was only spitting lightly for the race itself later.

The circuit race was a 5km loop over some of the same roads used in the Comox Half Marathon.  We did this for 50 minutes (give or take a couple, depending on where we were at the end of the lap) plus a lap.  Being short and mostly flat, it was destined to be a sprinters race.  Still, I worked hard and got myself into three or four short lived 2-3 man breakaways, including one that lasted for the better part of two laps with Jon and Andy, coincidentally.  When the sprinters wound it up for the final sprint with a couple hundred metres to go, I let them slip away and cruised through the finish. The intent was to work as hard as I could for all three races, and will hopefully gain some fitness out of it. 

During the 80 RR today, we did 5 loops of the TT circuit.  There were 25 starters on the line, as some made the trip up from Victoria for just this race, including my team-mate Larry Wilson.  Immediately I was in a breakaway with Fred Hodgson, Jon, and Andy.  Andy was having difficulty on the day, and dropped off, while the three of us hung on for about half a lap before we were caught.  After that, I was continually attacking and was in several short lived breaks.  At one time I was in a breakaway of about 5 guys, that swelled to about 12 (half the pack), which I thought for certain would stay out until the finish. 

At one point further along I saw a few guys come back in from the side road, and I am questioning whether they sat out a lap and rejoined the pack, but I don't know this for sure.  We were entitled to an entire free lap if we had a mechanical problem, so I wonder if a few guys took some liberties with that.  The pack swelled awfully quickly, and we had some strong engines in among the 12, and I am not sure the others were strong enough to bridge the gap, but I could be wrong (even a small lull in our pulls could have allowed them to catch on, especially if the gap was small).

In any event, after almost continually attacking for most of the first four laps, I could tell I was starting to bonk, and decided I'd better sit in the group as best I could to the finish.  Two guys slipped away on the last lap while Team Aviawest controlled the pace in the pack to allow their guy to stay away.  There was not a lot of attacking going on during the last lap, and I hung on with the group to the end and cruised through at the back of the pack.  I had only taken one bottle of gatorade with me and no food, and I was regretting that poor judgment, since had the race been one lap longer, I wouldn't have made it.

The RR was worth double points, and the omnium (combined points for three races) was won by Sam Whittingham; second was John van der Vliet.  Since the skies opened up again right at the end of the race, most didn't linger after the race, and we didn't stay to see the final tally on the results.

All in all, a fantastic weekend - there were some really positive signs on my part of some good fitness gains to be made.  For Tour de White Rock and Tour of Delta races (Superweek) in three weeks, I'll need to get some longer rides in with plenty of intensity to boot.  This is all just so I can hang in in those races, as they will feature a number of North American Division III pro teams, and will be very difficult races.  I've received my Category 2 licence, which will allow me to race those races, assuming they aren't full.

Comox Cup Stage Race

Friday June 22, 2007

The plan this weekend now is to do the Comox Cup cycling stage race - three stages, all fairly short, which is good for my current level of fitness.  Saturday morning - 16.5 km time trial; afternoon - 40km circuit race; a 65 km road race on Sunday.  Originally I was planning to head up with Demian, but having recently purchased his own used small car, he wanted to test it out, and the car is apparently too small for three bikes (his two and my one) and two passengers. 

However, Jon W was looking for a ride, and he and I are now heading up.  He apparently has free accommodations for us in Courtenay tomorrow night.  So - time to start getting in bike-racing fitness.



Goodnight sweet running for a while

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The eve before the longest day winds down dressed up in its warmest fashion yet.  Still there seems only tentative cause for celebration knowing that the weather could turn again for the worse, and apparently is supposed to do so this weekend.  But at least there is reason to believe the warm days will now outnumber the cold days; the sunny days will now outnumber the cloudy days, at least perhaps for a couple of months or so.

Today was an easy ride for about 1.5 hours, about twice the duration of an easy ride yesterday.  I felt generalized fatigue today, perhaps moreso than yesterday even, but the legs have not been sore or stiff.  I'm definitely leaning toward just bike racing for a while, rather than going for the Nationals long course duathlon in New Brunswick, despite some good fitness for that sort of event leading up to it in July. 

In the summer months I recall a certain sweetness to the lifestyle of bike training and racing, its camaraderie and the dynamics of the peloton that I haven't experience for a while and find myself yearning for, if only for a couple of months.  Bike training and racing is time consuming, at least moreso than running (not moreso than triathlon training though), but there is a sort of contentment with being in good cycling fitness that I rarely even experience when in good running fitness.  This is, I think, largely because running can be so hard on the body - with high running mileage you are nearly always experiencing some degree of muscle soreness - at least I do.  But when you are fit on the bike, you are rarely sore, just tired - and it's a wonderful feeling of fatigue, I think. 

In any event, a break from running will also be good for me.  I'll pick it up again when some of the bigger bike races are done.  I'll likely run once or twice a week for some maintenance, but little more. 

So, on the eve of the longest day: goodnight to serious running for a while.  I'll miss you while you're gone, and will see you when I wake from my cyclist's slumber.

Correction

Monday, June 18, 2007

On another look at the results of the race yesterday, posted here

 http://www.raceheadquarters.com/results/2007/multi/NBHalfIron2007Overall.html

it looks to me, based upon Trevor Wurtele's time, that my final bike and run time may have been more accurate than I thought, and as I had remarked upon in my blogpost yesterday.  Trevor started in the wave 5 minutes ahead of the relay wave; Sarah's swim was about a minute and a half faster than Trevor's swim, and I caught Trevor on the bike right at the end of the bike leg and we crossed the timing matt going into the bike-to-run transition at the same time.  So, after Sarah gained over a minute on him, I needed to take about 3.5 minutes out of him to catch him on the bike, which is reflected in his 2:10 bike and my 2:07 bike. 

What didn't seem to make sense was that Sarah thought I had taken about 41-42mins on my first lap on the run, and based on that we figured I was about 1:22ish on the run. There had also already been an announced estimate that my bike time was 2:03, and this was also what Sarah had calculated based on the time I left transition and returned. 

But those were just estimates, and basing my time on Trevor's time definitely provides a more accurate time, especially since we crossed the timing matt simultaneously.  So, I must have been running faster than I thought and, while still with the fastest bike time on the day, not  quite as fast on the bike I had originally thought.  So, I think I can retract my comment yesterday that the time was in error. 

That said, I can now be happy to say that my run off the bike, at 1:18, was a couple of minutes faster than last year.  All in all, I actually had a pretty spectacular race.  Sarah was also about a minute faster on her swim than last year, so we really had a great race! 

And it's a good thing I didn't run any slower than I did.  Sean Clark was on the run leg of the men's team that finished behind us and was hunting me down rapidly, with a 1:13 run.  I believe Darren Mealing did the swim and bike portions of their relay race, while Sean did the run - so an interesting combination there as well.  Darren was about a minute faster on his swim than Sarah, but was about 7 minutes back of me on the bike.

Another note of interest was the fact that the top women's team, the Oak Bay Cycling Club team, featured Clare Hall-Patch, recent winner of the Provincial Road Race Championships, who blasted the bike leg in 2:12!

1/2 Ironman relay

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Well, that was great fun. Our team "Splash and Flash" won the relay overall again at the New Balance 1/2 Ironman event. For the relay there were prizes for mens, womens, and mixed teams.  All combinations were allowed; ie. you could have one man for each of the three legs; one woman on each of the three legs; one man doing the swim and a woman doing the bike and the run; or in our case we were a mixed team of two where Sarah did the swim and I did the bike (80km) and run (20km), and we won overall. 

Sarah had the 11th fastest swim on the day (of everyone, including individual competitors) in 27.11 for the 2km swim.  I had the fastest bike split on the day (also including all teams and individual competitors), which is what I was hoping for, so am quite happy with the result on the day.  Of course I didn't swim, so the prize for the fastest bike split went to only those individual competitors completing the whole race.  Even so, given that I'm not currently a pure cyclist and am a multisport althlete along with the triathletes, I am happy to know that I can still get decent time trialing fitness on the bike while still being able to run reasonably well.  

The timing chip (an ankle strap) fell off somewhere on the bike course, so the official splits they recorded for me were actually incorrect.  They still had me as the fastest bike split, but they had me at 2:07 while it was actually about 2:03 for the 80km course.  They had me as 1:18 on the run, while it was actually about 1:22.  The overall time was correct, though, as they had people timing by hand as well as using the timing chips. 

The 80km course was quite hard, constantly undualating.  I felt strong on all the climbs though, and really worked hard on them, and I have gained a lot of fitness on the bike since duathlon provincials about 5 weeks ago.  I felt a bit pekid on the run, but was able to run the whole distance without any need to stop and the hip flexor held up, which was good.

New for this year's race was a prize of $500 for "The Chase" or the first person across the line.  Because the waves were staggered by 5 minutes, the idea was to have the top competitors from each wave -- the women's wave, the Masters wave, the men's wave and the relay wave -- all coming across the line nearly together and going for The Chase award.  We had the second fastest time overall, about 4 minutes behind the individual winner Jonathan Caron, and were in the running for the "Chase", but that prize was actually won by Heather Wurtele, who won the women's event.  Next year, I might try to find a fast runner so we can make a better stab at the Chase award!

So, I still need to decide if I want to focus on bike racing for a while.  I would probably have a good shot at winning the long course duathlon Nationals in July, the way things are going.  But I'm not sure at this point if the trip is worth it for me.  I'm thinking about taking December off and possibly going to India (or at least somewhere warm!), and need to decide if I'd rather do that than spend my money on duathlon long course Nationals.  If I focus on bike racing I could do some big races in July (White Rock and Delta stage races), and then think about starting some running again and training for the Victoria Marathon and still be able to go somewhere warm in December.  Some things to think about.

A few days in review

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Before beginning an update for the last few days, I note first how there are several peculiar low cloud formations whisking their way at rapid speeds beneath much higher clouds, and whose altitudes appear barely one hundred feet in the air.  A very strange manifestation of the unsettled nature of our weather.  The weather has been rather odd this year, to say the least. 

Tomorrow is the NB 1/2 Ironman and, as in three past years, I'll be doing the bike/run portions of a relay with Sarah Macdonald.  I only hope the weather will be conducive to wearing shorts! The bike leg is 80km this year, rather than 92, so the total time will be significantly less.

This morning I enjoyed my first tandem ride ever.  Carly Grigg, who is visually impaired, is training for the paralympics, and her pilot, Barb B was away this weekend, so they asked me if I would help out.  We had some difficulty ensuring the radio connection was working properly, but we were still able to communicate effectively, which is important on a tandem. It only took a few minutes to adjust to the longer bike and the occasional unsynchronized power outputs. Even so, one is certainly aware of the reduced manoeverability compared to a single bike, and the pilot needs to be extra alert and careful.  Quite fun all around, and we rode for about an hour and a half, as I didn't want to do more than that the day before the race tomorrow.

In the days leading up to the race, I did no training Monday and Tuesday, did an easy run Wednesday, noticing a twinge in my hip flexor which I'm hopeful will not be a problem for the race tomorrow.  Thursday, I rode for about an hour, with a couple of two minute threshold efforts.  Friday I did an easy run, also with 2 by 2 minute threshold efforts, and this morning's easy(ish) ride on the tandem.

I actually feel fairly tired going into the race tomorrow, but I'm not taking it too seriously. It's just fun, and while I might like to go for the fastest bike time, given that there are fewer top-level elites doing the race this year.  Still, I'm not necessarily aiming strictly for that - just want to get out and have a fun race for this sort of event.

Five Trees

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

There were five sources of nectar: one piece of fruit on each of five modest trees that sprung from the valley floor near where the gypsy cyclist stood.  There was greenness and richness and warm humidity to this valley slumbering beneath blue skies, but from every perspective no trees ascended the valley floor save the five from which hung only a single, long slender, golden brown fruit.  

At the bottom of the valley, a straight but slow flowing river ran, and there were women and men and children playing at the shallow waters' edge, or washing clothes or themselves.  The chatter of discussion, admonishments and laughter seemed in mutual resonance to ring from both sides of the river.  

But still, amid the echoes, were five modest trees only, and one fruit only on each tree remained, hanging low and within the reach of a hungry man's hand.  And the gypsy cyclist was weak with hunger and any two of the five pieces of fruit before him would have satisfied him, at least temporarily.  He laid down his bicycle and approached one of the five trees, finding almost without awareness how his hand reached for the dangling nourishment.

“Stop!” cried a man, and all the echoes along the rivers' edge were silenced as every head turned to the direction of the voice and the object of its exhortation.  “Can you not see that all the other fruit have been plucked?”asked the man.

Shocked by the volume of the man's voice, the gypsy cyclist pulled back his hand. “No..no I’m sorry,” he stammered, shaking from hunger and fatigue. “I am not from here.  I don’t know this kind of tree.”

“Well, anyone with a head will know that no tree bears a single piece of fruit.  No tree with a single fruit would ever have a hope of multiplying, would it now?  If you are with a woman only once in your life, what are the chances you will have a child?”  To the gypsy cyclist's surprise, the man smiled, and peels of laughter rang out up and down the river.  

“Ah yes, good point,” replied the gypsy cyclist, sheepishly. "I have travelled a long way today, and the fruit was there on these trees.  I am quite hungry.  And why is there one fruit remaining?"

The people along the river sides returned to their chatter, while the gypsy cyclist faced only the man.  The man said, "The fruit on these trees returns every year, as sure as the sun rises each morning.  But there is hunger everywhere, as you and I and everyone knows.  And so we eat the fruit the tree produces, as we must.  But we always leave one piece of fruit. That is our custom.  

"The fruit may soon fall to the ground, and perhaps it will seed the earth and a sapling will grow.  But what are the chances?  We know the chances are small.  But did you know that once, many years ago, there was only one tree left in this valley?  And once, many years ago, that single tree, in a frenzy of hungry people, was razed of all its fruit save one that was rotten that fell to ground before it was plucked.  We do not know who because it was so long ago, but it is said that one person died of starvation because that fruit was missed.

"One day, this valley will be alive again with the Rumashan Tree.  But for that to happen we must sacrifice the hunger of one person for the last piece of fruit on each tree.  Today, my dear man, it is your turn.  There is no one here to offer you another, although we may find food for you another day.  Go that way, my dear man." The man pointed to a road above the valley. "Go that way for another hundred miles, and there is a city there.  There is all the food you will need."  

The gypsy cyclist, nearly fainting, returned to his bicycle, mounted it and turned in the direction of the road.



Weekend review

Monday, June 11, 2007

As an update to the weekends' training, on Saturday I did about 15 miles running that included 3 loops around Beacon Hill, then down to the breakwater for an out-and back, then out to the Goose and to the 4km mark there.  The run was mostly at a gentle clip, but I threw in 2 X 2km intervals at 5k pace to work the threshold capacity a bit. 

On Sunday, I joined Brett B and Larry W for a Shawnigan Lake ride that included an extra jaunt up the new subdivision road off the Shawnigan Lake climb and a couple of km of the new road just being constructed beyond that.  Larry noted that he and I covered the 9km distance from the bottom of the Shawnigan Lk climb to the top of the new subdivision road in about 23 minutes, which was about a minute slower than a recent Masters race up that same climb.  Brett turned around early on the climb as his legs were cramping a bit after running about 13km the day before which he isn't used to doing. On the way back in we rode up the grueling ascent of Finlayson Arm Road to make for a total ride of about four hours with plenty of climbing, and making it my longest ride of the year.
 
I was worried that I was potentially overcooking myself after the run the day before and a solid block of three weeks of training now.  However, after returning home, I could tell I would be fine, and the plan now is to take two days off from training entirely, and an easy week on into the 1/2 Ironman relay this weekend.  Depending on how that goes, I'll decide whether I've got the National Long Course du championships in the cards, or whether I want to hang up the running shoes for a couple of months and focus on some cycling races. 

At the moment I'm actually leaning toward some cycling races, as I can likely be in half decent shape in time for Superweek in Whiterock/Delta in the first and second weeks of July.  I've done the Whiterock races a few times in the past as a Cat 1/2, but have never done the Delta races, which might be fun.  But if my ride/run this weekend go very well, I may give serious consideration to the Long Course champs in New Brunswick.  The cost of course is a big consideration, but we'll see where my mind is after this race.

A Symphony for Jhala

Saturday, June 8, 2007

The gypsy cyclist reached a hand behind his back and rummaged through a jersey pocket that contained a jingle of loose change, the remains of a cookie and its wrapper, two tire irons and a tire-tube repair kit.  The pocket was moist with sweat, and his fingers flicked a coin, lodged at the base of the pocket.  The coin was dusted lightly with wet crumbs from the cookie that had slipped from its wrapper; the cookie was half consumed, the wrapper crumpled. 

He pulled the coin from its resting place and offered it to the girl at the side of the road.  "Would you like to have this?" he asked her.  

Her dark eyes looked at him quizzically.  "No thank you." She replied.
 
Momentarily confused, and mildly offended that she refused his offering, he asked. "Then why do you have that tin out?"

"I have not asked for any money from anyone," she said.  "But people leave it for me anyway. I have to put it somewhere.  I could put the tin behind me I suppose, so you couldn't see it.  But I did that once and that man there..." She pointed a brown slender finger through the crowds to another dusty street corner about one hundred metres away. "You see?  That man sitting on that street corner? His name is Naidoo. He snuck up behind me once and he stole it from me.  I don't ask for money, but if people give it to me, I don't ask for it to be stolen either." 

"But he could still steal it from you again, couldn't he?" Asked the gypsy cyclist. "Does it matter if it's in front of you or behind you?  He's bigger than you."

"Yes, but Naidoo is a coward." She said.  "As long as I can see it, he will not steal my tin. I only have to look him in the eyes, and he turns away; he can't bear to look at me."

She looked over in his direction.  "You see, he will not look over here; he is afraid of me.  And if someone else wants to steal my tin from me," she said, shrugging. "Well then there is nothing I can do."

The girl reached for a thick hardcover book of writing paper, its pages tattered and its cover tanned by the sun.  "But I can show you this," she said.  She handed the book to the gypsy cyclist.

"Can I open it?"

The girl laughed. "I think you are a strange man! I have never seen a bicycle like that, and such a strange helmet too! Of course you can open it!  Would I hand you a book and tell you to look at only the cover?"

"Oh...you never know..." he replied, taken aback somewhat by the girl's candour. She is a curious one, he thought.  "Do I dare ask you what it is?"

She laughed again. "Well, why don't you look at it first, and then I will tell you!"

Obliging, he began to flip through the contents of the book.  It was a musical score, handwritten in pencil.  The gypsy cyclist was not trained in music, but as he turned the pages it appeared the score was variously assigned to as few as a single instrument, and to as many as one hundred.  Sporadically, throughout the book appeared words or names written below the lines of notes.  On the first page, beneath the top line of notes was the single word Jhala, and on the lines beneath were other names.

"You are a composer!" exclaimed the gypsy cyclist. "That is a very rare gift you have, truly very rare, I think.  And what is this...this 'Jhala'?" he asked.

"Oh," she said. "Jhala is me.  That is my name. On other lines are the names of people I know. One is my sister, Rhaita.  If you look further into the book, you will even see Naidoo's name."

"So you sit here and you dream up music about you and people you know?" 

"Mmm.  That is what most people ask me.  But I am not making up this music," she said.  "These are the notes and rhythms of my life and those around me. I am not a composer. I record music."

Seeing confusion on the face of the gypsy cyclist, the girl flicked back her straight black hair and smiled broadly, revealing a row of wide ivory teeth.

On thin legs she stood up beside the gypsy cyclist and gently took back the book.  She pointed to the line under which her name appeared.  "This line," she said, pointing. "This line runs all the way through the book.  It is me.  I have learned how to measure and to count the rythyms of the patterns in my life, counted by the time between meetings with the people around me."

She pointed to two other sets of lines. "Here the notes on the upper line show the distances between me and the people around me; so the notes go higher or lower up the scale as the distances change.  The line underneath shows my mood. Where there are other names, that is where we are talking to each other, and all my changing moods."

She flipped through the book.  "Here," she said. "Do you see this?"  There were numerous names and many musical lines written smaller and squeezed onto the page.  "I don't know all of these people - I made up some names for this.  But this is where I was dancing for a crowd of people. See how close they were to me, and how happy I was? And they were all happy too.  But see how the notes on this line changed as I danced and moved around; and when it was over, how they all went away." 

She flipped to the next page.  "And see here? That is where Naidoo stole my tin of coins."

"So," asked the gypsy cyclist. "How do you play this score? What instruments do we use?"

"Well," she said, "you could find instruments to play it.  But you don't need to.  You just have to live it."

She reached to the ground and grabbed her tin of coins. "Here," she said.  "Put your coin in here and take this to Naidoo for me, please, and I will write some notes in my book."  

Without words, the gypsy cyclist took the tin from her.  "And if you tell me your name, I will write it here," she said, pencil in hand.  The gypsy cyclist told Jhala his name, turned, and gripping Jhala's tin in one hand, he walked his bike through the throngs of passersby toward Naidoo.