Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mc**** Canyon

I am not quite sure how to start this particular post.

How about "I can think of lots of names for McNeil Canyon that are fairly obscene . . ."?


"If you wanted to track me then you could follow the puddles of sweat I was leaving . . ."

I think I'll go with the second one.

This was one of those rides that I was "convinced" into doing by one of my more persuasive friends. I think she can persuade anyone to do anything, certainly she can me (she is already working on me for a 50K). It was she who told me she was following my sweat up the canyon. Ha!

This was one of those rides where I have to remember not to listen to other people. Suffering and challenge is all relative but there is also a certain amount of good natured exaggeration amongst my training partners, exaggeration that, I am afraid, I am prone to take on board. It doesn't help that one of the faster and stronger guys says "Ohh!" when we start talking about riding this on the day after the triathlon.

I don't need to do it. I am scheduled for 20 easy miles and was thinking of just riding from Chelan to Manson and back along the main road. But McNeil seemed more interesting and certainly less trafficked so I signed on.

We left at a civilized time, 7:30-ish, and headed east out of Chelan. This was, of course, a nice uphill followed by a fast and curvy descent down to Beebe Bridge and across the bridge. The drop was so much fun. The sun was warm with the promise of heat later on and it was just so nice to riding out in the scrub. A bit more desolate than the Santa Barbara back country but I'll take it, seeing the contours of the land is something I enjoy as is smelling the dry creosote scent of the bush.

For me this was a recreational climb if there can be such a thing. For Sj and Pa this was critical prep for the Richter Pass climbs in the upcoming IM Canada. Then we stopped and took a group photo at the "12% grade for the next five miles sign" and this all became rather real. Let's see, what was the steepest I had climbed of late besides the last hill from the BG Trail to my house? Snoqualmie Repeats where I did 3 mile climbs of about 1000 feet I think. This would be much longer.

Side note: turns out they calculate road grade using that good old rise over run thing. Who says that math doesn't come in handy? I was thinking about this on the ride and then M researched it as were driving off to a winery.

The climb started off fairly easy and I quickly settled into a nice cadence. Pa passed me pretty quickly—she is a really good climber and pretty soon she was a half-mile, then three-quarters of a mile, and then a mile ahead of me. I could see the red of her jersey, a speck in the distance and marveled at how fast she was going.

I wish I could say that I put my head down and climbed but I didn't. It was too pretty not to take notice of what I was seeing. Still I worked hard for the hour and seven minutes it took me to make the climb. Passed by a dead rattlesnake slowly enough that I could see various parts of its anatomy not crushed by whatever vehicle that had killed it. At one point some flying bug went into my ear and started tickling me as it tried to escape. This startled me so much that I almost went over the guard rail. Someone had painted mile numbers on the road and I was counting down the distance. Pa simply disappeared around some bend and I could see no one behind me. I was alone in the quiet of the morning, the silence broken only by breathing, the occasional whoosh of a car going past (with a welcome gust of air), and the barking of various dogs. It was so quiet that I could hear small pebbles coming off the "cliffs" above the road set loose, no doubt, by some small animal.

Sweat was pouring off me. Streaming off me really. Running down my face and into my mouth and then spraying out with my breath. My jersey was opened all the way and soaked with sweat—Sj could indeed easily track me from all the drips.

I made sure to drink as much water and electrolytes as possible while still making forward movement. Not easy given the steepness of the road but I just shifted into my "MTB fire road climbing" mode of long ago and spun on. Stopped a couple of times just to see where I had been and put my shaking legs down on the ground.

I discovered the reason why Pa disappeared. There is a series of curves going towards the summit. It is always steeper towards the summit too and the climb started getting steeper in that last mile.

Made the summit in a little over an hour and waited with Pa and our support truck (yes it is nice to have a SAG). Pretty soon Le, Sj, and Je came peddling up. A bit of a res and pictures—Le took this picture at the summit sign— and then it was a time for the descent.


No time to take pictures on the way down. :-P

Fourteen minutes to undo an hour's work.

Averaged 28 mph on the way down with a max speed of about 45 miles—not the fastest I've ever gone on a bike but darn exhilarating.

Just a blast. Started singing on the way down, a little elephant power ("Ganesh is Fresh" by MC Yogi), until another flying bug hit my face and I figured I had best close my mouth or else.

Je passed me on the way down cranking as fast as she could but was a little slower on the turns and I passed her again, spinning my hardest gear as fast as I could go. It was then I realized that my bike is just not geared for the kind of speed that the others were capable of. Sure I have a triple and they don't but there is an upper-limit after which pedaling just becomes a waste of time. I hit that limit on this descent. Still fun but I could have gone 50 mph with the addition of just one more small rear cog. Let me also blame the engine too. I am not actually used to pushing the hard gears because I focus on spinning. Makes me wonder what I could actually do once used to a harder gearing?

Anyway, we regrouped at the Beebe Bridge and climbed back up SR 150 and Chelan Falls Road on the way back into town. Work, but not as much as I had thought.

Seems my sense of steep has now been recalibrated, a very good thing. :-)

The rest of the day was devoted to eating, blueberry picking at Blueberry Hills (brilliant hash browns), winery tastings, eating, and having a beer (and Sj's traditional Stella Artois in the appropriate glass).

Speaking of which, since I enjoyed this ride so much I apparently owe Sj a Stella. Somehow this became the bet but I am not sure that was the original set of terms.

Hmm, see, she can convince me of anything. ;-)

Oh, and I think I'll just call this McNeil Canyon and nothing else.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chelanman 2012 Olympic Tri Report

What a weekend! 

Here is the short of it:

Swim: 00:30:56.6
T1: 00:4:21.5
Bike: 01:22:43.1 (18 mph avg)
T2: 00:03:09.9
Run: 01:54.3 
Overall Time: 03:05:05.4
Age Group Place: 24/29
Overall Place: 293/470
Rank: 114 (but I don't know what that really means)

And now the long. 

I am tired and exhilarated at the same time. 

The drive out from Seattle to Chelan via 2 and 97 was windy and wet. I loaded my bike onto the car and was soaked by they time I finished. Quick stop for coffee and off we went. It was a pretty drive nonetheless, especially once we got to the other side of the pass ALTHOUGH the weather was coming in, and we made very good time. Car got 30 MPG too, even with a bike whistling on the roof. Pretty good for a Subaru actually.

Pulled straight into the park at about 1:30 for packet pick-up and to rack my bike. That went really easy and I ran into one of my TLF colleagues who was doing the Sprint and met her husband who would be doing  the Oly. I haven't heard from her yet how it went but it was nice to see her out there. The wind was quite high and the lake was roiling. Big waves crashing up against the sea wall, etc. Pretty cool but I overheard a number of people worrying about conditions for the next day and being reassured that this would all blow through during the evening. I could only think of some nasty Lake Washington waves from last season which were so bad that I almost puked. 

Off to the Lake House where we were the first to check in and, therefore, got the parking pass for the garage. M and I went out to a Mexican restaurant for a late-ish lunch which was, as it turned out, a bit of a tasty mistake. Major thunderstorm came through while we were eating and we could see ground strikes up on the high hills around the lake. Pretty impressive. It did stop by the time we finished eating so we didn't get drenched walking back to the condo. M needed a sun hat. 

Everyone else sharing the condo had arrived and a round of introductions ensued and then the general busyness of settling in. We did also sit out on the balcony and read before it was time for the group dinner. Chicken burritos, etc. It was good but I could tell that everyone's mind was on their respective races and the potential for heat. Back to the condo to prep stuff for the next day and then to bed. 

Of course I couldn't sleep or, rather, I did sleep for a couple of hours before I started getting really restless and checking the time. I had a really stupid Monkee's song in my head too, Your Auntie Grizelda. Argh!

Par for the course really as I had been unable to sleep the entire night through for at least a week before. Anxiety dreams about fixing flats and running. Oddly enough, nothing about swimming. 

We had all decided to carpool out from the condo to the race start and I went with Br who was doing the 70.3. That meant leaving the condo at 5:45. I got up at five and got myself ready. Breakfast was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich washed down with some coffee. On the way out another athlete asked for a ride out as well. This was a training day for him as he was getting ready for IM Canada next month, as were a number of the other people I was palling around with. 

Got hungry as soon as we got into the transition area and anxious because I discovered that in my haste I left my water bottles in the fridge. Everything else I had, just not that. Ran over to my coach's tent to see if I could borrow one, filled it, put in some electrolyte tabs, and put it on my bike. My transition area was complete . . . 

Took the time to visit the port-a-potties (twice) and visited with the other athletes on my rack. There was a congenial nervousness in the air but also a real happiness. Most of these folks were doing something they loved. 

Coach called me over to the fence and asked about my tires. How much air did I have in them? They were pumped to 100 lbs yesterday. "Bring your bike over!" she said and so I did. After going over the pass and also sitting out in the night air they had dropped to 70 lbs. Oops! We added air. 

Time for the transition area to close and the Long Course racers to get in the water for their warm up. Late announcements, too. We could pass on the bike as soon as we went out on the course rather than after the 1.5 miles as initially stated (in the pre-race briefing that I didn't attend). 

Spent a little time warming up in the water and acting like a sea lion (I'll post a picture of that when I get it). Very calm and warm, about 72 degrees, and then went out to watch the long course start. Then it was my turn. 

The Swim:

Lined up on the back right of the pack and at 7:40 off my wave went. 

I got kind a beaten up on this swim. Someone kicked my goggles and I had to pause to clear the right lens. It wouldn't quite reseat so there was a little water coming in the rest of the time. Someone else kicked me in the ribs, I have a bruise, and someone else slammed me in the upper part of my right arm. People were slowing down and speeding up, doing the breast stroke, etc.. Made for quite a jumble until the first buoy turn. I was swimming probably 6-10 feet to the left of the underwater line. There was a swimmer to my left who kept of smashing into me. He/she would run into me, swim a bit in contact, move off, run into me again. This went on until we hit the current over by the dock and then he/she disappeared. I may have moved further to the outside on a parabolic course towards the final red buoy. Swam until I couldn't anymore, got to my feet, and trotted out to my bike. I think Les got a picture of me coming out. 30 minutes, a little slower than last year, but I was also not completely messed up either. 


A bit slow. It took a bit to strip off my wetsuit, dry my feet, get my socks on (they would not cooperate despite being rolled and filled with baby powder), and then tie my shoes. But I was off nicely, running up the hill to the mounting area and off I went. Others were not so lucky. If I remember correctly, at this point one guy was running around yelling "Where's my bike!!!" 

As mentioned before, the first 1.5 miles of the bike course were initially supposed to be a no-passing zone because of construction and coning but they made a race-day announcement that we could pass as we liked as soon as we liked. I made my first pass and heard from behind me some guy bellowing "Hey! this is a no passing zone!" I said nothing. 20 seconds later, he passed me. My quads hurt a bit as they got warmed up for the bike but pretty soon I was cruising along very happily, and well over my normal race pace. I think I could go much faster IF my bike was geared as a regular road bike is (it is geared for off-road use so I spin a lot)—this would take a bit of getting used to. Saw a couple of flats. Passed Sj early on and she shouted that she was surprised that she had swum faster than I. 

Ride went well and was fun. The outbound felt hillier than coming back although I think the climbs coming back were a bit longer. There was a woman riding a really old Schwinn ten-speed, and fast too. It was fun. Best part was that I did not get a flat and was flying along. There was some wind, especially on the way out but otherwise conditions were just marvelous. 

The only problem was that I really had to go to the toilet about mid-way through the ride which made things quite a bit uncomfortable. 

Did I mention that I did not have any flats?


Kind of novel to actually ride my bike up to the start of the transition area and not to have to wipe blood from everything. 

This transition went a bit faster but I had a sharp pain in my left foot as I started running. Somehow I had picked up a thorn and had to stop, strip everything off, get the thorn out, reassemble and go. 


If there was going to be an area of pain then it was going to be the run. I still had to go to the toilet and was feeling pretty miserable as I went up the first little hill to the road. GI distress and all the things that can come with that sort of thing are never much fun. But I resolved to press on. Stopped a kid's soccer ball from going into the water during the run out. Someone said that I should get some sort of time award for that. 

M was at the CL tent by then and was yelling out encouragement. It was nice to see her.  I smiled and waved. She took pictures. 

Did a lot of smiling. (Or was it grimacing up the first rise?) Stopped at the first aid station to use the portable toilets and get some water. Felt better immediately and just started running steadily and feeling more comfortable running with each stride. The uphill sections didn't feel all that hard and I just went on. It was hot though so I stopped for water every chance I got but did not wish to be sprayed by spectators. Pretty soon I was at the turn around and started downhill again and feeling even better. Started passing a lot of people. Up the final hill and then down to the finish. Done! 

Three hours, five minutes, and five point four seconds of really intense activity done with a smile on my face.

Had enough in me to ride my bike back to the condo with all of my gear, including my cool new shirt, while M took the shuttle back. 

Lunch? Best tasting sandwich I've had in a long time. Turkey, cheese, and avocado. :-)

Off to a winery, Benson, to sample the view and some wine before heading back to the condo for a sit down. Sat down on the couch to read for a bit. Fell asleep. 

Group BBQ at which I got convinced to ride McNeil Canyon the next morning. 

More on that particular adventure next . . . 

Good Lord!

It has been 30 years since I graduated from high school.

I was informed indirectly that the reunion is this August.

Let's just say, I am much changed and (I hope) for the better.