Monday, August 27, 2007


I made the voyage to the Okanagan this weekend for two reasons - to attend a wedding and to watch Ironman Canada.

The wedding took place on Saturday at a small vineyard just outside of Kelowna. The combination of the outdoors, lovely scenery, nice weather and easy access to wine, made for a lovely event.

I hit the road early on Sunday to make it to Penticton for the 7:00am swim start for Ironman Canada. It was difficult to identify my friends amidst the mayhem of 2,600 wetsuit-clad triathletes jockeying for position, so I walked up mainstreet and met up with an old triathlon friend, Cate. I didn't even have time to get coffee before the first athletes were finished the 2.4 mile swim, out of the water, through transition and on to the bike. As the bikes screamed past, I had to focus in order to recognize my friends. Matt, then Catherine, then Chris, then Curran. I was proud that all of my friends were such speedy swimmers - all four were out of the water within 70 minutes. It was convenient too, as it afforded us time for a leisurely breakfast before driving out to watch the cyclists climb up Yellow Lake.

As I was munching on my bagel, it sunk in that my day was only now beginning, and there were 2,600 people that had already been excercising for over two hours. We watched and cheered as our friends danced up the Yellow Lake, making it all look so easy. Then we headed back to town to watch the run.

I put on my rollerskates so that I could cruise further down the marathon route and find a spot where my spectating talents might be put to optimal use. Climbing uphill through a crowd of distracted people on a surface resembling cobblestone is a tough way to learn how to skate. After three miles of awkwardly propelling myself forward with a Frankenstein-esque swagger, I found my spot and immediately retired the skates. I didn't have to wait long before my friends came through.

Three out of four of my friends finished - each acheiving personal bests. Chris broke ten hours, finishing 52nd overall (that is not a typo!) and taking almost half an hour off his 2005 time. Wowsa. Matt finished in 10:23. Catherine finished in 10:29. Curran turned out great swim and bike splits but did not finish due to a series of unfortunate events (but that is his story to tell, not mine). I am so proud of all of my friends. It takes tremendous courage to lay it all on the line.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kelowna's Finest

Refusing to let Hector's shenanigans or the after effects of several margarita's ruin my day, I was up relatively early to go to the farmers market with Dana and Brent. We spent a good hour walking around, checking out local goods and taking time to snicker at the frizzy-haired, bleach-blonde, eyeliner-abusing, tattooed, Pamela Anderson wannabes that Dana has cleverly branded as 'Kelowna Hot'.

Once we became bored of that, we headed home and hit up a few garage sales along the way. It's fun to see what value people place on their belongings.
- a box full of empty smuckers jam jars: $2.50
- a dozen driving range balls: $5.00
- gold-coloured oil-burning candles: $10.00
- heavy trunk style suit case, damaged: $50.00
- child-sized ninja costume: $5.00
- curling trophy, name plate removed: $1.00
- 80's era electronic keyboard: $5.00

and my favorite....

I did spot a pair of practically new roller skates in my size for $10. I'm not a rollerskater, but I know a hot deal when I see one. So, I bought them, figuring maybe I could teach myself. How hard could it be?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hector's Revenge

I went for dinner last night at Hector's Mexican Restaurant with my friends Dana and Brent, who are kindly putting me up for the weekend in Kelowna. Dana recommended the house specialty, jalepeno poppers. Not one to shy away from a recommendation or more food, I ordered one with my dinner. I wasn't bothered that Dana didn't order one for herself after all of the hype; I figured she'd have some of mine.

I cut my popper up so that others could share. I believe I saved some tears and a potential trip to the hospital in the process. The tiny bite that I had made my tongue feel like it was going to bleed. I could feel the fiery trail it blazed as it moved down my esophagus. When I looked up, Brent and Dana were wide eyed and giggling - and so were the people at the table next to us. I had just been initiated.

We proceeded to spend the rest of our time there watching other tables endure the hazing ritual. The waitress would bring the poppers out, barely able to contain her own laughter. The initiated would 'discretely' look on at the unsuspecting victim as he/she took a huge bite. A look of surprise would follow. Then a look of distress and confusion and a red face, the severity increasing with every moment. The victim would desperately attempt to remain cool, grabbing any sign of relief in sight - chugging a beer, if necessary, without any consideration for the later consequences. Once they regained their composure and speech, it was their time to spectate as the cycle began at another table.

It's an interesting way to break the ice and bring tables of strangers together. It's also rather mean. One has to wonder if Hector is a very angry person and this is his revenge on Kelowna.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

TransRockies Day 7 - The Simple Life

48 kilometres of rolling terrain made for a fast final stage. After a short stretch on pavement, we found ourselves in the familiar dust cloud that formed in the flury of riders before us. Instantaneously, we were wearing the road. Everything about us was dirty. Even the whites of our eyes were dirty. My eyes flowed acid tears for the next two and a half hours, motivating me to push harder toward the finish line. Whether that translated to a faster pace, I don't know. Our legs carried the weight of six days of riding, which made it hard to judge our performance. Normal standards of endurance, performance and perceived exertion did not apply. What we did know was that we were not riding with the faces that had become familiar over the prior six days.

As we approached Fernie, we entered a stretch of singletrack. I followed Cindy's lead and found myself challenging some technical stretches that I previously wouldn't have thought were within my reach. The combination of I) six days of confidence building, II) trust in your partner, and III) another racer following closely on your tale, can really push you to the next level. Everything was moving smoothly until, at the last possible point possible, I biffed as I reached just beyond my grasp. I sustained minimal damage and hurried hard toward the finish line.  

I had mixed feelings about crossing the finish line. I worked toward it all week, but not once did I feel like I wanted this to be over. I can't recall a time in recent memory that has brought my focus so completely into the moment. Letting go of the distractions of daily life was blissful. I can't even say it helped me put things in perspective - my thoughts were never that complicated. Life was just simple this week. Wake up, bike, laugh, relax, sleep, repeat.

Friday, August 17, 2007

TransRockies Day 6 - Purple Haze

We started just as the sun was rising this morning. The air is filled with haze from all of the fires raging in the area, which made the sun appear as a perfect crimson circle. I already feel a thousand miles away from everything I know, and the unearthly quality of the sunrise felt like a physical representation of that. The smokey air was less than ideal for the deep cough that I've developed over the past few dusty days, but it did offer some welcome protection from the sun.

We had three climbs totaling approximately 2300m of vertical over 116 kilometres. Most of the ascents were ridable - it's funny how an infected blister on your heel can help you find the strength to stay in the saddle and grunt out the rest of a steep hill, rather than getting off to hike.

Rather than offering an opportunity to recover, the descents were very physically demanding, with stretches of large rocks, some switchbacks, some overgrown atv track, some deep ruts and some water bars, to name a few of the challenges. To add insult to injury, I forgot my gloves at the third checkpoint, which made the last descent even more challenging.

It was a tough day. Cindy really pulled me through it. I'm so glad to have a partner and so lucky that mine turned out to be so awesome. This is the first day that I feel like I had to really dig deep. It isn't a pleasant feeling - but that's what I came here for. In a twisted way, I like it. Digging deep has a way of bringing you absolutely into the moment.

TransRockies Day 5 - No More Gears

93kms today. I started out feeling a little worn, but strengthened through the day. Cindy and I dialed it down a bit and had a lot more fun as a result. We decided that it should be a recovery ride, after going hard yesterday and in anticipation of a deadly day tomorrow.

The route today was right up my alley - a lot of double track, gravel roads and moderate grade vertical. The second ascent had some more serious hills that had us in the granny gear playing karaoke to some ozzy songs. My theme song for the day was 'no more gears'.

We proudly rode up, down, and across a lot of stuff that others were not prepared to. I can definitely feel my technical skills improving. Cindy is teaching me a lot.

Just over half of the miles were on gravel roads that were very dusty from all of the bike traffic. The dust feels caustic in my eyes and lungs. Leading up to the finish line, my bike was sounding like it had been to Burningman.

We are now in Elkford for the night. Bbq is on. Beatles are on the speakers. Lawn chair. Mountains all around. Paradise.

TransRockies Day 4 - Fight Club

Long day - 113kms. Really, really, really dusty. I now have a puddle of mud at the bottom of my lungs.

The pace was fast and we got passed a lot on the first ascent. I didn't feel slow or particularly beat up, but we were passed by a lot of teams, which was demoralizing.

The first descent was heavily water barred double track. Fast and a bit dangerous. There were several accidents, including one that required an air rescue.

The last 42kms was gravel, moderately downhill, but into a headwind. We hammered and blew past a lot of teams. It felt good, but it was a tough way to finish the day.

We arrived in after about 7.5 hours again. Looking around at the other riders, I saw a lot of black eyes, stitches, bruises, and blood. It's starting to look like fight club around here.

We relaxed by swimming at Whiteswan Lake and then hanging out and bbqing at the RV. I opened a bag of Jelly Bellys as a treat for everyone. Just before bed, I grabbed a last mouthful of jellybeans and was overwhelmed by an unidentifyable unpleasant taste. Pete snuck some ass-flavoured Harry Potter jellybeans into the mix. He must pay.

I have a special prize for the best revenge idea. The only conditions are:
- I must receive the idea within the next 48 hours
- I must be capable of executing the act with the resources accessible to me on this trip (ie. Minimal)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TransRockies Day 3 - Livin' on a Prayer

We slept under the stars last night. Four of us shared about twelve feet of space under the awning. Half of the space was occupied by Erik an I on our thermarests and Craig on his cot. The other half was occupied by Jon on his giant blow up princess mattress.

It was a little bit cooler outside than I had bargained for. Despite my awareness that temperatures in the moutains are known to fall substantially at night, it was hard to imagine that was possible when it was still tshirt and shorts weather when the stars came out. I guess that's kind of like how it is hard to imagine what five and a half hours of mountain biking is like when you are sitting in the comfort of your chair at work.

When we lined up at the start, we were advised that we had been moved up to group two (of three) based on our overall performance from day two. This was flattering and a nice surprise as we had not given much thought to our performance relative to the group. We quickly learned that this move came at a price as we were surrounded by cyclists that had a notably more competitive mindset.

Cindy and I rode the stage at our own pace. Around mile 57, we came up with our TransRockies prayer:

My partner I'm so diggin'
Cause awesome she's so friggin'
Wicked is her speed
Johnny apple seed

The fun died down as we started a sketchy descent that had major water bars cutting across the trail. We were eventually stopped and asked to wait, as there had been a crash that required a helicopter rescue. Ultimately, I think three people were airlifted out from separate incidents during the day.

It was a very fast day overall. We rode strong and were happy coming across the line in a little over 7.5 hours.

My daily massage getting harder, as there is not a lot of surface area that is affected by cuts, scrapes, bruises or blisters.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TransRockies Day 2 - Let the good times roll

We prepared for bed with the assumption that we would be starting stage two at 9:30am. This was the start time indicated in the route guide, but we missed the evening race meeting and thought there might be a 0.00001% chance that something might have changed. Craig drove back to the race area to double check - and saved the day. The start time was changed to 8:00am. Close call!

Only 60kms today - another short one. Tough, but better suited to my skill set. A killer climb that lead in to a downhill that was described in the route book as 'less than 50% ridable. I had some anxiety about the descent as I tried to imagine what might be considered unridable and what that might mean for a hesitant descender like me. But, we made it through without incident. The day finished with a stretch of fantastic single track (even I have to acknowledge that it was amazing) that twisted along the river valley to Nipika Lodge. We rode hard today and finished happy.

We spent the afternoon cleaning up, organizing for tomorrow and hanging out by the RV. It was blissful to just relax in the sun, surrounded by people with similar interests, with the bbq on and the mountains as a backdrop. A lot of laughs and positive energy. The group of people with whom I am sharing the RV are fantastic.

A lot of times we don't realize how great an experience is until it is over. I had trouble getting to sleep because I was so fired up thinking about how fantastic this week already is. My partner is awesome. The biking is awesome. The RV crew is awesome. I'm lovin' it.

TransRockies Day 1 - Skirt season is officially over!

There are close to 600 riders in the race this year. As a result, the start was slow and congested. The route started quickly in to a long climb. The first 6 or 7 kilometres was  essentially ridable, but the congestion of riders made it difficult to find a line to ride.

The route then turned to single track, which created a substantial bottleneck in the flow of riders. A lot of start and stop and standing around made for slow progress. We took advantage and rested while we could as we knew we would soon be upon the hike a bike section.

The hike a bike was only three kilometres, but it was tough. The pitch was steep and the path just kept going up and up. My calves and lungs begged for mercy, but it was futile. The hill was relentless.

Then it was all down hill - but certainly not easy. Exposed off camber single track. Tight ridden out switchback after tight ridden out switchback. Twisty singletrack through trees. I took three crashes (only two of which were driver error). Total rider damage: some road rash and bruises on the legs, hips and shoulders and a few stiches by my ear (no, Cindy did NOT try to bite it off, but it was a little odd that she used After Bite to clean my wounds - ouch!). I damaged my shifter cables enough to require replacement, forcing me to eat my pre-race words 'I don't get mechanicals'.

Overall, a kick ass day. We lost a lot of time on account of my spills, but made it through with a smile. The best part of the day was having a really great team mate. Cindy was phenomenal and a big reason the day was so much fun. It's going to be a great week. 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

TransRockies Day 0 - Boogers or Rotten Eggs?

After a late night of last minute procrastinating, errand running, packing, lasanga baking, and doddling, Pete arrives at my door at 8:00am to pick me up. He is captain of the support crew and he has generously offered his time for the week as well as a very, very nice RV and trailer. He knows only two of the six riders that he will be supporting, but seems eager and willing to please as though we were all family. Pretty awesome.

By 3:00pm, we've checked in for the race and gone for a spin around Panorama Village. Then it is time to relax and let the fun begin. We are sitting outside the RV, enjoying the sun, when Pete's seventeen year old daughter hands Craig a jellybean and says 'eat this'. It's an odd way to give someone a jellybean and we all look on with confusion, but Craig complies. Her next words are 'does it taste like boogers or rotten egg?'. She's got a whole box of repulsive tasting jellybeans that she proceeds to share with the boys. After I hear Jon say 'it actually does taste like vomit', I figure he's done with the taste test, but a moment later I hear him say 'it tastes JUST like sardine! It's even got that oceany taste. How do they do that?'.

After dinner, we head down to Invermere for the night. The town seems to be welcoming of the event - we see signs saying 'Welcome, TransRockies Participants'. The thought is nice, but its proximity to a another sign 'Get Your Bear Spray Here' is probably yielding an effect that is inconsistent with the intent.

A few laughs and it is early to bed for everyone. At 33km, its a small day tomorrow, but we are not fooling ourselves to think it's going to be easy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Spice Girl

With less than 50 hours remaining until Team Pulse embarks on the TransRockies challenge, I thought it might be fitting to finally offically introduce my partner for the race. Cindy 'Crazy Spice' Koo.

Raised by a pack of wolves in a remote region of Northern Canada, very little is known about Cindy’s origin or her early years. There is wide speculation that she is the illegitimate daughter of Chuck Norris, given her striking resemblance, animal-keen senses, and enhanced physical capabilities; however, the rumour has never been substantiated.
She took the cage fighting world by storm in 1995, when she went undefeated in the underground “North of 61 Bare Knuckle Brawl” tournament and earned an invitation to the Ultimate Fighting World Championships, where she fought under the cage name of Spice. Her feral instincts and signature move, the “fennel facebuster”, earned her a reputation as a cutthroat and ruthless competitor.In 1996, she was named FightWorld Magazine’s Rookie of the Year. But, in 1997, her rage got the best of her and Spice was forced into early retirement after savagely biting off an opponent’s ear. Deemed a danger to the public, she was committed by the state to a Pentonville Psychiatric Hospital later that year, at which time she began to be known as Crazy Spice. To pass the days on the inside, she studied relentlessly, ultimately earning a PhD in theoretical cosmology and quantum mechanics. After her release in 2000, she got into acting, taking leading roles in “That Man: Peter Berlin” and “American Ninja 4” and appearing in multiple music videos for the Wu Tang Clan. As she skyrocketed to D-list fame, she was romantically linked to David Hasselhoff and began experimenting with plastic surgery, including, notably, calf implants. By 2006, she was tired of the spotlight, turned to cycling and was recruited to join Team Pulse for the 2007 TransRockies Challenge. Competitors are advised to exercise extreme caution in the presence of Crazy Spice. She may look unassuming with her huge calves and sweet smile but, rest assured, she’s certifiably crazy.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Just Give'r

This sweet machine was parked in my neighbourhood yesterday and I couldn't resist snapping a shot. I was drawn in by the overall theme, so I took a closer look.

Stunning. She's got a twin on the passenger side as well. The icing on the cake is the face on the bumper.

There was an electric guitar in the back seat and some cigarettes and monster energy drink in the front. I wonder if it belonged to this guy: