Thanks to my friend Adrienne, I had a place to crash right in Pentiction that was steps away from the Ironman Canada start (287 steps I think). Adrienne wasn't even around that week, but a few new friends from Calgary were and her place turned out to be a hub of Triathletes from all over that were there all doing the same thing I was.... training.
I left casually on Monday afternoon, it was a beautiful day to do the 4.5 hour drive into the interior. I decided to do the Hwy 3 route instead of the Coquihalla Hwy as someone tipped me off that it was a much prettier drive - and HOLY SMOKES was it ever! It's a twisty, windy route through the mountains with some of the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen. Again, I've done a fair number of road trips and travelling throughout North America and this drive had me pulling over at rest stops to take it all in and (quite literally) giggle to myself that I actually live in this place.
Because this week was more about mental preparation than anything else, the workouts weren't killer - tough - but not killer. In the end, it was 6050M of swimming, 160km's of riding, and 32km's of running, but the quality of these miles far outweighed the quantity.
Tuesday morning I eased into the week with one hour of continuous open water swim.
Conveniently, Penticton has a nice 1900m buoy line that stretches from one end of the beach to the other. This also happens to be serious Triathlete territory so by 6am there's a pretty steady stream of swimmers heading into the water for their morning workout. The waters are calm, clear and free of sea monsters (ie: shadowy figures darting past you or underneath you that you typically encounter when swimming in the ocean or other water where you can't see the bottom - très freaky). Of course - this is my vacation, so I don't head down for my morning workout without first enjoying my morning coffee on the beach.
After a bite to eat and some daytime TV back at the house, I was out for my second workout - a ride up to Apex Mountain. Again, incredible scenery, quiet roads and PERFECT weather. A balmy 29 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
Thanks to my new Blackberry Curve -not only did I always have a phone on me in case I got stranded out on the bike, I was able to take pictures all week while out on my adventures and upload them to Facebook right away! I love technology :)
The best part about training weeks like this - is that your only purpose is to train and recover. Which means alot of eating and sleeping. So after my ride - back to the house to eat lunch, then off to the beach for a nap! Woo Hoo!
Wednesday morning started with a 2000m time trial in the water. I was really excited to see what kind of pace I would need to have for the race next weekend, and what kind of time I could expect to see in the swim. This morning I was going to swim hard like I was racing and see what the result was. Unfortunately, when I got down to the water, the calm smooth glass like water from the day before was no more. It was super choppy, white caps even! Great. So regardless of the unwelcoming swells, I get in the water and give a good effort to complete the workout I wanted. It was a tough, tough swim but in the end I did 1900m in 40min. Which I think can be translated into a decent sub 40min/2000m swim in calmer water. I was happy. Waterlogged from all the water I choked on, but happy.
I headed back to the house (just a few steps away remember) and changed into running gear and immediately headed out for an easy 35min run. My legs were still sore from the Half Marathon that I ran on the previous Sunday, and from an IT band that apparently had strained during that race. I was taking it easy and trying to work it out. By the end it had loosened up. After some lunch, more daytime TV and a quick nap - it was off to Osoyoos (about an hours drive away) to ride the infamous Richter Pass which is the first part of my bike course, and a well known force of destruction on the Ironman Canada course. My plan was to ride up it twice just so that I knew I could handle it on race day
In case you didn't know, Osoyoos is Canada's only desert. It's hot, dry and, oh yeah - HOT. By 1pm when I got down there, the mercury had risen to a comfortable (read with sarcasm) 33 degrees Celsius and not a stick of shade to be found anywhere. I parked in the Husky gas station parking lot, doused myself in sunscreen, loaded up on liquids and headed out. The climb is about 13km up the side of the mountain - with a few flat parts to break it up - I did it very easily in 50 minutes. I stopped to take a picture of the backside when I got to the top, then turned around, whipped down in just shy of 25min, re-applied my sunscreen and headed back for another climb to the top. Again, the climb taking 50min and doing it easily. I was stoked on it being not as big of an obstacle as people had made it out to be.
Thursday I found the water in the same condition as the morning before - choppy, cold and unwelcoming for my planned speed workout. Oh well - it was great training. I did a great interval workout and was joined by Sean, a friend of Adrienne's who was also staying at the house and training for this years Ironman Canada in August.
In the afternoon, I headed back to Osoyoos to do 1 loop of the 2 loop race run course. I mentioned before that it was HOT in Osoyoos and I meant it - it was another blue skied, 33 degrees with no sign of a little cloud cover to break up the scorch of the mid day sun. I was just doing an easy 11km, slow - just looking to get a feel for the course, not to do it in record time. I was well hydrated, rested and fueled and headed out. By the time I had gotten back to where I started, I had taken 3 walk breaks, was seeing stars, had a small incident with a little vomit and was having trouble breathing the thick desert air. Ok - so the heat is intense. Duly noted. It was a darn good thing I had taken the opportunity to acclimatize before the race - these are lessons much better learned before race day. Luckily I could dip in the lake, cool down quickly and relax under the shade of a tree before driving back to Penticton.
Friday morning I did a nice easy ride out to Naramata. Penticton is wine country and Naramata is it's capital. Nothing but vineyards and rolling hills with the backdrop of the lake and the mountains. Not a bad way to welcome the day if you ask me. The afternoon had in store an easy 45 min run, but after the beating I took in the heat the day before, I had a hard time completing the run and pulled up after 30min. Recovery is key. To the beach I go.
Saturday was my big ride. I was heading to Osoyoos to ride the bike course in it's entirety. Fueling up and heading out from the would-be transition area, I started my 90km journey well prepared for the heat and the challenges this course had in store. Richter Pass was over and done-with in 45min this time as I was well versed in it's every nook and cranny and I chugged up with little effort and happy to have done the climb 2x a few days earlier. This time though, I would not be turning around at the top, but rather descending down the backside of Richter and heading out into the unknown of Hwy 3.
I heard about the "Rolling 9" on the backside and that they can be just as, if not more daunting than the climb up Richter to begin with. When I came across, one, and then another, then another... and so on through 9 big descends, followed by 9 big climbs. Each one getting a bit tougher to climb out of as you get more and more fatigued as you go. The trick??? Don't stop spinning your legs! The faster you go down, the less you have to pedal up! I made it through with some energy on reserve - good thing too, because the course is an out-and-back so everything I just did, I'll do again heading home.
At the half way point, I stopped at a little corner store to refuel (eat) and reload (water). The coolest thing about riding out here is the people you run into. People at every turn that are out there (mostly) training for Ironman Canada. I have so much respect for those people and what they are taking on. I haven't yet run into anyone who doesn't take a few minutes to chat with you to talk about their ride, what's coming up, and give you a bit of advice if you ask for it. Triathletes are such wicked people - must be the fraternity of pain we all belong to - an understanding between those that are suckers for punishment.
The way back proved to be more challenging than the way out (usually is). I was getting tired, hot and knew that the climb back over Richter Pass was looming and would be a tough go that I was going to have to dig deep for. After the 5th, 6th, 7th.... 8th..........9th.... climb out of the rolling hills, I saw the inevitable. There she was. Urgh, that damned hill looked big even from 7km's away. I made my way up it, slowly but surely. I got some encouraging honks likely from other Triathletes passing by in cars heading one way or the other. When I got to the top - I turned around and celebrated at what a huge success I had just had. It's that feeling there that gets me through so many workouts, climbs, races, obstacles, whatever - it's that feeling of accomplishment that can't be beat and can't be duplicated. It's awesome.
Hyped up on my "Me vs Richter Pass" win, I started my descend down the other side with a huge grin on my face and my mind on my prize. About half way through the ride home I decided that I wanted one of those Rocket ice pop things - you know the ones.. the red, white and blue things that you buy from the ice cream truck. Hell ya - I wanted one SOOO badly. I think it was part of my motivation to get to the top. I stopped at the Husky at the bottom of the pass and sat right there on the curb sucking down the frozen, sugary goodness and very much satisfied with my ride.
Sunday was my last day. I packed up from Adrienne's and headed back to Osoyoos to do one more loop of the run course. I didn't want to leave having such a tortuous experience with the run. It was a good decision in the end as I ran a decent pace, felt really comfortable with the course and finished feeling strong and not as sick as I had a few days prior. Feeling good, I took a dip in the lake to cool down, stretched on the beach and hit the road for Vancouver by 2pm.
What an amazing week it was. Training aside - I was relaxed, I slept, I ate, I read my book. It really was an awesome vacation. BC is so incredible and I feel like I've only just started to explore what it has to offer.
This week I've taken it really easy. I got in a run workout last night with the club, but as Coach Drew told me - "the hay is already in the barn" (another eye rolling classic line from Drew)- meaning, the training is done. Now, all I have to do is prepare myself mentally, keep hydrated, get well rested and enjoy the race on the weekend.
So, I'm off now for a quick spin on my bike before I pack up and head back to the interior. Wish me luck... only a 2km swim, a 90km bike and a 21km run stand between me and the possibility of the Long Course Triathlon World Championships next year.