Monday, August 31, 2009

August racing

After a somewhat slack July, filled with wanton excess, relaxation and misadventure, it should have been no surprise to me that August was not filled with podiums and champagne. What happened instead was a wake-up call that my recent arrival to cat 2 was going to require more training than ever, or suck a lot. With that spoiler, on to the race reports:

The Tour de Bowness stage race is held on the August long weekend - first race since June. Hill climb Sat, Provincial Criterium Championship Sun, road race Mon. My hill climb time actually improved by 8 or 9 seconds from last year, but given the massive tailwind, it should have been 20 seconds faster with no extra effort. My power data told the story: an average power output that would have been dismal even if I was doing week-night hill repeats. 35th out of 38

The crit was a repeat of Banff: immense pain, then dropped in 20 minutes. One of my team mates, Trev Williams, was dropped in the stupidly fast "neutral" first lap, but at least he had an excuse! Team mates Keith and Jared were in the mix right to the finish, but Mark McDonald was at his peak for the race, and crushed in the final sprint to win by several lengths and defend his title from last year.

Monday's road race was shortened from an already short 80km to 60km...and so the pace was blazingly fast from the get-go. After being dropped by the race leaders in just 2 laps (of 12) I pace-lined with some pretty big names, but they too dropped me after lap 8. Despite a reasonable solo-TT effort for the last few laps, I got lapped by race leader Jamie Sparling on my penultimate lap to make it 2-for-2 DNFs in mass start races in cat 2.

The Provincial Road Race Championship was two weeks later. I'd started training again in earnest, but apparently had not regained my fitness...dropped after 30km, after a good downwind attack at the top of the first of three big hills. Ended up doing a 90km team trial trial with team mate Dennis...but at least I didn't DNF...

My team, Speed Theory, was hosting the last big race of the season, the Jason Lapierre Memorial stage race, featuring the Provincial ITT Championship. A unique course was mapped on the yet-to-be-opened-to-cars Calgary Ring Road highway. I felt in good form after the prior weekends' beatings. That is, until Cyrus passed me in the opening stage time-trial, after starting 3 minutes back. Ouch. I ended up 5 minutes off the pace to finish 12th of 16.

JayLap Cat 1/2 crit (photo by Satnam Sidhu)

An interesting crit course was created at a highway interchange (on 24-hour-old pavement!) and I made up for a complete lack of warmup (due to my typical lack of pre-race organization) by pacing the pack for the first two laps. Shortly after saw a two man break-away, and lots of surging in the pack as people tried to bridge but avoided pulling. The smaller, less-aggressive field gave me a chance to stay at the front and although I lost some ground in the final half a lap, managed a respectable 9th of 17.

In the road race the following day, the field started off with a mild pace (as we expected for a 140km event), but after about 3 seconds went to warp speed, shelling many riders. I hung in and avoided getting dropped by the surges as the field reacted to Shawn Bunnin's non-stop attacks, but the field never caught four breakaway riders, including team mate Dallas Morris. I had a mechanical and lost the peleton on the second last lap, but decided to grind out one more lap alone to avoid a DNF and get my offical placing of 13th loser in a field of 21.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kayaking - first the bad news

I went on a great sea kayaking trip with family and friends recently. Much like last year, the injuries didn't happen until after the big event was over...Tim and I did a little white water on Elbow River, just downstream of Elbow Falls in Kananaskis.

It was actually quite the adventure in the end...turns out I don't have to be rock climbing to epic (people that know me always bring a head lamp when we do something, even in the middle of the day). After bumped our way down the shallow river (lesson 1), Tim and I came around the corner, side by side (lesson 2), and proceeded to be eaten alive by one of two (lesson 3) fairly intense rapids on the stretch of river we were running. I remembered the other one, but this one had slipped my mind... Tim flipped and wet-exited, while I fought to escape the unintentional (and unwanted) surfing: I was actually pointing *down stream*, and got pulled back in enough that I ended up with my bow in the air. Eventually I flipped...and was flipped back upright! I decided anything that could flip me back upright was not for me, and so I bailed and immediately shot out of the rapid/falls. My boat came out 30 seconds later (it's amazing what times of stress will's now looking for a place on Church St).

In flipping, I hit my face on a submerged rock, so now I had blood pouring down one side of my face. In a total rookie move, I also let go of my paddle (lesson 4), so that was somewhere downstream at this point.

The adventure did end Tim and I are on the side of the river with dozens of kilometres to the nearest road. The other side was a giant, steep embankment. Given that we were blocked just 20 metres upstream by a cliff that met the river in white water, it didn't bode well for walking back to the put-in. So we decided Tim would go downstream about 50 metres to the nearest shore-eddy, then I would follow, paddle-less, and he would throw his paddle as I came past, so I could eddy-in.

That went fine...I was able to eddy-in by paddling with my hands. Although my hands hit rocks on the bottem and were bleeding.

Then we had to get up the side of the big scree-slope embankment. Tricky at the best of times, but with two WW kayaks and a paddle? Hmm. So one of us did a little "lead climbing" with a tow rope, up to a large, solid looking rock, then the lower person tied the rope to the kayak, and proceeded to push the kayak up, and scramble up behind it, while the first person took in the slack so the kayak didn't slide back down (and into the current, to join my paddle wherever it had gone).

After doing that five times (so I guess the slope was just shy of 100 metres), we went back down to repeat with the second kayak. This time we tied the tow ropes off on trees, for a little "fixed-rope" effect. Then we bush-whacked to the road, and flagged down a passing car, who were nice enough to take me back to my car and not even tell me to try not to bleed on their seats.

The numerous rules I broke:
1. Avoid shallow rivers; they hurt more than full ones.
2. Go single file: it's less social, but much safer.
3. Wild rivers (unlike domesticated ones like the Upper Kananaskis) need to be scouted. It kinda sucks to get out every bend, when the river twists every 100 metres...but it turns out you kinda have to.
4. Hold on to your freakin paddle.

As a past motorcyclist, I should know that you can't learn all lessons from experience. I'll try to avoid doing that in the future...