Thursday, December 11, 2014

The North Face Endurance Challenge - Half Marathon

A few months ago when I just started this whole running thing, I didn't really have any particular races in mind.  I was just running because it felt right and because I wanted to be a better runner.  But of course the competitor in me eventually said it was time to race.  I didn't want the pressure of PR'ing anything, so the best candidate was a trail race.  Naturally I wouldn't pick anything easy, so I went with The North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon distance.  13.5 miles and 2600 feet of elevation.  Sounds challenging?  Perfect!

The morning of the race started pretty damn early.  5:30am to be exactly.  The race didn't start until 8am, but the only way to get to the start is via the shuttles which left at 6:30.  Typically I don't sleep before races, and this was no different.  I was wide awake as soon as the alarm went off.

The rest of the journey to the start was fairly uneventful.  Breakfast, zero traffic, tons of parking, shuttles.  I think we got to the starting area just after 7am.  PLENTY of time to relax.

The gun went off at 8am.  My goal for the race was to try and stay with the lead pack as long as I could.  That went out the window almost immediately.  It was just over a mile to the first climb, but things were already broken up.  I felt decent, but I didn't really have any desire to chase the leaders.  The race is about an hour and a half, and I didn't want to blow it in the first five minutes.  Patience was the key.

The first climb up Miwok was my first low of the day.  On the first climb!?!  Yep, I felt flat going up.  At least ten people must have passed me on that climb.  Maybe it was patience again, but I don't think I could have hung with those dudes if I wanted.

I started to feel OK again once we hit the descent into Tennessee Valley.  I had a lot of ground to make up, but it was still early in the race.  I chose NOT to break any ankles today and just maintained the distance to the guy ahead of me.  I eventually passed him in the valley on the way to the next climb.  It wasn't a decisive pass...kind of a half-asses pass, but I never saw him again.

The second climb was up the coastal trail and fire road.  Let me tell you - this one is a bitch.  It is by far the steepest climb.  I felt a little better on this one and passed a mountain biker and one other guy, but it still felt like I was crawling.  I guess steep trails just do that to you?

Coming over the top, I passed one more dude.  I couldn't quite gauge his descending skills, so after a few steps to transition my legs from uphill to downhill mode, I took off.  I did NOT want to get repassed on a descent, so I threw caution to the wind and descended like I hated my joints.  I'm pretty sure I aged my knees at least ten years coming down the Fox trail.  It was steeper than the coastal fire road, and I let gravity do all of the work.

After a quick tour de Tennessee Valley again, I was once again heading up, this time on the Marincello trail.  The difference here was that I saw no one.  Not in front of me (ok maybe there was a shadowy figure off in the fog,) but definitely not behind me.  This probably contributed to my lack of drive up that last climb, but I just focused on being "in the moment" rather than focusing on how much more climbing I actually had to do.

Coming off the last summit, I knew it was party time.  My overly ambitious pre-race plan had me making my move right here at the top of the Rodeo Valley descent.  I was going to "spread my wings and fly" since this one is pretty mellow grade-wise.  Although I wasn't in a battle for the lead, I did follow the plan and beastmoded the descent.  My joint-crushing efforts netted me one place higher, and I could see one more guy about 50m up.  I didn't know it at the time, but that guy was 3rd in my age group.

I tried hard, but I couldn't catch that dude towards the end.  It was an uphill finish, and I had no more fight left in these old stumps.  Finishing four seconds back from a bunch of free North Face stuff kind of sucks a little, but I hit my goal time of sub-1:35 (finish time was 1:34:43.)  I can't control the competition, but I can control my own race.  9th overall and 4th in my age group is definitely something I can be proud of.

The best thing about this race?  I can finally shave this awful beard off my face!  For those of you who had the (dis)pleasure of seeing me during Movember, I grew the worst excuse for a beard in tribute to trail runners everywhere (much greater men than I.)  I'm happy to say that on Dec. 7th, I am once again cleanly shaved.

DO EPIC SHIT




Pro race pics (there are some cool ones here)

Strava

Monday, December 1, 2014

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot - My return to racing

After the Tahoe situation this year, I was kind of a mess.  The weeks following the race were tough in all sorts of ways - physically, personally, emotionally, etc.  I mentally disconnected from racing and decided to get back to my roots: Running.  After riding my bike for nearly 6000 miles in nine months (~340 hours) and swimming more than I can remember, the last thing I wanted to do was look at my bike or a black line.  Running felt good, so I was going to just roll with it as long as I could.  I didn't have any races in mind, but running 50-60 miles a week was what my body wanted to do.  I wasn't about to argue!

Around the same time, I started working with a coach.  At first I was very reluctant to being coached, but David seemed insistent that I could be a much better runner than what my numbers were showing.  Having not being coached for over ten years, it took a bit of convincing before I let anyone control my time.  But as it turns out, David is a pretty cool dude who is even more excited about my running than I am!  THAT is the type of person I want coaching me!  Link to his website: http://someworkallplay.blogspot.com/

So after working together for four weeks, it was time to benchmark our progress.  I had a huge confidence-boosting 10 mile run in 59:50, but racing is different than training.  We decided a casual turkey trot would be a good place to start, so I decided on the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose.

Normally I wouldn't write a blog post about a 5k, but this one is special.  After everything that's happened, I was finally EXCITED to race again!

Race morning was pretty relaxed.  Sam and I headed to the race around 6:50am.  My race didn't start until 8:30, but hers went off at 7:50.  We found parking at the SAP Center (where the Sharks play) very easily.  From there it was just a few blocks to the start down Market Street.  With so many people at this race, I was absolutely amazed at how chill everything was.  Bathroom lines were short.  Crowds were small.  So awesome.

After Sam went off, I had a few minutes to myself.  This was very important.  David and I talked about a proper warmup, and I executed that.  As soon as I took my warm clothes off and changed into my race shoes, I felt like I was floating on air.  This brought a huge smile to my face, and I knew it was going to be a good day!  I pushed to the front and started the race with my toes on the starting line - a rare occurrence with ~12000 people racing the 5k.
Striking an epic pose at the starting line.

The gun went off, and there was a mad dash for position.  I got caught up in that for a brief moment, but I remembered that David said to let the high school kids blow out the first mile.  I backed off slightly to avoid the same fate.  And as expected, as soon as we hit the first mile marker, I immediately passed three to four people.

David cautioned that mile two would be the toughest of the race, but it was only the beginning.  Soon after the 1mi mark, we hit the last wave of the 10k: The Walkers.  It was like weaving through a mine field.  There was a small  group of us weaving together, and thankfully I wasn't at the front.  I just had to follow along.  Occasionally we would split up, but we'd always converge back to the best line or the widest openings in the crowd.
Doing a good job of hiding the pain.

For me, mile three was the most brutal.  The deep hurt didn't settle in until mile 2.5.  I was honestly surprised it took that long, but struggling to breath AND weaving around people pushing baby walkers was hard.  Towards the last quarter mile, the 5k'ers and 10k'ers split.  We'd make a left towards the finish, and they'd make a right towards the second half of their race.  This was a godsend.  The weaving ended, but the hurt was still there.  Thankfully 5k's are pretty darn short.  I didn't have much of a kick, but I was able to hold off two of the dudes I was with for most of the race.

For my official time, I managed a 16:45 (5:24/mi.)  2nd in M25-29 and 12th overall out of ~12k.  Those are results I'm happy with.  This was such a massive PR.  In high school, I never even broke 18min for three miles, so to come this far is huge for me.  David deserves quite a bit of credit here.  He's the one who molded this lump of clay into something that could run a reasonable 5k.

Sam kicked some major ass too.  She PR'd both her 5k (19:46) AND 10k (42:04) times.  Mega kudos for that!
Barely broke a sweat!

Next up is the North Face Endurance half marathon on Dec 7th.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Epic Camp Day 2 - Whistler to Lillooet

I just noticed this never was posted (saved as a draft,) so I'm publishing it now...

We got to sleep in today!  Day 2 started off at a more reasonable 6:30am with a light snack before heading out to the Ironman Whistler course for a morning aquathlon.  The plan was to swim around the two sailboats (about a half mile) and do a three loop 6k run.  Just like yesterday, I came out of the water in 7th after just over 12 minutes.  I started off the run at a pretty chill pace.  My plan was to take it easy with my foot, but as soon as I got to the first turn-around and saw John about 40 seconds up, that plan immediately went out the window.  I took the pace up to around 5:50/mi which felt slightly uncomfortable but manageable.  I started picking people off, but by the end, I just couldn't get Newsom.  I debated putting in a monster effort to try and catch up, but as soon as I saw John glancing back, I knew it would be a lost cause.  Still, I was pleased with second despite possibly burning a match for the KOM later.
After a short ride back to the hotel, a shower, and breakfast, we were out on the road headed to our next destination.  My mantra was the same as yesterday: "Save it for the climb."  The first 35 miles was mostly downhill and pretty chill.  I stuck with the group and avoided pulling at all costs.  About five miles in, I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn't risk losing the group.  However, Molina had the right idea.  I always thought it was a myth, but today I actually witnessed someone piss off the side of their bike while riding.  Sadly, I do not have the bike skills to give that a try after almost crashing while taking off my vest.
The big event of the day was the Joffre Lakes climb.  The KOM competition has been on my mind for weeks.  If there was ever a time that I was going to bury myself at camp, this was going to be it.  I knew Zach was going to give me some trouble, but everything was still very much unknown.  I decided that the best plan was to ride MY race.  I knew what I could do for this climb, and I knew what would make me hurt.  The plan: 300 watts as steady as possible.  On a fresh day, I could push that higher, but after some solid riding and running at camp already, it needed to be adjusted.
I took the lead immediately after the start.  Zach was on my wheel which made me a little anxious.  After about a half mile, Zach put in a big effort to get ahead.  He made the right move in putting in enough distance to "break the spring" and got about 25 meters ahead.  I resisted the urge to go and maintained my steady pacing.  I could see Zach slowly pulling away, but I was banking on him blowing up at some point and catching him later in the climb.  The minutes and miles ticked on, and it wasn't until about 35 minutes into the climb that I got comfortable.  I had just over three miles left.  This was familiar to me.  My favorite local climb is three miles, so it was time to push hard to the finish.  Something weird happened though.  I cramped in a weird spot in my left thigh, and I realized I made a mistake.  I hadn't drank a single thing since the start of the climb.  Dang.  After immediately burning through an entire bottle, the cramp went away.  I could see Zach off in the distance still, but there just wasn't enough runway to get him.  Again, I'd have to settle for 2nd and lost the KOM by 60 seconds.
When I realized it was lost, I debated shutting it down and saving the effort for another day.  However, this is Epic Camp.  I would most likely have only one shot at this climb, so I decided to go for my secondary goal of front page on Strava.  This would take a sub-60min climb, and I was on track for that.  I was pretty happy to finish the climb in 55:41.
After the big KOM, the rest of the ride was pretty chill.  It was almost entirely downhill, so I just stuck with the pack, drafted when I could, and pulled occasionally.  The ride down to Lillooet included some of the sickest views I've ever seen.  These mountains are like nothing I could have ever imagined.  I stuck with Petro and Zach on the way down, and thankfully they wanted to stop at some good photo opportunities.  Hopefully they turned out already!
So how am I doing?  This is a question that quite a few people are asking me.  In short, I'm doing well.  I'm managing my fatigue well, the company is terrific, the views are spectacular, and I'm reasonably competitive in the races (well, except swimming.)  My plan is working out well.  So far I'm focusing on camp minimums, keeping my effort in check, and being decisive in my pushes.  I'm super lucky to be a climber on the bike.  The rollers seem to be eating into peoples' legs and affecting me relatively minimally.  I can feel some building fatigue, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be.
The internet here in Lillooet is questionable at best, so I'll add pictures later.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Epic Camp Canada 2014: Epilogue

Today is the first day post-Epic Camp Canada 2014, so it's time to reflect on the past twelve days.  It's hard to believe it's all over.  I'm sure you won't find it hard to believe, but it was  kind of nice to wake up this morning and not have to swim 3k, run 10k, and bike 200k.  I thought I might join a few others for a light jog this morning, but my legs are still in a state of extreme shock.  It hurts to squat down, and I don't think that feeling will go away for at least a few more days.

As I fly home, I have a mixture of emotions right now, but most of all, I'm feeling relief.  Going into this camp, I had a ton of anxiety.  I think that's pretty normal though.  I haven't done a lot of international travel.  I was going to spend two weeks with people I've never met before.  I didn't even know if my body was going to be able to handle the extreme amount of punishment it was going to endure.  There was also the added stress to perform in the jersey competitions.  For all of these reasons, I don't think I had a single "good" night's sleep the entire trip.  I joked near the end of the camp that I'm going to go to sleep tonight (Sunday) and wake up for work on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday,) but given my current sleep debt, I don't know if that's a joke...

I still need to add up the numbers, but I did somewhere close to 80 hours of workouts in 12 days.  This included swimming over 3km per day, running over 6.2 miles per day, and biking over 1000 miles through the mountains (ie tons of climbing.)  At my peak, that amount of training took me over a month.  Squeezing that down to two weeks with the added intensity of races and other competitions meant that my body went through the beating of a lifetime. (To be updated with exact numbers.)

Coming into the camp, John Newsom said I would be one of the slower guys as well as one of the younger campers (Leah was the youngest at 28.)  For these reasons, I took things pretty slow at first.  I relied quite a bit on the group and on the veteran campers to help guide me in my approach.  Initially I was a bit trigger happy on the pulls and on the climbs.  I trained and tapered well, so the first few days I felt much better than expected.  I also knew my strengths (climbing and running,) so I strategically used those to my advantage.

The first week was great.  I was doing the camp minimums, and my perception was that I was handling things as well or better than most.  I was pretty lucky to only get one flat on the road, so for the most part, I was always keeping up with the lead pack.  The pace never felt unmanageable either.  My swimming was a solid 7th, but this was a pretty minor part of the camp.

Around the beginning of the second week, the fatigue started to set in.  I think it coincided with my first two hour run.  Due to my foot injury coming into camp, my run wasn't where it should have been, so the longer runs definitely had a major impact on performance.  There was also the incident with my bike towards the middle of the camp.  This killed me both mentally and physically.  Wildflower (my bike) and I were like one.  That bike was basically an extension of my body, so to lose something like that was difficult.  At the time, I was in a mild state of shock because I didn't know if I would be able to complete the camp, and I knew it was a multi-thousand dollar incident.  A tough pill to swallow for sure.  The new bike is nice though.  Dandelion (thanks Sam!) and I got to know each other pretty well, and by the end of the camp, we are on pretty solid terms.

The last half of the second week was very dark for me.  Right around day 9 is when things took a turn for the worst.  I was still able to move, but getting out of bed in the morning was difficult.  Biking became tougher and tougher, and I kept missing the main pack.  Occasionally there would be someone I could ride with, but pulling (riding in front) was out of the question.  My most sincere apologies to everyone for doing almost no work towards the end.  Physically, I just couldn't.  I hope you understand and don't hold too much of a grudge.

The KOM competition was something I was looking forward to, but Zach crushed that hard.  He went five for five on the KOMs which was untouchable.  Before the fatigue set in, I was close, but once I lost my bike and my legs, there was no coming back.  Well done Zach.  I hope I at least made you work for it.

The yellow jersey competition was something I had in the back of my mind for a while.  Realistically I never thought I had a chance especially with my foot and lack of running coming into camp.  After the KOM was lost, I noticed I was doing well in GC (yellow jersey) points purely based on performance in the races.  With just a little more effort to pick up a few "easy" points, I could be a contender.  So that's what I did.  By the last two days, I had a severe case of yellow fever.  I didn't quite realize what I was up against with Adam B, but I tried hard.  It took a bit of ingenuity to grab some points (convincing Scott to let me violate the 12-hour rule, downhill 7x1k, etc.) but for two days, I went for it.  The best I did was tie Adam B for one day, but after reading Molina's blog about the integrity of the yellow jersey and considering the shape that my legs were in, I decided to call it quits.  Adam B tacked on way more than I did, and he got up at 4:30am on the last day to put in some monster training.  Kudos dude.  You are a badass and earned the yellow.  But all things considered, I'm happy to have been a contender and to have had the opportunity to go for it.  I made you work for it, and likewise, you made me do work as well.

To John and the support crew, thanks for an amazing experience.  Logistically, everything was incredible.  Michelle made the most amazing food and gave a killer massage, Dave went out of his way for me so many times (almond milk smoothies) and had an incredible personality, and Mark saved me so many times with bike stuff.  You guys were like wizards with logistics.

Here are a few things that I learned that might make for a better experience next time:
- Bring a laptop.  Managing pictures and garmin issues would have been a lot better with a real computer.  There was a ton of extra room, so size wouldn't have been an issue.
- Bring warmer clothes.  Again, size and space weren't really issues, so there was room for bigger bags with more of the uncommon but greatly appreciated things like cold/wet weather gloves and full cycling booties.  Those two things alone would have been a game-changer during that one miserable day from Sunwapta to Lake Louise.
- Better run fitness would have helped a ton.  Going into camp, I was lacking some long run training.  You're never forced to run long, but that extra durability in my legs would have helped a lot.
- Pick your battles.  Halfway through the camp I flipped from going for the KOM to the yellow jersey.  In the future, if the yellow jersey is a realistic goal, go for it on day one.  Likewise, if you're going for the KOM, take it easy on the rest of the stuff.  Zach wasn't going for camp completion, so trying to split my effort in both competitions was difficult.
- Do the fast stuff EARLY, at sea level, and on FLAT ground.  Trying to do hard run sets when you're super tired, at 5000 feet, and in the mountains is a nightmare.
- Declare your tack-ons.  Being secret about your bonus points is not a good way to make friends.  It all gets revealed at the end anyway.
- Be a tourist every once in a while.  I missed out on a few opportunities to have some fun like the river adventure and the Lake Louise gondola because I was too busy training.  At the end of the day, the experience is a lot more valuable than a little more training.

I had a great time here at Epic Camp Canada.  I feel like I accomplished something huge and am a better person for it.  I also met some great people along the way and shared many epic moments with them.  I will almost certainly be back for the next one!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Epic Camp Day 12: Lake Louise to Calgary - The Final Day

I conceded the yellow jersey this morning.  Actually, I conceded it sometime last night.  My legs hurt so much that I couldn't bend them to curl up into a ball, so I decided that enough was enough.  It wasn't worth risking my chances of doing well in Tahoe in three weeks.  I feel bad because Adam B got up at 4:30am to do the 7x1k run reps, another 10k run, and a 60k bike to pull ahead all before the 200k run.  That's HUGE.  I seriously can't touch that.  Adam B: You are a hardcore badass well-deserving of the yellow jersey.  Congrats.

So instead I got up at 6:15 to make the 6:45 van ride up to Lake Louise.  We stopped at the lake to take pictures just as we headed out on our tea house run.  It's hard to describe how beautiful it was.  I've been waiting FOREVER to take a picture standing in front of the lake.  You see pictures of it all over the internet, but today was my day.  I was happy that it was pretty calm and clear too, and it was definitely worth it.

After some solid photography, we headed up the trail towards the tea house.  The trail was much like the one yesterday with nice dirt and straight uphill.  And of course ridiculously beautiful.  Just like yesterday, it twas a mixture of running and walking (mostly walking) that is, unless your name is Lou.  I don't know how, but Lou somehow managed to run the entire way up.  It might not have been blazingly fast, but he did it.  The view from the tea house was worth it too.  Definitely one I will not forget for a while.  On the way down, I had some solid man-to-man-to-man time with Lou and Scott.  They gave me a ton of life and racing advice that I won't soon forget.  The rest of the descent was spent chasing after Zach and Petro.  We took the scenic route and ended up getting back way later than expected.

Breakfast was a bit rushed, but we go out on the bikes by 9:30.  My legs were thoroughly crushed into oblivion, so almost immediately the pace seemed difficult.  Newsom said the pace was going to be on from the start, and he wasn't kidding.  We took a side road which paralleled the main highway.  It was nice, but it wasn't as scenic as I was hoping.  The views I saw yesterday from the main highway were definitely better.  The first aid station was just outside Banff, and it was a welcome break.  But as soon as that was over, John promised that the pace would be even higher for the 30k out on the highway.  He wasn't kidding either.  As soon as we got out there, the front pack took off.  I tried to hang with them, but I didn't last long.  As soon as the main group got up to me, they flew past too!  Crap, I missed both groups!  Thankfully Molina was smart enough not to hammer, and he fell off too.  I got on his wheel and hung there until the turn.

I also hung onto his wheel until the aid station at 100k too.  We took another side road, and the shoulder was a death trap for tires.  Another day with plenty of punctures!  After the aid station, we were noticeably exiting the mountains.  The terrain was changing more and more to gently rolling hills, and the weather was getting sunnier and warmer.  Molina and I just kept on motoring along (he obviously leading) all the way to lunch at 150k.  I swear, Molina must be sick of towing me around the past two weeks.  He might as well of had a rope attached from his bike to mine pulling me along.  I spent more time with him than anyone else this entire camp.

Lunch was our typical road lunch, and naturally I tried to eat everything in sight.  The plan was to wait up for everyone and roll into Calgary together.  This worked well for a while, but we got split on the climb just before town.  Eventually we regrouped and made our way to the hotel.  I think we stopped at a thousand stoplights on the way, but we made it.  Once we got to the hotel, things were a little crazy.  People were packing bikes, showering, etc. all the way until dinner.

The Epic Camp closing dinner was great.  The food was good, and many good laughs were shared.  Epic support crew Dave Dwan had an excellent speech, and John Newsom handed out some fancy Epic Camp swag.  Slowly people started trickling out, but it was hard to leave all of the good stories from Molina.  I think the story of Gary's snickers bars will be told for many Epic Camps to come.

My flight is at 11:20 tomorrow, but I'll head down to the lobby much earlier to hang out with people.  Tomorrow I will type up my epilogue too, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Epic Camp Day 11: In Lake Louise

Once again, I'll cut right to the chase: The race for yellow is on.  Adam Bardsley has the lead over me by a single point.  As it stands, I have not done my second 200k ride, so if/when I make it to Calgary tomorrow (assuming by bike,) I will get those two points.  So in virtual standings, I'm ahead by one point.  I know this; Adam knows this; everyone knows this.  I told Adam B exactly what my plan is for tomorrow, so if he can somehow beat that, then he deserves yellow.

And now the recap of the day.  We rolled out this morning at 9am.  The plan was to ride 15k uphill to Lake Moraine, run up Sentinel Pass, and bike down.  The ride up was super mellow.  It wasn't a race of any kind, and we knew the run was going to be a doozy.  Once we got to the top, we tossed our bikes in the truck and headed to the trail.

The run was 5.8k long and 2400 feet up to Sentinel Pass.  The way up was brutal.  We tried to run at first, but eventually we resorted to power walking.  When the trail leveled out a bit, we'd try to run, but it always pitched up too steep to climb.  At first we were running through a cloud, so the views were crappy.  But once we got above the cloud, the vistas were spectacular.  In fact, they were better than anything I've ever seen before.  Once the internet is good again, I'll post pictures, but for now, you'll have to take my word for it.  The run back down was nice.  Zach and I were running quickly, but I was trying to be cautious to avoid the ankle traps everywhere.  Once we got down to Lake Moraine, we took a quick dip to ice our legs.  Damn that felt good.

After we biked down, lunch was served.  I have to hand it to Michelle, she can make anything taste good with whatever materials she has.  Today we had a Mexican rice dish and pasta with sausage.  Both were amazing.  Sadly, I went light on lunch because I had other plans...

After lunch, I went for a 20k run.  The plan was to run out 10k as a warmup and then do the 7x1k under 3:50 with one minute rest on the way back.  This was a really difficult run, but if I made it under 3:50, it would be worth mega points.  I got it done, so that 20k run alone was worth five points - huge.

Next up was a 90k ride.  I originally planned on riding 120k, but it was getting a little late.  I didn't get out there until 4pm.  My plan was to go out super easy since my legs were a little sore from the 20k run.  I had a nice tailwind, and it was downhill.  I was mentally preparing myself for a grind on the way back.  After the 45k mark, I had some good luck.  The winds had somehow magically changed, and I had a tailwind going back too!  Booyah (or so I thought.)  Around the 65k mark, my luck went to shit.  I saw the clouds off in the distance, and at 65k I finally reached them.  The rain started to come down pretty heavy, and it was back to a stiff headwind.  It wasn't too cold, so I was actually pretty happy about the rain.  If you know me at all, the biggest thing I miss about Chicago is the thunderstorms.  If it's not cold, rain is such a joy for me.  Today though, the rain was ok for about 20 minutes, but the temperature dropped just past my comfort level for the last 20.  When I got back, I was shaking quite a bit, but I did indeed make it back.  This 90k ride netted me another three points.

I met up with the group just a bit late for dinner, but I still had my delicious pulled pork sandwich, all of my fries, the communal salad, and most of Mark's fries as well.  I think I'm starting to get a reputation around here.  I don't know how these guys don't eat more!

When it was all said and done, I was one point behind Adam B.  My eight points didn't quite close the gap.  His early morning 10k run and 150k on the bike was big (I only anticipated him doing 120k.)  But as I said, he knows what I'm going to do tomorrow, so the ball is in his court.  Good luck.

Epic Camp Day 10: Sunwapta to Lake Louise

I won't sugar coat it: Today was absolutely miserable.  I knew the weather here in Canada was too good to be true, and today made up for it.  It was cold and rainy from the time we woke up to about five minutes before the end of our ride.

The day started with a short 4k run to Honeymoon Lake.  Given that we were at 4500 feet, Newsom was going to make the call as to how long we'd have to swim due to cold water.  His conclusion: Swim as long as you can, but if you're getting hypothermic, get out.  Yep, that about sums it up.  The water was f'ing frigid!  As usual, I got in the water and started following my favorite swim buddy Shannon.  About five minutes in, my hands and feet were numb.  I checked my watch thinking we'd been in the water for 20+ minutes.  Nope.  5.  This was torture, but since it was our last official swim, I wanted to beast mode the full 3k.  I got it done, but I definitely paid for it.  After getting out, I could barely get dressed because I saw shaking so much.  It definitely reminded me of my 19min T1 at Tahoe last year.  The 4k jog back to the cabin helped warm me up a bit, but it wasn't nearly enough.

Before the big ride of the day, I could tell it was going to be a shitty day.  The rain was coming down, and the temperature was dropping.  I put just about every piece of warm clothing I had in my day bag on top of what I was already wearing.  The details for the ride were: 178k with two KOMs at 54k and 134k.  Translation: LONG with two HUGE climbs in the worst possible weather.  I think I was completely soaked less than 10k into the ride.  It wasn't raining too hard, but the spray from wheels including my own was wrecking my gloves and shoes.  Around 25k, the front group took off.  I hung back with the more logical crew.  The theme from yesterday continued: No energy.  I just didn't have it.

The first KOM was a grinder.  There's a steep part in the beginning followed by a downhill and finishing up with a long slog at a steady grade.  The steep part was tough.  I caught up to Gary and just chilled on his wheel for a while.  He didn't know that the steep part wasn't the KOM, so he dropped back a bit.  For the steady part, Gareth and I just slogged up that.  Brutal, brutal grind.  Eventually we saw the top, and he busted out a solid sprint to take it...for like 10th place (the front group was long gone.)  At the top, they had the greatest soup of my life.  In reality, it probably wasn't that great, but given the situation, it was everything I could have hoped for at the top of a climb.  At the aid station at the top, I also made the decision to put on my long sleeve thermal shirt (layer number 4) and put garbage bags on my completely drenched feet.

From there, we had a long descent down to the next aid station at 100k.  Normally I love descents, but given the weather, this was the last thing I wanted.  Freezing.  Cold.  The other guys here are also much faster at descents due to gearing, so I missed the group which meant 45k solo.  Actually, Douglas came by, so he want I cruising along together for a while.

After what seemed like forever, Douglas and I got to the aid station.  Actually, we missed it, but thanks to a really awesome car, they let us know and we doubled back a bit.  Initially the garbage bags that I put on my feet were a good idea, but somehow water got in and never drained.  The pools in my shoes were quite annoying, so I ditched them at 100k.  Feet were still freezing though.  I downed two Snickers bars, and since the main group was rolling out, I decided to head out too.

The next KOM was at 134k.  Almost immediately I was dropped by the pack.  Molina didn't have much either, so it was me and him grinding away up this mountain.  Near the top, I hit my low.  According to Molina, I didn't hit rock bottom because I was still pedaling, but I will tell you now that I was as close to getting off my bike as I have ever been.  I was questioning how I ever got into this mess, why I even decided to buy a bike, and probably even the meaning of life.  I was dropping F-bombs left and right and yelling, "Where the hell is the top!?!?!"  It was bad.  Cold, wet, and absolutely miserable.

After a quick lunch at the top, we had a decent descent down to Lake Louise.  It wasn't pleasant, but at least I knew the end was near.  A Red Bull gave me some wings for the final stretch, and after almost seven long, treacherous, uncomfortable, grueling, and stressful hours, that bitch of a ride was done.  Molina and I celebrated with a quick dip in the hot tub which was amazing after a day full of numb hands and feet.  The circulation returned.

I didn't take many pictures today partly because I couldn't get my camera out, and if I did, I couldn't squeeze my fingers hard enough to turn it on.  It's also a day I would rather forget.  I'm sure in some weird way it made me tougher, but it was also the worst training day of my life.  Today was supposed to be one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world, and it was ruined by cold, wet fog.  What a disappointment.  If there's one thing that I want to take away from today, it's a quote from Molina which he told me while I was hating life up the second KOM: "Even if you have the perfect race, it always fucking hurts."