Sunday, September 19, 2010

Riding on the Highlevel Bridge

I hooked up with friends of friends and joined in on a wine & cheese party with a different view... from a historic streetcar atop of the high level bridge in Edmonton!
Not the typical brilliant sunset views with the rainy evening, though still alot of fun. The streetcar came with conductors dressed the historic part and shared their knowledge of the streetcar history. .

historic pic of the high level bridge, 49m above water level

Anyone can charter a streetcar. Check this site.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mt Baker Hillclimb in the Rain

Back in 2003, I did the inaugural Mt Baker hillclimb in wonderful temperatures getting to set the first women's time up in 1 hr 39 min. Attempted it again in 2004 in the pouring rain. Since then, Leah Goldstein has smashed it with 1 hr 26 min.
views from Mt Baker on my pre-ride days earlier
For 2010, the rains were back. This time the organizers cut the course 3 miles short... the best and steepest part of the course! Visibility didn't really matter on the latter miles as it's a closed road. Course was now 21.5 miles and 3300' elevation gain (normally 24.5 mi, 4300').
Finally decided on what to wear. Lots... as the bike spray from the bikes ahead would keep me cool and the exertion of the climb would keep me warm on the ascent section. (Note to self... do not need a raincoat or headcover)
Smaller hardy group of racers on the startline. Off the horn, the guys went fast. I hung on best as possible to the first little climb... maybe a little Gran Fondo muscle fatigue happening from the previous day. Grasped onto the 1st chase group of guys to the 2nd little climb. Finally settled into the 2nd forming group of guys which was "comfortable". Ooh, not a good word in a hillclimb race!
Finished... chowed down an awesome spread of food, grabbed my bag waiting for me at the top. Made the wicked cold descent down though was warm with wearing everything I owned. When I finally saw the results, one young woman was ahead by only 2 minutes. When I say only 2 minutes... she was strong enough to get away with the men on the flatter 12.5 mile section which is over half the race and a good headstart. If the women all started together, it would have really showed the hillclimbers! Next time...

the ravens at the top of Mt Baker - as big as my bike!
Got wicked questions from the customs officer going into the USA at the Abbotsford/Sumas border:
Where are you going? to ride my bike up Mt Baker
What's your profession? actuary analyst
What is the life expectancy of a 60 year-old male Pygmy from New Guinea? ha! he caught me by surprise... and I even attempted to answer it. Nice that they are getting their humour back!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gran Fondo Canada!

After 30 years of using the road up Mt Norquay for Provincial hill climb champs, Banff Parks declared the road an animal corridor. Hence, the race was cancelled. I had planned to switch to Masters category for my first time and was hoping to set a record.
Bummer though this opened up the schedule to now go in the inaugural 120-km Gran Fondo from downtown Vancouver to Whistler.Exciting that morning, riding to the race start across the Lion's Gate bridge. It was wheel to wheel traffic of bikes at 6:15 a.m. in the dark. Fun to bump into familar faces in the starting corral. Dropped my bag off where it was to be trucked to the finish line. Hmmm... only one truck already full with a 5 foot high stack of bags waiting to be loaded.
Men and women in the racing category got to seed up front in what was called the Giro category. 4000+ Gran Fondo racers were seeded behind us. Men racers started at 6:50 a.m. and women one minute back. The rest of the riders started at 7:00 a.m.

Two women racers sprinted off the start. There was a car and a motorcycle in our path which slowed up the women's peloton. Once we dodged it, the two women were far ahead. No-one wanted to chase. I gave in and picked up the pace for a "warmup". It took until the rise before Lion's Gate bridge to catch them. I dropped back for a break once we did. We pretty much floated along in a peloton with the water views of Burrard Inlet.

Within 30 km, the first pack of 100 men from the 4000+ field behind us, caught the women's peloton and we were swarmed. We rode in chaos like that for a good 20 km. There were 2-foot high pylons lining the whole 120 km to Whistler. They weren't visible when riding in the mass of riders. I crushed one with my drivetrain and did a nice mountain bike manoveur to stay upright to the shriek of a man riding behind me.
Finally, the BC race commissaire vehicle came and neutralized the women's field. The commissaire hollered that he would disqualify any women who rode ahead of their vehicle until that group of men passed us clearly. Women were upset when he said he'd neutralize each time a pack of men came by. Yah, crazy but that's the joy of women's racing! Pretty unfair as the men behind were not in the racing category.
We were neutralized again thru the feedzone for Gran Fondo riders in Squamish, the halfway point. Out of Squamish, the peloton took the long and gradual climb steady. Midway, I decided to hoof up the pace. At the top, I looked back and was happy to see two riders with me. Inevitable that the peloton would catch us on the flat section. I told the two gals I would do the same thing at 86 km when the next big climb hit.
.At 86 km, everyone was settled in a steady pace up the climb. I picked it up again. At the top, the same two women were with me... Leah Guloien and Nik Vogler. We all worked together with Leah pulling strong on the flats with Nik and I taking turns up any incline. Too bad Leah had two mini-mights with her! Heard later, more women would have went with us though they thought the peloton would catch up quickly anyway so didn't. With smaller groups of men to pass, we avoided riding with them as best as possible. Not easy when the men would jump on our wheels to draft!
By 108 km, a group of seven finally caught us. Heard that only three strong riders towed the other four up to us. It would have been ultra-cool to have kept the break. I was beat and it felt good to chill in the chase group. The women slowed to turtle's pace for the last 10-km with one woman in pink from Whistler attempting to pick it up on the climbs. It was the commissaire who agitated the peloton when he said he would neutralize us again with another's men's pack 500 metres behind us. Ann Yew went to the front to pick up the pace.
With the turn off the highway into Whistler, veteran racer Sara Neil looked like she was going to attack any moment with 1 km to go. Then Leah blew by so fast with 500 metres to go and another corner to the downhill sloping finish. The peloton was so blown apart for this sprint that seconds were given between each rider which is unusual for a peloton finish.
I put my head down and went hard though could not even catch anyone's wheel. Crawled in 8th place out of the 10-racer peloton. I was happy for Leah as she worked hard the whole race. I was pleased to have instigated the hill climb chases. Not sure how all this will help my race in the Mt. Baker hillclimb the next day! Video of speedy men's finish
Ultra awesome the weather was perfect. All week, it was forecasted for rain. At the finish line, it was like a reunion of many athletic sorts... saw so many buds from road cycling, mountain biking, adventure racing, triathlon... met new people.
Race was organized well for a first time event. Only glitch which could be seen as a glitch on the spot... lack of bag transportation! My bag finally arrived to the finish line by 2 pm when I finished around 11 am. I am so glad I had driven my car up the day before and parked it with extra clothes and food.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Westside Spring near Kelowna

One of my favourite springs only 11 km from where I stay at my friend Mike's chalet in Kelowna. This spring is not documented yet on I bumped into a grizzly older man one day filling up water. He said he has been using that water for 25 years. I asked if he ever had it tested. His reply was "I'm still alive"!

Spring is found off Westside road opposite lakeside. 4.5 km in from Hwy 97, parking spot after blue sign "Raymer Bay". Listen for the water.

Vancouverite Dorothy filling up with water to take home

view of the awesome Okanagan Lake

checking the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) rating