Sunday, July 24, 2016

2nd L'Alpe de Grand Blanc 2016

link to RACE VIDEO

Beautiful start to the day at 22C 8 a.m… unlike the rainy conditions at last year's inaugural race.
photo Big White
New extended start from the East Kelowna Community Hall. Already hot in the sun, I found shade near the side at the front as we lined up. Double the participants from last year with 137 racers.

Map of course before Hwy 33 turn-off. Starting position was important as the switchback descent thru Mission Creek was less than 3 km away 
The group rolled out neutral for 800m. Just after turning the first corner, the orange cones marking the official start came as a surprise. The riders in the front pack were quickly out of the saddle picking up the pace.
The race began at the orange cones! - photo Big White
With a slight headwind, a one-line pace line formed until the twisty descent. Riders swooshed down faster than the usual Sunday ride pace. 

Approaching the start of last year's race, riders sprinted up the first climb ferociously. I held my own pace back of the lead group and caught up to Darrin Caruso, owner of Chainline cycles. With a few straggler riders ahead, we both worked to catch up, as Darrin bridged the gap. 

We now had a group of 5 riders. I looked at them and thought they were big guys, with my definition being they were strong flat-landers not skinny climbers.

Marg, tucked in behind 4 strong riders with
rider #150, Gary Wade leading
 - photo Big White
As we turned onto Hwy 33, the pace was constant and high. At that pace, my immediate thoughts were “ouch, this pace hurts!" and "I certainly need more of this in training” as I was breathing heavily. The lead peloton was barely seen up the road. 

After this first major hill climb, it was important to have a group for the next slight incline false flat sections. It was still another 4 km to the crest of the hill near the truck brake-check stop. I gutted the pace out.

After I took a turn leading the climb and looked over my shoulder, I was sad to see Darrin and another rider dropped off. There were three of us left. 
My typical out of saddle style seen in the distance (yellow shoes)
as we caught one straggler from the lead peloton 
- photo Big White
Now a group of four, the guys took longer pulls on the flats, with my pulls on any inclines. Flyweight did not match the power of these guys.

Finally on the 5 km climb to the Big White turnoff, I started with a nice chill pace. The straggler we caught took off. Super strong rider #150 with a Kelowna Cycle jersey set a faster pace than me. I attempted to pull ahead though he came around again. I was ultra impressed with his climbing power with our size differences.

At the turnoff to Big White, the other rider grabbed water at the feed zone. He kept with us for a short time up the next steep climb, then dropped back. Earlier he joked and questioned if we would ever get to coast!

I followed the pace of #150 as I could do no better. The headwind was nasty, so it fueled my fire to ensure I stayed with him. The wind factor added to my already ultra impressed-ness with his strength!

I quite enjoyed the speed following him on the short descent.

We caught the straggler climber again. I chatted with #150 and said “bummer to be stuck with two skinny climbers!”. His reply was super nice and said he enjoyed the company. The young climber eventually dropped back with what appeared a mechanical. 

Our pace was consistent. Every time #150 got out of the saddle for a break, his change of pace started to tire me. When we reached the final switchback hill, he told me he was fading and for me to go on ahead.

In my mind, I was thinking how I was already being challenged to stay on his wheel, and told him “no worries, I like the company!”

Lead peloton on Big White Road - photo Big White
I knew all the stats for this ride as I rode it earlier in the week. After the 2.5k switchback climb to the transfer station (high elevation point of the course), there was a fast 2.5k descent (120m drop) and then final 2k climb to the finish through the ski village. I quoted these stats to #150 who seemed to appreciate the description.

post-race stories - photo Big White
Once we finally reached the peak, the switchover to descending muscles was a teeny bit scary with a slight twinge of a cramp. Fortunately, he did not accelerate quickly. The final climb was welcome with a few locals cheering. I let #150 go finishing seconds back.

I was very pleased with my efforts to hang in. The thought to battle the wind on my own terrified me to work harder. Found out rider #150 was Gary Wade, a very strong former racer on Team Total Restoration, and I had heard "legend" in general! I was super fortunate to get to ride with him.

Annie Bergen, Marg Fedyna, Amanda Kosmerly
Annie Bergen, my very close competitor, caught up to Darrin and placed 2nd. Emily Millard, a local rider, placed 3rd with Amanda Kosmerly, my training buddy, in 4th.

15-yr old Conor Martin, Marg Fedyna, Big White Ski Moose!
Race organization was superb, full water bottles handed out at feedzones, post-race fruit, post-race meal with home-made ice cream bars were fantastic. Guy at the free beer table looked bored!

Ascent 1705m
Descent 418m
Distance 58 km
Time 2:14.49
Avs 26 kph
Mxs 75 kph

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Small Village Ashcroft Hillclimb

My cycling buddy Annie Bergen loaded up her two sons, and we carpooled to Ashcroft, a 2.5 hour drive away. Ashcroft was a major supply centre in the historical Gold Rush days. photo
On-route it was impressive to drive by the Highland Valley Copper Mine that went on and on. Seeing the sand and the water, one of Annie's sons asked if we could stop at the beach later!

On the drive to Ashcroft, we had to pass the race course in reverse. The hill climb race started from the edge of town and immediately went up 17.3 km to the top of the highway. The grading varied though seemed to be mostly 7-8%.
all photos - Ashcroft Facebook page
Around 40 people showed up. The mass start went out quickly. I latched onto the front guys and attempted to hold on for a couple km. When Conor Martin made an attack, the peloton splintered.

I managed to hold onto the even pace of Greg Timewell, a racer from my past duathlon days in the '80s. Up ahead, I could see that Emma Lujan, young racer from Penticton, clung onto the front group.
Nice to have a group - Emma, John, Greg
I did not last on Greg’s wheel for long. Greg then caught Paul Berry, then Emma who was shelled off the front group. She was waiting to work with riders. The three of them worked together as I rode solo into the slight headwind. 

Paul Berry dropped off, and I caught up to him. Up ahead, a rider from the lead peloton who hovered on the side of the road decided to jump back on course. It was Devon Moonie who set the course record last year. He had stomach cramps and was now out of contention to keep his win, so was dejected.
Paul Berry encouraged Devon to at least ride to finish the race. This pepped Devon up as he picked up his pace. I hung on briefly to Devon's wheel and laughed to myself as it was a tough pace for me to hold and it was his just ride to finish pace. I soon dropped off.
Devon caught Greg and Emma, though continued on. Closer to the finish Emma took off on Greg and another rider they caught. I finished back of Greg pleased with my efforts to keep a continuous hard pace. Devon still finished 3rd with his just finish the race efforts.

A nice well organized low-key event…

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Black Jack Slurpee Loppet

I chose the latter of at least three loppets this weekend between 42 km classic Cookie Race in Kananaskis, 50 km Payak skate loppet in Whistler's Callaghan Valley, and 30 km skate loppet in Rossland.

Small crowd though I was near a couple skiers most of the time. Led my group the first 10k loop of heinous long and steep climbs in 35 min. Starting the race at +3C, it was steamy hot when the sun came out.

After the first 10k loop, I saw one guy stop to remove a layer or two. I really wanted to, though slogged along in my sauna cave.

Taking a moment for food, I then followed a skier who had been behind me. I was gapped a couple times though caught up on the steeper climbs. The classic track was a smidgeon faster so I double poled when I could. 2nd loop was 40 min.

Into the 3rd loop, I threw in the towel with the conditions as they were slurpee-like. Let at least 3 skiers go just like that. Dropped the pace to where I could finish at a happy pace. No-one else passed me so likely we were all sloths in the warming conditions.

Tough conditions - great course!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ullr's Test Winter Tri

18k bike - 10k ski - 7k snowshoe

Small crowd of 10 riders to start including a few relay teams. On the start line, we were told to ride past Nickelplate where "Mike" would be standing with an orange flag to turn around.

The ride was mostly uphill starting from Apex village base.

I chose my cross bike with a studded tire on front and a Conti Top Contact winter tire on rear. The 29-er mtnbikes got ahead on the snowy village start. I was just back of around 5 riders. Rear tire sketched out a little on the graded snow-ice-dirt roads though was ok.
photo Hoodoo Adventure Facebook
I lost contact on a fast open descent hidden by rolling hills. Then, a few guys were riding back towards me. Looking ahead, I did not see "Mike" or any indication of a turn-around. I was at most a min behind the guy in front of me.

Too late as I was flying down the descent. A car flashing lights was ahead. He was one of the organizers and was angry that "Mike" was not at the turn-around. I was told to grab onto the car and towed back up the snowy hill climb (a little scary with handlebars swerving into the car a few times).

At the apparent snow-covered cattle guard turn-around point, I rode back toward Nickelplate. At this time, the rest of the riders back of me were caught in time to not make the same mistake.

I fumbled with putting on gear for the skate-ski leg, then off on snowy tracks. I knew the course description though was frazzled on which direction to start my ski. The course had been changed at the last minute. Thanks to Dave who said "go out Nickleplate race loop"!

Fast though not speedy snow. I caught up to one guy and kept just ahead until the end of the two 5-km loops.

Transition to borrowed snowshoes (thanks to organizers), I snow-shoe raced my first time ever. Awkward! The shoes felt like a hindrance and weighted me down. I was going 10 min per km pace!

First 2.5 km was uphill and tracked up onto Riordhan Mountain. The trail was pretty cool, though I was miserable with weighted feet and stumbling. I took the snowshoes off for awhile and was equally as quick (or slow!) on the soft snow. Put them back on for the steeper climb.

My hip flexors were getting worked, and worse my right knee was aching. Guess an intact ACL is needed! I vowed to never snowshoe again.

Finally, the trail descended. The snowshoes were valuable in their larger platform surface to land on the uneven snow. I slogged along. It was a challenge to keep eyes peeled for the correct trail. There seemed to be just enough "Ullr" signs.

With 2.5k to go, a woman on snowshoes headed towards me which confused me. She got off-track, which was easy to do, and was backtracking.

Just descending out of the trails at the top of Apex, another woman fled by me like a deer. The last 2 km on Apex snowmobile descent was steep. Took the snowshoes off to run the last 800m to the village. My feet spun out like getting off an escalator fast. Ended up 3 min back of the fleet footed woman.

Even the lead cycling guy went way further than me on the cycling section (only other cross rider). The other guys knew to turn around as they did the event years ago. Checking over the bike times, I lost at least 4 min with missing "Mike". Oh well...

I would use a cross bike again. The fast descents were scary though the mtnbikers thought so too. Just had to have faith, and two studded tires would help.

The organization is attempting to bring back an epic event from the 1990's. A downfall for the price of admission was the lack of prizing, no race token like a toque, and no post-event food... making it primarily a lure for racers who like a challenge.

The scenery is outstanding! Fun to bike race in winter conditions for a change.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Nickel Plate Loppet - Winter Wonderland

As a warm-front came in all week decimating the snow everywhere, seemed every skier was surprised at the amazing snow conditions at Nickel Plate on loppet day. Sure, the base level is at 1800m though I assumed the tracks would be glazed and temp warmer.

Tracks were snowy, temp stayed at -5C the whole time with a gnarly strong prevailing wind - perfect, except the wind.
photo - Amanda Kosmerly
The course started on the inner green/blue trails I rarely ski as these are mostly flat. Had a good start. Only a hundred metres after skiers funnelled into two bumper-to-bumper tracks, a small 10 footer climb bunched up at least 5 skiers on either side. I was quick to foresee it and ran up the middle! Put me into an even better position.

Course meanders on Meadow track before going round about in Evening Star, Night Hawk towards a wicked climb up Cannonball then a more wicked descent over to Eagle's Nest climb, flat Upper Meadow, to a couple hurtful climbs in Vindicator, and finally down Last Chance for one 15-k loop

If I chose the left hand side track, it seemed the turns always went right and I was skiing the greater distance. When I shifted over the the right hand side track, the turns then went left, doh! Was able to maintain good contact with a handful of skiers as well as a few junior Nickel Plate skiers racing the 15k.

Cannonball switchback hill climb and descent was breathtaking to race up hard, and then eye-opening to make the corners at a blazing step turn pace and stay upright! One guy swooshed by me on this descent.

Had good company up Eagle's Nest trail, slopping thru a short snowdrift section, into Upper Meadow green loop where I was then on my own into the headwind. After a few more awesome climbs and a 1 km descent to finish a loop, no-one was in sight as the junior racers finished their 15k race.
Crazy amount of double-poling in such a hilly place!
- photo Amanda Kosmerly
Happy to have the same guy ski by. We had been near each other since pre-Cannonball climb though he had faster gliding skis than me. Managed to stay in reach of him as we took the best line crossing the flat tracked corners time and time again. At the Cannonball hill climb, I hoofed off and kept my gain on the descent this time.

On Eagle's Nest climb, I had a red-clad skier in sight. His climbing grip was noticeably slipping. Caught him on the snowdrift section and was smart to stay behind him with the headwind around Meadow.

Finally onto a big climb, I hoofed and knew I had to work any descent to stay ahead. Saw yet another guy ahead which helped me work the next few climbs. Came close to him though did not catch him before the last 1 km descent.
Amazed I stayed ahead on the descent! - photo Amanda Kosmerly
The red-clad skier was only 10 sec back of me at the finish, with my mid-way skier bud another 20 sec back. I finished 37 sec back of the last guy I saw in front of me. Funny at the peak of the last climb, I was within 15 sec of him... which shows how much time I can lose with lightweightedness!

Pleased with the hard effort. At such a hilly venue, I was surprised the course was mostly double-poling!

Nice to hear Steve King's voice as announcer.

Both Amanda and I laughed at how tight the generic race bib was - first time! Bummer for the big guys! Amanda had a good 15k, and was cheering at the finish.

Nice to see other Edmontonians Taras Pojasok and Laurie Murray. One man and his wife mistakenly wore each other's bibs. He placed a few minutes earlier than me in the results with her name down. Good tactic!

Post-race food was awesome with veg chili and homemade cookies.

Test run on my race food storage… lately I've been tucking a date on each side of my Camelbak straps. Sometimes difficult to grab with gloves on. As I usually wear my Camelbak, I hung a couple dates using dental floss from the Camelbak chest strap. It was amazingly easy to grab to eat them, and the dangling dates tucked behind the provided bib# nicely.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Kelowna Apple Skiathlon!

Finally took opportunity to use my new pre-owned skiathlon boots at the Kelowna Apple Loppet held at Telemark nordic trails.
After a few days of rain and melt in the lower levels, 11 cm fresh snow fell overnight at the nordic venue at 1000m. Light flakes fell during part of the event with the sun poking out mid-way. Concerned about grip at the mild, just below 0C temps.

I set up my skate gear on a rug at my numbered spot in transition. A time chip was strapped to my ankle as I lined up for the classic start.

Classic course was 2 loops of 7.5 km before switching to a 13k skate loop.
In there somewhere… photo Telemark Facebook
The pack broke apart within the first 3 km of climbing. With the twisty trails, I felt distanced from the skier in front. On a straight-away, I gained optimism when I saw I was only 50m back of a pack of skiers. I pushed on alone.

Course followed Telemark loop merging onto Rabbit trail with its twists and turns.

Had ok grip, not stellar. On the few steeper sections, I skimmied in between the tracks on the fresh snow with better traction and speed. Glide was decent. Double-poled single-kicked whenever possible.

Managed to grab a date I had tucked under my Camelbak straps, now having gopher cheeks and breathing hard at the same time. Was glad I used the Camelbak as I drank a lot more than a little cup could provide from the feed zones.

Finishing my 2nd loop, I stopped at my race number spot in transition. Quick and easy to clip out of classic gear, step into skate gear, and I was off. The skiathlon boots finally came to good use!

Fortunately, the first part of the 13k skate loop was mostly descending down Fern Creek trail. Gave time to chill. I found double-poling was quicker in the tracks than skating in the soft trails. The long hill climbs on the soft track took forever.

First time on "Carol's Trail" which has 4 boomerang type steep descents and ascents. With the soft snow, I could barely one-pole ski or herringbone up a couple of them. Caught a few skiers towards the latter half.

The descending final trails on Fern Creek to Rollercoaster (appropriately named!) were a gong show with consecutive sharp corners. I had a skier in sight that helped me gauge the turns. A little icy underneath the snow had me shuffling my skis in quick micro step turns. I can not believe I stayed upright!

Coming into the finish area I double-poled hard past this skier only to find out there was still another 400m loop of Forest Trail before crossing the line. Worked it and held my spot.

Good effort, liked the switch-up of disciplines.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

All Glide! - My 8th Lake Louise to Banff Loppet

Last year the race was a 52 km S-L-O-G, as there was "no glide" after each double-pole! This year it was 72 km "all glide"! Was way better, though was still quite the effort with almost 80% double-pole single-kick!

The 2-3 cm of fresh snow overnight, nicely covered the slightly glazed tracks from the previous day's melting temps and rain.

Jumped on the 6 a.m. shuttle bus from Banff to the start at Lake Louise. At the bib pickup, relay skier Bill Young was kind to help arrange for my skate ski gear to be dropped off at the transition from Leg 5 to Leg 6.
The race started barely at daylight on the frozen Lake Louise. There were a few racers to follow down the double pole descent on Tramline, as it was difficult to pass in the left side track.

A few lumpy road crossings had volunteers quickly shovel snow on the road after a car passed.

Leg 1 usually is the best tracked of all the 6 legs. This time is was just ok. I almost dead-stopped when my skis scraped a rock on the Hwy 1 underpass.

An 800m section on Morant's Curve could not be track-set. Fortunately, there was just enough snow on the road to double-pole as the sound of ski tips hit the pavement. Just before the tracks began up the snowbank, heard the sound of grating skis likely hitting rocks underneath.

When the track swerved on a few lumpy sections, I fell a couple times landing forward on my knees.

Early in Leg 1, I managed to get in a few slurps of fresh frozen thawed coconut water from my Camelbak. It is a long leg at 22k. At the first transition, I asked for help and coached a spectator to grab a date from my forward-facing fanny pack. Excellent refuelling!

Leg 2 was the best scenic leg and was mostly in good shape (out of the 6 legs!).
Leg 3 had a surprising crusty layer underneath the bits of fresh snow. The normally crazy fast descending section in the trees was calmed by that snow, thankfully. Just over half distance done… and feeling the effects of continuous double poling.

Skied mostly alone with a relay team skier passing me or me re-passing a slower relay teammate.

Leg 4 was hilarious attempting the big climbs with no grip using short weighted steps. On the descent, the track was set very close to the road. Speeding clumsily down the wobbly track had me cautious with the oncoming cars so close. It would have been a quick tumble into traffic with the skittish snow.
Leg 5 start - photo
Leg 5 was in the best shape I have ever seen it in all the years I've raced this loppet (when this section was included). Realistically, the track was still pretty lumpy with poling through deep snow every so often. I was so tired, and could not wait to get out of the adventurous back swamp section.

My double-pole single-kick muscles were maxed out!

My skate gear was waiting for me at transition… all zipped up in their bags. I quickly hollered for anyone to help me. A kind woman and guy spectator helped unzip the gear. I plunked my butt down on the damp snow to remove my boots. One toggle was iced up. Moments later to my surprise my whole boot was tugged off by the guy. Awesome help! I tossed on my skate boots. My guy then gave me my thermos I had prepared with Apple Blossom honey in warm water with cinnamon. What a great boost!

The 800m run on the pavement to the trailhead with gear dangling was awkward. Note to self to leave ski sleeves on.

Even though I now had skate skis on, I double-poled in the track whenever I could as the inner lane was lumpy. I was so happy to switch disciplines. The hill climbs were forever long. Finally onto the snowy bike path by the river, the bomb-field of teeny pine cones got me once. I fell to my knees with a screech as a couple Sunday walkers looked back at me.

A short skate-ski on the river, and the finish was close by.

Ivana Novosel who I passed on the descent at Lake Louise on Leg 1 came in only a few minutes back. Looking at results, we flip-flopped for fastest solo women's times for the different legs. 3rd woman Jessica Stichelbout was also getting closer in time.

The top team "overall" was the dynamic triple of local Canmore/Banff women Maria Hawkins,  Kathy Davies and Theresa Gawron. They had a battle to the finish line with the top solo male.

I appreciate all the volunteers that shovelled snow on the road crossings, train tracks, and were marshalling all over the place (even in the back-swamp), and the cheers they gave.

I was very slaughtered at the end (and during)! It is a wicked challenge in a beautiful scenic area… to want to do it again. Each year with the varied weather conditions makes it a different course.


Nordic views

Low sunset in Dec with an early season ski
 on the Lars-Taylor trail at Sovereign Lakes

Awesome New Year's Eve day ski with Karine Travaillaud…
-10C, excellent grip & glide, & sunshine!
Connector trail between Sovereign & Silver Star.
Snowy view of Monashee mountains.
Top of Panorama Ridge at Nickel Plate Trails - photo Amanda Kosmerly

Skiing the big climb at Larch Hills (near Salmon Arm)
overlooking Mara Lake above the clouds
Awesome trail Backcountry Connector at Nordic Trails up Hwy 33 - photo Amanda Kosmerly
A lodgepole pine on the 6km nordic ski loop in the Jackman Flats Prov Park - On Hwy 5, just south of Hwy 16 (from Jasper past Tete Jaune Cache)

The turn-around point on Cascade trail in Banff National Park
 - with Di MacGibbon

At peak of Bear Cr Trail
Quick hike up Bear Cr Trail… sitting in a tree stump on a rare sunny winter day