Touring Alberta

Last weekend was busy for me. An old friend from out of town came to visit. So on Friday evening we went out for a dinner together. On Saturday morning I snuck in a 28.3km run. In the afternoon, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises with my friend. Then we were up until one in the morning playing board games.
And the next day I got up at five o’clock to go for a 175km bike ride.
Most people will train a long time for an event of physical endurance. Apparently I just do them on impulse.
The Tour d’Alberta. Three days before, I signed up because a friend suggested it. And of course, I’m not going to do anything less than epic, so I chose the full 175km course.
The longest I had ever cycled before was about 56km. My bicycle is about three months old. Two weeks ago I was on the Sinister 7. The day before, the run of 28.3km. At five o’clock I was up, functioning on four hours of sleep, and we drove up north for the start at seven.
It was a well run event, and it left me free from worry. There were lots of aid stations, so I didn’t need to worry about food. Mechanics on motorcycles were always going by, so I didn’t need to worry about breakdowns.
I did need to worry about the pain in my seat. At about the halfway point, it was becoming clear I hadn’t sat in a bicycle seat for long enough to get used to it. Shifting and standing was necessary. The other problem was my hands were aching from pressing against the handlebars. Maybe I should have worn gloves? Would they have helped?
I did approach the whole event from the perspective of a runner. There were four ways this was apparent.
First, I tracked the distance remaining by comparing to ultramarathons. After the first aid station, I only had a Sinister 7 to do. The second left me with only a Death Race. Third was a Blackfoot. It did feel strange when I had to compare to only a marathon.
Second, I announced intentions to pass. I find that runners seem to be more friendly and vocal than cyclists. As a runner, I say good morning and let people know I’m about to pass. When the 100km group (of 700 people) met up with the 175km group (of 240 people) the roads got very crowded. I let people know I needed to pass, and then thanked them when I did. Not many other people did that.
Third, I learned about physics. There was a gentleman I passed, who I noticed was right behind me immediately afterwards. My first thought was, that he was faster than he had seemed, so I tried to pull to the side and insist that he go ahead. I found out that he didn’t want to pass, as he was using me to tow him along. This is called drafting. He didn’t ask for permission to do this. Is this normal behaviour for cyclists? It felt really creepy.
Finally, there are more cute girl cyclists than there are cute girl runners. I don’t know what to do with this information, but I feel I should do something.
In the end, I crossed the finish line at about seven hours and seventeen minutes. And there I was presented the award for finishing.
Last year, there was a medal. But they had polled the participants to see if they would prefer something more practical. However, they instead decided to give something more IMPRACTICAL. When you are at the level that would do this kind of event, the last thing you need is another plastic water bottle.
There was a supposed pasta dinner afterwards. I took one look at it and felt sick. I know I should have eaten, but I just did not feel like I could. I ate a bit of fruit, then we went home where I slept and suffered through the sunburn. In my defence, I did put on sunscreen, but I missed the edges of my clothes. And really, when you are out for over seven hours in hot weather, there is only so much sunscreen can do.

Sinister Seven report

Last week I attempted the Sinister 7. I wish I could say that I finished it, but I did not. I did not make the cutoff for the end of the second last leg; missed by fifteen minutes. It is the first time I have been unable to finish an ultramarathon.
Still, I did 135km under brutal conditions. It was +28 during the day, and the afternoon leg was over a mountain that had had a fire destroy all the trees. Hellish. Apocalyptic. Then at around four o’clock, while I was on top of a mountain, the cold rain hit, turning the rest of the mountain into mud. Slippery mud.
Most importantly, I never gave up. I timed out. I did not decide that I couldn’t make it any further. So I don’t have to constantly wonder if I could have made it.
But I should have been able to. My friend, that I’m personally competitive against, was able to finish the entire race with 37 seconds to spare. I was ahead of him most of the way. Except on leg 5, where I think all my problems happened. It was dark, and I was alone for most of it. It started to wear on me, and doubts appeared.
Overall, the biggest problem is I didn’t take the race seriously enough. I always assumed I would finish, and that is wrong. I should have made plans of how long each leg would take so I could better approximate how much I should rush. Because of that, I tended to linger on the transitions.
My mother was there to provide support, and she was great at it. But she was too good. She was supportive, but she never once told me that I had been there long enough and needed to get going. That is an important criteria in support.
Most legs started with a big hill, which meant that I would walk that part. I should have been more willing to go immediately, instead of remaining sitting down and continuing to digest food I had just eaten.
The first leg was okay, and was on streets a lot of the way. The second leg really started to go into the mountains. I wasn’t doing that bad, but the heat was starting to rise, and there was one part where it felt like they had placed a wall on the trail for people to climb over. The third leg was where things got bad. It involved climbing around a mountain that had been hit by a forest fire in nearly a decade ago; no cover from the sun.
By the fourth leg, it was cooling down and I was able to go faster. But I took too long at the transition to the fifth leg, trying to horn down a soup with much needed calories. I had been told the aid station was ten kilometres in, so two hours later when I met some ATV’s, I was shocked to hear it was still over four kilometres to go. I later found out it was 15km in. But the damage had been done. I had slowed down.
I finished the leg just ahead of the cutoff. I thought I would easily be able to make the next 12km in two hours. It was all downhill; how hard could it be.
Well, it was mostly downhill, but there were a lot of depressions in it that were too steep to run down. The aid station, I had been told was 9km in. But when I hit it, I was told I had 5km to go. That was when I had half an hour left before cutoff. I tried to rush, but there is only so much you can do. So I failed to finish that leg. When the cutoff time hit, I didn’t have the energy to make a strong finish, and I walked the rest of the way in. Fifteen minutes later, I was done.
I’m hoping this failure is good for me. I can’t assume I’ll always make it. This lesson should serve me well in France.

The weather has been getting uppity

So it is traditional for me to go to the pancake breakfast at the legislature for Canada Day. And for the past few I’ve taken to walking there. I probably got annoyed with trying to park there on the busiest day and I have a pavlovian response to that.
I probably should have left earlier. A half hour into my walk it started to rain. Not a lot, but noticeable. I did not have a jacket or an umbrella with me, because I don’t want the weather to think it can push me around.
It did get a bit worse by the time I arrived. But that actually made it easier to eat. There were no lines. The pancakes were fresh and hot. It wasn’t crowded around the syrup stands. Easy to find a seat.
And as time went on, the rain started coming down harder.
Yes, I did get a little wet. Enough that a politician (I think) took a picture of me getting rained on, saying he was going to put in on Twitter.