Category Archives: Travel Info

My 2016 Year in Review – Topping My Charts

I have just returned from another fabulous Winter weekend in the Adirondacks to celebrate the New Year. While I was there I had gotten in some ample cross-training time skate-skiing, hiking and some photography. This outdoor time gave me a good amount of time to reflect upon the last year. I keep hearing others saying over-and-over how 2016 was such a horrible year, but for me, not so much.

Cascade Moutain – Lake Placid, Adirondacks, New York

You would think that as one gets closer to the big 5-0 that PR’s and things would become less frequent. But my 48th year was full of them. What is up with that? Perhaps the fact that I had well preserved myself well during my 20’s and 30’s may have something to do with that.

December(2015) was full of Winter cross-training in Banff National Park in Western Canada. They had gotten a good amount of early season snow there and Lake Placid had none. We hit the downhill slopes at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, got some snowshoeing in on the Bow River and a ton of photographing the beautiful Winter scenery on the Icefields Parkway leading to Jasper.

Business, Canada, Company, Corporation, SmugMug, banff, feature, lake louise, mountain, rockies

First Light on the Icefields Parkway

In January, we had plans to spend a week in the warmth of Sedona, AZ but that was cut short due to a blizzard that delayed flights for several days. We still ended up with an amazing, activity packed long weekend there. We got out for some amazing hikes and photography some beautiful scenery. I replenished my vitamin D store with the clear skies and bright sunshine. It was a great reset before turning my attention back to the long Ironman training season that lies ahead.

Chillin’ on the Bell Rock Vortex

In February I started up my official Ironman training season with Todd Wiley. I had gotten to know Todd over the last year or so through some of his workshops and Lake Placid training camp and really like his personality. He was a prior pro triathlete and has had a lot of success with some pretty high-level athletes over the years, so I thought I would see what he could do with this old, average dude. My goals for the season was to increase my IM run performance while maintaining my bike and swim and finalizing that with a sub-12 hour Ironman.

In March, I had my first official race of the season, The St. Pat’s Allentown 5k. While it is only a 5k, this would be the first test of my fitness to see what I had accomplished during the last two months. I would also use this as my Lactate Threshold(LT) test for my training. It did not disappoint. I finished with a 1 sec PR of 22:45(chip time) over my prior PR from 2013. 3 years older and getting faster.

St. Pat's West End 5k 2016

St. Pat’s West End 5k 2016

In April, I took things up a notch and competed in the local St. Luke’s Half Marathon which I hadn’t run in since 2013 when I ran with my wife. I was planning to run it in 2015, but got a stomach bug the morning of and had to bail. My current PR for this race, and half marathons in general, was from back in 2010 when I finished with a 1:46:41(chip time). I also had challenged my co-worker Steve, who is what I would consider more of a “runner”, to a duel for this race. It was a bit of a stretch, but I thought the extra competition would bring out a little extra in motivation for me. Although I didn’t come close to beating him, I did manage to eke out another PR for myself finishing in 1:45:10 after 6 years. 2 races and two PRs…not too shabby a start to 2016.

Next up was my first triathlon of the season, the French Creek Olympic Triathlon. I had never done this race before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I knew it was a pretty brutal race with a very hilly bike and run, so you could not even compare it to any other Olympic Distance race. I obviously did not PR this race, but I did end up on the podium by taking 3rd in my age group. This was the first podium since my very first multisport race, the Belleplain Duathlon, back in 2008 where I finished 1st in my age group. So now 3 races and 3 top outcomes.

French Creek Tri Podium

French Creek Tri Podium

In June I traveled up to Syracuse, NY for the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse triathlon. Another race I had never done before, but was hoping for a good finish here given the prior results so far this season. The race started off well with one of my best half-iron swims and a decent bike leg where I felt I hadn’t “burned too many matches.” The run leg was a different story. The sun came out and the heat turned up towards the end of the bike and my body turned to mush. Reminiscent of the Ironman Couer d’Alene run I fell into a walk-run for the very hilly run course. Ok, you can’t have them all! So with no PR to be had this time, I took my setbacks here and turned it into motivation for the true goal “A” race of the season at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Finish Run Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016

Hurtin’ for Certain – Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 – High Temps on the run left a little to be desired for this race.

July turned out to be a pretty hot month, so I gained some pretty good acclimatization to the heat while training. If Ironman Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) was going to cook me like Syracuse, I was now prepared. Well, as much as someone who does not like the heat can be.

August came around quickly and tapering was in full swing as we made our way up to Mont-Tremblant for the peak race of my year. When race day came I could not have asked for better weather conditions. It was very cloudy in the morning as I prepared to hit the water. A fighter jet buzzed us so close it brought tears to my eyes. Then the cannon blasted and we were off. The rain started during the swim and poured down all day! For me, that was perfect conditions. I was like a pig in the slop.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Bike Rain

Terrential Downpours on the bike leg of Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016

Due to some choppy lake conditions, my swim was not as fast as I thought it would be, but still one of my faster IM swims. My bike was one of my fastest so far but yet I still held back as I planned to save something for the run. The run was my best ever Ironman run. The rain came down and kept me cool while cranking out some 8:30-9:00 pace miles. I felt amazing the whole time. I blew away my sub-12 hour goal by about 14 minutes and coming away with an Ironman PR of around 50 minutes! I chopped off almost 30 minutes on my IM run time alone. Mission accomplished!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finish

So now 5 races completed for this year and 3 of them were PR’s and 1 podium. What more could I ask for? A fabulous end to an epic season for sure. Proof that aging does not mean you get slower. At least not yet. Maybe by the time I am 50 I can qualify for Kona? 🙂

Usually with the last race of the season comes a little depression that it is all over for another year. I like to schedule something big for after my last race that keeps me on the up-and-up. Just when you think things can’t get any better we headed to Iceland for a two-week journey around the island in a camper.

Kirkjufellfoss – Iceland 2016

I let my body recuperate a bit and broke out my camera for an incredible trip. It was the perfect diversion for someone who has only thought about training for the last year. The scenery was out-of-this-world and it was a great end to all the hard work that was put in over the last 8 months. I have been working on a full report blog post on this trip which I hope to be published very soon. Stay tuned for that.

While you would think that was all for this year, I had to do one more race. I signed up for the local South Mountain 10-miler run which was kind of a birthday run for me. I had never done this race before, but it looked to be quite challenging. It starts not too far from the Lehigh Univesity’s Goodwin Campus fields and a makes it was up to the very top of South Mountain, turns around and heads back down again. It is very steep and a big slog. I ended up 40th overall and 6th in my age group. Not a great result really, but I maintained a 8:12 pace which is just a bit off my half marathon pace. It was more for fun so I am not too worried about that.

I concentrated on my photography a bit for the remainder of the year, which tends to play 2nd fiddle to my training. I made a couple trips to Lake Placid and a short trip to Salt Springs State Park(PA) for some photography sessions. I came away with some keepers and also started getting more active with my Instagram feed. I dug back into my photo archives and found some great pictures I had taken in the past that never made it off my laptop.

So now as we head off into 2017 and I set my sights on Ironman Boulder and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid this year, I have great memories looking back on the amazing year that was 2016. Despite what many others have felt. I have so much to be thankful for. I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year.

I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year. Although, it is already shaping up to be a pretty full one. I have several races on the docket and plans are already being hashed out for an amazing trip to Croatia and Slovenia during post-race season. As for goals, Ironman Boulder should be a challenge in itself given the altitude so I am not putting any time goals on myself for that. Perhaps working on pacing myself would be enough. I think Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid may be my A race for the year and I would like to shoot for a half-iron distance PR there.

My other goal for 2017 is to get back to regular blogging here. I have fell off the wagon a bit over the past year so I hope to pick that up again. I have just “cut the cord” and cancelled my cable TV subscription, so besides saving money I plan on spending a little less time in front of the tube.

If you are reading this, I hope you had a great 2016 and a even better 2017 as well. Thanks for reading!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Race Report-Perfect Execution

The alarm on my Garmin buzzed at 4:15am. I popped out of bed after a so-so night of sleep. Probably one of the better nights’ sleep before an Ironman event. I felt pretty rested and amazingly relaxed given I was about to be racing for ~12 hours. Hopefully less though. I was about to embark on my second attempt of my goal of finishing an Ironman in under 12 hours. Since my fastest time so far was 12:37 at Lake Placid in 2013, I had my work cut out for me.

Last year, I had made my first attempt at breaking the 12-hour mark at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had something else in mind and provided 107 degree(F) temperatures that forced me to bail out with 13 miles left on the run. The dreaded DNF(Did Not Finish). This year, I was more determined to hit the goal I had hoped for last season.

I made and downed my usual morning smoothie along with a couple cups of Kicking Horse 454 Horse Power coffee, packed my special needs bags and headed out to the race venue. Denise drove me the 3 miles down to the swim start area and then I walked around a mile or so to the transition area. I dropped off my bags, loaded my water bottles and Amrita Bars on my bike and walked back to the swim start. I found a nice quiet place under a pine tree to just sit and chill until Denise and her parents came down.

I had turned off my Garmin 920xt watch in order to save the battery bit, but when I turned it on it just sat there with the “Garmin” splash screen. Hmmm…ok this is not good. I started pressing combinations of buttons to try to reset it. Finally one worked. Not really sure which one though. I restarted it and it finally started correctly. Whew! Not having a watch for a 12 hour race would not be good.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race plan forecast IMMT 2016

This was the race plan I had given to Denise the day before doing Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I always give her this before races so she can figure when to be where while watching the race. You may want to refer to this after finishing this post.

It was getting close to race start and I hadn’t seen Denise yet. I started to roam around a bit but still didn’t see her. They started playing the Canadian National Anthem, so I stopped and listened to that. No sooner did the anthem end and this fighter jet came soaring up the lake directly over our heads!! BOOM!!! WOW! It practically brought tears to my eyes! Not sure why that does that?! If that doesn’t fire you up for a race, I don’t know what would. Now I am fired up!

Right after the jet buzzed me, I spotted Denise in her “Kale” T-shirt. She was looking a bit panicked and emotional but was so relieved to find me. We were both amazed at the jet and could not stop talking about it. A few minutes later the jet buzzed by us again and fireworks at the swim start went off. What a start to the day! Next, the canon went off as the pro men started to hit the water.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Me acting like a goofball prior to the race start. Feeling pretty loose that day.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Me acting like a goofball prior to the race start. Feeling pretty loose that day.

After the pros started it was a constant stream of age-group wave starts. We headed down to the very crowded beach and spotted my in-laws. We chatted a bit and then I realized I should get going. Good thing because I realized my wave was up next and I had to walk a little distance around to get in the start chute. I had to navigate through about 3-4 waves to get to me wave, which started right after I got there. And away we went…

The Swim

The swim started pretty comfortably. It was a beach start and I slowly made my way in on the outside edge of the group. I settled into a nice easy stroke. Everything was going great until about halfway out the first 1.2 miles(swim is one, 2.4 mile loop). I took a mouthful of water while taking a breath and started to choke on it. I do this on almost every swim, so I don’t panic about it. I just have to let my throat clear a bit to start swimming again.

The  swim was pretty calm until about 2 pylons from the turnaround. The wind was at our backs and it was hitting the water at this point, so it was getting a bit choppy. As we made first turn it got REALLY choppy. I felt like I was in a washing machine! I had to breath to my left only cause I would get clobbered with waves breathing right. I just kept my stroke and pushed on. It felt so clumsy with the waves bouncing me up-and-down. Eventually I reached the second turn bouy and made the final turn back to the swim finish.  The waves continued for 4-5 pylons(13 per 1.2 miles). Eventually, things calmed down a bit and the waves flattened out a little bit.

I was feeling pretty confident in my swim since I was passing many different color swim caps from wave groups ahead of me. I also was not seeing many silver caps from my wave so I had hoped I left many of them behind me. The first time I looked at my time was not until after the 2nd turn and it read around 38 minutes. Pretty much on par for my swim. I was hoping for 1:13-1:14-ish.

I thought I was getting really close to the swim finish, but then realized the course turned in to the right a bit. So I had to start heading in and it seemed to add some time until the finish. It got very shallow too and I had to stand up a bit and then was able to swim a little more when it got deeper again. Finally I hit the finish and ran up to the wetsuit strippers. I had trouble finding a stripper that was free so I probably lost some time there. Done…Time: 1:15:50…meh.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Swim exit. Only swim picture I got.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Swim exit. Only swim picture I got.

T1

I ran through the narrow, carpeted chute heading to T1 scanning all the screaming spectators trying to find my wife. I finally found her on the opposite side and cut across to give her smooch. I am sure I probably cut someone off for that, but it is worth it. 🙂 Transition was busy but I found an empty chair and put on my bike gear. I then headed to the bike racks and grabbed my bike and was off. Time: 7:40

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Racked an Ready

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Racked an Ready

Bike

I headed out on the bike course and heard Denise yelling from behind the fence. I gave her a good “parade” wave on my way Montee Ryan. Montee Ryan had a few little climbs but nothing major. We then made a sharp right turn up onto Highway 117 which comprised the next 30 miles. As you entered the highway there was a long moderate climb, but most of the highway was fairly flat cruising road.  There was one pretty decent climb on the way back. The good thing was you got to go down it on the way out. I hit over 50 MPH going down it during the first loop, which was before the rain really started. Weee!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Heading out on the bike before the rain had started.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Heading out on the bike before the rain had started.

Sometime after the big downhill and the turnaround on Hwy 117 the rain started. And it really started dumping too. There was also a pretty stiff headwind once you made the turn on Hwy 117 to head South. The raindrops actually hurt when they hit my arms. They were pounding on my helmet too making a very loud noise, constantly. It was like people were flicking the fingers against your helmet the whole time. The lenses on my glasses were just covered with water drops. Could have used some wipers or Rainx.

The rain continued to pour harder and harder as the bike went on. My Stages Power meter, which I had just replaced with a new rubber gasket, wrapped in plastic and black electrical tape began to fail. This device always fails on me whenever I wash my bike, so I thought that the extra wrapping would get me through a rainy race. Not the case. While it was still sending watts to my Garmin, the wattage numbers were getting lower and lower, which basically made it unusable.

I was now flying by feel. The good thing is that because I monitor my wattage frequently in training, I know what certain wattages feel like in my legs and in relation to my perceived exertion(RPE).

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Bike - Weathering the storm!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Bike – Weathering the storm!

We then made a short loop through the downtown area of St. Jovite before heading back to the turnaround in Mont-Tremblant. My parents had decided at the last minute to come see the race and had found a B&B South of St. Jovite and I knew they would be spectating in the area. I scanned all the people on the street but didn’t see them as I made the turnaround on the main street. Then I heard my Mom yelling from behind me and turned around to see her standing back at the start of the turnaround. I gave her a wave and then got back into cruising mode again.

As we approached the transition area we then headed to the 20km out-and-back section on Chemin Duplessis. The 10k out to the turnaround is the toughest section on the bike I think. It is a bunch of little steep climbs that seem to step-ladder its way to the turnaround. It gains about 550 feet over 6 miles. The good thing is coming back is like a roller-coaster ride. I was not able to take as full advantage as I would have liked to due to the slippery conditions, but I did hit 40 MPH on it.

I finished the first 56 miles in under 3 hours which was a little over 19 MPH average. A little higher than what I was planning, but I knew I would drop a little bit on the 2nd loop. So far still on track. My legs were feeling a little crampy, but not too bad.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Bike thumbs up!!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Bike thumbs up!!

I stopped at the Special Needs area and refueled with more Amrita Bars, 2-bottles with Skratch Labs hydration and one small bottle with my special race fuel mix.

My special race fuel is 4 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem Orange, a packet of beet powder(equal to 6 beets) and two dissolved Salt Stick capsules. I had one of these bottles on the first 56 miles, which I tend to occasionally sip between feedings of Amrita Bars. I had done this consistently in training and it worked so well.

I typically pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in my special needs bag, but this time I packed a peanut butter sandwich with 2 Maple Honey Stinger waffles instead of bread. Yummy! I chomped this down on the first climb on Highway 117 via the on ramp. A lady rode past me as I was devouring my little sandwich and said “lunch time!” I laughed and continued munching it down. You know it!!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Bike - Torrential Rains pounded almost the entire bike ride.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Bike – Torrential Rains pounded almost the entire bike ride.

The rain got harder and the other rider seemed to be more spread out on the second 56 mile loop . I just settled into a nice consistent cadence and enjoyed being in my little helmet bubble. The puddles of water seemed to be more plentiful on the second loop too, so I made a little game of trying to avoid them.  The time felt like it went so much faster on the second time around. I was surely not looking forward to my second run on Chemin Duplessis though. I know it would hurt.

I took the long, fast downhill cruise on Hwy 177 a little slower the second time around due to the torrential conditions. Still managed to hit about 40 MPH. I was not looking forward to the turnaround since I knew the blustering headwinds were just waiting for me. They didn’t let me down.

I eventually hit the turnaround in St. Jovite. Gave Mom a couple waves and then back to the task at hand. I cruised back into Mont-Tremblant and prepared myself for another bout with the dreaded 10k of Chemin Duplessis.

There were tons of fans lining the road and cheering as you start out on Chemin Duplessis which is a huge help on that first climb. I was surprised to find that my legs actually felt better the second time around than the did on the first. I kept a nice easy spinning gear and made my way up and up and up. A great sigh of relief came as I reached the turnaround and knew it was pretty much all downhill know to the end of the bike leg.

Now I wondered how my legs would be on the run. When I did Syracuse 70.3 earlier in the Summer, I thought my legs were good to go for the run when I came into T2 but I quickly found out that was not the case. It is always a mystery and you don’t know until you get there. For now I could feel the anxiety of it.

I dismounted my bike and headed into T2 at 6:05:38. I averaged ~18.4 MPH over the 112 mile course which included about 5700+ feet of elevation gain. This was mostly right on par with the predicted time that Best Bike Split had calculated. This was somewhat surprising since I really had no power meter numbers to go by since my Stages power meter had failed miserably on me. Again!

T2

I gave my bike to a volunteer and awkardly shuffled my way in my bike shoes to the transition tent. I grabbed my run bag and quickly found an empty seat. I changed into a nice dry pair of running socks…ahhh! And put on my running shoes. It felt SOOO GOOD to have dry socks on my feet! I put on my run hat and run belt and headed for the run. There was no need for sunglasses or sunscreen since it was still raining. Now the moment of truth. Come on legs…don’t fail me know. Time: 4:30

The Run

Whenever you start out running after being on a bike for 6 hours, your legs are going to be a little wonky. The first mile of the run also had a nice little hill in it, but I easily cruised up and over it. As the road flattened out a bit I was started to get an idea that had some running legs under me. Nice!

My plan was to take all on course nutrition this race. In my previous Ironman races, I had carried my own bars and a FuelBelt with my own hydration. A bunch of extra weight. This year I decided to lighten my load a bit and just take it from the aid stations. I always carried bars, but ended up not wanting to eat them or having trouble getting them down while running. This year I trained with gels on my runs and it was an easy way to get the calories in that I needed and then wash them down with water. I figured if I ate the solid food, like Amrita Bars, on the bike I would have a good base in my stomach and the sugary gels wouldn’t be so rough on my stomach.

I downed a gel at the first aid station and followed it up with some water. Unfortunately they only had berry flavor and not my favorite Mocha with caffeine. Oh well. It went down fine and I was feeling pretty good.

There was some slight hills in the first couple miles, but my legs managed to feel good despite them. I lowered the pace a little just to keep them happy.

As I approached the crest of the last big hill for a while, I saw my wife and in-laws standing just down the road where the condo we stayed was. I raised my arms high in the air, Rocky-style as I came over the hill to let them know I was feeling good. They got a kick out that. They shouted some words of encouragement as I cruised by and I told them I was feeling awesome!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Denise and her parents planning out their course of action for raceday. Spectating looks like a lot of work? I'll just stick to racing thanks!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Denise and her parents planning out their course of action for raceday. Spectating looks like a lot of work? I’ll just stick to racing thanks!

The next mile or so was mostly downhill through the old village before flattening out onto a recreational bike path for the next several miles. I was really feeling amazing. I felt like I was running on my favorite running path, The Ironton Rail Trail(IRT), on a training run. I was looking down at my Garmin and seeing paces in the 8:20-8:40/mi range. I was in the zone, feeling good with a nice steady cadence. The rain started again and I was loving it! I was thinking if this keeps up I could destroy my goal here.

I heard a voice on my left and it was one of the bikers that lead the pros on the run. I stepped to the right a bit and she was riding along side me for a longer than usual time. She even complimented me on my pace which was pretty cool. Eventually she moved past and Laurel Wassner came up next to me. Usually, the pros just whizz past me as I am slowly trying to maintain some semblance of a running trot. Not today. She actually took a little bit of time to actually get past me. You really get to appreciate the speed of the pros when you are arm-to-arm with them. I gave her some words of encouragement and then she was off down the path.

After the out-and-back on the path we did a shorter out-and-back on a packed sand path before heading back up the hill and through the pedestrian village. This was at around the 10 mile point and when my legs started to feel a little stiff. I am sure the uphill had something to do with it.

The 3 mile stretch from the top of the hill back to the ski village was probably the roughest part of the run for me. Strangely it was mostly downhill though. My stomach was feeling a little queasy, but I knew I needed to keep some gels going in for energy. I think this was more of a mental thing since I knew I was not quite halfway and I needed to do this again. That all changed after I made my way up the steep hill into the upper side of the ski village.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - running through the village with a bunch of Clifblocks stored in my cheeks. #LikeAChipmunk

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – running through the village with a bunch of Clifblocks stored in my cheeks. #LikeAChipmunk

As you come into the side of the ski village, spectators line the narrow chute through the cobbled street cheering like crazy. Little kids hands leaning out from both sides looking for high fives as you wind your way down through the quaint little village. I sure hope they washed those hands after! My mental state was instantly renewed.

I headed back out for the last 13 miles. I fast-walked up the steep little hill by the swim start and then settled into a nice cadence after that. My legs went on auto-pilot from there on out. While despite the stiffness, they just kept running. It almost felt like I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to.

I passed Denise and my in-laws as they were walking in towards the finish line. They shouted some words of encouragement and I yelled back that “I need more rain!” I guess they were confident I was going to finish at that point.

I hadn’t really looked at my overall time on my Garmin since I was just really enjoying the day. I didn’t want to ruin it by seeing that I may not make my goal time and honestly I almost forgot about that. I was REALLY just enjoying being able to swim, bike and run for an entire day!!! And on a cooler, rainy day too! That may sound strange to some, but I LOVE IT!!!

Before I knew it I was heading down the hill through the old village and onto the bike path. I also got that rain that asked for too! Thanks to the Dude upstairs! I settled back into my nice cruise mode cadence on the flat bike path through the woods for the next 5 miles.

I downed a few gels along the way and water at pretty much every aid station. Somewhere around halfway through the run, they broke out the soda at the aid stations. Well, typically it is Coke, but for some reason they had Pepsi. Yuk!! I am not a soda person, but there are two times I like to have a Coke: On an airplane and at the end of a race. Don’t ask me on the first one, but the second one provides a good blast of caffeine and sugar into my bloodstream to get me to the finish line. Personally, I think this is the ONLY justifiable reason for having the stuff.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - On the run. Must be getting tired here...starting to hunch a bit.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – On the run. Must be getting tired here…starting to hunch a bit.

So now I could really use a blast of Coke and my only option is Pepsi. I skipped the first few aid stations that had it, but eventually succumbed to the powerful nectar. And I almost puked immediately! Pepsi is the worst! I eventually got it down and then from there on, I mixed it with water to dilute the nastiness of it. Finally I had some caffeine and sugar coarsing through my veins to get my to the finish in a brisk fashion.

They also brought out the Mocha ClifGels with Caffeine too, which is my favorite. I did most of my run training with this flavor and assumed they would have this on course. Maybe they don’t break out the caffeinated stuff until later? Between this and the Pepsi I was back in action again.

I finally reached the uphill section starting at the old village and knew I was only 3 miles away from finishing. I looked at my Garmin… 11:12:?? Wow…I think I got this?!!! With a renewed enthusiasm I now cruised up the remaining hills knowing that I needed to keep a running pace to keep that goal. It seemed to get easier knowing the finish was in reach and I was going hit under 12 hours.

About 2 miles from the finish, the sky parted and the Sun came out to brighten up the last few miles of the most spectacular day. You could not have scripted this any better.

Next, my Garmin beeped and displayed the message “Battery Low”. A little panic raced across my mind. Please don’t die on me now Garmin! Then I realized that it really didn’t matter at this point, but it would be nice to have the whole race recorded. I guess the failure of my Stages Power Meter kind of invalidated it anyway. Argh!

I grunted out that steep little hill right after the swim start. I remember a little girl cheering me on “Come’on Brian…you got this!”, everyone yells your name since it is clearly displayed on your bib. There is no way I could walk now.

Finally, I reached the final uphill before we turn right into the narrow village street lined with screaming spectators. The reality of reaching my goal time had started to sink in. A ton of different emotions swirled through my head. The past 7 months of training flashed through my mind. The past 8 years of training flashed through my head. From struggling to run a mile and struggling to swim 25 yards to now putting together a solid Ironman in under 12 hours. WTH???!! I really did all that? I thought about all those people that helped me get there and supported me on this amazing journey.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Heading towards the finish line!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Heading towards the finish line!

I headed into the cobbled village street past the final aid station. I declined the cups of water and Pepsi this time and instead just thanked the awesome volnuteers, who endured the torrential rains all day. I slapped as many of the little hands from the kids that were sticking out along the way down the narrow-fenced chute of the cobbled street. I then reached the familiar fork in the road. To the right was to start the 2nd loop. To the left was the finish line. I very happily veered to the left and cruised down to the finish line. I heard Mike O’Reilly start to say my name…”Brian…” Silence…Pause….”Schwind!” Then right on to some other guys name. For the 3rd time now, he has still yet to say “You are an Ironman!” after saying my name. WTH Mike??!

I happily crossed the finish line, raised my hat in the air and hit the stop button on my Garmin! 11:46:37!!! YES!!! Well officially it was 11:46:47.

If you look up at the predicted finish time I gave my wife, you will note that it reads 11:46:09. Only 47 seconds off! LOL!

 

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Finished 11:46:47!!!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finished 11:46:47!!!

The Finish

I was quickly grabbed by both arms two really nice ladies. They got me a water, a COKE and a freakin’ HUGE finishers medal that almost pulled me to the ground. They escorted me to a guy that took my chip off my leg and another that gave me a finishers hat and tech t-shirt. They opened my can of Coke up for me too after I struggled with it for about 10 seconds. They asked if I wanted a massage? “A Massage??” I said “Hell Yes!” I was then instantly whisked away, out of the finisher area and up a hill into a round building. There were massage tables lined up everywhere and athletes getting massages. What I picture heaven to like.

The ladies led me over to Karen and said goodbye. I thanked them and then was instructed to lay down. Karen asked me what hurt and told her “quads and calves!”. She then worked her magic. I was so relaxed but was a bit worried because I never got to see Denise and my family at the finish. I had looked around, but never saw them. I was hoping they were not worried.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

After my awesome massage I went down to the athlete dining area and headed towards an area where spectators where standing. Denise and her parents were there and she loooked very relieved to see me. We chatted a bit and then I headed back to the feeding area to get some post-race Poutine!! Yum!

Denise and I then took the pedestrian lift up to the top of the village and headed to La Grille for my post-Ironman tradition of a Pizza and Beer. Another Ironman finish was officially complete. This one was even a little bit sweeter than the others.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sedona 2016

It is hard to believe we actually had two vacations in two consecutive months, but here we are heading off to Sedona, Arizona for a week at the end of January. This trip was actually supposed to happen last February, but we found out our dog Yuki had lymphoma two days before we were supposed to leave so we ended up having to cancel at the last minute. Fortunately, our AirBnB host EllenE, was gracious enough allow us to reschedule our accommodation for this year despite our last minute change. Every host we have met on AirBnB so far has been so great and Ellen exceeded that with her hospitality.

Get Me Outta Here

As we came down to departure date on Friday, January 22nd, a big “Noreaster” snowstorm, named Jonas, was bearing down on the East Coast. It wasn’t predicted to hit until early Saturday after we left, so we figured we were in the clear. We left home around Noon on Friday and stopped in Easton for some lunch before going to the airport. As we were being seated my phone beeped and I recieved notification that our flight was CANCELLED???!! What??!! It was another 12 hours before any snow was supposed to fall and the paranoid United Airlines were already cancelling flights? We sat through lunch speechless and in shock. Something or someone does not want us to go to Sedona.

We got home and started cancelling rooms, airport parking and rental cars, then trying to reschedule flights for after the storm on Sunday. The storm came and unleashed 3 feet of snow on the area. We ended up being glad that we were home and could shovel out of it. It would suck to come home and not be able to get in the driveway. Our roof was loaded up so I had clear some of that off as well.

The airlines would continue to cancel our flights 3 more times until I finally realized it was more of a Newark Airport issue than an airlines issue. I ended up getting flights in and out of Philly leaving on Tuesday afternoon and returning on Sunday. Our 7 day trip was now only 4 days. The weekend was a roller coaster of anticipation as we kept rescheduling and they kept cancelling. I was starting to wonder if this trip was going to happen at all.

Finally, we got to a very mysteriously empty Philadelphia Airport and our flight went off without a hitch. Actually, all our flights from there on out were effortless. We have been pretty lucky with our air travel over the years, so we were due for a bit discourse. If it had to happen this was probably a good one for it to happen. We also ended up pairing our down our baggage to all carry-on suitcase and a backpack so we didn’t have to deal with any checked luggage. This definitely made things easier, but I had to ditch some of my biking gear(bike shoes, pedals, etc) in the  process.

We arrived in Phoenix around 10:30-11PM, picked up our Prius rental car and made our roughly two-hour drive to the Village of Oak Creek(VOC) in Sedona by 1AM on Wednesday. We found our cozy little apartment, unloaded our unchecked  It is always interesting arriving somewhere new at night, cause it is like big surprise the next morning when you can actually see things.

Day 1-Sedona…Finally!

Despite our late arrival, we were up before Sunrise on Wednesday. Well, my wife was and then she woke me up by pulling the shutters totally open on the window on my side of the bed. I was immediately presented with the “Magnificent Red Rock Views” that the condo is named for on AirBnB. This got me quickly out of Bed.

We walked a couple blocks away to the Red Rock Cafe for breakfast. Breakfast was really good and they were very accommodating. Denise likes to have veggies with eggs in the morning and most places back home look at her cross-eyed when she asks for that. I had French Toast which was very good too. Another older couple near us ordered the Cinnamon Roll which is a claim-to-fame dish there. We found out why when it came. It was the size of a cake! It smelled really good.

We decided to take a walk/hike up to Bell Rock/Cathedral Rock which was only a mile or so away. We walked from our place which added a couple extra miles. Denise was looking forward to feeling the “vortex” energy there but she wasn’t sure if she felt it or not. What I did feel was the warm sun on me which felt pretty good after shoveling snow the past few days. It was a beautiful warm,  blue-sky day. Not the greatest for photography, but I didn’t really care.

We stopped at little place called “Taste of Marrakech” on the walk back to the condo. They had some really good hummus and other Middle-Eastern type dishes. I had a Falafel Gyro which was quite tasty and not dried out like some falafel tends to be. It can be like eating sawdust.

For dinner, we went to the famous Elote Cafe. Usually people line up there at 5-5:30PM to eat since it is a first-come, first serve place. We ended up getting there a little later and were able to walk right in and be served. Dinner was very unique and had a lot of corn-related, Mexican-style dishes. I also tried a special House Margherita which was very different from the typical drink and made with their own house-made Tequila. Our waiter was also quite an interesting character as well.

Day 2-Sunrise and Smoothies

So I have been on this habit of waking up earlier in the morning. Well, I kept this going during our vacation which I thought would benefit my photography. My wife is always saying “you can never be a professional photographer since you can’t get up early.” So I decided to prove her wrong. Never tell me I can’t do something. Anyway, I was up early to try to catch a sunrise photo shoot over near Red Rock State Park which is supposed to have good views of Cathedral Rock. Well, it does but unfortunately, a clear sky doesn’t really provide a great photo in the early morning. Shut out!

After my disappointing early photo shoot, we stopped at Berry Devine for a smoothie breakfast. We got some great smoothies and some entertainment to boot. The fellow working there, Dave, was quite an interesting guy and he kept us entertained for our breakfast. They even had an “Iron Man” smoothie which was my favorite. Coffee there was less than exciting, so we stopped at the Java Love Cafe after for some locally roasted beans. Dave also gave us some tips on some local hikes that would get us away from the tourist crowd.

We headed up to Chimney Rock after breakfast and hiked around it and then on to Andante Trail. It was definitely sparse with hikers. The hike Chimney rock was half decent, but the Andante part was less than exciting. It would have probably been better for mountain biking.

 

For lunch, we stopped at the Mariposa Grill which is perched on a ledge along the highway with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. The place is amazing too. They have a large deck to take in the view which no one was sitting at. We asked to sit outside and they thought we were a little crazy. It was in the mid-60’s and I thought it was quite comfortable. They even turned on the overhead heaters for us. It ended being really nice private dining. The place is fairly upscale so we resorted to just lunches there which were the price of our typical dinner. Food was amazing and the Yuca Fries were out of the World!

Next, we headed into town for some window shopping. One of the annoying things in Sedona is all the outdoor adventure places are fronts for selling timeshares. So when walking by stores you get the line “are you staying in town for the night?” I quickly learned to say no and move on. We then headed up to Fay Canyon for a late afternoon hike. It is a quick hike but we ended up getting up into the canyon when it was dark and we had to partially bushwhack our way off of a ledge. I had my headlamp, but the batteries died quickly. Fortunately, I remembered that I had my trusty iPhone and used the flashlight to light up the trail. It worked great too.

desert, red rock, sedona, vortex

Fay Canyon-Sedona, AZ 2016

We stopped at the Choclatree Organic Eatery in town for a vegan dinner. It was really good food and their deserts are quite amazing. My only wish was that the portions were a little bigger. If you are looking for some healthy, it is a worth a stop.

Day 3 – Chuckwagon

We were up bright-and-early again and headed to the Airport Mesa Vortex to catch a few sunrise photos. We made a quick stop at Oak Creek Roasters coffee shop to get a little caffeine coursing there my veins. We arrived at the Airport Mesa parking lot while it was still dark out. There were only a couple cars in the small parking lot, so there was no problem finding a spot. While I got my photography gear together, Denise checked out the information sign. I saw there was another girl with asking her a lot of questions. We then high-tailed it up the steep and rocky path to the top of the vortex. The girl and her boyfriend/husband were struggling to stay with us and I could hear them sucking air as I flying up the path. Apparently they are not planning on doing any Ironmans this year. 🙂

We got up to the top of the rock and Immediately claimed a nice little platform and setup my tripod. There were a bunch of younger Asian kids up there in shorts and lighter clothing. It was pretty cool up there and the wind picked up as the morning continued making it even worse.

I ended up kicking over my entire coffee on the ground, which did not make me very happy. The sun eventually worked its way up, but there were no good cloud formations to really  gather the color and provide some drama. Regardless I did get a couple ok shots of the valley and rock formations across it. Looking behind us after the sun came up were a couple hot air balloons that I thought might make some good images, but they were a bit too far away.

After the morning photo shoot, we headed back to Berry Devine again for another round of breakfast smoothies. Our buddy Dave was kind of busy this time and didn’t have much time to chat and entertain us. We also headed back to the Java Love Cafe for our morning coffee and latte. Funny how it was the same bunch of people that were in there the previous day too. Definitely a hit with the locals.

Today we had planned to do some mountain biking. My friend Greg had ridden the Chuckwagon trail there in the past and recommended it, so we thought we would give it a whirl. We headed over to Over-The-Edge Bike(OTE) off of Route 89a to pickup some rentals. We had rented bikes from these guys in Fruita, CO a bunch of years ago, so we figured they would be good. And they were. We got a couple nice Trek full-suspension bikes and a rack for the car and we were off to the Chuckwagon trail.

The Chuckwagon trail was pretty awesome. It was fast-and-fun singletrack with some nice views. It was challenging enough, but not too crazy so that Denise was able to enjoy it as well. She wasn’t in super great shape and hasn’t mountain biked in quite some time. It ended up being about 10 miles in one loop. This got us back to the parking lot just in time for some lunch.


We headed to Picazzos for some lunch. Picazzos is a healthier, gluten-free pizza shop and it was fairly busy for a weekday lunch. Denise was excited to be able to have pizza since it was gluten-free. I was psyched because they had Beyond Meat Chicken as a topping option, so I was able to have the Thai Chicken pizza and not have to strip off the animal flesh. Beyond Chicken has a very close texture to real chicken meat, has a better nutritional profile, and is made using pea protein. A great option for those bridging the gap to a plant-based diet. I use it at sometimes when meat is kind of a key element of a dish. Lunch was freaking awesome and we gobbled down pretty much everything. All the calories we burned on the trail were instantly replenished. Better get back out there again.

I had left the mountain bikes on the car rack while we ate lunch, so I was relieved to get done eating. I kept running out to check on the bikes. We then drove back towards Oak Creek for the afternoon and rode up the connector trail around Bell Rock and then eventually to the Llama Trail. The connector trail was a tad bit technical and it was also uphill. There was a lot of on-and-off the bike and Denise was started to get a bit tired…and grumpy. We eventually hit the Llama Trail and that was also a bit challenging. I saw Denise was walking the bike a lot and she was not a happy camper. We eventually hit a shortcut route out and headed back. We took the easy paths and it was mostly downhill to the parking lot after Bell Rock.


We were pretty tired after about 16 miles of mountain biking. We dropped off the bikes and headed back to Picazzos for some dinner. Another good feed fest! After dinner we stopped at the Oak Creek Brewpub and I sampled a couple of their Pales Ales. Denise was having trouble keeping her eyes open so we then headed back to the condo for some sleep.

Day 4 – Road Trip to Jerome

We were up again at 5am on Saturday and made a b-line for Red Rock State Park to hopefully get some good sunrise pictures of Cathedral Rock. Denise dropped me off at the park gate entrance which was closed and it didn’t open until around 9AM. I blindly made way through the park following the river. I searched for a good spot to shoot some pictures of Cathedral Rock with the river in the foreground. It was a bit difficult since I could barely see. I walked and walked some more until finally I found this huge opening where the river which would have been perfect. Apparently it was a bit too perfect. There was another photographer standing right in the middle of the area with one of those old, large format cameras with the black sheet that goes over your head.

I quietly made my way around her so not to startle her. Not sure if she ever heard me since her head was under the sheet. I tried to find a spot up river a bit, but it ended up being too close. I started making my way back again and was kind of throwing in the towel at this point. The lady photographer waved as I passed by her.

I was almost back to the front gate, where Denise dropped me off, when I found the killer spot. Argh!! Despite that the sky was pretty uninteresting anyway. Oh well, maybe next time?

After another breakfast at Berry Devine and some coffee at Java Love Cafe, we took a ride up to the town of Jerome. Jerome was an old Copper mining town that is situated high up on a ridge which overlooks the Verde Valley below. Kind of cool little town with some shops, bars, and restaurants. We cruised through but were really into stopping, so we headed back to Sedona.

We decided to do a short hike to see Snoopy Rock. The trail was called Marg’s Draw and it was pretty close to town. It was actually a pretty nice, easy hike. Perfect end for our trip.

We headed back to Phoenix after our hike and had a nice dinner at True Food Kitchen. We then checked into the Hilton Garden Inn for the night and then back to Philly the next morning.

Despite the rough start, it was a really great trip to Sedona. Our shortened length forced us to make the most of our time. We had some amazing food and adventures. The only thing we didn’t get much of was relaxation, but we really aren’t into that anyway.

Thanks for reading!  Until our next adventure!

 

Winter Trip to the Canadian Rockies

We originally had made plans to go to Lake Placid in mid-December for a little Winter ski vacation. We had plans later in the Winter to head to Arizona for a week, so we needed to get a little Winter-fix before going to some warmer climate. Planning a ski vacation to the Adirondacks in December can be a little questionable as to whether they have snow or not. Last year they had a lot of snow then, this year practically none.

So, with only a few weeks to go, we decided to change things up. Denise checked around with her friends living out West and there was not much snow to be had there either. She then came across Banff & Lake Louise in Western Alberta, Canada. They had a good November snowfall and conditions were perfect for some early season skiing. We had always wanted to go there too, so no time like the present. We quickly changed our plans and locked in our flights to Calgary.

Our departure out of Newark was an early one. We were up at 3:30 AM and on our way to

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

the airport. We dropped the car off at the usual parking place, ABC Airport Parking, who quickly whisked us away to the terminal. The airport check-in and security checks went pretty smoothly and we were on our flight just in time to see the sunrise before take-off.

 

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Houston…We Have A Problem…

Our flight to Calgary went fairly well until we tried to land in Calgary. There was a low-lying, dense fog that we had to go through to land. We could not see anything as we entered into it at the very last part of our landing. All of a sudden the runway appeared out of nowhere within feet of touching  down. Before the wheels were about to touch the pilot “hit the gas” and we were ascending at a steep and fast pace. Denise and I looked at each other saying WTH??!

Before long the pilot got on and said that the visibility was too low to land and they were going to give it another try. I believe we were possibly too far down the runway when we were about to touch-down. We then made a long sweeping turn and got back in line to land again. Fortunately, the 2nd time was much more successful. I usually don’t have an issue with flying, but I was a little uneasy after that episode.

We picked up our bags and rental car and made our way to West from Calgary to Banff. Calgary had a fresh inch or two of snow on the ground, which was a welcome sight after the warm start to Winter we had back home. The outskirts of Calgary are filled with these large walled communities of very tightly clustered housing. It seemed a bit strange to me. After flanking the city we started heading West over large open plains with the Candian Rocky Mountains looming in the distance.

Canadian Rockies in Sight

Canadian Rockies in Sight

We reached the town of Canmore after about an hour and turned in to get some lunch at CrazyWeed restaurant. Denise had found this place as being one of the best ones in Canmore. She did not let us down with her research either. We had a nice lunch there and then drive through the downtown area and up to the Nordic Center to check that out. It is a pretty lively little place with lots of shops and restaurants. I think it is a more reasonable option as compared to Banff which gets a little more upper-class folks and everything is a bit more pricey.

I pre-booked the first few nights of the trip at the Juniper Hotel in Banff, which is located across  Highway 1(Trans-Canada Highway) from Banff. It sits up and above the highway and overlooks the town with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our room had a big window that allowed you to take it all in from your bed. The rates here were quite reasonable too. They have a nice restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We wish we would have dined there more cause food was really good! They also have a hot tub which was not far from our room.

Canada, banff, lake louise, mountain, rockies

Juniper Inn Room-Banff, Alberta, CA
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We also dined at the Banff Brewpub(twice) and the Bison Restaurant. I really like the brewpub since they had a wide selection of food and the beers were really good. The Bison was a bit more upscale, but I didn’t find the food all that great relative to the price. There wasn’t much choice for vegan/vegetarian, so maybe carnivores would have a better luck here. Melissa’s was our go-to place for breakfast.

Skiing at Lake Louise

On Sunday, we headed about 40 minutes up Highway 1 to Lake Louise to ski. We didn’t have high expectations for the mountain, so we were pleasantly surprised by the terrain. The snow conditions were also very good for early in the season. We headed over to the Larch area in the morning which seemed to have the best conditions according to some people we talked to. There were some gnarly areas, but we found a few good runs there. After lunch, we made our way to the back bowls which contained a good amount of fluffy snow. Although with overcast sky it was impossible to see anything. It was like white-out conditions. At times I had no idea what the pitch was or if it was bumped up or not. I just pointed my skis down and hoped for the best.

All-in-all it was a good ski day. The temps were around 25F which was perfect. We had lunch at the sushi restaurant in the lodge which was quite good. We sat next to a couple of guys who pretty much ran the mountain so they gave us the scoop on the hill. We rented equipment at Wilson Sports just down the road in the Village of Lake Louise. Equipment was nice, but our skis were wider and more powder skis, so they weren’t the best match for conditions.

White Knuckles on the Icefields Parkway

On Monday, we decided to take a break from skiing and take a drive up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper, Alberta. The parkway starts at Lake Louise and heads Northwest through the heart of the most beautiful sections of the Canadian Rockies. It is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the world and takes about 3 hours to get Jasper in good weather. The only problem is that it was now the middle of the Winter and they don’t maintain the road very well during that time. Another factor was that my wife decided she wanted to drive that day. Since I can be a little bit of a control freak where driving is concerned it left me a little grumpy for the start. When we hit the start of the Parkway there was a flashing sign indicating that the roads not in great shape and to proceed at your own risk. The start of the road was covered in very bumpy ice which appeared to be several inches thick. I was not having a warm-and-fuzzy feeling for this 3 hour+ drive. My grumpiness ended rather quickly though once we got into the mountains. It was amazing! The mountain scenery with all the snow was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.

The road eventually mellowed out but was still covered with snow most of the way. Locals flew passed us in large 4-wheel drive trucks like we were standing still. We ended up stopping pretty often so I could take pictures, so the trip took even longer than expected. We knew we would not get to Jasper in time to come back again before night, so we ended up turning around just past halfway where Route 11 intersects. We stopped at Peyto Lake and did a little hike through woods to a lookout overlooking the lake.

When we reached Lake Louise we decided to continue our scenic journey and head down the Bow Valley Parkway instead of taking the highway back to Banff. We were rewarded with more magnificent views and even had an Elk sighting along the way.

Skiing at Sunshine Village

On Tuesday, we headed over to Sunshine Village  after a nice breakfast at the Juniper Hotels’ restaurant. Sunshine Village is only about 6 miles up Highway 1 from Banff. It is actually behind Banff, nestled in a narrow valley between the mountains that open up to a wide bowl at the top. A 20-minute gondola ride takes you from the parking area just to the base of the mountain. You can stop off part of the way up to hit the Goat’s Eye section.

When we arrived at the base we were greeted by a very friendly staff “greeter” that gave us the whole low-down on the mountain. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining away before the snow clouds filled in later in the morning. We played around in the Wawa Bowl and Birdcage area for a bit in the morning and then eventually wound around to the Mount Standish area.

We had lunch at the Chimney Corner restaurant in the lodge, which ended up being a rather unpleasant experience. Our wait for our food took an exceptionally long time and when it finally did arrive the waitress indicated that my wife’s meal was accidentally served to another table. When my wife’s meal finally arrived, it was overdone and she asked to send it back. She also asked to get something else instead, like poutine, that would be quicker since she was hungry and we had wasted enough time in the place. When we got the bill, we noticed they had obviously comp’d us for my wife’s burger which she didn’t eat, but they still charged us for the Poutine. Given the poor experience, we were kind of surprised they didn’t just comp her meal all together as most places would typically do. We said something to our waitress who said she would talk to her manager.

Not soon after we were greeted by a slightly nervous looking younger guy who said he was the manager. We explained the situation to him and he then proceeded to tell us that we were basically wrong about our observation of how my wife’s burger was done. Really? Growing up in the restaurant business, I can tell that you that the customer is never wrong and that if they are not satisfied with their dining experience, you do whatever it takes to make it a good one. This kid was obviously a little puppet for someone else and was just following orders, but I was amazed at this. Especially in a country where everyone was so nice, this really stood out. And really, comp-ing a $10 entree to “make things right” would be no skin off their back. We are obviously not going there again, not that would have anyway. We were planning to hit one of the other bars there for Apres ski that day, but decided to bag it because I didn’t want to be paying them any more money.

Skiing at Sunshine Village pretty nice. We found a good bump run with a little tree section leading up to it.  We spent most of the afternoon on that before making our way down the Gondola back to the parking lot. We headed back into town to return our ski rentals and then grabbed another dinner at the Banff Brewpub before heading to our next destination.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort

We drove back up Highway 1 towards Lake Louise again and then about 10 minutes back down the Bow Valley Parkway to our accommodations for the next couple nights at Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Baker Creek is a somewhat remote little outpost consisting of really nice little log cabins and deluxe rooms. We got there late and they left a note on the office door indicating which room we were in. The room had a little kitchen, a gas fireplace, and big hot tub. The perfect little retreat for a couple days of rest and relaxation. The temperature was also dropping to below zero(C and F)  for the next couple days, so skiing was out of the question anyway.

We were a little disappointed to find out that the restaurant at Baker Creek was closed for everything but dinner, so we would have to drive up to Lake Louise Village next day for breakfast and get groceries for any meals we wanted to eat there. I was kind of looking forward to just hanging out there, but was not meant to be. They had also just sold the place to new owners, who had taken over only a few days before, so they were in a bit of a transition period. Despite that, the place was very nice and we had a very relaxing time there.

On our jaunt up to the Lake Louise Village, we enjoyed a great breakfast at The Post Hotel and then equally good lunch at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. I also got out on the lake for some photography, but it was so cold there I could not stay out there for very long.

We also managed to get out for a little snowshoeing around Baker Creek and I was able to get a few images along the river at sunset.

Last Stop…Canmore

For the last couple nights we headed back to Canmore, Alberta to stay at the Falcon Crest Lodge. The room at Falcon Crest was more like an apartment than a room. It was very spacious, clean and new. The only bad thing was we had no view of the mountains from our room. Instead, we looked out on a walking path and another building which looked similar to it. It did have an underground parking lot which was kind of nice.

On our fist full day in Canmore, I was able to get out to the Nordic Center for some skate-skiing. Their nordic center is pretty elaborate and I was looking forward to checking it out. The only bad thing was there was a bunch of signs warning of bears still on the prowl and mountain lions which are always around. I was a little uneasy at first, but there were enough other skiers out that it didn’t appear to be an issue. I ended up getting about 10 miles in which was sufficient.

Dining out in Canmore was not a problem. We headed back to Crazyweed again which was very good, but there wine prices were outrageous.  We also tried Rocky Mountain Flatbread Pizza Co. which was also very good. Our Favorite though was CommuniTea Cafe which we ended up eating at 3 times in 2 days! They had really healthy food and it was much needed at the end of a vacation where we were eating a lot of less healthy stuff.

After dinner at the Pizza place, we headed over to the Canmore Curling Club to check that out. The bartender there was really nice and sat down and explained it all to us. Super-nice guy! There was recreational leagues going on and it was pretty funny to watch them. Looks like a very fun social thing.

On our last, full day of the trip we did a little hike up to Grassi Lakes. It was a pretty well-established trail, but it was a constant ascent on a snow covered path which made it a little tricky. I only brought one pair of YakTrax, so we had to share them by each putting one on one foot. We were quickly rewarded at the top with some beautiful little crystal-clear lakes and cascading brooks linking them together. The walk back seemed to be a little more tricky with the traction since gravity was coming into play.

We then talk a more leisurely walk along the footpath that runs along both sides of the Bow River in Canmore. Still snow-covered, but a nice little path to view the river and surrounding mountains.

This trip ended up being one of my favorites. It is surprising such a last-minute decision. We didn’t have a bad meal the whole time other than the Chimney Corner at Sunshine Village. The exchange was also a nice surprise after getting my credit card bill when I got home. I would definitely like to head back here again in the warmer months. I know it will probably be much more crowded, but if we spend more time in the backcountry we may be able to escape some of that.

Thanks for reading!

 

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015-My Tracking Info

My Bib #: 462

Race Start Time(Age Group): 5:45 AM PDT (8:45 AM EDT)

MyAthleteLive IconMyAthleteLive Tracking Info

I decided to rent a GPS tracker from MyAthleteLive.com so Denise can more easily plan her day and also so any family & friends can track my progress throughout the day. You can view the live tracking info through the following ways…

MyAthleteLive Event Web Site(requires Adobe Flash) 
MyAthleteLive iPhone App
MyAthleteLive Android App

Ironman Tracking

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race WebSite
IronTrac iPhone Application(in-app purchase of $0.99 required)
Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015 Pro Bib List

Local Coeur d’Alene Info

Lake Coeur d’Alene Water Temperature


Adapting and Readjusting Your Race Day Goals

An Ironman is such an unpredictable event. You never know what kind of things are going to come your way on race day. You try to mitigate as many possible issues as you can think of, but you can’t control everything. One thing you certainly cannot control is the weather.dartboard, target, bullseye, darts

Last year I competed in Ironman Lake Placid with the intention of going sub-12 and was faced with a brutal thunderstorm. The race officials eventually forced many people out of the water on their second loop of the swim and subsequently only counted half the swim and no T1 transition times. Since I felt I had lost some time on my first loop of the bike, I went a little too hard on the second loop of the bike to try to gain lost time and ended up hurting myself on the run. While officially my time was under 12 hours(11:52), I know that the real time was still a 12:40.

Heading into this 2015 season I signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene with the goal of a sub-12 time again. I have trained all season with this intention in mind too. I chose Coeur d’Alene because of its northern location and typically cooler climate which I prefer. Sometimes when you become so focused on a goal for so long, it becomes hard to give that up and change. Change is never easy.

Today we are faced with temperatures reaching solidly into the triple-digits in Coeur d’Alene, ID on race day. This is unheard of for this part of the country.  But, just like when you have a tire go flat or losing your bottle of nutrition, you must adapt. Therefore, my sub-12 hour goal has now changed to more like a sub-17 hour goal, or just plain survival. We can whine and complain about it all we want, but I think a true “Ironman” accepts the challenge in front of him/her and figures out how best to deal with it. The obstacle in front of us has changed, we must figure out how to deal with it. Speed becomes a relative term at this point. It may end up being our most demanding event ever and the one we will never forget for sure.

CdA 10-day Weather Channel Forecast

CdA 10-day Weather Channel Forecast

Dealing with the Heat

Nothing like an post-race ice bath! Ahhh!

Nothing like an post-race ice bath! Ahhh!

I am started thinking about some some tips and things to help deal with the heat, so here they are in no particular order…

  • Hydrate early & Often – start taking in electrolytes the day before the race as well as race morning. Severly limit or avoid alcohol too. 🙁 I will save that for after the race I guess.
  • No wetsuit if over 76.1 def F – Although it may be cooler in the morning, if the water temp is over 76.1 you risk dehydration earlier by wearing your wetsuit. Not to mention that you are inelidgable for any AG awards( I don’t really have to worry about this).  This was a lesson I learned from my coach who wore his at LP a few years ago and was dehydrated when he got on the run. No sense starting out with a large hydration defic
  • Extra salt pills or Base Salt – I usually never do anything new on race day, but I just heard about Base Salt from Base Perfomance from zentri-598-christine-lynch-and-time-trial-tips.html” target=”_blank”>Christine Lynch when she was recently on the ZenTriathlon podcast. I did previously use salt caps, but this is absorded quicker through the mouth which I think is more effective. Jury is out on this one, so we’ll see how it works.
  • Cooling Sleeves – I recently picked up a free pair of cooling sleeves from the Todd Wiley Lake Placid Triathlon camp I attended last month. I didn’t realize how essential these might become to reflecting the sun off my arms and also provide some material to keep moisture close to the skin. I will pick up water at each aid station no matter what and pour it over them and the rest of me.
  • Nathan Handheld Bottle for Run
    Nathan Handheld water bottle

    Nathan Handheld water bottle

    This is another ZenTriathlon tip(I am going to owe Brett some donations after this race). I will keep this bottle filled with ice water at each aid station and slowly drip it over me during the run. The coolness in my hand should also help keep my blood cooled too.

  • Jump in the Lake?! – The run course at IM CdA is on a path that follows the shoreline of the lake. Perhaps we will be able to just jump in the water every so often and cool off. Not sure if that would break any rules, but it might be an option.
  • Eat Amrita Bars! – Sorry I could not resist this one! But seriously though…it becomes very difficult to want to eat when it is really hot, but not doing so is a sure way to a serious bonk. Plus, Amrita Bars are even more yummy when they are soft and gouey!

Also, here is a great little Ironman Coeur d’Alene “Cheat Sheet” from Coach Jen Rulon

Be Safe out there! Any other tips are greatly appreciated too. Use them in the comments.

IMCDA 2015-Week#21(May 18-24)-Todd Wiley Lake Placid Camp

Less than 5 weeks to go until Ironman Coeur d’Alene! Actually, if you are reading this post it is probably less than 3 weeks to go. With all the heavy training volume lately, I cannot find the time to get this post out and I didn’t want to just throw it out there. Anyway…I digress.

This was a bit of an odd week. I was ready for some recovery time after finishing up two solid build weeks, but with Todd Wiley’s Lake Placid Training Camp this weekend I could not afford an entire week of recovery. I did a light swim on Monday, took a total rest day on Tuesday, and then a easy run on Wednesday. It was a good amount of time to recover and be ready for a solid training block over the Memorial day weekend. My HRV Timeline chart below shows my recovery as well with a solid upswing into the mid-80’s by the middle of the week.

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iThlete HRV Timeline Annotated-IMCdA 2015 Week 21″ width=”625″ height=”293″ /> iThlete HRV Timeline Annotated-IMCdA 2015 Week 21

Camp Time!

On Thursday morning I made the 6 hour drive up to Lake Placid for the start of Todd Wileys‘ Lake Placid Training Camp. Last year I had my own little solo camp, but riding alone up there leaves me a little uneasy. Especially when you get a couple flats and mechanical issues. When you are with a camp you have some extra support plus it is always fun meeting new people with similar interests. We were staying at the Olympic Training Center for the Todd Wiley camp which was really cool. This would be much more fun than staying in some hotel downtown by myself. I had driven past the OTC facility many times but never saw the facility from the inside, so now I could really check it out.

I arrived at the facility, checked in and unloaded my gear into the room. Eventually, my roomate Max came in and introduced himself. He was a really nice, mellow guy which I was very relieved about. It was kind of like the first day of college and meeting your dorm roomate. Everyone eventually met outside in the parking lot around 4PM for a group run after getting settled into their rooms. We then headed out for a nice 5-6 mile run into town, around Mirror Lake and then back again. I ended up running with Dr. named Howie most of the run. He was a super nice guy and quite a character too. The run went really fast since we were chatting the whole time.

The original shedule had a short 15 mile bike ride listed on the first day, but that got nixed since we got out later than planned. We then headed to the cafeteria at the Olympic Training Center(OTC)  for some dinner. I was a bit apprehensive about eating in a cafeteria all weekend and whether they would have much for me to eat. I was pleasantly surprised. The OTC cafeteria food was awesome! They usually had several different options for each meal with at least a couple of them being veg-friendly. Another nice benefit of the cafeteria was that we didn’t have to deal with eating in town on a holiday weekend. This can be a bit of a challenge especially with a large group.

On Thursday night the group got together for some discussion with Todd about the plan for the weekend and some general training information. We also got a a bunch of swag including a t-shirt, a towel, and some sun/cooling sleeves. I was pretty psyched about the sun sleeves since I had wanted to try them but didn’t want to fork out the money for a pair. I also just happened to check the weather on my phone during our session and it was apparently snowing outside. That should make for an interesting ride tomorrow!

On Friday, we were up for breakfast by 7AM after a good nights sleep and out for group ride by 8:30am. It was a bit cool and very overcast as we waited to depart. It started raining as soon as we left the OTC making for a cold, damp start. We headed down Route 73 to River Rd and then down 86 to Wilimington and back again. The ride down to Wilmington is mostly downhill so I took it easy crusing the whole way. The skies eventually opened up and the sun came out. My plan was to give a hard push back up the notch to Lake Placid. It was a good hard ride,  I turned around at Cobble Mountain right after the three bears climbs and then swung back down to River Rd. and then back to the OTC.

We then headed out for a half hour brick run immediately after we returned from our ride. I joined up briefly with Derek Fitzgerald, the only heart transplant and cancer survivor to complete an Ironman, and we ran across the street up Bear Cub Rd. past the entrance to Henry’s Woods. I went a little further up the road since I had never been up the before and was curious where it ended up. It was a gradual climb most of the way out.

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Fernando demonstrating his core strength techniques

We had a afternoon session with Fernando Paredes from Fusion Fitness & Performance on his strength training principles after lunch. I had attended Fernando’s workshop back in January so this was more of a refresher for me. The session was mostly just a overview of his methods and we didn’t get into any actual strength training. Fernando did a couple demonstrations with some of the campers which were pretty amazing. The one guy had really tight hamstrings and Fernando was able to have him touch his toes after just rubbing his jaw on both sides. That was pretty wild.

On Friday night we had a classroom discussion on triathlon rules and safety with Ken Modica. Ken is a USAT official who officiates many of the races in my area. It was a good review of the rules and some of the changes that have been made. I kind of lost attention though after everyone started their “airing of grievances” and bringing up their individual occurences of being unjustly penalized for things. I would have liked to have seen a little more discussion on overall race strategy and nutrition in the camp, especially for the folks who are doing Ironman for the first time. Troy Jacobson did this in his camp, which I attended in 2012, and I found it really helpful. The coaches here were very accessible though and I know my roomate had sat down with Todd individually to discuss some of these topics.

Bike ready for long ride with Amrita Bars

Bike ready for long ride with Amrita Bars

Saturday was our long bike ride for the weekend, so I was off early for a good nights sleep Friday night. We topped off our tanks with a good breakfast and then we headed out for our long ride. Some of the campers were only doing one loop of the IMLP Course, and then the rest were doing two loops. Both groups were skipping out on the out-and-backs to Ausable Forks and Haselton Road. I was considering doing one or two of them just to tack on a few miles.

 

I started out with a group led by Nancy Smith, an elite age grouper and multiple Kona qualifier. Nancy has an unbelieveably smooth cadence which never seems to change despite the terrain. She also had a very similar pace to me so I always seemed to be following her. She did tend to drop me a little on climbs, but then I would catch up on the downhills. My extra weight comes in handy sometimes! Thanks gravity! Also in our pack was my roomate Max and Jeff. We would stop every once in a while and catch up a bit.

Max cruising through Jay on IMLP Bike Course

Max cruising through Jay on IMLP Bike Course

It was a pretty brisk morning on Saturday, but I dressed appropriately  with jacket, leg warmers and full finger gloves and it wasn’t too bad. It had gotten a little warmer towards the end of the first loop, so I swung back to the OTC for quick wardrobe change. The first loop went well and I was still feeling pretty fresh. The wind had picked up a bit on the second loop but it was mostly a tailwind from Lake Placid all the way to Upper Jay. There never seems to be a tailwind from Upper Jay back to Lake Placid which is basically all uphill.

Old Barn between Upper Jay and Wilmington with Whiteface in the background

Old Barn between Upper Jay and Wilmington with Whiteface in the background

I started to feel it a little in my quads as I made my way up to Wilmingtion. I had heard someone yelling my name as I rolled into Wilmington and eventually saw Todd parked across the street and my roomate Max taking on some hydration. I swung across an refilled my bottles and food. It was good timing because I was out of hydration and starting to feel it. After sucking down a bottle of Skratch Labs and eating an Amrita Bar I was ready to tackle the climb back to Lake Placid. I even hit the little out-and-back on Haselton Road just to get a couple more miles in. I like this little stretch too since it is pretty mellow with minimal traffic. It is kind of a break in itself.

I made the push back up 86 to Lake Placid, this time being a little more challenging than the first loop. The stronger headwind made things just a little tougher too. There is a short but steep stretch around the gorge area where the road gets very narrow with no shoulder and a stone wall guarding you from a rocky cliff into the Ausable River. I got behind another cyclist who was going relatively slow, but I was not able to pass him do to the car traffic and lack of a shoulder. As we reached the top of the climb, but not quite passed the stone wall he decided to stop! WTF!! I yelled “NO! Keep going!” He obviously didn’t even realize I was behind him. He managed to gather some more strength and pedal up to the turnout a few feet away. I patted him on the back and laughed as I went by. He smiled but was too exhausted to say any words.

I finished up the ride back into town after completing the Three Bears climbs for the second time that day. My legs were pretty tired by the time I got back and I only had food on my mind at this point. Fortunately the OTC cafeteria is open all day long for snacks and things and I headed right there.

Fernando had a strength training session in the afternoon, but I could muster up the motivation to attend. I was ready to just chill a bit. The plan for the afternoon was to go into town for a short swim in Mirror Lake. I ended bagging the swim since it was still pretty cool air temperature and very windy. I knew the water was cool which I can deal with, but the thought of getting out of the water not being able to get warm changed my mind. I knew Sunday was supposed to be a warmer day, so I will save my swim for then.

I ended up going to Lake Placid Pub & Brewery to get some dinner and have a couple beers. I ended up meeting up with some tri-friends from home, John, Ashley and Johns’ daughter Laura at the Pub. They were staying with some other friends, Brian and Mandy, from back home who have a house in LP and invited me to come over for dinner. I felt a little funny going over to have dinner at someones house that I never met, but they said it was cool. Brian and Mandy were really nice people and so accomodating. They are both REALLY GOOD athletes and Brian was into photography too so there was no shortage of conversation. I had such a great time with all of them and we had a ton of laughs too. It was like I had known them forever. Oh also they had rice and beans with side of kale for dinner so it was the perfect meal for me. I did cheat a little and had a organic chicken sausage too. 🙂

Todd debriefing campers before our long run

Todd debriefing campers before our long run

Sunday all the LP campers met up after breakfast at the front gate to the OTC. Todd debriefed us on the plan for the run since some folks were running different distances than others. I was planning to get at least 18 miles in but was hoping for 20. I would assess it as I went depending on how I felt. We then got together for group photo before set off on our run.

2015 Todd Wilery LP Camp athlete photo OTC

2015 Todd Wilery LP Camp athlete photo OTC

I realized that I forgot to put sunscreen on as we started down the road, so I headed back to the dorms to put some on. The zipper in my running shorts got jammed and I could not get my ID card out. I could not get the zipper unjammed for the life of me and I didn’t want to break the it on my favorite running shorts. So I had to go without. Fortunately it was fairly cloudy as the day went on so not really an issue.

I fell pretty far behind everyone with the zipper drama, so I was basically on my own for most of the day. I did catch up to a few people in the camp and saw the rest coming back on River Road. Todd was waiting at the turnaround on River Rd. with water and gatorade for us. He also said he would wait for me at the Ski Jumps, on the other end of River Rd. to restock me with water before I head into town. On the way back I stopped at the house we typically stay at on River Road to say Hi to our friends Dan & Wendy for a few minutes. I chatted with Dan for a bit and then continued on. I stepped up the pace a bit since I knew Todd was waiting for me.

LSD Run Comparisons by Temperature

LSD Run Comparisons by Temperature

The cooler air temps this day really made a huge difference in my run. I felt so good the whole time as opposed to the prior weeks run back home in hot & humid temps(see image above). My previous long runs were much slower and the courses were also much less difficult in terms of terrain. I can only hope for temps in the 60’s in Coeur d’Alene!

I made my way up into town, headed around the back of Mirror Lake and turned around at the Lake Placid Marina right before coming back into town near Saranac Ave. I was at around 16 miles when I got back to the OTC, so I decided to head up Bear Cub Rd, where I had done the brick run on Friday to get 20 in. I ended up finishing with only 19.3 but I didn’t feel like to doing filler runs just to get 20 in. Close enough! I was quite happy with the run at that point, so no point in continuing.

After some lunch, we headed into town to get a swim in at Mirror Lake. My friend John had told me to let him know when we would be swimming and he was going to meet me with his kayak. It was pretty nice having my own support crew. I stashed a water bottle on Johns’ boat and he took some pictures and video of me while I swam too.

Me getting ready for swim in a chilly Mirror Lake

Me getting ready for swim in a chilly Mirror Lake

The water was really cold! I was a little fearful of cramping up after just running 20 miles a couple hours before. My hands, feet and face were numb. I started out with a pretty good pace just to get some heat pumping. My plan was to swim 20 minutes out and then back again. By around 15 minutes I was starting to have enough. My toes were involuntarily curling up from the cold. I stopped at around 17 minutes, took a drink of water and chatted with John a bit and then headed back. Unfortunately, I forgot to stop my watch to get an accurate pace.

Cold swim in Mirror Lake

Cold swim in Mirror Lake

Thumbs up...open water swim in Mirror Lake

Thumbs up…open water swim in Mirror Lake

The wind really started to kick up on the way back and the waves were smashing into my right side. I took a mouthful of water and started choking a bit just like I did at Devilman a few weeks before. I eventually calmed down and restored my breathing again. I then started breathing only to the left for the rest of the swim back. I finished up with a mile swim, which was plenty considering how cold it was. It had to be at or below 50 degrees. When I reached the beach the rest of the people in the camp were already done swimming and they had started after me. Todd even said it was crazy cold and he bailed early too.

A video posted by Bri Tri (@bri_tri) on

Sunday night I was pretty tired and just settled in early. I had a good dinner and then got a good nights sleep. We had planned to do a short bike ride early in the morning and then checkout by 9:30am. The forecast was for rain and I planned on skipping that if that was the case and get on the road early to avoid all the Memorial Day traffic.

I was the first one from our camp in the cafeteria in the morning, but Derek Fitzgerald had come in later and joined me. It worked out nice to get to chat with him one-on-one for a bit. He was telling me about his upcoming Tour de Cure ride across America which is starting on June 9th. He has a pretty amazing story which I would highly recommend you check out.

I then packed up after breakfast, said goodbye to my roomate Max and everyone I saw from the camp. I got to meet a lot of new triathletes from the are area while getting in some solid training. It was a really great experience and I would highly recommend it. Staying at the Olympic Training Center was very cool.

The ride home started out ok, but traffic got very heavy as I got past Lake George. Fortunately no major delays though. I stopped in New Paltz at the Taco Shack for a quick bean burrito along the way. It was crazy busy everywhere else.

Ok, back home with only two more build weeks to go! Thanks for reading!