Monday, August 29, 2011

Race Report: Hot August Nights

Last weekend before the real race begins, so what better way to spend it than turning laps with the mountain bike crowd at the annual 24 Hours of Hot August Nights. As luck would have it, Randall had a few spots available on his 10-person team and they were open to ringers! I didn't really have the whole weekend to spend up there, but thanks to his generosity, I got to have my cake and eat it too.

After working a bit in the morning, I headed up to Albion in time to say hello, meet my new teammates and do some quick socializing. Even had the Shimano guys tune up my whip!

Quickly ran into Race Director Sean Ruppel who was looking for volunteers to help marshal the kids' race. Why not? So I helped the little ones make it around the course with much cheering and pointing the way. Not that they needed me -- Canadian Mtb legend and Olympian Seamus McGrath was leading the pack! The kids loved it and there were freezies and medals for everyone at the finish.

By then I was ready to turn a lap. The course was so so so fun. My favourite yet I think. I felt like PacMan out there, having an awesome ride, smooth and flowy even though I was seeing the course for the first time. Love rides like that -- straight to the racy place. Coming around the last corner, there were the "Tree Fairies" (so-named by Chico himself, Adam Ruppel) cheering me on. And they were there at the line with a beer -- it's a good recovery drink, you know. I didn't even have to walk my own bike back to the campsite. They did that for everyone which is what team work is really all about I think: being there to cheer, hand over a beer, and listen to the war stories on the way back. I am secretly hoping for an invite to future 24s with this crowd, as they clearly know what they're doing.

Later that night, they also let me share their dinner with them. they cheffed up some wild pacific salmon that had arrived by jet the day before. We had chantrelle mushrooms fried with a demi-glaze of red wine and who knows what else. Roasted potatoes with rosemary. Caeasar Salad. All this over campfire. Seriously?!

After dinner had digested a little, and I'd had a quick nap by the campfire I did a night lap for them to let the guys get a little more sleep in the hardest part of the race -- it is never that fun to drag yourself out of deep sleep in the middle of the night to go ride your bike as fast as you can. I finished just after 1am, and then called it a night, heading back to Toronto and in bed by 2:30am.

Wish I could have stayed but I had a spin class waiting for me at 9:15am. The TRCA Tree Fairies managed an awesome top 20 finish in the end.

Thanks Tree Fairies!! I had a wicked good time. Still glowing :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

France 2012: BOOKED

There's always a reason to say no, but sometimes you just gotta say yes!

That's basically the reasoning behind our decision to book a "trip of a lifetime" with Trek Travel.

That's right, Dad and I are going to do a father-daughter cycling adventure for six days and five nights riding up and down the Classic Climbs of the Alps.

Every July, for Dad and I -- like most cycling fans -- France becomes Mecca and the scenery, bike-crazy culture and heroic feats-on-wheels captures our imagination. So we decided to go, ride where they ride, eat where they eat and best of all, roll how they roll!

Trek Travel is regarded as one of the leaders in bicycle tourism, providing eveyrthing you need for an amazing time, from route planning to accoms to just not having to worry about your bike. We don't even have to bring our own! They provide one! And not just any bike -- I'll be cruising around on a gorgeous Trek Madone 5.2 (the one I will likely be purchasing next anyway -- what a great chance to test-ride!). Our accommodations look beautiful (and they have "Palace" in the name, so that's a plus!), and we'll be based mostly at Lake Annecy which promises amazing culinary options, markets and even swimming post-ride.

At the end of the trip, our proverbial cycling belts will include deep notches for the Col du Marais, Col de la Forclaz, Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier and of course the famous 21 switchbacks of Alpe D'Huez. We will have enjoyed the best of French wine, cheese and pastries, guilt free.

And best of all, we will have some great memories to share of that time we went to France.

Only 343 days to go.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early Birds

Earlier this summer I started running with Nat, an ironman athlete who lives around the corner from me. It's great to have someone waiting on the curb two or three times a week just to make sure I roll out of bed in the morning -- and by the way, so far neither of us has ever slept in so it's working!

This morning we weren't the only early birds! Nat's keen senses picked up on this fellow so I snapped a pic. We know it's a hawk, but not sure which kind. He was a bit too grey for me to guess "red tail".

Anyway, I've come to greatly enjoy our runs together for the conversation, company and of course the training. But today was our last time out for a bit because I'm about to start running a different kind of race.

If anyone's looking for me between now and election day on Oct 6, kindly leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Ontario Way

Just a quick note to see if anyone's watching a certain website close to my heart (and fingertips ...).

Check out for great stories about how Ontarians are working together to make our province a leader.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My First Running Race

Chico Racing is branching out this year by adding a whole series of Ontario Cup Trail Running Races to the usual menu of off-road riding goodness. Next season I hope to do a few more of these, but for this season, I was happy to at least be able to tack the final stop — Woodnewton, near Uxbridge — onto my race schedule.

It was a different world. So here are some observations from a mountain biker turned runner.

1) Guy to girl ratio. Almost exactly opposite to mountain biking. So THIS is where the girls are! And I don't blame them. It was so much less hassle getting ready to get out the door for the running race than the bike race. No equipment to worry about and its seemingly neverending rabbit hole of adjustments and personal preferences. Plus all the trappings -- tools, fuel, bottles etc that all need to be prepped in advance before they're stuffed into pockets. Not to mention remembering to bring essentials like gloves, helmet and shoes. For the running race, I got dressed, drove to the venue and what I was wearing was what I was racing in. The most complicated part of kitting up was remembering to do a double knot on my shoe laces. Easy.

2) Pre Race fueling. Clearly, I have no idea how or what to eat before a running race. When Nat and I go out in the mornings, I hardly eat anything at all because it makes me feel icky. So I tried eating based on that, keeping it light (fruit, toast, coffee) but still with enough fuel not to bonk. But it was the wrong strategy as evidenced by the stabbing side stitches that dogged me for the entire 11km. Before a mountain bike race, I eat a bazillion calories consisting of a few regular staples and feel awesome and bonk-free. Bonk-free I accomplished. Feeling awesome? not so much. Hopefully I can figure this out because I feel like without a speed limiter like a cramp in my gut I could really get a move on.

3) Warm up ...? Before a mountain bike race, I spend about an hour spinning and throwing in some hard pieces/climbs to get the legs ready for the effort. I was a little taken aback at the casual attitude the other racers had leading up to the gun. No one seemed to be doing more than laps back and forth to the johnny-on-the-spot. Hmmm. This one I couldn't let go, so a fellow rider-turned-runner and I did a lap of the parking lot/registration area just to see how things were feeling. I felt like everyone was looking at us like we were nuts.

4) Attire. I wore what I always wear running: shorts, t-shirt, short-socks, shoes and sunglasses. But I usually run on the road. I started to feel out of place when I saw the fancy trail-running shoes some of the other competitors had on. There were compression tights in full effect, tall socks that went about halfway up the calf and some runners even wore thin versions of XC ski gators. I had the definite feeling that these runners knew something I didn't ... and quickly found out what. I'm sure they didn't have the same problems I did: No blisters on the bottoms of their toes from all the quick turns and elevation changes thanks to their special shoes; No burrs, seeds, pebbles and grass finding their way into their socks and contributing to said blisters; And no Poison fother-mucking Ivy on their ankles and calves thanks to their tall socks. Noted, trail runners. Noted.

5) Race Strategy. The act of actually running the race was of course different too. It was like mountainbiking but in slow motion. The start almost had me laughing out loud. I felt so ... slow! And without the bike I felt bouncy and disoriented. It's hard to explain, but it was funny. So I settled in to a pace I thought I could hold and then tried to figure out how it compared to the other racers'. I passed a girl, but since everything goes slower in running, getting away from her took a longer time than I expected. Likewise when she passed me back, I felt like the process took a loooong time and it kind of messed with my mental game a bit. There was always this breathing right on my tail, and so I was constantly on the gas trying to get some distance -- to my detriment in the end. The stupid side stitch wasn't having any of that. Maybe it would be less slow motion without that. Also going uphill I found almost easier and how annoying that in running, I was actually LOSING time on the descents! I think I need some work there because the climbs were definitely a place I was catching other racers. A shame to waste the gains once gravity is actually on my side!

6) Good vibrations. During a mountain bike race, I usually suffer for the entire two hours straight. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the suffering, and all those feelings you get when you find out what your body is capable of but one of the greatest things about racing is the part where you cross the finish! It's like the anecdote about the guy who keeps hitting himself with a hammer. "Why do you do that?!" they ask him, incredulously. "Because it feels so good when you stop," comes his reply. Okay, throw all that out the window for running. Holy smokes, stopping is the WORST! I had no idea how hard I'd pushed myself or how bad I was feeling until I wasn't running anymore and then all I wanted to do was throw up or sit down so the world would stop spinning. How can you go from feeling great, pushing up a hill or kicking it up for the last stretch and then two second later feel like you've been repeatedly punched in the gut!! I guess the key to running is don't stop!

Anyway, in the end I came 3rd place, which I think is none too shabby. I had a lot of fun and made some new friends over the weekend so that was a great bonus. Big thanks to Chico Racing for putting on awesome event after awesome event. Check out for information on upcoming races or to check results.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

King Weekly Series

Post-race sunset over King

Last night I decided to pay a visit to Matt P's series up in King, at last. I WISH I had known about it sooner -- if you have never been, go. Amazing course (especially if you need to work on cornering as I quickly discovered is the case for me), great crowd, awesome draw prizes courtesy of Trek Store Toronto and Joyride 150 and a regular post-race outing at a nearby pub (so make sure you bring decent civilian garb).

Even got to meet Canadian "elite amateur" mtb legend Andrew Watson ... although he only managed a second place finish to Sean Ruppel's W. Elbowing notwithstanding.

Thanks Matt for putting on a great event. I hope I can squeeze in another visit to the flowy trails of King before the season's out. Four Wednesdays left if anyone wants to check it out!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce ...


Baby Eleanor "Ella" Claire Mombourquette arrived on July 26 at 6:35pm, weighing 8 pounds 15oz. Proud parents Kim and Bryan have been kept very busy with her robust feeding schedule and diaper changing needs. She likes celtic rock music and always wants to be a part of the action. Living in a house that is so musically inclined — and sharing a birthday with Mick Jagger — leads me to believe that she has got some pretty talented genes and we can look forward to many touching performances.

Then again, maybe she's a future champion mountain bike racer.

Who knows?!

Can't wait to get to know her, and spoil her (which is my right and responsibility since I am "the cool aunt")

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Race Report: Ocup 6, Kelso

Oh hiii.

Long time no posting, je sais, and I'm sorry about that. But today I had such a fun time at Kelso I am inspired to share a race report!

I haven't been to many races this year so the usual "race stuff" was not coming naturally to me. Hence, I spent all of yesterday preparing, slowly, so as not to forget anything. Even with all that careful preparation, somehow this morning I still managed to leave later than I should have. I arrived at the venue with barely enough time to register before hitting the road to warm up. Yikes!

The drive to Kelso involved torrential downpours so I was not sure what to expect. But the beauty about a weather "limiter" is that everyone has the same one so it is what it is (and it ain't what it ain't.) Luckily, the gods smiled on us and the sun came out just in time for our start. I think it was because I paid my dues riding a time trial in the pouring rain on Wednesday, but I digress.

The start was good ... great, even. Despite being a little flustered over my late arrival, I got myself together and was calm and collected on the line. At "Go", I found myself a spot in the tight pack as we went up the start hill, down the other side and then ended up in a single file as we began the BIG climb. Oh Kelso ... how you hurt us so. For those who aren't familiar, the BIG climb goes from the bottom to the top of the Niagara Escarpment. Parts are in the shade, but most are exposed to the sun. It is steep, long, and hot. And yet somehow I felt GOOD!

I made a move early in the climb and by the second part of this three-parter, I was sitting comfortably third wheel and our group was pulling away from the pack. That is, until I confused my lock-outs with my shifters, mis-shifted and sucked my chain on into the wrong side of the rings -- thank you oxygen-debt. I was too "dumb" to figure out what to do so I tried a couple things then let my heart rate come down to "thinking" and "seeing" levels. By this point, the entire women's field was past me, and the next category was rallying up too. Oh no!

Trying not to panic, I sorted myself out and began my race again, this time with a lot of fire in my belly. I actually wonder if it wasn't a sort of blessing -- although I'd gladly take that time back, thanks! Racing from behind, I was definitely "in the hunt" which is a great way to be. The first lap seemed to fly by and I gobbled up a couple girls. The second was more of the same. My final mark was Erica on the hill, and then it was one final time around. side note: huge thanks to Sean Ruppel for his colour commentary at the top of the hill. For the record, I do NOT have a drinking problem in case you happened to be within earshot.

Anyway, happy to report that besides a recurring chain-suck issue, the race was very "clean" despite slippery conditions from the earlier deluge. I'm super happy to have rode well -- and safely -- and to come home feeling stoked on a job well done.

Here are the results. My time was 2:07:08.84 and the next fastest was Laura at 2:04:22.60 ... that means that even with the stops I had to make (maybe 2-3 minutes total?), I don't think my time suffered all that much. So 6th place, and that's all me, baby!