Friday, July 27, 2012

Further crapshackular disintegration

Apparently it's not enough that our house (known variably as the Punk Rawk Palace or our crapshack, depending on the situation) blew a hole in the roof that led to a partial collapse of the bedroom ceiling last month - we came home last night to find that the first real rain we've had in a month or more had backed up the drain at the bottom of the walkout stairs.

A bit of water in the basement doesn't sound too bad, except the Punk Rawk Palace is a backsplit - our basement is our livingroom, including my very own trainer dungeon! This happened once before, too; during a hard rain on Saturday, July 16th, 2005 that washed out the Cambridge Highland Games and seriously threatened the Toga Party we were hosting that night for my birthday. Seven years and ten days later, we found ourselves squishing around the carpet in the back of the livingroom again.

Beyond the door at top left lies the culprit.

The drain itself is full of mud, which I'm hoping is merely the result of some tree roots getting into the drainage pipe and can be solved with a good augering. I'm unwilling, as yet, to contemplate other possible causes.

So, Tanker went to work with the Shop-Vac (the handiest thing we ever bought to go with our house) and our steam cleaner while I went to the pool. He's freakin' awesome like that. He got as much water as he could out of the carpeting, which fortunately doesn't have an underpad to hold moisture (it sits straight on cement), then went to work cleaning up the bottom of the stairwell. 

To his dismay, upon trying to dump the Shop-Vac's contents down the laundry sink, he found the bloody sink drain plugged and the drain plumbing leaking!

This is what we call a "Larry and Deanna special", typical of the previous owners of our house.

The p-trap isn't a p-trap at all - it's a bunch of ABS fittings cobbled together into a loop-the-loop, culminating in an aluminum pipe with ABS collars to thread onto the sink's drain. There's so much goop used to try to seal the lower collar (in white) on the aluminum pipe that I couldn't budge it with channel locks. It seems to be leaking from the top collar, the threads of which are rife with layer after layer of teflon tape and (for some reason) pipe dope. 

The whole thing should be cut out, the pipe to the waste outflow snaked (did I mention that our drain snake broke last night, nearly taking Tanker's ear off in the process?), and replaced with a proper p-trap. I know how to do this stuff, as I have a history with ABS pipe.

I built this whole business the Dec. 23rd, 2009 so we'd have a kitchen sink for Christmas.

Now, we've also had ongoing issues with the facuets in the laundry room. We've never turned the hot water on to the washing machine since that tap leaks like crazy, and the faucet at the laundry sink likes to leak on occasion. Now it appears that the cold water handle is cracked, so we're unable to turn the tap on and off. Spanky.

It doesn't help that we need to use an old can to hold the faucet in place, either.

Again, it's possible I could do this stuff myself - I even know how to cut and sweat weld copper pipe.

Before: sprang a leak where the white glob is at right.
Note: "Mighty Putty" doesn't work worth a damn.

Removing plumbing from the long-discarded water softener.
After. Watertight since September 1st, 2010. 

However, we're off to the Stratford Festival tomorrow for shows at 2pm and 8pm, then brunch with friends Sunday morning, packing up the motorcycles and doing oil changes (plus changing out the dead battery in mine), and rolling out for Quebec on Monday morning! I don't have the tools to un-block the back drain, and I'm in desperate need of some sleep. Didn't see bed until 01:30 this morning, as I tried a couple of quick fixes for the plumbing issues (none of which worked) before giving up and getting out for a short run to clear my head. I also need the laundry tub issue resolved tonight, since I have to do laundry (most of which are fabrics that can't go in the dryer) before we can pack for the tour!

Fortunately, I've found a local plumber who is A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau and does 24/7 service calls - Hy-Pro Plumbing & Drain Cleaning will be coming by the house around 7pm this evening to quote and hopefully do all of the work that needs to be done. As much as I feel like I'm wussing out by not spending my whole night sniffing noxious pipe cement fumes and fiddling with 45 and 90 degree elbows, I think I need to suck it up and get a pro to handle this for me.

We all like to feel confident in our abilities, but sometimes it's even more valuable to recognize your limitations. If we get a professional plumber to do this, despite hating to spend the money (which was already going to be a bit tight for the tour of Quebec since we're still paying off our new roof), at least we'll have the peace of mind that the job is done right and we won't be coming home to another flood. We can even run some errands while the plumbers work, saving me some time and hopefully letting me get a bit of sleep.

Dear universe - can this please be the last thing that goes wrong with our crapshack for awhile?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Contents of my head

Random thoughts and a few photos:

The hard races are the ones that teach you the most.

It's never, ever a bad idea to volunteer.

I have a new favourite place to swim.

There's a lot more to life than triathlon.

I got older this week. I hope I got wiser. 

I swam in an outdoor pool in the rain last night. I finished the memorial pictured above for my Dad on Wednesday. I'm spending this weekend at KW Ribfest, the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival, and the Picasso Exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, all with my sweetheart. I'm spending this afternoon with my Mom.

Training will probably happen, but for now the focus is just on living.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon - July 14, 2012

Our hotel is dead centre of the arch in this pic.

Seen on the walk from the parking lot to transition on race morning.
I love Muskoka.

We arrived in Gravenhurst on Friday night and checked into the Oakwood Motel - our room wasn't big, but was very clean, nicely renovated and the friendly owners made sure we had everything we could possibly want. After settling in, I got out for a 20min shake-out run, showered and shaved, then we went for a little stroll to check the hours of the Tim Hortons and had dinner. Got to bed about midnight, which gave me just over 5 hours of sleep; too bad this was the same amount I'd had every night that week.
Setting up transition, examining one of the patched nicks in my wetsuit.
No issues getting my cafe mocha in the morning and getting down to the race site. I wasn't really nervy at all - I'd sort of kissed off on this being my "A" race of the season since training had been lousy for the prior 5 or 6 weeks due to other life circumstances. I was looking forward to seeing the course, which I'd heard was beautiful, and doing the best I could. I quietly set up my transition area and prepared myself, only slightly worried about the fact my race morning coffee didn't seem to be having its usual effect. I didn't want a repeat of the last time I raced in Muskoka, and I knew I had to "get down to race weight" well before the gun in order to be on the steamship out to the off-shore swim start. I drank my bottle of lemon-lime EFS starting an hour out from boarding time and hoped for the best.

Our pimpin' rides to the swim start.

Donning my wetsuit during the pre-race meeting (even remembering to use BodyGlide on my neck!), I wandered down to the pier with Tanker and got him to zip me up before I got on the boat. We have a method of stuffing me into my suit that gives my shoulders more maneuverability, so I didn't want to trust just anyone with the task. I boarded the RMS Wenonah II and walked up to the foredeck to wave goodbye to my sweetheart before we headed out onto the lake.

Yeah, sure. Ready. Whatever.

I zipped a few other people's suits up for them, and then it was time to line up to jump off the boat into the water. I left my goggles off until the last minute, as I planned to spit in them, put them on my face (under my cap), then jump in and give them a rinse in the lake. This all went reasonably well, but the drop from the side of the boat was a little further than I'd expected (sure looked like more than 6' from the ledge) and I should have plugged my nose rather than just holding my goggles on my face - I didn't enjoy that snootful of water. I would also discover after the race had ended that the bottom of my right calf sleeve got rolled up a bit as I jumped in, though that wasn't nearly as unpleasant a sensation as inhaling part of Lake Muskoka.

Blowing a kiss to my sherpa.

We had a few minutes before start time, so I decided to try to warm up a bit - swam maybe 50m before heading up to the offshore side of the start line buoys. I wasn't really nervous, but I wasn't feeling terribly comfortable, either - just unsure about how the day would go. Being in the 3rd wave, we were set to start at 08:40, but my watch was back on land with Tanker so I had to rely on the "X minute warning" announcements.

Leaving the dock.

Soon enough, the Wenonah II blew her steam whistle and all the women under 45 years of age set off in a mass of pink swim caps. I rapidly felt some contact with other swimmers, but found some clear I swam rather badly off-course, ending up headbutting one of the guards on her board. I had pulled badly off to the left, and had to swim back about 30m to the buoy line. Great.

I made it back and ended up in another pack of swimmers from my wave, only to be kicked in the jaw and elbowed in the left eye. Nature of the game and all, but not much fun. My left calf tried cramping up on me a bit, but it calmed down again with a bit of focus. I finally made it to the left turn into shore, started swimming away, and then found myself badly off-course again. This time I'd pulled off to the right, heading for the wrong side of the spit of land by the wharf - thank gawd for the banana buoys! Still seemed unfair that I either had clear water and poor direction, or was on course and getting beaten up.

Swimmers coming in to the dock.

Back I turned to try to get in a decent line again, but I'd spend the rest of the swim pulling slightly to the right, having to correct several times. It wasn't until the last 200m or so that I finally seemed to start swimming in a straight line and pick up a bit of speed; I wasn't swimming badly beforehand (navigation issues aside), but I had trouble finding a comfortable rhythm. Still, considering most of my recent training swims had only been about the same distance as the race course, I can't complain about the results - I was able to conserve some energy and still swim reasonably well. I was a bit lightheaded coming up the ladder at the dock, but able to push myself into a run fairly easily; not bad for probably having swum an extra 100-150m. Apparently, I led a small pack out of the water.

Holy crap, I beat some people!

1,500m swim: 34:19 @ 2:17/100m. 14/22 in W30-34, 166/283 O/A.

The run to T1 is a long one in Gravenhurst, and I'd been warned that the dock was slippery, so I just focused on a light stride and didn't bother myself about the couple of people who passed me. I managed not to fall on my face turning into the transition area (the timing mats were slippery, but thankfully the volunteers warned me about it), found my bike easily in its fairly prime rack spot, and methodically went about getting myself ready for the bike. I was glad I'd left Dolph in the small ring and quite a large cog, as the start of the bike was a moderate climb, but I realised I'd forgotten to place the left pedal at the 10 o'clock position for easy mounting. In a turn of good luck, it happened to be sitting in perfect position anyway, so I was pretty happy until I left the grassy field of the transition area - I'd changed to a new set of cleats for this race (still Look Keo Grip greys), and they actually seemed to be more slippery for running than the old, worn-out ones!

Don't slip don't slip don't slip!

T1: 01:30

Mounting just after the line, I had a bit of trouble getting clipped in, but just started pedaling anyway. I did manage to get everything sorted before I hit the meat of the climb, which took an immediate toll on my legs - I could tell this wasn't going to be any kind of earth-shattering performance. Thinking of every hill repeat I'd done this year on my tri bike (total: zero), all I hoped was that I'd be able to make it through before Tanker got too bored waiting for me and wandered off.

How long do I have to run with this thing before I can ride it?

The bike course is stunningly beautiful, but as with so many scenic roads the pavement is bloody awful. So horrible, in fact, that before the 5k mark I'd changed my goal from trying to salvage some dignity to merely trying to make it through the bike safely. I also paid attention to hydration, as it was already getting hot and the sun was laying it on full force. Passing the 5k mark in 11mins, I took a shot of my EFS Kona Mocha/Vanilla blend and just tried to keep hammering as best I could. I'd already had to get out of the saddle to climb a short, sharp hill, and this was looking like a "lite" version of the Muskoka Long Course bike.

At last!

I took another shot of gel at 15k and kept pushing, and then a thought struck me as my motivation was wavering; when I'd been out running on Friday night I had seen a little ice cream counter called "Two Scoops" that advertised the legendary Kawartha Dairy ice cream. As soon as I was done racing and we got back to the motel, we were going to walk up there and have my first taste of ice cream since September 2011. All of a sudden, motivation came surging back, though I can't say it was accompanied by any increase in speed. I thanked all of the volunteers and police officers, and soldiered onward.

Through the turn-around at 20k in 44mins, it was looking like close to 1:30:00 for the bike, which would make it tough to go sub-3 for the race since I knew my swim had been a bit slow and the run was going to be very hot and punishing. All I could do is keep turning the pedals over, trying to ignore a growing ache in my left hip and glute - I suspect when I changed out my cleats on Wednesday night before the race I mis-aligned the left one (despite having traced around the old one with marker to try to avoid this exact problem), and it was tweaking things a bit. Still, it was tolerable, and it's not like I was going to get off and walk.

Waving and saying hello to my sweetheart.

Further shots of EFS at 25k and 35k to keep the fuel flowing, and then tucking the one remaining shot in my flask into the back pocket of my tri suit for the run, I rolled on back toward transition while drinking in the beautiful scenery. I spotted Tanker in a shady spot on Muskoka Beach Road; we had brought his cyclocross bike along with us on the Gran Fondo rack so he could cycle a bit of the course, as he'd heard just how pretty it was and wanted to see for himself. A nice lift with 3k left to go!

Coming back into the residential area, we wound our way through tight streets and I found myself among a few other athletes. Turning into the coned-off lane to the dismount line - a no-passing zone - I was on the brakes hard trying to stay back when I actually heard someone on the sidelines (a Triathlon Ontario official?) comment "Is that 5 metres ladies? It looks a little tight". Miffed at being accused of drafting when I was trying my damndest not to run over the timid descenders in front of me did nothing for my sense of humour, but I managed to dismount safely in spite of people stopping right in front of me and made the run through the enormous transition area to my rack.

40km bike: 1:25:16 @ 28.1kph. 14/22 in W30-34, 219/283 O/A.

My left hip and glute were still very achy as I ran into transition, and I hoped they wouldn't be too much of a liability on the run course - I'd have my work cut out for me just hauling my fat butt up the hills about which I'd been warned as the sun and 30c heat tried to melt me into a puddle. I moved reasonably efficiently through changing from bike shoes to run shoes and ditching my helmet for my running hat, but the sheer distance between the bike in and run out arches led to a very slow time.

T2: 01:25

Down a bit of fitness trail and up onto the road, the run course wastes no time in starting to beat you down. Most of the first kilometer is climbing up a winding road, the payoff for which is a flat and then a bit more rolling before I managed to snag a cup of HEED at the 1.5km aid station. As the reality of the day and the course set in, I abandoned all thoughts of going sub-3hrs and made one simple deal with myself: I'd run the whole thing. Dozens of athletes around me had dropped to a walk, even some of the obvious studs who were passing the 9k mark as I was still finishing my first kilometer. I know from experience that walking is addictive: once you start, you don't want to stop, and even if you manage to run again you're more likely to drop back to a walk once things get tough. If I could just keep running, I'd be satisfied, no matter how slow the pace.

With that in mind, I concentrated on my form and breath. I couldn't afford to start death whistling, and I'd need as much efficiency as I could muster to minimize the damage cause by the hills. I held back on the downhills to try to keep from tearing my quads apart, focused on driving with my knees on the uphills, shortened my stride as much as I could to stay as light on my feet as possible, and relied on my Compressport R2 calf sleeves to keep me from cramping up. I wanted to get in a bit of EFS Liquid Shot at the second aid station near the 3k mark, but instead of the two cups of water I requested I got nothing at all. The two young ladies (aged maybe 9 and 11 years) were a little overwhelmed, so no water for me. Bugger. Very glad I decided to run a bit more slowly in the effort to get every drop of HEED into me that I could at the first station, and I thanked the volunteers anyway though I must admit it came out rather sarcastically - I wasn't at my best.

There are times when you're faced with a decision: you can gut out some nastiness for no other reason than you're stubborn and take a sick pleasure in doing something that few in their right mind have any desire, or you can call it quits knowing that noone would really blame you. I'm not very good at the latter, so on I ran toward the aid station at 4.5km, still passing those at a walk but seldom being passed. I tried to muster some words of encouragement to those who looked like they were having a tough time, mostly to keep myself from thinking about how much I wanted to walk. I will say, though, that the kilometers seemed to tick by more quickly than I would have expected - I wondered if I'd even be able to break an hour for the 10k with the conditions, but didn't focus much on time, just on keeping my forward motion and not redlining myself. Oh, and swatting the deer flies that kept trying to bite me. That's right; I couldn't outrun a stinkin' fly.

Reaching the 4.5k aid station, I got my 2 cups of water at last. I drank a bit, had half a shot of EFS Kona Mocha/Vanilla, washed it down with the rest of the first cup of water and then dumped part of the second over my chest and the rest on my back. I'm far too chubby to have good thermoregulation in hot weather, but this helps immensely if there's even the slightest breeze. Rounding the turn-around marker and heading back, I got another cup of water at the 5.5k aid station, but only had a sip or two before dumping the rest on me. I came dangerously close to giving myself a sloshy stomach and let go of an enormous burp (that I thought might have come out much worse) as I climbed another sun-drenched hill, but that was the closest I came to any G.I. issues for the whole race. Small victory!

Reaching the 7k mark I got 2 more cups of water, but only had a sip or two before dousing myself with the rest. It was shortly after this point that I climbed a truly nasty hill that started me death whistling; while I'd tried to avoid it until then, I knew I could start to push a bit more now that I was nearly done and I managed to pass a few people with a bit of authority on that climb. I'd take every bit of ego boost I could find at that point! The duathlon turn-around point marked just 2.5k left to the finish, and it was going to be a near thing whether I made it or blew myself up. I had come to the realisation very early on in the run that there's a rather more significant difference between faking it through a 2 hour sprint race than trying to bluff a 3 hour olympic distance, but it looked like I might just get away with it.

In sight of the finish.

One cup of water, one sip, and a final drenching at 8.5km, then hitting the 9k mark and the long downhill toward the sports fields. I tried to keep some momentum as I came to the short rise of the fitness trail into the park, but the legs were protesting that they'd been ill used and wanted this ended at once. I tried to ignore them as I hit the grass, telling myself that it would be easier to run on the softer surface, and headed for the chute. I saw Tanker again and tried to open up my stride, pouring out whatever I still had in me as I finally caught sight of the finish line and clock. My wave had started 10mins after the beginning of the first wave, and the display showed 3:09:38 as I closed in - I ran for all I was worth, crossing at about 3:09:45 clock time and elated that I had managed to break 3 hours on such a tough course.

10k run: 58:48 @ 5:53/km. 10/22 in W30-34, 159/283 O/A.

Upon seeing my results, it became apparent that there was some difference either in the time my wave actually started, or in when the clock had commenced its count. I hadn't quite broken the 3 hour mark, but I was still more than 5mins faster than my first olympic distance tri on a much easier course (Wasaga Beach in 2010), and only about 5mins slower than my olympic distance PR on a similarly less challenging course (Lakeside in 2011). Considering the training I had (and more significantly hadn't) done, I am very pleased with the final result, and very satisfied with the effort I put in. It was a tough day and a murderous course that led to 13 DNFs overall, but I didn't let it defeat me.

Can it stop being hot now?

Final time: 3:01:15. 12/19 in W30-34, 44/92 women, 177/270 O/A.

Oh, heaven-sent frosty goodness!

Back to the hotel room after a delicious Kawartha Dairy chocolate milk and a Hero burger, I spent some time recovering with the aid of my Compressport calf and quad sleeves, a cooler to put my feet up, and an ice-cold Magners before heading out with my sweetheart for an afternoon and evening of enjoying the gorgeous town of Gravenhurst!

With the world's best sherpa, just before he packed up my transition area for me.


Obligatory climb on the big Muskoka chair.

Logdriver mural on the side of a building.

Not as lovely as the real thing.

Canadian Shield in a small park along Muskoka Road.

The next morning we rounded out our delightful weekend in Muskoka by volunteering for the Give-it-a-Tri and Sprint races - I was back down to the wharf on Tanker's bike by 06:45 after a magnificent cup of House Dark on the patio of Oliver's Coffee, while my sweet husband got the car packed up and checked us out of our cozy little hotel room. I joined the water safety team for the morning and got to kayak the swim course for both Sunday races, even getting to act as personal escort for the final swimmers in both the GT12.9 and Sprint, then hopped back on the bike once we were done on the water to help out at the final run course aid station. I'll leave you with some of the photos I was able to capture of the morning by sticking my Blackberry in a baggie in my PFD - what a wonderful end to a sublime getaway!

Coffee at Oliver's.
Joining the water safety team.
I'm in a boat.
Slowtwitch member Kentiger warming up and saying hi.

GT12.9 athletes getting ready to start,
The sprint swim course seen from the starting buoys.

The Segwun unloading the first wave of Sprint athletes,
The Wenonah II unloading as the first wave waits to start and the Segwun pulls away.

The first wave of the Sprint heading for shore.
The final aid station on the run course.

View behind our aid station.

Farewell Gravenhurst - we will indeed return!

Friday, July 13, 2012

An abundance of riches

It's Friday, I'll be done work in an hour, and I am staring ahead to a weekend filled with more fun and delight than I could possibly deserve.

As soon as I run a couple of quick errands, I'll be off to my Mum's house for a visit. We have a couple of things to do this afternoon, business-wise, but I should get to take my Dad's 2005 Honda 250cc Big Ruckus scooter out for one last little toot! It's all but sold - the buyer will likely pick it up tomorrow - but I can't resist taking it our for one final spin.

Battle scooter!

When 5pm rolls around and Tanker is off work, we'll be jamming up to Barrie to pick up a PFD for me (since mine is horribly old and no longer Coastguard Canada certified) and then heading for Gravenhurst. After checking in at the Oakwood Motel with my sweetheart, I'll have the pleasure of a short run before dinner (chicken fried rice is already packed in the cooler!) and hopefully a decent night's sleep - those have been in short supply, but what else is new?

Not what I usually bring to the office.

In the morning, I am lucky enough to line up with 299 others to race the MultiSport Canada Gravenhurst Olympic triathlon, which will begin with a ride to the swim course start point on the HMS Wenonah II. I may not be perfectly trained or well rested, but I still look forward to the challenge and the thrill of being on course with my fellow athletes, all pushing ourselves toward the finish line.

Photo courtesy of dbernd on Flickr

After the race through the beautiful Muskoka countryside and an afternoon of no particular plans, Tanker is treating me to an indulgent dinner at North before walk our leisurely way back to our hotel for the evening.

Sunday morning will bring another early start, as I'll be borrowing Tanker's bike to ride down to the waterfront again to join the water safety team for the Sprint and GT12.9 races. Once he gets us checked out of the hotel and over to the race site, he'll be running an aid station on the run which I'll join him once I'm done on the water!

To top it all off, I managed to hit my lowest weight in the past 2 years on Tuesday morning, and even got my hair bleached to its blindingly blonde summer condition last night!

Only happens once a year..

A weekend away in Muskoka's transporting beauty with my dearest love, racing AND kayaking? I must have done something right in a previous life. Now, if I can just keep from breaking a toe when entering the water..

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Last run on the Russ Street bridge

Also known as the hikeway bridge, on the Mill Run Trail. They're rebuilding it starting Monday, and the new one will apparently be more resistant to deterioration than the current wooden-decked design. It's like saying goodbye to an old friend, though.

In other news, trying to look back at the phone with your arm stretched out behind you while running on a 5' wide boardwalk is absolutely ill advised.

Still an awesome run: saw 2 bunnies and got slobbered on by a friendly, energetic off-leash German Shepherd, but rather concerned by the impact the current drought is having on the local ecology. So many dry creekbeds, and the turtle-infested marsh has become more of a mudflat..