Friday, May 30, 2014

Race preview: Heels & Wheels 5k

After last week's sufferfest at Woodstock, being sick Monday & Tuesday (not being able to eat anything without crippling abdominal cramps is awesome for getting down to race weight!), and generally feeling beat up and fatigued all week, what makes me think I'm ready to race a 5k?

Absolutely nothing.

I will, however, be running one. Not necessarily fast, but it's rather more important to me that I just show up and do it.

Y'see, the Heels & Wheels 5k is organized by a friend and fellow triathlete whose fate could well have been mine. He was hit by a car while out cycle training in 2011, and his life has been forever changed by that catastrophe. You can read his story here.

The Brain Injury Association of Waterloo - Wellington has been a great resource for Jan as he works through the challenges that have resulted from his crash. They provide support, advocacy and programs that aim to both prevent and help cope with acquired brain injuries - an ally for the community; an educator to youth; a wellspring of knowledge and understanding for survivors and their families & caregivers.

I ran the 5k in 2013 - its inaugural year - simply to support Jan and the BIAWW, while also being privileged to pace a friend through his first race. While I won't be pacing anyone this year, the race and its fundraising goals are just a little more poignant to me this time.

Had circumstances been a little different on May 5th, 2014, I might very well have been seeking their services myself. A great deal of luck and a bit of expanded polystyrene foam are the only reasons I'm still breathing, let alone able to swim, bike, run and race.

It will be hot. I will be slow. I'm still feeling fatigued from the Woodstock Sprint, have no plans to taper, and actually intend to cycle up to the event itself. I'll be lucky to break 30mins with the way my legs have been feeling and the big stinkin' hill in the middle, but none of that really matters.

Sunday I run because I can, and for those who cannot.

Just because I'm alive.

If you would like to donate to the BIAWW to support the excellent work they do, you can do so at this link. I wasn't bright enough to set up a page for myself, so just pick a runner and pledge them - you'll make them feel good while supporting a wonderful cause!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Woodstock Sprint Triathlon - May 25th, 2014

You know how sometimes you're positive a movie is going to suck, yet you still find yourself watching it anyway?

I got about 2.5hrs of broken sleep on Saturday night, which is coincidentally about the amount of training I did on Saturday during the day. A seriously poorly planned run on a very challenging trail had knackered me right out, so I knew better than to hope for much in the way of performance, but after waking up around 2.45am I just couldn't get back to sleep. I laid in bed until 5:45am, then got up to make myself breakfast.

Oh, joy - knee and back are already grumpy. I munched a half-toasted bagel and contemplated just going back to bed, but figured I'd already paid for the race. Got Tanker out of bed, loaded up all of my gear, grabbed coffee and buggered off to Woodstock - I'd just have to rely on pudding power.

It was cold. I got myself an end rack position, then apparently tried out some dance moves to warm up.

I have no idea what I'm doing here, so I'll just wave.

Now vogue.

I saw a few people I know, and said hello. Visited the portajohns a couple of times, and walked the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run paths I'd need to remember in order to find my stuff. I laid everything out in my usual methodical fashion, because my idiocy when racing knows no bounds. Proper setup = fewer chances to screw up.

The key is to outsmart myself in advance.
Unfortunately, I'm poorly equipped for the task.

With a half hour left before the start, I knew I had to get my wetsuit on and get in the frigid water. While the temperature near the shore was reported as 16c/61f, they'd taken a measurement out in the middle of the lake as well: 14c/57f. I almost wish they hadn't told me. Trust the chub indeed.

How the hell am I supposed to pack all this flub into this tiny thing?


I eventually managed to cram myself into my rubbery coating, then had to get Tanker to zip up both my trisuit and my wetsuit for me. In an unforeseen development, my left knee had decided it hated the pressure of the neoprene, and was even hurting while walking now. This was gonna be awesome!

Also: I did my own bodymarking, and it looks like I got drunker with every number.

Into the lake, and I'm starting to shiver before I'm even in far enough for the water to flow in through the bottom of the zipper. I get my cap & goggles on, then stick my hands and wrists into the water to try to acclimatize. With less than 20mins until the race start, I'm not feeling at all confident. No open water swimming has happened yet this year. I did manage to get to something resembling race weight and spent quite a bit of time working my suit into position, but it still feels very snug as it hasn't been stretched out since last September. Um, yeah totally nothing to do with being a little over race weight.

I'm supposed to put my face in this liquid ice?

So I swam about 100 metres out, then swam that same 100 metres back. I felt like crap. I didn't seem to be acclimatizing to the water - my face just kept feeling colder and my arms started to get tired. The whole "switch to duathlon" option that had been offered by the race directors was looking pretty attractive, but damnit I was going to do this thing even if I did it poorly. So, I stood near the edge of the water and shivered while the wave before mine went off.

Tell my why "race weight" is a good thing again?

With the elites and under-30 crowd safely well out in front, I lined up near the inside start buoy and got myself back down into the water. The sun was actually warming my black rubbery coating a bit, which was nice, but I didn't want the cold water coming back in through the zip and back of my neck to be too much of a shock once I actually had to start swimming.


There was a horn. There was splashing. I dolphin-dived in the direction of the distant green turn buoy and waved my arms and legs around a bunch. Forward motion happened. Really the swim was pretty uneventful: I got stuck behind rows of feet quite a few times and had to pop my head up to try to find a way 'round (lest I be kicked in the face), I got a couple of mouthfuls of lake water, I felt freakin' cold as I got out into deeper water. Fatigue set in, but I kept on thrashing about with as much vigour as I could muster and took to breathing every stroke cycle for a few moments here and there just to try to get maximum oxygen into me. Fortunately, my stupid knee was fine with actually swimming; it just didn't like walking in the wetsuit.

Despite my lack of recent open water experience and the breathing-every-second-stroke (which can tend to throw me off course), navigation actually went pretty well. I could go a dozen or so stroke cycles between sighting without doing the fabulous zig-zag that has plagued many of my prior triathlon swims. I came down right on top of each of the turn buoys and got 'round them fairly effectively. I was really tired by the time I hit the first one, but remembered that there's a mild current running toward the second turn since you're actually swimming toward the dam. By the time you make the second turn, you're almost done, right? This is what I kept telling myself. I did actually pass a bunch of people in my wave who went out a little more vigorously than they could sustain, and even a few poor souls from the first wave who were suffering from some combination of chilly water, lack of open water experience and/or swim fitness issues.

Body contact was pretty much at a minimum - I did some unintentional fondling of people's feet, narrowly avoided a kick to the face, and had one person about 50m away from the swim exit reach over my shoulder then grab on and pull back, like they were trying to climb overtop of me. I did not appreciate this, but they disappeared almost instantly. It seemed to take forever as I stroked into the loving embrace of the big yellow banana buoys before my hand finally touched down on the bottom, and as soon as I stood up I almost wished I could keep swimming; I was a bit woozy, and stumbled around like an idiot in the water as I tried to get the neck of my wetsuit undone. The hook and loop there is really, really solid and I did poorly - I should have been trying to run up to transition, but instead I was barely walking as I flailed around at the back of my head. Eventually it occurred to me that I should move, and managed to coax my legs into a shambling trot. 

(Official photo by My Sports Shooter)

Waving to Tanker while still kinda stuck in my suit
While it felt like I'd swam pretty well, the results would tell a different story.

750 swim: 16:34 @ 2:13/100m
01:19 slower than 2013

You'd think that giant arse would help with buoyancy

Still, I was actually 10/19 in my age group, so it seems like maybe it was a slow year for most people. At least it wasn't as bad as the 17:01 I'd done in 2012. Hell, at least I didn't drown!

Into T1, where things actually went pretty well - it actually didn't look like any bikes had departed from my area of the rack yet, which is generally a pretty good sign. After the initial fight with the neck my suit stripped right off; I even managed not to tear either of the bandages off the wounds on my knee in the process! While I was sucking wind like I'd never run a step in my life, I managed to be fairly methodical about throwing on my race belt, sunglasses, helmet and cycling shoes. The first shoe was a bit of a pain as the heel kind of folded on me, but other than that no worries. I took off at a lope toward the bike exit, and discovered that the only thing my stupid knee liked less than walking in a wetsuit was running with the bike.

T1: 1:22
:01 slower than 2013

I eventually made it to the mount line, though I was running far too quickly for the official photographers to catch me (ha!) despite having to switch hands from right to left on the saddle, 'cause that's something I always forget. I ran past the line a bit, then things started working for me: I had remembered (for once) to rack my bike with the non-drive side pedal up so it was super easy for me to step in, I had no problems getting my other foot clipped in, and I got my cycle computer started right away. I'd even racked in a reasonable gear for the huge climb (and my tired legs)! I sat up as I ground my way through the gravel-strewn 160 degree turn, then up the big hill and out of the park, thanking the volunteers along the way.

Finding my way to flatter ground and sipping from my aero bottle full of eLoad sport drink, I did actually make it into the big ring and managed to stay there for most of the bike course. I was getting passed a lot, but I was doing some passing as well, and some of the people I passed weren't even on mountain bikes. My legs didn't have a whole lot, but at least the wind was fairly light and it was a nice day. I couldn't properly feel my feet, but that's nothing new - after doing Lakeside a couple of times, you kind of get inured to extremities being numbed by cold. I made it through the first 5k in about 11:3X - not great, but there is that big steenkin' hill.

So I'm riding along and a couple of vehicles come past me - a car and a red pickup truck. I don't know what is going on ahead of them, but they slow down a lot and this truck is taking up the whole lane. I have to slow in behind him because there's no way I can get past safely. Oh, ok - a car seems to have been turning off ahead. Now they're out of the way I should be good, as the truck has picked up speed again. Then he slows again, and I'm right along side him, petrified I'm going to get run off the road. He picks up some more speed, gets ahead of me, and then gets stopped at the intersection where the course turns right to head to the turn-around. Of course the police have stopped him to let other, faster athletes make their turns to head back to the race site...but this bugger has stopped RIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE ROAD. There's maybe an inch between his wheel and the pavement, which is bordered by a couple of feet of deep poured gravel. Even when I'm not getting over a high-velocity rendez-vous with a car hood, I wouldn't attempt cyclocross with my tri bike. So, myself and at least 3 other athletes were forced to brake hard, unclip, and dab our way through the gravel to make the turn.

Because I really needed something else to slow me down.
Once I got past the turning, I had to stomp pretty hard to get pedals turning again - I'd been pushing a decent-sized gear when all this happened and was more concerned with getting out of aero and on the brakes than downshifting. Damn my sense of self-preservation! I eventually settled back in, but my quads were now talking pretty loudly. I finally made the turn-around at 10k, took it rather gingerly to avoid any mishaps, and headed back toward Pittock.

The rest of the ride was without incident, despite a couple of people nearly getting a mouthful of my rear wheel because they couldn't be stuffed to give any sign they were coming up to pass as I tried to avoid cracks or stones on the road. I sipped my eLoad, cursed the rising wind, thanked the police & volunteers and managed to reel in a couple more people. Finally hitting the downhill into the park, I was aghast as I watched a female athlete ahead of me pass another competitor in the (highly emphasized by race staff) NO PASSING ZONE coming up to the 160 degree turn. I yelled at them, but they probably didn't hear me and clearly had no regard for other racers anyway. 

So I hid behind a sign.

I slowed right down for the sharp curve, only to discover the gravel was gone - Tanker told me later that he and some race staff had done some hard work with brooms to clean it up. Thanks babe! In any case, I came in toward the dismount line at a leisurely pace, and carefully unclipped before swinging my leg over the saddle (which made my back complain a bit) just in time to watch the racer directly ahead of me crater, both he and his bike doing an unceremonious flip. I decided to come almost to a stop before stepping down, as I'd only rode my tri bike one other time so far in the last 8 months - I made it without incident, asked if the other fellow was ok (he assured me he was fine, and was getting back to his feet), and trundled off toward transition. I was seriously fatigued by this point, and knew I wouldn't have much left for the final leg.

Not pro, but I remained the right way up.

20k bike: 44:57 @ 26.8kph
0:31 slower than 2013 

It actually looks like I'm running!

My knee screamed bloody murder as I ran down the slope toward my gear, pleased to find that my end of the rack was still mostly empty by the time I got there - I must have been among a bunch of duathletes or something, as this was totally false reassurance. I hung the bike by the brake levers, whipped off shoes and helmet, and managed to slip into my tri loafers without much trouble. I'd actually had a secret fear about T2: my right big toenail is currently hanging on by a thread, and the 2nd toenail is also in pretty poor condition. I'd been having visions of trying to slip on my laceless shoes in transition and flipping one or both of them back, potentially tearing them right off as I collapsed into a heap of screaming pain.

This did not happen. That's about the only good thing that can be said for the rest of the race.

T2: 1:01
0:08 slower than 2013

Off I went to meet my fate on the run course. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the heat was definitely building. Just getting to the run exit and putting on my hat was a trial, then I had to run up the rise to the double-track driveway out to the dam, directly into the ever-stronger wind. It took me about a week and a half to make it to the 1km marker.

I was death whistling. I was hot. I felt fat and out of shape.

None of this improved.

Somehow I made it across the dam, then had to endure the horrible pain in my knee as I descended on the trail along the river. I couldn't open my stride at all - it just hurt too damn much. I just minced on down, then kept on trucking as best I could. The heat was really oppressive, and I just wanted to be done. I made the climb up to the road without walking (which is a bloody big victory, given how I was feeling), then trotted up the false flat to the turn-around and headed back toward the finish line, smelling Lily of the Valley growing along the road as I gasped for air.

Don't let the smile fool you.

Reaching the gate to the trail again, I grabbed a cup of HEED from a volunteer, had a sip, then chucked the cup and concentrated on getting down the hill without wrecking my poor idiot knee. All too quickly, the sharp climb up to the dam hove into view, and I just barely managed to make it up without walking...though I might have been faster if I did.

Across the dam once more, I actually started to feel just a little bit like I was able to run - the death whistling didn't stop and I still felt fat and out of shape, but at least I seemed to be making a bit of progress.

And t-rexing like friggin' crazy.
Of course, with only 1k left to go, finding my legs at last wasn't going to do me a whole lot of good. I finally made it to the last turn to the finish, hit the downhill and saw 1:32:xx on the clock. With absolutely no kick at all I waddled across the line and got my handshake from MultiSport Canada race director John Salt.

At least my suit is stylish.
5k run: 29:03 @ 5:49/km
0:10 faster than 2013
(I always run like crap at Woodstock)

Just enough wherewithal to flash the ill advised racing gang sign.
(Official photo from My Sports Shooter)

Total time: 1:32:55 - 16/19 in W35-39, 58/84 Women, 224/281 O/A

I wasn't feeling too bad about being 01:50 slower than 2013, until I saw the results - that lousy swim time burns me, since I've really been doing quite well in the pool and at races over the last year, and it's never a joy to find out you're in the bottom of your age group, gender AND overall. It's not like I had delusions of making the podium, but man, knowing that I could only beat 20% of the field (some of whom really were on mountain and hybrid bikes or swimming without wetsuits) kinda blows. I could whine about losing 30s-1min from the truck cutting me off, but at the end of the day you race what the conditions give you. It's also a matter of who shows up - looks like last year the same overall time would have got me 7/15 in the W35-39 age group and 48/94 women. At least this wasn't a race I'd spent months building for, though some day I really am going to put more focus on it and crack 90mins here.

I'd have liked to do the Vanderkitten suit a little more justice.

Nonetheless, it made for a decent training day, and all of the non-fitness stuff actually went pretty well - just not enough fat to keep me warm on the swim, but too much to haul around on the run. I'm not doing another full tri (some stand-alone running or cycling, then a relay with Tanker) until Mine Over Matter in July, though, so now it's time to dig in and build some fitness so the rest of the season can be a little less of a let-down. 

Fortunately my incredible fan club doesn't judge me by my results.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Starting with a sow's ear

Sunday marks the start of the Southern Ontario triathlon season with MultiSport Canada's fourth annual festival of hypothermic premonitions - also known as the Woodstock Triathlon Weekend.

I'm "racing" the sprint, which for the second year is an actual half-Olympic consisting of a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. I used to race the 750m-30k-7.5k distance, but that was discontinued last year. Current PR at the standard sprint sits at 1:31:06 from Woodstock 2013 - the only time I've actually raced that particular format.

One of my goals this year was to break 90mins at this race. I mean really, I had hoped to go sub-90 last year but had a bit of a preparation fail.

I don't think it's happening this year, either. Come, let us count the ways in which I've screwed myself..

1) This is just 4 weeks after the Waterloo Marathon. Conventional wisdom says 1 day of recovery is required for every mile of racing, so call that 26 days. My own experience says it takes me about a week to recover from every hour of racing, which puts it more like 30 days (4.25 weeks). In either case, I'm either on the brink of having my legs back under me, or not quite there yet - certainly not ready to give'er 100% on a tough course. I get tired easily, and even as of last night's run pushing the pace just feels really, really hard.

2) The whole thing starts off with a swim. I had made some really good gains in the pool through consistent training 4 days per week, but due to a few different impediments I've been missing swims here and there and losing some of the improvement for which I'd fought so hard. I also haven't been in a wetsuit since the Wasaga Olympic last September - it's been too damn cold up until last weekend, when I was just too busy. Water temperature may be a factor, too: current readings at Pittock say the lake is 16c - even chillier than the 17c it was last year at race time. Yikes. I will have to TRUST THE CHUB once more, though there is slightly less of it (which is a win for the rest of the season, but perhaps not that awesome for Sunday).

Probable swim exit condition...assuming I even make it that far.

3) Best case scenario: I manage to exit the water without drowning or freezing to death. Then I'll have to ride a bike for awhile, and I haven't done that much lately. The cycling that would have had to happen in order to be competitive in the hills on this course has not occurred. It's a jerk, and I am weak. With the massive run focus I put in for Around the Bay and the Waterloo Marathon, I've run more distance than I've pedaled in 2014 - only have 715km on bikes for the year so far, mostly on the trainer or easy commuter mileage on my old mountain bike. It has been one of the latest and crappiest springs in anyone's memory, which hasn't exactly been conducive to racking up the big ring hill repeats.

I did my longest outdoor rides of the year so far on Sunday & Monday, so 7 and 6 days respectively out from race day. Sunday's ride? A whopping 20km. In my defense, it was actually on my tri bike...for the first time since snapping my chain at the Wasaga Beach Olympic last September.

At least I've cycled & run in the new Vanderkitten tri suit before race day.
Fortunately, it went well. No issues riding in aero, despite the bruising and road rash on my elbows (until afterwards, when my neck and shoulders decided I was treating them poorly), no problems with the new chain or shifting, and I managed to figure out I had a ding in my front wheel's non-drive-side brake track that needed attention before race day. Don't know exactly how it happened, but I could hear it munching on my brake pad with every revolution of the wheel when I'd try to slow or stop - on the bright side, it only took a few minutes with a file and some fine grit wet sandpaper to smooth it out. I do not want braking issues on the big stinkin' hill back into Pittock Conservation Area.

So I can stop on the bike with confidence. I have somewhat less faith in my ability to make it go with any alacrity.

I did manage to give Snorky 65km of trail love on Monday, though.

4) There's the minor detail that I crashed hard and then got hit by a gawddamn car within about 55 hours of each other, 3 weeks or less prior to race day. My right lower back/hip is still grouchy at times, and my left knee is not a fan of running. It thinks it kind of sucks, and complains bitterly about it, particularly when I run down hills. While the road rash is all in a state with which I'm comfortable leaving it uncovered (and regularly moisturised), I'm still sporting a couple of pretty deep gouges in my whiny knee. I'm having visions of trying to strip off my wetsuit in T1 and ripping bandages off along with the neoprene. I'm also a bit wary of having any of my myriad bruises freshened up by flailing limbs during the swim - noone needs a mouthful of lake water while trying to scream as someone's elbow connects with one of my black & blue bits.

5) I've actually got even less sleep than usual this week (just like last year), despite knowing that the absolute best thing for my beat-up, worn-out body is rest. I am bad at things.

6) My "taper" has consisted of not bringing my bike to work on Wednesday because they said it would thunderstorm. It didn't, which pissed me off, despite a serious case of the tiredz and sore legz. Other than that, I'm just training through this one - I don't have much from which to taper in the first place, what with having taken a week off swimming after donating blood on the trail, then a week off running after establishing that car hoods make crappy trampolines. I might as well just use this as a hard workout to try to build fitness for Welland, Mine Over Matter and Belwood.

I actually doubted for awhile that I'd be able to race at all, and considered contacting MultiSport Canada to try to change my entry to a different race later in the year, or maybe just defer until 2015 - after all, it was only going to be 20 days after becoming intimately acquainted with the front end of an Acura 3G. Then I realised that I'd raced the Lakeside Olympic in 2012 just 3 weeks after snapping my wrist, and remembered how much I'd enjoyed the experience of racing with no pressure. What do I really have to lose?

And the run course is pretty.

This will be no silk purse, darlings, but it may just be a lot of fun.

I'm just happy to be alive to do it!

Friday, May 16, 2014

My mate Snorky

When I got smoked from behind by a car last week, I was riding my cyclocross bike. While my tri bike tends to get all the flashy attention (because I am, after all, primarily a triathlon dork), my 'cross bike is my workhorse and my ticket to some of the most wonderful rides I've ever had.

August 11th, 2010 - just arrived at his new home!

I spotted him out front of The Hub Bicycle Shop in Hespeler one August evening - resplendent in my beloved country's red and white, he looked to be just my size. The shop had advertised amazing deals available, so we'd stopped in to have a look, but this sweetheart caught my eye as he sat racked on the sidewalk. I saw that he wasn't brand new - there were a few signs of wear - but I had to ask about him.

He'd been a demo model for the shop, but was now up for sale at half the MSRP. I'd been looking for a cyclocross bike, as all I had at in my quiver at the time were my time trial/triathlon bike (a bit high strung for everyday riding, and certainly not at home anywhere but pavement) and my old rigid steel mountain bike (which was not exactly suited to racking up the training miles on the road). A moment later a set of flat pedals had been spun onto the crankarms and I could take him for a test ride..

We'd headed over straight from work, so I wasn't exactly dressed for the occasion. Tanker still rues not having got a photo of that test ride, though it has burned itself into his memory. In a probably-too-short skirt and no helmet at all, I pounded the pedals through the hills of Hespeler village, my unfettered hair streaming out behind my helmetless head. It was a moment of childlike bliss as I flew through the streets, the bike translating the staccato beat of my legs into an intoxicating wind in my face.

It was love.

First real ride, though still with flat pedals.

It was still more money than I could really afford, but Tanker insisted I must have it - our anniversary had been just a couple of days previous, and he said this would be my gift from him. I married a keeper, and that day acquired another one. He was fast, gorgeous, and even made by a Canadian company!

As the days and months passed, I modified the bike a little and came to enjoy it a lot. It opened up new possibilities to me as I now had a ride that could go almost anywhere - he was equally happy on the roads and most of the local trails, so I could take Tanker (on his own CX bike) exploring both near and far. We rode 100km to Wilkes Dam in Brantford and back via rail trail, we rode to the farmers' market in town, we rode for coffee, we rode in the Tour de Grand and we rode through the mud of Paris to Ancaster.

I even threw on my tri bike's wheels and rode it in the Cambridge Crit

P2A 2011
P2A 2012

P2A 2013

I rode my one and only true century on the bike that came to be called Snorky, on the hottest day I think I've ever experienced. I've rode him in the snow and weather cold enough to make my bottles freeze up. He's always ready to go for a ride, and has never let me down.

161km at the 2012 Tour de Grand

Wheeling along at the 2013 Tour de Grand

The poor bike even deals with this indignity most of the winter

When I was hit last Monday, I had no idea what the damage might be to good old reliable Snorky. His rear wheel was certainly destroyed, but I felt like I'd absorbed most of the impact from the hood of the car and subsequent skid on the ground (I still have some fascinating bruises and bits of me that are not yet entirely functional) - his bar tape hadn't even been torn, and the frame looked ok. I wasn't going to rely on "looks like", though, so last Saturday he was delivered to the caring hands at The Hub for a thorough inspection.

Never bring a bike to a car fight

After a few days of anxious waiting (sorry for the million text messages Cliff!), my old friend and battle partner was checked over and found to need...

..a new barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur.

He lives!

It seems that between the rear wheel and I, we successfully cushioned the frame from bending out of shape or cracking. It was like finding out a beloved pet doesn't need to be put down - he just needs a new collar and leash!

(Tour de Grand 2011)

Thanks to my incredible mom & husband, I'll even be getting a spanky new wheelset to replace the writeoff rear and make him even prettier.

These will practically turn him into a ghost bike, which seems appropriate somehow.

So we're going to pick Snorky up from the shop again on Saturday, and soon I'll be tearing up the roads and trails with my ever-eager pal once more. I see blue skies and summer clouds, leaf buds opening and flowers in bloom all over the place. It's the absolute most inspiring time for cycling, and I can't wait to go for a rip!

The trails are calling!

Before I even take a single pedal stroke, though I probably won't be able to help but show my buddy a little bit of love.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The in-flight service sucks, but the landings really are the worst

..when you fly "falling off your bike" airlines.

In a grouchy mood due to unrelated things, I set off Saturday afternoon for a ride on my mountain bike. I didn't know exactly where I was going, just that I needed to get out for a rip despite the wet roads and threatening skies. I pedaled out of my neighbourhood, went screaming down Shantz Hill, and flew through Riverside Park to the boardwalk where the trail splits to go into the marsh, across the river, or down a set of stairs to the trail that stays in the park.

Only the stairs had been replaced by a ramp. Excellent! I veered left to give the new ramp a try, and suddenly I was on my side on the wood.


Damn puddle was my undoing!

So yeah, wet wood is slippery. My rear wheel was just suddenly gone from under me, and I was sent sprawling. While the bike was fine, there was some damage to me.

Bruised and scraped

Pretty deep gouge through my knee warmer

I picked myself up, messaged Tanker to tell him I'd taken a spill, and he offered me a ride home. Having got less than 5mins into my ride, I wasn't quite ready to give up yet. I paced around a bit and got myself calmed down, then pedaled off down the ramp toward what Tank and I refer at as "the bunny fields". Finding nothing but a quagmire of mud after a couple of hundred metres, I turned around and VERY CAUTIOUSLY rode back over the boardwalk and across the bridge to the rest of the Mill Run Trail. My knee and elbow were feeling ok (though my knee continued to bleed a bit), and I was starting to feel a little more comfortable on my bike. Passing through a section of woods where it's fairly open beside the trail, I actually turned around and left the path to do a little bumping around in the forest. I was somewhat petrified, but had a bit of fun and came to no harm. I turned around again and rode a little more off-piste, then continued across Beaverdale Road to the Hespeler end of the trail as light rain set in.

This was in rather bad condition in places, so I had to dismount and walk the bike over a couple of footbridges that had been badly dislodged by the rough winter and flooding we'd had recently.

Eeeh, no thanks - I'll walk.
Making it safely to the other end of the trail, I decided to ride on a bit to go visit the friendly folks at The Hub Bicycle Shop on Queen Street to get out of the rain and maybe clean myself up a bit. I was met with the usual comradely jabs about "just rubbing some mud in it" and of course some sympathy over the Teflon-like properties of wet wood. I dabbed at the knee a bit with some napkins while I chatted, but things had pretty well congealed by then and my longsleeve Vanderkitten jersey was doing a good job of protecting my elbow. I messaged Tanker to tell him I was at The Hub and he offered again to pick me up, but I figured I'd just ride back. Why not?

I actually had a really pleasant rip back home, exactly the way I'd come, though the trail was getting muddier by the minute as the rain seemed to have settled in. By the time I got home my bike and I were completely coated!

Can you tell I don't have a fender?

Muddy kitten!
I gave the bike a good wash and rinse before bringing it in, then went out for a short run. Eventually, I did head up to the bathroom to patch myself up.

But the bike is clean, because priorities.
All dressed up.
With fresh gouges out of me, I figured the pool wasn't a great idea, so I called it a day for training. The next day we got a ridiculous amount of stuff done around the house (installed 2 new smoke detectors and a new carbon monoxide detector; planted dahlias, onions & a blueberry bush; removed the old & installed a new range hood; replaced a faulty electrical outlet in the kitchen; comparison shopped for and bought a new chainsaw), then I pulled my cyclocross bike off the trainer for the first time this year and headed out with Tanker for a sunset ride.

We had a lovely time, and I managed another short run afterwards. My knee was a little creaky and whinged  a bit during the run, but felt more or less ok - cycling had been just fine. I decided to challenge myself to ride a bike every day this week (except Friday, which is date night) since I probably wouldn't be going to the pool until at least the weekend.

Monday evening I was feeling a bit banged up from Saturday's wipeout and wondered if I should just take the evening off - there were some dark, surly-looking clouds in the area, too. Then I remembered my challenge, and when the radar check showed no precipitation in the area, I kitted up, turned on my big visible-from-space rear blinky light, and rolled off to ride either my 15k or 20k route just to get a sense of where my legs were at.

My fashion sense was clearly impeccable.

My gateway to both loops is King Street, and I have to pass the 401 interchange there in the first few minutes of my ride in that direction. I was pedaling Northwest on King, watching the traffic coming off the freeway - I paused at the delta of the first off-ramp to let a car go ahead, then moved to the curb as always. As I approached the second off-ramp I noticed a car coming; a second shoulder check as I approached the end of the median showed I had plenty of time to move over, so I signaled with my right hand and whipped up the pedals to accelerate as I crossed to the curb.

Endomondo data.

A horn blared behind me, and suddenly the world was a very confusing and painful place.

I picked myself up off my left (non-drive) side from the gravelly paved shoulder beside the end of the off-ramp, and saw the white car that had been coming down the ramp parked on the shoulder behind my bike.

My poor, poor bike.
The tire originally stayed on the rim, but the tube blew out shortly afterward.

The mark from my rear tire on the driver's bumper.

I called Tanker to let him know I'd need a ride, and a lady came over who said she'd witnessed the whole thing. She urged me to call 911, which I did as soon as I'd got off the phone with my husband. I told the dispatcher that I didn't need an ambulance, but to please send a police officer to sort things out.

I was very sore down my right side - I'd felt a nasty impact on my right hip/lower back & shoulder, and whacked my head really hard. My helmet, though cracked in 4 places, had probably saved my life. It took me ages to figure out that, since I hit hard on my right but have no road rash there, and had to pick myself up off the ground on my left side (which did have some fresh road rash, along with my back), I must have initially bounced off the hood of the driver's car and then fallen on the shoulder once he stopped. Tanker tells me there are dents in the hood of the car. I didn't notice them, but the light was starting to fade.

And the moon came out.

A retired army medic stopped as a good samaritan and did an initial assessment, then a paramedic that happened to be coming past stopped and did a little more thorough checkup on me. He asked if I'd called 911, and I mentioned I had, but wasn't sure why the police hadn't come yet - it had been close to an hour, and we were less than a 3min drive from police headquarters. He radioed in and an officer arrived within a few minutes. The paramedic urged me to take an ambulance ride, but I said that Tanker would drive me down to the hospital - I was made to swear that I'd go, but I wasn't going to resist after a big knock on the head and not knowing when my last tetanus shot had been. He had me sign a form stating he'd treated me at the scene and I'd declined ambulance support, then went along his way.

The officer took a statement from the witness, then bundled the driver and I into the back seat of his cruiser. The driver made his statement first: said he'd seen me approaching as he was doing "40 to 45kph" down the ramp (I call bullshit - everyone takes that ramp at 65+kph, and that's what it looked like during my 2 shoulder checks), and seen the lady who stopped as a witness approaching in her car. He claims he tried to slow down to let me past "because the bicycle has the right of way", then tried to "fit his car in between the bike and the other car" and braked as hard as he could when I came over.

Not to scale.

Now, I know for sure that if he'd slowed or even maintained speed I would have made it safely across to the curb. What sounds way more likely to me is that he stepped on the gas trying to merge in front of the brownish car driven by the kindly lady who witnessed it all. I have no idea what her statement said: I was still being checked over by the paramedic.

That's not going to buff out.

The driver was released from the back of the cruiser, and I was cautioned that I may be charged with "changing lanes - out of safety". I advised I understood, and gave my statement, after which I was handed a ticket for $110 for the aforementioned charge. I pleaded that I'd ensured through shoulder checks that I had space to move (not able to account for the driver suddenly speeding up), had yielded to a car at the previous off-ramp just seconds before the crash, had signaled my intention, and was simply trying to comply with the Highway Traffic Act section that states all slower-moving traffic must move as far to the right as possible. The officer claimed that since the driver and I both agreed the crash took place in the off-ramp lane, I was deemed to have made an improper lane change; had I continued down the yellow dotted line in the right lane of King Street and the driver had hit me, he would be at fault.

Just ducky. A torn jersey and bib shorts (the former repairable, the latter probably not), a helmet fit only for the rubbish, and a demolished rear wheel to a ticket with $110 fine.

Super impressed.
The best part of all? Tanker tells me that the driver and his girlfriend (who arrived at the scene before the police did) were standing around laughing as I was being ticketed. Real nice guy, that. At least he stopped.

Now almost 10pm, Tank took me home so I could change out of my torn cycling kit (in which I was freezing to death) and grab my health card. We also took a couple of minutes to soak the plain cotton gauze pad the paramedic had put on the road rash on my butt so I could remove it without screaming, and replaced it with some non-stick gauze pads to protect it. My back, neck, shoulder and head were the worst, though: every move I made seemed to cause something to hurt.

It seems I skidded a bit on the back of my head.

Definitely only fit for the trash.

Major impact area by right temple.
So glad it did its job.

Down to Cambridge Memorial Hospital with a banana in my pocket (since I'd had nothing but half an apple and a medjool date since my salad at 4pm), I decided against eating in case there was some reason for me not to do so - I'd been warned against eating or drinking when I broke my wrist. I did continue to hydrate, though. I was asked to provide urine samples, so good thing! We waited and waited, as the clock ticked past 2am and I alternately sat, stood and paced a bit, trying to find a way to be comfortable. I was called in to the triage nurse area to check vitals, and they took some pity on me - I was given a shot of Toradol which made my arm ache horribly and made my headache worse, but eventually loosened things in my back and neck up a little. Around 3am, hearing that one of the other waiting patients had been there since 5pm, I finally sent Tanker home: he was falling asleep in his chair and acceded that both of us being injured in a car accident on the way home due to him driving sleep deprived was not a good option. I promised to call as soon as I knew anything, and finally ate the damn banana to try to keep me awake.

Vitals were checked again around 4am, and the triage nurse apologized and asked if he could get anything for me - I requested a blanket, as I was getting cold despite my hoodie and jacket. By 4:30 I was falling asleep in my chair, trying to prop myself up with my chin in my hand but wincing every time I'd nod off and start to fall forward. My neck wouldn't let me just lean back, and my back wouldn't let me try to curl up. I played the nod-off game over and over until I was finally awoken by my name being called just after 6am - they had a room for me at last.

I drew this Monday morning.
I don't think I'll draw anything like this again.

Into the room and into a hospital down over my thin pyjama pants, I wrapped myself in the blanket and dozed off on the bed until the doctor woke me up a little after 7am. He checked me over, advised I was probably unbroken because of the way I was moving, but said he'd do a series of xrays anyway as courts and insurers tend to take things more seriously if imaging is done. He assessed the road rash (both new and old), took a look at the mysterious puncture wound in the back of my left knee (maybe from a broken spoke?), and advised I'd be getting a tetanus shot "on the house". Just to add further insult to injury, I had to explain to every medical professional who saw me (from the retired army medic & paramedic on scene through the triage nurses, doctor & ER nurses) that some of the road rash was from Saturday's wipeout. Nothing like enduring a whole barrage of patronizing looks and "maybe you should find a new hobby" when you're sore as hell, especially since I haven't actually hurt myself on a bike in almost 2 years.

Back to snoozyland for a little bit, then a nurse appeared around 8am to shine a flashlight in my eyes (no sign of concussion; I didn't lose consciousness at the scene) and shoot my non-Toradol'd arm full of tetanus proofing. She led me off to diagnostic imaging afterward, where I had to try to remove as many of my piercings as possible to get clear shots of my neck from various angles. I also had an xray done of my pelvis, though it was taken through the front, not from the rear (where I actually landed).

Back to the ER area, I was seated in a hallway and a nurse was asked to dress my wounds. While she did so, Tanker appeared at the doorway, having been woken up by his regular alarm. We chatted while the nurse bandaged me up (with plain cotton gauze again, despite the doctor and I both requesting hydrocolloid dressings), then another nurse told me I was to go for more xrays when I was done. Fortunately I now had Tanker to carry my plastic bag full of clothes & whatnot as I trudged back over to have more shots taken of my neck, including one taken through my open mouth (hooray for having to take the piercings I'd got back in out again).


Finally released at almost 9am with prescriptions for anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and physiotherapy or massage as needed, we stopped by the drug store and got the pills, then headed home at last. After a meal and popping one of each drug, I carefully climbed into bed around 11am and proceeded to sleep through the entirety of Tuesday.

Wednesday morning I was out of bed again and off to work. I was still a bit groggy, but didn't know if it was from the knock on the melon or from sleeping too much. By Wednesday afternoon I was feeling clearer, and getting around a little easier than I had been that morning. We visited my Mum & gave her the news, then headed off to find some hydrocolloid dressings to replace the mummification job the nurse had done.

It took a lot of soaking of the cotton gauze to get it to release from my road rash on my butt and knee, but eventually we got it all sorted out and I was almost immediately more comfortable. We tried to go out for a walk, but it began to piss rain as soon as we got out the door. Ok universe, I get it - I'll take a day off.

Thursday I was back to work again, doing my bank run without issues and even able to carry a heavy basket full of groceries at the store by my office. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and I saw people everywhere walking, running and riding bikes. I was feeling better, though still too sore to even contemplate a run. Tanker and I had agreed to go for a walk once we got home.

When we arrived, I was bemoaning the fact Tanker's mountain bike was at the shop for its free tune-up - I thought it might just be possible to go for a little pedal around the neighbourhood, but I wouldn't be able to keep up if he was on his cyclocross bike. He pointed out that I actually have 2 mountain bikes (including my old rigid commuter rig) and he could ride one of them.


So we took a little spin.

Good thing I have another helmet.


The moral of this story?

Bikes are way more fun when you stay on them.

And when you can share the ride with someone you love.

Be safe out there, folks!