Home stretch

In approximately 56 hours, I’ll be flying home. Home sweet home. I can’t wait.

It’s feeling a little like the last few kilometres of a race: I am so ready to be done, and I can’t really remember too much about the start.

At home, one of my favourite things to do with the kids is to play “apples and oranges” over dinner. Or highlights and lowlights. We try to do this daily, when we remember. It’s applicable to my time here, I think.

So, herewith, are my apples and oranges from my time in Baku. In no particular order, some small, some big. I won’t assign a high or low, I’ll let you infer.

**

The weather. One day it’s humid, hot and sundress weather. The next I’m in 3 layers + a down jacket.

And the wind. Oh lord, the wind.

**

Our soviet-era dwelling, complete with faint smell of sewage and a stairwell that can only be compared so something from the set of “Lost”.

**

The constant, never ending, for no apparent reason, fucking honking.

**

Runs through narrow backstreets, dodging cars and stares, laundry, stray cats, random holes in the sidewalks, aiming to get lost, zigzagging my way through the old architecture mixed with new construction.

**

Re-connecting with some wonderful people. Meeting new ones who will remain friends. This month would have been vastly different without them.

**

Working through a language barrier that, at times, felt insurmountable. Never in my life have I used more hand gestures, scribbles and Google translate to muddle through both my day to day and my job.

My unique brand of Canadian humour didn’t always fly here.

**

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of sick of walking. I rarely get in vehicles here, walking just seems less complicated.

**

I want: fresh vegetables. Fruit that isn’t mealy. A giant salad. A grocery store I can make sense of. My regular, happy little comfy staples. I’m kind of done with rice cakes.

**

Why does construction have to go on all night here?

**

I’m quite surprised I haven’t taken up smoking. Or spitting on streets, for that matter.

**

Oh, to be in my bed, my glorious bed. In which I do not feel springs.

**

I miss nature. And green space that isn’t man-made. That I’m allowed to walk on.

**

Pantyhose. Nylons. Tights. Whatever you want to call them, it’s a wardrobe staple here, no matter the footwear. For that reason alone, I could never live here.

**

Constant noise. The quietest place I’ve found has been underwater.

**

I’m amazed that I’ve only witnessed 1 car accident. The drivers here are terrifying, and those are the good ones. I look back and can’t believe I considered bringing a bike #nochance

**

It’s been an experience here, no question. But it’s time for this homesick Canadian return to her people, and plan the next adventure. Maybe somewhere I speak the language.

Mysteries of Baku – Volume 1

It’s windy here.

I’m not talking easy-breezy. I’m talking old-man-hold-on-to-the-building windy. Unpleasant, hurt your ears windy.

Easy breezy

If I’d done my research before coming, I’d have known that Baku is also known as the “City of Wind”.

Anyway.

One of the first things I noticed here was the abundance of little old ladies, sweeping. Sweep, sweep, sweep. With no real sense of purpose. Just sweep, sweep, sweep.

Most peculiar, is that they seem to sweep on the windiest of days. It appears really they are just swirling stuff around. The other day, when it was so windy that I literally had to lean into the gale to walk, they were everywhere.

The last 2 days have been calm. The little old ladies with their brooms? Nowhere to be found.

Mystery.

Bits ‘n pieces from Baku

I’ve been in Azerbaijan for 3 days now and I’m slowly getting my bearings. My type-A side stood down on this trip, so I did very little research before arriving, and therefore I had pretty much no idea what to expect.

Actually, scratch that. I googled whether or not there was Starbucks. It’s kind of like having a security blanket to latch onto. Except that they open at 9am. Yeesh.

Anyway.

So far, Baku has managed to both delight and confound. I suppose that’s to be expected when you take a girl living in a mountain town, population 3000 and send her halfway across the world.

I mean, you can’t cross some of the streets: you have to take an escalator and go under them. Jaywalking? Not a “thing” here. Gold teeth? Totally a “thing”. Short girls with really short blond hair? Not a “thing”. Smoking? Still a “thing”.

Today, jet lag loosened its grip a little bit and I went exploring the best way I know how: by running. I woke up feeling a little bit homesick, and it seems that getting out helps a little.

The waterfront is lovely, and as I passed by walkers, runners and any number of security guards, my head swivelled around I made a mental list of things I wanted to figure out how to get to: that weird tower over there, those shiny buildings up there. It’s fun to plan adventures.

All in all, so far, so good.

I only got yelled at by a security guard once.

 

On my team and in my corner.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I suppose life is alway a little windy, but the last 30 days have vanished in a flash. Mixing training, work, racing away from home, jumping straight into a fairly big event, hiding/denying a cold and trying to find some quality time with my people  has led me to a big giant exhale…

… sitting on an airport floor, waiting to board an oversold flight to Baku, Azerbaijan.

This is totally one of those “it seemed like a great idea at the time” situations. I didn’t give much thought to the quick turnaround this adventure would require, but hey, here we are.

I kissed the kiddos goodbye as they left for school, and reminded them that I’d see them in 4 weeks or so. I was surprised and a little relieved that it was without a sense of dread and trepidation. There were no tears, no drama.

Don’t get me wrong: I miss them already with an ache that is physical. It’s hard to explain. I know from experience that it will fade a little but then come back with a vengeance just before I get home to them.

It was easier this time because, ironically, we feel like a little team and my little teammates totally have my back. When I’m in the thick of it, distracted by deadlines, obligations and work stuff, it makes me realize what a bunch of independent little humans we have raised, and how grateful I am for it. They don’t put up a fuss, it seems they know that they need to cut me some slack just when I need it most.

They get it. This is the life they know, and while it certainly isn’t perfect, it works for all of us.

The next few weeks will be filled with ridiculous text messages from Will, FaceTime homework sessions, rambling calls with Anja, breathless messages from Rory telling of his latest feat followed by I Love Yous and I Miss Yous and I’ll see You Soons.

This my team, they are totally in my corner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Oceanside 70.3: Perception vs. Perspective

As I crossed the line on Saturday at Oceanside 70.3, I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I immediately saw Jen and blurted “I’m so disappointed”.

Good lord. I felt like such a loser for crying at a finish line of an amateur event I had paid for the privilege of doing. I couldn’t even pinpoint why I was so bummed. I just was.

It took a couple of minutes to pull myself together, thankful for sunglasses to hide the evidence and the chance to meet new people and talk about something else for a bit.

Here’s how I perceived the day, “in real time”.

Swim: By the time I *finally* hit the water in the rolling start, I was shivering uncontrollably and so thankful that the water felt warmer than the air. Until the turnaround, I was a satisfied fish. And then.

*crack*

I caught an ankle squarely in the chin, bit my toungue hard enough that I could taste blood and inhaled a bunch of delicious, murky salt water. Then I barfed. So that was neat! Sorry to those fine folks behind me.

Eventually, staggered out of the water and jogged through what has to be the world’s biggest transition, fumbled around and rode away.

Bike: There was a tank crossing! I mean, Camp Pendleton and all. They take their armoury seriously, I suppose. I was pretty grumpy for a long time. I couldn’t find a rhythm, I couldn’t focus, and I was trying to stay within the zones that Liz assigned to me. I kept waiting for that sleepy, drained feeling I usually get. It wouldn’t come. Was I going too slowly? Bah. I couldn’t tell. I felt strong but I maybe I was tricking myself? Let’s just get this over with already.

Run: This was the dialogue in my brain:

Kilometers 1-15: TICK/TICK/TICK KEEP MY LITTLE FEET GOING TICK/TICK/TICK EAT SOMETHING THAT COKE WASN’T FLAT *BURP*

Kilometers 15.1-19.1: UUUUUUUNNNNNHHHHH NO NO NO NO MORE.

Kilometers 19.1-21.1: Don’tcrydon’tcrydon’tcry if you cry you can’t breathe I think I’m making a really ugly face don’tcrydon’tcry dammit I think this course is long.

And then it was over.

Fast forward an hour or so. I didn’t know how (numbers-wise) the day had gone. I was still feeling pretty ambivalent about it and then I texted Liz… lo and behold, welcome the objective perspective.

She gave me her view on the event, “as seen from her bike”, as she virtually watched my race from the discomfort of her bike trainer. Her view was far more positive than mine and hearing that pulled me out of my funk. Maybe I didn’t need to quit this silly sport after all.

The reality is that I did indeed have a shit swim, but I put together a good bike and a solid run. I actually raced, like we’d talked about me doing. I didn’t give up, stuck to the plan. I have something to build on. Battled my own demons all day. I may not have won against them, but I held my own. It took me a few hours to realize that.

I still haven’t looked at the results, but I know that I ended up 7th, clawing my way back through the field after the swim. And while my goal had been top 5, I ended up with what I wanted: a spot to the World Championships.

By sheer force of waiting around.

Next up? Tightening my race director hat and getting back to it for Coeur d’Alene 70.3.

Oh. And a little month long jaunt to Azerbaijan.

I’ll wait while you look it up.

 

Blizzard of blahs

What do you know… something like 65 centimetres (25 inches) of snow has fallen in the last 48 hours. Granted, I was in a conference room in Florida when this all happened, but still. Winter is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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It’s cruel when you can see it but you can’t actually touch it…

Is there anything redeeming about the month of February? I mean, besides the fact that it has 28 days instead of 31? Nope. January is all full of post-Christmas attitude and goals. March has hints of spring and noticeably longer days.

February? It’s got Valentines Day, and we all can guess how I feel about that.fullsizerender-1Somewhere between the end of January and now, I got sick again and have misplaced my mojo. My desire to stay under the blankets and daydreaming about warm sun and green grass is kind of overwhelming. I’d like to let my shoes and bike gather dust… but then I’m quickly reminded that I have a race to look forward to in about 7 weeks.

Maybe I’ll ski some neck deep powder this weekend and all will be right in the world again.

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Moments in the Lone Star State

Can we all just agree that race reports are boring? Unless accompanied by a lot of photos and human interest filler, I lose interest pretty quickly. Mostly because tales of watts and nutrition bore me. So I shall endeavour to keep this short, sweet and with lots of photos and useless and completely unrelated movie quotes.

The lead up

As summer wound down, work slowed a little and the dependants went back to school, I was able to focus a bit more on training. It was… condensed. Not quite off the couch, but still. Am I getting too old to do it this way? Maybe.

The Lone Star State

Last time I went to Texas, I said I wouldn’t go back anytime soon. Well, surprise! I lied. Austin fit into my life, and as I’ve gone on and on about, I was super excited about my little camper.

Turns out travelling solo was fine, but it added an air of seriousness to the race that I didn’t really want. Part of racing is being social and hanging out with friends. In this case, I kind of folded inward and didn’t make much effort to be social. I did my thing, caught up on rest, read and pretended I could totally fit my life into tiny home living.

Talk to me, Goose.

Fast forward to race morning, and watching the fog settle onto the lake. I wandered aimlessly, peed behind trees (it was foggy! No one could see me!) and went to find friends working the race who could give me the goods. Sure enough, I learned the quick way to be careful what you wish for: swim cancelled… Surprisingly, I wasn’t super happy about this. I mean, I had a new wetsuit to try!

You’re ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash

Onto the bike, I thought I felt good. I trucked along, kept and eye on the über bumpy road and my numbers and, as it turns out, totally over-biked. Woo! Also, I hit myself in the face with a flying water bottle.

Good morning gentlemen, it’s 110 degrees

That about sums up the run. Heart rate sky high, melting from the inside out, running in circles through the rodeo grounds. Extremely grateful for the unicorn hat that created a little bubble. Also, my aim for cups into trash bins was exceptional at this race. Was it the most scenic of runs? Nooooo. Did I stick to my race plan? Also, nooooo. It wasn’t for lack of trying.

I refuse to pay $25 for this photo. Also, when this lucky bra disintegrates, I will cry.
I refuse to pay $25 for this photo. Also, when this lucky bra disintegrates, I will cry.

Great balls of fire

Stumble across the air conditioned finish line, see double for a few minutes, cool down, regain composure, meet up with friends, beer, burger, juan pelota, eat some more, netflix and bed.

All in all, just another Sunday in the Lone Star State.

Hello, off season.

Just the facts:

Swim: 0:00 PR

Bike: 2:42:10 Meh.

Run: 1:53 Oopsie Daisy.

6th AG.

Solo Mission

I do a lot of stuff alone, particularly when it comes to sport. I mostly train alone and have never played team sports. All that togetherness and camaraderie, it’s all very intimidating and so not me.

The closest I come to Team Sports.
The closest I come to Team Sports.

Don’t get me wrong. I love running and riding with my friends when I can, mostly because it’s a fairly rare treat. I even like swimming with friends (we know how that goes – you chat for 30 seconds at the end of the lane then debate where to have post-swim coffee).

Perhaps what makes training alone so rewarding is the culmination of it all, which for me traditionally results in a trip somewhere with a bunch of friends to do whatever race or event you’re gunning for. You prep together, analyze the forecast together, etc etc. And of course, post-race beers. Post-race beers are the best beers.

Now, here’s a question.

Am I going to still have post-race beers after Austin?

Because Austin is the first time ever (I think) that I am going to a race completely by myself. Like a big girl.

I can’t even recall the last time I even went to a 10km running race where I didn’t at least have an acquaintance to chat with on the start line! Maybe I’ve been spoiled. Anyway.

Austin fit into the schedule for me and initially, I was pretty convinced in my own powers of persuasion and that I’d talk some friends into coming with. Well, lo and behold, people have lives beyond a triathlon that I picked that suited me. And so, here I am. Solo mission.

There’s a part of me that’s super excited to have 5 days alone with no one to think of but myself (hello, selfish triathlete nature), to live in my little vintage camper that I scored (no one over 6ft allowed) and to do what I want, when I want, particularly if that means having breakfast for dinner.

However.

There’s a part of me that is already fretting. Who’s going to remind me to bring body glide to the start? What if I sleep through my alarm? What am I going to wear? There are 2 transitions! I have a headache already. Who is the first person I am going to talk to at the finish line?! Am I just going to follow some randoms to the closest brewery?

“Hi folks! I’m Canadian! Can I have a post-race beer with y’all?”

Man alive, you’d think I’d never been anywhere on my own, ever.

Time to put on my big girl pants. Sheesh.

My teeny home away from home.
My teeny home away from home.

 

Consistently inconsistent

I mentioned this briefly in my last post.

Has anyone seen my giddy-up? You’d think that with a break in racing and structured training, I’d be raring to go. Seems I work the opposite way: the less I do, the easier it gets to skip the next workout. The more consistent I am, the more consistent I want to be.

**Noted: same goes for blogging. Or keeping the house clean. Or getting work done. Yeesh!

Lately, every time I make up mind to get back to it, in some way, I get jolted into some stupid stop-start routine. Typically, it’s about 4 days of training followed by 4-5 days of travel/work/etc. that wipe away any progress made whatsoever. It doesn’t help that my drive is driven (see what I did there?) mostly by incentive (races, adventures, etc.) With nothing on the calendar to give me a kick in the pants, it was too easy to kick back and do nothing.

Also? Event food is the worst when you are tired and will power is at level nil #allthecandy.

Therefore, I can summarize training this summer as consistently inconsistent.

My options were: continue to try to get my act together without a looming race (success level: negligible), or sign up and have a race loom (success level: TBD).

So it’s a trip back to Texas for me. It fits the work schedule and it’s far enough away that the looming isn’t so… loomy.

Onwards.

I hear the roads in Austin are bumpy. Getting a head start.
I hear the roads in Austin are bumpy. Getting a head start.

 

Invictus Games 2016

Snippets from my 2 weeks at Invictus Orlando:

Days were long, hot, sweaty, stressful, tiring, a mad rush, long waits, flurries of activity. I was alternately elated and frustrated, buzzing with energy and exhausted. But the Invictus Games were nothing short of inspiring and gave me a whole new level of perspective. Many of these men and women shouldn’t be alive, let alone smashing themselves in wheelchair rugby or diving into that beautiful pool. 

I saw an alligator. Granted, it was from the comfort of a car going 100km/h, but now I know how tourists feel when they come to Whistler and see a bear. There was squealing.

Mickey rules all in Orlando. Including the food.

“Are you Nick’s sister?” I hear this a lot. Games gypsies are a small family. Nick led the way for me. Working these types of events allows me to meet people from all over the world and make life-long connections. Best of all, my crew was made up of 2 of my most favourite people. The late-night giggles and inside jokes were all-time.

Volunteers make the world go ’round.

Yes, I met Prince Harry. The “he’s royalty” factor wears off pretty quickly when he admits to being just another ginger suffering in the sun. His dedication to these athletes and hands-on approach was admirable and unexpected.

We invented a new game called “Spot the Secret Service”. We thought we were pretty good at it. We probably have no idea what we are talking about.

We met a Harry Stalker. That was something.

I loved how family-driven this event was. Each athlete was invited to bring along 2 or 3 supporters with them. It added a completely different dimension to the Games.

The best part of being away and working myself into the ground for 2 weeks is coming home to cuddles and hugs from my people.

Invictus Toronto 2017?

Orlando OUT #boom.
Orlando OUT #boom.