Rainy days, flat tires

It’s been five years since the last time I flatted in a race. At the Iron Eagle Sprint Triathlon in Cheney, WA, way back in 2009, I had the misfortune to flat with only about 5k left in the bike. I skillfully whipped out my spare tube and CO2 cartridge, repaired it in about two minutes, and carried on, still managing a fifth place finish.

This weekend, I felt a little like a bumbling idiot trying to get the situation remedied when the same fate befell me at around the halfway point in the Wasa Lake Olympic Distance race in British Columbia. After coming out of the water in 7th place after a less than stellar swim, I moved my way quickly into 4th in the opening miles of the bike, feeling reasonably strong. At around 12k, my friend and travel buddy for the weekend, Ian Mallams, came whizzing by me, putting out some impressive power. After he opened up a small gap, I resolved to keep him within striking distance, and put my head down into the wind and rain with all the determination I could muster. Several minutes later, I felt that dreaded sluggish feeling, turning gradually into a hypersensitivity in which I could feel every little inconsistency in the road. I pulled off to the side, a little flustered but ready to get fixed up and salvage what I could of the race.

Between the rain and mud, a new tire with a pretty stiff bead, cold hands, and numerous other factors, I watched as dozens of riders flew by. I found a small metal shard in my tire and, after a feeble attempt at pulling it out with my wet, cold hands, ripped it out with my teeth, threw a new tube in, wrestled the tire back on the rim, and finally, after 8 long, stressful minutes, got myself back on the road.

Back on the bike, I found myself reminiscing about the old days, when I was a young cross country runner who could bike okay and it was everything I could do to pull through the swim at the back of the main pack. Back then, I got to spend entire races passing people. It was so much fun! I have gotten much faster at swimming and cycling since then, and a little slower at running, which means that I rarely get to pass people on the run or the second half of the bike.

This time, though, my unfortunate flat gave me the chance to get back to that old feeling of coming into T2 with something to prove. I passed a good percentage of the field on the second half of the bike, but there were still plenty of folks around during the run. I started counting, and at the first turnaround, I had moved into 14th overall and was 12th in the men’s race. Two spots ahead of me was my other travel buddy, pilot of the trusty VW Van, Brendan Halpin, and directly ahead of me, having a great race and running in 2nd place, was Polsonite Ali Brondson. I passed Ali about 7k into the run, but Brendan’s gap was too big for me to bridge. He held on for 11th, and I crossed the line in 12th.

From reports that I heard from those who saw me at the run turnarounds, I apparently was grinning from ear to ear. Of course I was bummed out about things not going my way, but it sure was fun to remember what it’s like to come from behind and work through the field.

Despite my misfortune, it was a great day for Montana racers. Ian Mallams of Whitefish, Matt Seeley of Polson, Ali Brondson of Polson, Sue Huse of Missoula, and Erin Spitler of Whitefish all earned spots on the overall podium!

Wasa2014Podium

And with that, my taper officially begins for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. If you’re at the race, come visit me at the Orbea booth during the expo, and I’ll be expecting a whole lot of yelling and screaming during the race. I guarantee I will need every decibel I can get!

To the sun!

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, and as such this blog post has been in progress for quite some time. More on that later, but without further ado, here’s my account of our trip up to Glacier, which is now over a week ago. Enjoy!

Orbea

Aside from traveling for races, it is rare that I drive somewhere in order to do a bike ride. Last weekend, though, somewhere between grunting up the winding road towards Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, whizzing down a smooth section of road through the woods, making s’mores at the campfire, and getting up the next morning to hike some of the best trails in the region, I realized that perhaps I should make the time for trips like these a little more often.

We woke up Saturday morning to the smell of fresh-made bagels. Our roommate, Bill, who wasn’t able to make the trip, was up early preparing them, and generously gave us a few for the road.

Bagels
Yum!

After making some grilled tempeh sandwiches with the bagels and packing a cooler full of various other foodstuffs, Kailee and I hit the road for the 3 hour drive up to Glacier, where we were slated to meet up with our riding partners for the day, Debbie and Holly. We met up at Lake McDonald Lodge and, after a bite to eat, saddled up.

Morning Parking Lot Picture
Ready to roll!

There are a lot of reasons the Going-To-The-Sun Road is a popular cycling route. One of the chief reasons is that in the spring, it opens up for bicycle traffic before it opens for motorized use. During this brief period, cyclists flock to the park to take in the scenery and enjoy a car-free experience. The closure starts at Avalanche, which is 6 miles up the road from where we started at Lake McDonald. For that section and several miles afterward, we had smooth, pristine pavement.

Smooth Roads
Kailee enjoying the sunshine and cooler morning temperatures.

As the day wore on, the miles started to add up and so did the elevation. The trademark breathtaking vistas did not disappoint.

Tunnel Exit
The tunnel several miles up the road is a classic landmark along the route.
No Guardrails
Guardrails are for weenies!

For the last few miles before we arrived at the end of the line – that is, the point where the plows had stopped for the weekend – the road was wet and littered with debris from snowmelt and fallen rock from the cliffs above, factors that would later prove to make the first part of the descent a little technical. The temperature was dropping as well, but fortunately, the consistent 5-6% grade kept us pretty warm on the way up, and we had more clothing to put on for the descent.

Weeping Wall 2
Riding by the Weeping Wall
Jesse and Kailee
Mountains!

We knew we were getting very near our destination when we started to encounter snow corridors.

Debbie Snow Corridor
Almost there!

…and finally, after several hours of climbing:

Endoftheline
Mission accomplished!

After a brief stop to take some photos and enjoy the scenery, we donned our long sleeves and gloves for the ripping descent back to Lake McDonald. I apologize for not taking any photos of that part, but I’m sure those of you who are cyclists understand…

After our return to the lodge, Debbie and Holly headed back to Missoula, but Kailee and I had decided to camp for the night, so we had some time before sunset to hike around a bit. We trekked the two and a half miles up to Avalanche lake in the evening, which was wonderful.

Avalanche Lake

 

We made it back down just before sunset, made our way back to camp for some dinner and s’mores, and hit the hay.

The next morning, we had some time before we needed to head back home, so we did some more hiking, first to John’s Lake, which is a very short walk right by the road, then to Fish Lake.

Fish Lake
Lots of lily pads at Fish Lake

The Fish Lake trail involves a whole lot of elevation gain very quickly, but when we got there we were pleased to find a nice picnic spot with nobody around except this little guy, who was bound and determined to share our lunch, despite our efforts to the contrary:

Chipmunk1

After lunch, we hiked out and made our way back home, resolving to plan for more trips like this in the future.

Hiking 2

 

Until next time, get out there and enjoy the outdoors!