Off-Road Triathlon: 3 Beautiful Truths About Training

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A few days ago I completed my first olympic distance triathlon. It was just my style, no roads involved. Off-Road Triathlons, also known as Cross Triathlons or by brand name, XTERRAs are a special breed of race. These races take competitors through a 1.5k swim with a quick transition into a 24k mountain bike ride, followed by a 9k trail run.

The race I participated in was in Victoria, BC, in and around Durrance Lake. The course has a reputation of being one of the most technically challenging on the circuit, perfect for a mountain biker from Whistler like me. As I transitioned from swim to bike to run, last Sunday, pushing my body harder than I'd ever done before, I thought about the countless hours of training I had undergone in the last 8 months. I decided I now know three precious things about training about Off-Road Triathlons, that I wish I could tell "past me" at the start of all that training.

First, there will be some high highs and really low lows.

Training is an experiment. There were times when I felt strong and capable but those typically only came out in the taper and on race day. With such a high volume of training I mostly felt sore and tired. But, it gets better and it's worth it. There were also a few occasions when I pushed myself too hard and physically couldn't motivate. Dear "Past Me", be prepared - training is hard work.

Secondly, food counts.

When I first started racing bikes, I wasn't really concerned with what I ate and when, but it really does make a difference. Depending on the effort and the food I've packed, I like to take in a gel or shot block every 30-45 minutes. The only times that I've been in a really dark place (read: wanted to end my training session or pull out of a race) I can blame my poor nutrition timing. I can't say that I have this completely dialed, yet. A work in progress!

Make a triathlon training plan for yourself, and stick to it.

I'm lucky enough to have found a an awesome coach (shout out to Jen Segger) and digital performance dashboard (Training Peaks) to keep me excited about recording workouts and sticking to a plan. Hello accountability and gamification! Pairing that with all the other fitness and social ride/swim/run groups and I could have easily done double the training and burnt out months ago. I found my success stemmed from sticking to Jen's plan and only adding in group training when it matched up with my prescribed workouts. That being said, there are huge benefits from group training so I forced myself out of my solo comfort zone once or twice a week to train with local legends like Munny Munro or Kristian Manietta.

If you're considering the wonderful, challenge of training for an off-road triathlon I  have one last piece of advice, do it. Needless to say, I may not have brought home any trophies but the bond with my training buddies Liz, Marissa & Emma and the powerful new understanding of my limits will keep me coming back to compete year after year.

Want to see more snaps from the event? Follow me on Instagram.

A huge thank you to Dan Harmon for these lovely photos. Follow him on Instagram here.

TrailForks Heat Map Data for Sea To Sky Mountain Bike Exploring

A few weeks ago, I found myself wrapped up in some sweet, sweet data that the fine folks of TrailForks (a great trail map resource) rolled out in the form of Heat Maps. I uncovered some of the busiest trails in Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and the Sea to Sky as a whole. As a member of Team Arbutus, a grassroots mountain bike race team based in Whistler, BC, we are encouraged to share our adventures and biking thoughts on the Arbutus Routes shop blog: Tails From the Trails. The blog is a perfect avenue to shed some light on the new TrailForks feature. Check out the full Arbutus post here.

Mountain Bike Trails Heat Map of the Sea To Sky Region
Mountain Bike Trails Heat Map of the Sea To Sky Region

Skate Skiing: Lessons From Learning a New Sport

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Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. My love for endurance sports runs so deep that sometimes it drives me to do strange things. Enter: Skate skiing.

The Olympic Venue for Nordic Skiing in Whistler (Whistler Olympic Park) hosts introductory night skiing once a week during the winter. As an instant Bambi on toothpicks.

Wobble. Fall. Skated a few strides. Repeate.

Did I show signs of potential greatness? Probably not. But I did discover a beautiful new way to explore on snow. Learning a new sport at 31 is surprisingly contagious, once you get past the nerdy get-up and skinny skis. But it's not something unique to skate skiing, the same challenge could be applied to any sport. Mentally, physically and emotionally it's a rad experience.

Here are 5 lessons that I’ve learned about picking up a new sport like skate skiing:

  1. Have Patience

It was easy to be frustrated with my lack of balance or inability to perform simple actions like stopping on skate skis because of my background as an alpine skier. Go easy on yourself, and laugh it off - No one comes out of the gate as an expert, a new sport means that everyone starts from zero.

2. Take a Lesson/Coaching Session

 I went out and tried skate skiing on my own quite a few times before I befriended our local Biathlon coach, Munny Munroe. If you’ve ever tried to teach a significant other to alpine ski then you know tips from friends only gets you so far in your learning progression (If you haven't take my word for it, bad plan). Munny is the man. He had me dial in my skate skiing technique and efficiency through drills, and equipment suggestions. Don't fumble around with bad technique for too long in a new sport, it's a waste.

 Don't Be Afraid to Fall: Skate Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park

3. Don’t be afraid to fall

Falling sucks. But if you approach a new sport like skate skiing with the fear of falling front of mind, you’ll never push your boundaries. You never know, you might surprise yourself.

5. Set Goals

Eventually, I nailed a few great strides in a row and the steep pitch that was once terrifying became a piece of cake. The more practice, the quicker that happened. I put in some endurance efforts (2 hrs +) cruising around the Whistler Olympic Park and Lost Lake plus added some fast paced interval sessions. I found my benchmark, complete a loppet aka Skate Ski Race. I was nervous about the mass start but the course was over some kick-ass terrain. I put in serious time practicing those 3-4 weeks prior to the race and found that once I could complete the distance the least I could do was give it a try!

Siggie's P'ayak did not disappoint! The course:  Burning lungs, some slushy falls, a strategic pass or two and some big climbs. An hour later I was at the finish. Almost 30 minutes faster than my anticipated time. It was one of the most stunning races I’ve ever done in any sport. Worth it.

Skate Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park: Race Siggie's Payak Loppet
Skate Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park: Race Siggie's Payak Loppet

Lastly, recover as hard as you train:

My partner Dan gave me some wholesome advice that is changing the way I look at training for all sports. He questioned how I could spend so many hours training and not consider the holistic perspective of my well being: Nutrition timing and recovery. Just like any other endurance sport I planned out food pre, during and post skate skiing. I also bring a change of clothes with me because even though you work up a serious sweat on skate skis, your temperature drops significantly when you're done.  Seriously, don't forget about this one.

Now go out and try something new. If nothing else, it makes for a good story, tired muscles and some funny photos.

Trading in the Fat Wheels: Six Must Haves for Your First Cycle Tour Weekend

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Trading in the Fat Wheels: 6 Must Haves for Your First Cycle Tour Weekend

Recently, four brave, bike-loving friends of mine assembled to join me on a weekend cycle touring trip. We set out at first light from Whistler, BC on a Saturday morning and returned 3 days later after 3 ferry crossings, 480 kilometers of coastal roads and some staggering elevation gain/loss. For most of us, we preferred our views from the crest of loam-clad trails, but the call of adventure and draw of spending all day on a bike (no matter what bike it was) prevailed.

Best. Decision. Ever.

First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers

So, if you’ve caught the bug to explore, here are my 5 must haves for your first weekend cycle trip:

  • Take what you can pack in a Bike Frame Bag & Handle Bar Bag: The lighter your bike the longer you can ride (added weight = more fatigue). We opted to stay in hostels and only took what we could fit
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
  • Chamois Butter: This little gem is a standalone. Even if it sounds weird, buy it. Lather it on every morning. You’ll thank me. Mind the menthol – the cool minty fresh feeling isn’t for everyone.
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
  • Electronics: Bring all the necessary cables to keep your phone, camera and GPS watch charged and a single wall mount so you can switch back and forth when on ferries or at the hostel/hotel.
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
  • Change of clothes: Yes, one change of clothes. To keep it light I packed flip flops, loose comfortable pants & top plus a light weight jacket for those ferry rides and road side snack breaks.
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
  • Split the effort: If you’re going with multiple riders (and you should, it’s more fun!), split up tools, spare tubes between the group. This way you’re traveling light and still have enough to support each other between any emergency bike shop stops.
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
  • Food & Water: I found that two bottles kept me hydrated between food stops. Bring electrolyte tabs as they take up less space than powder and stock up on gels/blocks/bars at the beginning of each day. In rural areas you may not have a chance to grab those short burst energy snacks. No food means no fuel.
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers
First Cycle Tour for Mountain Bikers