Penticton 2018

I started to write this blog post as a ride report. As a rookie cyclist, a lot of the stuff I write about seem fresh and interesting to me, so I go on and on and on about them. You might read this and think, “Wow, she’s an idiot.” Just keep your thoughts to yourself, and remember that I’m still new at all this.

Back in the fall last year, “Coach Jill” told me about the Penticton fondo. Jill is probably 103 lbs soaking wet, but can power up a hill like a boss. Penticton is easy enough to drive to with the whole family without too much fuss. Naturally, I signed up with little prompting.

Since March this year, I’ve been faithfully following a schedule to train for the fondo. After much anticipation, the day finally arrived and I was pumped.

Before this, I have only ever done one fondo (the 2017 Whistler fondo). Whistler was rainy and cold, and I was miserable, but I finished. Whistler has more net elevation gain than Penticton, and I handled it just fine. I figured I’ll be ok with Penticton. Right?

Not so much.

Whatever mistakes I made, I chalk it up to stupid rookie mistakes. The fact that I actually finished the ride was a huge win in my mind.

The route starts in Penticton, goes up to Summerland, back to Penticton, then down to OK Falls on the east side of Skaha, back up the west side of the lake, back to Penticton. It is absolutely gorgeous. Breathtaking. Beautiful.

I started the ride waaaaay at the back of the chute, and I couldn’t find anyone I knew. Mistake number one was trying to chase down other people I might recognize. Right out the gate was a hill, and I tried to pass everyone in my way. Eventually I found another familiar jersey (Emily), and hopped on her group. I already knew I blew more energy than necessary to try and catch someone. But I was so happy to find a friendly face. Emily was full of energy and it was infectious.

Things were great in the flats and turns, until we hit the KOM hill in Summerland. Mistake number two, I tried to keep up with the girl pulling, and it was a long hill. By the time I crested the hill, my legs and lungs were burning and I was on my own. After only 35km, I was *this* close to pulling over to throw up, and I still had 90km to go! Somewhere around 40km, Emily found me and we rode together back to town again with a big group.

After 50km and back through town, I lost Emily. That sucked. I found a big guy with giant calves and stayed behind him for a good while. It was like having a windshield, so I can take a breather. I tried eating, but my stomach was very unhappy with me. I have already drained two full bottles of electrolyte, and about half way through my 3rd bottle. Mistake number three–likely the biggest mistake I made–I didn’t want to stop at a busy aid station to get more water, so I went further down the East side of Skaha Lake with only half a bottle of water left.

Between 60-80km, things were pretty decent. I was very thirsty, obviously. Half a bottle of water for 20 km was not smart. I will pay for this very dearly later. I found two guys with Spandex Panda jerseys riding just above my speed. I asked if I can join them, and they kindly accepted. We all took turns pulling, but I knew for certain they were just being patient with me when I pulled. At 5’3″, I’m not giving them much draft. That was probably the most blissful part of my entire ride. They were going at a great speed I can manage, and rode smoothly and predictably.

Sadly, the Spandex Panda guys were doing the 160km ride, and I am doing 126km, so I had to wave them goodbye at the bottom of Secrest. By the time I took that turn, there was barely anyone on the 126km route. Was the rest of the world doing 160km? I looked up that hill, and looked down on my empty water bottles, and just thought to myself, you’re an absolute idiot.

I like hills. But Secrest is not like many other hills I have climbed. It was steep. It was relentless. I stood up on my pedals to try and use my body weight to push my way up this hill, and that’s when the cramps hit me. At the same moment, both my quads and both my calves cramped. I nearly fell over as my legs just gave way. I quickly sat back in my saddle as a “fuck!” involuntarily escaped my lips. What the hell was that? I have never cramped before.

My little brain was still trying to work out what was wrong with my legs, and how I was supposed to do this climb sitting on my butt the whole way. I pedaled slowly like a drunk person, zig zagging all over the pavement trying to not fall over. I ran through my options in my head. I can pull over and call it quits. Or I can try to ride through the cramps. I also really wanted to call the super athlete Tennessee and ask her what I’m supposed to do with the cramps, but the hill was too steep and I couldn’t take one hand off the bar to use my phone. So I kept riding.

My legs were in excruciating pain with each pedal stroke. I rode up the entire hill doing the drunken zig zag. The worst part was, at this point, I felt like my crotch was on fire. Maybe not enough Butt’r (a chamois cream I applied quite liberally before the ride)? Too much sweat? Too warm of a day? I don’t know, but I swear I was sitting on burning coal.

Imagine the Okanagan paper headline, “Fondo participant from Vancouver started a forest fire with her crotch“.

Some guy was being friendly and was chatting me up, and I was just so not in the mood. I really wanted to say, dude, my crotch is on fire, how is yours? (Don’t worry, I didn’t say that out loud. I just smiled and nodded, and pretended not to speak English.)

I crested the hill, and rode the next 7 or 8km all by myself. It was a remote piece of road, with no traffic, no signs, and no other cyclists. It was a little creepy. I went from, “This hill is finally over” to “Am I even on the right course?”

Eventually I see a few people ahead of me, and it gave me motivation to try to catch up. I rode a bit on and off with a few guys who look like they didn’t even sweat. They were chit-chatting and joking around. I’m pretty sure their crotches weren’t on fire.

At the next aid station, I was so happy to see the volunteer with two jugs of liquids. When she filled my bottles, I almost wanted to kiss her feet. Then a cute young man even peeled a banana for me. He could probably tell I was in shitty shape. The volunteers at this fondo are freaking awesome.

Eventually I caught up to someone riding somewhat at my speed. I found out later his name is Rob. Since I wasn’t going anywhere fast with my useless legs on the climbs, I chatted him up. He looked like he was suffering too. On the downhill, I ducked behind him for a quick descend. On the uphills, I would ride in front to give him a little break.

During the last 20km, it was so warm and the wind picked up. Back on the last stretch of the highway, all I can think of is how much pain I was in, and hashing over all the mistakes I have made to be where I was at that moment. My Garmin wasn’t giving me an accurate read of the distance, and I don’t know Penticton at all, so I really couldn’t gauge how much farther I had to go. I was nearly in tears. Even my inner thigh was cramping. Like really, I didn’t even know there was a muscle there!

When we started the steady 1% climb up Main Street, Rob said that was the last climb. I figured the fact that I saw a Starbucks, we must be near the edge of downtown. It couldn’t be much further now. I had nothing left in me to go any faster than I was going. I keep waiting for Rob to lose his patience and ride past me, but I guess he likely had nothing left either. Main Street eventually flattens out, and the last 500-600m everyone starts to sprint. That was probably the clue that the end is near. Rob pulled out in front of me with a couple of other guys, and I gave it all I had to hang on. We rode as fast as we could to the last corner, and sprinted down the chute to the finish line.

The poor volunteer who cut my timing chip off had to catch me as I almost fell over. I limped my way up the curb, shook Rob’s hand, met his wife, and went to look for my family.

I finished. I couldn’t believe I finished. As much as I was cursing my legs for not working right, I knew it was my mistake. I started out too hard, tried too hard to keep up, and I was dehydrated. Even though I took enough electrolyte, there wasn’t enough water to deliver it to my muscles. And when you over-stress your body, the digestive system shuts down to allow all the blood supply to support the “flight” mode. That’s why I could barely eat and was at the edge of throwing up for more than half the ride.

I have learned so much on this ride. I’m still trying to digest all the valuable lessons. More importantly, as shitty as I felt physically, I looked back on the day and thought to myself, I will be back.

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Things I learned on a road bike

XIAOYI

Exactly a year ago, I bought my first road bike. It was love at first ride.

Shortly after buying the bike, I decided to do the Whistler fondo–122 km ride from Vancouver to Whistler. Not knowing what I was getting myself into was probably a blessing.

I have become so addicted to cycling, that I decided to sell my motorcycle. Yeah. I know.

I have learned so much in the last 8,230 km.

First, a big goal can be broken down to small chunks. Riding the fondo started with riding 20 km, then 40, then 60, then 90, then 120. Each stage is a new learning experience, with different challenges.

Second, eating for performance can be very different from eating to be skinny. I have had to learn to eat for riding, and the timing of when to eat to sustain a long ride.

Third, it’s amazing what each individual can achieve when you all work as a team. All of my fasted times on rides are results of riding with other people. Sometimes this is because we take turns pulling/drafting, and sometimes it’s because someone pushed me to climb faster and harder than I ever would on my own.

Fourth, the learning never stops. There are so many skills to learn and practice, and so much knowledge to be acquired. I first learned to ride a bike when I was seven years old. But now at 42, I feel like I barely know anything.

Fifth and last, riding is so badass. I absolutely LOVE it when my lungs and my legs are burning on a steep hill climb. I love being scared shitless letting my brakes go on a downhill. I love being challenged to go farther and faster, and seeing other kickass women ride like its nobody’s business.

 

A moment in time

*Warning: very long post with many bad selfies*

About a year and a half ago, I set out to lose 15 lbs. I had no desire to be skinny; I just wanted to be less chubby. I figured 15 lbs is do-able.

 

Somewhere in this process, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can learn a new trick. I learned that it’s not just about the weight. I learned that I will always be learning. And I learned that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination.

Fat Angela

I have so few photos of myself, so I stole this from Sherry. This is taken in June 2016 when we were in Morocco. It was after this trip that I decided I needed a change.

Fat Angela 2

I was having the time of my life. The kids were growing bigger, my career was stable, I was having fun traveling and skiing. It’s not like I looked myself in the mirror everyday and hated my life.

I can learn a new trick

For 15 months, I kept a detailed record of everything I ate and every exercise I performed. I weighed how many grams of chicken breast I was eating, and used a heart rate monitor for every workout for an accurate count of calories burnt. I used a combination of Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app to help me track everything. Everyday I aimed for a caloric deficit. I had to do this. You know how people say, “Listen to your body”? I can’t. I can’t listen to my body, because I can’t hear it.

I remember years ago, one time I had lunch with my BFF Karen. She ordered a burger, as did I. (Karen, I think that may have been the first and last time I saw you eat a burger!) I wolfed my burger down whole, barely listening to what she was saying. By the time I looked up to take a breath, she had set half her burger down. She was done. No longer hungry. She left half her burger and never ate the rest of it.

I was amazed. How does she do that? If there’s food on my plate, I finish it. That’s just how it is. But this woman did not finish her food!!!!

The difference is, Karen listened to her body. I, on the other hand, only know to eat whatever is put in front of me, and eat it quickly. She controlled her food. My food controlled me.

Anyway, Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app tell me how many calories I have left for the day. The more I exercised, the more I could eat. Otherwise, 1200 calories is all I get for the day. I did not have to “listen to my body”, since I could not hear it anyway.

After diligently tracking everything I ate for 15 months, I was finally getting the hang of it. I was starting to get a feel of what I should eat and how much. I was finally starting to hear a whisper of a voice when I am satiated. I learned that I can be trained to listen to my body.

Less Fat Angela

Doing the P90X3 agility workout in November 2016. 6 am everyday was my “me time” in the gym. 20 lbs down.

It’s not just about the weight

I started with a goal to lose weight. I was 40, and have a less-than-perfect family health history of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, etc. My heart valve doesn’t close completely. I sit on my butt all day at a stressful job. It’s only a matter of time before shitty health problems took over my life.

I look at these two small human beings that I am beyond blessed to have, and damn, I want to be here for a good long time to embarrass them and watch them grow.

The first thing I did was increase my running volume, and starting spin classes at a studio. I often run early in the morning, and come home as the kids are just waking up. Savanna got savvy quickly to check if I was sweaty before she would give me a morning kiss. I loved that the first thing they see in the morning is mommy coming home from a run.

Then I started following some workouts from Beachbody, streamed over the internet. The kids sometimes watched me go through Fix Extreme or P90X3. Then one day, they joined me during my workout. Now if I work out at home, I’m bound to have one of them jump in with me.

When I bought a road bike and started cycling more, Josh told me he is crazy about cycling and he wanted to ride everyday with me. He is always asking how many kilometres we have done, so he can do just a bit more to beat his last record.

I learned that it’s not all just about losing weight. It’s about influencing my kids through action to live an active life, and do better than yesterday.

Josh working out

Josh doing Fix Extreme workout with me.

Josh cycling

One of many bike rides with Josh.

back

May 2017. 25 lbs down. Lots of strength training in the gym, before the cycling addiction started.

The learning never stops

When I first started with working out regularly, I ate a very high protein, low fat, and low carb diet. I cut out all rice, bread, pasta, and noodles. The only carbs I would eat is a small amount of fruit, and baked sweet potato. Mostly I ate a lot of chicken breast and low fat cottage cheese. No avocado, no nuts, very little cooking oil–the fat content scared me.

That worked, along with the workouts. Weight came off. I was happy.

Then I started cycling. Then I was told to eat carbs on long rides.

Wait, what? Carbs? Isn’t that bad for me?

I learned that on a long ride, I need carbs that will quickly convert to energy. If all I eat is protein, I won’t be able to handle a long ride. Well, damn, ok, I’ll eat some carbs.

That worked. I was still losing weight.

I read 6 different books on sports nutrition, from one end of the spectrum (body building) to the other end (vegan Ironman racing). I got 6 difference sets of advice.

I learned that the sport you train for may dictate some of what you eat. I learned that I need to eat a balanced diet to keep the rest of me happy. Mostly, I learned that I will never stop learning about the theories and sciences of what works and what does not.

Books

How much of what am I eating today?

Angela running

September 2017. Going for a run while on a business trip.

It’s a journey

When I lost the 15 lbs I set out to lose, I was happy. I was having so much fun with my workout routine, I just continued.

Today, I don’t feel like “I’m done”. I feel like I am just beginning to learn certain sports, and there are so many other things I want to learn. I took a cycling clinic last summer, and met some incredible women who inspire me to ride more, ride faster, run, and try different sports. I joined a bunch of rides with a local bike shop and met some kickass ladies who eats hills for breakfast and run at speeds I can only dream of. I just signed up for swimming again, because damn it, I’m gonna learn this!

When I signed up for the 122 km Whistler fondo 7 months ago, I thought to myself, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” That’s how huge and unreachable the fondo was to me. And guess what? I did it.

So what else is so huge and unreachable for me today? Maybe I can do that a few months from now. Who knows?

Angela dressed

November 2017. 32 lbs down.

Today is just a moment in time in my journey. I wanted to document these thoughts, because some days are harder than others to be motivated. Like this morning when I had to get my butt out of bed for a run–that was brutal. But then tomorrow morning I scheduled myself to ride my bike on the rollers, which I am really looking forward to!

 

 

 

 

Tokyo cycling tour

The last time we went to Tokyo, I was pregnant with Savanna and feeling very sick and miserable. There were certain things I enjoyed about Tokyo, but mostly I felt tired and ill. So we thought we’d try it again this year. And this time, I wanted to do something a little different.

One day, I googled “tokyo cycling tour” just to see what would pop up. Luckily for me, I found a company called “Tokyo Great Cycling Tour“. We booked their “Tokyo Bay Ride” tour, which is a 6-hour tour that takes you around Tokyo bay and over many bridges.

We booked two bikes for Cliff and I, and also a trailer to haul the kids. Thank goodness they hooked up the trailer to Cliff’s bike, because I am pretty sure I couldn’t have hauled both kids through the entire tour.

We have this same trailer at home, and we’re used to seeing this set-up in Vancouver. But in Tokyo this is a rare sight. So every pedestrian points to Cliff pulling the kids and comment on how cute it is (“kawaeeeee”, they’d say).

The tour overs 23 km of riding, which isn’t difficult. Most of the terrain was fairly flat except for when we go up the bridges. Still, there were enough sight seeing breaks that you never feel like you’re peddling forever. For 10 of us, there were 2 guides (Henna and Su). We stopped often while they explained history and new developments in the city to us.

These ladies were top notch with their services. They had a big book of pictures and timelines to help with explaining history, they pulled out ice cream filled puffs to feed us, they constantly filled our water bottles with icy cold water, they brought fish food so our kids can feed the fish in the ponds, they handed out homemade ginger ale, they bought us ice cream at the park, and ended the day with beer and snacks in their office. They were so attentive and considerate. They are the examples of what customer service is.

I would totally go back and do this again in a heart beat!

Welcome

Welcome

Getting ready to ride

Getting ready to ride

First stop on a bridge

First stop on a bridge

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Stopping at the fish market to get fresh tuna

Stopping at the fish market to get fresh tuna

Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, tuna sashimi

Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, tuna sashimi

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Ice cream puffs

Ice cream puffs

Somebody was a little tired

Somebody was a little tired

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Lunch break at the beach

Lunch break at the beach

Picnic lunch

Picnic lunch

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Boat ride over the bay

Boat ride over the bay

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Graveyard for babies :(

Graveyard for babies 😦

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Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

She slept through this stop and missed ice cream.

She slept through this stop and missed ice cream.

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A very satisfied customer

A very satisfied customer