Thursday, March 16, 2017

California are you ready for me?

Last day of work for a couple weeks.  Yahoo.
Vacation starting at 4 today and as my daughter says "Party starts now boys".
Leaving after school to drive to Regina.  Staying with our son there so will get a quick visit with him before our 4:30 am alarm gets us up tomorrow to get to the airport for our 6:30 flight to California.

Very excited again to be going back to a place I am somewhat familiar with and therefore have desires and longing to see and do certain things.  Can't wait to see the ocean from the saddle of my bike as I cruise down the PCH from Oceanside to Torrey Pines.  Can't wait to hear the ocean, sand in my toes, to have California Almond Milk (strange thing to look forward to I know), to buy some of the delicious desserts at the Oceanside Street Fair/Farmer's Market.

Tomorrow will be a very full day with an early flight, however, it will be great to be in San Diego by noon.  Rented vehicle to pick up and the always interesting task of getting our bike bags and luggage plus us in the vehicle.  Last time (in Europe) I forgot to take a picture but it was both frustrating and hilarious.  I will take a picture this time.  We have a rented condo in a complex we have staying in before.  Groceries, unpacking, bikes to set up.

Saturday we are heading to Coronado for package pickup/athlete check in for the Olympic Super Seal Triathlon that will be on Sunday.  Nothing like kicking things off with a bang.  The course looks breathtaking so I will try to take pictures.
A couple weeks for hiking, biking, running, sunning, Disneyland, Ducks Hockey, the famous "potato chip hike" are planned.  Encinitas has a half marathon run on the weekend in between our 2 triathlons and I was yay at first then nay and I'm back again to a yay.  Need to get in a 20-22 mile run that day so why no do it partly with a lot of people where there is some nutritional support and entertainment.  Will see what my co-pilot wants to do.  A couple long runs along the ocean will be 100 times better than the 3 hour run on the treadmill last Sunday.

Ironman Oceanside is on Saturday, April 1 and we will be flying back first thing Monday.

I have not decided yet if I am taking my computer so may have some posts or not in the next 2 weeks.  I will have a couple race reports coming your way as well as some our adventures in SoCal.

Changing gears, I have until tomorrow to register (before fee increase) for an ultra in May.  My biking friend from  Actif Epica is registered and would like me (us) to come too.  Hubby might be too busy doing his farming thing but he thinks I should go.

50 km, 50 mile, 100 km or 100 mile are my choices.

or maybe better said

silly,     crazy,    idiotic,  or  out of your freaking mind


Will keep you posted.
If you are going on vacation in the next while- have a great time!!
Any tips/ places to eat/ places to go in the San Diego north area?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Enjoying the Journey

Hello Monday after time change;(
Hard for me this morning and will continue to be for a couple weeks.  Something about spring time change that throws off my circadian rhythm. And to really mess me up, I will be travelling at the end of this week with a time change 2 hours earlier.  Back to my "regular" time plus 1 hour.  Nuts.

Had a pretty good training weekend.  Rode 25 miles on the trainer Sat morning then 22 miles outside on the fat bike that afternoon.  I still freeze my butt all the time on the cold outside rides.  I haven't found the right layering and recipe for keeping the thighs warmer.  They sure were a bright red when I was done and hurt like heck.  I am thinking to purchase a down skirt to wear overtop of what I am currently wearing.

I ran 18 miles on the treadmill on Sunday morning.  All of my long runs have been outside so running on the treadmill was a big change.  And my legs could tell the difference.  The top thighs are SOOO sore.  What gives?

How come there is never anything good on tv when you need there to be? It was the food channel and HGTV.
I did watch something amazing on my IPAD though.  

I can't get the video link to show but it is a 1/2 hour film about Camilla Pedersen, a Danish triathlete entitiled: From Coma to Kona and can be watched HERE.  It is really worth the watch.

I have always followed both Danish triathletes Camilla Pedersen and Michelle Vesterby.  I met Michelle Vesterby at Ironman Oceanside in 2015.  She impressed me with her easy going humour but I also loved the edge that she has that obviously makes her successful in her athletic pursuits.  I had no idea that Camilla had been in a terrible bike accident that had her in a coma for almost 3 weeks and had a future prognosis of maybe being unable to walk.  You need to watch the film!! No more spoilers from me.

On a completely different note,   I had my first baby when I was 23 and was done with having babies when I was 29.  I didn't do a ton of traveling before children but I did obviously have my own life and independence.  And for those who have kids, they know, things change.

For a couple of my friends, the career path came first for them.  They were jet-setting around the world for great vacations and working in really cool cities. They had adventure and their life seemed exciting and full-filling.  At this same time, I had 3 kids under 4, had put my career on temporary hold, and spent my day doing thankless work (changing diapers, making meals, cleaning, playing with the children).  You never really know about something until you actually go through it and I learned that having children was hard work physically but was pretty tough mentally also.  I struggled a bit with how my husband still continued on his normal daily life path with socialization, encouragement, positive feedback and routine.  These things were sometimes pretty scarce in my life.  If you aren't careful, I think it could easily lead to friction between  a couple.  I was lonely sometimes.  We had 1 vehicle and it wasn't the easiest getting 3 kids out the door so stopping over at someone's house for coffee was a rare occasion.

That's not to say I didn't have other choices I could have made. I was home taking care of my kids because that is where I wanted to be.  But it was easy to forget the importance of what I was doing when I had changed the 8th dirty diaper for that day and it wasn't lunch time yet.  Staying at home with children is super hard work.  You get little appreciation, you clean a lot of messes and it seems like your former life is light years away.
When my jet setting, living life to the fullest best friend started her family life by getting married, we were both into our early 30's and my "date" to her wedding was my 5 year old son.  It was planned for my husband and I to have a 4 day vacation together but 2 kids that got really sick last minute changed all that.  And we had to roll with it.  So my son and I had a brief visit with my friend and her fiancee the night before the wedding as the gathering was at a local lounge and I was asked to remove my son.  At the wedding supper, we sat with lawyers, doctors and other very career oriented people and I did my best to fit in.
I was so glad I could go to be there for her special day, but I had never felt more left out, in the wrong place, alone and and overwhelming: when can I go home.
It's a terrible feeling when you don't feel like you belong where you are.

Fast forward a few years.  My kids are no longer 7, 5, 5 and 1 but 12, 10,10 and 6.  We are visiting my friend who now has a baby.  Then 3 years later, another baby.

Our friendship has quietly faded as the years have progressed.  She has expressed a frustration of how her life has her chained down, the kids are a lot of work and she isn't able to continue with her career and still have her free time that she had before.  Her relationship with her husband is in hot water.

 And worse is this resentment I feel towards me because I have freedom and am travelling and can pursue anything I wish to.

So, I am telling this story why?  Because I think there are a lot of others who have these struggles I have faced (and my friend is facing)  Women who are struggling with their training/free time, their careers, being down on themselves, feeling lonely.  Dealing with never ending guilt that there doesn't seem to be enough of them to get around to everything they want to do.  Ladies who love their kids but may be resentful of how life is challenging and has changed from what it was.

This quote has made a big difference in my perspective in life.

Everything has a time and place.  We all find our place and time when it is right for us.  There are a lot of things that are good but not all of them are good at that exact time.  Everything we do requires some effort and some sacrifice.  Priorities.  There are times in our life when we can spend a lot of time pursuing things we want in the free time we have.  There are also times when our careers demand longer hours for an extended period of time.  Children also require sacrifice.  Things will change.  Change isn't bad for us. Helps us grow, helps us re-evaluate what is important to us.

So I spend more time focusing on what I have at this moment instead of looking at what I have left in the past or what I will eventually get in the future.  This moment is precious.  You may have to tell yourself that a million times in a day but it is so important to enjoy every moment.

Now that I have 3 kids that have moved away from the home, I look back with happiness at those quiet days of reading books, cuddling and bath time songs and it's funny but I don't so much remember doing dishes 4x a day, changing endless diapers, locking myself in the bathroom for a moment of peace only to have someone bang on it 2 sec after I get in.  And interestingly enough, those tough times make me smile now.  I think "Oh boy how did I get through that".  

I chose to put my career on the back burner.  And now I have a really fulfilling job that I never would have imagined I would have.
My exercise was with my kids by pushing them in the stroller, riding bikes through the puddles, hiking, fishing and swimming and now I am competing in ultras, marathons and Ironman distance triathlons. And my kids are active as well.

So many people are involved in exercise  with the "running from or running to" approach.  They are either running from their job or home stress or running to a certain time on the clock in an event.
My question then is....what is happening in between?

I'm not saying that exercise isn't a great way to get some of your own time or that running a marathon to qualify for Boston isn't great either.  I do these things too.

What I am saying is that if your whole focus for what you are doing is escaping something or running to a certain time- eventually, something's gonna give.

There is so much validation in triathlon, running etc.  You nail a workout- you feel good.  You get the time you want in an event- you feel awesome.
The danger in this for me for a short time was that it became one thing after another of me trying to get another "hit" of validation, appreciation and self-worth.

Racing for about 3 years with a serious infection (didn't know it until later) changed all this.  For most of that 3 years, I felt pretty terrible.  I would get so discouraged with the training and especially with racing as I never could do what I thought I was capable of doing.  I got some serious criticism, was told I don't belong in competitive sports as I was just a participant.  But I weathered this all with the believe that what I was doing mattered, I mattered.
I was no longer running to get away from stress because the runs were stressful too and I didn't compete for a certain number because my body would not cooperate.  So I ran and biked and walked and skied and kayaked and swam and whatever else caught my fancy for joy, for adventure, for the journey and for fun.
It wasn't about the start or the finish anymore but about the parts in between.  I am still a bad ass about some events/races.  But I roll with things better too.  I am enjoying where I am.
If you are dealing with puke and poop, enjoy it.  If you are working big hours for a career, enjoy it and if you are somewhere cruising on a boat on vacation, enjoy it. Nothing lasts forever and what have we got in the end if at a lot of points in our life we are waiting for the next thing or longing for once was.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Fairness in Me Needs to Speak

I have participated in quite a lot of event/races:  ultras, running, cycling, skiing and triathlons to name a few. These races require money and a whole lot of time in training.  I need to budget the costs of these events just like everyone else and we all have the same 24 hours in a day.
My point is not to deliberate the fees vs the "what you get" or analyse what company puts on a better event.  For triathlon in particular, I have participate in both Challenge Family  and Ironman branded events.  Both have different things about each other.  Again, not the point of this post.
If you missed my post on my 2017 training schedule here, you will see that one of my main events this year is Ironman Canada at Whistler, British Columbia.  This will be my 3rd time there, 1st time as a participant.  I have biked the roads, swam in Alto Lake, ran the course.  I long to see the beautiful scenery, challenging hills and picturesque lakes.  I can't wait to be there myself as a competitor.   I have been looking forward to it.

Until now.

There was a massive controversy surrounding the 2015 Ironman Canada event.  We were there for the event for the first time and my husband was the only one who had even been to Whistler so the rest of us were doing our best to take it all in.  It was a really hot day- temperatures in the 30's C and of course it goes without saying that an Ironman (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles) presents a host of challenges.
The controversy surrounded a local lady who finished first in her age group 40-44 but was without her timing chip.  She insisted she lost her timing chip.  And for any of you who don't know what a first in your age group at a full ironman event means- it's a well-earned, coveted ticket to participate at the World Championship in Kona.
As the next couple weeks unfolded, it was discovered that this wasn't the first times she lost her timing chip and won an event.  Add to that the forensic detective work of others utilizing various pictures and videos taken which shows the people, details, place and the time of the day, it became obvious that she did NOT cover the full run distance.
You can read more about this story here, here and here.

Cheating is nothing new.  Ben Johnson, Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones to name a few.

The definition of cheating:

gerund or present participle: cheating
  1. 1.
    act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.

    "she always cheats at cards"

This was announced last week by Ironman.

IRONMAN Canada to Feature Bonus Kona Slots

Calling all Japanese athletes: Race in Whistler this summer to increase your chances at toeing the line in Hawai'i.

Live in Japan and still undecided on your A-race for 2017? Keep it simple and with a solid training plan and a 10-hour direct flight from Japan to Whistler, British Columbia.
This year, IRONMAN is offering an additional 20 qualifying slots to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawai'i, for Japanese nationals racing IRONMAN Canada. These slots will be allocated based on the athlete's Age-Group Ranking upon conclusion of the race.
If the promise of competing with the world's best triathletes on the wild and beautiful island of Kona isn't enough to inspire you to sign up, check out everything the region has to offer visiting athletes—with personal recommendations from local athletes: The ABC's of IRONMAN Canada.

Originally from:

I am not expecting to qualify for Kona when I toe the line at Ironman Canada.  It takes amazing perseverance, time, dedication and determination and those who are that committed to training and improving their times DESERVE the opportunity to go to Kona; they have worked for it and earned it.

I feel  Ironman has made a mockery what qualifying for Kona means.  Now, apparently, you don't need years of hard work and dedication, you just need a 10 hour flight, show up and finish.

If Ironman wants to offer more slots, then be fair and offer them across the board to everyone.

And let me clarify that I am not prejudice against anyone or any country, any organization or event.

 But this isn't fair.  How can such a big deal be made only a couple years ago with an individual who gained an unfair advantage for herself to win, to get that Kona slot: the outrage from the other athletes trying to qualify, seeking for themselves the opportunity to go to World's and the intolerance from the organizers.

Only to come to this place where the organizers themselves are putting athletes on uneven playing grounds.

So why didn't aren't the extra Kona spots open to everyone at Ironman Canada?
A good question.
Perhaps to involve more athletes from a certain ethnicity, country or area.
Perhaps because it is all about the money.

Maybe and maybe.

The idea of an Ironman Triathlon was born in 1977 with the question between the runners and swimmers as to who was more fit.  15 self supporting men started this quest to see who was the fittest on Feb 18, 1978.  The popularity of this event skyrocketed in 1982 due to an emotional, tear jerking finish from Julie Moss.  The Ironman mantra "Ironman athletes prove anything is possible"  seemed to be found.
Dare you to watch the video and not be inspired, encouraged and amazed.

That is what I though Ironman was about.

It is sad when the rose colored glasses are gone.


Backyard Adventure: Duck Mountain Fattie Ride on Snowmobile Trail

Saturday morning we set off around 10 am on what we believed would be a 6 hour ride from our house to our family cabin at Wellman Lake.  Estimated distance 35-40 miles on a hard snowmobile trail with some elevation gain.

Somehow, we got 1 day of warm, chinook like temperatures sandwiched in between seasonal temperatures.  High today predicted +5 C.

Gravel riding for 8 miles then on the snowmobile trail.  Smooth riding for a couple miles till we hit a field with very little snow on it.  Very bumpy, rough trail for a mile.  Slow riding but thankfully, still frozen so at least it wasn't slow and muddy.

Stopped at the trail head going into the bush and removed our coats, had a drink and quick bathroom break.  It is amazing to think we could ride in thin, long sleeve shirts in March.

Reached the warm up shack a few miles in and stopped briefly for a picture and drink.

 The trail was amazing.  So beautiful as we would cross over swamps with lakes beside or through a bluff of towering poplars.

The trail also took us through thick spruce trees, lining each side so close you couldn't see one without another.

The climbing was constant and not so steep that you huffed and puffed but steady enough that the legs got little rest.  And the kicker was that as the day went on and the temperature increased, the down hills became a bit more difficult as the snow was getting softer.

Evidence of one of my down hills.

We didn't have a time schedule.  We stopped when we wanted to eat or drink or take pictures.  I saw a couple deer but no other wildlife.

A trapper's cabin.

Temperature high on my garmin said 10 C.  Elevation gain 2516 feet.

The trail took us out to the main gravel road to the lake and we tried to stay in the ditch on the snowmobile trail but it was just too soft.  So we went on the road and did our best to stay out of the mud.  The main road takes you right to the lake or you can take a side road which loops around to the cabins on the north/west side of the lake.  We did the cabin loop.  1 mile back on the groomed trail then we were at the lake.


Time- 6 hours (moving time 5:17, the many breaks add up)
Distance- 36.53 miles
Avg. Speed- 6.1 mph (I never turned off the bike computer so this includes our many rest stops)
Max Speed- 17.6 mph
Max Temp- 12 C (was warmer for us going to the lake than it was at home)

What we carried with us:

sausage with cheese
2 peanut butter sandwiches
2 GORP bars
2 Generation UCAN bars
2 sandwich bags 1/3 full with trail mix
couple handfuls of small bite-size snickers bars
2- 32 oz Nalgene bottles with NUUN and amino acid powder
1- 32 oz hydroflask with peppermint tea

We each carried a bag of trail mix in our pocket and a couple snickers bars.  I carried the rest of the food in my front pouch beside my Nalgene bottle.  Terry had his Nalgene bottle and the tea hydroflask.
We didn't eat all our food, had a bit too much maybe but it was ok having a bit left over.  Debated about whether we should take 3 or 4- 32 oz bottles of fluid.  Decided on 3 but could have used 4.  If it was colder we probably wouldn't have drank as much but we drank our last bit of fluid when we reached the road (about 6 miles) before the lake.

Back Seat Bag:

I had a spare shirt and socks as well as a light insulated jacket (North Face Thermaball).  I also always carry a small bag with an assortment of survival type items (compass, survival blanket, small pocket knife, bandaids, C02 cartridge, matches, tums)
Terry had the same change of clothing but instead of the survival bag, he had a few more tools in case of a flat.

What we wore:

We both had a lightly padded short (triathlon shorts).  I had a light soft shell type pant on top, Terry had a pair of running tights with another pair of shorts on top of that.  We both had long sleeve merino wool shirts on.  I wore thin mitts, he gloves.  Both of us spent a lot of time with the hand wear in the pogies.  Buff, head cover, merino wool socks and keen winter hiking boots.  Windbreaker jackets.
Though it was pretty warm, nothing was wet on me.  We both agreed later that we should have put our windshells back on once we got on the gravel; both to protect from the mud and because it was less sheltered and a bit cooler.
Obviously, this ride had unusual temperatures but I probably wouldn't do much different in the way of dressing.

All in all, this was a very doable activity.  It took some time but we doddled and took breaks whenever.  It was meant to be a full-day experience instead of a race to get to our destination.  We planned to enjoy the journey.   We seriously considered riding it back home the next day but it didn't work out due to time issues.  Our forecast on Monday was for a big dump of snow so being able to do this ride pretty much with ideal conditions was so awesome.

It also confirmed that the fatties can ride the snowmobile trails pretty easily.  Of course, we had the trail to ourselves but we would hear if a machine was coming.  Isn't is lovely when traffic is not an issue.

Our girls drove up and arrived just enough before us to light a fire and unpack a few things.  Pizza (they picked up) was waiting for us with some warm tea beside the fire.  It was heavenly.  Pizza rates pretty much #1 on my scale for food after activity.  The first 3 small, corner pieces (the very best)  I barely tasted, the next 2, I enjoyed.

So how did I feel?  I was pooped but happy.  It was a real good workout on the legs.  More than you would think 35 miles would do.  I drank a lot of water and tea to rehydrate.  Ate some grapes and homemade trail bars.  Enjoyed our time watching hockey and singing crazy songs with the girls.  Had a great day!!

The next day we ran almost 11 miles on the snowmobile trails by the lake and around the cabin loop.

SO, the point is- you don't need to travel to somewhere exotic to have great adventures.  A lot of the most memorable experiences happen in our own back yards.  Travel by foot, ski, snowshoe or bike but get outside and do something cool, something unique and something that challenges you and maybe even puts you a bit outside your comfort zone.

And, if you are ever interested in joining us for a ride to the cabin, let me know.  Pizza and crackling fire thrown in.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Actif Epica Recap

I rode out of St Malo Manitoba at 7:30 am, in time to see the sun rise and I rode into the Forks in downtown Winnipeg after sunset.  12 hours on trail, gravel, pavement, snow and mud.   This is the story of Actif Epica 2017.

Alarm went off at 3:15 am.  I think this is the earliest I have ever had to set an alarm for an event.  We had our clothes ready to go, ate some peanut butter overnight oats, filled up our hydroflasks with hot water and was out of the hotel just after 4.  Met a couple other crazies like us in the lobby.
The walk to the bus at the Forks was short but I wondered what people have done when it is super cold out and they are dressed for activity (in other words: very lightly)  The temperature was just below freezing -4 and we were hoping it would stay that way for a while.  We were encouraged to be at the bus by 4:15 and though we were a couple minutes early, the bus was already almost full.  Crazy, prompt people.
 Keener front seats for us.

I was 1 of 5 women on a testosterone dominated bus.  Lots of interesting conversation floating around.   Departure time was just after 4:30 and just over 20 of us got off the bus in St Malo at 5:30 to a locked arena.  A few minutes of waiting until someone came to unlock the door.
In the 1 1/2 hours we had until start time, I ate a Quest protein bar and a banana, used the washroom, pumped the tires in my bike to 12 and 14 psi in the back and front tires respectively and did some chatting.

 It wasn't long and we headed outside for the 7:30 start.  Everyone with their front white and back red blinking lights on in the pre-sunrise morning with balmy temps of -3 made for a beautiful moment.

7:30, we were off.
A few intersections and minutes later we entered a provincial park and rode down onto the lake.

 A pretty long lake with a lot of turns.  An amazing sunrise came just coming around 1 corner.  It was breathtaking.  I thought to stop and take a picture but decided to kept up with the group and not get left behind.  So thankful someone did stop though. Photo credit Thomas Woods

There was 5 check points until the finish for those in the 120 km event.  The miles until the first check point were so much fun.  All the riders were pretty close together with the exception of a few who took off much quicker.  There was a lot of turns, some gravel roads but mostly trails through the bush and along fields that were rideable and a couple where we had to push.  The rideable trails were very narrow tire tracks (only 6-8 inches wide) and I found that quick riding helped keep me on the track.  Every so often the tire would turn and it was easy to slip and go down.  When this happened, my right foot would come down quickly and hit the road and straighten me out.  A few times though, the foot missed the trail and went into the snow beside where it quickly sunk down deep and I experienced what the veteran's called "pole holing".  All 3 times it happened I went right over on my right side with the bike coming pretty much on top of me.  And lucky for me, all with an audience around that seemed to enjoy my predicament.  Let me tell you, it isn't the easiest getting back up again.  So it basically was a step, a miss, a roll, a tangle and a struggle to get upright again.  But each time it happened, brought another smile to my face.  I really had fun.
A few miles of road after the trails and soon we were pulling into St. Pierre-Jolys.

Checkpoint 1: Sugar Shack
Check in.  Hit the bathroom then stuffed my face with delicious banana bread.  The volunteers were very helpful and encouraging. Gulped back a few glasses of water.  Check out and on the road.

This was a short leg until the next check point.  Mostly gravel road riding until a couple miles before the checkpoint which followed a forest trail.  I think this was on Hudderite land (as this is where the checkpoint was) and they had it nicely plowed.  It meandered through bush, up a bit of a muddy hill then to the colony building to the checkpoint.

Checkpoint 2: Crystal Springs
These folks also know how to spoil us riders.  Homemade everything; bread, jam, cookies, muffins.  I had some spelt sourdough bread with jam and a cookie.  Hubby had coffee, a slice of bread and took a couple cookies for the road.  Wish I would have had the insight to grab a couple for my pocket also.  We heard as we were pulling away that they were lighting up the bbque to cook some ribs.  Oh man, so tempting.

I heard a couple veterans say they wanted to hit the trail to get past a rough muddy patch sooner rather than later so we were motivated to follow suit.

After riding was on gravel for a bit into the wind so I was ready for a change.  Not sure I was ready for the change I got though.  Came to the end of a road with a dead end sign and the garmin and cue sheets indicated no turning right nor left but to continue going straight.  Across a field.  For a long ways.  Pushing.  In every direction. And no, I am not exaggerating.  It was a crazy path that had us going all over the place.  The good part was that the snow wasn't especially deep as the wind had blown a lot of it off and the field was still kinda frozen so walking was not too difficult.  Not too much pole holing.
Doesn't it look like it goes on forever?

Thoughts of the perogies and sausage that would be waiting for us at the next checkpoint in Niverville kept me occupied through this walking patch.  Figured once we hit the gravel we were clear sailing from then on.
But just around the corner was when the real fun would begin.

The next 3-4 miles was on a dirt road (Crown Valley Road) with no gravel, much like the one in the picture above,  that had no snow and wasn't froze at all.  So pure mud.  And not the messy, goppy kind but the kind that sticks to everything.  Couldn't ride or barely walk on the road and couldn't walk in the deep snow in the ditch so we tried to stick to the edge of the road as best as we could. It still took many stops to unplug the mud from around the tires or chain as it was so thick, the tires were totally bunged up and wouldn't even turn.  My feet had gotten wet with all the pushing through the snow from the patch before and now I could feel the mud seeping in as well.  I wore winter boots that were not waterproof but honestly didn't ever think I would worry about getting wet.  I had toe warmers in each pocket and extra in my bag as I anticipated cold feet.  I knew I needed to come up with a plan in Niverville to fix my feet up to survive the second half of the adventure.  Wished I had taken a picture of the conditions but I was so focused and busy that it didn't even occur to me until it was in the rear view mirror.

Finally, we reached the end of the mud road and Terry was there waiting for us 2 girls to help us carry our now 50 pound heavier bikes across to the other side.  We caught up with a couple other riders who were also struggling with the enormous weight of their bikes.  The road on the other side was still muddy but there was more water on the road and as long as you rode through the water part, the mud wasn't as bad.  And it didn't last long, thank goodness.  I was totally exhausted though.  It took us 1 1/2 hours longer than expected and I was needed some fueling up.  I just told myself to think about eating and drinking and fixing my feet and I would take it from there.

Checkpoint 3: Niverville

We pulled into the check point to a huge pool of water with the fire truck parked in the lot.  We figured it was there to hose us and our dirty bikes off.  We were so dirty, we were embarrassed to go inside because we would make such as mess but the volunteers that checked us in assured us we were fine.
The delicious smell of perogies and sausage greeted us and my need for food went into overdrive.  And it did not disappoint.

I hunted through my back bag and through Terry's back bag looking for my extra socks but couldn't find them.  (Realized later that they were in his front bag by the tire that was completely covered in mud) So I was lucky enough to get an extra pair from my riding friend Sue.  I used 2 plastic shopping bags and put those over my freshly socked feet then tied the tops and into my wet boots they went.  Duct tape around the top would have been best but didn't have any along and didn't ask anyone else.

 This stop took us 20 min before checking out; the longest but necessary.  We were joined by another rider for awhile until he told us to go ahead while he made some adjustments.  I think we all were pretty sluggish for quite a few miles.  Patiently waiting for the food to kick in.
Mostly gravel riding and quite a lot of it into the wind.  We reached the dike by St. Adolphe and needed to do some walking off and on until we reached the next check in.

Checkpoint 4: St. Adolphe Senior Center
I think this was the shortest check stop time wise. Sue used the washroom but we were in and out, 2 min flat.

 Pretty much gravel riding until we got to Schapansky Road.  It was mentioned in conversation that this part could be challenging.  It was a mud road much like the other but had 1 big difference; it was slightly frozen along the edge so it was rideable.  Rough but no pushing and no mud build up around the tires.  It was hard to start once you stopped so I found I had to really concentrate hard and hold tight to the handle bars and just pedal to not stop or slip or fall.  It was about 2-3 miles long.  We were greeted by a gentleman with water who told us the good news that we had about only 3 more miles until pavement.  The road ahead seemed better so this was good news.  After 1/2 mile, we came to the trail part of the Crow Wing Trail that would lead us to the floodway.

I appreciated the encouraging words of only 3 miles to pavement and was also thankful we weren't told that 3 miles would take us more than an hour of hard walking and pushing.  The snow was very soft and travel was slow.  There was a lot of pole holing in this section also.  It took time.  We were met again by a crew with water but we stopped only to gulp some liquid and took off.  We crossed the floodway (walking) but upon reaching the other side, traveled by paved road or paths as we were in the outside of the city.

My feet were once again soaked.  So much walking had shuffled the bags off my feet and now with the sun setting, I was starting to get a bit cool.  And to take that to the next level, there was so much water along the sidewalks and bike paths that water just sprayed up each time and it wasn't long and my butt and legs were pretty wet also.  We meandered in and out of neighbourhoods on paths and streets before making our way to the University of Manitoba check point.  Terry was leading at this point and continued to do so until we reached the end.  There are a lot of turns and he had really studied the map to know which way to go in the city.  We were happy following along.

Checkpoint 5: University of Manitoba
Spent a few minutes here grabbing some food (cheesies, dill pickle chips and strawberries- interesting choice I know), using the washroom and double checking the streets we needed to be on to make our way to the finish.  Terry had the map loaded on his bike garmin but it just went dead.  I had the map loaded on my phone but didn't have a constant visual of it (no holder on the bike) so we went by memory and cue sheets.
They informed us that the final portion on the river was still open but there was some slush in areas.  Sue and I had already discussed earlier in the day that we wanted to take the alternative bike path beside the river rather than being on the river.
We needed our bike lights from this point on and I noticed that my light wasn't as bright as the others.  Being on flash mode all day obviously wore down some battery. At this point though, with Terry leading, Sue behind him, me and then Thomas, all with good lights and with the street lights, I was seeing fine.  My logical thinking had left the room though.  I was a bit confused about where we were and where we needed to be.  At one point, I was sure we were going the wrong way.  But I kept following and trying to remember what street met with what to get a grip on where I was.  It wasn't long and we were close to the river and we encountered a real slippery section of path where you could go down on the river or along a small bush trail for a bit to meet up with a bike path.  Thomas said he was going down to the river path to check it out.  He yelled that it was fine and no slush but Sue and I told Terry we wanted to stay on the alternate path and he was good with that.  A couple falls each along the very slippery bush trail but we made it to the bike path which took us across a brightly lite bridge and all of a sudden there we were; at The Forks.  A circle around to find the finish line which we rode under then on the street around to the other side to a small outdoor fire pit next to the room where the final check in was.

 WE WERE DONE!!  I couldn't believe it.  I hoped I could do this, visualized this moment of finishing but wasn't completely convinced it would actually happen.  12 hours almost to the exact minute.  Coming into the event not really knowing what the time would be like, I estimated 10-14 hours based on the finishing times from the past couple years.  Sue estimated around 10 hours (at the start of the day before we hit the mud).  So pretty close estimations.

Me, Thomas, Sue and Terry
Thank goodness pictures don't do justice sometimes as most of us didn't have a piece of clothing that wasn't pretty muddy and all of us had wet feet.  Our backs were totally mud covered.  I see our smiling faces and those cold/wet feet just kinda fade away.

They had a few snacks at the finish and I picked up a couple GORP bars to snack on.  We didn't hang around long but headed back to the hotel.  We didn't know what to do with our bikes.  Sue and I were going to go up to the room to get our vehicle keys though the idea of putting such muddy bikes in our vehicles wasn't too appealing.  We were met in the lobby by a hotel employee who told us they would store our bikes in a room just behind the front desk.  We were so thankful as it isn't ideal sticking freshly mudded bikes in a vehicle in downtown Winnipeg overnight.  

Showered up and met Sue back in the lobby in an hour to go grab some real food back at The Forks. Checked in at the finish area to get any updates on how everyone else was making out as we had a few updates of a few more pulling out because of the tough conditions.  

An amazing hamburger filled the need for some real gut filling food.  

And once the stomach is full- you know what happens next.  I NEED SLEEP!  Back to the hotel just after 10 and into bed.  

What a day, what an event!

The most important thing in all of this was the realization once again that going outside my comfort zone and having an adventure is embracing everything I want my life to be. 

I am so fortunate to have spent the day not only challenging myself, but having this experience with my husband.  

 I met so many amazing people and not just people you say hi to that day and never see again, but email, facebook, cell phone connections with people.  
And I am so thankful for the warmer temperatures, despite the challenging mud conditions that this brought as it took the fear of freezing to death out of the equation and I was able to get to know other people, especially the 1 gal I rode pretty much the whole day with.  We spent a lot of the road riding side by side talking and we wouldn't have been doing that if it was -40C.  

The event was organized well, the check point volunteers were amazing with great food, encouragement and assistance.  The self supporting part was a challenge when you are not familiar with the various roads and areas.  There was quite a few times in the day I wasn't sure where I was geographically.  You have to trust the maps and do your homework and study to be prepared.

Points to consider:
-I wouldn't carry much food next time as the checkpoints all had food except at checkpoint 4 St Adolphe.  Trail mix is sufficient as it is easily accessible in your pocket in a sandwich bag.  Small snickers bars were really good too.  
-Have a smaller/cheaper front white flashing light as well as rear red flashing light on during the day when it is manditory and save the big guns for after dark when you really need them.  So 2 lights for front and back would be ideal.
-I saw some people with small cue cards maybe 4 x 6 size (that can be laminated or not) that were attached to the front of the bike with tie straps and each time you were finished with the turns for that card, you ripped it off to get to the next one.  I also had the gps on my phone and garmin but actually having the cue cards right in front would be nice.
-I didn't drink any coffee or have any caffeinated drinks with me on the bike.  Coffee was available at all the checkpoints. 
-With warmer temperatures ( -5 ish to + whatever) thin wool gloves would be ideal for riding.  Mitts were too much and bare hands got sore after awhile. 
-I don't  have a frame bag yet and it will be more ideal to have one to store those things you need to grab quickly- extra socks, headlight, plastic bags (for wet feet))
-If it is really cold, I would keep my warm insulating jacket with me and wear it in the morning to the event instead of packing it in the bag on the bike.  I had plenty of time in the morning after being dropped off to repack some of those things.  It wasn't cold so it was no problem but if it was colder, I would have been very chilly with just my wind shell on.
-Buy some boots made for these kinds of things as wet, cold feet are a killer.
-Gaiters are also on the purchase list.  Almost everyone had them on and it looked like they were the difference between muddy, wet, cold feet and legs or not.