The second half of the bike camp was far larger in volume than the first, and that meant we got to ride more and see more… and consequently get more tired and have more fun!
Wednesday we rolled south out of Penticton bound for Osoyoos. Some of the camp shuttled down to Oliver in the van and met up with us there allowing for a slightly abridged version of the ride. We made our way along a newly paved road between Oliver and Osoyoos that wound its way through the vineyards stretching across the entire valley floor. There were basically no cars on the road and we cruised along in a double paceline enjoying the good weather and watching the miles tick by. Once through Osoyoos our odometers read about 70kms and we began the ascent of 17.5kms up towards Anarchist pass. The climb was steady and even, or steep and relentless, depending on how you look at it.
I parked my heartrate at around 145bpm for the entire duration of the climb and got to the top in 59 minutes, quite pleased to have made it in less than an hour. I was sweating like crazy but it was pretty chilly up there and I had to deal with the dilemma of doing up my jacket to stay warm or keeping it open to prevent myself from getting so soaking wet. I wound up at the top having avoided neither, both chilled and wet. I pulled my arm warmers on over the jacket, slapped a toque back on and shot off down the hill getting nice and cold on the descent due to the windchill.
We recharged at Tim-Hortons and then headed back north through the valley with a light tailwind. We cruised most of the way at more than 40kph again in a double paceline until OK Falls where we climbed McLean Creek road and then raced across the top, I put in a really solid 10 minutes after about 5.5 hours of riding, really drilling it in a big gear, 60min TT kind of effort. If you told me at the beginning of the week that I’d feel that strong on the bike after 5.5 hours this early in the season I’d have laughed at you. Apparently I’m in decent form already. I followed up the ride which amounted to 175kms with a short run and an icing of the legs in Lake Okanagan for 10 minutes. My longest brick workout to date, a record that would last only a few days.
Thursday was an easy day to freshen up for a final serious effort at the camp over the last two days, I started out with a nice run along the canal in the morning and then rode out to the coffee shop in Naramata with the crew and averaged a heartrate below what I’d even consider to be the beginning of zone 1 training for the entire bike ride including the ascent of a big beast of a hill up towards Chute Lake, we only made it as far as the end of the pavement but it was a solid 10 minute standing effort. The ride was followed up by another dip in the lake.
Friday we bundled up and rolled south again knowing that the clouds that were slowly pouring over the egde of the valley in the distance were bringing rain or snow in our direction. The goal when getting dressed was almost universally “how can I stay as warm as possible”. We rolled out into a headwind and after ascending McLean Creek road and scooting through OK falls we took on “The Wall” on the Green Lake road and ascended the 15 odd percent grade out of the valley. We were greeted by fierce winds and snow as we entered the next valley although the road was spectacularly scenic and the falling snow set a picturesque scene, deepening the green of the spring’s new grass. I was reminded of the Easter weekend I spent in the south of Germany way back in 2001. Driving through the foothills of the Alps we watched as snow fell on some of the most beautiful vistas of that entire trip as we drove a winding road bound for Fussen. I discussed with Bruce the necessity of having a gradual introduction to miserable riding weather, that the enjoyment of riding in soaked cycling gear with temperature hovering just above freezing is really an acquired taste. The beauty of acquired tastes though is that they make themselves all the more appreciated when the taster realizes that they are among a small small minority of the population that can appreciate them. We rolled carefully down a winding road from the observatory and I blasted home along Skaha appreciating the tailwind as warmth re-entered my legs. Re-warming of the toes would take a while longer.
Day eight was to be the culmination of a week’s tough work. An assualt on the Ironman loop. The roll-out included our fourth trip down Eastside road and an ascent of McLean Creek. The wind once again greeted us from the south and I started the morning with a long hard pull along the lakeshore to get revved up for the day ahead, at our first stop I pulled out the stash of cinnamon buns I’d been hiding under my jacket and distributed them to the group. Now warmed up, a bulging jacket now emptied and a lightened load, and with freshly baked buns in my stomach, I was super excited to get on with the long ride ahead. Brimming excitement.
As we left OK Falls the cycling team Total Restoration rolled past us decked out in matching kits, riding matching team bikes and with a matching team car following the group. Our ABA group caught on to their peloton and sucked their draft for the next hour. On one climb out of Oliver they dropped one of their girls off the back, leaving the guys of the ABA camp with a mission in our minds, draft her along to get her back on to their pack. What a mission it was, we totally drilled it along the road for 10 minutes, going all out into the headwind, and then up past 70kph down a small hill, spinning out my 53×11 to catch back on. After the adventure we let Total Restoration continue off into the distance as the ABA camp regrouped as we co-operated well with few pauses until Osoyoos. A lunch break was taken at km 70 on the day at Tim Hortons and followed immediately by ascending Richter’s pass.
We were greeted by light rain on the second of four benches, which became hail by the time we arrived at the third bench. The ascent through the worsening storm over the final bench was only completed by Greg and myself, and the descent and subsequent trip through the seven rollers led us onto the flats of the Keremeos valley. The sun was shining and the next valley over was quite warm, not exactly what was anticipated as we headed into the maelstrom atop the pass. I worked the rollers hard and then and I parked myself at a hard effort on the flats as we cruised at 40kph into Keremeos, hard enough to get a little ache in my lower back, a common symptom of mine for early season efforts. Another brief food stop and we headed out and up over the Green Mountain Road, my effort had drained Greg a bit on the flats, but now his effort on the climb was draining me as I had to work a pretty moderate effort to keep up on the long gradual climb. The third descent of Green Mountain Road this week was very similar to the two prior, all three being two-person affairs. I’d become familiar with the road by now and was confident that the whole thing could be ridden with full gas, and that’s basically what I tried to do, scooting down the entire road without letting up the effort. I tacked on an extra ride back south to OK Falls and back along eastside road to rack up my mileage on the day to 200kms. A brick run of 5kms rounded out the camp for me and I was quite content with the pace I was able to maintain, I definitely wasn’t ready to run a marathon at 5min/km pace like I have visions of doing in August but that’s not yet supposed to be the case anyways. I did realize quickly that I was cruising through energy on that run unlike I think I’d experienced ever before. This was certainly the longest and toughest ride I’d ever tried to brick run from, and despite continuous eating all day and consuming 350 calories during the last hour aboard my wheels, and even eating a bit after 1 km on the run I wrapped up the short 5kms run hungry and knowing I would have needed to start getting serious calories in soon if I were to have kept running.