Monday, October 14, 2013

Working Honeymoon

The Valley Harvest 50km Ultramarathon last weekend was possibly one, if not the, hardest thing I've ever done.  Mea culpa, I went into it underprepared; not through any sense of slack-ass but because I missed some crucial weekends of training by doing other stuff. Officiating mainly.  Having said that, as hard as the Ultra was (really, really fecking hard), I wouldn't have traded the officiating experiences I had this summer for 15 seconds a kilometer less and a framed print.

I've worked national events, Continental Cups and even a couple of world Cups but never a WTS event. Back in September I was lucky enough to skip straight to the big dog and work not just a WTS event but the Grand Final.

The icing on the cake, what made it more special was it was in London, my adoptive (if not actual) home town back in Blighty. It was also somewhat of a honeymoon for la belle and myself. Our wedding date back in May was chosen as it didn't conflict with either our racing schedule or that of our guests. It almost seemed natural that our honeymoon, such as it was, would be combined with an officiating grip. Edmonton just didn't do it for us (sorry Edmonton), accommodations in Magog definately weren't honeymoon quality and St Andrews was just too brief a trip. Besides, there's something about London. Samuel Johnson was right, when you're tired of London, etc etc..... 

So, here in a but of a nutshell is a kinda diary

Tuesday September 10: we actually got to the UK on Saturday 7th and went staight to Leeds to see my mother and step-father. Actually I'm not from Leeds either, rather from a small village to the norrh of Leeds, Horsforth, long since subsumed into the Leeds-Bradford conurbation. Horsforth also just happens to be where the Brownlees are from, more of them later, but for now, here's Ali's gold postbox in Horsforth. 

After a couple of days at home, including the obligatory "John couldn't make the wedding but we have a bottle of champagne here: shall we open it?" we got the train from Leeds on Tuesday morning, pulled into KGX bang on time and went straight to race-site in Hyde Park with our suitcases. Given that our hotel was only a 15 minute walk from race site and 5 minutes from Hyde Park's Queen Gate, we didn't really leave Hyde Park for the next five days! As soon as we walked into the race village we met Janice Turner, the Canada Games TD and the BTF's Bob Newton, who we worked with in at World Dus three years ago.  Two minutes later we bumped into John Petrides. In short, seven minutes in and we were already among friends.

We went straight to the TO's meeting, chaired by Thanos Nikopolous, arguably the highest triathlon official in the world. Asides maybe, from Gergly Markus, who was the team leader instead. Anyway, Thanos used the meeting to set the tone for the week and introduce the sector chiefs. We also had a paratriathlon seminar. It was the same one we had in Edmonton, but repetition is good, especially for something this new. The sector chiefs weren't the only ones introduced, it seemed to me Thanos referred to me by name three or four times during the meeting as I had apparently been tapped as "the" bike-check guy. No pressure then! 

I met my boss for the week, NZ's Ross Cahill. Also in the team was Janice and Yan Therrien. Along with Melissa, also a Kiwi, TZ was a very Canada/Kiwi affair.

After the meeting we checked in to our hotel, the ABBA on Queensgate.

Apparently we got an upgrade to an executive room, which is funny because we've only stayed in an ABBA once before, in Gijon (at World Dus 2011) and headed out to east london for a curry on Brick Lane. 

Wednesday September 11. The only race scheduled for the Wednesday was the Aquathlon.  There wasn't a lot for a bike-check guy to do during the aquathlon! Bike check guy however isn't an official ITU job designation, I was technically billed as Assistant TZ (bike check)  although to be honest I could have just as easily been Assistant Registration as that's where most of the actual bike checking took place. Registration was where la belle was stationed with the USA's Joyce Donaldson and her sector chief, Mike Masters, who I think I was Prince William's helicopter mechanic. So instead of bike check at the aquathlon. I worked transition. It was fun, I'd never really worked an aquathlon before, just a small AG one here in NS with 20 people or something. Not the same. The Aquathlon helped us all get into the groove of things as there were age-group, para and elite races all compressed into one afternoon. 

Thursday September 12. This was our big day, with the Junior men and Junior Women followed by the U23 Men and U23 women. We were at race site at 05:30, which meant getting up at 04:30 which for those still struggling with jet-lag was a little like getting up at midnight!  Janice, Yan and I checked in the Junior women, went and worked TZ to get them out of T1 before returning to Registration to check the Junior men while the junior women finished up, then go work TZ and get the Junior men out of T1. Repeat for the U23s. You get the picture for the day.  With big, multi-race events you don't get to see the whole race, you'll only get to see your small, two-metre square of blue carpet.  For instance, I was asked a few times about the bike or run routes and I just didn't know; still don't!

I was lucky being tasked to be in-between bike-check and TZ proper. At least I got so see some racing.    La belle was pure Registration for four days and barely saw a pedal turned in anger all week.  

Our work wasn't done after the U23 as the Canadian/Kiwi bike check team segued straight into the Tri1 paratriathlon check; hand-bikes and racing chairs. This was somewhat new to most of us but I was lucky enough to have had some exposure to it in Edmonton. Fortunately Thanos was there to get us trained up and super-comfortable with it.

Then, after the Tri1 were finished the Elites turned up. Most of them rode down and they racked in the same place we were checking the hand-bikes so we ended up pulling security on the elite bikes and one very crappy fixie (which I hope belonged to a coach) while they were being briefed.

I couldn't really leave anyway as la belle was registration and checking them all in.  Everyone was on a road bike except the Brownlees, who rolled down on Boardman MTB's.  One of the Yorkshire BTF guys said "you going to race that then are you" to which Ali replied with a smile "well, I've got to make in interesting 'aven't I?" 

All in all, we got off race-site at 19:00. Long day. 

Friday September 13: This was one of three consecutive mental days with age-grouper and elite racing.  One of the nice ways the event was arranged was with the TOs. They were very proud about having a team of 80 TOs. We were split up, with some doing primarily age-group and others Elites. This meant that we didn't all have to pull 0-dark thirty starts every day. So whereas la belle, Ross, Yan, Janice and a whole bunch of us were all up stupid early on Thursday, half of the TOs team were having a relative lie-in.  Conversely, on Friday, we were able to get the lie-in while the age-group Sprint kicked off at the crack of sparrows.

Friday was the paratriathlon. Although as a team we checked all the bikes, the TZ was split into two, with the Tri1, Tri2 and Tri5 (in other words all the lower-leg impairments) in the Elite TZ and the Tri3, Tri4 and Tri6 in age-group transition.

Elite bike-check was fun; aero-carbon, deep-dish wheels, Dura-Ace, Red and Record but ultimately a bit samey at times: "Oh look, another Scott Foil with Zipp 404s and Di2".  The Para's bike were a weird and wonderful mix: each individuals' bike was customised to his or her individual disability,

The tandems, for instance, were pretty easy to check as there were no modifications.  Anyway, I could look at tandems all day, even if I can't ride one with la belle. There's nothing worse than a back-seat driver on a tandem. I mean, all the rear gunner needs to do is pedal, but that's a different story.

The Janice/Andrew bike-check tandem was assigned to Tri4 bike-check. Tri4 is upper-limb impairment.  Whereas I have a whole ton of respect for all the para-athletes, I have a special admiration for the Tri4s. Just wait until you've seen an athlete take a corner, full gas, on the bars with only one arm.  It's something that eludes many age-groupers!

For the Tri4s, we got to use the "approved modifications" book, an ITU booklet which as the name suggests contains approved modifications to paratriathletes' bikes. My book, which was just a print-out of the pdf, got hammered as it (naturally) rained as we were working outside in a small, tented-off field, and I wasn't wearing a rain-coat!  Not that a rain-coat would have helped my paperwork!

La belle might disagree, but it seemed to me that the bikes for the lower-limb impairments mostly  followed the same pattern, as a rule standard bikes.  The para-specific stuff for a Tri2 or Tri5 was, in the main, having a prosthetic limb of some description; be it a traditional endoskeleton-type or a Blade-runner like carbon leaf, that clipped into the pedal.  The Tri4s however were all somewhat unique, with each bike more closely reflecting the individuals disability.  From a bike-geek's point-of-view, pure nerdy heaven, Where do I sign up to do more?  Checking Tri4 bikes was a little like doing a bike-assesment when booking a bike in for work at Cyclesmith; check the brakes, check the gears, check the wheels. Certainly, that skill-set was very useful.  The level of ingenuity in the Tri4 bikes was amazing, and I saw Di2 used in ways  I'm sure Shimano had not dreamed of. I don't think I saw Campy's EPS on any of the bikes.  If this is because it's inherently less adaptable than Di2 or it just reflects the relative newness of EPS I don't know. Time will tell.

We had to turn a couple of bikes away for dangerous modifications (not only not in the book but frankly dangerous) but fortunately both athletes were able to get their bikes fixed to our satisfaction before their starts. One guy made the pontoon by the skin of his teeth; it's quite the story.

He turned up with only one working brake. Having only one arm he had disconnected the front brake as he couldn't use it.  The easy fix was a cable-splitter. Most Tri4s had one fitted. He didn't.  Unfortunately, the on-site mechanics didn't have a cable splitter and his start was in a hour. There's a moral here about checking in early I'm sure.  Anyway, the on-site mechanics from a a well-known on-line bike shop weren't able to fix it so bike ended up with the Specialized techs at the Spec booth at 13:30 hrs. Did I mention his start was 14:10?  Unfortunately for me, I didn't have a radio so I was literally running the 400 m between check-in and the Spec tent and then the additional 400m to AG TZ, where he would eventually be racked, and begging air-time from whomever I could find with a radio! At 13:45 it looked like the Spec Techs had fixed it by drilling a hole into his existing MTB brake-lever and running a cable from that to the previously superfluous front brake. As they drilled and hemmed and hawed, the guys team manager was hopping from foot to foot outside the Spec tent with his athletes TZ box (running shoes, bike shoes, helmet etc). At 13:50 I went to see the team manager and told him the repair was done and could he kindly get his athlete onto the pontoon now as it would be a pity if he missed his start after all this work.  The manager threw the TZ box at me and exited stage left. I grabbed the box and the bike and exited stage right.  I must have looked quite the sight, running through the Expo to AG TZ with a box under one arm and pushing his bike with the other.  Anyway, I had his stuff set up and racked by 14:05 and managed to inform the Referee that he was all was good to go.

As the guy was a Tri4 and I was working the other TZ so I didn't even know he'd started until I saw him an hour later on the run.

Knowing how Cyclesmith works, Techs are paid for off-the-clock work the clock in beer, so that night I headed out to Waitrose and bought them beer, which Lesley Buchanan, the Race Referee (and also a Canadian) wouldn't let me pay for; which I thought was a bit classy.  All in all, a job well done I think. The bike techs, always the unsung heroes (who can do a bike-race if their bike doesn't work?) did a sterling job under the radar and got their beer and, more importantly, the athlete got his race on the world's biggest triathlon stage.

Paratriathlon TZ was the only Elite TZ we, as officials, had to be physically present in, as opposed to observing from a distance. We also had three or four extra officials in there, the paratriathlon classifiers. Part of their gig is to observe the para-athletes in competition to see if they are over-representing their disability.   Appeals over classification are a big thing in para-sport. At least in triathlon we only have seven categories; imagine athletics which has dozens!  Add the handlers, and it was packed, as you can see i the official ITU video.

With handbikes, regular bikes and racing chairs flying all over the place. How we didn't lose anyone to an errant wheel I don't know. I was nearly taken out by a handbike. This thing was flying at 40kph, the whole thing barely 60cm above the ground: knee-height basically. Totally silent and painted bright orange, it was like watching the pod-race from The Phantom Menace.

Then we were all nearly taken out by a handbike which didn't stop on the Dismount line and skidded into TZ as the guy dropped both front anchors and went from 40 to 0 on wet carpet.

It occurs to me this is getting awfully long, so I"ll stop it here and to the Elite races in another post.

Thanks for hanging on there and reading.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Counting Sheep

I have no idea where this came from whilst idly persuing my iTunes, with a vague idea to listen to 80s music while banging out some emails and stuff.

Back in the very early 90s I was living in a bedsit in Forest Gate, E7. That's deepest, darkest London to most of you.  You've heard of Jack the Ripper?  The original "from hell" Ripper?  Well Forest Gate is several miles to the east of that!  Nice place.  Anyway, I was there for my 3rd and 4th year undergrad.  Then, as now, I couldn't pass by a second hand book or record shop without passing in.  There was one on the main street in Forest Gate, a ten minute walk from home.  They had a box of 7" singles for 25p or something.  I bought a shed-load of stuff there.

There are two that stick in the mind.  One was Alison Moyet's It won't be long.

The other, The Airhead's Counting Sheep.

AIRHEAD - Counting Sheep from Alex Alexmusic on Vimeo.

True earworms both, played on a loop they helped me get over a breakup.  They also appeared on every mix-tape I made until I lost them in one of my many moves (since leaving home at 18 I've moved at least  dozen times, including three countries, four if you include Scotland)

There's no message here dear reader, just ambushed by iTunes.  Plus, Counting Sheep is just so toe-tapping catchy I think it's a crime it isn't better known!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Canada Games 2013

Well, I've had a week at home  after a pretty crazy week in Magog and Sherbrooke at the Canada Games and I think my head has just about stopped spinning. As those of you who follow me on the Facebook or the Twitters will have read, I needed a week off to get over my week "off". At least I've ploughed through that load of zebra (read black 'n white) technical laundry.

As with all major triathlon events, with maybe the exception of London in three weeks, the pool of Technical Officials (TOs) was too small. Three from one province, two from that one, none from these ones.  I'm sure there's some deeper political meaning to these machinations, but I'm too dumb to get it.

Cue obligatory finish-line TO's picture. It's kind of a tradition.

The TD for the event was Janice Turner from Newfoundland.  We've worked together before and she seems to get on really well with la belle, which is good as I reckon those two are TriCan's Rio-bound officials right there. Race Ref was David Markham, who is pretty much an officiating God as far as we are concerned. I could't shake the feeling we were being assessed for the whole week!  There's a whole lot of leadership right there.   From Quebec we had Lise Dube and Eric Pregeant, both of whom I've worked with before too, and a new NTO, Sophie Yergeau.  Eric always makes out his English isn't very good, but he always gets the job done and even understands me, and that's not something every anglophone Canadian could say.  All three were at Mont Tremblant on Sunday, whilst Lise et Eric were also at the Magog Age-group Long Course the day before we started off at CG.  Talk about hard workers.   From BC there was Chief Race Official (and motor-pool car booker, social events coordinator and Resto St Hubert convert) Troyce Beglaw and also the guy who is running the risk of becoming my triathlon mentor, Andrew Armstrong (a fellow Brit).  I reckon most of the National and International races I've worked, I've worked with him.

Go and see British Andrew in Transition.

New Brunswick sent Marilyn Gergeas and Linda MacLeod, the latter of whom seems to be wearing both NS and NB crowns and along with la belle came hot-foot from World Du's which, apparently, to call a gong-show is doing a great disservice to gong-shows.  To round out the group we had Cathy Meara from MB and Terry Hooper from SK. Interestingly Cathy and Terry both had children in the Games, in triathlon!

It sounds like a lot but when you divide the event into seven sectors; swim, bike, run, registration, penalty, transition and finish, then suck away three TOs with "oversight" roles (TD, HR, CRO) and put another one in as announcer/MC then the pool gets pretty thin.  The upshot of being understaffed is that you get to do a whole bunch of jobs, which is pretty cool.  As an NTO you are supposed to be able to do all parts of an event from Registration to Medals and that was very much my experience at CG. 

My major gig was Chief Run, which is always the best seat in the house.  Let's face it, modern, draft-legal triathlon is very much a game of sit-in in the swim, sit-in on the bike, sit-in for the first half of the run and then cane it all the way home on the last lap. As Run, I was leading the run pack and was there to see, in real time, Emily Wagner put the boots to Emy Legault in the ladies, and similarly see Xavier Grenier-Talavera run some of the best Canadian U-23s off his heels in the mens. I mean, really sports-fans, who wouldn't want to see that? TSN should put a GoPro on the back of my bike next time!

Plus, I was assigned to a whole slate of secondary or assistant jobs. I was paired up with Andrew Armstrong again as Assistant Transition which means, basically, bike-check. What? You mean I get to play with carbon bikes with fancy wheels and Di2?  Sure thing boss.  We confused a whole bunch of Francophones who were told at some point over the week "Go and see British Andrew in Transition". Yup, that narrowed it down!  I was also given Starter for the relays. This was super-awesome. You see, for the last few years la belle and I have been to enough ITU races to have heard more than once the Pirates of the Caribbean music and the heartbeat that are the hall-marks of an ITU event and once, at World Du's in Gijon, were even luckier to be in an age-group start corral when it was played. With la belle as announcer, for the relays we were given the music and a mic and told to get on with it. Then I also got to help with the line-ups for the medal ceremonies.  As with St Andrews, pretty quickly you can go from being a bike-mechanic to FOP official to show-producer in the space of 90 minutes.

Speaking of relays there are a couple of youtube videos already for the relays (here and here). I, for one, find them pretty interesting as I get to see things I never saw on the day. Sure, I got to see the front of the run, but I saw little of the swim, the relay hand-over or TZ.

At Gijon, we heard the Pirates music every ten minutes as the Elites were racing, as it would be played whenever the pack came into the stadium, In between blasts of Pirates they played Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World" and J Lo's "On The Floor" on a continual loop!  I left Spain convinced ITU's soundtrack had been picked by a 14 year-old girl!  At this Games, the official song was Chantal Kreviazuk's Supersonic, which sounds like Clocks by Coldplay, but isn't.  Supersonic permeated the Games, the awards ceeremonies and the closing ceremony and I really don't want to hear it again!

The level of bilingualism, always high, was even higher given we were in Quebec. On our first day of competition I headed out onto the run course on Old Bess only to find myself briefing the volunteers, aid-station people and one cop in some kind of bastard Franglais.  Even better was dealing with some of the locals as they tried to drive through road-blocks onto the closed bike course.

"Non, non monsieur. Cette route est barrée. You must suiviez la voiture blanche"

I was so discombobulated one of my radio calls later in the day was

"Lead men heading out on their deuxième tour"

Spoken like a true New Brunswicker!

My level of linguistic discombobulation was nowhere near la belle's. As announcer she had to stick to the Games protocols as well as providing full commentary in English and French.  After the individual event she was somewhat criticized by Games staff for not being fully bilingual. Her crime was to introduce anglophone athletes in English and Francophone ones in French.  The RD described this nit-pickiness as "s'enfarger dans les fleurs du tapis" or literally tripping over the flower pattern on the carpet. It made me wonder if they didn't have one of those clocks they have at chess labelled Eng and Fr and were hitting buttons every time she switched language and if both clocks didn't show the same time at the end of the event, fire the MC. 

Clearly they weren't at the cycling, which I was able to get to, where the commentator was both fully Francophone, barely bothering with English, and totally biassed towards Quebec athletes to boot.  Or indeed the closing ceremonies.  Most dignitaries stumbled through a speech in both their preferred and non-prefered official language (the GG's accent is particularly gruesome, even to my ears) except the Parti Quebecois Minister for Education and sport, Madame Malavoy who spoke only in French and, according to la belle, managed to avoid saying the word "Canada" once in her allotted five minutes.  It was so bad some of the athletes (I think) started to chant "Anglais, anglais" as she spoke but were quickly hushed! If the idea was to piss off the best and brightest in English Canada, mission accomplished. The fireworks were pretty though.

The venue was brilliant; this was my fourth year at Magog and every year René and his team have risen to the challenge of putting on a bigger and better event. Unlike some RDs we've all worked for, Rene's default position always has been "sure, we can find a way to do that".   After the team relays we had only one complaint; the lake wasn't precisely the same colour blue as the ITU carpet.   He's going to see what he can do about that!

Unfortunately, our digs at the University de Sherbrooke weren't up to snuff. At least they had the vision to put most of the triathlon officials in adjoining rooms so when we all got up and were banging around  at o-dark-thirty on race morning, we were only disturbing our own.  The state of the rooms was, charitably, awful and the bathrooms were worse. Our shared bathroom was two-tone, with the institutional blue paint originally applied in 1972 peeking out from holes in the institutional beige paint last applied in 1989. As predicted in my first post, la belle had a major meltdown (my only surprise was she arrived on Sunday but it took until Monday night) and for the rest of the week was one silverfish away from packing up and leaving and driving in from Drummondville each morning if necessary. Breakfast was even worse. I saw a tweet from the athlete village at Bishops, with three smiling (and likely bilingual) volunteers standing in front of a warming tray with piles of bacon, eggs and other tasty comestibles. In the Major Technical Officiels breakfast hall we had a francophone Seinfeldt-esque soup-Nazi. You could have coffee OR fruit-juice.  A banana OR a muffin. Sure, unlike the athletes we weren't doing 5000 calorie days but still, it felt a bit much.

We didn't have a lot of time to ourselves to be honest, a couple of afternoons here and there and we had to attend to family business, with la belle's parents living within two hours of Magog. It'll be the same in London, but with my lot not hers.

That was pretty much how it was for us; a succession of early mornings, even earlier mornings, athlete briefings, bike-checks, course familiarization, dorm-related Blitz spirit, Franglias, St Hubert chicken and Pirates of the Caribbean. God, it was fun. 

À bientôt 


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Touchdown, Sherbrooke

Arrived in Sherbrooke, Quebec, yesterday for the Canada Summer Games, following an epic 14 hour solo drive from halifax. I started to get a bit punchy around Levis, but fortunately I came round after an emmergency Timmies stop. I remember ordering in French, they didn't have what I ordered so they gave me some alternatives in rapid French, which was unfortunate as in my current state I wasn't conversant in either of Canada's officiel languages at the time! I just looked dumb (dumber?) and eventually got a soup. At least it was hot!

So far, life has been pretty simple since arriving in Sherbrooke, even streamlined. The major technical officiels are based at the Universite de Sherbrooke, whereas the athletes are all HQ'd at Bishops. So, whereas the athletes village is probably hopping right now, the officials village, for want of a better word, is pretty sedate. Pretty grey too! Regadrless of the sport, the official uniform appears to be black-and-white across the board. It's like living in a zebra house! At least we don't feel our age and weight, not being surrounded by impossibly young and fit athletes, but that will change soon enough.

Against my better nature I woke early, so I decided to go for a short run. There's a nice network of crusher-dust trails right outside the door so I did a tranquil 5 miles in the woods. I think I rediscovered why I like running. Anyway, chalice it's hilly! I forsee some kids changing their gearing later today. Magog is very much the same as Sherbrooke and it's not 25T territory!

Accrediation was easy, everything was there waiting for me and scoring a parking pass was easy too. They even gave us our per diem cheques straight up. We even got our majeur officiels polo shirts. This may not sound like a big deal, and in the big scheme it isn't, but until a month ago, we weren't getting anything. It's a nice touch.

The only down-side so far is the accomodation; the Universite deSherbrooke dorms leave *a lot* to be desired. We'd been warned, but they still came as an unpleasant surprise. La belle is going to have a shit-fit when she arrives. I wouldn't be surpirsed if she bails and camps in the Smart Car instead!

I checked in with the TriCan big guns last night and, to my great surprise, I have a spare hour this morning. Partly this is because race-site is currently occupied by the Trimemphre triathlon, the event i've worked for the last three years, and partly because Rene Pommerleau, the RD, is super-on-top of things. So there's no building of race-site for us today; Rene already has it all done. Plus, if you look at it, having an AG race there today gives Rene the chnace to battle-test his course one last time before handing it over to us.

We'l be briefing and checking the Juniors in today. Also, we'll check all the bikes thoroughly todau while we have rhe luxery of time, and just do spot-checks on race day. I'll be workiing with Andrew Armsteong again in the bike-check. Ypu, the two British Andrews at it again. This seems to be a gig I'm getting type-cast in, you know, give the bike-shop guy the bike check, but that suits me fine. For race-day I'm down as chief run, but we'll see what happens. Assignments get changed a lot! I had an interesting chat over breakfast with Troyce from BC who's TDing Challenge Penticton about the, ahem, challenges of working with the Challenge organisation. With St Andrews going Challenge next year, this is a topic I have more than an academic interest in!

Well, I think that's my hour of rest done. Time to ring for the courtesy shuttle and get my arse down to race-site.

A la prochaine


Wednesday, July 24, 2013




Pain management. 

All important to endurance athletes (let's just gloss over the fact I just called myself an endurance athlete shall we?). So when a colleague asked if I wanted to head over the Freemans on Quinpool Road after work (conveniently located a 10m stagger from the shop's side door) how could I say no? Yes, I know I wanted to head out for a quick run after work but I figured a quick brewski; hydration and sugars with a small dose of pain management and I'd still be good for that quick 5 miler along the waterfront.

Alas, I plumped for the Bridge Brewing Company's Farmhouse Ale.  It's good stuff. 

Smooth.  Strong.

Strong as in having one is like having half-a-pint-of-wine-strong.  The first time I had one it went down smoothly.  I chased it with a greasy pizza, and then chased the pizza with another Farmhouse.  The second was as smooth as the first. I felt pretty good.  No side-effects from pharmacologically active two-carbon hydroxyl compounds, 

Then I got up and found some-one had stolen my legs.  Tonight was pretty much the same except with only one beer and no pizza.

Clearly at odds with Douglas Adams' assertion that there are a number of environmental and weapons treaties, as well as laws of physics, which prevent it from being mixed on Earth, Bridge Brewing Company's Farmhouse Ale is clearly the earth-bound equivalent of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, famously described as like having your head smashed with a slice of lemon, wrapped around a gold brick.

Don't panic indeed,

The subsequent run passed without too much incident, given that I was technically Running Under The Influence, although at one point I was all so long and thanks for all the fish.

Seriously. Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. Don't do it!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

St Andrews Triathlon Weekend

I'm really looking forward to this weekend.  No getting up at 04:00 on Sunday and spending 12 hours on my feet as for the past six weeks (or so it seems).  Bluenose, of course was an exception except instead of standing up for 12 hours I ran a marathon instead. Easy money.  A weekend off. Then Navy Tridents as TD (12 hours on race-site), Cyclesmith Duathlon as RD (another 12 hours if you include the tear-down), Greenwood as a bog-standard line official (12 hours if you include the commute), the Edmonton World Cup (three hours jet-lag either way, 12 hours on site three days in a row and the red-eye home), another weekend off except I worked at actual work instead and then the St Andrews Tri-weekend.  This weekend; nada. No work, no race. Maybe a little lie-in.  The guys want to do a twenty-miler on Sunday; I'm all for it but I'm vetoing any start-time that begins with the number 6.

St Andrews was the last of the crazy string of races. There was a junior national series race on Saturday and a 1900/90/21 long-course on Sunday. I originally wanted to do Sunday's accompanying short-course (1000/50/10.5) but somehow got suckered in to TDing it instead. I'm still not sure how that happened.

Maybe there's a story in that we only had a team of six officials for the weekend: four from NS, two from NB. Who knows? I'm not even sure who I was representing on Sunday! Not TriCan.  TNS? Not sure how I can swing that. Ditto for TriNB. Freelancing maybe! Whistle for hire :)

It was great to work with the Juniors on Saturday, I think I'm starting to get to know some of the kids. I know la belle is; after all she's the one who's been registering them for the last couple of years. I just get to check their bikes.   

As well as some of the Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta teams there were other familiar faces too.  The Nova Scotia Canada Games team was there too, getting some last-minute race-sharpening in and checking out their competition for Sherbrooke.

On Friday we drove to St Andrews and, by luck or judgement (I don't know which) our motel was next-door to registration and practically next door to TZ.   Linda McLeod from TNS was the TD for the Junior and I got to HR, which for Friday meant attending the briefing, answering some questions, pre-checking some bikes and wheels and catching up with coaches.

I also got to go on the bike famil.  No cops, just the LOC and a big truck!

While I was having fun with bikes and riding in a big-ass truck, MC was running registration. Again.  She's got this down to a science!

The RDs, Garth and Helena Millar are expat Brits and great to work with. They had a lot of experience back home as RDs, experience those of us in blue vests and the fancy hats ignore at our peril.  Hanging out with my countrymen had a deleterious effect on my accent though.  I met a few other friendly faces too; Scott MacKenzie and John Russell from TriNB, who I'd run in to at National meetings before. It was great to work with them again.  Tracy Shelley, as junior race series RD, was there too. We've kinda worked together before, but this was the first time we were on a team together. Nothing got by Tracy (even if I called her Shelley for half the weekend, she didn't miss that!) and she helped us a lot in the absence of a team-leader to oversee the fancy stuff.

Saturday was an early start. 04:00 reveille, TZ at 05:00.  The Juniors are always nicely disciplined and need very little herding compared to age-groupers. Thank goodness! We got the ladies off in time and they didn't disappoint, blitzing through the course. 

I can't remember much from within the race because with such a small team we were constantly rushing from one thing to another whilst simultaneously trying to do the officials thing.  I was feeling more than a little stressed about converting the T2 run-out into the finish line in less than ten minutes after the last athlete left T2 but to my surprise we had it done so quickly we were actually twiddling our thumbs waiting for the first lady. Let's hear it for Garth and Helana's experience.  It was also nice to have la belle out of registration and backing me up; I didn't have to ask, she just did.

The only fly in the ointment was the short reset time between the ladies and the men and unfortunately we started the latter ten minutes late. That's a bit of a big deal, but they were faster than the women, with the lead man in under one hour. Crickey! 

One of the things about working a race at this level is that you get to use the whole rule-book.  Most AG athletes are familiar with the swim, TZ, bike and run portions, but these only occupy the first third or half of the book.  The rest is about running a high level race.  For only the fifth time in my officiating career I got to break out the awards ceremony protocol (MC seemingly lives the Uniform appendices nowadays).  It's quite surreal to go from bike-mechanic, line-referee to show-producer in the space of 90 minutes. I think we did a good job, even if the duck-tape wouldn't stick and we had to get two six-footguys to hide behind the  gantry and hold the TriCan tapes, and St Andrew's and the Algonquin Hotel certainly gave a great backdrop.

The award winners didn't get medals though, they got original art-work from a local artist.  Cool.

There's not much to say about Sunday's age-group race except that if it was this good this year, I can't wait to see what it will look like next year after Challenge drops off two containers of branded stuff.

As you've all undoubtedly heard, I ruled wetsuits out on the basis the water was between 26 and 28C. Never mind the "No Wetsuits" and "Really No Wetsuits" rules that WTC seem to have, this would have been no wetsuits under any code.  I heard a fair amount of grumbling before the event, but no-one came up to me afterwards to complain.

Funny story. The NB athletes don't know me. So I walk into TZ just after 06:15 (yes we were late, but I was triple-checking the water temp) and announced 

"Ladies and gentlemen: I am the bearer of bad news,,,,,"

and gave the spiel. No 'suits, no socks and so-on.

A little later one of the NB athletes comes up to me and says

"With your accent, even bad news sounds better!"

Cute. And no, she still wasn't allowed to wear one!

The draft-busters here were given a treat with two almost WWII-vintage motorbikes with sidecars, ammunition panniers, Brodie-esque helmets, the lot!   La belle did over 100kms in one of Sunday, and I wasn't able to get a pic but here's Tri NB prez Paul Lavoie in the other one....

Very Escape to Victory. I told la belle if her pilot tried to jump the wire into Switzerland she should call me immediately or go in the cooler. Of course, comms with someone in a sidecar were awesome. We could talk and text no problem as she wasn't holding on to her pilot! It's the way to go. Plus, it's never felt more appropriate to call the shot-gun passenger on a moto the rear gunner!

Fokkers at 12 o'clock indeed.

The shadow of Mont Tremblant was all over this race. It was a great race and Challenge St Andrews (as it will be next year) will be a great event in it's own right, and it will stand in it's own right. However with many people either coming to it having done the 70.3 a fortnight ago or using it as training for the full IM in a month comparisons are hard not to make. One woman came into T2, flopped down on her tri-mat and said "that was harder than Tremblant", in an awestruck way.  I heard many favourably compare the course to the Tremblant course; unrelenting rolling hills. Very little flat. Nothing too steep but the hills keep on coming.  If, when, you come here for the race, forget that you're in the foothills of the Appalachians at your peril!

This didn't seem to deter the athletes. As they collected their stuff from TZ at the end of the day, they praised the enthusiasm of the St Andrew's crowd, the guerilla aid-stations and the friendliness of the town. I always say a measure of how welcoming a town is to a race is by the number of guerilla aid-stations and St Andrews wins hands down.

We stopped in St Hubert in Moncton on the way home; a Quebec resto la belle really misses. As your average OCD endurance athletes we usually stress a little at the sheer saturated fat content of BBQ chicken with fries and gravy but when we realized this was literally our only meal of the day, we settled down and ordered more coleslaw.

So thats that. Smashing weekend and I hope they ask me back next year; I'd be there in a heartbeat.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ja, I'm a hipster

The stereotype of the LBS is that it's owned by an ex-pro and staffed by a bunch of up-and-coming guys in their late teens who are more interested in pro-dealing their shot at the big time than customer service. Cyclesmith is not like this. The average age on the sales-floor in the low 40s and most of the guys are on career 2.0.  One of the advantages of this is a wealth of disparate experiences and a fairly thick skin to boot. I like to feel we're also pretty small-l liberal; black, white, pink, rainbow. It doesn't matter.

There is one caveat. They used to say that anti-catholicism was the last remaining acceptable -ism in North America. At Cyclesmith creed or colour doesn't matter but i think there is one, last acceptable -ism.


Well, certainly against each other.

Hipster, like art, is notoriously hard to define.  There seem to be some commonly agreed-upon biomarkers; fixed-gear bikes, tattoos, facial hair, art-house coffee shops, music from the eighties and beer.

Here, many of us accuse each other (jocularly, mind you.  At least I hope it is) of being hipsters, we'll great each other with "I'm sorry sir, we don't serve your type in here", and deny any such accusation against ourselves.  As the definition if hipster is so vague, it's easy to pigeon-hole so-and-so as a hipster based on meeting only a small set of criteria e.g. bike and beer, whilst willfully ignoring facial hair and "career" in social media.  The "no I'm not a hipster" defense doesn't do anything as, as we we all know, there's nothing a hipster likes less than being pigeon-holed. It's a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose situation.

I'm going to take a stand. I'm not going to deny my hipsteristic tendencies any more. Just like suppressing your sexuality can lead you on your knees getting arrested for indecent acts public washrooms, I'm afraid that if I continue to deny my hipsterism, I'm going to end up simultaneously wearing fake tortoiseshell glasses and contacts or start drinking PBR.  So, whilst I may not have a bike-polo mallet (Tony Lacopia, I am talking to you), my name is Andrew and I am a hipster.

Lets look at the evidence.

1) I live in a condo in the North End of Halifax. When you read the "Gentrifying Scum Out Of Our Neighborhood" graffiti, they're talking about me or to me.

2) Not only do I drive a Smart car (four seats are too mainstream), so does my wife. In fact, we park two Smart cars in a single parking spot in that gentrified North End condo. Because one spot per car is, well, just too mainstream.

3) We were early adopters of Two If By Sea cafe in Dartmouth. We don't go any more because it's way too crowded nowadays and the nature of the crowd has changed since their halcyon opening days. In short, we don't go to TIBS, a watch-word for hipsters in this town, any more because it's too mainstream!

4) Instead we go to Java Blend. Does it matter we can see it from our balcony? No. Does it matter if Jim is a friend? No. Does it matter that Jim supports the events we put on including our wedding? Hell no. What matters is we get our coffee from the same place as this guy.

5) Fixies. I have two. One is a straight-up fixie, one is a road-bike conversion. I'm the original owner of both. They have brakes, fenders, a GPS speedo. In short they're proper bikes and I do proper rides on them. Have you done Peggys Cove on 68" fixed? Does any of this matter compared to the fact I bought one of the frames because the chromed lugs made it look retro? Retro? Authentic? Hello? Hipster.

5.5) There's a Brooks saddle on one of those fixies. Sigh.

6) I'll freely acknowledge my shoe problem (Filipino!) but really, I have a bike jersey problem. Hell, I could have a chapter of the Bike Jersey Project book all to myself. I'd like to draw the jury's attention to two jerseys. The Crest jersey was my club jersey in the late eighties. It still fits me. But it's like from the eighties. Pretty hipster. The retro-look Adidas wool jersey? I bought it on sale at the La Cordee in St Bruno because it looked retro and would look great when I was on those fixies. Hipster? Duh!

7) Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, ABC, Culture Club? I like music from the eighties. Of course I like music from the eighties. I came of age in the eighties. Mind you, I like The Smiths nowadays, but I didn't care for them in the actual eighties because everyone else was listening to them; in short they were too mainstream. Evidence perhaps of latent hipster tendencies even back in the eighties. I had a crush on Molly Ringwald when I was, like, you know, in high school and she was playing kids who were, like, you know, in high school. Does any of this stand in mitigation against the fact I have hours of eighties music on my iPod and copies of The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink on the shelf? Hell no. Hipster.

8) I can, in fact, wear my wife's jeans. The legs are a touch tight and a short on me, but that's OK because then they don't get caught in the chain. The only thing that's worse than this would be having those Rapha jeans with the Rapha logo on the inside, so it can be read when the pants-cuff is rolled up to mid-shin. Furthermore, I do, in fact, have actual Rapha cycling clothing and yes, I have worn the cycling cap as a stand-alone fashion accessory.

9) I used drink imported Belgian beer; Hoegaarden, Duvel and the like. Pretentious? Moi? I used to think it was about getting in touch with my inner Flandrian (cyclocross is the next big thing you know), but really it was more about Molson being too mainstream. Who cares if Olands is brewed down the street and fits in with the 100 mile diet ethos (hipster), but hipster beer credentials trump buying beer with a low carbon footprint. Nowadays, I get my beer in a growler, because bottles are, like, too mainstream.

10) I don't have tattoos. But I get enough cat-5 tattoos at work portaging the bikes around. I don't so much have a chain-ring tattoo on my leg as having a succession of them. Similarly, I don't have a NOBR AKES knuckle tattoo as I skin my knuckles on other peoples bikes. Seriously man, permanent tattoos are just too mainstream.

I'm trying to get help, but it may be too late. It may have run it's course. In short, my name is Andrew and I'm a hipster.