Getting Off the Grid

I will be the first to admit that living in Whistler isn’t exactly like living in the “real world”. No one really commutes through gridlocked traffic to spend 80hours a week working a corporate job that they hate. People out here still work hard, but they balance it out with an equal amount of play hard and seem to be a little bit happier all around.

Just take this jolly maple toffee making man for example!

Just take this jolly maple toffee making man for example!

Even in this little slice of mountainous paradise, I found myself sitting on the couch with some friends and one day thinking, “we all have 2 days off, we should just get out of here for a while, let’s go on a trip somewhere”. Soon enough, laptops were open and the Google gods were being summoned to find the perfect mini-vacation destination. After scouring the province and accepting the fact that 2 days was not enough time to justify a 14hour car journey to a lake in the middle of nowhere, we decided we would just get off the grid and embrace the farm life at a ranch outside of Pemberton.

Now, when I say, “ranch” I really mean, “hostel”. Hostel Shiloh Works to be specific. It was about 20 minutes outside of the nearby town of Pemberton, which invited us in to stop by (mostly because it was on the way and unavoidable).

Stopping in Pemberton was admitted kind of a mistake however. Whistler can feel a little bit small at times, but Pemberton definitely takes the too-small-to-even-be-a-cupcake cake. We saw a sign for the “downtown centre” and drove past the same two antique shops 3 times before realizing they were the summation of what the “downtown centre” actually consisted of.

Unimpressed but admittedly not really surprised (I’d heard quite a few boring rumours about the place already), we continued along our way. Learning from our civilization-based escape, the next pit stop was Nairn Fall Provincial Park. For me, this was a pretty safe bet because I’ve never seen a waterfall in my life I didn’t like (or even downright adore, they’re all just so freaking ravishing: see Exhibits A and B for further excitement).

From the entrance, a quick 20-minute gallivant (I wouldn’t quite call it a hike, the terrain was woodsy but still quite flat), got us to a viewing platform for the falls, where I happily snapped away with my camera. While the views were quite nice, the whole area was pretty well fenced off, so I couldn’t get as close to the actual falls as I really would have liked (sigh, the problems of the overly-adventurous, I know)!

2014-09-15 17

Back in the car, it was time to get back to hitting the open road!

Race to the Finish – Travvelsized: a Triathlon-Sized Odyssey: Part 2

The last time we saw our hero, she had just barely survived certain death, swimming through the freezing Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver’s Stanley Park during her first triathlon. Now, she must face the bicycle and running challenges before she can claim the prestigious title of “triathlete”, but will these feats prove to be too much!? Stay tuned to this episode of “Travvelsized: a Triathlon’Sized Odyssey” to fund out!

As I approached the shore, I realized that 20mintues into the triathlon I was already dragging myself along. I knew the swim was going to be the most challenging aspect, but I didn’t expect to be completely exhausted already!

Luckily, my inner motivational coach came through and started screaming: “you’re trying to tell me you’re tired already!? Why’d you even sign up for this triathlon? If this is the attitude you’re going to have, you might as well quit now, binge on junk food and watch a documentary about REAL triathletes, because you’re not one!”

Looking back, I’ve realized 2 important things about coach-Judi: 1) she’s kind of a jerk 2) she’s also really good at getting a point across.

After my pep talk, it was into the transition area to change out of my wetsuit and into my bike gear, which I managed to do in under 4 minutes, which had already moved me ahead of about 20 people who were struggling out of soggy suits. (I guess my ability to wake up up 10 minutes before I was supposed to start a shift at work and still make it in on time was infinitely useful in more than one way!)

From there, it was on to the longest stretch of the triathlon: the biking. Right out of the gate, about 20 of the top Olympic-length men’s racers zoomed past me in their aerodynamic helmets and trisuits, all going twice my speed and sweating half as much. It took all my strength to ignore them, realizing that they had all probably been training for this for years, instead of the few feeble months I had put in.

Soon enough, I had fallen into pace with another sprint-length racer in a bright red top. She was a bit faster than me on flat terrain, but luckily, Stanley Park also had a bit of an incline to it. Coming from the mountain resort of Whistler, I didn’t even notice the elevation gain until I realized I was passing a ton of people (including the girl in the bright red top), who appeared to be struggling to move forward. Bright-red-top and I passed each other several times throughout the bike leg, exchanging friendly banter, but once we had gotten back to the transition area, my speedy changing skills had put me ahead once more.

Now it was onto the final sprint. I knew the running portion was going to be my strong suit and I really fell into the groove of things as I felt my excitement build. As I ran, I got closer and closer to realizing that: 1) I might actually going to make it to the finish of this thing and 2) I was passing a crap-ton of people in the process! For someone who had been training by running about 3x the distance of the actual triathlon run, 5km felt like a breeze!

Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight and I was sprinting towards it! In the end, I finished 30/76 in the women’s sprint length triathlon (not a bad feat for a 21 year old who had only been training for a summer, instead of the lifetime all the 30-something racers had seemed to put in!

Far too happy for someone who's not going to be able to feel her legs for the next week!

Far too happy for someone who’s not going to be able to feel her legs for the next week!

I had once thought Tough Mudder was the accomplishment of a lifetime, but that paled out to ghost-white in comparison to finishing a triathlon. Not only had I set a new bar for myself and accomplished more than I ever thought possible, I had now opened up a whole new world of competitions, from improving my sprint time, to moving on to Olympic and Iron – length races!

Sprinting Into A Triathlon – Travvelsized: a Triathlon-Sized Odyssey: Part 1

So about a week after I conquered Tough Mudder, I could start to feel my workout routine falling into a bit of a slump. For a little while, I just kept telling myself “completing Tough Mudder is the fitness accomplishment of a lifetime! You’ve reached your peak, congratulations!” Unfortunately, none of my runs or workouts seemed to carry the same passion and drive if I wasn’t training for something ridiculous and I quickly realized that I needed a new insane goal to work towards.

For a while, I tried looking at more obstacle course-style races, but even those that claimed to be harder and longer still seemed to lack the prestige and name recognition of Tough Mudder. Next, I looked into marathon-ing, but eventually had to come to terms with the fact that I usually hit the wall around 15km into a run simply because I start to get bored.

Wow! MORE gorgeous trees and lakes!? That's SOOO Exciting and TOTALLY different from what I've been staring at for the past 3 hours (not)

Wow! MORE gorgeous trees and lakes!? That’s SOOO Exciting and TOTALLY different from what I’ve been staring at for the past 3 hours (not) (Photo Credit: David Ohmer)

Eventually, I found the perfect compromise: triathlon. It had three different activities for me to switch between to keep from getting bore, plus, I knew I would feel amazing once I was able to say: “yeah, I’m a triathlete, no big deal or anything.” Within a day of this realization, I was signed up for the sprint length Vancouver Triathlon (750m swimming, 20km biking and 5km running) and was back in the training regime.

Before I knew it, I had somehow managed to acquire a wetsuit, rent a professional level road bike, reserve a hotel room in Vancouver near Stanley Park (where the Triathlon was held) and find myself standing in the ocean, ready to begin the race before 8am (a time I hadn’t been consciously awake for in months, since I’d been working in a bar all summer).

Frontin' like I have a clue what I'm about to get into..!

Frontin’ like I have a clue what I’m about to get into..!

I was jolted out of my numbed excitement/nervousness by race’s signal gunshot and dove into the ocean. Over the course of the summer, I’d done most of my swim training in Whistler’s warm Lost and Alta Lakes in my bikini. The triathlon itself was during early autumn however, so I decided to wear my wetsuit, which I thought I was comfortable in after all the rafting and kayaking I’d done in it. This was a mistake. The extra weight I had to float while swimming was not something I was used to and I could feel my front-stroke beginning to sink from the surface. For several long and terrifying moments, I was certain I was going to have to seek refuge in one of the rescue kayaks surveying the race and forfeit.

In a desperate attempt to stay alive, I flipped onto my back and inhaled a giant breath of air. Miraculously, I regained my surface buoyancy and began to swim backstroke. Now, I’m notoriously terrible at swimming in a straight line when I’m on my back (you can’t see where you’re going), but the time I lost for this was more than worth not having to admit defeat. By the time I made it back to shore, I was near the back of the pack, but still alive (which at that point, was all that really mattered).

(Author’s note, please read in a dramatic narrator voice:)

… Will Judi redeem herself in the rest of the triathlon, or will she continue to face uncertain death by bike? Stay tuned for the next edition of “Travvelsized: a Triathlon-Sized Odyssey” to find out!

Advanced Bike Riding 202: Downhilling It

Picking up from where I left off, I had just re-learned how to ride a downhill bike (something I had never forgotten per say, just never realized was different from road biking). From there, my ladies night group and I were on to our first run – Easy Out (I would have rolled my eyes at this on skis in the winter, but for now, I was grateful the run itself seemed to know it wasn’t going to throw anything crazy and death-defying at me).

Things started off with a gentle descend, but I could already feel a lump building in my throat just looking at all the horrible, terrifying rocks and pebbles along the route. (My road bike had been overthrown by far less on many an occasion.) I sucked it up and found the courage to grit through my terror (since there was a whole line up of girls behind me and I didn’t really have much of a choice), and started off anyways. From the entire experience, the number one thing I took away was that what downhill bikes lacked in extra gears, they more than made up for in handling and suspensions – the rocky and mountainous terrain felt smoother than tarmac!

Soon enough, I was at the front of the pack, whizzing down steeper hills and around tighter turns than I would ever dream of attempting on my road bike (not to say that the turns or slopes were sharp or steep by downhill standards though). Once I had let go of my fears and allowed myself to open up to the world of downhill mountain biking, I fell into that freeing, adrenaline-pumping sensation I love and finally began to understand the appeal of the sport.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get into the sport seriously (the cost of getting set up with a new armoured set of gear and bike rivals taking out a mortgage on a house), but I would never regret trying it out for the experience of it!

Advanced Bike Riding 201: Bringing it to the Mountains

As a self-confessed hipster, biking is by far my favourite form of transportation. So much so that the notion of taking car-powered inner-city transportation kind of baffles me because I don’t understand why anyone would pay to NOT ride a bike somewhere.

Despite all this, and the fact that seem to have very little regard for my personal safety, I’ve always been a little bit frightened by the concept of Downhill Mountain biking. Like, I have almost spun out of control riding over single pebbles on the side of the road, how does anyone survive whizzing down almost-vertical descents over top of narrow, rocky pathways at breakneck speeds?

However, since Whistler is so big on downhill biking in the summer, this fear seemed a bit irrational since there were hundreds of people lined up for this exact activity on a daily basis (the fact that they were always wearing stegosaurus levels of armour didn’t exactly help though).

Seriously, they wear more armour than people in the army! (Photo credit to Rino Peroni)

Seriously, they wear more armour than people in the army! (Photo credit to Rino Peroni)

All things considered, it still felt like one of Whistler’s must-dos. Plus, every Monday and Wednesday during the summer is ladies’ night, with cheap deals on rental gear, lesson and lift pass combos (for ladies of course, men’s night was Tuesdays). So eventually, I found myself at one of these outings, putting on a stegosaurus amount of armour and hopping on a ridiculously expensive fixed-gear bike (it hadn’t yet dawned on me that since I would only be going downhill, gravity would take the place of much of the pedalling).

I was then quickly hurdled into a group of girls who seemed to fit the description “knows their way around a road bike, but still genuinely confused as to why there are no gears on their downhill bike”. We got a quick lesson on how to load our bikes onto the chairlift and I felt a quick pang of sadness at the fact that it wouldn’t be my skis accompanying me on this journey. This quickly faded though, when I realized that I didn’t feel like I was going to freeze to death sitting on the chairlift!

Despite our general knowledge, once we reached the top of the mountain, we all still had to re-learn how to turn and steer. As it turns out, the whole layout of a downhill bike is completely different! They’re basically built to stand on and actual pedaling is a cramped and awkward affair (which in hindsight I must admit is fair enough, because if you need to pedal down a black diamond slope, you’re doing something wrong). Turning itself was about 10% handlebar motion, 60% body leaning the correct direction while standing on the bike and 30% sheer luck for not tipping over – a combination I somehow managed to string together.

Now, I hadn’t actually done any downhill biking that involved going down a physical hill, but I could feel the whole not being seated on my bike-thing becoming a little bit more natural and was feeling pretty freaking good about myself (for now..!)

Rafting Away

As a Canadian, I feel like the only way to end my hiatus from the blogging world is with an apology: I’M SO SORRY FOR DROPPING OFF THE FACE OF THE PLANET. (I would like to tell you that my laptop died, making blog updates difficult, but I don’t really believe in making excuses, so I will just admit to being a terrible blogger for a while!)

To pick up from where I left off, I promised an elaboration on my bungee jumping shenanigans, which you can find on BC’s tourism board, here.

From there, over the course of the summer, since my laptop has been on the fritz, I’ve admittedly felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the “real world” (read: everyone who lives outside of Whistler).

I've had to rely on other people's selfies with me in the background to prove I'm still alive!

I’ve had to rely on other people’s selfies with me in the background to prove I’m still alive!

With that being said, this summer has turned out pretty well! I’ve made some amazing friends, who I’ve faced some preposterous scenarios with (only a few of which I can even BEGIN to explain).

(The results of this night, however, canNOT be explained!)

(The results of this night, however, canNOT be explained!)

(After all that excessive interluding,) The last you all had heard, I had just gone bungee jumping. This was, of course, one of the best experiences of my life! Seriously, after jumping off that bridge, I was literally laughing to myself mid-air like a deranged maniac because I was enjoying the adrenaline-filled freefalling so much!

After that though, I decided to slow things down a bit with some whitewater rafting down Whistler’s Green River. Now, I’d been rafting a few times before this down the Ottawa RIver, so I felt like a pro on my first excursion tackling the green rapids (“green” not only being the actual name of the river, but also being an equivalent to the fact that the rapids felt the a green ski run).

Racing down the river (backwards on occasion), my boat fared pretty well considering most of its paddlers had no idea what they were doing (ie, they nominated me to be the “captain” of our raft because of my dragonboating experience from back in Singapore). Even if I had thought my crew was crazy, I could feel my drive and intuition starting to take control in the rougher sections of the rapids as I lead our boat through some of the more traitorous terrain.

While the whole excursion lasted over 3hours, it felt like a blink of an eye and I was left craving more. So much so, that one of my buddies and I decided that we needed to up our rafting game and tackle the Squamish-Elaho Rivers and some more extensive class 4 rapids.

This next adventure was a full day affair, starting off with an hour-long car trip to reach even the start of the excursion (which I was surprised I was able to sit through, given how excited I was). The wait was well worth it though, as it seemed that as soon after we had been seated in our rafts, we had arrived at a set of cliffs that our guides let us scale up and jump down. Now, I’m no stranger to rock (or even ice) climbing, but scampering up a rock face while wearing a lifejacket (which made me quite a few inches thicker and more likely to totter off the edge in) is a whole other story – my centre of gravity was so mis-aligned, I was amazed I didn’t fall off the cliff I otherwise would have considered a green “no need for ropes” climb! Despite feeling like a climbing newbie, I enjoyed being able to jump off the top of the cliffs into the rapids below.

From there, it was time to start the actual paddling experience. After some brief instructions (“paddle when I say paddle”), we were facing our first set of rapids, in which I found myself either catapulted into the sky and paddling through mid-air, or pushing my oar through a rapid going about 100x my paddling speed.

"Paddle, even if you're 10ft in the air, I don't care!!"

“Paddle, even if you’re 10ft in the air, I don’t care!!”

Despite my feelings of futility, I paddled onwards until we reached a section our guide reckoned we could swim though – later on I learned that these were class 3 rapids that very well could have killed us, but at the time, it seemed like a good idea. With my innocence still in tact, I hopped out of the nice, safe boat and into the freezing river. Within moments, the water had taken control and I was being carried away over rocks and through rapids at breakneck speeds, laughing my head off at the sheer recklessness of the moment.

"Haha! My life isn't immediately in danger for the next 1 seconds, haha!"

“Haha! My life isn’t immediately in danger for the next 5 seconds, haha!”

Soon enough however, we reached a calm section of water and I climbed back into the safety of the boat before making it on to some of the more traitorous terrain the excursion had to offer. There were some points amidst the rapids where I thought for sure that our boat was destined to tip or that I’d be flung out, but somehow, we managed to persuade through, fully intact!

By the time we had made it back to base camp for dinner, I felt as though I had fully earned the burger that I hungrily devoured. Whistler may be a mountain town, but that day, I learned its rivers are also not something to be reckoned with!!

A Comparative Analysis Between Skydiving and Bungee Jumping

It didn’t take long after my Tough Mudder shenanigans for my body to start going into adrenaline withdrawal and since the weather was heating up, my plunges into the glacial lakes weren’t cutting it like they used to. There was no more (literal) breath taking and heart stopping excitement and I needed more.

Fortunately, I had already made a pinky-promise serious level commitment to check out Whistler Bungee with a buddy. So I leaped at the chance to take this up and was back again at a point in my life where everyone was constantly telling me that I was crazy (something I’ve kind of grown to enjoy and is probably a sign that I should start attending AA meetings for adrenaline-junkies anonymous).

One thing that confused me a little bit though, was how much more dangerous the world seems to think that bungee jumping is over skydiving. Now, I’ve been skydiving before in Golden 2 years ago, but I’ve always kind of considered it to be scarier than bungee jumping if only because you’re falling from a taller height. Now, since I love comparative tables so much, here’s a full list to compare the dangers between skydives and bungee jumping:

Scary Table A
Skydiving Bungee Jumping
(In my experience, I) fell 3,810m (In my experience, I) fell 49m
Fatality rate of 1 in 100,000 (literally 5x more deadly) Fatality rate of 1 in 500,000 (only 5 people have EVER died bungee jumping)
Possibility of parachute not opening (I know there’s a back up, but really, how often is that going to get checked!?) Possibility of chord breaking (I jumped right after someone who was bigger than me, so I knew if they didn’t break the chord, neither would I)
Trusting a random stranger to open the parachute at the right time (human error is always a possibility) Trusting the chord that didn’t break on the last jump to not break again
Possibility of sprains, bruises or broken bones even if the parachute opens Possibility of whiplash if you start spazzing around excessively
Strong winds could blow you away to kingdom come, you’re in the air for over 10mins, more than enough time for a sudden hurricane to blow in Strong winds could slam you into a rock if you’re with a company silly enough to put a bungee near a ragged cliff face

I don’t know about you, but I still think skydiving is riskier and people just seem to think that you’re guaranteed to get whiplash bungee jumping. The chord is really stretchy everyone, it’s not a sudden car crash stop (which, by the way, makes driving a car far riskier than either of these activities with a fatality rate of 1 in 6,000). Also with bungee, you get a couple separate freefalls because you’re bouncing, but since they keep getting smaller, they actually feel quite calm and enjoyable by the end of it.

Now, since I don’t want the moral of this blog post (if blog posts can even have morals) to be that skydiving and bungee jumping are both scary and dangerous, here’s a bonus table comparing their awesomeness:

This was so awesome, I even made it my Facebook profile pic!

This was so awesome, I even made it my Facebook profile pic!

Super Happy Fun Time Table B
Skydiving Bungee Jumping
(In my experience, I) fell 3,810m (In my experience, I) fell 49m
Bonus scenic airplane ride Bonus scenic canyon views
That feeling of letting go when you jump out of an airplane That feeling of letting go when you jump off a bridge
The fact that you just backflipped out of an airplane The fact that you just backflipped off a bridge
Falling over top of mountains Falling down a canyon
Scenic views and (literally) walking on a cloud while you parachute down Rocketing back up a canyon
Way cooler selfies than your friends in a sweaty club bathroom Way cooler selfies than your friends in a sweaty club bathroom
Being on a massive adrenaline high for the rest of the week Being on a massive adrenaline high for the rest of the week

In conclusion, you should note that Table B has more points than Table A, and therefore everyone should really try both of these activities.

(Also, I set out to make this a post about my actual experience bungee jumping, but got distracted and will now save that for next time.)