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 true Canadian, I feel like the only way to end my hiatus from the blogging work is with an apology: I’M SO SORRY FOR DROPPING OFF THE FACE OF THE PLANET. (I would tell you that having my laptop die and having too much fun in Whistler are the excuses I have for not posting, but I don’t believe in excuses, so I’ll admit I’ve just been a terrible blogger!)

To pick up from where I left off, I promised an elaboration on my bungee jumping shenanigans, which you can find here. (I know it’s to an alternate profile of mine, but I still feel like it sums up the experience pretty well.)

From there, over the course of the summer, my computer has gone through a bit of a rough patch (read: it completely died and I spent several months using and iPad and being in denial of the fact that I needed to re-invest in a new laptop)!

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 was far from all bad. I made some ludicrously chimerical friends (who I have far too many Facebook selfies with). I’ve got into some pretty preposterous scenarios, which I will attempt to explain (only some of though, others are better left unsaid).

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

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

Last you’d heard, I had just gone bungee jumping. This was, of course, one of the best times 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, I decided to slow things down a bit with some whitewater rafting down Whistler’s Green River. Now, I’d been rafting once before outside Ottawa back in Ontario with my family, 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 the fact that they felt the equivalent of 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). I could feel my dragonboating experience from back in Singapore coming into play during the river’s slower sections – along with fact that I just let my intuition (and the rapids themselves) take control during the quicker bits.

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 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 center 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 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.)

Some Tough Mudder Fudders

I have to start this post off by saying that Facebook’s suggested posts are terrible influences that clearly want me to die. (Okay, maybe a tad dramatic, they only wanted me to electrocute myself, sorry.)

Okay, after that dramatic introduction, I’m going to back things up a little and explain my actual story. Basically last year, a friend of mine posted something like “OMG, that sh*t be cray” with a link to Tough Mudder and my curiosity got the best of me and I did the unthinkable and CLICKED IT. It took me to an intense looking page filled with photos of people scaling walls and jumping through fire. Needless to say, my only thought before closing the tab was “OMG, that sh*t be cray”. However, since Facebook has a crazy amount of cookies that go into generating the suggested posts that spam your newsfeed, ever since then, I’ve been getting hundreds of Tough Mudder updates.

Loo

Spoiler Alert! Looking back, Tough Mudder is just far too up on this Facebook thing, they even sent me an exclusive cover photo I could use after finishing!

Eventually, my brain got tired of processing an infinite amount of ads as “cray” (because let’s face it, it’s a terrible word) and started turning them into “if that random person can crawl 19km through mud carrying massive logs while smiling like its no big deal, so can I”! Things escalated quickly from there when I clicked a link about Whistler after getting a job out there, as Facebook put two and two together and started subliminal messaging me to sign up for the Whistler Tough Mudder and at that point, I started casually mentioning that I was thinking about doing Tough Mudder. Soon enough, my cry for insanity was answered by a friend of mine in Vancouver who was putting a team together and next thing I knew, I had a ticket.

While the physical process of getting the ticket was easy enough (I did it lying in bed in my PJs, like a true Tough Mudder), the emotional process was quite the ride, taking me through 20 frames of mind from purchase to race date, as outlined below:

1)    Haha, just kidding, I’m not actually going to sign up for this, it’s insane and I’m nowhere near close enough to being in Tough Mudder-shape

2)    Yarg, I need to stop being a wimp, I still have time to train, plus, it will be so awesome to say I’ve done Tough Mudder

3)    Okay, I’m actually going to do it, CLICK

4)    OMG, why did I just pay to kill myself!? Nope, not going to do it, I just won’t show up, this was a mistake

5)    Gawd, I paid $185, I can’t just waste it, might as well step up my running routine for training

6)    Why did I even start running, this is painful, my legs hurt

7)    Wait, now I’m feeling better, this is really fun, bring it on Tough Mudder, I will DESTROY you

8)    Waitaminute, I’m barely strong enough to move my bed across the room and not even tall enough to reach the top shelf of my kitchen, how am I supposed to climb solid walls?

9)    Well, I’ve already climbed walls of ice, if anything, wooden walls will actually be easier

10)I’m so ready for this, just gotta make sure I get some rest and a good night’s sleep

11)Why did I let myself get called into work the night before the race!?

12)Oh well, TOUGH MUDDER TOUGH MUDDER TOUGH MUDDER!!

13)Why did I get too excited to sleep, I’m going to pass out

14)Oh wait, coffee is the answer to everything! Coffee coffee coffee!!

15)Wow, everyone doing the race looks really intense – is that guy wearing an army shirt? Does that girl have a headband saying she’s done this 6 times!?

16)Okay, getting close to the starting line, need a photo, it might be the last one of me ever

17)Wow, I look tough, I can TOTALLY do this

18)Is that the electroshock therapy obstacle in the distance!? Looks scary, maybe I can’t do this

19)Wait, I’m right at the starting line, no turning back now (like seriously, there’s too many people around me, I can’t get out)

20)LET’S GOOOOOOO!!

#beastmode

#beastmode

From that point on, (as I’m assuming you can imagine), things got even more insane. There were way.too.many obstacles that either required me to lift something atrociously heavy (*cough Hold Your Wood and Warrior Carry *cough) or climb over an overly high wall (I’m looking at you Glory Blades, Berlin Walls and Everest). Now, as someone who named their blog Travvelsized because she’s a short, tiny girl, these obstacles were kind of hard..! Lucky for me though, the name of the game at Tough Mudder is “teamwork” and I had some pretty stellar teammates to help boost and pull me up and over the walls. 10462689_10204214858794118_3206102964491589114_n

None of this is to say that I was an un-tough Mudder though! I breezed through the water obstacles jumping 12ft into freezing water in Walk The Plank and Arctic Enema and flew through mud pits, under barbed wire and through pitch-black tunnels in Kiss Of Mud, Mud Mile, Trench Warfare and Prairie Dog. These obstacles are the reason I wanted to do Tough Mudder, this is the kind of thing I do for fun!

Throwback to jumping into the glacier-fed Lake Louise

Throwback to jumping into the glacier-fed Lake Louise

Finally, after 19km of running and 18 obstacles, it was time for the grand finale, Electroshock Therapy. Despite the fact that you needed to sign an extra waiver for this obstacle because it’s literally just you running through a field of electrical wires, I knew they couldn’t make the shocks strong enough to kill / maim anyone without getting into some serious legal troubles, so I decided to just sprint it through and hope to weave through as many of the wires as I could.

"Please don't die, please don't die, please don't die!"

“Please don’t die, please don’t die, please don’t die!”

This worked for about half the course, until I heard a less-than-Rice-Krispies-friendly snap, crackle, pop of a wire hitting my arm. The shock stung, but I made my way through avoiding further harm (although wincing quite a bit). I was about to reach the finish, when I looked back to see that one of my teammates had disappeared! Looking around, she was facedown in the mud of Electroshock Therapy! I sprinted back through the obstacle (wincing even more this time) and luckily, she was able to get up and meet me halfway, explaining that she had passed out, but wasn’t in any pain.

Needless to say, by the end of the course, we, along with all the other Mudders, had definitely earned our headbands and finisher shirts! Also, Facebook is now suggesting I sign up for the Vancouver Triathalon, go base jumping and sign up for the Spartan Race!

Is it bad that I want to sign up just so that I can scream SPARTAAAAAAAAAA

Is it bad that I want to sign up just so that I can scream THIS! IS! SPARTAAAAAA!!