Wintery playground

A slight burning tingle ripples across my red stained cheeks, partially from the cold wind whipping against my face, but more so from smiley so wildly. I can’t stop gleefully giggling like a child on Christmas morning as I fly through the fresh untouched snow, ripping into the delicate powder with the edges of my snowboard.
For most of the year, my free time is dedicated to training, but in the early season while snow still blankets the mountains, some days are reserved for play. Yesterday afternoon, the snow had been rapidly falling since mid morning and with each passing hour the powder was increasingly becoming deeper and deeper. The backside of the mountain was exceptionally quiet and I was more than happy to be alone to roam the hillside like I was the only person left on earth. Every now and I again I would stop just to listen to the eerie, yet calming sounds of nature around me before carving back into the powdery flakes.
Sitting back in the saddle I simply bent my knees and allowed them to act as shock absorbers as I braced for every bounce and bob, just like surfing tidal waves. I felt like a rag doll, yet somehow in control, as I allowed the ride to go on wherever the path seemed to go. On the verge of face planting on almost every turn, I kind of just bounced back around for the next line and kept going, trying desperately not to bail. Falling in this much snow is like digging yourself out of quick sand; you kind of just keep sinking in.  
It’s hard to explain to those who have not experienced it, just how electrifying and energizing the mountain can be. The snow-drenched trees loom as if in a winter slumber, the sparkle of a trillion snowflakes glimmer in the daylight, and the muffled sounds of nature echo against the backdrop creating a breathtaking sprawl of a winter. You really have to get out there to feel it. Whether it’s snowshoeing in the backcountry between the quiet of the trees as you roam for hours in lost solitude, or ripping fresh lines on your board, or tracks on your skis, it’s all just the same kind of play reserved for the mountain.
On the last run of the day, after milking every turn for what it was worth and carving as many fresh lines as I could, I crumbled next to a tree and looked out over the valley. My legs were exhausted, my skin was a mix of hot and cold, and my breath slowly calmed in steamy puffs beneath my nose. The light of day was slowing slipping away and the quietness of the afternoon seemed even more silent. I could have sat there for hours until the moon was the only light in the night sky, but the evening chill reminded me that my day had ended and it was time to return home. Another day with more snow and more adventure would await on the other side of the evening and once again I would play like a giddy, care-free child in my wintery playground.


Training partners and snowy rides

On this morning’s ride I could feel snot flying from my nose, and as the snowflakes peppered my face with a fierceness that chilled my brain I just bore down and kept going, charging against the brutal wind, one pedal after the other. I knew my group mates were just ahead, and their presence, even as slowly disappearing dots ahead of me, prompted a voice inside my head that almost screamed to just keep going. We were on a three hour ride – the longest I’ve ever been on – and all of us were soaked, caked from head to toe in mud, and slowly losing feeling in our fingertips and toes. There were moments when my glasses were so fogged and splattered with mud that I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me. The official start to spring was just a few days ago, but it still feels like the dead of winter. Life in Canada can be so cruel sometimes. In the back of my mind, I hoped for some hill climbs just to warm up, but almost two hours in, as I reached the bottom of the longest, steepest ascent I had ever seen, I cursed at myself.
Mid-way through my muscles were screaming at me to topple over the side of the road and succumb to defeat. I was visualizing myself literally just toppling over like a massive heap and never getting back up again. But as I looked ahead and saw my training partners bobbing along, I told myself to shut up and just kept going.
Once at the top, I wanted to jump up and down and proclaim my victory, but with all the veteran cyclists, who have no doubt climbed this hill, and others, many times before, I reached for my water bottle instead, and quietly reflected on my own personal milestone.
On the journey back, we endured a whipping wind, an assault of missile snowflakes and caking mud spray from the roaring passing vehicles. For my first group ride, it was one I will never forget.
Having training partners during these kinds of workouts are like a gift. If I woke up this morning for a solo ride and saw the snow and the wind, I probably would have curled right back up in bed. But when you conquer a training session with a group, you push yourself to do things you never thought you could do. You look at those around you and realize everyone is cold and muddy and wants nothing more than a hot bath, so instead of grumbling about it, you just keep going and you have fun doing it, even if you can’t feel your toes. 
Over the past few days, our group has endured some serious harshness from Mother Nature, which has tested our mental toughness, but we’ve done it together, pushing each other along, and I can’t thank them enough. During this journey, I have come to learn that coaches and training partners are the backbone to our triathlon journey and I feel so fortunate to have a group that, since day one, has pushed me to be stronger and better, even when the only thing on our minds is hot chocolate and a warm blanket.

Six more weeks of winter and frozen snot

For a triathlete training in Canada, the month of March elicits extraordinary feelings of excitement and glee. It brings us that much closer to race season, and takes us that much further away from the cold and the snow.
For the last month, I have been watching the weather forecast like an obsessive lunatic hitting refresh every half hour of the day, hoping for clear skies and warm temperatures. I have been ticking off the days of the calendar as we get closer to the spring months. And every day I dream of warm breezes, clear roads, and not wearing three base layers, toques, snot-covered mittens, and long johns. Even on days when that little snowy cloud icon stared back at me with it’s taunting evil eye, I would wholeheartedly deny that any white stuff would materialize. If I believed it, then most certainly I could defy Mother Nature. Yet, on this horrendously snot freezing kind of winter day, snow has been puking from the sky. Consequently, Mother Nature has been laughing at me as she blankets the city with mounds and mounds of impure, mud-stained ivory flakes of hate. In this moment, I have a deep resentment towards her; a strong loathing of bitterness that spills out of my lips in the form of angry profanity.
This is meant to be the time of year when I dream of a world where my snot doesn’t freeze, I don’t slip on patches of inconspicuous ice, or otherwise become trapped on my indoor bike trainer staring at the wall for hours at a time. March is the month where I am supposed to be giddy at the thought of once again teaming up with Red Lightning for a blazing ride along the winding roads. It’s supposed to feel like the can’t-sit-still excitement of Christmas eve, but warmer and sunnier. Instead I am left to mutter my disapproval as the salt and sand trucks roam the streets littering my playground with grit. One can only imagine that I am floored with the idea of trudging through the snow to my frozen car at 5:30am for my swim workout tomorrow. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, it will snow through the night, and I can swim through the streets. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I can almost feel the sarcasm dripping from my lips.