Monday, 14 October 2013

two thousand thirteen season recap

Man how time flies! Feels just like yesterday I was procrastinating writing a blog after my first race in San Diego.  Now with the slower paced days and the changing colors of the fall, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the season and thinking how grateful I am of my adventures this summer and of the people who made them possible.  Here’s how my 2013 season went down:


One night I was writing a university exam and the next I was sitting in my first WTS race briefing in San Diego! Being my first WTS race ever, I went in with no expectations and an open mind. I remember warming up in Mission Bay before the race in the sunshine and thinking that this WTS thing is pretty cool. As for the race, I surprised myself by coming out of the water in 6th position and riding in the first main pack.  I finished in 25th and felt pretty proud of taking that leap to the WTS level.


Next stop was to my home province of Alberta to race in the Edmonton World Cup. Most of the races this season were outside of North America so having a race on home soil felt extra special.  Pretty sweet having my family there to watch! I even got to go to the Press conference and I pretended I knew what I was talking about.  The race was story tale perfect for the Canadian women with the top 4 positions locked up by Canadians! I grabbed the silver medal and sung the Canadian anthem proudly alongside Amelie Kretz and Kirsten Sweetland. 
Ellie p on the mic
Oh canada

While I was super stoked about the Edmonton World Cup weekend, the devastation from the flooding in Calgary definitely put things in perspective.  My family was incredibly lucky because my dad’s business was really close to the flood zone but was miraculously spared.  However lots of my friends and their families had extensive damage to their homes. I spent some time at home post Edmonton and helped out a bit with the clean-up; it was a humbling yet inspiring experience.  You might expect the affected areas to be a dusty, dismal ghost town, however the energy at the flood zone was anything but.  Thousands of Calgarians wearing rubber boots grabbed a shovel and would go into random strangers' homes to rip out drywall, haul out sludge and toss garbage in dumpsters.  I joined an assembly line with a team of Aussie Rules Rugby players to remove tiles from a person’s basement.  Among the chaos of dumpsters, dust and garbage was a vibrant sense of resiliency.
Birthday love for Bear
Flood dust
Mom (top left) cannonball queen

After some solid family time at home (which also included some cannonballs and my dog’s birthday), I jetted off for my first ever European adventure.  First stop was Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain for some training en route to Hamburg, Germany for World Sprint Championships.  Being my first time to Europe, I was blown away by the architecture, cobbles, narrow streets and culture.  My first day in Hamburg was a sensory overload and I just wanted to explore. A pre-race adventure run got it out of my system and I was able to mellow out before the race. As for the race, I got absolutely pummeled around the first buoy in the swim and didn’t make lead pack.  I still ran my heart out and came 31st . My ego was a bit bruised because swimming is kind of my thing and have never experienced such carnage before.  But I got thrashed on a beautiful sunny day in a triathlon in Europe. Life ain’t so bad.
Vitoria commuter
After Hamburg I headed back to Victoria, Canada to move into a new place with my brother!   We live a block away from the ocean and have some cool hipster furniture and make foamy lattes in the morning.


After the move, I headed back to Vitoria-Gasteiz to polish off the rest of the racing season. I made a pit stop in Magog, Quebec to watch my brother and the rest of the Alberta kids rip it up at Canada Games.

Next race was WTS Stockholm.  I rekindled my swim abilities after Hamburg and found myself in the front 5 girls nearing the end of the 1500m swim.  I had the prime line around the last buoy and was like YOLO and surged to come running out of the water first! My moment of glory before being dramatically dropped on a hilly and technical bike course to finish off 28th. Embraced some Swedish culture the next day at the ABBA museum and gave a rousing performance of Mamma Mia on stage in front of several other museum goers. 


We had about two more weeks in Vitoria-Gasteiz before U23 World Championships in London, England.  I had some pretty epic rallies to survive these last two weeks of hard training, but made it to London in one piece.  The Canadian crew assembled daily in the artsy Canada House and established a good sense of team.  In the days leading up to the race, I listened to some new Arctic Monkeys (fitting being in London) and carbo loaded on bread pudding.  Ready to go.
Team Canada
The swim went smashingly and I was out of the water in 2nd to then eat pavement around the first corner on the bike! I bounced up quick though, thinking if I got up fast enough nobody would notice.  I joined in with the main pack and was cautious not to make this a repeat of my double crash at Junior Worlds.  Survived the rest of the bike unscathed and it was going to come down to a run race.  The pack of girls settled into a decent clip and I played it safe tucked in mid pack.  The first 3km I was thinking “just hang on” and then all of a sudden I started feeling better and better.  Coming down to the last 180 turn and about 800m to go, I was feeling antsy for someone to make a move so I took the bull by the horns and pushed the pace!  The sprint at the finish line was such an adrenaline rush and I ended up crossing in second.  Huge congratulations to Charlotte for taking the W and fellow Canadians Amelie Kretz and Joanna Brown for taking 3rd and 5th. 
Photo by Mark Bates
I often think of all the strange coincidences that lead you toward the life you’re living and all the people you meet that shape the direction.  That being said, I have some BIG thank yous to give out to all the people who have supported me and made this summer possible.  Thank you to Shimano, Nineteen, Carolyn Murray, Alan Carlsson, Jamie Turner, Randy Bennett, Houshang Amiri, Libby Burrell, Marilyn Adams, Kyla Rollinson, Sharleen Hoar, Sue Lott, Steve Keeler and Vanessa Young, Kim Ward, Dave Coleman, Drew Mackenzie, Reed Ferber, Triathlon Canada, Own the Podium, Podium Alberta, CSC Calgary, CSC Pacific, my mom, my dad, my brother and my dog! 

Also check out this amazing ski movie I'm obsessed about:

xoxo, ellen

Saturday, 22 December 2012

All I want for christmas is a bucket

I recently ran into one of the ITU technical delegates one day at school and he says “do you know what you should ask your parents for Christmas?... A bucket.”  I then received this email with this photo, providing cold hard proof of why a plastic Canadian tire bucket should be put under the tree for me.  Notice the simple instructions to help me get the most out of my bucket! I got 2 penalties this year in two of the biggest races (my first World Cup and U23 Worlds) I’ve ever done! It seems pretty simple to place a helmet in a bucket, but obviously I have yet to master the art of helmet bucketing.  I asked the technical delegate what I did in transition and he said “ya you came in and attempted to throw the helmet in, but your aim was just way off.”  This is really embarrassing considering I played basketball in high school and like to think of myself as a bit of a baller.  But with my new Christmas bucket, I can practice all the time and redeem myself in 2013!

Despite my careless helmet tossing, I am really grateful for getting to race in Auckland at the U23 World Championships!  It was looking a bit skeptical whether or not I would go to New Zealand because of an Achilles strain about a month before the race.  Preparation leading up to a race is rarely completely ideal and we had to get a bit creative with training leading up.  But I got on that plane to New Zealand and my Achilles was good to go for the race! 

 I deemed 2012 the year of the bike and what a fitting way to cap off the season on the hardest bike course on the ITU circuit!  The 8 lap course featured three respectable hills, daredevil descents and technical corners which were not for the faint of heart.  Considering I crashed twice last year at junior Worlds, my goal was not to crash twice- I would have been ecstatic if I only crashed once!  I exceeded my wildest expectations and managed to stay upright for the entire bike segment.   On the run, I actually felt pretty good for the first 5km and then the last 5km became survival. I finished 13th, which I can’t be displeased with for my first year of U23.

If I was healthy after Worlds, I was planning on running cross-country for the Vikes.  However, I decided that it would be best to take a complete break and let my Achilles fully heal.  So I decided to red shirt this year and put on my “I love mustaches” t-shirt for a good luck video for the Vikes:

I took part in selling Christmas trees to raise money for the Vikes xc/track teams and really got into the Christmas spirit:

Recently, NTC went on a road trip to Whistler for some cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing!  We even got to shoot a gun at biathlon.  Alex, Matt and I went on a gnarly cross-country ski because of a slight miscalculation.  After mega ski, I made two pies for our Christmas dinner! 

Thinking back to the na├»ve high schooler moving away from home last year, I have learned so much as an athlete this year!  Thank you to my coach Carolyn Murray for helping me through the rough patches, her husband Dean for making me laugh and teaching me to make pie, Patrick Kelly for encouraging me to come out to Victoria and coaching me up until September, Steve Keeler and Vanessa Young for keeping me healthy, housing me and feeding me delicious steak, Kim Ward, Matt Rose, my neighbours Trish and Rob Blaker for our hot dog nights, everyone at NTC, Triathlon Canada, the Vikes XC team, Brent Fougner, Nineteen Wetsuits, Shimano, Oakley, Oak Bay Bikes, Lululemon product testing, Dr. Reed Ferber, CSC Pacific, CSC Calgary, my brother, my dog and last but not least my mom and dad!  See you in 2013!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

What I did on my summer vacation

Well I've had about an eight month summer vacation as I opted to take the second semester off from school and honestly I wish it would never end! This post is about the latter half of my summer vacation which includes travelling to faraway places (ie Quebec), biking up a mountain and making pie. Here are some highlights of summer 2012!

-       Getting antsy to start racing.  Test my racing fitness at Vikes relays on a 4 x 100 relay with some grade 3s.  Find myself in a heated battle with a speedy grade 3 boy (grade 3s can run a LOT faster than you think).  Tweak my hamstring and lose the race.  Hammy hurts for a while.  Ego hurts more.

-       First World Cup in home province in Edmonton!  The course was basically hill repeats on the bike and run which made for a super intense and hard race.  The heat didn’t make the race any easier either.  Pretty much red-lined the whole run and actually welcomed my 10 second penalty as a nice little breather in the middle of the race.  My penalty also got me some air time on the CBC coverage because of the “costly mistake by Pennock”.  Super pleased with a 4th place finish! A little delirious after the race as you can tell by my loopy signature that I don’t remember signing:

Canadian Podium

-       Magog Continental Cup was the next race on deck at the end of July! Magog is a super fun resort town complete with a cute chocolatier shop owned by Rafael, who my family got to know when we came to race two years ago.  The race went well and I placed 2nd behind my friend Joanna Brown aka Jo Bro after she blasted off on the run.

-     Became a full-time Olympic super fan.  For both the Women’s and Men’s Triathlon, I got up at ungodly hours to watch the races unfold live with other hard core fans. 

-       Russy P. came out to Victoria for a week long Pennock training camp! I took him on his first ride on waterfront and he got his first flat tire which would have been okay if we knew how to change tires and if the 100m final in the Olympics wasn’t on in 30 minutes.  Said some things I didn’t mean (you come to Victoria and all you do is get flats!) but it was okay because I hammered home to get the car to pick him up and got to watch Bolt just in the knick of time.  We may or may not have watched an instructional video on how to change flats afterwards…

Russell at a hipster breakfast place in Victoria

-       The last stop on the series of Canadian races was in sunny Kelowna. Our group went out a week before and had a bit of a fun training camp leading up to the race which even included tubing and hot dogs (whoa triathletes can have fun!).  Race went well, fed off the excitement of the music and the cheers and had my first win on an Olympic distance course.  SO proud of little Russy P. for having an awesome swim and making lead pack in the Junior Elite race!  Shout outs to all the speedy ‘berta kids for fast racing, including KOS champs Laurin Thorne and Stefan Daniel!

I’ve really savoured the athlete life but it’s now time to buckle down and do some school.  I know I will be sitting at my U of Vic lectures wanting to fast-forward to more summer adventures.  Luckily my triathlon season is still alive and kicking with a race in Buffalo, USA up next!

xoxo, ellen

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Down Undah

I have officially deemed 2012 Year of the Bike.  Biking and I have had a bit of a dysfunctional relationship in my triathlon career so maybe I can patch things up by paying more attention to it for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my bike.  Its black and yellow so naturally I like to think of it as Bumblebee the Transformer.  Sometimes I forget to lube the chain or pump the tires and sometimes I tighten the bolt in my top tube too tight and it snaps on the first ride of training camps but it’s a pretty sweet ride, especially with the new Shimano DuraAce. While I love my bike, riding it has not come naturally for me.  I’m a bit of a wuss on corners, I make pathetic noises climbing hills and I crash twice at junior worlds. So I have decided to stop avoiding it and suck it up and get better at biking.  This meant that I had to face one of my biggest fears: the crit.  I was a nervous wreck days before the race and there may have been some tears under my sunglasses on the startline of the C-race along side my competitors of middle aged men and junior-high aged boys.  The race got rolling and everyone was super friendly and I didn’t get dropped and didn’t crash! With each corner, I became more confident and took it at a higher speed.  At the end, I could tell the old boys were going to be “save up Sallys" for the sprint finish so with a shocking wave of confidence I went to the front and picked up the pace.  I wanted to make them boys hurt and make em earn the W!  Overall, it was a great way for me to work on pack riding, cornering and it was fun.

Photo: Duane Martindale

I had a bit of an advantage on my crit competitors because of a solid month of training in Australia while they were stuck at a desk job or a junior high classroom.  While down under I also raced my first race as a big dog at the Mooloolaba Continental Cup!  By big dog, I mean the Olympic Distance and boy, this isn’t junior racing anymore! The 10km run was merciless- not even the 4 gels I consumed made it any more tolerable.  In the swim, I was a little caught off guard at the whistle as I was leisurely cleaning my goggles but recovered and got on the draft train near the front of the pack.  The bike leg was relatively eventful with attacks by some of Aussies, sun, wind, rain, back to sun, a crash that I wasn’t apart of, debris on road, weird bumpy white line and a flat tire that thankfully wasn’t mine.  Alison Hooper had my back and we kept tabs on each other (drink water! Did you take your gel? Good job,  we are awesome!) Basically reinforcing the polite Canadian stereotype. And cue painful 10 km run!  The days after the race it felt like I had been punched in the stomach in a street fight.  After recovering from the race, I felt super motivated to get back to some hard work.

Photo: Jordan Bryden

While most of our days were filled with training, eating, sleeping and group trips to the grocery store, we got to experience some pretty cool Aussie culture.  One thing I really noticed about the Aussies is that they love their sports! Swimming is especially dear to Australia’s heart and the Australian Olympic Trials were national news all around the country while we were there.  The finals were live every evening and I was nearly brought to tears on a few occasions.  We saw the heartbreaking end of the Thorpedo and the inspiring win by Tessa Wallace, a local girl who trained in the same pool as us, in the 200 breaststroke.  We got to know Tessa a bit and had a fun Easter barby (not BBQ) with her family and ate kangaroo kebabs (not kebobs).  Believe it or not, she hadn’t heard of the Tim Tam Slam and I had to teach her something about her own country! (please see the Tim Tam Slam instructional video below).  We also went to a field hockey game and it brought back fond memories of my short-lived field hockey career in grade 10. Another highlight of Australia was the Steve Irwin Zoo! Steve Irwin was one of my idols growing up- he caught his first crocodile when he was just nine years old for heaven sakes! I also paid $20 to hold a koala for 30 seconds but is was so worth it.  The koala was so sleepy and so cuddly and so cute! It was a heartwarming moment. 

Paula, Alison, Me, Alex, Aaron and Tessa!

Cuddly koala

Back in Canada now where we say  kebobs, think vegiemite is nasty and grocery stores are open past 6pm! Luckily we can still buy Tim Tams here.

On a side note, I recently bought a onesie that I will be bringing to every race this season! 

xoxo, ellen

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Maui Training Camp 2012

I’m fortunate enough to kick off this blog with a post about my training camp adventures in Maui, Hawaii!  It was an incredible experience after a last second decision to take a semester off from University to focus on triathlon.  This opportunity has allowed me to improve my strength and skills on the bike in hopes of making the transition to Olympic distance racing a bit smoother.  As well, if the Mayan calendar is accurate in predicting the end of the world, I wanted to spend 2012 doing something I really enjoy. 

Training with Maui’s beauty as the backdrop was incredible.  Swimming at 7:00am is so much more pleasant when you are outside and the warm sun is rising over the pool.  The cycling was so unique to anything I’ve ever done before.  My favourite ride was the Road to Hana- I would describe it as a roller coaster through a rainforest on the edge of a cliff.  Maui’s cane fields are so much more than just a crop, but also an endless track for running.  Our running shoes are now stained red from those dusty cane field workouts. 

We stayed in this fun surf town called Paia which had a really laid-back atmosphere. It was not unusual for a kid on a skateboard with a surf board in arm to come flying down main street. I loved the sign coming into Paia that read: “do not feed the hippies”.  When we weren’t training, it was fun to explore the town and observe the hippies.

I went into this camp knowing how to stand in line and order a meal from the Residence Cafeteria at the University of Victoria and I’m coming out nearly a full-fledged chef! Alison and Joanna were very patient with my rookie cooking knowledge.  However, on a few occasions my inexperience would become painfully prevalent; such as the time I accidently used white wine vinegar instead of olive oil (in my defense, they were very similar looking bottles).  At these times, I would usually be demoted to salad duty (ripping lettuce). 
Cool outdoor sink at our house

It was awesome to spend six weeks with the girls and coach Patrick; so much so that I think each and everyone deserves an award.  Here are the awards and the corresponding recipient. 


Alison: best barista
Alison would religiously prepare the coffee maker every night with our favourite vanilla macadamia nut coffee.  In the morning, I would find a freshly brewed cup of coffee waiting for me on the counter. 

Kyla: best tweet
I favourited this one

Paula: best Jerry Seinfeld impression
One day before an open water swim Paula did this funny Jerry Seinfeld impression from one of his stand-up comedy skits.  It was about horses wanting their oat bags.

Alex: most talented whale spyer
I’m pretty sure Alex is in fact half whale because she can eagle eye those things like no other. 

Sam: best dougier
Sam taught us how to dougie. Good thing we learned from the best.  Check out our sweet dougie in super Coates twins’ Maui training video.

Patrick: best paddle board surfer
One day we had an afternoon off from training so we rented some paddle boards.  The coach can surf!

Me: most extravagant frozen yogurt
I don’t mean to brag, but my frozen yogurt creations from Yogurtland were amazing.  Layer of pralines and caramel frozen yogurt. Layer of graham cracker crumbs, cookie dough balls, mochi marshmallows. Layer of red velvet cupcake batter frozen yogurt.  More graham cracker crumbs, cookie dough balls plus sprinkles, sugar animal cookies, crushed oreos. Yum.

Joanna: Best rear seat dancer
Everyday we would pile into our favourite white van and usually Joanna and I would sit in the very back row which is perfect for dancing to the radio because no one can see you unless Patrick looks in the rear view mirror.  Joanna can dance better sitting down than most people can standing up.  

I am so appreciative that I got to experience training in such a beautiful setting with such great people. Victoria welcomed us back in typical west coast fashion with some cloudy days which leaves me dreaming of the Maui sunshine.

Up next is the Bazan Bay 5km road race and word on the street is that it is flat which I'm a big fan of. There will be two Pennocks on the start line because the little bro is coming out for the weekend.  His pre-race breakfast is frosted flakes with chocolate milk by the way.

The bro

xoxo ellen