Monday, July 28, 2008

Just not my day

Just to warn you - this is a long one!

The Sylvan Lake 1/2 Iron did not turn out exactly as I had planned. For some reason I had it engrained in my mind that I was going to have the perfect race and my performance was going to be nothing short of amazing. I learned several things after the gruelling event: No matter how great shape I am in and how amazing I feel leading up to the race, I can still have an 'off' day and not perform to the best of my capabilities. Second, I can still pull off a decent swim after doing absolutely no open water swim training this year (aside from the Vancouver World's race - which is not really open water swim training). Living where we do, there is just really no open water readily available in this area to train in. Lastly, you can't really switch gears from an Olympic distance focus for the whole year to a Half Iron focus in the past 5 weeks and expect to pull off a fantastic result.

I felt like the lead up to this race was perfect and I was feeling very confident going in, based on how my training had gone and how I was feeling during my week taper. Geoff and I drove up Friday around 3:30pm (I worked the morning until noon) and attended the pre-race dinner and meeting at around 6pm. We relaxed in the hotel in Red Deer for the rest of the evening, and went to bed around 10:30ish. I had a decent sleep, only waking up several times. I felt calm and excited to race in the morning, not really too nervous at all.

The weather turned out to be fantastic and I couldn't have been happier about it. The forecasted high was 26C, and it was blue sky and sunny when we stepped outside of our hotel. Once at the race venue, I set up my transition and did all the usual preparation type stuff - body marking, get timing chip, run warm-up, porta potty, put on the wetsuit.

The water was a good temperature, not too chilly and not too warm either. I got off to a good start, with the exception of some tool swimming into my left side for about 10 seconds, until I gave him a good shove and luckily never saw him again. The rest of the swim was spent swimming side by side by some guy in a sleeveless wetsuit (no idea who), and pulling 2 others behind us for the duration of the 2km. I could have tucked in just behind the sleeveless guy but I prefer to swim my own swim race and set the pace on my own. Unfortunately I never really felt too great during the swim. My stroke felt choppy and my turnover too fast and my hip flexors became very tight and fatigued in the water for some reason. Nearing the swim exit, it was me, the sleeveless guy, and the 2 others just behind, and I ended up standing on some algae-covered rocks to the right of the exit, and promptly slipping and landing right on my left shin on these rocks. I scrambled up as fast as I can, realizing there was another female behind me and thinking to myself 'I am not going to lose the swim prime because I fell!'

I regained my composure and ran up into transition, picking up the $100 prime and a time of 27 something. My transition was fast and smooth, at least until I was running my bike out of the transition area. I lost my grip on my bike on the gravel and it went crashing down. Half of my aero sip drink (filled with Carbo pro) spilled out and onto the ground. I picked it up quickly and hopped on my bike, realizing shortly after that my left brake hood and lever were completely bent in toward my aero bars. Turns out it was okay and didn't affect the shifting! But now I am going to have to take it in to be fixed before riding it again.

The bike was super-tough. I couldn't push as hard as I had wanted to, and for some reason I had problems with both hips for most of the ride. They were really tight and sore, and threatened to cramp up on me at various points. The course was quite hilly, but the worst hills were contained in the last 25 kms, which turned out to be into a headwind. My 90km split was 2:39, but the ride continued on for 3 more kms until it was completed. Inaccurately advertised courses are frustrating to me, especially when it could have been completely exactly 90km (due to an out and back section). Oh well. Off the bike in 2:45, and 7th place. Not what I had planned, as I had a goal of a top 5 placing, and now my 2 best events were completed.
My second transition was quick and easy, too, and off I went. I felt not too bad, and tried to remain smooth and controlled. The run terrain is very varied, and after a few kms you have to run through a forest with roots sticking up everywhere. I was okay until about 8km then it seemed to fall apart. After about 6-7km, the route emerges onto a small highway, and it was all up and down on this stretch. My stomach began cramping very painfully after about 8km, and my pace slowed. At the 11km mark aid station, I began walking. On the return trip home, I walked up a lot of the hills and struggled along. This was one of my most painful runs ever, and it was definitely the hardest run course I have done (right up there with Invermere anyway). The stomach cramps continued until the end. I am not really sure why I felt so terrible and what exactly went wrong, as I was in great shape and thought I had a good taper. It was tough mentally for me as I had been convinced that I would run myself a PB for the half marathon.

Finally I crossed the finish line and was never so happy to be done a race, and for the first time ever, my legs were instantaneously sore. My run turned out to be 1:59, which was not so bad for how much walking I did during the second half. Overall time was 5:13, about 13 minutes shy of my goal of breaking 5 hours, and a best time by 13 minutes. I was passed by 3 women on the run, ending with 10th place female overall. If I had raced to my capabilities and done what I thought I could do (low 4:50's), I would have placed 5th or 6th. The womens field was very competitive and based on how terrible I felt and the fact I had an off day and how hard the course was, I am satisfied with that. I know I should not complain as this is a PB, but I did have very high expectations of myself for this race and wanted to break my PB by a lot more.
I plan to focus more on half ironman now and I am now determined to do well at this distance. It was nice to take a break from the long course for 2 years as it gave me a renewed passion for it. Next up is Lake Chapparall Olympic tri on Aug. 17, then possibly St. Albert sprint on Sept. 1, then who knows after that? Stay tuned...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hugo is here

Geoff has finally started up his blog again after a brief hiatus. He has recently started back running after struggling with some chronic injuries over the past year and a bit. Hopefully we will be able to do a race together in the fall (either a half marathon in Victoria or perhaps the half ironman in Arizona in October). He will probably be aiming for an Ironman next year, and I will think about whether I want to do one after I race this weekend at the half!

We have a new puppy at home! As of yesterday Hugo the Boston Terrier is the new addition to our home. Geoff and I moved into our new house on Thursday, and Hugo arrived just yesterday. We drove to Airdrie to pick him up and it was a very tough decision as there were 3 puppies left to choose from. We were there for quite a long time! Hugo is the cutest, sweetest little thing I have ever seen (but of course I still love Gucci!). You can see for yourself in the pictures! Last night Hugo was very good and he slept through most of the night. Geoff was up with him at about 6am to take him out but then he settled back into his bed for another hour and half till I got up.
I didn't want to go to work today because it's more fun to play with Hugo but I went anyway and was excited when I finally got home. We brought him over to my Dad's to meet Gucci and they got along immediately and wouldn't stop playing and jumping on each other (of course we had to make sure Gucci didn't squash Hugo because he has a good 20 lbs on him).
Today all I had to do was an easy hour bike and I just did that on the trainer. The rest of the week is very easy and I hope to get my energy back and sharpen up for Saturday. It is looking to be a nice hot week and I am all over that, as I have not done one race this year in nice weather. Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This past weekend was a very draining weekend of training, both physically and mentally. After my workouts on both days, I felt much like this fellow here, and all I could do was lay on the couch for the rest of the day watching t.v.

Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn (well, 7:30am), and left for my long brick workout by 8:30am. I met a group of 3 others, who were plannning on a 2 hour ride. I had to do 3:15 but wanted to ride with people for at least part of that, hence the getting up early. For some reason I felt nauseated and sick for the whole first hour, and like I was going to throw up. As a result, I had no power or energy and kept getting dropped. Finally I began to feel better after turning around and getting to ride in a complete tailwind for the way back (i.e. 45km/hr without really trying). After 60km, I dropped the group off and then continued out on my own on another road. I ended up doing 100km in 3hr 10min, averaging 31.5km/hr so I was happy with that. My run off the bike consisted of 40min, with 25min steady, 15ez. I felt like crap. Usually I tend to feel quite good in my transition runs, but this was not to be on that day. I again felt somewhat nauseated and was unable to take in a gel while running, and came close to bonking. The last 15 mins (ez) were done more or less as a shuffle and I nearly collapsed after finally finishing (3hr50min total workout). This was my longest workout since 2006 and it took a lot out of me.

On Saturday night at 2am, Geoff and I were rudely awakened by the home alarm system wailing in our ears. Jumping up in a panic, I tried unsuccessfully to find the light switch in our room for what seemed like minutes but was probably only seconds. If you've never heard the sound of an alarm going off, it is a deafening and screaming noise and makes you feel like you may be having a heart attack. After I eventually found the light, ran upstairs, and turned off the alarm, it occurred to Geoff and I that we didn't know why the alarm actually went off. Generally when it has been triggered in the past, it is the fault of someone in the house opening a door before the alarm has been turned off in the morning. Since we were both sleeping, this was obviously not the case. We decided to search the dark upstairs for any signs of unwanted guests. Luckily, there was nothing up there. Geoff (smart guy) made me find the # for the alarm company and he called them to find out what had set off the alarm. It turns out it came from the door to the garage - we still haven't figured out why. Apparently sometimes air pressure can set it off. We still think it had something to do with crazy Moe (the cat), because his litter is in the room leading to the garage and I saw him skulk out of there around the time the alarm was turned off. The next morning, Geoff got up early to feed the animals and opened the side door before remembering to deactivate the alarm - the deafening alarm once again went off. Geoff was quick and turned it off within 5 seconds.

Sunday I had a long run to do (90min to 1hr45min) and I was feeling so tired after being up the night before dealing with the alarm. I slept in uncharacteristically late after the debacle of the alarm going off again in the morning, so I didn't start my run until about 1:30pm. It actually turned out quite good, and I did 1hr40min, finishing really strong and negative splitting the run again. The thing that got me through that was telling myself that this was my LAST long run before the race. I had to skip my planned swim later that afternoon due to a lack of energy and instead lay on the couch for many hours watching useless t.v. programs. This was me after finishing that run:

My race is coming up next Saturday and I am quite excited but really need to re-charge my battery and get some energy back. This will hopefully be accomplished through the taper that will be starting this weekend. I am really hoping that the weather is sunny and warm for the race - I do not want to do another crappy weather race! I am keeping my fingers crossed...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hill? What hill?

I thought this during my longish run on Tuesday after work while running up one of the 'non-hills' in St. Albert. There's nothing like a little positive mindset during a tough run to keep you going. I had a 70 min run, which was supposed to include 60 min tempo. The first half of the run unfortunately I struggled with a bit of nausea and upset stomach, so I decided to do a negative split and once I turned around I had to go right up that hill. I kept picking up the pace the whole way back so that during the last 5-10 mins I was running at 5k race pace. It was a tough run!

With all these hard runs I have been doing during the week, my swim workouts a couple hours later have been suffering. I feel so fatigued and tired all I can do is go through the motions and complete the workout, without any speed at all. Oh well, it is the run which needs to improve, not the swim! Yesterday I had a 1hr 45 min bike to do, but of course there were thunderstorms again so I opted for the trainer. It was a long and boring ride but I forced myself to continue even though I felt like stopping many times.

This week and last I have been feeling so tired and fatigued, especially when I wake up in the morning. I have such a hard time getting out of bed. My alarm goes off at 7:05am, and I have to press snooze several times, finally rolling out of bed around 7:30am. Of course, this is causing me to be tardy to work every day. The fatigue must be the result of all this longer and hard training I have been doing, and of course continuing to work the same hours. I plan to start going to bed earlier so that I can recover somewhat and not feel so wrecked in the morning!

I am really looking forward to tomorrow (Friday) which is always my day off! But the long/hard training starts back up on Saturday with a 4 hour brick workout! Hopefully I can catch up on rest/sleep before then!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

With every storm there is a rainbow

Training has been going very well lately. I have been doing a lot of biking this week (biked 4 times for a total of 8.25 hours) and feeling very strong on the bike. Running also has been going great - I am starting to feel like a true runner when I am out there! Things are looking good for Sylvan Lake which is now less than 3 weeks away. I am very excited to race a half ironman again!

This weekend contained a few epic workouts. Saturday was an ez 90 min ride and then a 3.1 km swim with some harder efforts. Main set was 3 x {4 x 75 @ 1500TT pace, 200 strong. The 200's were 2:39, 2:37 and 2:35, and I felt strong without a huge effort. Sunday was a scheduled long brick - 2 hr 45 min ride plus 55 min run (with 40 min tempo). Went out for the first hour on my own, then met up with Mike from swimming for the rest. Of course it started to rain just near the end of my first hour, but the rain soon stopped and it was quite nice. Quite soon after that the dark, ominous clouds rolled in and we decided to do some loops not too far from home to be on the safe side.

On the way back with about 10km to go, a crazy thunderstorm hit, complete with black sky, pounding rain so hard that you couldn't see, and strong wind gusts. The rain was so hard it hurt and felt like needles landing on your arms. We made it back in that storm and by that time I was very cold and my hands were numb. The thunderstorm continued so I made the decision to scrap the run as a brick and do it later, so I could warm up. I did the run a couple hours later - 10 min w.u., 40 min tempo, 10 min ez - and felt really great on the tempo.

The rest of the weekend was quiet - I was planning to meet Bonnie on Saturday evening for some drinks on the patio, but I fell asleep on the couch by 8:30pm. I got up shortly after, had a shower, and then watched part of a movie with Geoff before falling asleep again. I have a really hard time staying up past a certain time on the weekends now. One of these days I will muster up the strength and energy to do something exciting!

I spent lots of time playing with Gucci this weekend as well. This is Geoff with Gucci after dressing him in his t-shirt - Gucci got mad and wouldn't go for his walk until Geoff apologized.

Here is Gucci again - after he successfully walked out of the shirt.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


It has been way too long since my last post but there has been a lot going on the past week! First and foremost, it has been absolutely gorgeous here for the past almost a week and I am LOVING the heat! I love the sun, I love the heat, I love biking in it, I even love running in it!

Last week was okay but not great for training. On Wednesday I planned to do a 2 hour ride in the evening, but when I got home after supper at my dad's I laid down for a minute to rest and ended up waking up around 10pm, 2 hours later! Guess I really must have needed that extra sleep. I fit the missed ride in on Friday - it was about 25C and sunny, and I did just over 60km in about 2 hours. Saturday was moving-day, and it was a hot one! 30C and sunny all day! Unfortunately my plan to squeeze in a workout didn't pan out and I ended up taking the day off (moving makes you tired).

Sunday was another beautiful day - the high was 32C! I had to do a 2 hour run and swim that day. The run was awesome - I love running in the heat, even though it is tough! I stuck to the trails where there was some shade. I ended up having a really good run, going pretty easy the first half, then picking up the pace on the way back. Until the last 10mins where I began to fade a bit in the heat - but overall a great run!

Monday was a 2 hour bike in the evening, it was again really hot - over 30C. My legs were a bit fatigued from the run the day before but it was a pretty good ride nonetheless. Yesterday was Canada Day, and I did a 60 min run (build/negative split) and a 2800m swim. My run was again really awesome - I am feeling strong and efficient while running again and I am convinced it is because of a change I have made in the past 2 weeks to the way I am doing my training runs. Thanks to a terrific article I read in Runner's World on progression runs, I realized that I was doing my runs incorrectly in training, and this was translating to my races. I am now starting out really easy and finishing every run strong! This is how I want my races to go, so I need to be doing this in training. I don't want to be going out fast and fading, which is what I have been doing up until now.

The new place is awesome but Geoff and I have so far unpacked nothing - we have actually moved into my dad's house to house-sit for a couple of weeks while they are away in Ireland. We are taking care of the animals (Gucci the pug and Moe the crazy cat) and the house while everyone is gone. The arduous task of unpacking and organizing the new house looms over us - I need to get my ass in gear to start doing some of it. You would think that this should get done in the next two weeks before we actually move in - let's hope it does! I would like to post some pictures but the camera computer adapter cord thingie seems to have been misplaced somewhere so those will have to wait.

This evening I have another 2 hour ride planned, which I will have to squeeze in around dinner with my good Jadeen, who is here for a few days from Victoria. Dinner will probably come first, right after work, and then the ride - so I should probably not eat too much or my bike will not be rolling along too smoothly!