Monday, July 27, 2009

Double Race Weekend Fun!

Saturday morning I was up at the crack of dawn, arriving at Sylvan Lake around 7:30ish after the 1hr 45min drive. It was really laid back and none of us were the least bit nervous. We didn't have a whole lot of time before the 8:10am start, but then we didn't really need much time, either, as there was little preparation involved. Put on your swim cap, strap the timing chip to your wrist, and you're ready! There were very few people in the 5km event (11 female and 7 male, to be exact), so the floating water start was quite calm.

I swam at the tail end of a small group for the first 750m or so, at which point I decided that this was not a pace I wanted to attempt to maintain for the rest of the 5km. I ended up dropping off the back and swam the entire remainder of the race on my own. During the first lap, my left hip flexor muscles became very sore, and felt like they were going to cramp up. This continued for the rest of the swim. I had to stop a couple times each loop (the course was 4 x 1250m loops) to stretch it out and do a couple breaststroke kicks. Definitely wasn't too concerned with my time, as let's face it - I had not trained for this race! I settled into a very comfortable pace, and focused on going steady and finishing the race strong, rather than killing myself before the sprint tri the following day.

The second loop dragged on and on, and it seemed to take a very long time to hit the halfway point. My lower back muscles started getting really sore during this loop, as well as my right hip muscles. My third loop was the best by far. I felt strong, had a good mindset, and began to really enjoy myself! My arms weren't tired at all, and other than my hips and back, everything else felt OK! The water temperature was really quite nice, at 21.5C, which was perfect for a non-wetsuit swim. The fourth and final lap was a challenge, as my arms/shoulders began to tire slightly and my hips and lower back were killing me! I became extremely hungry during that last lap, and all I could think about was finishing and eating. I don't think I ate quite enough before the race. The last 500m was a struggle. Throwing my wrist over the timing mats on the dock for the finish was a great feeling!

I finished in 1:15.02, and ended up in 6th place for the females. There were some very speedy swimmers that showed up, and they were all very young (under 18). I was told that the female winner had just apparently returned home after racing at the swimming World champs! So I was pleased with my time considering I had not trained adequately for a 5km distance (generally throughout the year I swim 3 times a week, around 2500m per workout, which just doesn't cut it). The 2 longer swims I did in the week leading up to it were too little, too late! Nevertheless, my endurance was actually great; it was just the muscular soreness in my hips/lower back that was the issue. I really need to get myself back to the gym regularly for some core strength and weights!

Alice and Kendall both did awesome - they were in the same situation as me with the inadequate 5km swim training, as we all do pretty much the same workouts (they are in the group I coach and I swim the same workouts on my own as the group does). They are both strong swimmers and finished within a minute of each other, around 1:25, and were pleased with their performances. We talked about the possibility of entering a 10km race next summer in BC. This type of race would definitely require proper training, as you cannot just go in and 'wing it' for a 10km swim race!

Sunday morning, Alice and I were up early again for the St. Albert triathlon, but at a more decent hour of 6:30am. I woke up feeling muscle soreness in my upper back and some of my abdominal muscles, as well as my left hip flexor muscles. Our heat was not starting until 9:45am, but the transition closed at 7:30am so we had to head over and drop off our bikes. We found out that they were at least 30 mins behind schedule, so we headed back home for breakfast. These are the advantages of living less than 5 mins from the race - another reason I love this race!

Our race didn't end up starting until about 10:30am. Luckily I ended up with only 2 others in my lane. The swim was only 750m, so compared to the 5km the previous day, should be a piece of cake - right? Wrong. My swim actually went terribly. I felt awful from the start, and was unable to maintain anything that even resembled a fast pace. Basically I had to just back off and slug through the 750m. I was really glad to jump out of the water and run outside to my transition and grab my bike. I seem to be a MUCH better open water swimmer than pool swimmer. I don't think I have ever turned out a good pool swim in a triathlon!

The bike leg was fantastic. I went out hard from the start, and it is nice to be familiar with every inch of the out and back course. There was a headwind for most of the way out, so I just pushed a big gear and stayed in the aero bars the whole time. I felt a lot more powerful coming back, and kept it in pretty much my biggest gear the whole return trip (with the exception of the uphill).

I decided for this race that I was not going to wear a watch or use a bike computer, and I have to admit this was a great decision. I raced strictly on perceived effort alone, and didn't use cadence or speed on the bike, which is what I usually focus on. This ended up working pretty well, as I found out later that I had the fastest female bike split!

And the run went really well. I love running for only 5km! It hurts, but it is nice and short - although definitely not painless! I was able to push myself for the whole 5km, and felt like I was running quite fast (but not quite as fast as I thought!). My legs actually felt pretty good, and my hips didn't bother me at all. I had a lot of fun out there! The heat didn't bother me either (it only reached 26C).

Since I didn't wear a watch, I had no idea how I didat the end. However, the results were posted after several long delays. I finished 2nd female overall, in 1:08.22. Which is actually a best time for me by over a minute from my PB last year at this race! I can't complain about that. Especially after doing a race the day before...

Splits were:
Swim: 10:52
Bike: 35:04 (includes both transitions)
Run: 22:27

Alice also had an amazing race and took 3 minutes off her personal best sprint time, and got 6th in her age group out of 50! Way to go Alice!

Probably the most exciting thing about the race was that I won an awesome draw prize! A one piece 2XU tri-suit, which fits me perfectly! It looks really cool, with silver/grey material and green stitching. I have never owned a one-piece suit and wanted to get one, so now I don't have to go looking for it. That was a great way to end the big race weekend!

The St. Albert triathlon is still one of my all-time favorite races. It is well organized, there are so many familiar faces out there, the volunteers are amazing, and I love the course.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Riding into the sunset

I love the summers in Alberta. On a gorgeous day like today, you can start a nearly 90min bike workout at 8pm, and there is still daylight by the time you finish. It was a calm (for the most part) and beautiful evening and I really enjoyed my solo ride. This streak of nice weather is apparently here to stay for at least the next week, with the forecasted highs on Friday and Saturday up to 30C and 32C. Perfect for the open water swim on Saturday!

Since the swim starts so early at Sylvan Lake on Saturday, we have to be out the door by 5:30am in order to arrive by 7:15am at the latest. Yikes! That means a 5am wake-up call (I refuse to get up any earlier than that), which is a little early for me. I will be bringing a very large cup of coffee for the drive in hopes of waking up. I'm sure once I get in the water I will be fully awake, as I expect the water to be chilly for the non-wetsuit swim. Hopefully the warm weather we have been experiencing will increase the water temperature by a couple degrees. I am definitely excited for this race and have no expectations. I have completed 2 longer swim workouts in preparation for the 5km: 3500m on Sunday, and 4600m last night. Definitely does not sound like enough but it is more than I did 2 years ago for this race. I am heading there with big sis Alice, and Kendall from the swim group at St. Albert tri club.

For the sprint tri on Sunday, hopefully I can summon my dormant (non-existent?) fast twitch muscle fibers! With all the training for half ironman this year, there may have been a little neglect in this area. I am really looking forward to this super-fun race and my main goal will be to enjoy my day while putting out the hardest effort possible! I may be quite stiff and sore from the swim the day before, but who cares! I probably won't even notice as I will be having too much fun!

My dad is away now for a couple weeks visiting our relatives in N. Ireland, so Geoff and I are taking care of the house and the animals. Gucci (above) is a sweetheart and follows me around the house. His best friend is Hugo. Gucci now has his own Facebook page, complete with a list of friends, courtesy of my sister.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't open your mouth when you run...

Or you will swallow a bug. That's what happened to me yesterday while running.... ewwww. In addition to that incident, my run was tough and I felt a bit sluggish and sore. Geoff and I started a new core strengthening program in the gym the day before, so I was feeling the effects of that after not doing any strengthening work for months!

I have done something silly and signed up for 2 races in one weekend. The St. Albert triathlon (sprint) is on Sun. July 26, and I love this race. It is one of my favorites - a great local race where everyone has fun and people are not preoccupied with results. I had a lot of fun doing it last year.

After the Great White North, I felt a bit burnt out and run down, and had not planned to do a race for a while. I took the Monday-Friday after the race completely off, where all I did was take naps every day! I feel I really needed that down time to recover, relax, and do absolutely nothing! But now the motivation has returned and the itch to race again is out in full force! There is an open water swim race at Sylvan Lake on July 25, and I went ahead and signed up for it! Not anything close to the usual distance you might swim in a triathlon - 5km! The race is the AB Open Water Swim provincials. And it is complete with swimming rules, such as no wetsuits allowed! Hopefully the water is not too chilly - the rules state if the temperature drops below 16C, the event will be cancelled! I can't imagine it will be overly warm as the race starts at 8am! Since I have not swam over 2800m in a workout this year, I am heading to the pool this weekend for a 5km workout, just so I know I can actually complete the distance! I have convinced my sister Alice to come and do the 5km race with me, and the triathlon the next day. Good times!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

GWN Re-cap - Long Overdue...

It seems as though I have been neglecting my blog this past week but the truth is I had absolutely no access to internet while in Vancouver! Now that I am home I have a lot of catching up to do with reading and writing blogs. What on earth did we do before the internet?

The race last weekend was awesome! I had a really fantastic time and enjoyed myself all day long, save for a couple spots near the end of the run when I was struggling! I love this race because there are so many people I know that are in it, and seeing friends working their butt off during the race is always the best thing.

The 5am wake up call came after a good night's sleep, and we were pleasantly surprised to see clear skies and perfect weather. My sister stayed over to ensure a quick departure in the morning, and the four of us (Alice, Geoff, Stephen, and I) left the house at about 6am. Once we arrived at the race site, the usual business of putting air in the tires and setting up the transition followed. After that, I felt like I had an abundance of time to spare. Normally I do not get to races quite so early so it was a bit of a different situation.

In the transition I got to have a nice chat with Amber, whose bike happened to be racked only a few down from me! We talked while trying to squeeze into our wetsuits, then soon after it was time to say goodbye and head down to the water. I swam a couple strokes and let in a layer of water all throughout my wetsuit (which makes for easy removal later on, and keeps you warm if the water is super-cold). The water was actually a very pleasant temperature. I found Stephen, Alice, Geoff, and Mike all near the front and wished everyone a good race.

Then the horn sounded and the madness began! I have not been used to this type of aggressive swim start recently, as all my swim starts in the past few years have been very calm and tame (even Worlds' last year)! I think it had something to do with the fact that men were starting with the women?? The first couple hundred meters were quite rough, with a couple guys around me grabbing at my arms and legs and swimming into me, and trying to grab onto my feet! Now, that is completely unnecessary! I didn't get angry or frustrated and refused to waste any extra energy in fighting back, so I just kept on swimming as hard as I could and eventually dropped the buggers!
This swim felt WAY harder than my swim at Oliver! At Oliver I felt very comfortable and was in a good pace and rhythm without a huge effort. This time I felt like I was red-lining it the whole 2km and going at a pace that would normally be reserved for 200m repeats! Generally I go out hard and then settle into a nice, comfortable pace after about 200-300m, but this time I did not have the luxury of swimming comfortably, as there were a couple of fast girls around me preventing me from doing so, and there was a swim prime at this race! After 1 loop, I came out 3rd woman, then proceeded to pass the leader during the first half of the second loop. A gap of about 5-10 sec opened up to the other girl, which I was unable to close at the end. The leader ended up being DQ'd at the end for whatever reason, so I ended up with the women's swim prime! I came out in 26:50 (which was the EXACT same time I went at Oliver, to the second! But a world of difference in effort levels!), good for 5th place overall.

My transition was smooth and I was out onto the bike in good time. The first 15km flew by in some 24 minutes and I remember thinking to myself 'This is going by really fast - wow!' Didn't realize it at the time but there must have been a tailwind! I pedalled hard, and concentrated on pushing as big a gear as possible. Around 30km, I felt very happy to be doing something I really love to do and to be feeling strong and going fast! Shortly after, my hips started acting up a bit. This really weird thing happens where my hips feel like they are going numb, and then I start losing power. It is a strange sensation and I think that I need to get a proper bike fitting done, as this shouldn't be happening. Luckily in this race, I did not get the really sore lower back that I got in Oliver!

After turning around at 50km, we faced a headwind the whole way back. Not a super strong one, but an annoying one that was enough to slow you down below your average speed. I struggled on occasion during the last 30km, and started to lose focus and motivation at about the 70km mark. The last 10km I backed off a bit, in hopes of setting myself up for a good run. My bike computer split read 2:33, my split in the results is 2:36 (which includes transitions). I had hoped to break 2:30, and I was definitely pretty close despite feeling sub-par for half the ride! There is still improvement to be made here!

My bike to run transition was good and I was off to start the half marathon! I purposely started out easier and held myself back, as I have a tendency to go out too hard and pay for it dearly shortly after! So I ran very comfortably the first few km, surprisingly still under 5min/km pace. I was actually feeling awesome in the run in a half-ironman!! This was new territory to me, so I kept it smooth and comfortable with fast turnover and just kept it going! I kept a very positive mindset and cheered on all the people I saw that I knew, as well as people that I didn't know at all.
I was under pace to go a 1:45, through about 12-13km (this would equal my best road race half marathon time). Then my pace slowed a little bit and my breathing started to become more labored. I had to walk a couple transitions and for the last 5km my stomach was not happy! I definitely lost the positive mindset that had been with me up until about 15km, and struggled the last few kilometers. At some point during this challenging portion, I had tried to add up my splits in my head with a predicted run split in order to figure out my finishing time. I had worn a watch but I had not started it until the run. Don't ever try to do math while you are trying to run and in pain! The calculation I got was over 5hours, so when I rounded that last turn and saw well under 5 hours on the clock I was so happy! I finished strong and was ecstatic to be finished! Run split was 1:50, which is my best ever split in a half ironman by 3 mins, even with the struggles in the last bit.
Final time: 4:53.14
2nd place in age group; 8th female overall
This is my best-ever half-ironman and I am extremely happy with the result and know that there is still much more to improve on! Geoff and I figured out my problem in the run was likely caused by taking in a gel at about 5km when there was no need to (i.e. I was feeling fantastic at that point), which caused some GI issues. I think the 'less is more' approach is best for me in these longer races, and I will experiment more with this in my next one! I'm not sure at this point whether or not I will do Soma half iron in October. I took this past week completely off to recover and will start back to some easy training today.

Stephen, Geoff and Alice all had great races as well. Stephen went a PB overall with a super-fast bike split and Alice completed her first half-ironman ever! She got a flat tire 10km into the bike and only lost 12 mins, and despite this she still achieved her goal of breaking 6 hours! She would have been close to 5:45 without the flat tire issue. Geoff had some back issues on the bike/run which is likely due to his bike fit. We are going to try and get a professional bike fitting done somewhere at some point before next year!
The finish line was really fun and it was great to see so many people I knew there! I got to meet Naomi and her husband Greg who were there to cheer everyone on! My dad and brother Donald were there with Gucci (who ended up falling into the water dish for dogs), Geoff's dad was there taking pictures, and Stephen's parents were there. It is such a well-organized race with tons of amazing volunteers and I am sad to say I won't be there next year (my good friend Jadeen's wedding is in BC that same weekend and I am the maid of honor!)...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I could get used to this

Sleeping in every day... relaxing... short workouts... playing with Hugo... surfing the net... figuring out where we should get a latte ... playing with Hugo... making tough decisions such as what type of latte to get... mostly going with London Fog (or Earl Grey as they now call it)... walking Hugo to Starbucks and back every day... watching television... playing with Hugo...

This is pretty much what I have felt like this week:

I have really been enjoying this week off of work but it is simply going by much too fast! Stephen, Geoff and I have been doing a whole lot of nothing and loving it! Some short and sweet workouts each day, with Wednesday completely off for me.

Looking forward to the race on Sunday...