Sunday, November 11, 2012

off the grid

So, it's been about 2 months which is by far the longest that I have ever neglected the blog. It's about freakin time to get back with the program!  I plan to get caught up on all my favorite blogs very soon...

I wish I had more exciting excuses of why I've had no time to blog, but really all I've been up to is working, fitting in some random unstructured training whenever I can, and trying to continue to eat healthy.  I've been working day and night, retardedly long hours (like 55-60 a week, some of that at home), and travelling back and forth to Vancouver.  It's been crazy... all the staff in the Van office quit at the same time (who does that), so I've been helping to fill in the gaps and assist with the workload, and training new people.  Fun times. 

I ran a race as well!  A month ago, now - Oct. 12 - the Fall Classic 10 miler. My buddy Sandra and I decided to sign up at the last minute (she raced the 5 miler), just for fun.  It turned out to be a lovely, crisp fall morning, above zero and no snow.  I had a fab race, feeling strong the whole way through and running a best time by 2.5 min - 1:12.26!  [holding 7:15/mile pace.]  I'm pretty pumped about that, although I know I still have big chunks of time to take off.  During the race, I didn't check my watch till the halfway point (2 lap course), and my 5 mile split was like 35:30, so a bit of a slow down the 2nd half.  Weird because I didn't feel like I fell apart at all and I felt strong the second loop.  Anyway, this is a big improvement for me and I didn't really train accordingly for that particular race.  

As the 2013 season will be creeping up on us before we know it, I've been doing some thinking about what I want to do for next year.  At this point, I'm not actually signed up for anything yet, but I have some ideas.  For sure I'll be racing a 1/2 marathon on Feb. 17 in Phoenix (the IMS Arizona Marathon & 1/2 marathon), and possibly a sprint tri on Feb. 24.  I'll get a rough race schedule drafted up soon and will share that next time.  Now that it's nearly the middle of November, I need to get my butt in gear and start training for that 1/2 marathon!  Doing an hour run today in the snow (i.e. my long run) ain't gonna cut it for a 13.1 mile race! 

A healthy food picture to brighten up the blog...

One of my staple breakfasts now - greek yogurt, berries, and granola... no longer eating bagels every day!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Subaru Banff Tri - struggle a little harder

After the debaucle race in Kelowna, my plan was to sign up for Banff as I didn't want to end my season on that note.  However, my motivation levels took a serious nose-dive, and I kept procrastinating and ended up signing up only one week prior to the race.  I was really not feeling in the mood to race at all.  The weekend before was especially tough and emotional, as Geoff left for Saskatoon on the Sunday and it was hard to see him go.  The week leading up to the race, I barely did anything, and was kicking myself for having registered.  I was considering not even going at all.

But Friday rolled around and I snapped out of it, and hit the road around 2pm.  I took my own car but drove together with Ian and Joanne from STARRT.  We made it to the race site around 6:30, and by the time we got our packages, dropped our bikes in transition 1 up at the lake, and got to our condo, it was already past 8:30. Time for dinner!  Perhaps a little late when you're racing the next morning, but no worries, it all worked out just fine and we had a lovely home cooked pasta dinner and salad.

 can't beat the views in Banff - taken from my balcony
another balcony shot

The race wasn't starting until 10:30 (I love these late start times!) so I had plenty of time in the morning to enjoy my bagel with almond butter + a cup (okay 2 cups) of coffee, and check out the scenery from our balcony.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day - sunny and a little chilly in the morning, but with a high of 22C.  Way different than the inaugural race 2 years ago!  And I was in a good mood and finally feeling excited and ready to race!  

borrowed shot - taken from Lisa M's blog

 Swim start 
Look at that gorgeous water - yeah, gorgeous but freaking chilly!

Let's do this thing! 

With about 15 minutes to go before the race started, I ventured into the water to try and acclimate.  It was frickin' cold! About 14C, enough to cause my feet and hands to throb in pain, then they became numb.  By the time the race started, it was a bit better but still uncomfortable.

Swim - 20:56 (1.5km)
I started out hard and fast, and had clear water immediately, with Lisa Mensink (2008 Olympian) right beside me.  We swam together the first 400m or so, then I got on her feet and tried to stay with her. I was having some trouble breathing though, as my face and mouth were numb and I couldn't feel my mouth at all.  So I had to back it off a bit.  The rest of the 2-loop swim was fine, I just swam as hard as I could and ended up neck and neck with another girl on the home stretch.  I was able to stand up quickly and run out of the water in 2nd place.  Funny story - the top 2 swim times in the whole race (including men) were Lisa and I. Boom!

T1 - 2:30
My feet were completely frozen running up the big hill to transition, and they felt really bouncy and weird for some reason.  I made it up to my bike and had a hell of a time getting my wetsuit into the plastic bag.  After wasting too much time on that task, I finally headed out onto the bike course.  

Bike - 1:05.53 (38km)
This is the most scenic and breathtaking bike course ever, and this time around I was actually able to enjoy the background and scenery (in 2010 I was way too cold and miserable on the bike to take it in).  I actually felt pretty crappy the first loop and a half (out of 2.5 loops), as my legs felt totally fatigued and heavy, and my stomach was being a little questionable - gurgling and rumbling, yikes!  I just did the best I could and pushed hard on the downhills and the uphills.  There is one steep climb on the back half of the course, some smaller uphills, and some huge downhills on the front half of the course.

My legs sort of came around during the last loop of the bike.  I didn't see any girls the whole bike portion, other than those I was passing who may have been in the sprint or behind by a loop.  A few guys went by me, other than that I was all on my own and racing my own race.  I decided not to take the gel that I had taped to the bike, and instead just drank the one bottle I had, which included a Nuun with some carbo-pro.  I find I do better with the 'less is more' approach, when it comes to nutrition.

T2 - :52
I was in and out pretty quick, but at first ran right by my spot on the rack and had to backtrack.  Oops! The view from T2 was not too shabby:
 most scenic T2 I've ever seen, how about you?

Run - 44:20 (10km) *PB off bike
Right off the bat, my legs felt great!  I was quite suprised, after how $h!tty they were feeling during the bike.  So I started out really hard and fast and hoped I could somehow maintain that pace for 10km.  The run is 2 loops, with a lot of twists and turns and going up and down over a bridge, through some trails, and some stairs.  I love this run course! The course was actually changed from 2010 so a few things were different.  The first 5km I think I may have been close to a PB and was able to really push hard. 

After about 7km, things started to fall apart a little bit and I got those horrible, sharp stabbing cramps in my left upper trapezius, neck and ribs.  This lasted a couple of km.  My pace definitely slowed, but I kept telling myself to "struggle a little harder" [I tried a couple of Bikram yoga classes before the race and this is what the instructor said - and it really stuck with me.]; and I also kept telling myself "yes it hurts now, but it is going to hurt a whole lot more if you slow down and lose 2nd place and have a slower run time".  This helped get me through the last half of the run.  I was also running scared as I had no idea where 3rd place woman was and I kept thinking she was going to catch me.  But I maintained my 2nd place and was so happy to run through that finish line!

Finish - 2:14 (2nd overall, 2nd Elite)
I decided to race in the Elite category, and finished 2nd out of 3 there, and 2nd OA female - the winner of the race (Lisa Mensink) was quite a way's ahead but she's also a 2008 Olympian, so I don't mind coming second to her :)  Overall, this was a really solid race for me and I would say my best one of the year!  Compared to 2010, my bike was about 2 mins faster and my run was nearly a minute faster.  Can't compare the swim as it was shortened in 2010 due to the cold.  Even with the 2km shorter bike, this overall time is a PB by far for me in Olympic distance!

This was one of the most well-organized races I've ever done and everything was completely seamless.  The volunteers were amazing, and there were no hiccups or difficulties despite having 2 different transitions.  It still amazes me that they are able to host a race in a national park.  Banff is now at the top of my favorites list - if you haven't done it, put it on your schedule for next year, it's incredible!  I plan to be back next year.

There are some actual race pics but they're on Joanne's camera and I don't have them yet - will post those when I get my hands on them!

Now I'm enjoying my usual post-season break with no swim-bike-run for a week, so far this week I've only done 2 hot yoga classes.  I might do a run tomorrow as tomorrow my week off will be done!  Then, who knows what's next - I have nothing planned yet. 

We'll see...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail

On Sunday, I was the nail.  Although my first attempt at elite draft-legal racing at the Kelowna ITU Continental Cup proved to be an epic fail, the overall trip and weekend was quite enjoyable - Kelowna is awesome!  Geoff and I drove up with the dogs on Friday, and due to some mishaps with the bike rack near the beginning of our trip as well as construction on the highway, I was almost 5 minutes late to the 5pm elite race briefing and package pick-up.  The officials and technical delegates are pretty strict about these things so luckily I arrived when I did.  The consequences of missing the meeting apparently include getting bumped to the end of the starting position list (so you get called last to the starting pontoon), and possible DQ. They mean business!

We stayed in a lovely vacation rental home only a block from the beach, and about 5km to the race venue downtown.  TIP: a vacation home is the way to go if you're travelling.  You can cook all your own food, which is healthier and actually ends up being cheaper than staying at a hotel where you have to buy all your meals out.  As it's a 'home away from home', you get all the comforts you wouldn't have in most hotel rooms.  Our little pad was great for the dogs, too!

The elite race briefing was *serious stuff*.  There was a lot of useful info included.  The ITU officials are super strict about uniforms, bikes, and race wheels.  Uniforms must conform to ITU specs and wheels/bikes must be UCI-approved.  During the meeting I noticed some athletes were actually taking pictures of the screen showing the powerpoint presentation with their i-phones - perhaps they didn't want to miss any details, (?). After the meeting, we all lined up to collect our "race package", which consisted of race numbers.  That is all.  Much different than the schwag you get in most age group races.  haha

My 'race package' - numbers for bike/helmet, and race # tattoo's which you had to apply on your own - LOL. I screwed up 3 of the tattoo #'s and had to obtain replacements race morning. Also, the race *package* was a ziplock! 

Saturday I was up early to do an easy 20min jog around the neighborhood and walk the dogs. It was supposed to be 36C so I wanted to beat the heat! Later that morning I rode my bike down to check out the race site, transition, etc, then biked back home.  The rest of the day was spent eating, relaxing, and eating.

Race morning:
The thing about elite races is that they start so late, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn. With an 11:30am start, I got up at 7:30am and had plenty of time to get myself organized. I rolled out of the house just after 9am on my bike.  The day before, I'd decided to just bike to the race start as logistically it was much easier than dealing with putting the bike on the bike rack, and figuring out which route Geoff should take to drop me off (considering the road closures, etc). However, I hadn't planned ahead by bringing a backpack on the trip, so I loaded my gear in a lululemon reusable bag.  People were probably wondering 'who let her in here' as I rolled in with my hobo bag slung over one shoulder. 

You have to check in race morning and have your bike/helmet/wheels inspected - I was given a happy face sticker on my bike so everything passed inspection! There is also a uniform check - which consists of a serious-looking official taking photographs of you wearing your uniform, both front and the back! You are not allowed to switch uniforms from the one that is taken in the pictures (who would do that, anyway).
The country code is supposed to be BELOW your surname - but this is the suit I got from TriCan for World's in 2008 (it didn't have my surname), so I had to get the surname screened on underneath the country code - the horror!

The best part of racing the elite wave is the red-carpet style transition area! It's actually blue carpet, but you know what i mean. You get a bin to place all your transition items (goggles, cap, helmet), and if you don't put your stuff in the bin while going through T1 and T2, you get a 15sec penalty.  For T1, you have to put your rear wheel in the slot, and when you come in for T2, your front wheel has to get placed in the other slot.  So many rules! Good thing I familiarized myself with all the rules so no penalties for me!

There's my good old re-usable bag sitting there - don't worry, all that crap got moved outta there as nothing else is allowed in transition!

-We were individually announced and called up to the starting pontoon in order of race #/ranking, and I was the very last # so was at the end.  But one other girl who had a higher starting # ended up placed behind me (penalty for missing the pro briefing or something), so I got the second to last spot that was left on the starting pontoon. All the good spots with the best lines to the first buoy were all taken already.  If you're ranked last going in, as I was, you get whatever spot is left - sloppy seconds!  Boo.  The water temperature was well above the cut-off for wetsuits, so no wetsuits were allowed.  The air temperature was to reach a scorching 35C on Sunday as well, and with an 1130am start, this meant a ridiculously HOT bike and run!

Swim (2 laps, 1500m)
-When the horn went off, I felt like I had a good run/dive into the water.  It wasn't too aggressive of a start but again I was on the far left edge of the field with only one girl to my left.  In hindsight, I should have been more aggressive. It's rare I have a really bad swim, but when it mattered the most to have a stellar swim, my swim totally let me down.  The field all got out super fast and the girls who lined up right and centre had a much better line to the buoy (not that that's an excuse).  I swam with 2 other girls for both loops of the swim course, and didn't realize the bulk of the field was way ahead until I got into transition and realized how many bikes were gone.  D'oh!  Not sure what the heck happened and why my swim was so slow, as I know I should have been WAY faster than 22:30.  Probably the fact that I'd done 3 whole open water swims this summer (which all occurred during my 3 other races) didn't help - lol.  Also, I'm used to swimming all by myself in age group races, so to have a whole field of ~25 fast girls was a foreign situation to me.  Need. More. Practice!
 Me running to transition 1 - lots of bikes already gone!

**On a side note, for all you Edmonton and area triathletes out there: Where the heck do you do your open water swim training?  I basically do absolutely no OWS training.  If there is a lake that I am unaware of that I could be training in, please let me know!

Bike (6 laps, 41.6km)
-This bike course was tough! And slow. This is not a fast course, by any means. I got out onto the bike course with one girl about 5-10sec up the road and alongside another girl.  We arrived at the long/steep hill together (about 2km from transition) but she dropped off the back of me and then I was alone, as the girl up ahead had taken off.  It was already heating up like an oven outside.  My legs seemed to have no power and every time I got to the hill, it got harder and harder! I rode most of the first 2 laps alone, then a girl came by and we worked together until we reached the hill again, but I was unable to stay with her and was all on my own again :(

A few laps later, I caught up to a girl who appeared to be struggling, and she hung with me for about half a km then once we got to the hill she dropped off.  It turned out that the several girls who dropped off me on the bike ended up DNF'ing the race, which sucks as there may have been more people behind me at the end of the race!  I felt slower and slower as I got further into the bike - at one point I looked down to see if perhaps my brakes were rubbing, but no, unfortunately it was the operator of the bike that was the cause of the problem. The bike overall was a struggle for me - riding solo, the heat, and the hill x6 really got to me.  My legs really felt like they had nothing.  The whole point of draft-legal racing is that you are able to ride in a pack and conserve energy, but unfortunately I didn't get the benefit of riding in a pack in this first drafting race.  Had I swam what I was capable of, I would have found myself in a decent-sized pack of riders. On another note, I should have put some draft-legal aerobars on my bike - I will be sure to do this next time so if I'm caught solo'ing the bike at least I can get into a time trial position.

I knew I wasn't going to get lapped out on the bike, but I worried about how terrible I was feeling and how incredibly hot it was getting.  I came off the bike on my own, well out of the race, and racked my bike/donned my flats as quick as possible.  Bike time was 1:16 - way slower than I should have been.  Fastest bike splits were high 1:10's, which shows how hard/slow the course was.
 Racking my bike and trying to have a speedy T2

Run: (4 laps, 10km)
The entire run was a slog (slow jog).  Right off the bat, my legs felt dead and fatigued, and my stomach was all in knots and cramps.  It wasn't pretty! It was flippin' hot, too - as it was between 1pm-2pm that I was running, so we probably hit 34-35C by that time.  During my first 2.5km loop, I got lapped by the leaders.  I was feeling so horrible that I entertained thoughts of dropping out on the first loop, 2nd loop, and 3rd loop, but by the time I got to lap 4 I knew I would finish it off.  It felt like I was so far behind that I thought by the time I made it to the finish line, the finish chute would be taken down, the announcers would have left and everyone else would have gone home already.  Definitely I went to some dark places during that run!  I was so glad to finish, though, despite the painfully slow time (run time: 50min, overall time: 2:31).  One girl went by me about 500m from the finish and ended up about 20sec ahead of me at the end. But there was still another girl who finished behind me, so I wasn't DFL!

**A word on the contemplation of DNF'ing during the race: unless I am physically carted off the course by medical, I will not DNF.  I am a firm believer in plugging away to finish what you started, no matter how crappy the result is.  I was miles behind the top women in the field, my time was ridiculously slow, and I could have taken the easy way out by dropping out during that first lap of the run when the going got tough (or should I say tougher, as it was already tough!), but I am much happier to have gotten to that finish line, rather than having a DNF engraved beside my name.  And by completing the race, I gained some precious race experience, which cannot be substituted with anything else.

I definitely want to do a couple of these races next summer, as I know I can be a lot better than I was on Sunday.  This just gives me fuel for the fire and lots of motivation to improve and get faster! That's the thing about racing - when things don't go according to plan, you just have to pick yourself up and carry on.

Next time, I will be the hammer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time to go play with the big girls

Originally, my plan for racing this year was to qualify for the Vegas 70.3 World Champs at the Calgary 70.3 race, and focus on Vegas in September as my key race.  While I was pretty confident that qualifying was within my reach, I was still surprised and thrilled to accomplish this goal by winning my age group.  However, I decided to pass on my slot in favour of other race plans.  The decision was simple due to lots of significant upcoming life events (i.e. Geoff starts law school in Saskatoon Sept. 4), as well as associated costs and logistics of the Vegas trip.

And now for the *other* race plans...

I decided just before the Calgary 70.3 race that I really wanted to race the Kelowna Apple Tri this year (Aug.19), and then probably the Subaru Banff Tri on Sept. 8.  Around that time, a few people suggested to me that I should race the Elite race in Kelowna (ITU Pan American Cup), which sounded like a pretty wacky idea.  So I looked into it just for fun and got myself draft-legal certified and submitted my International Competition Card (ICC) application to TriCan.  I found out a few days ago my ICC was approved and I am now on the start list for Elite women in Kelowna this Sunday!

Ummm- what have I gotten myself into?

My trusty old road bike, all ready to go

This will be nothing like any other race I've ever done.  I absolutely need to have a killer swim, ride as hard as possible to not get dropped on the bike, and follow that with a solid run.  I'm aware that my run is nowhere near competitive with the other girls and I'm going to be passed by most of the field (the people who are behind me coming off the bike, anyway, I hope there are some!), but hopefully my swim is competitive and I don't get clobbered too much on the bike.  I'm definitely prepared for that as it's very likely to happen!  The goals for this race are quite simple:

-Finish the race (i.e. don't get lapped on the bike)
-Don't finish last
-Don't embarrass myself
-Have fun!

I know this is an amazing opportunity and I'm grateful for a chance to race with the elite girls.  We'll see what happens on Sunday!

Geoff and I leave super early on Friday morning as apparently there is an elite race briefing at 5pm that is mandatory.  And the rugrats (Hugo & Wylie) are coming along as well!  Road trip with the monsters!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Calgary 70.3 recap

"Don't dream of winning - train for it" [Mo Farah]

What a fun weekend it was, but certainly not without its drama!  Alice and I drove up to Calgary on Friday evening and arrived just in time to meet our brother Donald for dinner at Milestones across from the hotel.  Saturday we hit up the hotel gym treadmills for an easy 20min jog, then picked up our race packets.  The logistics of this race were a little tricky, as the race starts at Ghost Lake, which is over 45km out of Calgary, and the bike is a point to point, with transition 2 in Calgary.  We had to bring our bikes out to Ghost Lake on Saturday to transition 1 and leave them there overnight.  Alice and I decided to take advantage of the shuttle service leaving the Hyatt to get our bikes to T1.  That was an unfortunate decision.

The shuttle turned out to be a yellow school bus (old school!) with a trailer behind it for the bikes.  There were no bike racks in there, though, so everyone cautiously placed their bike in the trailer, basically like sardines in a can (about 15-20 bikes).  The ride out to Ghost lake was super bumpy and by the time we arrived and opened the trailer, the contents had become a tangled mess of expensive carbon frames and race wheels.  #FAIL

I checked my gears and made sure everything was shifting properly and it appeared to be.  There were actually some scratches on my Zipp's, but it was just the decals.  I was kinda pissed but reminded myself that in the grand scheme of things it was pretty trivial and wouldn't have any bearing my time or ability to have a good bike leg.

 T1 - the narrowest transition I have ever seen, and one of the tightest- there was barely any room!  

Bike racked, all packed in there and ready to go

Race morning dawned at 4:45am.  Alice and I had borrowed a toaster from Donald so we could toast our bagels, which was a brilliant idea as toasted bagels are sooo much better than non-toasted.  We lined up outside the hotel for the 5:30am shuttle (we decided to take the shuttle to the race start, then we were going to have Donald drive us back to the hotel from the finish to get our vehicle, then go back to pick up our bikes at the finish to avoid the shuttle/trailer debacle).  Ten minutes later, we heard that the 5:30am shuttle had broken down, so we were informed we'd have to take the 5:45 shuttle.  5:50 rolled around, then 5:55, still no shuttle.  We were getting a little worried as it takes about 50min to drive to the lake and our wave was starting at 7:35am.  Just after 6am, a girl we happened to be standing with (Christine) said her husband was coming to get her to drive her out to the lake, and they had a couple extra spots.  Thank you, thank you!! Christine's husband Vincent saved the day! We rounded up a couple other people, including a guy from Europe (Alain) who had even less time than we had as his wave was starting at 7:25.

By the time we arrived at the transition, it was after 7am and the pro wave was just starting.  With our wave going off at 7:35, Alice and I had just enough time to pump the tires, get sunscreened-up, hit the bathrooms, and don our wetsuits.  It was the least time I've ever had before a race.  The good thing was there really wasn't any time to be nervous!

Swim - 1.9km - 26:38 (1st female, including pro's - yeehaw!)
-the swim was great, it was a rectangular, counter-clockwise course. Our wave was all women, and the start was clean and completely civilized. I had clean water immediately, and swam the 2k all on my own, just the way I like it! I had to swim through some men from the previous wave, but it was fine and didn't slow me      down.  The water was a little chilly (maybe 17C?), but I warmed up pretty well after about halfway.  I felt smooth and comfortable the whole way and was stoked to exit the water first female.

(These photos are from the race photographer and have the company's logo all over them -  sorry but it's all I have so they'll just have to do!)
 Coming out of the water

Transition 1 was uneventful.  Apparently there was some rule that you weren't allowed to have your shoes clipped into your pedals, but I always have my shoes clipped into my pedals and didn't want to run on the pavement in the cleats, so I ignored the rule and just did my own thang, starting with my shoes clipped into the pedals. Busted! haha.  In my defence, I missed the pre-race briefing and just heard this info secondhand so for all I know it could have been hearsay, lol.  

Bike - 94km - 2:35 (6th fastest of amateurs)
-I really enjoyed the bike course, it was beautiful.  There were a LOT of hills, nothing too crazy-steep but really just a ton of them.  The 2nd female out of the water went blowing by me within the first few km, but I kept doing my own thing as I knew I could not hold a pace like that.  About 5km in, my chain fell off, so I had to stop, get off my bike, and fix it. GRRR! Later on in the bike (about 45km), I dropped my chain again! Luckily, this time somehow I was able to gear up and it flipped back on.  Okay, this is getting annoying, it seems to be happening in almost every race.  Note to self: get one of those chain guards.  

The rest of the bike was great, I felt strong and just focused on powering through the course.  I passed a lot of guys which was super fun, and one guy I went by said 'damn, that's the second time I've been chicked today!'.  It was pretty funny.  Only one more woman passed me the rest of the bike, when we had about 20-30km to go, so I was 3rd off the bike. My legs definitely felt the ride as they were feeling fatigued and a bit sore the second half of the bike.  I feel like I rode pretty well but there's still work to be done as I know I can be faster than that.    

 Climbing one of the many hills on the bike course

Run - 21km - 1:48 (not sure of placing)
-The run was a pure mental and physical battle.  At the beginning, I felt not amazing, but just alright.  I forgot to start my watch and realized after about a minute, so was fumbling around with it.  I think I actually went out pretty fast the first kilometer or two.  The run course was spectacular, but at the same time very challenging. There were a few significant hills on the course and it was super hot and sunny as well.  I started walking just the aid stations after about 5-7km, and forced myself to not walk between the aid stations, except on 2 occasions (for part of 2 very steep hills!).  I focused on ticking off the kilometers, making it to the next aid station (where they had ice!), and managing the discomfort and pain.  


A bit before the turnaround, I noticed 3 girls were ahead of me coming the other way, and since I had not been passed yet I realized one of those girls had passed me around 4k when I ducked into a porta-loo.  She was the eventual winner and in another time zone with the fastest run split of the day including pro's - crazy fast!   I would check my watch occasionally, and tried to do the math to figure out what I needed to go under 5hrs. The rest of the run was survival, and I used a lot of positive self talk and encouragement to get through it.  My legs were incredibly sore and it was so hard to even turn the feet over the last 4km, but I kept plugging away and was running scared all the way to the finishing chute as I thought someone else would surely pass me!  

More runnin'

But I hit the finish line without any other girls passing me!

4:54 - 1st W30-34, 4th overall female

Turns out I was actually closing in on 3rd place, and finished only a minute behind! I'm thrilled with how this race unfolded - I've been training consistently and it's great to see that translated into race day.  My run was actually a PB, too - just a hair faster than my run time from GWN last year, which was on a flat course.  I know I should be able to run faster than that.  But it looks like most of the run times weren't super-fast, with just 2 amateurs under 1:40.

these are the nicest finisher medals I have ever seen!

Alice had a fantastic race as well, finishing strong, despite very limited bike training.  She just got back from working in Inuvik at the beginning of July, and only signed up for this race 3 weeks before!  Alice did awesome on such a challenging course with only 3-4 weeks of biking.  So proud of my sis!  After the race we headed to Donald's house to shower and then hauled @$$ to the nearest Dairy Queen for a double cheeseburger, fries, and mint ice cream/Reese blizzard.  It was soooo delicious! 

Alice and I post-race, pre-shower and pre-Dairy Queen!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crushing PB's and more pics from ITU

Last Sunday I decided to jump into a local 10k race with Deborah, United Cycle's 'Lap the Track', which took place at the Indy race track.  The course was 3 laps, super flat, and awesome! It just so happened to be a downpour on Sunday, so everything about the race was sopping wet.  It was a super small field, as United Cycle wanted to use this inaugural year as a test event.  The course was a certified course by Athletics Alberta, and one of the Timex National Road Race Series, so it was dead accurate.  I loved the course! 

I was really hoping to run a decent time, but the race was at the end of a nearly 15hr training week for me, and my legs were super fried from ~9hrs of biking that week.  However, my race was superb!  I ran as hard as I could, and it was kind of refreshing to run in the rain, although my shorts and singlet were dripping wet by the 2nd lap and my shoes were completely drenched as there were huge puddles all over the course.  During the last lap I had some tummy trouble but was able to keep pressing on.  I didn't look at my watch until the very last turn, when there was about 500m to go, and I was shocked to see 41-high on my watch.  This gave me an added boost to the finish line - and I ended up running a 43:36 which is a nearly 90sec PB for me [my previous PB was 44:59 in Sept 2011]!  Also, I placed 3rd female overall so I scooped up some prize money!  Not to mention the Timex watch I won as a draw prize at the end - this race rocks!  I definitely plan to be back next year.  

This is a huge PB for me and gives me lots of confidence heading into my next race, as I wasn't rested or tapered in the least.  Finally, a big chunk of change off my 10k personal best, that's what I like to see!  Here's to crushing more PB's in the near future...

Here are some cool pics from the ITU race a few weeks ago, courtesy of Mike Gerencser. Thanks Mike, these turned out great! 

Just finished the swim in the duck poop lake

 Starting the looong run to transition

 Finishing a lap and ready to start another

Finishing up another lap

 proof of my dumb-@$$-ness, there is the dismount line!

 Serving my 'stop & go' penalty, otherwise known as the 'dum-dum penalty' 

 Finished it off!

Ouch, that hurt!

 Happy to be done! 

This Sunday is the Tour D'Alberta and I'm riding the 100km route with a bunch of STARRT peeps.  I plan to go at a fairly leisurely pace, as I don't want to kill the legs a week before a 70.3!  Then it will be a week of tapering down and Alice and I will be heading to Calgary.  My race schedule after that is sort of up in the air but there are some exciting possibilities in the works!  Stay tuned....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Edmonton ITU triathlon - age group Nats

Now that it's nearly a week after the fact and the race is old news, here are the deets:

Edmonton enjoyed absolutely glorious weather leading into this race - sunny and 30C.  I love this kind of heat!  While it makes for a tougher run, it certainly makes things more enjoyable race morning, during the swim/bike, and after the race finishes.  Race morning dawned with blue sky, sun, and a forecast high of 32C! My wave wasn't scheduled to start until 9:55am, which was kind of nice as I had loads of time to get things organized in transition (how long does that really take anyway- 5 minutes?) and to get in a little pre-race joggy jog with Christina. 

 Gary, Christina and I - STARRT peeps!

I went into this race unrested, untapered and overall kinda tired! My workouts from the previous weekend took a lot out of me and I did my best to recover during the early part of the week.  With Calgary 70.3 only 3 weeks after this race, there really was no time to taper.  I backed it off a bit in the week leading up and felt pretty decent race morning.  Also, the night before I ate a bunch of Swedish fish and polished off nearly a whole bag of chips so was totally all carbed up.

 All racked and ready to go

For some reason the start of my wave was delayed so I don't think we got started until around 10:15am - I think that's almost the latest I've ever started.  The swim was no wetsuits allowed, since the lake temperature was above the 22C cut-off.  Nice to see that some triathlon corporations actually enforce the rules, instead of babying the athletes like others do and shortening/cancelling races because it's raining and the water is wavy!  But I wasn't as overly enthusiastic as I normally would be, as I would have preferred to have more of my skin protected from the duck poop lake water! 

They didn't let anyone in the water prior to your wave start, not even to wade in and get wet - thank goodness for that, as I happened to see mini-leeches slithering around in the water as I was on the start line.  Ewwww.  Women and men 30-39 all started together and I was just hoping that the punching/kicking/aggressive *guy type* behavior would be kept to a minimum.  Luckily it was, and the start was clean and I had clear water immediately.  I swam with 2-3 guys for the 2 loop swim, with one of the guys near my feet and swimming into me every few strokes, as apparently swimming straight was not in his vocabulary.  

I felt good in the water and ended up around 20:30 for the 1500m.  Last time I did this race I think I was 19:52, but then again that was with a wetsuit.  I wanted to be sub-20 but it wasn't to be on this day.  The long run from the lake to the transition is always killer, and mine certainly could be better as my T1 was over 2 minutes.  Onto the bike!

I rode as hard as I could during the 4 loops, and got passed by some crazy fast men who blitzed the course, but no women.  I think I may have fallen asleep out there in the middle of it, as at one point I looked up and said to myself, 'You're not even tired right now, get going!'.  I seemed to really lose focus and concentration and slowed down as a result.  It's time to invest in a bike computer.  I need to have some feedback on how I'm doing.  And with all the different waves starting at different times, I felt like I wasn't 'racing' anybody, as everyone is on different laps, etc.  

During the 4th lap while trying to switch into my hardest gear on Saskatchewan Dr, my chain fell off.  D'OH! It seems that this happens to me in at least one race every summer.  I had to stop, get it back on, then switch gears into a smaller gear before getting back on, because it's next to impossible to start from a standstill in your hardest gear.  So I lost some time, and not to mention momentum, for this incident.  

The other incident occurred as I was coming up to the dismount line, and apparently left my brain somewhere out on the bike course.  I started running off the bike and the marshal yelled 'You crossed the line, that's a stop and go penalty!'.  So I had to stop right there and serve my penalty, which was only about 10 seconds, but still - it was 10 seconds.  As I was coming off my bike for some reason I had it in my head that I needed to dismount after the line (no, dumb @$$ - that's the mount line!), so it was completely my fault.  My bike time of 1:08.31 reflects my lack of concentration and errors.  I know I can and should be a lot faster than that.  

My T2 was pretty quick and I headed out onto the new 4 lap run course.  I felt like crap the first 1-2km and worried I would feel like that for the entire 10km, but things came around and I started feeling better.  The course changed this year so a little under half the 2.5km loop is on the dirt trail, with some rolling hills and branches sticking out of the ground to dodge, and then the remainder is in the park on the pavement.  Again, I felt like I was racing myself on the run as you have no idea which lap anyone else is on and what age group they were in.  I really enjoyed this course, though - the change was an excellent idea!  I think I held it together alright and was able to finish strong.  My 47:50 run time was at least a few minutes slower than it should be, but it seemed that everyone's run times were slow.  I suppose it's the heat/humidity's fault!

Running to the finish!

I was happy to be crowned W30-34 national age group champ in 2:20.00.  I really really wanted to be sub-2:20 and was so close! The daft stuff that happened on the bike would have put me well under that time.  So I have a lot to improve for next time!  Overall, I placed 7th female, which I am not ecstatic about, but again there's much work to be done and a lot of improvements to be made!    

Post-race it was fun to hang out with my bud Christina, refuel with complimentary burgers/salad/beer, bake in the sun, and catch the Elite World Cup sprint race, which is always exciting.  Overall, the race organization was a success and the volunteers were fantastic! 

Post-race, all cleaned up and ready for our burger and beer!

Only two weeks to go till my next race - until then, there's lots more training to be done!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

the wind was no match for me

My last couple days of workouts seem to have launched me into the hurt locker!  Friday evening was my first track workout of the year.  The track is my nemesis - no matter what the distance of the interval, it is always guaranteed to be one of those 'redlining-from-the-start-feel-like-you're-going-to-puke-your-guts-out' kind of workout.  And Friday's session proved no different!

The workout: 60 minutes total, including 20 minute warm up, 4 x 1 mile with ~2 minute recovery (i.e. walk/jog/nearly puke).  Last time I did mile repeats, my splits were 6:52-6:55, so my goal was to be faster than that.  And I was! My mile splits on Friday were: 6:36, 6:45, 6:40, 6:43.  Yay for progress!  I may or may not have gone out a bit fast on the first one, then had some trouble during the second one (hence the slower time), and was pretty close to puking after that one!

Saturday's sessions included a 2400m swim in the morning with some fast 200's, and then I was all on my own for a bike ride (waah).  All my usual riding partners were racing GWN, so nobody was up for a 3+ hour ride. Go figure!  I planned to get out and do 90-100km on my own, but I sort of miscalculated how far/long a new loop that I took was, and it ended up being 110k!  And of course the last 50k was into a headwind - booyah!  The 3:30 ride was so HARD that I ended up having to abort my planned 30min transition run, instead opting to be a crumpled pile on the living room floor for that duration.

With challenging workouts like these, recovering optimally so you can bounce back for the next workout is extremely important.  A few months back, I got hooked on Vega Sport recovery products. These are awesome!  They are plant-based, gluten-free and soy-free, and happen to be delicious as well (read: none of that gross synthetic-y crap taste).

I use the Recovery Accelerator after 'easier' workouts - just mix one scoop with some water, shake it up, and you're good to go! 

I mix the protein powder into a smoothie after grueling, harder workouts.  For a quick and easy shake:

1 cup of frozen fruit (approximate - I don't measure it out), I like frozen berries/peaches combo
1/2 cup of orange juice
1cup of water
1/2 banana
1 scoop of Vega performance protein powder
*mix it all in your blender and you have yourself a very tasty/healthy recovery smoothie


Bye for now!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chinook race report

My first triathlon of the season was in Calgary last Saturday - Chinook Olympic.  What a great race!  The event is extremely well-run, the course is beautiful, and the people/atmosphere are awesome!    I raced Chinook in 2010 and was really excited for the opportunity of coming back to race again.  However, after my lengthy vacation to Europe in May and not biking/swimming for 3 weeks, coupled with the stupid headcold (which had turned into a lovely lingering hacking cough), my fitness was pretty questionable, so my goal was to just race as hard as I could and get in a solid training day.  My race was far from drama-free, though - more like a gong show!

Deborah (MIL) and I drove to Calgary the day before the race, arriving right around 6pm to pick up our race packets and for the pre-race dinner.  The food did not disappoint!  And the schwag did not disappoint, either! Deb and I managed to score ourselves a neoprene cap, which came in handy for the freezing cold lake the next day.  Race morning dawned at a reasonable hour, as we were up at 6:30am (after a sleep that was anything but restful).  We had tons of time to get organized once at the race site, as we had to be there by 8am and the Olympic race didn't start until 9:15am.  I even had time to do a little jog (only a mile or so - that's all the warm up you need, right? Haha).

I got myself wetsuited-up just before 9am and waded into the water to warm up, which felt extremely chilly! 
Water temperature was probably somewhere around 16-17C.  Just before the start, I lined up front and centre on the beach. 

SWIM - 26:08
Yes, that is correct. Although the course was definitely longer than 1500m (I would estimate 200m too long), the swim was a complete mess for me and the first 200m is where things fell apart.  At the sound of the horn, I ran in and started out hard, as I usually do, and immediately became sandwiched between two incredibly aggressive dudes(both DB's if you ask me), who kept trying to push me and punch me.  I've been in the midst of many aggressive starts before, and kicked and punched (e.g. GWN), but typically I am able to eventually push ahead of these extremely physical and aggressive guys. This time, I found myself completely stuck between the two dudes, where I was continually coughing underwater (damn you headcold), each breath I took was water, and I couldn't seem to swim myself out of it and push ahead of them. This continued on for nearly 200m, at which time I basically started having a panic attack and hyperventilating.  It was so bizarre.

So I pulled back and starting doing some breaststroke, gasping for air and and I couldn't stop coughing, feeling like I couldn't breathe, then suddenly I moved all the way to the left side and swam to one of the boats. I told them I was dropping out and hung onto the side of the boat.  The person paddling the boat was concerned and asked if I needed more assistance and/or another boat.  I felt really stupid, and just stayed at the side of that boat for a few minutes, trying to figure out what the heck had happened and what exactly I was doing.

Finally, I decided I would just finish that first loop (the swim was 2 x 750m laps) and then just get out at the beach.  So I told the boat lady I could keep going after all, and got back on my way, about 2-3 minutes behind where I should have been. I had to pass tons of swimmers during that lap, and the loop felt very long, but I ended up feeling not too bad, other than coughing.  As I neared the buoy on the shore, I figured I might as well just finish off the whole swim in order to get some open water practice, and continued on the 2nd loop.  I had clearer water during that loop, and continued to pass a bunch of people, deciding during that 2nd loop that I might as well just continue after the swim and do the bike and the run, since I had recovered quite well from the *incident*. 

BIKE - 1:08.54 (includes T1 and T2)
I ran up the hill to transition, got my wetsuit off and headed out onto my bike, figuring I was well down in place and out of the game.  I went as hard as possible for the duration of the 40km, and raced by feel as I don't have a working bike computer and don't wear a watch.  I passed a female within the first 5km.  The course was out and back so just before the turn around I was quite suprised to learn that there were actually only 2 women ahead of me (one of them was in the Aqua bike race).  I passed the lead female in the Olympic race in the last couple of kilometers, and led into transition. 

RUN (46:40)
I was a little worried about how I would fare during the run, given my effort on the bike, but I discovered that my legs had shown up to the party within the first kilometer.  The female I had passed just before the end of the bike went by me within the first few hundred meters and took off at a pace that
regrettably I could not match.  Regardless, my run went pretty well and I used some positive self-talk to keep myself going and hold it together as it felt pretty darn hard!  It is very likely my second 5k was slower than the first, especially since there is a b!t%h of a hill right at 9km that you have to climb up - I literally felt as though I was walking, I was moving so slowly!  LOL. Luckily, I was not passed by any other women during the run and was thrilled to run through the finish chute in 2nd overall place (1st W30-39).
My new Saucony Kinvara 3's were perfect for the 10k - love them! They're so light and comfy they feel like slippers.

Final time was 2:21, just over 2 minutes slower than in 2010, which can be attributed to my miserable stop and pity party at the paddle boat during the swim.  The 1st place OA female time was about 2.5 minutes in front of me at the end, dang - hmmm, if only the swim gong show hadn't happened.  But of course you can't go back in time to change things so really there's no point in wondering what could have been.

*Positives to take away from this race*
-My bike split was a minute faster than it was 2 years ago, despite not having ridden my bike for 3 weeks during my trip in May.
-My run time was almost a minute faster than it was 2 years ago
-Despite the difficulties experienced during the swim, I pressed on to finish the race, got some good race experience, and had a good result
-I had a really fun day! (other than the swim)

And Deborah won her age group as well!  We had a really fun weekend overall, which included a birthday dinner for moi after the race with some friends and my brothers Donald & Mark at an Indian restaurant downtown (Nawab) - and of course lots of wine and cake!
Deb and me post-race.  For some reason I forgot to take pictures of the birthday fiesta extravaganza, and I have no race pics as my sherpa didn't come!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

European adventures

Wow - it's been way too long! So I've been back home since last Monday after 2.5 weeks overseas in Europe (N. Ireland, Italy, Greece, and England). I had very limited internet access while away so definitely got behind on blogging and keeping connected!

It will take up way too much time to recount all the details of the trip, so below are some photos of some of the places we visited (with the exception of England pics b/c this post is just way too long), and because I'm so nice i will also include some random tidbits of general observations:

Belfast, N. Ireland:
 With my lovely Aunt Helen - she was also my awesome hostess for the week!

 Downtown Belfast
You can see City Hall in the background - downtown Belfast

  • Belfast is a very cool city with tons of history.  I've visited here 3 times previously (most recently '97) and for some reason only noticed its beauty this time around.  
  • It seems like the 'obesity epidemic' is not really that prevalent in Europe.  Honestly, I did not see a whole lot of significantly overweight/obese people there.  I personally think it's because there are not fast food joints on every single corner like there are in N. America - people overseas tend to cook for themselves a lot more often, rather than jumping on the 'convenience factor bandwagon'.  North Americans are generally lazy, no one ever walks - we drive everywhere (the cities here are set up so that a car is absolutely essential), and we (they, as I have made a conscious effort to cut down the processed crap - ha!) tend to eat a $h!tload of processed food.  I didn't see a lot of fast food restaurants in Belfast at all.
  • I ran every day except two that I was in Belfast (and I was there a full week).  Only 10 minutes from Helen's house and you are at the sea wall!  I did all my runs along the sea - gorgeous views!  
  • I got to see a bunch of my relatives, including my 87yr old Grandma every day while in Belfast (she lives just a 5 min walk from Helen)...

Venice, Italy

so many beautiful canals 
Geoff blending into the crowds.

Look how tall I am! Darn steps...

  • Venice is a fun place to visit and you basically just walk around all day long.  It's a complete maze, and Geoff and I may have gotten lost once or twice.  If you plan to go there, I would say you honestly don't really need more than a day or two total in Venice.  You can pretty much walk around everywhere and see everything you need to in one day. 
  • The buildings and architecture are so cool and so incredibly old.  European cities have so much character and are just so much more romantic than anywhere in Canada!
  • The pizza in Italy is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The crust is paper thin, nothing like the kind we get here.  Why the heck can't we get pizza like that in Canada??

Corfu, Greece
Arriving at the island of Corfu on the cruise ship

 Standing outside the 'New Fortress' - it's *only* 400 years old!

We swam right here in Corfu - the water was quite chilly but definitely swim-able without a wetsuit...

  • The Greek islands of Corfu, Santorini, and Mykonos were all amazing in their own unique ways.  They were all distinctly different from each other in terms of landscape, vegetation, and architecture. 
  •  The cruise we were on would dock in the morning and then you'd get off and have the whole day to explore and walk around.  In Corfu, we got to swim in the Aegean sea, and in Mykonos the Adriatic sea (I think, or it might be the other way around).  
Santorini, Greece

Arriving at Santorini on the cruise ship

View from the top

Friends from Newfoundland - Amanda and Michael - tying the knot in Santorini


Mykonos, Greece

 The streets of Mykonos
 this one's a little out of focus but you get the point - beautiful

Olympia, Greece
  • Getting to see the ruins of the birthplace of the Olympics was a cool experience.  Amazing that some of these structures and stones are still standing since 600BC!
  • We also got to visit an olive oil 'factory/store' (not sure exactly what it's called!).  I bought some olive oil from the source - which is amazing in salads and pastas!
  • Olympia was our last stop on the cruise- the last actual day of the 7-day cruise was an at-sea day.  

 Standing at the entrance to the athletics stadium
How cool!

Other info:
  • During my 2.5 weeks away, I didn't get to swim or bike at all (apart from floating around in the sea in a bikini at Corfu and Mykonos, which regrettably doesn't constitute training).  I wasn't a complete slouch during the trip, though - I ran nearly every day in Belfast, and I frequented the gym on the cruise ship every single day except one.  They even had a spin class so I did that one day!  Unfortunately I more than likely lost some (a lot?) of my fitness after being away from my bike and the pool for that long, which is not the best thing when you are signed up for a triathlon on June 16.
  • Running on a treadmill on a cruise ship is an interesting experience.  You have to constantly adjust the grade/speed as one minute it feels like you're going uphill, the next it feels like you're running downhill.  
  • I didn't experience any jet lag whatsoever after arriving in Europe (it helps to force yourself to stay awake all day and then go to bed early the first night, then sleep for 13 hours); however, I got slammed with some massive jet lag last week after arriving home.  
  • I got SICK!  Last week amidst the jet lag woes, I also got hit with a freaking headcold! Anyone who knows me well knows that I pride myself on NEVER getting sick, and in fact, I haven't really had a cold in the past 4 or 5 years.  So my streak has been broken as I must have picked up something from some disgusting person on the plane during that 9hr flight from London last Monday.  Again, less than ideal timing when I am supposed to be racing a triathlon this Saturday!  
  • Flying out of Venice was somewhat confusing when it came to the security line up.  Everything is in Italian and I couldn't see any of those clear plastic bags anywhere.  So I waited in the incredibly long line up and when I got nearly to the front, I was told by the lady scanning boarding passes that there was a machine prior to the line up that you have to put money in to get plastic bags.  Whoops! She said I could try going through anyway.  So I just went through security with no plastic bags - I just put my lotion containers/lip glosses/etc out in the open in my crate and walked through like I owned the place.  Nothing got flagged and I was good to go!  I realized just after this that I had a pair of tweezers in my make up bag in my backpack the whole time but somehow those made it through undetected (?).
So this post is getting out of control long, so it's time to get to bed...

I'm racing the Chinook Olympic triathlon in Calgary this Saturday with mom-in-law Deborah.  I've been hacking up a lung these past few days and just doing light swim/bike/run workouts.  Hopefully I'll be OK by the weekend, but the plan is basically just to survive through it and use it as a training day.  My preparation has been sub-optimal, at best.  After Chinook, I'll put my head down and put in lots of hard work for Calgary 70.3.  I likely won't do any other races in b/w but there is a possibility I'll jump into a sprint race in mid-July depending on how things go.  

That's it - I'm out!