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!