Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amazing end to an amazing year!

This triathlon was so overshadowed by the 1/2 ironman I did that I kept forgetting I'd even signed up for it. Throughout last week I wasn't thinking of it at all -- just when someone would ask me if I had plans this weekend and I'd go: oh yeah! I have a triathlon!
Though I've done other sprints, I'd never done this shorter distance before: 750m swim / 20k bike / 5k run. When you look at this distance compared to the longer ones you think automatically that shorter is easier, and in a way it is, but it's a different type of race – faster! If you've been training for endurance, as I have been these past months, you won't necessarily do well in a short race.

So, the swim was pretty good although the water was FREEZING! They said it was 72 degrees, but there is no way it was that much. I'd say maybe 62. Thank God for wetsuits! A few people did not use them, and I don't know how they did it. The first 2/3 of the swim I did fine but I had a really hard time seeing the last big bouy to swim to and definitely swam a very curved line toward it. Also, at the end it got quite shallow for about 50m -- too shallow to swim but very tough to run through. My time was not bad, but definitely could have done better. 15:56.

T1 was a little hard because it wore me out getting through that water at the end, but my time was not too bad. 1:46.

The bike was going amazingly. I think it was my best bike ever. I was just racing past everyone. Only two people passed me and I must have passed at least 50 people. That is, until the last 3k or so. I had just passed a great big group of people and was going down the last hill planning to steam my way to T2. I switched to a nice big gear to get some extra speed at the end of the hill and then CLUNK! My chain fell off. I won't repeat here the words I said there. I pulled to the side and that chain was not just off, it was tangled! I don't know how long it took me to get it back on, but it was at least two minutes. I estimate between two and three. In my peripheral vision I saw all these people I'd just passed, pass by me. Humiliating! I managed to get back on the bike and pass two or three of them before we got into the very very irritating no passing zone, where I felt like I was crawling my way to the finish line. (we're all going at the pace of the slowest person at that point) On the whole I would guess that chain incident cost me a minimum of four minutes. Bike: 36.30

T2 was pretty good, even with wiping the oil from my hands all over the grass -- 1:13

The only problem with the run was that my feet were still numb from the swim - honestly! (72 degrees! Yeah right!) In fact I heard quite a few people say the same thing. It probably took until 2k until I could feel my feet. That's just about the point that my left lace became untied, which didn't cost me too much time.

If you've never been in a triathlon before, you should know that your age is written in big numbers on your calf. I had not noticed anyone in my age group (45-49) until that point, but at around 4k I noticed a woman with 46 on her calf. My competition! I found another hidden gear, powered my way past her and just kept powering to the finish line. Run time: 27.11.

Total time was 1:22:36. I was pretty happy with that, especially considering the chain loss. There is no doubt I would have been well under 1:20 had that not happened.

After grabbing some water and food and walking around a bit, the results were posted and I saw that I'd won my age group again! Yippee!

I'll post a picture when I get one.

So in my four triathlons this year I came 4th, 3rd, 1st and 1st. My husband is joking that we'll need a new room to hold all my hardware!

I just hope people aren't disappointed in me when I sign up for some highly competitive races (with international competitors!) and don't place as well. I'm warning right here and now that it's going to happen next year, so don't be disappointed in me when it does.

What I do in my races, and what I'll continue to do, is just set my own time goals. I can't dictate how other people do; I can only do the best I can myself. If that results in a 1st place, that's a bonus, but if it results in a 10th or 15th, then that's okay too.

I'm deciding already on my races for next year, and yes -- the finale will be a full Ironman!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I spent the last week riding my bike in a city that is not known for an exercise adventure, the City of Sin. Darin had a conference in Los Vegas and I joined him for 5 days of riding in the Dessert, part of the lure for us was the beauty of the bike course in a triathlon I had done a few years earlier in Lake Mead National Park. We travel with our bikes almost everywhere we go and have found that every city has a handful of bike routes, a cycling community with open group rides, and beauty unique to the city we are in.

So this trip we found ourselves on the famous Los Vegas Strip, staying in the new Aria Hotel, and driving to the outskirts of the city for some amazing riding in 42+ degree heat. We carried water everywhere we could, in pockets, inside jerseys, and stopped at every opportunity to re-fill our bottles. We rode the beautiful Red Rock Canyon (see the picture of Darin), a bike path through Lake Mead National Park (see the video - it rose up to 50 degrees this day and I ended up calling a cab to cover the last 30 km, too hot for me, but not for Darin), and up to a ski resort where the temperature went from 39 degrees at the bottom to 24 degrees at the top in a beautiful forest that offered completely different scenery than the dessert landscape we had been riding in. Other routes were planned, we just ran out of time and decided to spend our last day at the pool instead of on the bike, a welcome change for me as I felt like I had been frying on the BBQ the last few days.

The beauty of riding in different cities is that it provides a completely different view of the place being visited, a peek into another part of the city’s culture, and a way to stay fit while also giving in to taste bud temptations. Traveling with my bike also keeps me motivated to ride, it’s exciting to explore new places on two wheels, to really see, smell, and experience the location at a slower pace and to venture in to places you wouldn’t do in a car or by foot.

I would encourage everyone to plan a bike trip, doesn’t have to be far from home, even an hour or two from the cities we live in offer new experiences when pedaled. As someone who is happiest exploring new place by bike I would love to hear about places that you have enjoyed riding, so let me know about your favourite hometown route, the most beautiful place you have ridden, a memorable vacation destination, and exotic locale, I am excited to read about your recommendations and become motivated in planning my next vacation.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

After a miserable Olympic last year I somehow made myself feel better by signing up for my first 70.3, the Vermont Half Journey at Lake Dunmore. Of course, I had to pick one in hilly Vermont! I found and booked a cottage shortly after registering, booked the week off work and planned to get to Vermont (a 12-hour drive) on Friday the 27th, race on Sunday the 29th and then have the rest of the week as a vacation with my family.

The location was spectacular. Honestly I don't think they could create a better venue. Jerrod Rushton, who runs it, was always approachable and helpful and the wonderful volunteers were ... well, wonderful. I truly love the volunteers at all the races, and I even get choked up when they're thanked at the end, because my own thanks are so heartfelt.

Anyway, back to the race. I knew going in that my training was not as great as it could have been, but also that it would be adequate for me to finish. If I looked at my best times for each event (minus transitions) I would end up somewhere shy of 6 hours, but seeing as I'd never done the events together and seeing as the terrain was hillier than I was used to, and seeing as it was going to be a hot, hot day, I figured I'd be happy with 6:30, but secretly hoped to be closer to 6.

The swim was fine, as always. I really feel the swim is not ever adequately long for these events, and that's as someone who doesn't swim all that often and certainly does not train enough in the water. Honestly, it's not too tough to wing it, which is unfortunate for an endurance event. My swim was 34 minutes.

T1 - transitions are never my specialty, and I'd told myself going into this race to take as much time in transition as I felt was necessary. Mine was 2:18. Not bad, for me.

The bike was a pretty nice route, mostly on a not-too-busy highway with great paved shoulders. The one direction was a little more uphill but with the wind at the back and the other way was more downhill but facing the wind, so I guess they were fairly even in difficulty. The worst part of the whole bike was this hill after turning off the highway when I thought it would be smooth sailing back to transition, and this unexpected hill just knocked me out. Honestly it took all my willpower to get up it, and it really wasn't all that huge. Finally did make it up after lots of positive talk to myself, and then it was an easy ride into T2, but to be honest I was feeling pretty beat already.

T2 - 2:02 -- this was the first triathlon my husband had ever been to, and he was a little worried about me, asking if I should stop. Of course I didn't!

Run -- here's where things got tough. Finished the bike and said to myself "okay, now you just need to run a half-marathon!" But really I didn't find the distance too intimidating. I repeated to myself: "It's just two hours. You can get through anything for two hours." It ended up being longer than two hours, but there you go. It worked.

The run was really quite hilly. I live in a hilly area, but it's a different type of hill. My hills are anaerobic hills; you power up and then go down. These were longer, aerobic hills that wear you out. And the heat made it worse.

I really worked at staying positive through the whole thing, joking to the volunteers about whether they had a beer instead of Hammer gels. The last three miles felt like 12 miles. They were not even the hilliest, but they were tough. I felt throughout the run like I was just plodding, and began to re-think my time. Maybe if I come in past 6:30 it would be okay. I knew with the swim and bike I was a little under 4 hours, and I figured I would be at least 2:30 on the run. Lots of people were walking or walk/running at this point, but I felt like if I stopped running I'd never start again, so I just kept going.

Finally reached the finish line and saw 6:15. Yahoo! By my calculations that means I did it in 6:09 (because of waves) although my official time was 6:11:11. Honestly at that point I was so happy simply to have completed the race I almost didn't care about the time. Then I slowly became quite happy about my time, and then the results were posted and I found I'd won my age group!

So this was my first 70.3 and my first 1st place at any distance. What a day!

Almost immediately after the race my son told me he figured I'd now be doing an IM in two years. My first reaction was to tell him there wasn't a chance, but he said "you trained for this one for what, eight months? Now you have two years to train for an Ironman!" and now I'm thinking "hmmm..."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Running Feels So Good ... Until the Next Day!

So it's been awhile since I ran last and had this brilliant idea to enter a running race ... well, really what happened is my teammate e-mailed me and said "we should do this race!" My first reaction was "you're nuts", then felt intrigued by the challenge, then said "count me in!" Truth is I crave running as September comes and figured it might be the boost I need to lose the pesky 5 pounds that have set up shop in my mid-section. So my teammate and I met to talk about things, got all excited, and we decided to sign up. Now, normally I would mention which race and the distance and encourage others to join in, but after suffering through my first training run and waking up two days later almost unable to get out of bed, I'm second guessing my decision.

So after a day off I went for another training run, which still feels awkward. It's like my right side and my left side, and my arms and my legs don't communicate with each other. My left foot turns in and tries to trip the right foot, my right elbow points outward and draws figure eights, and my left arm twitches in all directions. Watching me run is not a pretty sight!

I am persistent though, have a plan in place and am looking forward to getting more efficient and comfortable in my running shoes. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bronze at Bala!

My second triathlon of the season, and my placing improved!

Bala is beautiful and the day was perfect. I did not sleep in this time and my younger son was with me, which I always appreciate -- he's been my cheering squad since my first tri, runs with me on the course and has only missed two ... which happened to be my last two. It was nice to have him back.

My goal this time was to try to improve transition. When I began triathlons I made a conscious decision to not worry much about transition but to make sure I was comfortable going into the next leg. Now I've done a whole bunch I've gotten faster but still not where I should be. My goal was to have each transition come in under 2 minutes.

So, the swim -- wave starts, and thanks to my age and gender I was one of the later starts. I don't mind that though -- I'd rather be later than first, frankly. I tried but failed to find someone to draft, so I was on my own. At one point I saw someone who looked to be struggling and called out to make sure he was okay, and he said he was, so I continued on. The first half of the swim was moderate. The last half was much better, and it had nothing to do with current but was because of my breathing patterns. There's a way I breathe when I train which works very well for me but just doesn't work in races. You'd think I'd figure this out at some point and stop trying to do it during the race! Next time. Once I settled into the proper racing breathing pattern I sped up quite a bit. My swim time was 15:36 for 750m (including the short run up) so it was pretty close to my last race.

T1 went pretty well, I thought. Took off the wetsuit, shoved a bit of banana in my mouth, threw my helmet and shoes on and went running off. My time was 1:57, so I made my under 2 minutes goal!

I kept hearing about how challenging the bike course was, but I found it pretty good. Again, I didn't do quite as well at the beginning as the rest, and in retrospect I think that was because I kept hearing how challenging it was and was waiting for the big hills! They never really came and it was honestly just a nice ride. A couple of guys passed me at the beginning and then I passed dozens, especially in the last quarter. I did think my time had been better than it was, but I did 30k in 59:26 including the run up/back from transition. One of the faster women's times.

T2 I thought I might not have beat my 2 minutes because as it turned out I hadn't done my helmet up properly and couldn't get it undone. I had to somehow slip the strap over my head (not sure how I managed that) but as it turned out T2 was 1:31 -- pretty good!

But as soon as I started running, I knew what was coming. I'd been really, really dumb the night before and ate some curry and rice. Normally this food is totally fine, but running ... er ... churns things up in the digestive system. The gas pains began, and definitely affected my running. My son was waiting for me and it was so great to have him there through the run. I was pretty sure I didn't have a great run time and I was right -- 42:36 for 7.5 km. I should have been at least two and more like three or four minutes faster. And since the woman who came in second was less than two minutes faster than me, that hurt a little! Next time I have to listen to myself when I tell myself not to eat something before a race. The woman who came in first was about 15 minutes faster (yes, really!) so I wouldn't have had a chance at that position.

Anyway, I did feel I'd had a good race and anxiously awaited the results. I was thrilled to see I'd come in 3rd, and my son was very proud of me. Then I was afraid there might not have been very many people in my age group -- it's not nearly as good coming in 3rd out of 5 as it is coming in 3rd out of 12, for example. As it turned out, there were 17 in my group so I felt even better. And overall I came in 21st out of 150 women. I was pretty pleased with that too, at nearly 45.

Onward and upward, I guess now I'm shooting for second. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Routes, Roads, and Roving

I have been struggling lately to get out and train, I seem to have lost my motivation for getting the heart rate up and pushing my limits. Perhaps it's because there aren't really any races coming up that excite me, I should probably sit down, look at the calendar and really put together a plan, but instead I seem to be drawn to doing new routes, getting out of the monotony of my weekly schedule and go long distances and explore new areas.

One of the things I like best about riding is the distance that you can cover and what you see by bike that you don't see by car. This past Saturday I mapped out a route along roads I had never been on. The goal was to do 130 km; however, due to construction and the slow going on the 10 km of gravel that I found myself on, I ended up completing 107 km in the time I had to ride before getting back to prepare for a dinner party. The wind was blowing on the way out, I wasn't riding very fast, but I enjoyed every second of my ride and would have been quite content to ride all day.

There were no fewer than 5 towns or hamlets that heard my wheels woosh by and saw my pearly whites as I was smiling the entire time. I started in Oakville and rode past a garage sale at the church in Limestone, found myself in Terra Cotta waving at the volunteers for the "Garden Tour", my eyes darted from one cute house to another in Glen Williams and I made a note to return and spend time in the galleries, down Main Street in Georgetown I used all my will power to not stop in the bakery or coffee house where I have spent time enjoying a treat in the past. And the wind was at my back as I headed down the familiar roads on my way home. What a great way to celebrate a Saturday.

Once a month the women's group that I meet on Thursdays meet on Saturday for a long ride. The picture is of the cafe in Glen Williams and the plan is to return on July 31 and stop in to refuel with the gang - I can't wait!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot Hot Hot Water Water Water

How are you enjoying the weather we've been having in Ontario?! For those in other parts of the world, it has been stellar hot here, 40 degrees celsius and I have been loving it, but with hot weather comes the need to hydrate, hydrate, and if you are exercising outside, hydrate some more.

So here are some tips to surviving the heat.
* Drink more water during the day, before you exercise, pre-hydrate
* Take more water, or money if you will be near stores, then you think you will need. It is recommended that you drink a water bottle every hour, so when it is hot plan to drink 1.5 to 2 bottles.
* The other option to point 2 is to plan your route around a community centre or some other building with a water fountain so you can re-fill your bottles.
* If you like cold beverages put your bottles in the freezer half-full the night before you exercise. Then top them up with water before you head out to exercise.
* I prefer drinking water that is the same temperature as me to keep my temperature constant rather than drinking cold water.
* Take a bottle with an electrolyte drink or electrolyte supplement of some sort such as e-Load Discs, especially if you sweat a lot and notice white marks on your helmet straps or hat.
* Drink more water than you normally do after you are done exercising, especially if you feel a headache coming on.
leave your wrists exposed and turned in to the wind, or blow on them to cool yourself down.

Hope some of these tips help.