Friday, December 14, 2012

You can't do it all (at once)

There are a lot of awesome races out there.  I've done a few of them.  My very first race, a 5K, was in Canmore, surrounded by mountains.  The Banff triathlon, also in the midst of the mountains is pretty much my favourite course yet.

There is an ever expanding list of races I find myself wanting to do.  At the same time, there are frequently races that I've done which I want to repeat.  If I actually did every race I'd like to, I'd be doing a race almost every weekend.  I'd probably even have to find a way to put myself in two places at once.

This desire to do it all is part of what led me to sign up for a second half Ironman this summer.  Great White North is a race that receives rave reviews.  On top of that, it pretty much seems like everybody does that race.  Yes, I am a bit of a 15 year old girl for wanting to do a race just because "everybody is doing it", but I still can't wait to experience the team atmosphere on that course.  Now in my defense, I really did want to do two half ironman races anyways.  I also signed up for it with my coach's blessing.

Today I heard that there is likely going to be a marathon in Banff in 2013.  My immediate thought was: I want to do that!  How awesome would it be to do my very first marathon in the midst of the mountains?  It sounds crazy and corny, but when I am surrounded by mountains, I feel centred and at peace.  Doing a race there just seems right.

But then, there is the fact that it will be only two weeks before my first half Ironman of the season, which is also my A race this year.  I know very well that you don't do a race that requires significant recovery (such as a marathon) anywhere close to your A race.  By the time my coach sent out an email (to the team; it wasn't actually a hint just for me) mentioning the marathon, I knew I couldn't do it.  Not this year.

Sometimes, it feels like you have to fit everything in.  Racing is still very new for me, and I want to do everything.  I've never had a lot of patience, but this is one of those times when you need it.  It's unlikely to work to do that race next year either.  I might have to wait years before I can feasibly consider it, all because there's other races I want to do more.  The upside is that I have years.  Lots of them.  Even if I occasionally feel old, I'm not even half the age of some Ironman finishers.  I have time, lots of time, to fit it all in, and if I want to do it well, I need to take that time.

Of course, it looks like they might also have a half marathon option...

Little side note: I'm just going to touch on my lack of blogging lately.  I've mentioned in the past that a blogging lapse often means I'm going through a rough patch.  That isn't the case at all this time.  Things are actually extremely good, and extremely busy.  I'm finding a new balance in life, which on top of the balls I already juggled, now includes a job and more structured training program.  The blog is an optional thing that I do when it works for me, and I'm pleased to say that I'm feeling the writing itch lately, so I expect it will become more frequent again.  At this point though, a lower blogging frequency doesn't mean anything negative.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I really should...

Screw new years resolutions, I've decided to make one right now.  I'm going to start following through on the "I should"s in my life.

Let's see, what are some of the things I should do, but often don't.

- Do core
- Do strength
- Stretch
- Eat well
- Go to sleep at a decent time
- Run outside
- Foam roll

I'm sure I'll think of more.

Core, strength, stretching.  I have gotten a little bit of a hop on this since signing up with my coach.  She's included core, strength and stretching as part of my program.  I didn't need a coach to know that I should do these things, but apparently I needed one to convince me to actually follow through on it.

Eat well.  That's been a continuing thing for me.  I actually don't think I eat badly, just that I could eat better.  I keep my house pretty clear of trigger foods, but my weaknesses tend to be in choosing snacks that are more like a meal, and lately my portion sizes have grown.  Since I started working, my pantry and fridge haven't been as well stocked with produce.  Getting organized is the key for that.  For me, eating the right foods is the key to avoiding the poor choices.

Sleep.  My husband likes to nag me about this one, but he's right.  I believe I am a person that has higher sleep needs then average, and I frequently don't get what I need.  Sometimes, that is quite legitimately out of my control, which makes it even more important to get that sleep when it is in my control.

Run outside.  I have an admission to make: It has literally been weeks since I've ran outside.  I've been doing plenty of running; it's just been that my treadmill and the track have gotten plenty of use.  On one hand, I think it's great that I've gotten over the mental barrier I once had to running more then 5k inside, because sometimes I don't have a choice.  But, when I do have a choice, I need to start bundling up and going back on the pathways to run along my river.

Foam roll.  This is just one of those maintenance things.  One of my calves tends to tighten up on me, and I know that regular rolling keeps that tightness at bay.  It also really helps with practically every other muscle.  I just need to take the time to do it.

So, this seems like a really long list, and normally, I don't advocate trying to focus on everything at once.  What my goal is though, is simply to listen to that little voice that says "I really should..."  All of the things on the list are things that I do already, just not as much as I should.  (Okay, I haven't been running outside, but since I've been running, it isn't that big a leap.  And I still reserve the right to do some of my runs inside.)

So, why December?  Arguably the busiest and craziest month of the year?  Mainly because there I know there are going to be times where I make other choices.  There will be social engagements that keep me up late, the occasional glass of wine, and time spent with family that may take time away from other things.  And all of that, is okay.  In fact, it's just how it should be.

What it does mean though, is when I can, and should, it's even more important to follow through on the "should"s.  Last year, I gained over a dozen pounds in the month and a half around the holidays.  This year, I'm not taking any backwards steps.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Knowing when to train - and when not to

One of the things I find the most challenging about triathlon training is knowing when not to.  That little niggle in your knee: is it something you should take total rest for, go easy, or stick to the plan?  The tickle in your throat?  Sniffles?  Pain in the foot?

The answer is different for everybody.  Then if you have taken time off, how do you get back at it?  Do you try to make up your missed workouts or do you just let them drop?  Do you need to adjust your plan going forward, depending on what you missed?

Most of this week, I've felt off.  Not horrible, but more tired then usual and I've had the sniffles.  Having said that, it's been the kind of "sick" that training through actual seems to help.  As in, I feel better after then I did before.

Until today.  Actually last night.  As I was working yesterday evening, I just felt progressively worse.  Fortunately, the last couple hours are not busy and I could spend the majority of the time sitting down.  Because I needed to.  Then this morning, I knew things weren't good.  I slept in, due to alarm clock malfunction, but I'm still exhausted.  Managed to get the kids to school anyways.  Came home and contemplated my bike.

Then laid down in bed.

Sometimes you need to suck it up and train anyways.  Today is not one of those times.

So, make it up or move on?  I think it depends on how this hits me.  I'm hoping this is one of those things that just slams me for a day and moves on.  Not liking that it's a bike day it hit, given that my bike has been the most neglected this fall.  But, now I have a coach.  So, I'm going to let her decide.

I still remember the first time I missed a run.  It was a bit more then 2 years ago, 3 months after I started running.  It was because I was sick, and I felt like missing one run was the end of the world.  That it would destroy what I had started building for myself.  I was still in that early stage where, as much as I wanted it, I was afraid of the quitter in myself.  That's not who I am anymore.

Perspective is key here.  It's November.  Whatever happens right now, and even if I miss a bit of training, it's going to have minimal or no affect on my performance in July.  I'm not skipping out on it because I'm trying to avoid it, but because my body just isn't up to it.

Life happens, and it's not the first workout I've missed - not by a long shot.  I actually think it's better that way.  I think there's a danger in being so dedicated/obsessed that you won't sacrifice a workout for anything.  Life happens, so does injury, illness, and family.  You have to be able to recognize when something else takes priority over your training.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Self medication

I know all about self medicating.  I don't make it a secret that I have a history of depression.  At one point, I spent almost a year on pharmaceuticals in treatment of it.  Having said that, I spent many more years, both before and after self medicating.

Most of my life, my medication of choice was food.  Ice cream, cookies, pastries.  Cake, chocolate bars, muffins...  Sugar, carbohydrates, refined goodness.

Anybody that tells you that eating these foods doesn't make you feel better is full of it.  It does make you feel better, and that is exactly why people do it.  Temporary escape, numbing, bliss...

But, the side effects of this medication can be extreme.  I paid for it with obesity, high blood pressure, health issues.  The side effects had side effects: joint issues, sciatica, bursitis, low self esteem...

Today was one of those days.  A day to make me lose it.  A call from the principal, disappearing winter clothes, 5 year old temper tantrum, 5 year old temper tantrum, 4 year old temper tantrum, 5 year old temper tantrum...  One of those days when I know a pint of hagen daaz would bring pure oblivion.

I almost reacted by giving one of those punishments that punish me too, by not allowing Spud to go to the afternoon lil' chefs class, a time period in which I planned to get my run.  Fortunately I saved myself, restricted tv instead, and gave both children to somebody else for a while.

And I went home and self medicated.

I nailed a good hard run with hill repeats.

Because I am not this girl anymore.

I am this one.

There's a heck of a lot less negative side effects to this type of self medication.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I've gotten soft

I used to be tough.  My first winter running, I would run in any weather.  I sucked it up, went outside and got it done.  The idea of running on a treadmill was totally unappealing.  Running on a track, I could do, but would rather avoid all those circles.  I had yak trax, so even slippery surfaces didn't slow me down much.  (You still have to step carefully, but they really did help when it was slippery.  Too bad they broke!)

Those are little globules of ice on my eyelashes.
I remember one run where Jen and I used vaseline on any exposed skin to prevent frost bite.  According to my blog post at the time, it was -31c (-24f).  We ran 18 km (11.2mi) that day.

Then last winter, I got a treadmill.  My yak trax hadn't even finished out my first season and another grip aid I tried also broke after two runs.  I wanted the treadmill for when it was slippery out.  It was also for when I'm on my own with the kids and need to squeeze a run in.

Then a few weeks ago, I started a job at a sports complex, which gives me free and convenient access to a track.

And, when the mercury drops, I find I just don't have it in me to go outside...

This weekend, Keith had invited a bunch of us over for a run and bison burgers.  It would have been him, Sophia, Leana, and myself.  And, the temperature dropped to -24c (-11f).  Leana was the first to bail, but I followed shortly after.  Sophia and Keith are the tough ones.  They still ran outside.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Back On Bella

As mentioned in my last post, Bella, my bike has been languishing in a closet for months now.  Yesterday, I pulled her out, cleaned her up a bit and changed her tire.  It was all in preparation for today, when I was going to get back on my bike and get my butt kicked in a spin class.

A spin class that didn't happen.

Because we live in Alberta, and we pretty much all had to drive on a highway to get there, and we just got a dump of snow.  Safety was considered, and it wasn't happening.

Sometimes when there's nobody present to kick your butt, you have to do it for yourself.

Angie had emailed the workout earlier this week, and when it was concluded that the roads were overly treacherous, left instructions for all of us to get on on our bikes.

So, I did.

I had already made arrangements for my son to be picked up at school, giving me a bit of extra time, and there was no reason to relinquish that time, and even less reason to squander it.

I set up the bike, trainer and fan.  I blasted some eighties music, and followed the workout.
My husband was working from home today, due to the roads, so was available as a photographer.  Look at my legs!  Moving faster then the speed of light!
It was intense, and I loved it.  It's actually the first time I've done real interval work on my trainer, at home on my own.  I've done them in class, but at home, I usually just mindlessly spin with a slightly elevated heart rate.

Would I have pushed harder in a class?  Likely.  But, it was still a damn good workout, and for the first time back on my bike, I'm pleased to have gotten through it.  I had some technical difficulties, like my cadence sensor crapping out on me (if I'd ridden my bike again after my race, I'd have remembered it did it on me then, and I needed to fix it.)  Some derailleur/chain issues that I'm going to have to deal with.  But, it's all attitude.  That spin was going to happen.  And at least this time, it was going to happen while the kids were gone.

Now, my muscles will whine at me for the next couple days in protest, but they're just going to have to suck it up.  No more neglecting Bella.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No more floundering!

I won't say I fell off the wagon.  I never stopped running.  I took a break from swimming, but have been back at it for a solid month and a half.  My bike?  Oh, poor neglected Bella.  Yes, she has been locked in a closet since I did my last race... three months ago.

I never let go of my goals, but I did let go of my focus.  There was travelling for the rest of the summer and then some real life commitments I had to deal with.  Then some excuses and a bit of laziness.  I ran when I felt like it, swam when I wanted to.  Nothing too intense.  Just because.  In my opinion, a great strategy following a big race - just not for three months.

But, upon getting all that out of my system, I took a look at everything and considered where I want to go.

I want to figure out just how much potential I have.

At one time, I self identified myself as a "slow runner".  I was never going to race to compete, only complete.  Doing a sub-60 10k was something I saw as the holy grail of running, at least for me.  I figured if I could reach that goal, I'd be forever happy with my speed.

The day I started seeing more was about a year ago, when I shattered that 60 minute barrier, running a 10K in 56:33.  Then I bested my first half marathon time by 30 minutes.  There was finishing that 5K as the fourth female.

And the thing is, I feel like I still have more.  Much more.

I've now invested in myself in a way that 2 years ago, I didn't think I was worthy of.  (As a note, I always recognized the worth of a coach, just not my worthiness of one.) Along with my new job came the financial freedom to do so.  I've hired a coach.

Not just any coach.  Angie, whom I've been working with in group classes for nearly two years now.  She's already guided me towards numerous "aha" moments and breakthroughs before I was even one of her coached athletes.

Today, she emailed me my program.  Nothing surprised me.  There wasn't even anything to scare me - much.  Overall, more focus and balance.  For the swim and run, I feel like the main adjustment will be some intensity on the run, and a more specific focus on the swim.  Although I did see some hill repeats sneaking in a few weeks in.  Hills are my training partner, right?

But then, there is spin class on Friday, which will be the first time I get on my bike (I don't think a couple rides on my hybrid at the pace of a 5 year old count).  Her words in my plan are: "this is going to be a shock to your system".

I think that might be coach speak for: "you might die".

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are Triathletes Masochists?

Tonight was the last Monday of the month.  Or, as my swim coach likes to put it: Last, Fast, Fun Monday.  She says it with this evil glint in her eye.  Occasionally she'll apologize with a very insincere expression.  I don't think she bothered with the fake apology tonight.  She just scared us by telling us it was going to be hard while refusing to be specific, and then sent us off on our warm up.

After warming up and doing some drills, it was time to really work.  Fast 50s.  Truth be told, it wasn't quite as bad as I expected.  (Crap, if she's reading this, now I'll suffer.  It only wasn't as bad because I was expecting it to be really really hard.)  But, it was still hard.  50 metres is long enough that you have to pace, but short enough that you can really make it hurt.  Then 50 metres recovery, and off again.  And again.  And again...  Sets of 4 (5, if you were in the fast lanes, which I'm not), a rest set, then repeat, and repeat, etc.

The awesome thing is that I was almost holding my time in these sets.  Now, "actually" instead of "almost" would be even more awesome, but pacing over multiple sets has long been a weak point for me.  To be *almost* holding pace without sandbagging was great.

And that brings me to my point, and the title of my post.  Are triathletes masochists?  Because, even as I was inwardly cursing the workout, and my arms were screaming for me to stop, I was simultaneously loving it.  Even though I had to push off again when I felt like I could have rested another 60 seconds, I rejoiced in doing so.  It might hurt, but it's an absolute adrenaline rush.  And when you finish you feel amazing (and are unable to sleep, so instead sit at your computer blogging).

I know why I do this.  The payoff is huge.  But, is this something that exists in a lot of us?  Are we wired to enjoy that pain we get from pushing ourselves?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Searching for balance

So, it's been a couple weeks since I re-entered the workforce, and I am really enjoying it.  I am actually now on my second job.  Things were great at the massage studio, but then I got a phone call from the sports centre in town.  I made the decision to take that offer.  In addition to some short term perks (slightly better pay, free membership), there's some long term career possibilities there.  Spud was just excited when he found out we could go skating more often (since it's included in the family membership I get).

I'm really happy to be getting out and interacting with other people.  My life as a stay at home mom is centred around the kids, and my life as triathlete is largely solitary.  As silly as it sounds, it's nice to have regular adult interaction other then my husband.

In addition to the new job, we've had some household chaos.  Our dishwasher was found to be leaking.  Unfortunately, we didn't realize it until it destroyed a section of our floor.  So, right now, there is a big hole in the kitchen floor (just to the sub floor), and no dishwasher.  Oh, how I miss my dishwasher...

The thing that I am struggling with is finding balance.  I've missed more then one workout, and it's because I haven't planned ahead far enough.  Some of it was unavoidable, like the couple of days where I was training at my new job and still working at the previous one.  I completely lost my training time for a couple of days.  Mostly, I just need to get into a routine.  I'm not beating myself up about it; I just need to find the balance.  It's a matter of getting organized in the morning for the training I'm going to do in the evening.  Or getting ready the night before.  I still have the time, as my job is only part time and I have a wonderfully supportive husband.  I just need a routine.

So, I know I've said in the past that a lack of blogging usually means I'm having a rough time.  I'm not.  I'm simply in a period of exciting transition.  Busy, exciting, transition.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I think the plan has changed.

Ironman Canada has been front and centre in the triathlon community lately.  First it was the Challenge Company coming in and the Penticton race changing hands.  Then there was the suspense about where Ironman Canada would end up.  The announcement: Whistler.  And, on the exact same day as Challenge Penticton.  

Way to split the triathlon community!  Two iron distance races, in the same province, on the same day...

Now, while I observed all of this with interest, it was a somewhat detached interest.  Because I didn't think it really affected me personally.  My plan has been to do Ironman Couer d'Alene for quite some time.  2014.  That's the plan.  I'm sticking to the plan.

I've had a number of people warn me about the challenge of doing a June Ironman.  I'd be doing some awfully long trainer rides, and that can be pretty mind numbing.  It doesn't leave much room in our climate for open water swims before the race, or a tune up race either.

But, I've maintained that I want to be able to train while the kids are in school, and then I want to have at least part of the summer without the pressure of a heavy training schedule.  My first year doing triathlons, my big race was in September, and I hated the conflict I constantly felt between spending time with family and getting my training in.  This past summer, my big race was at the end of July, and I was completely happy with that.  I utilized some daycamps for the summer training before the race, and had some commitment free time after.

The close races have always been Canada at the end of August and Couer d'Alene at the end of June.  So, I was decided.  Ironman Couer d'Alene, 2014.

Until now.

Now, it's been announced that, after the first year, Ironman Canada will be at the end of July.  A bit later the Couer d'Alene, meaning more good bike weather in the lead up, more open water swim time, time for a tune up race.  A bit earlier then Challenge Penticton and the old Ironman Canada, meaning I'd still have a month left of summer after the race.

I'm pretty sure that I've just changed my mind.  Ironman Canada, 2014.  That's the plan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It still lingers

People that have followed me long enough know that I started out with an intense fear of the water and swimming.  When I first started swimming laps, I swam to the edge of the deep end, then turned around and swam back.  Then, I left a flutterboard beside the point where the pool goes deep.  I'd swim to that point, then swim with the flutterboard the rest of the way.  I'd put it down again when I reached the point where it got shallower.

I have basically conquered the pool fear.  I don't think twice about swimming through the deep end anymore, and that was a big deal for me.

I've even mostly conquered the open water fear.  This season, I stopped avoiding contact, and the starts involved a reasonable dose of bumping, jostling, and I even felt my head pushed down a couple times.

Today I was swimming (play swim, not training swim) with my kids, and my son wanted to jump off the starting blocks at the deep end.  I climbed out of the pool, went to the end, and climbed onto the starting block next to the one Spud was on.

I looked down into the water.

And panicked.

Okay, I didn't exactly panic, but I did feel it rising up within me.  I've jumped plenty of times from the edge of the pool, but that extra couple feet made it seem like so much more.  I didn't jump.  I got down and jumped from the edge of the pool instead.

I knew I was being ridiculous, so when Spud wanted to do it again, I came out, and climbed back onto that starting block.

And climbed back down and jumped from the edge.

Sometimes 5 year olds have a non existent attention span.  Other times they will do the same thing over and over and over again.  Today was one of the latter ones.

So, out of the pool, back to the starting block.

I've conquered a fear of swimming. Of deep water.  What was holding me back from jumping off this stupid platform?  Seriously.  Feet first.  No more then a couple extra feet.

I climbed back onto the platform.  Counted to three,

And jumped.  (then did it again over and over again.)

I may not ever completely conquer my fear of water.  Maybe there will always be aspects of it that freak me out.  However, I have learned that the fear doesn't need to stop me.

That is what matters.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Finding balance, and entering a new phase

Life is all about balance.  Work, family, life, self, etc.  You could break it down into infinite categories.  Often the balance is listed as simply work/life or maybe throw in the family.  But I'm selfish, so I included self in there too.  ;)

For the last six years, work and family have been completely entwined in my balance.  As a stay at home mom, my work was my family.  It took me a while to find a balance that included me, and that really came about when I started my triathlon journey.

Now the balance is about to shift again.  Because, for the first time in over half a decade, I'm going to be working outside the home (I did have a brief foray running a craft business, but even that was mostly at home).

We made a decision in the summer that I would pick up a part time job this fall.  In truth, the last month has been incredibly stressful.   When my blogging frequency drops the way it has, it's usually a reflection of my mood, and this was no exception.  I don't deal well with uncertainty.  And I had underestimated what it took to just "pick up a job".

It didn't help that I was picky and didn't want to work somewhere mindlessly stocking shelves.  While I considered going back to serving (the money is good), the thought of actually doing it made me shudder a bit.  Then there's the fact that most of my career experience was working with children, and quite frankly, I give that part of me to my own kids now.

It seemed like everyone wanted availability around the clock.  I wasn't even getting interviews at the places that I deemed worthy of applying at.  Doubt set in.  Frustration.  Not quite so simple after all.

But sometimes things happen for a reason.  Somebody that I met recently, and really connected with, mentioned a reception opening at a place where she was going to be teaching fitness classes.  I didn't hesitate to apply.

Today, I accepted a position at a massage studio/fitness centre (The Rose Wellness Centre, for those of you that are local).  I'm beyond excited.  I get to work somewhere that I believe in, somewhere that I care about.  I'm sure there will be some unexciting, boring aspects (filing papers, while necessary, isn't the most inspiring), but I can't wait to be a part of a team that is dedicated to helping people find their own balance.

So, where does this leave my triathlon journey?  In a really excellent position.  This past month, it's weighed heavily on my mind that this hobby of mine is one of the bigger optional expenses.  That load is taken off my mind.  The hours are such that I can still achieve a balance that leaves room for my training, and races.

Right now, I feel like I have the best of every possible world.  Stay at home mom, part time job in an inspiring place, triathlete, and pretty fabulous wife to boot.  It will require a bit more organization, but I'm up for the challenge!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cars, Bikes, and Shopping carts

One of my pet peeves while grocery shopping is people that don't drive their shopping carts properly.  They go down the middle of the aisle.  They stop randomly without checking to see if somebody is behind them.  They fail to shoulder check.  They walk on the left, meaning at busy times, they completely block the aisle for somebody going the other direction.  It seriously annoys me.  In fact, sometimes it really pisses me off.

I'm sure there are others that feel my pain.

Yesterday, there was another bike/car "accident" in my neck of the woods.  The story is here: Story  The story is like many other road rage stories.  Driver is mad that cyclists are on the road.  Driver proceeds to use motor-vehicle as a weapon.  Cyclist gets injured.

What annoys me the most about these stories is the comments on them.  Because every single time people use it as an excuse to start complaining about the inconsiderate cyclists.  About the cyclists that don't ride single file, that ride down the middle of the road, the bike couriers, etc.

The thing is, in this story, there is no indication that the cyclist is at fault.  There is every indication that the driver is.  Now, I am not denying that some cyclists are jerks, but that's irrelevant in this situation.

Let's get back to my shopping cart example.  One of these days, I might just snap.  Perhaps I will just get SO MAD that somebody is pushing their shopping cart in my aisle that I will lose my temper and start ramming into them repeatedly with my own cart.  (I realize the car didn't ram "repeatedly", but given the fact the shopping cart does less damage, we'll stick with it.)

If that happens, am I going to get everybody's sympathy?  I mean, surely they'll understand because of those darn shopping cart drivers right?

Monday, September 24, 2012

I remember how to swim!

Tonight, it was back in the pool!  It's been almost 2 months since I've swam seriously, so it's about time.  No gentle introduction back in either.  Today was the day my town's pool reopened, and today was the first day of coached swim.

A bit rusty?  Yes, absolutely.  But, by the end of the evening, my water feel was already creeping back.  And something incredibly cool happened.

I felt my core.

Those of you that are seasoned, skilled swimmers may think that's no big deal, but while I've intellectually known for a long time that I should be activating my core while swimming, it's never something that has clicked for me.  Never something that I've been able to put into practice.

It was during a new drill, the corkscrew, where we were rotating in the water.  After a few lengths of near drowning, I started to get it.  And, I started feeling my core.

I truly think this is one of the missing puzzle pieces when it comes to my swim.

Now, I need to swim more.  Lots more.  Enough to make up for the last couple months.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Racing for fun, finding the fire - Melissa's 10K race report

Yesterday, I did a 10K race, Melissa's Road Race.  It was my first race since my half ironman late August.  It's also the first time I've ran 10km since then.

Going into the race, I assessed things, and decided, since I hadn't really trained, I was clearly not in PB shape.  This was also not a PB course, as I set that on a mostly flat course.   This one included serious elevation and was probably the most challenging 10K I've done.

So, I made the decision to race this one for fun.  No pressure.  No serious goals.  I was hoping to meet up with some friends before the race and maybe run together with one of them.  The meetup didn't happen though.  I got in a porta potty line up about 40 minutes before the race, and wasn't out of it until there was only 5 minutes left.  There were thousands of people gathered at that point, and there was no finding anybody.

So, I was on my own, which I'm okay with.  I've done the majority of my races on my own, and I'm happy to just leach energy from those surrounding me.

I seeded myself about a third of the way back from the 6km/minute pace marker.  I figured I could probably maintain a pace of about 6:20, at least until we hit the hills.  Those didn't start until about 2km in though, so by then the field would be spread out a bit.

The shuffle began towards the start and a few steps before crossing the timing mats, I was able to start running.  My legs didn't love it right away.  This is the first race I've skipped the warm up for in a long time, and I could feel it.  There is almost always a hump I have to get over before I hit my running rhythm, and it's about 10 minutes in.  By skipping the warm up, I got to have that sluggish feeling for the first 10 minutes of the race.

I'd checked out the elevation chart prior to the race, and it was no joke.  After 2 km, we started going up.  When we turned the corner and I saw the hill, I was almost relieved though.  It wasn't so bad.  Sure, it would slow my pace, but it wasn't so steep I'd need to walk.  By now, I'd hit my rhythm, so I powered on up.  And up.  And up...

It went up until about 3.5 km.  Then we went down (some).  I let the hill carry me.  I focus on even effort rather then even pacing, something that is essential in a race like this.

Then, back up.  I'd studied the course map, so I knew it was coming, but there were plenty of groans around me when we approached the next hill.  This one was shorter then the first, but part of it was steeper.  I kept running until my pace started plummeting and my effort was spiking.  Then, I moved to the side and walked the last bit of the hill - at about the same pace I'd been running...

Then, it was down.  Fast.  Turn the corner, see mountains.  Trees open up, see mountains.  It was amazing and spectacular.

I knew that the fast downhill would probably leave me sore the next day, but there was no help for it.  I just concentrated on keeping my legs turning over and letting the hill take me down.  Weeeeeeee!

It was at about 7km that we were back on relatively flat ground.  A quick mental check and I was doing okay.  My legs, tired.  But, capable.  And, I asked myself, what did I have left?  The answer surprised me.

I picked up the pace.  I was at almost exactly 44 minutes at 7 km.  16 minutes left to an hour, 3 km.  Could I run 5:20/km for the last three?

I didn't know.  That would be a faster pace then I ran for my 5k personal best.  I did know, however, that I could push it.

I picked up the pace a bit.  Just enough that it hurt a bit, but I still knew I could hold it.  Run.  My legs moved and found their happy pace, which is usually faster then I let them go.  And, I ran.

8 km.  For some reason the last couple kilometers, I frequently struggle in races.  It doesn't matter what the race distance is, but when I reach the point of having about 2 left, it's a mental challenge.  I kept running.  I kept pushing.  Surrounded by mountains.

At about 9 km, we passed a couple of signs I loved.  First one: "keep running, I'll take care of the zombies".  The second one was the one that gave me that extra push though: "The future: "It was worth it." Isn't time travel awesome?"

Yes.  It would be worth it.  Especially if I could keep pushing to the finish line.  Turn those legs over.  Sure, it hurt, but only for a few more minutes.  Half a kilometer left, that's what?  2, 2.5 more minutes of letting it hurt?

And I kept going.  I was passing people all over the place.  I had a way stronger finish left in me then I would have expected.  Then, as I turned the corner, I heard a friend call out my name.  And, I picked it up and sprinted to the finish.  One of the strongest finishing kicks I've ever found.

Final time 1:00:25

So, what happened?  I was going to run this for fun?

In the end I did.  It was great fun.  It was midway through the race that I realized why my running groove has been missing for the last month and a half.  It's because, for me, part of the fun is pushing myself as hard as I can.  That's why I can always muster up a smile even when I'm suffering.  That's why I love the coached swims that push me to the edge of my ability.  Because, for me, that's fun.  The slow easy runs are a break, but they only work that way when I've got the hard fast ones in there as well.

I might not have gone into this race expecting much of myself, but I learned two things.  The first, is a piece of the puzzle in how I tick.  My competitive side is not going away and is part of what pushes me.  I need to feed that side of me regularly.

The second thing I learned is that I continue to be capable of more then I give myself credit for.  Even though I didn't set goals for this race, I wasn't expecting much.  65 minutes, maybe?  I certainly didn't think myself capable of going sub-60 in my current untrained state or on this course.  Now, I didn't go sub-60, but I was capable of it.  The simple act of believing in myself going in, or just doing a warmup would have easily bought me that 25 seconds.

This was a race in which I transformed from the start line to the finish line.  When I started, I was lacking my fire, my passion.  By the time I crossed that finish line, I got it back.  I remembered why I do this.  That desire to push myself and give it everything I'm capable of.

That's fun.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What next?

When it comes to "triathlon Deb", I've been kind of floundering since completing my half ironman at the end of July.  At first that was necessary; I needed the break.  Then it was okay.  I was on vacation, after all, and part of the reason I did my big race earlier was so that I could enjoy the rest of the summer without heavy training.

Now, it's almost 3 weeks into September, and I'm still unfocused.  I'm running, but mostly short runs of 6 km and under.  (Although I am doing a 10km race on Saturday!)  I'm not swimming as the local pool is still closed until next week.  I haven't been biking either.

So, it's time to start asking some serious questions of myself.

What do I want?

I want more.

Long term, sure, I want to do an Ironman, but I want more now.

I want to reach my potential.

And, so far, I'm a long ways off.  Sure, on race day, I go in with everything I've got.  But, I can do more.

The monkey on my back is the extra weight I continue to carry.  I feel like I'll never get close to my potential until I let it go.  And, I think that is part of the reason I have been afraid to let it go.  Because getting close to my potential scares me - a lot.

I have always been in a position of knowing that I can do better.  I have always finished a race, and even when I was thrilled with my results, I knew I would beat it one day.  If I really do everything I'm capable of, one day I am going to achieve results that will never be bettered.

And you know what?  I'm ready to start on that path.  One step at a time.  It will take me years to reach that, but I'm going to start with the definitely achievable steps: Lose the weight, keep up the speed work throughout my training plan (I always seem to get thrown off of it, and finish out the training plan just getting the volume in).

I have signed up for the Calgary 70.3 again. I'm going to set a personal best on that course.  In fact, I am going to blow away my time from 2012.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I need to get faster

Well, it's quite official.  I need to start doing everything I can to get faster.  Why, you might ask?  Well, it's quite simple.  This guy:

Spud, my favourite little guy
He's now in kindergarten, and is a full head taller then the next tallest in his class.  He puts those long legs to good use.  It's become a thing for us to have a race on the three days of the week I pick him up by myself (the other two days, Sweetpea doesn't have preschool, so she is along.)

When we first started doing these races (last year), I'd usually let him win.  Then, after chatting with somebody about it, I started winning some of the time.  The theory being that he has to learn that he won't always win.

Now, there is a problem developing...

I can still usually win.  Barely.  As in, I am in a full effort sprint when I pull of victories against this five year old kid.  It may only be 50-70 metres most of the time, but he's running it at a sub - 4:00/km (about 6:45/mile) pace.  Did I mention that he's five?

My goal right now is to be able to keep holding my own until he turns six.  Then, I guess we'll see...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do you wear your medals?

When you start doing this sport, it doesn't take long to amass a drawer full of medals.    I have yet to get one for a 5K, but have got some for 10Ks and Sprint triathlons, as well as half marathons and my half ironman (oddly, I have none for Oly triathlons).  And you know what, every time I get a medal, I relish it, regardless of the race distance.  I'll wear it for the rest of the day, or until I'm willing to let the kids have a turn.  Then they usually end up in a drawer...

A couple of days ago, the kids were playing "races".  (On a side note, if I ever need an affirmation that the time I take for myself also benefits my kids, it's moments like that.)  They had all my medals and a couple of theirs, and were running around and winning them.

All my medals, except for one.  Because I refused to share my Half Ironman medal.

That one, I put around my neck and wore for the rest of the day.  A reminder of what I am capable of when I put my mind to it.  What I am able to do.

So, if you've got some medals hanging out in a drawer, go and grab one (or more) and put it on for a while.  It can be from a 5K or an Ironman, but for today, pick the one that you want to remember and wear that medal.  You earned it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

DNS - A hard pill to swallow

A few minutes ago, I should have crossed the finish line of the Banff sprint distance triathlon.  Instead, I'm sitting at home blogging about it.

So, what happened?

As recently as three days ago, I was mulling over the blog post I'd write prior to the race.  It would be the first race I hadn't really trained up to.  However, 5 weeks ago, I finished one 4 times the distance, so I was confident I could do it.  It was going to be my fun race, my celebration race.  My no pressure race.

Until I started feeling sick.  At first, just kind of unsettled, then actively nauseous.  Then, yesterday, I took my son out for a short bike ride (while I ran with him).  That brief exercise left me dizzy and nauseous.

I considered doing the race anyways.  I hate the idea of signing up for a race, paying for it, and not doing it.  I could have toughed it out as I have countless training sessions and a couple races when I didn't feel great.

But, what would I accomplish?  Certainly not my goals for this race, which was to let myself have fun, and go in with no pressure.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I made the decision to DNS (Do Not Start).  I really wanted to do this race, but going into it when I'm feeling ill is not going to benefit me.  It may be "only" a sprint distance, but as I discovered when I did Sylvan Lake, a sprint distance can  be really really long if you have an uncooperative tummy.

So, the 70.3 was my last triathlon this year, and that's okay.  It was a good one, it was a strong one, and it was a huge accomplishment.  I'm happy to end this year's triathlon with that as my final race.

Now, onto a weight loss focus and a running focus for a bit.  Watch me get stronger, and next year's triathlon season will be even more epic then this one was.  :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Month Later

Today officially marks the one month point since my biggest race yet.  One month since I swam 1.9 km, biked 95, and ran 21.1.

Since that day, I've ran maybe 8 times, swam a few casual laps across a little lake, and biked, um, not at all.  Now, in my defense, I was on vacation.  For about 3.5 weeks of that month, I was completely away from my bike, and with no convenient access to a pool.

A bit of a post race slump as well?  Yeah, maybe.  A bit of a post race rest?  Definitely.  And, I'm okay with that.  I'm starting to realize that after the intensity of training for a big race, sometimes you need a rest, and that's okay.  Heck, I think it's pretty impressive that I ran as many times as I did, even if most of them were only about 6 km.

So, one month later.  What now?

Well, first, I leave tomorrow morning for a backpacking trip with my husband.  It's the one time a year where we get away, just us for a few days, and I'm really looking forward to it.  There won't be any swimming, biking, or running, but lots of hiking (with a 50 pound pack).

Then, it will be back to reality.

A stronger run focus for a couple months, as I prepare for a November half marathon.  And, a very strong weight loss focus.  I have come to accept that I am never going to lose weight while training heavily for a race, so right now is the time to do it.  I felt all those extra pounds I carried for over 7 hours on July 29; I'd like to make things easier on myself next time around.

So, don't expect another blog post from me this weekend, but expect to see DebTris revived next week, along with a dose of DebShrinks.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Calgary 70.3 Race Report

Sunday, I did the longest race I've done to date, the one that's been my primary focus for the last year, and the one that terrified me in many ways.

There were a lot of reasons not to do this race.  People told me that it is a really tough course for a first half-iron (there's a lot of hills).  It was suggested that I should do Great White North instead.  Everybody seems to do Great White North, and while that isn't a reason to choose it, it is awesome to have the on course support of other triathletes that you know.  Then, my cousin announced his wedding date - the day before the 70.3.  It seemed that with everything put together, maybe this just wasn't the race for me?

Yet, I was certain that this was the race I wanted to do.  It's local, and for me, the benefit of sleeping in my own bed the night before the race is huge.  The bike course is my training ground, the hills that I took my very first road rides on.  It goes through the town I live in.  The run is on the one race course that I feel defeated me (in the 2011 Police half marathon).  I wanted some payback on that run course.

So, I was doing it.

The day before, I still attended the wedding.  I wore the most practical, least sexy shoes I could possibly get away with.  Dinner was a buffet, and I was able to choose things that worked perfectly for my stomach (not choosing my pre-race dinner was one of my concerns, so this was a huge relief).  We left on the early side, but we have young kids, so would have to anyways.  When we got home, I fell into a deep sleep almost as soon as going to bed.


I'd set my alarm clock to 4:30, but my eyes popped open at 4:20.  I knew it was time to get up.  If the alarm was scheduled to go off a few hours away, it would be worth trying for more sleep.  I felt great, and to try to sleep for 10 more minutes would just make me grumpy.  Got up, coffee, breakfast, get my nutrition together.  Covered myself in bodyglide (I've found in past races that I chafe in brand new places otherwise.  The person that invents a portable bodyglide shower could make a fortune at races; feel free to send me my cut for the idea.)  Dress, braid hair, double check all my gear, head out around 5:30.

The race start is only about 20 minutes away from my house, so the drive was quick and easy.  My husband was taking me, which was perfect.  This race is a point to point race, so ideally you either take the shuttle or have a race day sherpa.  The shuttle is probably convenient for people that live in Calgary, but for me, I'd have to drive 35ish minutes, then take the 45 minute bus ride back.  Doesn't make sense when the car ride to the start is 20 minutes.  My mom was here, so she watched the kids, and I got the sherpa.

I got my nutrition on the bike (which I had checked the day before, inflated my tires, and double checked the brakes and gears.  For this race, you didn't actually set up by your bike; you had to put all your gear in a bag, to be dumped and donned separately from your bike.  So, the next trip was down to drop that bag.

My bike in transition (actually the day before, when I checked it).
After that, it was time to chill, chat, and use the porta potties (a couple times prior to the race).  I knew a few people at the race, as well as some of the support people, and I found the conversations helped my nerves.
Prerace, nervous, but positive
I signed up as a newbie for this race, so I was in the last wave of 5.  Watching the pro start was very cool.  There's been the odd (usually local) pro in other races I've done, but this was a wave of twenty or so.
About to get in the water
After the last wave prior to mine went off, I went over and got in the water.  The water of ghost lake is cold, so it's a balancing act as to how long to spend in beforehand.  For me, I find 5-10 minutes is good.  It's shocking at first, but once my hands, feet, and face go numb, it doesn't bother me anymore.  The temperature was actually pretty good this year, not nearly as cold as I had geared myself up for.

I swam back and forth a few times to get the feel of my stroke.  Get the layer of water on the inside of my wetsuit, so it warms up a bit.  I know it would help with warmth, but I still can't pee in my wetsuit.  I know "everybody" does it, but I've never been able to, hence the reason I always take a couple trips to the facilities beforehand.

After swimming around a bit and getting comfortable, I went back over to the dock.  Technically, everyone was supposed to be touching the dock prior to the start, but in actuality, there wasn't room for everyone to.  Regardless, I was able to, so I did.  Nobody was trying to get a head start, so I don't think it mattered too much that they weren't touching the dock.

The Swim

I was caught a little off guard by the starting horn.  In the water, we couldn't really hear the announcer, so rather then any real countdown, it was just the horn.  A deep breath, and I started to swim...

I've gotten a lot more comfortable with open water swim starts, which is awesome.  I still remember the first race where the press of swimmers around me completely freaked me out.  Now, it's just bubbles, feet, sometimes an arm.  While it still kind of scares me, I also find it fun.  I'm pretty realistic about where to seed myself, and I find that I don't usually end up doing much passing, nor being passed overly much.  This was no exception.

After the first bit, I felt like I might be pushing a bit hard.  I have a tendency to kick funny when I'm swimming in open water.  Rather then kicking from the hip I bend my knees and kick from there.  It's usually the first technique thing I remind myself of while swimming, because I tend to kind of panic kick.  Once I got my kick calmed down, my effort level seemed to be pretty much where it should be.

I drafted a lot to the first buoy and then I drafted periodically after that.  I still swim at a speed where it seems a lot of people throw in frequent breaststroke or swim very crookedly, so I have yet to find it that useful to draft.  For a long section of the swim, I was swimming extremely close to another guy, and for the first time ever, I felt like he was zigzagging, while I was sighting more accurately.

The course was like a long rectangle, and when I reached the point where I turned to go back the way I came, I could feel that it was a bit rougher going that way.  I felt like I was going through waves or against the current for a few strokes.  Then, it stopped feeling so awkward.  I think I was just against the wind, and while a different feeling, I quickly got used to it.

(I had planned to put a screen shot of my garmin map up, but apparently didn't upload my data properly.  I'm not at home, so can't access it right now.)

I felt great throughout the swim.  I had to watch that I didn't smile too much, because it messes with the seal of my goggles.

This was the first time I've done a single loop swim course since the first open water swim sprint, and I LOVED it.  Mentally, it's just so much nicer to set out for the next buoy, even if there's more of them.  Then when you get to the end, you are done, rather then starting out all over again.

Then, I was turning around the last buoy and heading into the finish. When I got there, I passed somebody walking and swam as far as I could, even bending my arms a bit more then usual for the last couple strokes.

Stood up and I think some volunteers helped me stand.  The swim was done and I was well within the swim cutoff times!  I didn't feel nauseous or dizzy like I usually do when I come out of open water either.  Bonus!

Out of the water, getting that wetsuit off!
Swim time: 49:00


Now, I had to get my wetsuit off, and the first impediment I had was my garmin 910xt.  "They" claim that wetsuits come off over it.  Maybe it's because I have the quick release (so it has a slightly higher profile) but mine doesn't.  At all.  I've tried and it always gets stuck.

So, I fiddled with the watch strap and got it off before getting that arm out.  My husband asked me afterwards why I didn't just take the watch part off the strap with the quick release?  Um, because I didn't think of it.  Brilliant idea, and next time, I'll save 10 seconds in transition by doing it!

I headed for the wetsuit strippers and let them get the bottom half of my wetsuit off. Wetsuit strippers are AWESOME.  I'll never do that volunteer job (because people pee in their wetsuits, and it all goes flying), but I sure appreciate them.  The wetsuit stripper asked my number as I was lying down.

"527," I told her.

"527!" She yelled out to the people getting the bags.

"Oh no, I lied!"  I admitted.  "It's actually 529."  Still thankful I wasn't dizzy or nauseous, but apparently I was kind of confused.  She yelled out 529.

I had to wait a few seconds for my bag, but I'm confident that, had I given the correct number initially, it would have been ready.

A volunteer dumped it for me, I put on my helmet, sunglasses and gloves.  The volunteer told me that I could carry my shoes, if I preferred, which was a huge relief.  Not only did I have to go through the entire transition area, but it was up a fairly significant slope.  I didn't relish having to go up that in cycling cleats.  One day, I'll learn the flying mount (clipping shoes to bike), but I'm not there yet.

So, carrying my shoes, I headed for my bike.  I put my garmin onto the bike (I could keep it on my wrist, but really prefer having it on the bike, so I can see it better).  Then I headed the rest of the way up the hill, still carrying my shoes.
Carrying my shoes up the hill
When I got to the end of the transition zone, I stopped to put on my shoes.  A volunteer offered to hold my bike, which was awesome and made it easier.  I headed for the mount line, clipped in and was off!

T1 time: 4:42

The Bike

The ride was the part of the course I was the most concerned about.  Not because I didn't think I could do it, but because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do it within the cutoff time (5 hours from my wave's start).  I'd bought a bit of time getting through the swim and T1 faster then I'd expected.  I'd figured I would be getting on my bike an hour into the race, and it was more like 54 minutes.  6 minutes may not seem like much, but at that point, having that little extra buffer was a huge relief.

I remembered Jill's advice from the week before: take the first 10 km to settle into the bike and then start hydrating and fueling.  That worked well for me.  The first 10 km is a fairly fast section, mostly downhill and on very smooth pavement.  The only downside was the fact that there is a rumble strip on the side of the road shoulder, and in most places, there wasn't quite enough room to pass without going over it.  I only had to pass once in that section, thankfully.

Once I turned onto Grand Valley, I knew I was in okay shape, timewise.  I felt great and was having fun.  Plus, I'd given myself a good start to my average speed, generally going between 30 and 40 km/hour in the first section.  Grand Valley Blvd is a speed sucking 15 km section with relatively rough chip seal and rolling hills, more up then down.

I was incredibly worried about this section early season, but, while still rough, it has become a lot smoother in the last few months.  I didn't see my speed drop from the rough roads as much as I had expected.  During this section, I passed a couple other cyclists, and commenced the game of leap-frog with a few others.  There were some that were averaging about the same speed as me, but I tended to pass them on the hills (down and up) of all places, while they passed me back on the flats.

A couple kilometers into Grand Valley, I realized I hadn't started fueling.  Tsk, tsk.  That was one of the things I knew I had to nail.  The half ironman distance is not nearly as forgiving to poor nutrition as the shorter races I've done.  On the bike, I had perform to drink, along with stroop waffles (like honey stinger waffles), gels, and some honey stinger bites.  I popped some waffle into my mouth and started drinking.  I've put a speedfil system on my bike, and being able to drink without grabbing the bottle was a huge advantage for me, because I drank more, and didn't slow down to grab my bottle when I did.

Grand Valley has a couple big climbs, but I was mentally prepared for them, since I know the course well.  I just geared down and spun my way up them.  I frequently found myself passing on the hills, which surprised me a lot.  I'd plan not to enter the draft zone while going up, but I'd find myself going into it, and I'd have had to actually brake to avoid it.  Braking while going up a hill, in a race, seemed utterly ridiculous, so when that happened, I'd put forth the little bit of extra effort I needed to pass.

And then I was at the top of Grand Valley, the section of the course that I was worried would be my undoing.  The section that I thought would suck so much speed, I would be trying to make it up for the rest of the race, in an effort to meet the cut off time.  I needed to average about 24km/h for the race, as a whole, but with this being a hilly course, I knew I'd rarely be going the average speed.  And, I was at the top of that 25km section in under 55 minutes.

You couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

As I turned on to the next road, I was on top of the world.  In that moment, I knew that I could finish this race.  I knew that I could make the bike cutoff and go onto the run.  Of course, I wasn't anywhere close to being done, but I'd been so afraid that I'd get to that point in the race and be in a hopeless battle against time.  Instead, I was on top of the world.

The next turn took me onto Horse Creek road, probably my favourite road to ride on.  It's also rolling hills, but it's smoother and there's more down then up, so it's great fun.

Right after turning onto Horse Creek, I hit the aid station.  I had started the race with about 3 litres on my bike, so I knew I was good in terms of hydration.  I considered grabbing a bar, but my stomach was happy enough with the stroop waffles.  I wasn't feeling too confident with doing the hand off, and I had sufficient nutrition on my bike, so I kept on rolling.

What an awesome road!  Some short climbs, followed by awesome descents. I've finally reached the point where I'm not terrified going down those hills, but am actually enjoying it.  It helped that I knew the course, and the hills well.  A lot of the flatter sections were gradual downhills, so it almost felt too easy.  I reminded myself that this race was about endurance.  If I was hurting when I wasn't even halfway through the bike, I'd be in trouble.

Then off of Horse Creek, and through Cochrane, my home.  No temptation to stop off, and some awesome, enthusiastic spectators while going through town.

There are rolling hills throughout the course, but the last big hill comes right after Cochrane.  I knew to just keep my effort level as even as possible.  I wanted to watch my cadence, but the sensor seemed to have gone wacky on me.  I don't know if it got bumped in transition, or if the battery is getting low, but it seemed to be registering only a quarter or a half of my actual cadence.

As much as I adore my garmin, I think it's usefulness is the highest in training.  By now, I have a pretty good idea where my cadence is falling, so I tried to keep it in that zone, and keep my heart rate where I wanted it.  After all, a big goal for me is always to not let the uncontrollable get to me in races.

Once I got to the top of the hill, I was thrilled.  I was doing great with time.  I could even afford a flat tire, or another delay, if it happened.  The wind was perfect.  Nothing more then a gentle breeze, in a place that is renowned for strong, gusty winds.

When I got to the second aid station, I decided I should grab some more hydration.  I'd partially filled my speedfil with the extra bottle on my bike already, but I didn't want to risk running out.  I stopped at the aid station, and filled up with a bottle of perform.

And, it was horrible!  Completely warm, and incredibly strong.  I thought I was so smart when I started training with the on course nutrition, because I'd get used to it, but I realized at this moment that I made a serious error in my habit of mixing my sports drinks weak.  I was not at all prepared for this disgusting, super warm stuff.  I forced myself to drink it for the rest of the bike, but BLAH!

For the end of the bike, I stopped all the solid food, and stuck to liquid nutrition, the awful perform and gels.

One thing I'll remember for future races is not to bother with any nutrition that I don't like.  I still have some Island Nectar Roctane gels that I won earlier this year.  I continue to use them and train with them because they sit perfectly well in my stomach.  However, I don't like the taste of them AT ALL.  On my bike, I couldn't even stand the thought of consuming the one that was taped to my bike, and skipped it, in favour of the chocolate mint one below it.  Fortunately, I had intentionally given myself an extra gel, beyond what I expected to use, so it was okay, but if I'd needed that gel, it would have been torturous to get it down.

Towards the end of the bike, I was feeling really ready to get off.  It didn't exactly hurt, and I wasn't at the end of my energy; I was just ready to be done the bike.

The last few kilometers were new to me.  Of the 95km course, I'd rode about 90km previously, but the last bit has pretty heavy traffic, and I've never felt comfortable doing it on my own.  During the race, with the traffic controlled was good though!  I passed Chris, a newer blogger and triathlete who was volunteering on the bike course.

Then, I was rolling in towards the finish line, and lots of noise and activity.  The first person I saw was my husband, a quiet, and incredibly supportive presence.  He's been there supporting me every step of this journey.  Pushing me out of the door at times, listening to me whine at other times and just overall being there.  He isn't at all my races (kids!), but I didn't realize just how important it was to me to have him at this one until I actually saw him on the sidelines.

Then I rode a bit further, and there was Keith, with his cowbells, like he promised.  Keith has been one of my mentors along this journey, having traveled a similar road a couple years before me.  We only met in person a couple months ago, but blogosphere friendships have a strength of their own.

Shortly before entering transition
I rolled up to the dismount line and got off my bike.  I'd DONE it!  I'd make the bike cut off, with time to spare!  I was done!

Um....  done?

Bike time: 3:37:18


Into transition, and a volunteer directed me to my spot.  (With it being a point to point, I hadn't even seen T2 set up prior to the race.)

He dumped my transition bag for me and I changed my shoes, swapped the helmet for a cap, etc.  I knew I needed to stop quickly at the porta potties.  If I can't pee in my wetsuit, I certainly can't pee on the bike, and I needed to by that point.

There were two porta potties in transition.  I glanced quickly at the indicator on the door that's supposed to say whether it's occupied.  I yanked open the one with green, onto a woman with her pants at her ankles!

This is the beauty of a long triathlon.  I suppose there should have been some embarasment, but there isn't any energy for it at that point in the race.  I just closed it again, and a volunteer told me that the other one was empty.  It was, but the lock had been pushed, so it showed red.

When I came out, I had no idea where to go, even though I was practically by the run exit, so in classic Deb fashion (I've headed the wrong way out of transition before), I started going the wrong way.  Then, I stopped, totally confused and asked a volunteer where to go.

On my way!

T2 time: 4:25

The Run:

I had made a critical error in my mental preparation for this race.  In my worry about cutoff times, I'd been a little concerned about the swim cutoff and majorly concerned about the bike cutoff.  I'd spared very little thought for the run.  I knew that if I made the bike cutoff, I'd have at least 3 hours for the run.  I was confident that I could run a half marathon in under 3 hours, even on a hilly course, even if I was exhausted.

While that might be true, mentally, I had given very little thought to the run.  I just had to get through the bike.  Just had to make the bike cutoff time.  Ideally swim fast enough to have some extra cushion for the bike.  Bike, bike, bike, bike, bike...  Somehow, I had neglected to consider that this run was likely to be the most difficult run I had done yet.

I came out of transition feeling okay.  Not great, but not exhausted either.  Keith came and ran beside me for a few strides to check in.  He reminded me to get into the rhythm and find my pace.  Pace?  I didn't feel fast, but I glanced down at my pace: 5:30/km.  Great for some, almost 5K race pace for me.  I slowed myself down a bit.  If I had it in me, I could go that fast at the end of the run, but doing it at the start was suicide.

Right after leaving transition.  I am a camera whore.  If I know there is one trained on me, I can almost always muster up a smile.
Starting off the run, I just focused on finding my rhythm.  I was passing a lot of people that were heading into the finish line, which I found super motivating.  When you are a slower triathlete, you just learn to accept that others will finish around the time you start the run.  Even moreso if you start in the last wave.  One day, I intend to be one of them, but for now, I'm satisfied with just doing it.

I reached the first aid station, where Leigh was.  I think she told me I looked strong.  At that point, I even still felt it.  I took water and tried to conceive of the thought of taking perform.  Just couldn't do it.  Ugh.

One thing to be said for this course is that the scenery is stunning.  The views are amazing early, and late in the race.  In between, it's a lovely, natural area.  Yes, it's a hilly course, but the hills make it interesting to run on and lend towards breathtaking scenery.
A picture taken of the view
There's a little loop at the beginning, where you pass the finish area again.  It's nice for spectators (and for triathletes to suck energy from the spectators), but it is a small cruelty on the course.  You have to pass the finish area three times before actually going through it, once when you start the run, around 4km, and around 17.  It's the 17km passing that hurts the most.

Just before I got to the second aid station, around 5km, I took my first gel.  I took some water at the aid station and still couldn't get my mind around the idea of taking perform.  I accepted some coke, and to my surprise (I don't normally like coke whatsoever), it went down perfectly.

Then, it was down the weaselhead hill.  Like the bike there's lots of smaller, rolling hills and gradual slopes on the run, but this is the big hill of the run course.  I was grateful to see almost everybody walking their way up that hill.  If the fast triathletes were walking it, I could be totally okay with making the choice to walk it myself when I got there.

First I had to get there...

A lot of the run blends together.  It was hot.  I was tired.  I kept going.  I worked on keeping an even effort, rather then pace.  Run steady, but walk the aid stations.  Slow down for most hills, walk the truly steep ones.  Watch my heart rate, try to keep it in the right range.

Around 7km was the Team Trilife aid station.  Although I'm not a team member at this point in time, I've done a lot of training with Angie (the head coach) and other members of the team.  I got an awesome cheer as I passed which gave me a boost just when I needed it.

Shortly before I reached the next aid station, my tummy gave a little grumble.  "Better watch for a porta potty", I thought to myself as I turned a corner, and, cue music, one appeared.  As soon as I saw it, my stomach seized up on itself and it took some serious effort even to make it that short distance.

After some time was given up to the porta potty gods, I carried on.  Gosh, this was not easy.  What the heck was I thinking when I pictured the run as being this simple cake walk?  Sure, my last half marathon was a fabulous day, but it only seems easy in retrospect, and that's considering I wasn't already going 4.5 hours before starting it.

Hitting the turn around point was another big boost.  Halfway done the run.  Which meant that I was way more then halfway done the race.  Only a bit more then 10km left now, right?

At the next aid station (11.5 ish km), I took another gel.  I also took the water and coke I'd accepted at every other aid station and somehow attempted to accept a cup of ice as well.  Hmm, one hand short.  I finished one of the drinks and dumped the ice down my shirt.  Never has ice down the back felt so fabulous!

Soon after this, it started to hurt.  This is where the training really started to matter.  I knew my body could do this.  I knew it was able to finish the race.  But it wasn't going to be easy.  I was going to have to keep going, even if I really wanted to stop.

When I got back to the team trilife aid station (about 14km), Wilma (someone I swim with) asked how I was doing.  "I got this." I muttered.  I might have muttered it more then once.  I might have been quite incoherent.  I'm not really sure.  All I know is that I was going to keep moving my legs, because if I stopped them, I had no idea if I would be able to get the going again.

Run on.

Just run.

When I got to the Weaselhead hill, I walked it without hesitation.  Got the aid station at the top of it.  Skipped taking my gel.  It just seemed too sweet and I was tired of sweet.  There was less then 5k left right?  Took the water and coke and carried on.

There was my husband and Keith.  I think I mustered up a smile and a thumbs up.  I don't think I was capable of speech.

I kept going.

By the time I reached the next aid station, I felt horrible.  Dizzy, disoriented, nauseous, and oh yeah, tired.  Just keep moving my legs.  Just run.  I think Leigh asked how I was again.  Not sure what I told her.  Pretty sure she gave me some encouragement.

On I went.

And, for the first time in the race, I really wondered if I'd make it to the finish line.  Only a couple kilometers left.  I couldn't see clearly.  I don't think I was running straight.  I thought I might pass out.  I thought I might vomit.

I walked.

And, I'm okay with that.

I'm okay with that, because at the point where I thought my body was at it's limit and it was shutting down on me, I kept moving one way or another.

My vision was still blurry and I felt completely horrible, but I was close.  So close.  I wondered if I'd feel better if I sat down for a minute, but there was no way I could do that.  If I did that, I might not get up again.

I stumbled forward.

It was an eternity, but eventually I started to hear noise again.

Run.  Must run.

Almost there.

Through my haze, I saw my husband and Keith.  Beejay ran with me for a bit and  I was vaguely aware of him.  I knew there might be cameras on me, and I couldn't even pull up the smile.

But, I was going to cross that line.

As I got closer, I heard my name.  I know I picked up the pace a bit, but there sure was no sprint to this finish line.

But there was the finish line, the one that I was going across!

I could stop.

Run time: 2:33:58


Once I got across the finish, somebody handed me some water.  Another person took my timing chip and somebody put the medal around my neck.  A pretty awesome medal too!

I stumbled over to a table and was told they were out of finisher's shirts, since one of boxes got held up at customs.  I gave them my name had trouble remembering my phone number.  Then, I managed to get to the food tent.  No protein (I kind of wonder if faster people got protein), but I snagged a mediocre veggie wrap, a couple oranges and a cookie.

Once I put some food in my stomach, I very quickly regained my mental ability.  I honestly wonder how much more coherent I would have been in that final section if I'd just taken that last gel?

I had done it.

From that first swim lesson, that first run, just a couple years ago, to a half ironman.  The journey may be what really matters, but finishing the race feels pretty darn good.

I  can.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A delinquent blogger

The dog ate my race report?  Oh right, no dog.

Okay, rather, it's in progress, isn't done yet, and I'm going camping for the weekend.  I'll do it when I get back.  :)  So, those of you preparing to call me out (you know who you are) can just wait a couple more days.  ;)

This week has been pretty chill.  Truth is, I haven't done any swimming, biking or running.  The first couple days, I actually needed the break.  I was SORE.  Now, I'm kind of itching to get back to it, but instead we'll do a few days of hiking.  It will be good for me and nice to spend some time with my family and in the mountains.

So, what now?  A sprint triathlon in September, for fun.  A 10k a couple of weeks later.  I don't expect to PR on it, because it is a very hilly course, but it's supposed to be great and I'm looking forward to it.  And then, a fall half marathon.  One where I am going to set a new PR as long as it doesn't snow and become icy.

So, see you all in a couple days!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The short version - Race results for Calgary 70.3

Yesterday was a great day!  I will end the suspense, and announce that I have now completed my first half ironman.  The swim was solid, and on the bike I just had so much fun.  The run was tough, but I got through it.

After the race I commented to a friend that it really hurt at the end.  She just looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked if I expected it not to.  Thinking about it, I somehow hadn't really realized it would.  I expected it to be hard, but not necessarily hurt that much.  Not sure what I was thinking.

The quick results are as follows:

Swim: 49:00
T1: 4:42
Bike: 3:37:18
T2: 4:25
Run: 2:33:58

When it comes to race execution, there are some things that I am completely happy about, and other things that I'll learn from.  There's not a single thing that I would change (okay, I wouldn't get lost in T2, but in my defense, with it being a point to point race, I never got to see T2 beforehand).  For my first half iron distance race, it was a great day!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Race tomorrow!

The training is done.  The taper is done.  Now it's time for bed and to wake up and race the longest distance I've done yet.


Have fun
Stay calm
Pace well
Don't let things that are out of my control get to me
Make cut off times and finish

If you are interested in tracking me on course, it should be possible with  I am bib number 529.  There is also an iphone app, though I have no idea how well it works.

If you're going to be on the course, expect me to be near the back of the pack.  I am going off in the newbie wave, which goes last at 7:45, and my times will mean I'm one of the later finishers.  I am really looking forward to seeing some of the people I know will be out there, mostly on the run course.  I'm sure I'll need the boost by that time!

Although I don't have time goals (other then making the cutoffs), if I were to guess, I'd estimate my times will be in the area of:

Swim: 51 minutes
T1: 5 minutes
Bike 3:45
T2: 3 minutes
Run: 2:30

I'll let you do the math if you're going to be out there.  All of those times could change anyways, so doesn't mean much!  Above all, I'll be crossing that finish line by 3:45!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. Taper madness

I've actually done surprisingly well with taper madness.  I haven't been going too crazy and I've been keeping things somewhat together.  Yesterday, I misplaced my garmin, but rather then panicking too much, went for a run with my husband's (aka, my old one).  Fortunately, while I am a loser of objects, my husband is the finder in our relationship, and he located it for me.  My knee and ankle were niggling at me, but I've attributed it to me just being crazy.  Still eating well, not randomly losing my temper or having nightly meltdowns, so I think I'm doing okay.

2. Weather obsession

I know very well that I am not the only one that starts checking race day weather as soon as it appears in the 14 day weather trend.  Then, once it's in the 7 day forecast, game on.  Now that I am 3 days away from race day (holy crap, three days?  THREE DAYS?!), the weather forecast might actually mean something.

Current forecast: Sunny with a high of 25c (77f).  A little warm (I know any of you from the southern states or Hawaii will laugh at that statement).  Runnable warm though, and thankfully, no current call for rain.  I don't care if rains on the run, but really hoping it doesn't on the swim or bike.

3. A new name?

My sister and brother-in-law are currently here (from China, so awesome to see them.)  They raised the fact that calling Sunday's race a "Half Ironman" is misleading.  It's like saying it's half of something, or isn't very significant.  And while a half ironman is indeed half of something, it's still pretty impressive distances, in it's own right, and takes longer then a marathon.

Their suggestion?  The IronDwarf.  Admittedly smaller then an Ironman, but still a worthy opponent.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ready or not...

About 1 year ago, I joined up with a group from Triathlete Within for an open water swim and a ride along part of the Calgary 70.3 course.  Unlike most of the people in the group, I was not actually doing the 70.3.  I was doing the Banff Olympic distance race, another race that usually has extremely cold water.

The swim went well that day.  So far, I've found that, despite the initial shock, I do fine in cold water.  I kept up with the group, some were faster, some slower.  Then we did the bike ride.  I felt great through the first half of the ride.  At the halfway point, we were stopped at our "aid station" and when the group found out I wasn't doing the race, they pointed out that there was still time to sign up for it.  I could still do it.

Then, we did the rest of the bike.

With a distance of about 65km (40mi), it was 20km (12.4mi) longer then the longest ride I'd done at that time.  As luck would have it, we also had the joy of doing the last 15 or so km into a brutal headwind.  It sucked.  It was probably one of the hardest times I've ever had on the bike.  My shoulders ached, my back and neck were going numb, I hurt all over.  Multiple times, I considered calling Jill (the coach) on her phone, and asking her to come pick me up.  In the end, I got through it, but it taught me two things:

1. I needed a proper bike fit.

2. I was not ready to do a half ironman.

I got a proper fit done soon after that, and not being ready for a half ironman was fine.  I wasn't doing one - yet.

Two days ago, I joined up with the group again, some of the same people, some different.  This time, I was more in the back of the pack on the swim, but it isn't that I've gotten slower, rather that different people were there.  It felt good.

When I got on the bike, I was feeling strong and confident.  Rather then having done a longest ride of 45km (28mi) going into it, my longest ride was 110km (68mi).  Going up the hills, I knew to gear down and spin (last year, I specifically remember mashing up the hills in a higher gear.)  The crosswinds were nasty, but I was able to maintain control and keep going, at a high enough average speed to do well on race day.  Going up Cochrane hill (one of the bigger climbs on the course, past the halfway point) was work, but I didn't feel like my legs were fried like I have at times in the past.

When I got to the point I was turning around, I knew something more clearly then I have at any other point in this training cycle.

I am ready to do a half ironman.