Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sylvan Lake Sprint Race Report (otherwise known as the really late report)

"Some races are great days; others are great learning experiences.  Today was a bit of both."
(Posted as my facebook status after finishing this race.)

This weekend was my first triathlon of the season, the Sylvan Lake Sprint.  I did it mainly to get back into the mindset of multi-sport racing.  No amount of run races or brick training sessions can come close to simulating the full experience of a triathlon.

The other reason to do this race was the fact that they had a casual race for kids, 4-10 years old.  Now, it's possible that Sweetpea isn't actually 4 for a few months, and it's also possible I registered her anyways...


Race day starting bright and early for me.  We had talked about it and decided to take seperate vehicles, since neither of us wanted to deal with the children at the obscene time I was leaving.  Did I say "bright and early"?  Should have said "dark and early".  I got up at about 3:00 am so that I could get on the road by 4:00...

Finding the race sight was pretty easy.  I didn't get there right when they opened transition, but was still early enough to get a rack closest to the bike exit.  Since switching to my speedplay pedals, it's even harder to run in my cleats, so I like to minimize that.  And, don't even suggest I should run barefoot and learn the flying mount; I'm happy enough if I don't have a clipless pedal fallover, since I'm usually a bit dizzy after the swim.

 One thing I didn't love about this race was that I didn't know until I was there what time I'd be racing at.  I can have a bit of a sensitive stomach, and prefer to try to time my nutrient intake based on when I'll be going.  As it was, I ate prior to leaving, and again about two hours before racing.  I should have put off the first breakfast though.  I mainly ate because I felt like I should, but I wasn't hungry (probably because my body was telling me it was still night time.)

The time before the race went pretty smoothly.  I saw a couple of people I knew and chatted with them.  Also chatted with a couple of people I didn't know.  Before long, it was time to go to the staging area for my heat.


Since this was a pool swim, we had all given estimated times.  It was a 750 metre swim, so I'd estimated 16:45, based on the fact that I expected to be able to go 2:15/100 metres.  Now, having said that, I have had incredibly poor swim training lately, due to my muscle cramping issue.  I hadn't come out and said it (for fear of jinxing myself), but one of my unofficial goals for the swim was to get through it without my muscles seizing up on me.  By the time race day rolled around, things had been better, but I didn't know for sure.

Since the two girls I was sharing a lane with had slightly slower estimated times of 17:00, it was decided that I should go first.  I jumped in and took off.

Focus on not going too fast.  I almost always start off too fast.  Angie might have to beat pacing into me with a flutterboard at some point, because even when I think I'm holding back, I'm still usually too fast.

After the first three lengths (75 metres), I got passed by one of the girls in my lane.  My initial thought was that I was going too slow, and I was going to hold up the people in my lane.  Was I one of those people that gave an overly optimistic swim time?

No help for it.  I'm learning to let go of the uncontrollable aspects of races, and at that point, there was nothing I could do if it turned out that my lane partners and I were incompatible speedwise.  It just meant that somebody would have to do a lot of passing.

Suprisiingly, that somebody turned out to be me.  Within a few more lengths, I passed the first girl back, and shortly after passed the other girl.  The rest of the swim was a mix of me going "okay, focus on technique, don't raise your head so far to breath, don't flip your wrist on entry, feel the water", and passing.  I am pretty sure that I passed the girls in my lane about 4 times each.

Around 200 metres, I felt like crap, but by the time I was getting near the end, I was really into a rhythm.  I'd set my garmin to vibrate at 650, so I knew when I was getting close to the end (love the 910, since I suck at counting!)  Then the flutterboard was put down, I did one more lap, and out I got, heading to the pool exit!

Swim time: 18:16 (including about 30 seconds to walk to the pool before and get to the timing mat after.)  A little slower then I would have liked, but given the fact that I had to slow down regularly when stuck behind somebody, I consider it a solid swim.

T1 (Transition 1)

I headed out of the pool and along a carpet over the gravel parking lot.  Even with the carpet, I couldn't run, because the rocks hurt my feet too much.  Right before transition, it changed to a smoother surface, so I jogged the rest of the way to my spot.

I was feeling a bit off, so the biggest time waster in transition was taking a minute to puff my inhaler.  Instantly, I felt better, so even if I refer to it as a "time waster", I know it was worth doing.  Allergies are killing me lately!
My transition spot
Even though I haven't done a triathlon in ages, the actions of transition came very naturally.  Swim cap and goggles off while running, toss them down.  Put on race belt, sunglasses and helmet.  Roll on socks (yes, I wear socks) and put on shoes.  A victory!  I remembered to leave my bike shoes open - that was a mistake I made multiple times last year.

I then proceeded to forget my gloves, unrack my bike, and head out of transition.  (I've never used bike gloves in a triathlon before, and am well aware I don't need them for as sprint.  However, I am planning on using them for my half ironman, so had planned to practice with them.  Next time!)

T1 time: 2:20 (A bit slow, considering there was no wetsuit to get out of, but reasonable.)


The bike is still an area where I see a lot of potential for improvement.  Even though I've gotten faster and more confident this year, I still have a ways to go.  Having said that, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do.

In past races, I've always taken the bike pretty easy.  Now, granted, I realize you can't go too hard on the bike, or you'll burn yourself out on the run.  Still, it shouldn't be totally casual either.  I wanted to push.

And push I did.  I averaged a great pace on my way out, even with some (slight) uphills.  I was able to drink some, though not as much as I wish I could.  I still need to practice that.

I passed a few people early on, but not too many after that.  Pool swim races have people fairly spread out, so there isn't nearly as much passing.  I also got passed a couple of times, which didn't surprise me either.  I expected a bit of both.

Before long, I reached the "turn around" point.  Not exactly a turn around, because it was more of a loop, but back the other direction.  Wow!  What a wind.  Not only was the pavement a lot rougher in that section, but we were suddenly going into a massive headwind.  This is where I got much worse about hydrating.  I've gotten better about grabbing the water bottle while pedaling, but not in big winds.

Regardless, I kept going and tried to stop looking at my speed.  In general, I'm trying to focus mainly on my cadence and rate of perceived exertion.  If those match up, I'm good.  No point in pushing harder.  See, I really am getting better at not stressing!

Truthfully, the rest of the bike course isn't that clear in my mind, but when I rolled in, I was ready to be done the bike.  Yes, I've spent many more hours on the bike then I did that day, but I was ready to run!

I rolled into transition and around a couple sharp corners and saw my husband and kids.  Yay!  We didn't know if they'd make it on time to see me race.  My husband informs me that I took those corners at about a third the speed of most other people (a bit more work on bike handling, perhaps...)

Bike time (25 km course): 57:40

T2 (Transition 2)

Transition two went pretty smoothly, other then the fact that I had to actually tie my running shoes up.  Yes, I know about speedlaces, and yankz, but I just hadn't gotten them ahead of time.  On the shoes I raced in last year, it took quite a while to get them adjusted right, so I decided to just forgo them for this race.

T2 time: 1:19


Version 1 (For those people that have weak stomachs or don't understand certain "aspects" of running.)

I had an alright run.  Wasn't feeling 100 percent because my stomach hurt.  Pushed through it and managed to maintain a decent pace despite being in pretty serious discomfort at times.

Version 2 (For runners, and those that get us)

When I headed out on my run, I knew right away that I didn't feel great.  But, that's normal.  Just hang on, and it gets better right.  When I looked at my garmin, I was running a sub-6:00/km pace, so I figured I'd be okay if I just kept going.

It was around the end of the first km when I knew things weren't good.  Oh, my stomach.  Oh, my bowels.  Oh crap.  Literally.  I needed to crap.

Porta-potty?  Yeah right.  This was a sprint course.  It was *only* a 5 km run.  The likelihood of a porta-potty was almost nill.  I kept hoping it would get better, but I kept an eye on the side of the course.  Sparse trees, an occasional bush, residential neighbourhoods...  Just for the record, there are some circumstances where 5k seems really, really long.

The longer I ran, the more the pain built up.  I wasn't feeling like I would actually explode - yet (thank god), but it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  Ironically, it hurt so much that I think I forgot to notice the hills I was running up.  I passed a girl walking up the hill at about 2.5km.  She congratulated me for running up the hill.  Oh?  We were on a hill?  Bushes!  There were some thicker bushes!

I practically snubbed the girl by turning my back on her and heading for the bushes.  Yes.  I did.  Right in the middle of the race.  I'm sure I wasn't completely obscured, but I figured it was the best I'd get, and thank god for what I got.  Does that make me a "real" runner now?  ;)

After the detour for the bushes, I felt better.  Not great, but better.  Passed the aid station and grabbed some water.  I figured it was close enough to the end of the race that the sports drink would have limited benefit and it didn't appeal to me at all anyways.  That's something I'll have to work on.  Sweet drinks completely lose their appeal for me quite early in races.

From that point, it was mostly downhill, so I picked up the pace.  It was starting to hurt again, but not in a way that I feared put me at risk of creating a viral photo that everybody shudders to see.  Besides, I think that guy qualified for Kona or something.

I wasn't totally happy with my pace, but not completely upset by it.  My garmin was measuring the course as a bit long, but when I reached the fourth kilometer marker, I did a bit of math in my head.  If I could run a 5:20 pace for the last kilometer, I could still break 30 minutes on the run.  Sadly, I didn't quite make it, running about 5:30 for the rest of the race.  Also, sadly, I didn't even come close to the 30 minute mark.  The course was almost half a kilometer long, and the majority of it was in that final kilometer.

You could see the finish line for a long time, which is good and bad.  Seems to take a long time to get there, but I like the point in the race when you can stop focusing on your pace or time and just focus on getting to the finish line.  I turned a corner and headed in.

I think this is the first race photo ever taken of me that I kind of like.  Love the fact that I'm actually airborne.
I crossed the finish line and was done.  That run had hurt more then just about any run I've done before.  If it was a training run, I'm quite sure I would have stopped, but in a race I pushed through.  I proved to myself that I can push through a lot more then I realized.

Run time: 32:21 (5.5km race) I would have loved to see a lower time, but this is one of my runs that I'm the most proud of.  I was in the most pain I've ever ran through (quick note, not the kind of pain that I felt could cause injury) and I still ran.  I averaged about a 5:55 pace throughout the race, even counting the time that I may have been completely stopped behind some bushes.

Overall time: 1:51:58  I'm happy with my execution of this race, even if there were a couple of challenges.  The time doesn't mean a huge amount, as it is a different distance from all my other sprints.

I thought this race was very well organized, but I doubt I'll do it again.  I just can't justify a hotel room for a sprint, and I'm not eager to drive for 2-plus hours at 4:00am again.

Coming tomorrow: The kids' race!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Racing tomorrow!

And I am breaking my traditions!  No picture because we're having some laptop issues.  There will also be no morning of post.  I'm too cheap for a hotel room, so I'm doing the two-ish hour drive at 4:00am tomorrow.

It's a sprint: 750m pool swim, 25km bike ride, 5k run.  Like all the sprints I've done, the distances are different, so no direct comparison.


1. PUSH myself.  No playing it safe.  I'd rather push hard and have to walk for a minute then finish with lots in the tank.  I want to see what I can do.

2. Have fun!

3. Enjoy watching Spud and Sweetpea do their second (Spud) and first (Sweetpea) triathlon!

Yipee!  First triathlon since September!

Off to bed!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Runniversary, Niggles, doubts, and racing!


Today is my runniversary.  Two years ago today, I did my very first run.  In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.  In other ways, I can still remember that run like it was yesterday.  One thing is clear, the steps that followed that first one have shaped, changed and defined me as a person.

I did it at the track to make sure I kept the option of returning my shoes if they didn't work.  None of the high tech gadgets like garmins and heart rate monitors I use now.  I didn't even have a watch, so I used the big clock on the wall and switched between running and walking when the minute changed.  I went into that run hopeful but nervous.  Could I actually run for one solid minute?  Turned out I could.  Times 10.


With today being my runniversary, I really wanted to do a run that was a bit of a repeat of that first one two years ago.  It's not to be though.  My foot is bothering me, and I've self diagnosed it as potential metatarsalgia.  It feels like there's a lump under the ball of my foot, and it hurts a bit walking around.

If there's one thing I'm finally starting to learn, it's that you don't ignore those niggles, regardless of what the training plan says.  No running today, and hopefully it will feel better tomorrow, when I'm supposed to run with Keith and Sophia.  I have a vague feeling I've felt this before, so I'm hoping it will go away soon.


Today I was thinking about the cutoff times for my half ironman in July.  I'm a bit nervous about it.  I know I should be able to make them - provided nothing goes wrong.  Even swimming off course, I should be okay.

Truthfully, what I've been stressing about is the bike.  There's a couple sections of road that are really rough, and I'm SLOW there.  My average speed on most rides is right around what I need to maintain, just to make the cutoffs - and that's not taking into account the possibility of a flat tire...

Having said that, I can only control what's in my power.  Looking back at my bike times from last seasons' races, I should be solid in terms of my pace on the bike.  And, I'm a stronger cyclist as well as more confident going down hills.  That's got to translate, right?


Maybe the nerves are just a precursor to my first triathlon of the season!  I'm racing on Sunday.  It's "just" a sprint, so it should be a good way to get warmed up for more racing.  (Trust me, particularly on my runniversary, I realize how it sounds to say "just" a sprint.)

As exciting as my own race on Sunday is my kids' race.  Sweetpea will be doing her very first triathlon and Spud will do his second one.  They are both super excited about it.  Sweetpea particularly wants a medal...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Finding my running groove again!

My blog's been pretty quiet lately.  I've said it before, and I'll admit it again right now: when my blog is quiet, things aren't great.  It doesn't mean they're necessarily bad, but they definitely aren't clicking completely, and I'm certainly not feeling very inspired.

Lately, I've been loving my bike rides, but as for everything else, meh.  My swimming has been horrible because of the muscle cramping issues (which I might actually have solved!  More on that in a future post.)  My running has just been unexciting.  I've continued to do it, but it's varied from "meh" to "I'm dying!"  Not very much of the zen runs or feeling great pushing myself type runs.

Today, I was running at the track (I test for garmin sometimes.  On one hand, awesome because I get paid for running.  On the other hand, not so awesome because most of the testing is at the track).

Often testing sessions are start and stop.  Today, I was told to just run for as long as I felt like.  So, I did.  I had my ipod and made use of it.  Music isn't needed for all runs - unless they are solo track runs, then it becomes compulsory.  I pumped up the music and ran.

The first ten minutes were exactly what I expected.  Not great.  Even when things are clicking for me, I rarely love the first ten minutes of any run.  It's just a hump I have to get over.  As I continued to run though, it started to feel better.  Then all of the sudden, I switched gears and I was there.

Just running.  No longer caring about how long I'd gone for.  No fighting to make my legs move.  I felt like I'd moved from a slightly fast shuffle to a smooth, comfortable stride.  My legs just carried me.  I wasn't even hearing the music.  I felt amazing.

On the track.  Go figure.

This is why I run.

This is why I still run even when I'm going through a stage where I'm not liking it.  It's for these moments.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yep, that dork talking to herself? That's me.

Yesterday, I went for my bike ride.  Now, I don't know how much I've mentioned it, but one of the things I'm working on the most is hills.  We're not talking how to get up them.  We're talking how to get down them, without throwing all that free speed away into the brakes.  It has nothing to do with fitness, but rather bravery and comfort on the bike.

My route yesterday was a perfect route to work on going down hills.  It was a completely straight road, with constant rolling hills.  So, after working my way to the top of each crest, I had a hill to test my gumption going down.  There was also an uphill on the other side of the down, which I could use to make it easier mentally.

What I would do is choose a point to which I needed to stay off the brakes until.  The point I picked was always a point when I would start going up just slightly.  It was a mental trick - once I got there, I'd be going uphill, and therefore unlikely to engage the brakes at all.  Then, I'd go down the hill.  Spinning at first, but then usually coasting the rest of the way and holding on...  and talking to myself.

I was doing just that on one hill.  I'd marked a darker spot of pavement as my allowed braking point, and I was talking myself through it.  Now, I must admit that I talk to myself a lot during training and races.  Sometimes it's in my head, especially if I'm working particularly hard.  Sometimes it's out loud, and while going down hills, sometimes it's just plain loud.

"Alright, here we go.  Stay loose.  Stay off the brakes.  Let the hill carry you," I told myself as I picked up speed.  "Don't lock those elbows, stay off the brakes, relax," I was getting faster and starting to reach the threshold where I get nervous.  "NO BRAKES!  STAY LOOSE!  NOT UNTIL YOU GET TO THAT POINT!  YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!"  The drill sergeant came out and I picked up the final jolt of speed.

Then I hit the point where the downhill changed to an uphill.  Seconds later I reached the point where the dark spot of pavement was designated as my allowed braking spot.  But, I was going uphill now.  A bit of my speed had already been given to the hill, and there was no doubt that I would very soon have to work to get the rest of the way up.

"There, see, now you don't need to brake."

And, just at that point, two cyclists came past me and said hello.  Had they heard me talking to myself?  Yelling at myself?  Yeah, I think so.  The smile the first guy gave me seemed to be encouraging though.  They were obviously experienced, and they could have laughed at me, but didn't.  That's not to say they didn't still think I was crazy though...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Good thing I like biking right now...

...Because lately, I am bloody frustrated with swimming.

I seem to get muscle cramps pretty much every time I swim.  It doesn't seem to matter if I go into it fully rested, or if I am tuckered out from recent activity.  If I'm lucky, the cramps happen in the arch of my foot or toes.  Unlucky, it's my calf muscles or quads that seize up on me.

I can't count how many swims lately I have cut short.  Throwing a pull buoy in helps somewhat, although on a bad night, they seize up anytime I let my foot out of a fully flexed position.  I've normally got a pretty strong kick off the wall, and I haven't been doing that lately, to try to avoid the added stress on those muscles, but it still happens.

It also sometimes happens when I sleep.  I wake up in intense agony as a muscle seizes up on me.  Last week, there was a night when it was my hip flexor doing it repeatedly, and it happened repeatedly, to the point that I was seriously sore upon waking.

After that experience, I decided to focus more on hydration, as I thought it might be a cause.  I'm also getting more electrolytes in - I need to find one that works for me anyways, as I switched to mainly water and gels when gatorade started upsetting my stomach.  I've decided to go into a full fledged attack on these muscle cramps with the following strategies:

1. HYDRATION:  I used to be great about getting water in, but as my training load increased, for some reason my fluid intake actually went down.  I stopped drinking as much in the evening, so I wouldn't wake up to pee.  I stopped bothering to carry any during shorter runs.  I don't like to go into swims with much in my stomach.  The switch to outdoor biking meant I didn't reach for my bottle as often...

In the last week, I have been focusing on getting more in and the cramps seem to have lessened (though not at all gone away.)  That makes me think it is indeed part of the puzzle, though not all of it.  The important thing is that I keep up the increased water intake.  Get up, have water.  Eat breakfast, have 2 glasses of water.  Do stuff around the house, drink water anytime I go into the kitchen...

2. ELECTROLYTES:  Like I said earlier, I stopped drinking gatorade because it upset my stomach.  But, foolishly, I haven't yet replaced it with anything.  I generally just use water and gel for runs, or water, food, and gels on the bike.  As my distances get longer and the temperatures get hotter, it would be a really good idea to figure out something that works for me.  I have been using GU Brew, which is a calorie free electrolyte replacement, but I need something that will also act as a fuel.  I'm starting with Ironman Perform because that is probably what will be on the 70.3 course (although they haven't yet said for sure - annoying.)  What's your favourite sports drink?

3. MULTIVITAMIN:  Am I missing some vitamin or mineral in my diet?  I don't know, but I figure it can't hurt to cover the bases.  I should be taking a multivitamin anyway, so even if it isn't part of the cramping issue, it's a habit I should get back into regardless.

4. CALCIUM:  Everybody blames muscle cramps on low potassium and tells me to eat bananas (which I do), but Dr. Google indicates that a calcium shortage can often be the problem.  So, three servings of calcium a day, between milk, cheese, and yogurt.  If this isn't the issue, then I'll still help me avoid osteoporosis.

5. EAT CLEAN(ish): My diet has not been bad lately, but there are definitely days it's not as good as it could be.  I've had the most luck, and felt the best when I am eating almost entirely clean.  I need the calories, but they need to be high quality calories.

So, what's with the "ish"?  I haven't figured out how to do sports nutrition without processed sugar, and I'm not sure I need to.  There are times that your body needs easily digested, simple carbs, and during long or heavy training is one of those.  This is another category that may not have anything to do with the muscle cramps, but the only side effects to focusing on it are good ones.

6. DOCTOR:  I'm due for an annual physical anyway and am seeing my doctor this week.  I'm going to ask for her feedback on this.  I think that a somewhat low sodium intake and high sodium output (through sweat) could be a culprit, but given most of the population gets too much sodium, I'm hesitant to start adding it in willy nilly (though adding sports drinks will increase it somewhat).   Perhaps something else is wacky in my body and out of balance.  I'll see if she wants to do any blood tests.

Janice (one of the coaches at swim) suggested that it is partly muscle fatigue and due to my training load.  That worries me a bit.  My total training load right now is probably just a bit higher then what I peaked at for my Olympic triathlon, although it's distributed differently, since I'm spending more time on the bike and less on the run.  (I over focused on the run and under focused on the bike while training up to my Oly last year).  My overall training volume will just keep going up (through following my plan, so no crazy jumps in volume).  If the muscle cramps continue, I may consider cutting out speedwork and just get the mileage in, but I really hope it doesn't come down to that.

Argh!  So frustrating!

Do you ever get muscle cramps?  Found a way to deal with them?
What's your favourite sports drink or electrolyte replacement?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A letter to a truck driver

Dear logging truck driver,

Go back to driving school.
In the meantime, let me give you a little hint: if you have a red light, you are required to yield to traffic with the green.  This includes bicycles.
I wish I could say: Consider yourself lucky that I was going slightly uphill, so was going slow.
I wish I could say: Consider yourself lucky that you were pulling a load, so were going slow.
I wish I could say: Consider yourself lucky that I always assume drivers won't honour my right of way.
But, I can't.  Because you're not lucky.  I'm the one that would have paid the price for your stupidity.
I consider myself lucky.
I consider you an idiot.


The apparently invisible cyclist in the bright red jacket

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You know your bike shorts suck when...

You know your bike shorts suck when you're more comfortable riding in a skirt.

My outfit for my ride yesterday.  Kind of stylish, but not very  serious looking.
I suffer from a complex that a lot of overweight people do.  I refuse to spend significant money on clothes, because I don't want to wear that size, and I plan to shrink out of it.  Because of that, I only have one pair of cycling shorts, and they are cheap ones from MEC.  Now, they aren't horrible, and with the use of chamois butter, I've been okay going for rides as long as three hours.  Having said that, they aren't great either.

Yesterday morning, I realized that I had not washed said shorts.  I had a ride planned for the afternoon, so even if I washed them, they wouldn't be dry in time, since they don't go in the dryer and the chamois takes a while to dry.  I had a few choices: I could wear my shorts dirty, I could wear my tri shorts, or I could wear my cycling skirt, which I had bought for casual rides on my hybrid with the kids.

My last ride had been a 3 hour one, so the idea of re-wearing those shorts wasn't appealing.  I've decided I don't like my tri shorts, as they are too short, have no grippers, and ride up (I'll be getting new tri shorts this season).  So, that left me with the option of wearing my skirt (which does have bike shorts underneath).

And, it was way more comfortable then my regular shorts.  The chamois was much softer, and didn't annoy me as much.  I will admit that the skirt flapping in the wind was annoying, so I won't do it regularly, but it was a very good lesson that there are different qualities of bike shorts and I might want to upgrade, particularly as my long rides continue to get longer.

Now, since I've been getting delinquent in posting pictures lately, here's one from yesterday's ride:

The clouds look pretty cool.  I was afraid I'd get rained on even though the weather forecast said no rain.  I was glad to find out that the forecaster was right that time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sometimes a little push can be good

I've started occasionally running with my husband.

I have to admit that I have just a tiny bit of bitterness that he can outrun me.  I've been consistently training for almost 2 years, and he's been running once every week or two since the summer time.  Now, he'd happily agree that I have way more endurance then he does.  In a 10k or longer race, it would be no contest.  But over shorter distances, he can leave me in the dust.

Last weekend, we went on short run while the kids were in a swimming lesson.  We were doing run/walk intervals, but he was slowing down a bit so that he could try running longer then the three minutes he does occasionally when he was running on his own.  We had planned to just go by feel, and I was determined to hang on.  Come hell or high water, I was NOT going to be the one to call for a walk break.

We went off at a nice casual (for him) and bloody fast (for me) pace.  About 5:00/km (8:00/mile).  And I held on.  For 4.5 minutes.  Until he called for a walk break.  We did some more running, and some more walking.  It was just a short run, since we only had 25 minutes with both kids in lessons.

Later, I gave him a hard time about how he was trying to kill me.  "That's faster then I do speedwork!"  I told him.

Um, faster then I do speedwork?  Faster then I run for 30-60 seconds at a time (depending what the workout is)?  Yes, it was.  But it raised a question: if I was capable of running for 4.5 minutes at that speed, why am I doing my speedwork slower then that?

It wasn't comfortable, but that's not the point.  The point is that I was completely capable of holding onto that pace for almost five minutes, and therefore, I am probably not pushing myself hard enough at other times.

I suppose I can learn the occasional thing from my husband.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Canada Geese freak me out

There are plenty of challenges that come with running.  One of them is probably the wildlife.  Now, I won't deny that I've had issues with dogs.  Unless it's an off leash area, keep them on a leash.  And as for terrifying, aggressive german shepherds that chase me?  Well, enough said.

This post, however, is not about dogs.  It's about a close runner up in the scary wildlife department.

Canada Geese.

Seriously.  These things are freaky.  My most used running routes pass ponds and rivers and therefore, I sometimes have to go through flocks of these things.  They hiss and spit.  I envision myself being surrounded by them and then engulfed, never to be heard of again.

I thought a flock was the scariest thing to go through, but I was wrong.  On Tuesday, I was running.  It was a rainy, drizzly day, so the paths were pretty much deserted. 

Except for me.  

And a Canada Goose.

Just one.

It's like he was sitting there waiting for me.  Right next to the path.  "Don't make eye contact," I thought, as I carried on and ran past.  "Hssssss," he said as I went past him.  I was doing an out and back route, but I detoured a bit on the back part so that I could avoid him.

Then yesterday, I was running again.  He was there again.  All by himself.  (I swear, it was the same one!)  He's stalking me.  I don't know what's going on in his head.  Is he watching my route so he can report back to his buddies?  I might be having nightmares about scary geese.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Open Water Swim Clinic

For the record, I'm not nearly as short as this picture makes me look.  I'm actually tall.  Jordan is just really tall.

Recently, I was hanging out on facebook, and I saw a link with information about an open water swim clinic, run by Jordan Bryden, a professional triathlete.  In this climate, the open water swim options are extremely limited, which means I don't get a lot of practice.  I also haven't had any open water specific swim instruction.  I've done a couple open water races, swam a bit in open water and I've read about technique as well as watching some utube videos, but I learn best with practical instruction.  This clinic fit the bill.

I'm pretty comfortable swimming in the pool, and my technique has improved incredible amounts in the time I've been getting coaching from Angie.  But, the thing is, that's with cute little ropes between the lanes and lines on the bottom of the pool to help me go straight.  You don't get those in a lake.

This clinic wasn't actually in open water.  (Most of the open water locations around here probably still have ice on them.)  It was in a swimming pool, with the lane ropes removed and buoys in the pool.

After a bit of ineptness at finding the pool, I still managed to arrive in time.  (The pool was on one of the post secondary campuses in Calgary, and I apparently read the campus map upside down or something.)  Thank goodness I had planned to be a bit early.

Once everybody had gathered, we sat down and Jordan went over some of the basics of open water swimming.   I won't get into everything, but one of the main things he talked about was sighting, and the main mistakes most people make while sighting, which include raising your head too high, and not putting it back down far enough.


Then into the pool and into wetsuits for those of us that had them.  I was almost used as a volunteer, but I acted like a teenage girl and begged not to be made an example of.  Truth is, I remembered how much time it took me last year to get the bottom of my wetsuit on, and I just didn't want everyone staring at me while I attempted it.  In the end, it seems that the little bit of weight I've lost since then has made it considerably easier (too easy?).  Good thing, I haven't gained weight instead; wetsuits keep you very honest...


Then it was time to hop into the pool.  Like I said, there were no lane lines, and we were in close quarters, so there was definitely a need for more awareness then you have in the average pool swim.  After warming up, we started doing lengths with different focuses.  Then, it was onto swimming around the buoys.

Jordan talked about some of the challenges of open water swimming and covered some techniques.  They had buoys in the pool, so we swam around them quite a few times, practicing sighting.  He also covered some techniques of getting around corners, two of which involved doing a single backstroke or a double stroke to get around the corner.

Jordan, Madi Serpico (his girlfriend and also a pro triathlete), and Russell (super fast swimmer guy) did a demonstration that was very cool to watch.  I love how good swimmers make it look so easy, even though I know they're probably going double my speed.

There was a lot to absorb, and in some ways it was slightly overwhelming.  Having said that, for me, this is one of the best ways to learn.  Some of it will stick with me right away.  Some of it I'll practice.  Some of it, I won't really remember until it's introduced to me again, at which point it will stick better because of my previous experience with it.

It was also a much different feeling swimming in a group of people - not entirely comfortable.  However, we all know that being comfortable doesn't really bring any kind of growth.  Besides which, races don't involve lane lines and lots of space between swimmers.

Some race advice

After we finished the swim Jordan went over some more advice when it comes to racing.  A couple of key points was that he suggested being aggressive at the start and the turns.  Those are the areas where gaps tend to appear and you risk getting stuck behind slow feet.  One thing that surprised me was that he did not suggest swimming to the outside.  That's probably the most heard piece of advice given to rookie triathletes.  Among other things, he made the point that if everyone thinks it's the lower traffic area, it's not going to be -  a valid point.

Initially, it seemed like his advice was more geared to people trying to win the race, but it didn't take me long to realize that it's advice for anyone racing a race, rather then simply finishing a race.  Most of us that do this as more then a bucket list thing are trying to beat our own times, and do our best, even if we don't expect to place.  Therefore, we are racing.

The video analysis:

It wasn't pretty.  In fact, when I saw it, I initially denied it was me.  I was flailing.  My head was coming way out of the water, even on my non-sighting breaths.  My hands were coming above my elbows.  I was crossing way over with my stroke.  Yikes.  The list could go on.

Upon reflection, I concluded that there are a few main issues that affected my form while being videoed:

1. I was out of my element.  Swimming in a group kind of flustered me.  I was focusing on "going fast" rather then focusing on keeping my form solid and pulling a lot water.  That never works for me.

2. Trying to sight really did screw me up.  I did exactly what Jordan said is one of the most common mistakes.  I raised my head too high when sighting.  I didn't put it back down far enough, and then brought it out too much just for regular breaths.  Doing this messed up my form further by dropping my hips even more then usual.  I could just not sight in races, but then I might end up in the Atlantic ocean instead of getting to the swim finish.  Alternatively, I might want to practice that sighting thing a bit...

3. I'm not as good a swimmer as I thought I was.  This may sound negative, but it's not at all.  The thing is, in my first year of swim coaching, I saw a speed increase of around 20% and my comfort in the water went way up.  I know very well that I still have work to do, but I thought I was past the big improvements and into the land of celebrating tiny ones.  Not so.  After seeing myself there, I'm confident that there's a couple breakthroughs left to be had.

Final thoughts

If there is one area in triathlon where coaching is the most important, it's on the swim.  To a large extent, you will get faster on the bike and run by putting the time in.  Unless you have a background as a competitive swimmer, this simply isn't true for swimming.  If you don't get the technique down, you will simply work harder and work harder.  That's where refining the technique makes such a difference.  With better technique, you go faster at the same effort level, and when you work harder, you actually go faster.  I honestly believe that one of the best investments you can make is swim coaching.

I was really happy with the clinic that Jordan ran.  I won't say it was always easy or comfortable.  But if it was, it wouldn't have been worth my time.  He did a great job of simulating open water in a pool environment, a fabulous opportunity for those of us that live and train with an extremely short open water season.  I learned new skills and became more aware of some of my current limiters.

For anyone in the Calgary area, Jordan and Madi Serpico are running a training camp on the May long weekend.  I won't be able to attend it, but if you are interested, I highly recommend it.