Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coming back from sickness

One of the biggest challenges I face as a triathlete is with how much I get sick.  I have little plague carriers in my house, and with their viruses, they tend to bring a dose of sleep deprivation, making me extra susceptible to the contagion they are hitting me with.

Having said that, I love my darling little plague carriers.

The problem with being sick is that it leaves you feeling completely out of shape, and like you can't do anything.  Even if you logically know that your fitness doesn't disappear that quickly, having days where you're out of breath walking across the house makes you wonder how you ever managed to run, let alone doing it for hours at a time.

In preparing for my recent 10k race, I had looked at my blog from this time last year.  It was the same.  I was repeatedly sick, in fact, even more than I have been this year.  Plus, I was dealing with knee issues that didn't get fixed until I changed my bike pedals.  That issue had my missing a lot of biking and running.  I was left floundering, and still managed to figure it out without hurting myself or giving up.

So, I'll get through this.

One major difference I have now is my coach.  Rather then questioning whether I'm okay to just get back to my program, I sent her an email.  I don't have to wonder whether I should reduce volume, or if I'm safe to do speed work.  Instead, I can rely on her education, personal experience and experience coaching other athletes.

I trust she will also tell me that I am not completely out of shape.  A week out of the game doesn't mean I've gone back to a sedentary lifestyle.  And then, I'll have to believe it, because it's coming from somebody that I believe knows these things.

For now though, I'm going for a run.  How far or fast, I don't know.  We'll see what my lungs are telling me.  I'm not 100% yet, but I'm ready to get back in the game.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An unreasonable fear I have no intention of confronting...

There's a new race coming to town.  It's a pretty cool anytime a race comes to my town, as most races are held in Calgary, the nearby city.

This one is generating a lot of excitement.  I'm seeing friends post about it on facebook.  One person, that told me she finds running boring, is doing it.  I think it's awesome when something coming into the community inspires that many people to be active and have fun.

So, what is it?

It's the zombie survivor race.

Image Source

I will not be doing it.

I could say it's because it happens a week before my second half Ironman.  I don't have to ask my coach to know she would not think an obstacle type race is a bad idea so close to a Half Ironman.  Even though that's true, that's not the main reason why I'm not doing this race.

It's because zombies freak me out.  Really freak me out.

Generally speaking, I'm all about confronting my fears.  Getting out of your comfort zone is what makes you grow.  But sometimes... um, not so much.

I have never done well with horror movies.  When I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9?), I watched one at a friend's house that had nasty things coming out of the closet.  I don't even remember the details of the movie, just that I was terrified of leaving my closet even cracked open for months afterwards.  I couldn't even tell my parents, because I wasn't allowed to watch horror movies, and I thought I'd be in trouble.

There is one particular genre of horror movies that I find particularly bothersome.


When my husband and I were first dating, I tried to watch a zombie movie with him.  I just couldn't handle it.  It made me feel physically ill.

No Zombie Survivor race for me.

You should do it though.  It looks pretty cool.

Me?  Well, I'm afraid they'd keep following me.  I don't want to do a triathlon the next weekend with fears of the undead pulling me underwater, knocking me off my bike, or dragging me into the bushes...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Race Report - St Patty's day 10K

This morning, I posted my race goals, and mentioned the possibly adverse conditions of cold, snow, and wind.  I also mentioned that I have raced in worse.  And, I have.  On a day that I never should have raced, and I don't say that lightly.  The "worse" race I have done was one where people broke bones and got concussions.

Now, by no means do I think today was a day that I shouldn't have raced.  It was hard, but I never felt unsafe.  This was a challenging race.

I got up at a reasonable time this after a decent night's sleep.  I had enough time to throw up a quick blog post, check the weather, get all my stuff organized, etc.  I double checked everything I needed, and set out early enough to give myself enough time to get parked and ready.

As was driving into the city, I considered the snow a bit further, and the fact that I might need to adjust my race time goals, since the footing was going to be rough.  I congratulated myself on remembering my heart rate monitor, since it is probably my most forgotten piece of equipment on race day.  I could go by heart rate, rather then pace, if need be.  And then I realized it...

I had forgotten my garmin.

Too late to turn back.  Not going to ask my husband to rush the kids out of bed and bring it for me.  No garmin.  Okay, remember goal number 1: Don't let the uncontrollable get to me.  That was something in my control at home, but once I was into the city and halfway there without it, it was no longer in my power.

A person does not need a garmin to run.

Really, you don't.

When I got to the race, I met up with a bunch of team mates, and we snapped this photo.  (Warning, I did not have my camera, and do not own a smart phone, so this is the only picture you will see in my race report.  For more pictures of the day, go read Leana's race report - which really, you should read anyways.)

Stolen from Runner Leana's blog
Before long, it was time to go.  I went outside and did a short warm up and then headed for the starting line, where I jumped up and down for a couple minutes to stay warm.  It was -22C,  (-7F) with windchill, so a bit on the chilly side...

And then we were off.  I love the start of a race, and it has been way too long since I have done one.  Just the energy of the people around me!  Last time I did this race, I quickly discovered that I had seeded myself too far forward, because, while I held my pace, it was a like a sea passing by me.  This time it was the opposite.  Some of the people around me were going about the same pace, but I found myself trying to get around quite a few others.  Perhaps I'd seeded myself too far forward?  Maybe I was running too fast?  I couldn't really tell, but I felt good, and it didn't feel too hard - yet. So, I figured it was okay.

Then, it was up a bit, and down a bit.  None of the hills in this course are really climbs, but there are quite a few long gradual ups and downs.  The first half of the course has a lot more downs and and the second half is more up.  I intended to use the free speed from the downhills.

I had no idea how fast I was going.  I used to be pretty good at the "guess my pace" game.  In other words, I could consider my effort, make a guess of my pace, and when checking my garmin, I'd be pretty close.  I'm not good at that game anymore.  Lately, I've been running faster then I guess, be it a comfortable run, or speed intervals, so my ability to guess my pace has tanked.  Today, I had no chance.  Added to my already poor ability to guess my pace, was the fact that every step I took had a bit of extra effort, as I pushed off and my feet slid in the snow.  It felt like I was working hard, but I didn't feel like I was getting my legs moving as fast as I should.

On the plus side, while the footing was rough, there was very few truly slippery spots.  The cold wasn't really hurting me either.  If anything, I felt a bit overdressed at first and unzipped my top jacket and took off my gloves.  I changed my mind about being overdressed whenever I ran into the wind though, and was glad for my layers.

I concluded pretty early on that today wasn't going to be a personal record type of day. While I believe myself fully capable of setting a new 10K PR, it's going to take course conditions that are better.  Not necessarily perfect, but with an already somewhat hilly course and the completely uneven footing from snow, I knew I had to let that goal go.  I didn't know what I was going to be able to run it in though.  Beat last year's time on this course of 58:24?  Perhaps a sub-60 minute run was all I should hope for?

Around km 6 was where things went from uncomfortable to hard.  (I can't say for sure since I was relying on distance markers - many of which I didn't see at all because they were snow covered - and memory to know what distance I was at.)  Angie had warned me to expect 6-8 to be the hardest part of the race.  In this particular race, that was especially true.  This was one of the long, gradual uphills, on the most exposed section of the course, with the wind blowing right in our faces.

I just had to remind myself to keep my legs moving.  The wind was unpleasant, but it wasn't going to kill me.  It was like running in sand, but plenty of people love to run on beaches, right?

Off the long stretch and into a little loop before going up onto the overpass...  In the absence of my garmin, breaking the course down into sections helped me get through it.  Once I did that loop, I knew it was less then 2 km to the finish line.  So, all I had to do was get through this part and then it was into the home stretch.

It was hard, and I have to admit, I couldn't wait to finish this race and get to that stew.  "The faster I run, the faster I'm done", I said to myself.  Just keep going.  Let it hurt, but keep running.

Once I was past the overpass, I felt like I was golden.  There was even a reward of a downhill right there.  I picked up the pace a bit.  Almost there...

Around a couple corners and the final road in.  I was thankful this was my third year doing this race, because I knew from experience that seeing the finish line doesn't mean it's close.  It's still a while till you get there.  Down, then up, but by the time you are going up, you really are almost there.

I still didn't know how fast I was running, and with the blowing snow, it was a while before I could make out the numbers.  When I finally saw them, the clock was just past 1:03.

I felt like I had been slapped in the face.

The thing is, I knew I had to adjust my expectations with the conditions, but I actually felt like I'd run a pretty solid race.  The lack of garmin may have hurt my pacing a bit, but where it really hurt was the fact that I was taken totally by surprise when I saw that number.  Nothing I could do at the moment, so I pushed through and finished the race.

In the end, I had a chip time of 1:02:59.  Eight minutes slower then my goal, 4:35 slower then I did this course last year.  No sub-60 and the only 10k race I've run slower was my very first one - including the run portion of the two Olympic triathlons I've done.

I am usually pretty realistic about my ability going into a race.  This was the first time I was so far off in my expectations.  The first finishing time to bring tears to my face.

Standing around crying, right after you stop running, in -22c weather, isn't really the best idea.  Plus, I didn't want anybody to see me in that state, so I headed to my car.  (Why I'm okay with admitting it in the blogosphere, but not in person, I can't explain.)

Once there, I took a moment.  Logic vs emotions.  Logic vs emotions.  I can generally at least partially convince myself with logic.

Fact is, I felt good about how I raced until the last 10 seconds, when I could make out the finishing clock.  I felt like I held on, despite adverse conditions.  I didn't let the course beat me.  Yes, I didn't get the time I'd hoped for, but I knew that time was out of reach very early on.  Sure, it was one of my slower times, but it was also the toughest 10k course I'd done.  Period.

I pulled myself together and headed inside for some Irish stew.  I found my team mates and hung out while we all tried to win our weight in beer.  Sadly, it was not won by anybody in our group, so no beer to bring to Tuesday night spin.

Overall, a good day and a character building race.

Race Day Goals

Today, I am doing my first race since September.  The conditions of cold, wind, possible snow leave something to be desired.  Though, it won't be the worst I've ever raced in.

My goals:


The weather is what it is.  I can't control it.  Somebody might decide to take their 10 minute walk break when I'm right behind them.  I can control myself, but not the conditions or the people around me.

2. Have fun, pace well, finish strong.

I don't know completely how the conditions will affect my race.  The cold isn't the biggest factor.  The wind and the snow might be.  Regardless, I love running.  I'm dressed properly and doing this for fun.  My best pace might differ with the conditions.  I can still pace strongly.

3. Finish under 55:00.

I'm not ready to let this one go yet.  Granted, goal number 1 supercedes this goal if necessary, but today I am still shooting for personal best.

See you on the other side of the finish line!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Don't get cocky

pRecently, I told my coach that I was a little afraid of my 10K goal. (55:00, faster then I've ever run 10k, and faster then I ever thought I'd be able to run.)  Ready, but afraid.  Her response was essentially that some fear is good.  Allow just enough fear to keep me on my game and to use my head.

Whenever we receive advice, be it race advice, or otherwise, it's coloured by our own experience.  This was no exception, because when I considered her advice, I also considered my racing history.

I have a tendency to race either cocky or safe.  I've done some races where I paced beautifully, and maintained it easily throughout the race.  Easily.  Safe.  Then there's races I've gone into and run faster then I planned to.  Due to the fact that I used to be stuck in the "slow runner" mentality, I often underestimated my ability, so I got away with this tactic.  Except for when I didn't.  Then I crashed hard.

This time, I have a realistic goal.  But, it's not a safe goal.  I can do it, and to do so I have to stay on my game.  No getting cocky in kilometer 2 when 5:00/km suddenly seems easy and maintainable.  I need to hold myself to my pace/effort at the start, and then I need to hold onto it.  If I'm feeling cocky at km 8, I'll let myself run faster.  More likely it will hurt like hell to hold onto 5:30/km to hit my goal.  I will hold on.

Then there's the weather.  The cold weather.  Predicted to be -12c (-10f) or -21c (-6f) once windchill is considered.  Plus a couple inches of snow.  That might change my plans.  I kind of feel like karma is teaching me a lesson about all the indoor running I've done this winter.  On the plus side, it hasn't been warm enough to melt anything, so it shouldn't be slippery...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Selfish summer planning

The world has gotten crazy.  In our society of keeping up with the Jones's, certain things have reached new levels of ridiculousness.  Like the fact that NOW is the time to make summer daycamp plans.  If anything, I'm a little bit late, because some of these camps are already filling up.  I could be high and mighty and refuse to get sucked into it.  Or, I could do what I need to, because it just makes my life easier.

My kids both finish school at the end of June.  BUT, I am doing two major races in July, so I am selfishly putting my kids in daycamps from the last week of June to the end of July.  Don't worry, I'll let my kids have some unplanned, carefree time in August, but this is all about me baby!

Bike camp, sports camps, maybe soccer, a farm, art, nature, etc.  My major requirement for me is that it gives me some training time.  My major requirement for the sake of my kids is that it gets them outside, they have fun, and it lets them burn off some steam.

Sweetpea is still young enough that most of the camps are fairly general, and a half day.  Spud has a whole host of opportunities; I just have to pick.

Bike camp is a definite.  The kids did it last year, and it was great.  Spud was flying on his bike by the end, and Sweetpea gained lots of confidence.  Now to pick the others...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Looking for a challenge

I suffer from an affliction that is common to runners and triathletes.  I've seen it referred to as "FOMO" or "Fear Of Missing Out".

In other words, I pretty much want to do every race.  If the location looks cool, I want to do it.  If friends are doing it, I want to do it.  If I've done it before and liked it, I want to do it.  If I've done it before and been unhappy with the results, I need to do it again to redeem myself...

The problem of course, is there are only so many weeks in the year and days in the week.  The right program includes rest, taper and recovery time to balance out the days of racing and hard training.

But sometimes enthusiasm outweighs common sense.

The race I wanted to do this time is the Skirt Chaser race.  Basically, it's a 5K race where the women get a 3 minute headstart.  My plan was to do it with my husband, who to my endless frustration can run faster then me even on minimal training.  I figured I could do this race, run like hell, and hopefully not be passed by my frustratingly naturally fast husband.  Game on.

Another must do race for me is the Police Half Marathon.  The Police Half was my first half marathon.  It was a blizzard that day, so it made for brutally hard conditions.  Even though I finished the race, I felt like I gave up in the last few kilometers.  This race is a redemption race for me.  I'm going to pace well, finish strong and blow away my previous finish time on it.  Possibly even set a personal best on the distance, that was set on a much easier course.

The issue?  The Skirt Chaser race takes place a mere 5 days after the half marathon.  Once I realized the date issue, I knew it wasn't good.  So, I sent my coach an email to ask her anyways.  Maybe she'd let me do it?  The half marathon training might just help my speed?  She did let me sign up for 2 half ironman races 3 weeks apart, even though it wasn't ideal.

So, today's reason to have a coach?  To keep you from doing stupid things.

Her answer wasn't wishy washy.  It was quite clear: Not a good idea.  I'd suffer lots, and go nowhere.

Now, I don't think she's entirely accurate.  I'm quite sure, even on tired legs, I am capable of making forward progress.  I wouldn't go "nowhere".  Having said that, if I'm going to suffer, it better be while winning this challenge.  Her answer doesn't sound promising.

So, now to find another challenge.  I was hoping to have that three minute headstart as a bit of an equalizer, but maybe I should just go head to head with my husband?  He's been starting to run more regularly, so I might get blown away.  I still have an advantage of more experience pacing and the willingness to endure more pain.  Hmmm, now to find another 5K...