Saturday, July 30, 2011

A New Bike fit and a fabulous ride

Last weekend I went on my longest ride yet: a group ride that was supposed to be 55 km (34mi) and ended up being 65 km (40mi). By the end of it, I was struggling. The final 15 km were into a brutal headwind and it really broke me down. The distance was a stretch for me, but the more challenging part of it wasn't pushing my body's endurance. It was pushing past the pain and discomfort I got from such a long ride. My back ached. My shoulders ached. One of my hands kept going numb.

Now, I know that a certain amount of discomfort can be normal when you start riding, or when you go longer distances. In my case though, I've pretty much dealt with pain and discomfort anytime my rides get past the hour mark and particularly past the one and a half hour mark. I've done plenty rides of those lengths on a regular basis, so it's no longer a case of just getting used to being in the saddle. Not so normal. Not good either, not when my eventual goals are likely to have me doing 8 hour rides...

After the ride, I chatted with Jen, who has had a bike fitting with Marcelo. I've heard Marcelo's name pop up a lot. Of about 8 triathletes at the group ride, it turned out 5 had been fitted by Marcelo. All of them said that it made a huge difference for their comfort and performance on the bike.

I gave up hoping to get comfortable by simply riding more. I've been doing that for months. I made an appointment to see Marcelo and was able to get in before this weekend.

The first thing Marcelo did was put my bike in the trainer and adjust my seat angle and handlebars. He commented that "unless the bike shop sold you the wrong bike, those aren't where they should be." It got me a little nervous. Despite some discomfort on Bella, I love my road bike, and I was afraid he would tell me she wasn't a good bike for me.

Then he had me walk and observed that I over-pronate. Not news to me, as I've been told that when buying running shoes. It was news to me, however, that it had a significant impact while cycling. He measured my feet (or calves?). Then he put a couple thing-a-ma-jigs between my cleat and shoe (shims, I think?) He also adjusted the angle on my cleats.

Then onto the trainer. He did a series of measurements and used a tool to check the angle of my knee at various points. It was very interesting and very technical. The fit I'd received at the bike shop was done entirely by eyeballing me and my position. Marcelo might have done some early adjustments by eyeballing them, but everything was measured and tweaked to position very scientifically.

Ultimately, he ended up changing the angle and adjustment on my cleats, the height and angle of my saddle, the angle of my handlebars, and the saddle itself. (There may have been more, but this is what I remember.)

Then he stuck a round sticker on my shoes and wrapped a strap just below my knee. He told me it was to check my alignment. He lined a couple laser levels up to the dots and had me pedal. At this point he announced that I was the best that he has seen in all his time of bike fitting! No idea if there would have been another adjustment if I had been crooked, as it seems this was one thing I am just about perfect at.

Finally, he hooked my bike up to his computrainer to check how efficient my cycling was. The answer? Not particularly. Truthfully, I'm not that surprised. I haven't been riding that long, and I know I still have a lot to learn. He gave me some tips on how to improve my efficiency - mainly to try to glide more. Concentrate more on bringing my feet forward and back, rather then just mashing them down.

On the trainer, I felt more comfortable on Bella, but I wasn't really on it long enough to know for sure. The real test was a road ride - something that went past that hour to hour and a half point that usually becomes the pain threshold.

I headed out early this morning. I was meeting a new friend and riding partner (Amy), but first I had to ride to her house.

The first thing I noticed when getting onto my bike was that the seat was higher - a lot higher. Before the fitting, I could clip in on one side, kind of scoot myself onto the saddle and then start to pedal. Now, I have to follow a method that I once saw on a utube video of "the proper way to mount a bike". (In all fairness, there are probably multiple "proper" ways.) I clip in on one side and basically lift myself into the seat with my first pedal stroke. I also have to be careful stopping. Before, I could get my feet somewhat comfortably on the ground after stopping. Now, if I am still in the saddle, I'm only touching the ground with my very tiptoes.

The next thing I noticed was my cadence. Previously, 75 rpm has been about the maximum rpm that I've been able to maintain for any length of time. I know that a higher rpm is ideal, but it has never been easy for me to keep it up. Today, I naturally fell into a comfortable 85 rpm.

What followed was a fabulous and challenging ride. Amy suggested a route that I haven't taken before which took us up one of the bigger hills out of town. Then onto a rolling route. Lots of downhills to test my bravery and just as many ups to test my fitness. I'm still working on letting myself just go down the hills. I have a tendency to ride the brakes a bit too often. It was a beautiful morning and a perfect temperature. We had a stunning view of the mountains. My only regret is not having a camera along to show you how good it was.

On the way back, we had to cross a busy road where we had a stop sign. I almost had an embarrassing clipless pedal fall there, but fortunately saved myself in time. Yep, definitely noticing the difference in the seat height when I stop still...

Then down the hill. For those that know Cochrane, we took Gleneagles hill down (rather then the much busier Cochrane hill). It is a steep decline with lots of turns. I must admit that I hit the brakes a bit much there. Then Amy passed me and started getting ahead. Now, I wasn't being competitive (at this point) and trying to get in front of her, but I didn't want to get dropped either. I let go a bit and just concentrated on watching the road, while keeping relaxed.

I achieved a goal going down that hill! One of my goals has always been to hit a new top speed on any given ride. With all the hills on my riding routes, I'm not limited by my fitness in this goal, but rather my bravery. My previous top speed was 54.9 km/h (34.1mi/h). Today I hit 66 km/h (41 mi/h).

Shortly after that, we parted ways and I headed home. It was a great start to my day.

All in all, I noticed a few things in the ride: my higher seat changed how I mount and dismount - it will take some getting used to; my natural cadence is suddenly higher; going down hills fast is really fun.

There was one thing that I didn't notice in almost 2 hours of cycling: pain or discomfort.

Thank you Marcelo!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sweetpea's new ride

My babies are growing up. It's been a while since I've been a mother to an actual baby, and soon, my littlest one, Sweetpea, will be turning three.

We got Spud a bike for his third birthday, and wanted to do the same for Sweetpea. I've gained a better appreciation for bikes since then. Rather then get the Canadian tire special this time, I scoured the used bike ads for something. (Whether they're good bikes or not, I still can't bring myself to spend $200 for a bike my child will grow out of in a year or two.)

I was in luck! An unbelievably good deal on a little norco bike in fabulous condition. My stay at home mom status gave me an edge on the competition for the bike. I could get it during the day, as opposed to seeing it that evening, like the seller told me a couple people were interested in doing.

There were two downsides: 1. Getting it during the day meant that Sweetpea would be with me, so no real surprise. 2. The bike was blue.

No surprise? That's life. I explained that it would be for her birthday, and she gets that. The blue part? Oh vey... My little princess informed me "I no like blue bikes. I just like pink bikes."

Now, I couldn't bring myself to spend the same amount (or more) on a crappy quality barbie bike then I would on this great find - even if it was blue. A compromise had to be reached, and fortunately, the compromise was in the details.

Sweetpea agreed that she would accept a blue bike as long as she could have a pink basket...

My little girl's new ride

I have to admit that I can feel the difference in quality over Spud's bike (which we bought new for quite a bit more.) While it's still heavy (it is steel, after all), it's a heck of a lot lighter then his, even taking into account it's a smaller size. Future bike purchases for my kids are going to follow this pattern - going for good quality second hand, rather then poor quality new.

It might get decked out even more for my princess. When we were looking at baskets, Spud informed me that he wanted to get bike streamers for Sweetpea's birthday. Previously when I've tried to get him to pick gifts for her, he had trouble focusing on the fact that we weren't shopping for him. It's neat to see that he now recognizes the way gifts work now, so I'll probably let him get them for her.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Swimmy swim swim

I headed to the pool for a swim tonight. It took a bit longer to get into the rhythm, but once I got it, I was feeling good. I did a lot of drills. I find they remind me of all the things that I'm supposed to work on. Some nights I only do a couple drills repeatedly. Tonight, I did the gamut.

I miss the coached swim sessions. I am a exponentially better swimmer then I was a year ago, and I do still get benefits from continuing to train and swim on my own. But, I miss having somebody watch my stroke once a week and make changes here and there. She has an instinct for knowing when I'm ready for the next stroke change, and what order to present them to me. I am loving race season, but when it comes to the swim, I can't wait to see what a couple more seasons of work (and coaching) will do.

Bambi was at the pool tonight, and joined my lane. At first, I was a little unsure how I felt about that, but she had much better lane etiquette this time around. No more waiting for me to get to the wall before she pushes off and swims slowly right in front of me. I am now very pleased I said something to her last time. She may not have taken it well, but perhaps she actually learned something from it, and now she'll annoy far less people.

I almost feel bad about nicknaming her Bambi.


If she doesn't try to so hard to keep her hair dry and starts swimming in something other then a string bikini, maybe I'll drop the nickname.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Inspiration or intimidation?

It's just over a year since I started swimming laps at the pool. Since I ran early mornings and biked with the kids in tow, the pool is where I first noticed them. My town is full of them. They're at the grocery store, on the trails, at the library...

The Ironmen (Both male and female).

Sometimes, it was obvious who they were. They had the ankle tattoos and it seemed like they blasted up and down the lane at lightening speed. I did NOT swim in the centre two lanes. That is where they swam. I swam in the really really slow lane at first, and when I realized that lane was for people that didn't even get their hair wet, I moved up and just swam in the slow lane.

After finishing my own swim, where I could barely swim a full length without a break, I would sit in the hot tub and watch them. I was new to swimming and while I didn't have good form, I was already recognizing it in others. Some of them were beautiful to watch. I have occasionally referred to my swimming as "working really hard to go really slow". Not the Ironmen. They looked smooth and efficient in the water. It looked practically effortless for them.

Two of them dropped their kids off at the other preschool, in the building where Spud went to preschool. I'd see them heading out for training in their finisher's jackets and their fancy tri-bikes. I'd carry on with occasionally picking Spud up in the chariot with my old hybrid bike.

Then gradually, something happened. I found the courage within myself to join a swim program where some of them were. I started talking to other people at the pool. Another Ironman joined the babysitting co-op I belong to and asked me if I wanted to go for a run sometime.

I realized something. They are just people. They are a few years ahead of me in triathlon goals. Some of them go faster then I am ever likely to, but we share a common interest. Do some of them still intimidate me? Sure, a little. But mostly, they inspire me.

I love hearing the stories of what brought them to where they are. I still watch them in the pool (I think there's a lot to be gained by watching good technique). Sometimes, I also swim with them. When I see them at the grocery store, I give a hello. The ironman that asked me to run with her has become a solid friend, and the preschool moms have become acquaintances that I chat with when I see.

Today, I am meeting with a group for an open water swim followed by a bike. I'm sure there will be a couple ironmen in the group. I suspect I won't be able to keep up with some of them. Does it intimidate me? Yes, it still does a little bit. But, more then that, it inspires me. One day, I'll be in their shoes and I'll be the one that inspires others...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Q&A and Wetsuit fiasco

First of all, Julie tagged me last week in the Q&A craze that is going through the tri blogosphere. I was too self absorbed then with my race, but now I'm ready for it.

You get to ask me any questions you want, and I'll answer. Want to know about my training, my personal life, my past? Ask anything. If you get so personal, I don't want to be truthful, I'll simply make up an imaginatively false answer, but you'll still get one!

I'm supposed to pass it on, but since I delayed in posting it, it seems like a lot of you have already got it. Consider yourself tagged if you haven't done it yet!

Now, onto our regularly scheduled program...

This past weekend before my race, I did the unthinkable. I put a couple side by side fingernail cuts in my wetsuit! At the time, I took it in stride. Annoying, but I knew it was fixable. Not that long ago, I had looked at some directions online for how to fix them. It seemed pretty doable.

So, Tuesday, I headed into Calgary and to the local triathlon store. My goal was to buy some of the aquaseal I would need to fix the tear. When I got to the store, the guy working told me that they didn't sell the stuff, but they did fix wetsuits. I hadn't brought my wetsuit with me, but it got me thinking that perhaps this isn't an amateur job after all? I asked how much and he said it was $10. I figured that wasn't so bad, so maybe I should just get them to do it.

Then he told that all the people that are allowed to fix wetsuits are away this week, so I couldn't get it done till the following week. Ack! I have plans to go for an open water swim this weekend in a freaking cold lake. No wetsuit, no swim, and it's experience that I dearly need. He told me I could get the stuff at a dive shop (on the other side of the city.)

Frustrated, I headed home. Fortunately for me, Calgary is big enough to have two triathlon shops, so I called the other one. They also didn't sell the stuff, but they told me where to get it - at MEC, which is a short walk from my husband's office. They also assured me that if I followed the directions online, it isn't too tough to do. The aquaseal came home with my husband yesterday, so I went to work.

And got really frustrated.

First of all, I think I put too much on. It didn't dry enough for me to get it to adhere. Then, I couldn't get the two sides to stay joined for it to cure. The cuts were right beside the crotch seam, so not that easy to get it to lay flat.

I'm not really sure how my husband puts up with me sometimes...

"(insert whine here) I neeeeeed this for Saturday. If I don't get it fixed, I can't swiiiiim."

After giving me an insufficient amount of sympathy, we made another attempt at fixing it, used some scotch tape to try to keep it together and left it till the morning.

Still didn't work. So, I drove into Calgary to the triathlon shop that can fix it for me this week. The guy looked at it, and told me it would take about 20 minutes, but there might be a bit of yellow that shows. I said that was fine, as long as it still worked.

20 or so minutes later, I came back. It wasn't a little yellow, it was a lot! It ran the length of both fingernail cuts, plus a bit on either side and wider then I expected. I didn't complain, since it was fixed, but it looked horrible. And, while tri equipment is mainly about function, I still want to look good while wearing it. ;)

I could have complained to my husband, but he surely wouldn't give me the required sympathy for this either. I did however learn a benefit to the wetsuit being black. Sharpie matches fairly well!

So, all is good. I can wear my wetsuit and I can swim.

Any questions?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm still on a post race high

I love racing. I think in an ideal world, I'd do one race a month, every month. It gets me motivated and makes me feel good about myself.

2. I've read "Racing Weight" and am starting to implement it.

That book has made quite an impact in the world of endurance sports, and I can see why. I am starting to recognize that my weight is my one of my biggest limiters. I placed 51/90 in my triathlon on Sunday despite my swim freak out and the fact that I have yet to incorporate speed work. I have the potential to drop 30+ more pounds. How could I place then? I can feel the difference it makes to my running when I fluctuate by as little as 3-4 pounds. As it is, I've improved my 5k time by about 5 minutes in the last year. Running experience is part of that, but 25 pounds down has certainly had an impact.

3. I'll be getting some more open water swim experience!
I have a couple opportunities coming up! I'll be joining a group this Saturday at Ghost lake (brrr! but, it's what it will be like in Banff). I also may be joining a group Monday nights. In addition, I have an uncle that has offered to take me out while spotting in his canoe, and a friend who will get me into a community lake.

A couple months ago, I was at a loss for where to swim. (There are not that many places to swim here.) Now, I've got plenty of choices.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chestermere triathlon race report - Part 2

Alright, so we left off where I had just gotten out of the lake...

I felt kind of dizzy and disoriented right after getting out. At first, I couldn't even run, so I settled for a brisk walk, during which I got my wetsuit unzipped and down to my waist. About halfway to transition (it was probably 100 metres in between), I started jogging.

Transition 1

I headed all the way to the end where my bike was. I tossed my goggles and cap down at my spot. Ack! It wasn't my spot, but the person next to me. Who does she think she is having a helmet the same colour? Okay, little mistake. I pulled the wetsuit down and got one leg off. Then, pulled some more and fought with the other side. Remember the timing chip the size of a cereal box? (Okay, 2 decks of cards...) What a pain! Not good for getting wetsuits off.

Anyways, I pulled a bit more and it popped over. I actually think it would have been faster for me to take the timing chip off and put it back on after getting the wetsuit off. Put my sunglasses and helmet on first. The organizers make it very clear that you don't touch your bike till your helmet is on and buckled. I figure by having it on top of the other stuff, there's a better chance I'll do it in the right order.

Then I rolled my socks onto my feet. Better choice of socks this time! They went on way easier. Went to slip my bike shoes on and realized that I had once again forgot to open them up ahead of time! Stupid mistake. Not going to make that mistake a third time.

Then I was ready! I headed to the transition exit, which was thankfully very close. I went past the dismount line and off to the side a few feet. The lady there was trying to remind me that I could mount. I smiled sheepishly at her and told her that if I was going to fall over, I didn't want to block the way for others... (I actually feel pretty good with my clipless pedals now, but I still felt a little disoriented from the swim.)

The Bike

As soon as I started riding my bike, I felt great. The swim was behind me and I knew I was ready for what lay ahead. I had planned to push hard on the bike, so I got my cadence up and started changing gears pretty quickly. Almost immediately, I started passing people. (Possibly due to the fact that I started biking after a lot of them since my swim was slow.)

I had been a bit concerned about all the passing, but it went great. I'd get close to someone, ride until I was right outside the drafting zone, then I'd pick up the pace to get past them, then back over. There was one guy in an orange shirt whom I passed at least three times, and he passed me back. A bit of cat and mouse, but that's okay.

I kept my effort up on the bike and felt great. It was a double loop course for the sprint triathletes, so when I got to the loop point, I headed right for my second lap. There was a bit of a slope going up (not really a hill), but I stayed in my big ring for the whole thing. (Aside from the very beginning, as I'd intentionally left it in the small ring to start.)

The only thing that I think really needs work is my cornering. And, not even my ability, but my confidence. I slowed down quite a bit any time I cornered. I know you should slow down some, but not as much as I did. It also meant I sometimes slowed a bit early, since I tried not to pass anyone too close to a corner either.

Before I knew it, I was reaching the end of the bike. As I got close to transition, I saw my husband and kids. It gives me such a boost seeing them on the course. I gave a smile for the camera, dismounted, and carried on.

I always clip out a little early. Never realized how dorky it makes my legs look...
Transition 2

Transition 2 was pretty quick. My only mistake was in trying to put my bike facing the wrong way. I'd had it set up to just drive out, which meant I had to back it in this time. Once the bike was racked, bike shoes off, run shoes on (love yankz!). I took the helmet off, threw my hat on and put my race belt (with number) on while I ran away. (Many tris, you need it on your back on the bike, but they said you only had to wear it on the run for this one.)

I did remember to hit my garmin coming in and out, and T2 only took me about 30 seconds, including running across.

The Run

Going into the run, I knew I had taken a risk. I'd gone much harder on the bike, and I didn't know how much I would pay for it on the run. Last time, I'd went too easy on the bike, and while I had lots left in the tank, I knew I could take a bigger risk.

I definitely had more of the brick and jelly leg feeling upon starting the run. I felt like my legs just didn't want to move. Having said that though, when I checked my garmin, I was maintaining about a 5:40/km pace (fast for me!). So far, I've always run faster post-bike then I do on a stand alone run.

About a km in was the hill we'd be warned about. It was a bit steep, but quite short. Then we continued upwards at a more gentle incline. It was definitely up, and it slowed my pace, but never made me feel like I had to stop and walk. Along this section, there was a family out front cheering people on. They'd put their sprinkler on so that it went over the sidewalk. It was HOT, so I took my hat off and ran right through. Felt fabulous!

Soon, after that was the water stop. I grabbed some water and partially drank, partially drowned. Methinks I need more practice drinking out of those little cups...

From here, it was downhill to finish the loop. I didn't push it, but didn't hold back my speed either. I still had another loop to go.

When I got to the turn around point, I saw my family again. I slowed down a bit too much to smile and wave. (My husband claims I almost stopped. Looking at the series of pictures, and seeing everyone pass me, he might be right...) Can't blame a girl for wanting good pictures!

Back along the lake, up the hill, through the sprinkler (thank you!), past the water stop, and down again. My pace had slowed a bit on the uphills, but I was still holding strong! I was well on my way to another sub-30 minute run - something I've only done at the end of triathlons.

When I figured I was about 1 km away, I started picking up the pace. I decided to try to pass a couple people before the end, and easily did. (Truthfully, I think they were doing the olympic distance, and had another lap, so they probably weren't pushing that hard...)

Then I was across the finish line, and receiving my medal. I hadn't even known I'd get a medal for this race. Bonus! I grabbed some food and found my family. Mmm, I think oranges are possibly the best post race food ever. (The chocolate muffins were good too.)

Soon after, my son informed me he wanted to play "tag, you're it!" This is about how I felt about that idea...

Overall time: 1:41:43
Swim: 21:14
Bike (including both transitions): 52:40
Run: 27:49

(Transition 1 was probably a couple minutes. Transition 2 was about 30 seconds.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lake Chestermere triathlon race report - Part 1

Originally posted May 27, 2010:

I went over to the slide, climbed the ladder and slid down.
And went under the water. I struggled desperately to get my head back above the water, gasping for air. Then went under again. I remember going up and down, struggling to get above the water, trying to breath. That desperate fight for air, which in that moment was a fight for life. I'm sure somebody pulled me out before long. ... I also remember the question they asked me. "Why did you go down the slide if you can't swim?"

Yesterday I did something which seemed impossible a short 14 months ago. I completed a triathlon with a 750 metre open water swim. I'd like to say it was easy and effortless. I'd trained for the distance, so I just went out there and did it. The reality is a little different, but the important part is, I did it. I finished it.


I arrived bright and early. I barely slept the night before, so didn't even have to let my 4:45 alarm go off. I had been lying in bed already debating how early would be too early to get up. I had packed the car the night before and obsessively made a list of things I needed to remember to either do or bring.

I ate my breakfast, made my coffee, and did or grabbed everything else on the list. I gave my husband a quick kiss goodbye (he was coming later with the kids) and headed out the door.

The drive was an easy one. There's not a lot of traffic at 5:30 Saturday mornings. I didn't even have to through the city. I simply got onto the ring road, and went around it. I was in Chestermere by about 6:15.

My early arrival plan worked. I claimed a piece of real estate on the bike rack closest to the bike exit. There were 7 bikes per rack, and it gave plenty of space to everyone. At one point, a guy arrived and racked his bike only a few inches away from mine. I wasn't going to say anything since I still had room for my stuff. I looked again though and realized that it was close enough that my pedal was likely to catch on part of his bike, so I asked him to move it over. There was plenty of space, so he did.

I chatted with a Leigh, as well as some of the people around me. I got body marked, and picked up my chip. Holy cow! It was HUGE. The ones at Vulcan were just little and I didn't have to wear a wetsuit there. These ones were the size of a kleenex box, and the wetsuit had to come off over it! (Okay, maybe not quite that big; more like the size of 2 decks of cards put together.)

I watched the try-a-tri start, made a final porta-potty stop and started getting my wetsuit on. The olympic distance was next to start and then the sprint start began 30 minutes later. At the transition clinic, somebody had asked about the timing and we had been assured that the Oly distance people would still be in the water when we began. I had thought the statement odd, as I know very well there are plenty of people that can swim 1500 metres in 30 minutes...

Shortly after the Olympic distance, I got in the water. It was a great temperature. Slightly chilly on my feet, but there were people without wetsuits. We couldn't swim the course itself, but we were able to swim off to one side a bit, so I swam back and forth a couple times to get warmed up and used to the water. Then I tried to find a good place to stand to wait for the race start.

We were starting on and in front of the boat launch. There were two sides to it and people were spread fairly evenly across it. I had looked at last year's finishing times and figured, with my estimated 18 minute swim, I'd pretty much be in the middle of the pack. I tried to position myself so I was near the middle, on the outside edge. Seemed like a good plan, until...

The Olympic people started to finish. Not surprising at all. Overall, this race was really well organized, but I don't think the amount of time between the start times worked that well. It would have made more sense to start the sprinters 10 minutes earlier while all the oly people were still swimming, or start the sprinters first, and the oly's after.

Since the oly people were coming in, all of us sprinters were asked to move to one side. In the people shuffle, I somehow got moved much closer to the front then I had planned. I was probably in the front quarter of the group, and in the middle. There wasn't much time to wait anymore. The organizer came over, did a count down, and blew the horn...

The Swim

Once the swim started, I was off. Surrounded by people, I started to swim, and swim fast. With everyone around me, I thought maybe I should find someone to draft, but anytime I saw a pair of feet in front of me, it seemed like I got shoved to the side, or somebody swam diagonally in front of me. It was a melee of arms and feet and people. And I was going too fast.

I started feeling like I wasn't getting enough air, so I switched from breathing every third stroke to breathing every second. It wasn't enough though. I felt like my chest was tightening up and I still felt SURROUNDED, and bumped and prodded. I looked up, and I was going off course. I tried to correct my direction, but that caused me to go into somebody sideways. I realized that I was kicking really hard and frantically. I tried to slow my legs down to get my heart rate down, but it just wasn't working.

So, I flipped over onto my back. For what felt like minutes (but was probably only seconds), I didn't really do anything. The pack quickly thinned out around me, and there was no longer a press of people. It was like I was in a little island of calm. But, I was stuck. I knew I wasn't in any danger. I wasn't going to drown. I could stay there like that indefinitely. I could breath, and eventually somebody in a paddleboard or a canoe would come get me.

I could stay there like that...

Or I could move.

At first, I just moved my arms a little bit. I started skulling. It's ironic, because it was one thing I didn't enjoy much in the swim course I took. I had asked why we were doing it because at the time it seemed pointless. Now, for the record, Angie probably hadn't intended as use as a swim stroke during a tri, but in that moment that's what I could do.

As I lay there, barely moving, I thought about the last person to come in from the try-a-tri group. He came in with a very slow back stroke, but he did come in. I started to move my arms. That I could do. Backstroke was the very first stroke I learned, and there was a certain amount of comfort in it.

Before long though, it started annoying me. My technique on backstroke probably leaves a lot to be desired (I haven't trained on backstroke at all; I only use it to cool down on occasion). I kept splashing myself in the face. I couldn't see where I was going. So, I flipped back over to front crawl.

I still had to keep going to reach the first buoy. Every time I put my face in the water though, I started feeling panicked. Like I couldn't see or breath. So, I started swimming front crawl with my head out of the water.

Let me tell you, there is a reason you normally swim with your head down. Even with a wetsuit (which helps keep you in the optimal body position), having your head out is seriously awkward. I felt like I had to throw my body back and forth with each stroke just to keep my head up.

After rounding the first buoy, I looked forward and the next one still seemed incredibly far away. I tried getting my face back in the water, but kept getting disoriented. So, I'd do three strokes with my face in the water, and then a few head up. Slowly moving forward, occasionally going crooked, but gradually getting there.

It was when I was about halfway to the second buoy that I realized I was going to finish this swim (the race as a whole was irrelevant now; at this point, it was only the swim that mattered). It might not be pretty. It quite likely would be the slowest I would ever swim an equivalent distance, but I was going to do it. My head was in the water more often now.

I turned around the final buoy.

I looked ahead of me and the boat launch seemed an incredible distance away, yet I had a type of calm come over me. I actually focused on my stroke and technique. 1, 2, 3 breath, 1, 2, 3 breath, 1, 2, 3 breath and look... Over and over again. At first, it seemed like I was going quite crooked by the time I spotted, but after the first couple cycles, I found I was going mostly straight.

I just kept swimming and gradually the shore got closer and closer. I noticed the weeds below me. They had actually had machines out to cut the weeds, so it was just my hands that were hitting them, rather then my whole arm. Oddly enough, I didn't mind them. I almost found it comforting that I could see something below me in the water, rather then pure darkness.

1, 2, 3 breath...

I was passing people now. I felt smooth and strong. It felt effortless and easy. I realized that finishing the swim had very little to do with my physical ability. The physical ability is there. It's been trained and ingrained. It was mental. Entirely mental. It was now up to me to make my body do what it was capable of.

And I did it.

Once I got into a rhythm, I was in this beautiful zen state. I was either going much faster, or time had just resumed it's normal speed. (Perhaps a bit of both.) Before I knew it, I was halfway back. Then I was almost at the green buoys just outside the boat dock. Then I was there. I had swam as far as I could and it was time to stand up.

I did it!

You couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The swim had been terrifying - but exhilarating. And the feeling coming out of the water. Wow! I felt great. There were a couple volunteers helping people out of the water since it was kind of slippery. I stood up and almost fell over. It was weird being upright again. Then I was on my way to transition!

(This was long, so the report will conclude tomorrow.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quick results from Lake Chestermere Triathlon

The full race report is to come, but here's a quick update.

I panicked on the swim, but didn't drown. Then I pulled it together and finished with smile on my face.

I had a strong bike ride, felt great and was constantly passing people.

I had a solid run on a somewhat hilly course.

Transitions were better, but not perfect. Still some room for improvement, but at least I managed to find my spot both times and was mostly efficient.

I felt great. Every race I do just makes me crave more. It was a tough race for me in some ways, but I pushed hard and finished strong.

Look for the full report tomorrow!

Yep, it's race day!

Yes, I look a little crazed in that picture.

If you don't hear from me again, it's because I didn't achieve my primary goal in this triathlon.

Race report to come!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Transition clinic

Today, I decided to make the drive out to Chestermere to attend the free transition clinic run by the race organizers.

Initially, I wasn't going to do it, but with a little more thought, I figured I may as well. For starters, it's free. I'm fully in favour of making use of free services when they work for you. Also, the nerves are starting to surface, in regards to this open water swim thing. I thought it might help a bit. Finally, one thing I'd really like to nail in this triathlon is the transitions. In that regard, a transition seminar can't hurt!

I was glad I went out before even getting there. I drove past the exit that I needed to take into Chestermere. Then, after back tracking, I felt a bit lost finding my way in. When I saw the blue fenced transition area with MSC banners hanging around, I felt more confident, but I am glad that I had that initial snafoo prior to race day.

Leigh (a Calgary blogger) and I had made plans to meet up at the transition clinic. We hadn't met before, but gave our general descriptions. Mine was basically: very tall, brown hair. Hers was: very short, blond hair. Before Leigh arrived, I saw another short blond woman and asked if it was her. It wasn't. Leigh got there just after the talk started (she had a snafoo finding the place as well) and we pretty much knew each other right away. Thanks Leigh! It was nice to have someone to talk to.

One thing I realized quickly is that I am far from being the most nervous person going into this race. I'm actually going into it with a fair bit of knowledge and training. I don't have the experience, but I'm about as well equipped as I can be. I've done lots of running, biking and swimming and feel confident in the distances I'll be doing. I regularly run and ride hills. (I live in the foothills of the Rocky mountains, so don't really have a choice there.) I've read plenty of race reports, so from a theoretical standpoint, know what to fairly well what to expect.

I think what helped me the most about the clinic was simply being there, and seeing the swim course, as well as walking in and out of transition in the order we will during the race. (If you remember my last race report, going out of transition in the right direction wasn't my strong point.) It was also mentioned that transition will be opening at 6:00 am, so I'm planning on getting there bright and early to stake out a good spot close to the bike exit/entrance (I figure running in bike shoes is the slowest part, so it minimizes that distance.)

There was a lot of concern about a hill in the run course. After the race, we were chatting with a couple ladies that were really worried about it. Leigh lives in a hilly subdivision of Calgary so, like me, is used to running the hills. She stated that it's Chestermere (flat), not Calgary or Cochrane, so the hills can't be that bad. One of the ladies looked at her and shot her down, telling her that she's little so she doesn't get it. I stated that I am not little (might be littler then I once was, but still wouldn't call myself small), and I can do hills. (It sounds like a argument, but it was actually a totally good natured conversation.)

We talked with them a bit more, and discussed how walking is always an option, and there's no need to go fast up the hill. Plus, we could see where the hill was from where we were standing, and it definitely couldn't be that bad. I think those ladies headed off to walk that section of the course after that.

I wasn't really concerned about the hill (might slow me down a bit, but won't stop me). I did, however, want to get a feel for the water, as well as what the ground was like walking in. We walked over to the boat launch (which is where the swim start will be) and walked into the water. It was cold, but not too bad. I think it might be hard to jump into with a bathing suit, but quite doable with a wetsuit. A lady came out from a practice swim while we were there. She was wearing a sleeveless suit, and said it was fine. I'm feeling okay about going in with my sleeved suit. The water was actually warmer then the two places I did open water swims while travelling. The boat launch was kind of slippery, so I know I'll have to be careful going in.

I did have a bit of regret that I hadn't brought my wetsuit along. If I'd gone for a swim myself, I could have gotten a better feel for it, and perhaps calmed my nerves more. Having said that, there were still a fair number of boats out, which definitely make me nervous. Fortunately, that section will be closed to boats tomorrow.

Soon after that, we went our separate ways. I'm very glad I went to the clinic. I don't know that I learned a lot, since I know a lot already. What I need now is the actual experience. What it did give me was the confidence of familiarity. When I head out there bright and early, I'll know where to go. I can mentally practice that transition area, picturing which way to run. I know that there are plenty of fixable landmarks around transition, so I can remember my bike's location easily (I hope.)

142 is the number I'll be getting sharpied onto me tomorrow morning...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goals for triathlon number 2!

On Sunday, I will be doing my second triathlon, but some of the experiences will be a first. The major, defining difference is that this one will have an open water swim, rather then a pool swim.

In my opinion, this dramatically changes the swim, bike, and to a certain extent, transition aspects.

The reason it changes the swim is obvious: I'm not swimming in a pool. There are no lines on the bottom. No walls to push off of. I'll be wearing a wetsuit. I can't touch bottom. I have swam in my wetsuit, in open water - twice. Limited experience, no doubt, but I'm feeling cautiously confident regardless.

It also changes the bike. There will be a lot more people starting around the same time. Sure, the swim spreads people out some, but with everyone starting the swim at the same time, we'll be a lot closer together entering the bike then in a pool swim where a person starts every minute or so. This means significantly more passing and getting passed. In my first tri, I think I was passed twice and passed three people. In this one, I expect it will be in the dozens. For those of you not familiar, drafting is illegal in triathlons (aside from short distance pros, which I won't be competing in).

It also changes transition a little bit. I ran right past my transition spot both times at Vulcan. That was with a minimal number of people in transition. I only imagine it will be that much more confusing with lots of people there. Plus, I've got an added step in needing to remove my wetsuit.

As I've stated before, this is an "experience" triathlon for me, so my goals are experience related rather then time related.

Without further ado, my goals:

1. Don't drown and come out of the water smiling.

2. Find my transition spot the first time I go towards it. Execute smooth transitions.

3. Push myself on the bike.

4. Finish with a smile on my face.

I'm not concerned about being able to do the distance. I'm training for an Olympic right now, and have trained beyond the sprint distances already. It is slightly longer then my last one with a 750m swim rather then 500m and a 23 km bike (I assume it's the loop distance that worked with the roads) rather then 15km. The run is the same, at 5km.

My first triathlon, I had a stellar run following an easy bike. Now, I know that you shouldn't go too hard on the bike because you need to be able to run after. Having said that, I think it's worth pushing a bit harder on the bike. It's not a Sunday bike ride after all. (Actually, I guess it is a "Sunday" ride, but I digress.) It might backfire on me and I'll be burnt out on the run, or I might discover that I still have enough in the tank. Either way, sometimes it's worth taking risks to see where it takes you.

With two days to go, I'm still eerily calm about this triathlon. The first one, I was a nervous wreck for a full week leading up to it. I expected to feel that way with this one purely because of the swim difference. Not complaining, just commenting.

Bring it on!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Three things Thursday

1. We've had great weather this week.

No seriously, we have. Yeah, there's been rain. There's been thunderstorms, but if you choose your time of day, there is almost always a time where it's beautiful out there. Yesterday, I totally lucked out. I ran early morning and finished my run just as the rain started. (Not that I mind a bit of rain while running.) It rained through the day, but was beautiful again by mid afternoon.

2. I'm getting back into a good routine and it's working for me.

I'm back to the early morning runs, and I think it's a critical part of my routine. I simply can not seem to get all 9 workouts in a week unless I'm doing some of it early morning. I usually need wind down time after my evening swims so I find what works best is to run and swim in the same day then bike on alternate days. That way, I'm not trying to get up early the day after I swim.

3. The chariot has been making it out, onto the trails, and into the parks.

I actually think I should start designating weeks as car free weeks. I mean, if I'm staying in town, I can seriously ride my bike anywhere in about 10 minutes. Yeah, we're a two car family, and for the time being, we'll be staying that way. Having said that, it doesn't mean that the car needs to leave the garage nearly as often. The kids are happier in the chariot; I get some extra biking in; it's better for the environment and my family's wallet.
This picture is actually from early this spring, rather then recently. It's a lot greener out there now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You can't always choose your circumstances, but you can choose your attitude

This weekend, I will be doing my second triathlon and the first one with an open water swim. I signed up for the sprint triathlon at Coral Springs.

Then last week I got an email informing me that the location had changed to Chestermere lake. Now, no offense to anyone that loves it, but Chestermere isn't exactly known as a great swimming spot. People boat there. They don't swim. And a little bit of research and talking to people gave me the following impression of what to expect.

Really weedy. Swampy.


I chatted briefly with the manager of our local tri store and she said that people have been calling there to complain. (The tri store isn't running the race; they are just having package pickup there.)

So, I've considered it and I've considered my reasons for doing this race.

This is not an "a" race for me. I'm not tapering for it. I'm not trying to get a personal best. At the same time, it's not a pure fun race for me either. I'm doing this one as an experience race. I'm doing it because I feel the need to have an open water swim in a race prior to my September Oly. I'm focusing on execution and technique. As a small example, I'd like to run the correct way out of transition...

So, the swim might be swampy. Is that going to make it mentally tougher then the the swim I have in September which is known to be COLD? Maybe, but I doubt it. Despite my lack of experience with open water swimming, my first open water swim had lots of floaties and plants. It wasn't ideal, but I got through it and still enjoyed it.

Being the optimist, I'm assuming that I'll still have fun with the swim. And if I don't? Well, the swim is the shortest part of the triathlon. I'll get through it and nail the bike and run.

My only remaining concern is whether there are leaches in that lake? Anyone know? Should I have a salt shaker in transition just in case?

Monday, July 11, 2011

They do exist!

Remember how after my first triathlon, the pictures seemed to have disappeared from our camera? Well, it turns out that they weren't actually gone, but had somehow gotten labelled as 2008. How some from that day got labeled 2008 and others had the correct date, I don't know...

Anyways, a couple from the event:

The zoom on our camera doesn't work right, so I had to digitally zoom in and lost some quality.

Running to the finish line. Feeling great!

Cheerleader Spud

Cheerleader Sweetpea

Out for dinner that night. For the record, I didn't wash that number off. I let it wear off in it's own time.

I've got my next triathlon coming up in *cough* 6 days. Um, did I just say SIX days? Yep, sure did. It's got an open water swim too. I'm feeling scarily calm about it today. Let's see how I feel tomorrow?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My backyard...

Two years ago, I visited my grandparents in Southern Ontario. They live by a river and are surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful flowers. When I came home, it was with dissatisfaction with my current home in the northeast suburbs of Calgary. The only place to walk was sidewalks in front of houses. The parks frequently had garbage and occasionally broken glass, and while we lived near the edge of the city, that end of the city only gave us flat farmer's fields to see. We had to drive for an hour through the city before hitting the highways that would eventually lead to the mountains.

Shortly after, I started sending half joking real estate listings to my husband. These were 10-20 million dollar listings by the ocean, so a little out of our price range. He responded with single digit million dollar in the mountains. Gradually we got more and more realistic, until our "jokes" were realistic family houses in the town of Cochrane.

Within 3 months of my return, we had sold our old house, bought a new one and moved to a town with mountain views, phenomenal pathways, and a community feel. It is this town that has nurtured my triathlon ambitions. From my sunrise runs to my country rides.

This time, when we visited my grandparents' home in Southern Ontario, I still appreciated the beauty, but it was without the longing. After 3 weeks of traveling, I was starting to feel a little homesick for my hills and mountains. Yesterday, I went for a ride and got a couple of pictures of my "backyard". I don't have to drive anywhere to get to this place. I simply hop on my bike, ride for about 3 minutes to get out of town, and hit the countryside.

I'd hoped to showcase the mountains in this picture, but you can only just see them below the clouds, and only if you know what you're looking at. Next time I'll get a better shot.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three things Thursday

1. I'm back on Bella!

I headed out yesterday for a short (1 hour) ride on Bella (my road bike). It felt great to get out there, even though it was really hot. On the way back I had a head wind, and rather then being frustrated about getting slowed down, I just enjoyed the cooling breeze.

2. Speaking of biking, I seriously need some bike gloves.

What are your favourite bike gloves? I actually had this pair. They were super cute, and fit great when I tried them at the store. When I actually rode with them though, they cut off circulation to my thumb, so I took them back. I still have to find a pair I like.

3. Summer is in full force.

Summer is fun with my kids. We spend a lot of time outside, going for bike/chariot rides to local parks, or going to the zoo or amusement park. Today, it's off to the amusement park to ride the rides. Sweetpea is tall enough this year to get on a lot more, so it's much easier for me to take the kids by myself then last year.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Would you have said something?

Yesterday, I went for my first swim back home. While I did swim on vacation, my last swim was almost a week ago. Normally, when I've been away from the pool for a week, I come back feeling clumsy and awkward. It takes a couple times before I get my rhythm back.

This time, I felt great. Almost immediately, I felt like I was in my groove. Gliding along down the lane. Initially, I was alone in my lane, but I knew it wouldn't stay that way. I don't begrudge sharing the lane either; there's been plenty of times I've joined in with other people and I know that there is limited pool time and space.

It doesn't even annoy me if people are slower. (Okay, it doesn't annoy me too much. You should try to join a lane where people are going similar speeds whenever possible.) What does annoy me is when people ignore, or are oblivious to lane etiquette.

This was the case last night with *Bambi* (yes, just made up her name). When I pushed off the far wall, I saw her standing at the end of my lane, so I made sure to stay on the right, so she could start swimming if she wanted to. I got across the pool and shortly before hitting the wall, I saw her at the end of the pool. She pushed off just before I got there.

I grabbed a drink and took a minute to watch her swim. I like to know how the other people in my lane are swimming, so that I know whether to be aware of them needed to pass me or vice versa.

She was doing front crawl with her head out of the water. Maybe she's a water polo player? Maybe she doesn't want to get her hair wet? Maybe she just doesn't like putting her face in the water?

Regardless, I'll give her a bit of credit. For swimming front crawl with her head out of the water, she was going at an okay speed. I'd barely move if I tried to do that. Still, you mess with your entire hydrodynamic position when you swim like that. I was definitely faster then her so I knew I'd have to pass sometimes.

I'd let her get ahead of me, so things were fine for a couple lengths of the pool. Then I was swimming towards the wall and when I glanced forward, I could see her waiting at the wall. Great, I thought: she'll let me pass her there. Right before I touched the wall, she pushed off. I pushed off right behind her, and caught up to her immediately. At least there were only two of us in the lane though, so it wasn't a big deal to move over and pass her. (We were circle swimming, rather then splitting the lane. The pool almost always ends up with 3+ people on weeknights, so it just makes sense to stick with circle swimming.)

Annoying, I thought. But, now I'm right in front of her. At least I won't have to pass her again for a bit.

I did two more laps of the pool, and once again, when I glanced forward to the wall, I saw her just waiting. Once again, she waited till I was about to touch the wall, then pushed off right before I got there.

Okay, not so cool. But, still with only two of us in the lane, I passed easily.

Then somebody else joined the lane. Slightly faster swimmer then me, but not by so much to make us incompatible lane partners.

Once again, I swam to the end of the pool for Bambi to kick off the wall right before I got there. This time, it was a pain. I was actually trying to time myself on a 50 metre sprint, and instead, I had to hang out and swim slowly behind Bambi until the third person in our lane passed in the other direction.

I started considering whether I should say something. Usually I just vent on my blog or write letters into cyber space, such as this one. However, it was reaching the point where she was really interfering with my workout.

Then she did again. Then a fifth time. (This was within about 20 minutes).


Finally, I reached the end of the pool when she was taking a longer break. I started off by saying that I wasn't trying to be confrontational, but she really needed to be aware of other people in the lane. If she is swimming slower (which is fine), she needs to let other people pass at the wall, not start immediately in front of them.

Now, I thought I was being as nice as possible, and I even apologized a couple times for bringing it up. She was pretty defensive though, and when I started swimming again, she left the lane. I hope she was planning on leaving anyways, and it wasn't because of what I said. Having said that, I can't deny the relief I felt at not having the constant interruptions.

So, what do you think? Should I have kept my mouth shut? Or was I within my rights to say something?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I'm baaaaack!

Hello all! Long time, no blog. I thought I might keep it up while on vacation, but that just didn't happen.

Rather then coming up with a thoughtful blog post, I'll just list a bunch of thoughts and observations from my trip...

1. Driving 36 hours with kids really isn't as bad as I thought it would be - providing you have a car with air conditioning, a portable dvd player and that 36 hours is broken up into three days.

2. I am lucky to live somewhere that is very bike friendly. A lot of places that we drove through looked like a nightmare to be a cyclist in.

3. I never really knew what flat was. I thought that some of my runs in downtown Calgary were on flat ground. No, flat ground is where the closest thing to a hill you get is the slight incline and decline to cross train tracks.

4. Interestingly enough, running on completely flat ground is a good lesson in keeping an even effort throughout your run.

5. Altitude does make a difference. Cochrane has a pretty high altitude. Winnipeg and Chatham are much lower. I ran considerably faster without even trying.

6. June is a good time to visit Ontario and my grandfather's garden. You get an overlap of asparagus and strawberry season.

7. Holy humidity! I never fully got what humidity was until I ran in it. I'm used to sweat evaporating off my skin to help cool me down. It doesn't work that way when it's really humid. (Even with the humidity and the heat though, I still ran faster in that altitude.)

8. Running on the side of the road is hard on your body if there is a cant to the road. My left leg was always the lower one, and after 3 straight days of running, I was getting some serious warning signs coming from everywhere between my knee and ankle. I had to take some time off.

9. Don't try to replace biking with extra running. Even with the different terrain, I probably could have kept running the whole time. Instead, I tried to run every day (normally run 3 days a week.) This meant that I had to take time off, and ended up running less then if I had just done a moderate 3-4 days a week.

10. Listen to your body. I've gotten better at paying attention to warning signs from my body. I have no doubt that if I had pushed through this particular pain, it would have become a nasty overuse injury. Instead, it just meant a bit of extra time off.

11. Open water swimming is fun!

12. As lucky as I am with my running and bike locations, I'm sadly lacking in nice swim spots. I sometimes joke about Manitoba being boring, but they have a pretty great beach.

13. You really do have to take the time to adjust your wetsuit. I did one open water swim in Ontario and one in Manitoba. The first time, I decided to rush things and didn't get the suit pulled up quite enough in the armpits and crotch. Yep, great place to collect water, making you feel awkward and slowing you down. The next time, I took a few extra minutes and felt like a fish once I had the suit on. I'm much less nervous about this open water swim thing now.

14. Swimming in a 50 metre pool takes some getting used to. It's a good thing, but when you're used to hitting a wall every 25 metres, it seems to take an awfully long time to cross the pool.

15. Don't people know that you are supposed to signal to change lanes? One of the states we drove through had a bunch of signs up saying so. They were obviously doing some kind of public awareness campaign, but people still didn't bother to signal.

16. Did you know that you can't take fruits and vegetables across the border? Well, you can't. It's a bit of a pain when it comes to healthy eating. On the way there, we stopped off at a grocery store and bought some pre-cut veggie sticks and grapes. On the way back, I ate a few too many crackers and pretzels.

17. Being out of your normal environment is a good opportunity to break some bad habits. I had been spending too much time on the computer, and I had a few foods that I habitually overdid the portions on. Being away from these things for 3 weeks allowed me to break the cycle of those habits.

18. I had ice cream a few too many times.

19. For me, being active is the best way to moderate my food intake. On days where I ran or swam, I did a much better job of eating what I needed. On days when I didn't/couldn't, I was far more likely to take a bigger portion, or have an unneeded desert.

20. I gained 2 pounds while away and I'm okay with that. My eating wasn't perfect, but it wasn't horrible either. For three weeks out of a place where I control the food, including 6 days of all day driving and stopping at restaurants, 2 pounds isn't so bad. It was worth it to have some of my grandmothers homemade peach and blueberry pie.

Phew! I could probably keep up the random rambling, but I'll leave it at 20! I hope everyone is doing well, and I'll try to visit your blogs over the next few days.