Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's all perspective!

Today I headed out for my first long run in three weeks after having been sidelined with the flu. My schedule indicated 2 hours, or approx. 23-24km at my training pace of 5-5:10 minute kilometres....and I was less than enthused. I had done a very painful 10k tempo run on Thursday so needless to say I was very skeptical as to how I would fare over 2 hours.

I procrastinated - leisurely took the dog for a walk and rationalized to myself that I needed it to warm up to prevent icy roads. It took me nearly an hour to leave the house. I decided on a route that would take me west on the beachfront gravel trail along Spanish Banks, up UBC hill (where I could run on the grass if too icy) and then into the trails at Pacific Spirit. The first km was painfully slow, spent ice skating down Pt Grey Road and onto the trail. My feet were lead. My breath was labored.

At the intersection of the trail at Jericho, a young woman and her spouse jumped in front of me with their stroller so I pulled behind them watching their footfall to identify ice on the trail. After about 500m I realized that they were clipping along pretty good and drew back to my 5 minute per km pace, justifying that I would need to conserve my energy to last through 20-odd kilometers. I was not feeling well. And, I thought to myself, this couple was probably just out for a short run, hence the fast pace.

Alas, three km into my run I passed the same couple, who had pulled over to the side of the trail, feeling justified for not keeping up with their pace. Ha. About a kilometer and a half later I would eat those thoughts. Just as I was nearing the end of the Spanish Banks trail and about to head up UBC hill, the young woman - sans spouse but with stroller- clips past me as though I am standing still!! I looked down at my GPS and did a double take....I was moving along at a 4:55 per minute kilometer and she was making me look like I was out for a Sunday stroll!! I smiled as she passed me and commented "you are making me look bad!", and really I was only half kidding. She was pushing a baby, in a stroller, presumably a child she had recently given birth to and she was passing me going uphill. If that doesn't put one's fitness into question....I don't know what does!

The stroller did start to take its toll on the persistent grade of the UBC hill, along with icy conditions, and she slowed enough for me to run up beside her and start chatting. Her name was Jane, she was three-and-a-half months post delivery and was training for a March half marathon to attempt a NYC marathon qualifying time. We chatted going up the hill, all the while I was thinking, "holy crap, I am practically losing my lungs running up this hill and this woman is chatting happily while pushing a 20lb stroller and a baby. You are a wimp, Richele!"

From that point onwards, my whole mindset changed. I was going to rock this training run....flu be damned! It is amazing how much a little perspective can change your mindset completely. At 2k I was in total misery, trying hard to visualize getting through even half of my planned distance, and at 6k I was totally inspired by this incredible, strong woman.

The rest of the run was wonderful. The lead attached to my feet melted away and the self-doubt disappeared. I popped into the trails at Pacific Spirit just off 16th Avenue and enjoyed the peace and solitude of the forest - it was a gorgeous, brisk, sunny day and beams of sunshine were reaching out like shining arms through the breaks in the trees. I reached the southwest end of 41st Avenue and turned up Camosun....the 10 blocks of uphill didn't faze me. I felt great. It was one of those epic runs, where it just feels so great to be moving and to be alive, that you almost wish you never had to stop.

Exactly two hours after I had left dragging my butt out, I pulled up in front of my house. It is amazing that 23km later I felt charged, inspired and empowered. Jane Doe....wherever you are....thank you for the inspiration. I had forgotten how wonderful it was to run. Just run. Thanks for putting it all in perspective.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter racing stage #4 - Rolling Hills....fuggedaboutit!

There are workouts that, while difficult, leave you exhilarated and inspired.

Stage #4 of the winter racing series was NOT one of those. Rather it was the kind of workout that you silently pack up, put in a box and never, ever think about again.

I just was not on. I showed up, and yet just didn't ever really get into the race. My average wattage certainly reflects that...20 watts less than the prior week. And it isn't that I had a bad race - I didn't. I just didn't show up for it.

So I am forgetting about it. Chalk up an uninspired workout and wipe the slate clean for next week.

Here's the stats: 24.14km. 29.6 kph. 1st place female (by a mere 3 seconds, but even so wtf?) 178 avg watts, 318 max watts.


Since signing up for Ironman in August, I have been deliberating my ride.

Basically there are two options: convert Ruby to a tri-friendly position by adding aerobars and a different seat post, or invest in a tri-specific frame. Either way, I need to be happy and comfortable for 6-7 hours. Fast is good too :)

So I set to work understanding the advantages and limitations of my options (with the ultimate limiting factor being cost!). Depending on who you talk to, the jury is definitely out on this one. Conventional wisdom will tell you that it is the engine, and not the bike....a well-trained athlete on a road bike will beat out a lesser-trained one on a $25,000 tri bike with disc wheels and aero helmet. So recognizing that I am not looking for a band-aid solution or and excuse not to train.....the question remains: which bike is best suited to get me through the bike course at IMC in the best possible position to withstand running 26.2 miles??

Each has their pros and cons - just as there are limitations on the standard road geometry in a triathlon setting, tri bikes also have limitations for strictly road riding. For city riding, hands down my Ruby is more nimble and safer. You rarely get a chance in the city to get down into aero position and it is simply not a wise idea to get into the peloton in your aerobars. Drafting = smashy the wonder bike. Tri-frames are also not optimal for high speed cornering or on technical, hilly terrain....on these types of courses a road bike is best (i.e., the 4-loop bike course of Stanley Park at the Vancouver olympic tri).

However, a tri bike IS specifically designed to be ridden comfortably and efficiently over long distances on flat to rolling terrain and in a more aerodynamic position than a conventional road bike set-up allows. The tri position, while strictly speaking less powerful than the road position, also shifts the work off your quads and more evenly onto the rest of the muscles in your such tri-geometry bikes facilitate the transition from cycling to running better than road geometry bikes.

So why not just convert the road bike? It can be salvageable, but it is NOT the same thing. Road bikes have longer top tubes than tri-specific frames, so the increased distance from saddle to aerobars on a road bike can make you too stretched out for stable handling. This not only impacts comfort, but also is thought to restrict breathing. Road bikes are also more limited as to how low the front end can be, which impacts aerodynamic performance of the bike.

So my research (and constant badgering of everyone I know who has an opinion on these matters) got me to the following conclusions:
  • If the main use of the bike is to participate in a long-course triathlon with the intention of doing solo training rides....the tri-bike is probably best.

  • If the main use of the bike is to participate in group rides, shorter distance triathlons or crit-style courses....then a road bike is your ride.

  • If you want all of the above....get one of each. Spending money on crossover use for a road bike is better used on getting a more appropriate tri bike.

So having hammed and hawed over my options for the last few months I have finally made a decision....Ruby is no tri-bike. And she's not going to be.

(Drum roll please......)

So with no further ado, I am pleased to introduce the newest addition to my growing IMC toy trunk and Ruby's brand new little sister...Ora. Isn't she pretty? :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter Bike Racing - Race #3 - Time Trial

Wow. And I thought the "hilly course" was tough.

This week's pain was served up in the form of a 22k time trial -a steady uphill ramp with more grade increases than decreases. Worse, my heat was comprised of one of the fastest bikers at Peak and two other males. Lovely.

At the get go, I fell into 4th place. The other three took off like raging bulls and I just kept saying to myself...pacing, pacing, pacing. The pace was a lot faster than the previous week, but even with no steep inclines I knew that I had to keep my cadence even and strong. 10 minutes in, that strategy was paying off and I was only about 350m back of the next racer, and closing fast. Steady pacing and moving into the small ring on the grades seemed to help. No gasping and tongue wagging like last week.

At 15 minutes in, I was hating the whole thing less than the prior week.

At 20 minutes in, the hate was back. The harder I pushed, the harder the course pushed back. At some point, I actually pulled into second place (wtf?) and was just trying really hard to keep it together.....I didn't want to be the wimpy girl that bonked after trying to keep up with the boys!

At 19km in, the reality set in that I was going to finish and possibly in second place. 3rd and 4th were closing fast but the little voice in my head was going nah nah nah nah I moved into the big ring and started hammering as hard as I could up the final incline. Volume on the i-pod cranked. Steady at 31 kph. Breathe.

At 43:21 it was all over....and worth the effort! Second place in my heat. A little worse for wear, but on the pain scale probably only a 8.5/1o as opposed to the 10/10 for the hilly course.

Stats for Race #3: 22.53km. 43:21 total time. 31.2 kph avg. 45.8 kph max. 200 watts avg. 321 peak watts. 12/33 racers total.

Until next week!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Zone 3 on my bike....seriously?

After a little peer pressure, I signed up for stage 2 of Peak Centre's winter racing series (check it out at It's a 23-stage indoor cycling series that lasts throughout the winter....aka my excuses of too rainy, windy and cold to get on my bike do not apply :o)

Up to 6 riders at a time are linked to computrainers, which apply resistance based on the pre-set course. My first ride out "Pre-Season Race #1" was a 25k hilly course. There were only 3 riders in my heat, one of them very strong and very elite....pretty humbling all in all.

The experience can be described in one word: Gasp.

The dreaded Zone 3 on a bike is every bit as hard as running. Maybe even worse because of the resistance being applied and the relentless grade changes. I damned near threw in the towel at 20 minutes - it was THAT painful. At just under an hour the little yellow biker on the screen finally crossed the finish line and I was so relieved. Having been my first time on a computrainer and first time doing Z3 on a bike, I had nothing to compare it to. It was just bloody HARD.

....and then I signed up for next week!

So here's the stats for pre-season #2 hilly course: 59:04 total time. 25.5 kph avg speed. 47.3 kph top speed. 158 avg watts. 316 peak watts. 2nd female. Not sure what that means....but hopefully there will be some improvement over the "indoor" race season!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Be inspired every day...maybe twice for good measure

Interesting day today. Admittedly, I have not accomplished much work-wise. We had a rah-rah team building / business plan session this morning at the new Vancouver convention centre (gorgeous by the way!).....four hours into the session I was feeling a little overwhelmed and wishing that the takeaway points were a little more concrete and less glossy.

Play as a team, build relationships, bring your best every day....yeah yeah. This seems obvious. It's not as though many of us (if any) set out to do our worst every day, is it? Aren't these goals ubitiquous and universal in business, and even more so, in life??

The diamond in the rough: Be inspired. I kind of made that one up, but I like it the best. If we are all passionate and inspired by at least one thing every day....wouldn't that enthusiasm become contagious? Wouldn’t we collectively be better because of it?

So I started daydreaming part way through the business planning session (shhhh....don't tell) about what inspires me and how can I share my passion and let it shine through. I can be a bit of a dry-wit, not easily impressed and letting passion shine through is not exactly natural. It's not my fault. I'm German, after all.

However, those who know me well know that I am relentless once I have attached to something - a cause, a goal, a dream. There is no way I could do what I do for a living without being more than a little dogged....and there is no way I could run marathons for FUN without being relentless. So I am going to be relentless about making sure that no day will pass without being inspired. Maybe twice, for good measure.

So I wanted to share my inspiration for today. Alas it is only 13:44 so maybe by the end of the day there will be a second. Bogey doesn't count.

Mid-September, I signed up for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. In order to participate in the ride (from Vancouver to Seattle), each participant is charged with raising a minimum of $2,500 for the BC Cancer Foundation. The inaugural ride in 2009 raised nearly $6.9 million for the cause....this is not an insignificant fundraiser!

Friends cautioned me that the Ride to Conquer Cancer is not a *training* ride and that *riding in the peloton* could impede my Ironman training. That doesn't concern me....I won't be training in the peloton. It’s the lead up to the event that is really key....when you are training for a distance event you need to learn to love to train, and train to train. So if I am going to be training for Ironman through the nasty, cold, wet Vancouver winter anyway, I may as well be doing it at least partially for a fantastic cause. And I won't be training in the peloton :)

So here comes the inspiration bit! Those of you who fundraise will know how difficult it is to approach your friends, family and colleagues begging for support - regardless of the passion you have for your cause! There are so many causes and charities with their hands out and in these economic times it is difficult to be as philanthropic as we would all ideally be. Worse yet, there is a critical disconnect between getting your donation receipt and knowing that it goes to make a DIFFERENCE.

So when I read the news today, I was really motivated. A team of scientists based with the BC Cancer Agency announced that they have made a world's first breakthrough in the understanding of the breast-cancer genome. This achievement not only opens up the possibility of better understanding the disease…but offers hope and possibility in the future treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer. This story really enforced my efforts to date and my enthusiasm for this cause.

Ironman may be about me and challenging my will.....but in training for it, I will make a difference.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


It's rarely this clear, is it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tri it, you'll like it!

2009 was my year to tri out tris (there are just so many puns with triathlon, it is hard to resist!)

My decision to give triathlon a whirl was neither a epiphany or a resolution, just an eagerness to check it out and see what all the hub-bub was about.

Admittedly, I'm a runner. I like the simplicity of lace up, you go. There are no wetsuits to squeeze into, no buoys to round, no tires to worry about, no transitions to contend with. Yet the allure of triathlon was real....and at the same time such a far gone reality.

First problem: I didn't swim. Not even a little. I've actually spent most of my adult life trying NOT to stick my face in the water, so the thought of willingly doing so terrified me.

Second problem: I didn't bike. Actually, let's preface that by saying that I did have a pink Schwinn cruiser bike with a basket for my dog. At around 40 lbs before adding said dog, it is decidedly not "aero" but definitely cute.

Yet, I felt that somehow having a mastery of 1/3 of the disciplines was pretty good odds. :)

Fast forward to September 2009....
I took swimming lessons.
I got myself a road bike, and then replaced it with a (pretty) carbon model for good measure.
I damn near drowned at my first sprint tri in July.
I bought a wetsuit and took open water swimming lessons.
I did the Olympic distance and didn't drown.
I even placed 2nd in my age group.
...and best of all, I discovered that this triathlon *experiment* is actually a whole heck of a lotta FUN!

Then, on August 31, 2009, I took the plunge and forked over $600 for an entry into Ironman Canada 2010.

3.8km swim.
180km bike.
42.2km run.

It's almost unimaginable. I am slowly coming to accept how much work (and fun!) it is going to be to learn, train, learn and train some more.....and decided to blog my experience.

So here we go. Cheer, laugh, and heckle galore.

New blog!

Here goes! My training, blog.

Do or do not. There is no try!