Friday, July 23, 2010

Iron [insert word here]

Since training for Ironman Canada has become an all-consuming aspect of my life, I have taken to affectionately using the term “iron” as an adjective for all the side-effects related to this endeavor. Some examples of this amazingly flexible and descriptive adjective are:

“Iron-broke” ….new bike, carbon wheels, wetsuit, a never ending supply of GU chomps – it never stops. I did not quite believe that the $600 entry fee would be the cheapest part. But it is!
“Iron-hungry” …the concept of first lunch and second lunch is quite novel. I have also recently starting introducing first breakfast and second breakfast. Eating is good. (Note:  The less politically correct version of iron-hungry is “Iron-pig”. I have assumed that this is an affectionate term, of course.)
“Iron-tired” ….5 am wake-up for swim class. ‘nuff said.
“Iron-you-gotta-be-f’ing-kidding-me-another-brick-workout” …no explanation required.
“Iron-orphan” ….my poor pup Bogey.

and my personal favorite:

“Iron-bitch” ….reserved for the end of those sixteen-hour training weeks when some poor, unsuspecting barista at Starbucks screws up my order for a double no-foam non-fat cappuccino.

And so the story goes. During those long training sessions, I find a lot of time to reflect. Most of all, it amuses me to step back and consider the remarkable changes in my life over the last nine months, absorbed by the strange lifestyle of an Ironman trainee.

I realize I have always been a bit more Sporty Spice than Posh, but the tomboyishness has elevated to a whole new extreme. For instance, at any given moment in any day I am sporting either chain grease or chafing of some sort. Really very ladylike and glamorous, I know.

My aesthetician would be horrified to know that butt butter is my moisturizer of choice, and forget anything about a manicure. Gotta keep the fingernails trimmed to facilitate putting on the wetsuit and doing bike maintenance. Those dark circles under my eyes? Goggle marks. Together with my weird tan lines, they complete the “iron-dork” look.

My hairdresser recently suggested a chemical straightening process, requiring three days without getting my hair wet to let the treatment set in. Horror of horrors, doesn’t she realize that my hair is soaked at least twice a day? And who needs cute hair when it is always stuffed into a bike helmet, swim cap or visor? Just don’t trim the ponytail off. I need that.

My eating habits have turned into simple necessity. Iron-pig indeed. Forget about preparing meals a la Bon App├ętit. I need food, and I need it NOW. Gourmet out. Quick food in. The owner of the sandwich shop across the street from my office is floored by the fact that I order a sandwich, cookie, pop, fruit AND a bag of chips. Likewise, the girl at Jugo Juice always questions me when I ask her to double the protein shot in my smoothie. Although, to be fair I suppose it does sound kind of crazy coming from a 115 pound, petite female.

I hope to one day see my family and non-triathlon friends again and perhaps will again stay awake on a Friday night past 10pm. I also hope to plan a vacation that does not involve toting a Rubbermaid container full of gear, and will someday soon ban Ensure and nutritional supplements from my diet until I am at least 80.

Aside from all this strangeness, though, perhaps the best side-effect of being immersed in training has been the people I have met along the journey. Everyone in the triathlon community, from my training buddies to my coaches to the peeps at the bike shop have been supportive, helpful and inspiring.

Even complete strangers are supportive. Last weekend in Penticton, we were doing a ride along the Ironman course and one of the support vehicles for another group of riders stopped to offer me a cookie, water and some encouragement. In this day and age, a total stranger going out of their way to be helpful and friendly completely floored me. Even more so, he actually seemed genuinely interested! I can commute to work and back in Vancouver for weeks before a stranger actually speaks to me or acts friendly….it has sadly been my experience that people would rather look at their feet, avoid eye contact and try to escape any type of interaction. If it takes getting on a tri bike and sporting an aero helmet to get people to be friendly, then hey, I’m all for it.

I have also been fortunate to get to know a wonderful group of people who have become my support network, my training cohorts and at times, my mind of reason. While some may reason that misery simply loves company, I have in the past couple of months been fortunate to meet and get to know some amazing people - all incredible athletes and wonderful souls. You all know who you are – thank you for the support, the laughs and the inspiration. It makes it easier to keep at it day to day with you beside me. You are my “iron-peeps”.

So, it is with a combination of amusement and heartfelt appreciation that I move into my last month of training for this ridiculously expensive, tiring yet character-building adventure. Giddy up!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Subaru Vancouver Half-Iron race report

My first triathlon was exactly one year ago - the sprint distance at the Subaru Vancouver. I accomplished exactly three goals that day: I did not drown. I finished. I did not finish dead last...but not by much.

365 days later, on the road to Ironman Canada in August, I lined up on the very same beach for the half-iron distance. Pretty tall order for someone who purchased their first road bike 20 months ago and learned to swim front crawl 15 months ago!

Somewhere in-between I have turned into the tri-geek that I vowed I would never become - complete with funky spandex outfit, aero water bottle, carbon tri bike, elastic laces for my shoes, compression socks and a visor. And on Tuesday of this week, I completed the transformation to the dark side with my purchase of the aero-helmet. As though being an accountant were not dorky enough.

SwimGoal(s): Avoid the chaos. Don't puke.

My swim is still not pretty, but it is getting more comfortable despite the rampant flailing. I am a land mammal, that is clear. However, I succeeded today in staying out of the chaos of the start, sticking to my own pace, and legging it out without incident. There was a wicked current and some interesting wave action, leading to some very high sodium intake and a little bout of seasickness. However, I made it through....albeit in a very un-outstanding 37:27.

Goal(s): Drink. Eat. Wee.

For the uninitiated, I apologize. Long distance runners and triathletes alike tend to fixate on certain topics that are somewhat less than glamorous. Nutrition and its by-products are one of such topics, and were the focus of my ride today.

After having suffered from sub-par nutrition at Oliver, my goal here was to drink every last drop of my GU Brew (which included a few scoops of extra carb for good measure), eat my gels, take my salt pills and widdle at will.

It was all good except for the widdle part. Not for lack of trying! I experienced complete mind-body dissonance between the necessity to stay hydrated and the total social unacceptability of weeing in public. So the good news is that I arrived in T2 with a clean bike. The bad news is that I wasted some time on the run trying to find a socially acceptable place to widdle.

Other than the fixation on nutrition, the bike was pretty uneventful. It was a tough course with constant undulation, some funky crosswind and no real chance to just settle in and cruise. Not surprisingly, my average speed was less than at Oliver.

The new aerohelmet was really comfortable. Not sure that it really sped me up, but damn, did I ever look like a dork :)

Goal: Tough out the fade.

Easier said than done! For those of you cheering, I want you to know that I really, really appreciated it. The lack of cognizance or any blink of recognition was not aimed at you intentionally - my energy was completely and utterly consumed just keeping the run going.

The darkness first appeared around 6k, went away with some gel, and reappeared at 12k. It tricked me into a lot of negative thoughts and taunted me to stop. For anyone who has done an endurance event, this is familiar territory. Feel good. Feel awful. Want to quit. Feel good again.

At the final turn at Spanish Banks, I was really really excited that there were only 3k left. And then I saw Nicole charging up behind me, running the same blistering pace that she did in Oliver. The fear of being passed took over and lit a fire under my rear end....miraculously I even managed to speed up over the last 3k!

Thought I was around 5:08, so was really surprised to see 5:02 and change on the clock when I arrived at the finish line. Official finish: 5:02:48!

The best part was that my race effort was rewarded with a visit to the podium as 2nd place for my AG. Even though I know that the best age groupers in my category were not racing, I am still pretty proud to have been named the BC Provincial long-course AG champion for 2010!

(OK, so it's kind of like being Starbucks barista of the year when you kick all of the other coffee shops out of the competition. The title really doesn't mean anything...but it's still fun!)

All in all, I find it totally amazing that all the training is paying off. I look back to one year ago and realize that I have come a LONG way from the sprint tri last year. Knowing that a very tough month of training for IMC is coming up, it was nice to relish in the small victories of the day, even just for a few moments. Triathlons are complex, with lots of moving parts and things to master, but I am slowly learning.

Some shout outs! Great bigs hugs and thanks to....
  • everyone that came out to cheer!

  • my training buddies who keep me motivated day in and day out and share in the collective suffering

  • to Coach Calvin for great guidance and the cowbell

  • to Nicole for being such a bloody fast runner and scaring me into running faster. I have no doubt you will run me down at IMC.

  • and last but not least, to Speed Theory for selling me some speed :)

Finish: 5:02:48
Swim: 37:27
T1: 3:20
Bike: 2:44:42
T2: 1:48
Run: 1:35:34

Overall: 59/241
Women: 12/72 (includes pros)
Category: 2/11