Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 race log

  • New Year's Day Fat Ass 50k - January 1 (first baby-ultra!)
  • Steveston Ice Breaker 8k - January 30 33:22
  • First Half Marathon - February 13 1:31:29 (1st in AG)
  • Women Helping Women 10k, Maui - March 12 42:50
  • Run Til You're Green 5k - March 17 20:04
  • Sunshine Coast April Fool's Half - April 3 1:27:39 (1st in AG)
  • Vancouver Sun Run - April 17 39:38 (PB, top 100 women)
  • Mother's Day 5k - May 5 19:24 (PB)
  • Shaugnessy 8k - May 29 32:07
  • Ironman Boise 70.3 - June 11 5:00:55 (2nd in AG)
  • Ride to Conquer Cancer - June 18/19
  • Subaru Vancouver half-iron - July 3 4:48:35 (1st in AG, 6th female OA)
  • Kelowna Gran Fondo - July 16
  • Peach Classic Olympic tri - July 17 2:29:36 (10th female OA)
  • Sooke half iron - August 7 5:02:48 (1st female OA)
  • Las Vegas 70.3 championship - September 11 5:04:24 (8th in AG)
  • Victoria half-marathon - October 9 1:25:58 (5th in AG)
  • Diva on the run 10k - October 16 39:56 (3rd OA, 1st in AG)
  • Ironman Cozumel - November 27 10:18:52 (1st AG, 7th amateur female OA)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pinch me

OK...just one more reflect on Cozumel blog post.  I know - blah blah Ironman blah!

The last few days, I've realized that I am still lost in a bit of a dream.  So much has happened as I reflect over the last month, and yet, so very little has changed.  It all depends on perspective.

Four weeks ago, I was teetering on that very fine line that one teeters on before a big race.  I had been training, hard, for nearly ten months and was feeling fatigued, anxious and full of angst.  There is so much that gets shut out when you are training - weekends disappear, social activities are non-existent and the struggle to stay on top of all of your commitments in life becomes close to unmanageable, leaving you perilously close to a complete breakdown.  You just pray that when it is all over, that there will be some semblance of the life you left behind and that the pieces won't be too shattered to reassemble.

Then, press fast forward.

My sunburn is nearly gone, the pain is forgotten and those long-angst filled weeks before the race have faded into memory.  I'm still tired, in fact probably more tired than I was a month ago.  But, somehow, life is just on a more even keel.  The anxious expectation is gone, replaced by a lingering happiness.  The feeling of accomplishment, the thrill of achievement, the knowledge that the plan you followed and executed was the right one - every day they fade a little, but they are still bright enough to make the tired go away.

It is an incredible realization that the little inside voice saying "you can't" was wrong and that the other voices telling you "you can" - your coach, your friends, your family - were ones that knew better.  Somehow you always expected that they were right, but that little voice inside is awfully persistent sometimes.

So as I start to pick up all of the things I abandoned while I was lost in training, the fading memory of race day will undoubtedly motivate me to push forward and give everything I can.  I am truly blessed to have been able to finish that race, and to have had the guidance and support that enabled me to realize my goals.  I am fortunate to have people in my life who support me in my endeavours (even though they may not entirely understand them), and I hope that I am somehow able to return the unconditional support at some point.

Yet, it is not enough to pat myself on the back and rest on those laurels.

I have a lot to learn, in triathlon and in life, and I am quite cognizant there will be many ups and downs on the road ahead.  Goals evolve and take on a new life.  The maybe-could have-would have that was four weeks ago is no longer an uncertainty, but I still need to work hard to manage what lies ahead.  It is pretty crystal clear that I cannot stand still and lollygag in past success for long.....the world is continuously changing its expectations and will simply move on without me. It's time to pinch myself, wake up from the dream and start catching up!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

*Happy dance*

"You'll live many lives in an ironman. Coward, survivor, optimist, pessimist, superhero. Halfway through the marathon, you'll swear you'll never do this again. At the finish, you can't wait to do another."- random quote from slowtwitch forum

I saw this quote on slowtwitch a while back and really liked it.  One of the unique aspects of racing an Ironman is that you truly do live many lives during the course of the race - it’s a gear-intensive endurance sport and your performance is a ultimately culmination of countless variables.   Weather, training (too much or too little), nutrition and mental state all can impact the outcome of your day in a blink of an eye, never mind endless factors that are simply out of your control. It is not a matter of if things will turn sideways, it is a matter of when and whether you will be able to right-side it before it is too late.

Ironman Cozumel delivered on this promise.  I experienced pure euphoria, anger, joy, fear and pride in equal shares.  Training, experience and drive got me to the finish line, but faith also factored substantially in the day. 

Traveling to Mexico for Ironman #3 was a gamble.  I have never been one to openly share my race goals, but had worked with Coach Bjoern to develop my training plan based on some pretty aggressive time goals for my final race of 2011.  As race day approached, I was quite cognizant that these goals might be a bit overzealous.  Whereas the conditions in Vancouver were decidedly winter-like for the last few weeks of training, race day weather in Cozumel brought heat, humidity and wind.  To make matters worse, I was nursing a seriously inflamed soleus, hadn't had a pain-free run in three weeks and had been fighting off some type of flu or cold.  Alas, there is no sense in giving up before you begin so when the hot sun rose above me and 2300 other age groupers on November 27, I was ready to give it everything I had.

Goal time 1:10; Actual 1:07:47  

Ironman Cozumel is organized as a split transition, with the swim located about 9k south of town at an eco-park called Chankanaab.  The swim course is a single, counter-clockwise loop in the amazingly clear, aquamarine water of the Caribbean Sea.  Forget wetsuits – the water temp on race day was 82 degrees!  I am not a strong swimmer and my previous non-wetsuit swims in Las Vegas and Kona have not gone well.  As such, I had a lot of pressure on myself to put up a reasonable swim time so I could expend less effort chasing on the bike and the run.   

Mass start at Chankanaab
The start is in deep water, so along with the mass of age groupers I jumped off the dock to tread water shortly before 7am.  The 2300-person field was predominately male (with only ~ 550 female participants!) and I knew it was going to be a rough swim.  I had really hoped that the chaos would clear after the first turn like it did at IMC.  Unfortunately, this was very wishful thinking - the swim was turbulent and congested pretty much the entire 3800m.  Since the mens' swim caps were the same orange as the buoys, sighting was almost impossible. I’d like to say that I picked the most efficient line around the buoys, but I certainly didn’t!  The last 600m felt like forever – I had drifted too close to shore and wasted a lot of effort fighting the current.  I also did not realize that I needed to be left of the last buoy instead of right (wtf?!), so ended up swimming upstream to correct my error.  That mistake cost me a couple minutes, but upon crawling out of the stairs onto the dock I saw a 1:07 on the clock.  My first "life" of the day was indeed a happy one.  

Despite my rookie mistake on sighting, I’d have to say this was my favorite triathlon swim ever.  Coming from me, that's saying a lot!  Though not without challenges – the mass start, ocean swells, tricky sighting, as well as some jellyfish and stinging coral - the clear blue water was simply stunning and it was absolutely fantastic to see the bottom the entire way!    

I happy danced through the showers and into the ladies change tent, but had a frustratingly slow T1.  The officials did not allow compression sleeves during the swim so I struggled to get my calf sleeves and arm coolers over my wet limbs, and took an extra few seconds to ensure that I was doused with sunscreen.

Goal time 5:30; Actual 5:23:19 

Getting onto the bike is always the best part of a race for me.  Even knowing I had a shitty transition, nothing was stopping the happy dance at this point.  It was time for me and Miss Daisy to do our thing!  

The three loop bike course covers the south half of the island and is flat, fast and scenic.   I’m more of a hilly-course girl so was very interested to see how I would fare on this type of course...no small ring required!  Cozumel is always windy so I knew that my speed would be variable, and pacing on the first lap was kind of an experiment.  The plan was to go out at a conservative but quick pace and hold my effort, but the sheer joy of being on the bike just overcame me - I went out hard and was having an absolute blast.   

Despite getting slammed with a crosswind along the section along the east side of the island, that section of the ride was breathtaking.  Windswept, pristine white sand beaches with crashing aquamarine waves.  Big wow factor.

The ride into and through town was also fantastic.  The crowd support was incredible and they absolutely went off the hook, particularly for female riders....CHICA CHICA CHICA!!!  It was awesome.  The first two laps were definitely the "superhero" part of the race. I saw my parents in the crowd, waved, yelled, smiled and had a lot of fun.

Happy times with Miss Daisy, riding along the gorgeous east coast of Cozumel!
Then, around 135k on the bike, the happy dance abruptly ended.  A massive peloton swallowed me up, and I was swarmed by rider, after rider, after rider.  I'm guessing there were 30 or 40 riders in the pack and they were blowing past me on both sides. They weren't moving just a little quicker than me, they were moving a LOT quicker.  Passing them was not a viable option so dropping off the back was the only choice I had.  I righted myself into my base bars and kept shoulder checking as I dropped back.  The only way to describe my state of mind at that point is rattled - I have never seen anything like this in any triathlon.

I was miserable as I let rider after rider pass me, with many of them acting like they were on a Sunday group ride.  I had no idea what my relative position in my AG was and was too disoriented to be certain how many women were in the pack, but suspected that my chances for a Kona slot had just ridden away from me.  I kept trying to rationalize in my mind that playing fair always wins, but even knowing I was doing the right thing I still felt totally defeated.  I choked back tears, yet involuntarily they started streaming down my face.  Wow, how's that for mental toughness?  A couple other riders who had also been passed and chosen to drop off the back were kind enough to console me as they passed me, but I was pretty despondent at that point.   I kept dropping back further and further while I tried to get mentally back on track from this setback.   I had nothing in the tank and no will to get back in the game.

Then the Pissed-Right-Off phase kicked in - although my reaction was to hammer out the remaining bike leg, a little voice reminded me to stay focused on the big picture.  High cadence, save the legs, take down all my remaining nutrition, go to the bathroom, wiggle my toes, relax.  It was time to run like hell.
Goal time 3:40; Actual 3:39:31 

While I'm sure that most coaches would not advocate anger as a strategy for racing, coming out of T2 I was intent on running down every single woman in that peloton.  I literally came blazing out of transition, my first kilometer tracking a way-too-fast 4:36/km.

After a few kilometers of this, I realized that running like hell was a gut reaction, but probably wasn't the best strategy.   A marathon is a long way and a lot can transpire. Despite my anger, I needed to run a little smarter so I settled into the pace that I had agreed upon in advance with Coach Bjoern - 5:10/km.

Lap one, almost done!
The run is a three by 14k loop through the centre of town.  The course is pretty much pancake flat and runs seaside.  It was lined with enthusiastic fans and the atmosphere was incredible.  The first loop passed very quickly, but I remained intermittently angry about what had happened on the bike. I chatted with a few of the other runners and there were a few standout athletes that really helped me get past my mental negativity out on the run - a girl named Laura who I went back and forth with several times during the run, Sarah who dropped off the bike pack and still ran her way to an AG win, and a fellow named James who was running in a cowboy hat.  Known as the "Iron Cowboy", he is aiming to do 30 ironman races this year while raising awareness for a famine relief charity.

Chatting with these athletes, even briefly, really put my anger into perspective.  I realized that the focus on vying for an age group position as a relative indicator of my performance was misguided.  Racing an Ironman is a personal event - me against myself, the elements and the distance.  It is a journey to get to race day, and a challenge to see if I could do what I set out to do.  There is an extreme amount of personal responsibility to play fair in sport and it is a choice to do so.  At the end of the race, you can only know if you accomplished what you are capable of because you gave it your heart.   Anger is a weak way to fuel oneself, but giving it everything, playing fair and knowing you succeeded on will alone is potent rocket fuel.  And so began the "Optimistic" phase of my race.

And, as though the heavens sensed my change of heart, the sky opened up and it started pouring rain.  Beautiful, refreshing, crazy tropical rain.  Flash flood!  I loved it.  I laughed, I smiled - it was perfect Vancouver conditions.  All those long days training in the humid west coast rain were paying off!    The run course was totally flooded and we had to wade through knee deep water and streaming rivers of yucky, muddy water - it was so irreverent and a lot of fun.

As the run wore on, nasty blisters formed on the bottoms of both soggy feet and the humidity was stifling.   Despite my initial amusement with the flash flood, the last lap was hot and painful.  I counted steps to 100, repetitively over and over until I was down to the last 7k leg.  But even though it hurt, it was a good hurt.  There were crowds everywhere and their boisterous enthusiasm was incredible and infectious.  The sun goes down at 5pm in Cozumel, so based on the dusk I guessed that I was around a 10:30 finish time and reverted back to my happy dance.  There was a blissful satisfaction in those last few kilometres, knowing that I had achieved my goal.  Nothing else really mattered.

I made the final left turn into the finish corral and had two surprises waiting for me.  1. I saw pink directly in front of me.  2. I saw 10:18 on the clock.  

As background - a few years ago, I was outsprinted at a Five Peaks race in Whistler to lose by 1 second.  You don't need to be taught that lesson very many times before it becomes ingrained in you to sprint if you see anyone in front of you at the finish.  This reaction applies even more so if the person in front of you is wearing pink and happens to have a "R" on their right calf (the age groups were marked with letters, not numbers..."R" was W35-39).  In my happy delerium, which even included stopping at the last aid station, I had failed to recognize that I was almost directly behind someone in my age group.

My friend Greg Welwood taught me that if you are going to pass someone, you don't think, you just GO!!!!  So guided by the wisdom of my good friend, with 20m to the finish line, I executed the Welwood sprint to finish Ironman Cozumel in 10:18:52.
Sprint finish....for the AG win!
The Icing-on-the Cake moment came about two hours later when I checked the results.  That hail mary finish line sprint ahead of woman-in-pink had garnered me the AG win by 3 seconds.  I couldn't have dreamed up a better finish.  

I owe huge thanks to a lot of people who have supported me on my journey to this incredible day and throughout what has been a fantastic season.
  • Ironmom and Irondad for supporting me not only in Cozumel, but day in and day out as I pursue these crazy dreams.  
  • Coach Bjoern for believing in me and helping me be a stronger athlete, both mentally and physically.  Your dedication to your athletes and your knowledge is unsurpassed.
  • My incredible teammates and training partners at Speed Theory, LifeSport and Pacific Spirit Tri Club.
  • Particular thanks to Stephanie, Geoff, Gregg, Jeanne, Rachel M., Rachel K, Doug, Sarah and Genevieve.  You are inspiration to me and I love you all for it.
  • Everyone at Speed Theory, and especially Jeremy, Doug and Murray.  I know I say this over and over again, but you are truly awesome.
  • My swim coach Dale for putting up with our chatty, not-so-serious lane at Canadian Dolphins and still trying to help us improve. It's not an entirely lost cause! 
  • Dr. Aaron Case and RMT supreme Greg Welwood.
  • Susan, for being a role model and so incredibly grounded, and for reminding me to focus on the positive above all else.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ways to elevate your mood into the stratosphere after three weeks of miserable rainy weather and a bad bout of the taper crazies....

Hop on a plane to the Mexican Caribbean, and find an awesome condo with a killer oceanfront view.  Sit on the deck and watch the boats go by in the aquamarine sea.

View from the deck.  Not shabby at all!
Go for your first outdoor ride on your tri bike in months (yes, months!).  Pick a nice, flat road with a swift tailwind for extra exhilaration.  Live in the moment, relishing the feeling of an effortless (tailwind aided) 38kph in the aerobars, willfully choosing to forget how the return trip in the headwind is going to feel.  Wheeeee!

Turn off to Chankanaab, the swim venue.  Lots of flat, flat, flat roads!
Make tracks to an isolated white sand beach for an incredible swim in crystal clear, bathtub warm, calm reef-protected ocean.  Yes, I really did use the adjective "incredible" to describe swimming.  Hello little fishies!
Playa Palancar...beautiful!
Enjoy an amazing dinner of freshly pressed corn tortillas, local avocados and peppers, grilled skirt steak (with the hottest damned jalapenos ever), yummy green salsa, beans and rice.

Muy bueno!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taper crazies

With one week to go until Ironman Cozumel, I am smack in the middle of my taper and have lots of extra time on my hands.  You would think that being able to relax and essentially do nothing would be a luxury...but it's not.  The taper crazies have fully set in.

Some sure signs of the taper crazies:

1.  You remove 15 hours of training volume from your weekly schedule.  Instead of feeling perky, you feel tired, lethargic and exhausted.  A 20 minute run feels like 20 miles.

2.  You randomly burst into tears and/or freak out on anyone offering any type of suggestion and/or criticism (constructive or otherwise) concerning your race plan, equipment or pretty much anything.  Sorry to the person who suggested that my bike isn't fast and whose head I promptly chewed off in spades.  I'll forgive you in eight more days.  Maybe.

3.  With the extra time on your hands, you scour training blogs and twitter posts to use as ammunition for continuously second guessing your own training. (i.e., I have a rest day today and have done nothing but eat quinoa and bananas, yet so-and-so is doing an eight hour ride followed by a 30k brick run and 50 x 100's on 1:15.  All that on the Sunday before race day!  I must be doing the wrong thing!!!).  Then you promptly remember how painful it is to run 20 minutes, abandon the thought of any such brick workout and go back to the blissful ignorance of eating quinoa and bananas.  (Refer to #10 regarding abandoning thoughts.)

4.  You make a race checklist and check it.  Every day for a week.  Twice on weekend days for good measure.

5.  You remove caffeine from your diet so you feel a little crazier than normal.

6.  You get up a 4:30am for four days in a row to validate that no caffeine makes you crazier than normal.

7.  In conjunction with #5 and #6, you remove sugar and wheat from your diet for a dose of super-crazy.  Convince the people at work that you are totally nuts when you cannot participate in any social activities or lunches because every item contains sugar and/or wheat in copious quantities. For even more fun, inform them that you are on a "caffeine-free, gluten-free, low sugar, low dairy, high protein diet" and watch them look at you like you are really strange.

8. Extra weirdness points when asked by people why you are not eating anything but rice cakes and respond that it is because you are about to swim 3.8k, bike 180k and run a marathon, successively on one day and completely on your own free will, not because you are being held prisoner or being chased by a voracious animal of some sort.  

8.  At the same time as you espouse the aforementioned ridiculously clean diet, pack your bags with race "nutrition" including maltodextrin and fructose laden gels, caffeine pills, salt tablets, immodium, naproxen, tums, a precautionary dose of broad-spectrum antibiotics and aloe for the nasty sunburn you are about to get.  (Yes, there are two #8's.  See #10.)

9. You experience arbitrary aches, pains and twitches and convince yourself that they must be the manifestation of a chronic injury.  Then you take random internet questionnaires to analyze all said aches, pains and twitches.  You successfully self-diagnose yourself as a borderline exercise addict.  However, you score very poorly on Cosmopolitan's "Are you Good-Girl Hot or Bad-Girl Hot" quiz because there is no such thing as "Crazy-Taper-Girl-Hot".

10.  You act antsy, irritable and demonstrate no attention span whatsoever.  Squirrel!  What IS this blog post about anyway?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Staying in the game

Lost:  Mojo.
Reward offered.

When I signed up for a November race, I had not fully appreciated how much motivation impacts preparation for a late-season race.  It's easy to say that the reason I participate in triathlon is because I love it but I'd be lying if I said that staying focused and positive over the last couple weeks has not been a huge challenge.

Big volume is tough, even at the best of times. A rigorous training schedule forces you to be diligent with nutrition, rest and balancing the rest of your life with the physical demands of training.  Juggling workouts, laundry, meal planning and a (more than) full-time occupation is a sport of its own.  Nasty weather adds a further layer of complication, as does the loss of willing training partners.  While many of my friends have been kicking into their off-seasons, I've been slogging out the miles in the rain.  (A friend of mine commented yesterday that he'd rather stick his Remembrance Day poppy in his eye than join me for run intervals.  I kid you not.)

Add to all of this a loss of spark....and it's not a good thing.

A discussion with Coach Bjoern about my waning enthusiasm made me feel hopeful that what I'm going through is somewhat normal for a late season race and he made a number of helpful suggestions.  He has an incredibly positive and experienced outlook, and it is one of the reasons that I really like working with him - he knows that training isn't solely about logging miles, but also about keeping yourself psychologically in the game.  Four weeks before race day is where the mental aspect comes into play, and like it or not, the reality is that the mental aspect of training is just as challenging as the physical.

Staying focused on a late-season race requires a lot of mental reinforcement.  This includes not only positive thinking, but a re-examination of the goals I set for both my upcoming race and next season.  Why am I doing this?  Are those goals attainable?  This evaluation exercise was somewhat helpful in tempering my flare-up of demotivation because it reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.  I was so mired in the details that I was forgetting what the big picture was.

Quite the opposite of the big picture, I have also discovered that compartmentalizing the task at hand is helpful in staying focused.  By taking one step at a time, breaking each workout into pieces and mentally reinforcing success at each stage, it is much easier to maintain mental focus.  Not a 4000m swim, but a series of smaller workouts each with an intention.  Not a 30k run, but a warm up, main set and cool down.  A 18 hour training week taken as a whole is daunting - eleven specific workouts with stated goals, however, are less so.  

Mental reinforcement has also come in the form of keeping negative thoughts from occupying space in my head, especially while training.  Last weekend I spent twelve hours on my bike(s), the last four of which I did alone in nasty, rainy conditions.  I literally saw only 3 other cyclists the entire time - it was cold, wet and lonely.  In order to get through it and stay focused on my goals for the workout, I broke the ride up into one hour pieces at the end of each of which I was allowed to have a "treat" provided I met my stated goals for that block.  I know it sounds silly, but it worked.  I "treated" myself to a 5 minute rest stop to warm up my hands, an extra peanut butter bonk bar, and a mango smoothie.  Yes...an extra bonk bar.  Pretty lame, right?

The mind is an incredibly powerful tool and it is amazing how much a little extra reinforcement can make your body more willing to do what you are asking it for.

And sometimes, like yesterday, there is simply no reinforcement strong enough.  I had a tough run workout - 8 x 1 mile at threshold - and only managed 5 repeats.  While I've realized that occasionally failing workouts is a reality, it is still hard at the time to rationalize why every inch of your body simply says "no".

And yet, I know that after this week that the taper will begin and this will pass.

One day at a time.

Trust in the training.

Eat.  Rest.  Stay positive.    

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

After doing triathlons all summer, the fall half-marathon beckoned.  Compared to doing tris, packing for a road race is oddly simple....runners, shorts, a couple gels.  My nerdy triathlon checklist felt very lonely as we packed for the thanksgiving long weekend trip to Victoria.

The half would be an interesting experiment on what happens to leg speed after a summer of 70.3 training.  My PB open half marathon was set in April, at 1:27 and nearly 4 minutes faster than my previous PB.  I was also feeling under the weather earlier in the week and had taken a couple days off training, so while it was an impromptu taper I knew my health was not 100%.  Realistically I was ready to accept not setting a PB in Victoria.

On my side, however, was Friday track.  Since the beginning of August, Coach Bjoern and the LifeSport crew have on a weekly basis forced me outside my comfort zone.  Let's be clear, track sessions hurt.  They force you to push harder than you are comfortable with and teach you how to be mentally tough.  They also train you to pace and hold speed.  

To preface the rest of this blog post - I do not have a track and field background and started distance running in my late twenties.  Anything less than an eight minute mile is / was something I deemed too fast for my liking and I had long ago resigned myself to being a MOP runner.  Solid 3:30 marathoner.  Solid 1:40 half marathoner.  But could I go faster?  No way.    

4 minute kilometers are my friend, dammit!
So that being said, even a year ago, I would have laughed out loud at the ambitious race plan we set out for the Victoria half.  Go out at a 4:05 kilometer and drop the pace as the race progresses.  Good one.  Prior to 2011 I had never even cracked 42 minutes on an open 10k, never mind going out that fast on a half-marathon.

The morning brought perfect race conditions and all weather-related possible excuses were rendered useless.  I felt rested and good.  It was on.  No excuses.

And you know what?  I didn't quite make my race plan, but those track sessions really paid off.  21.2 successive kilometers at an average 4:02/km pace (6:30 mile)...and I have a new half marathon PB of 1:25:56!   Apparently Friday track does teach an old dog some new tricks!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A sum of the parts

Like most people, I am multi-faceted, complex and ever-changing.  I may be an accountant, but I am also a daughter.   A sister, an aunt, a spouse, a friend, a dog mother, a mentor, a mentee and a partner. 

I am also an athlete.  For my entire life, I have dabbled in sports and did not really identify as any particular kind of athlete.  I figure skated for eighteen years, have skied for as long as I can remember, played soccer until university and did my time as a gym bunny post-university.  Oh yes, I am also a bit of a tomboy.  :)

At some point during last three years, I have also evolved into a bizarre creature known as a triathlete.  Runners, swimmers and cyclists alike make fun of us (come to think of it, most everyone makes fun of us).  We are a spandex-clad, compression wearing, gear-loving oddity - a hybrid of each of the aforementioned sports, yet universally maligned by purists in each discipline.

Becoming a triathlete is a slippery slope, and honestly I don't think that any of us really sets out to become as deeply imbedded in it as we end up.  I started off with half-marathons, then marathons, bought a road bike, learned how to swim and signed up for my first triathlon because it looked like it might be fun.  Each successive step seemed at first an impossibility, but add a little can-do attitude to each thing you do in this life, and it is amazing what one can achieve.   

After the typical first triathlon near-drowning experience, I was hooked.  Yes, you read that right - I royally sucked at it, and I was hooked.  A unique form of sadomasochism?  Only if you view it as such.  As a person who believes that hard work is rewarded, this sport is indeed a challenge.  Throw in three very different disciplines, as well as the fourth ever-important discipline known as nutrition, and you have a geeky addiction for type-A corporate weekend warriors like myself.

While you can dabble in triathlon as a hobby, it is very easy to become entrenched in it.  I am often asked by others, particularly people whom I work with, why anyone would ever possibly want to exercise so much.  It is so hard to explain training to those who simply don't understand.  What I do is more than just being "fit".  I do it because I love it and I am passionate about it.  Triathlon, even more so than running, has been an experience of developing friendships with a community of like-minded people I have met along the way; it is about being committed to my goals and about pushing past self-imposed limits to achieve things I thought previously impossible; and most of all, it is about learning to exercise will, strength and discipline.  

It seems hard to find fault with those reasons.  

And yet, I still find myself constantly defending my choices to those who view that a 36-year old professional should stop trying to be Peter Pan and start creating a life more traditionally acceptable.  (Ironically, the concept of 36-year-old professional female is still so relatively new that it is unclear what this "traditionally acceptable" cultural role entails, particularly in light of many who remain subscribed to the stereotypical image of the WASP-white male professional!)   What is it that certain people find so offensive about a triathlon-loving accountant?  Is it the commitment to something in addition to my job that is an issue, or perhaps an uneasiness with the non-traditional role of a spandex-wearing female who is comfortable in her own skin and loves sports?   Why is it that physical challenge considered trivial and non-essential by certain people?

I see this criticism as narrow-mindedness, a complete inability to see that a person can be passionate and committed to something in addition to the traditional roles of work and family.

While I can certainly respect that endurance sports are not for everyone and probably rank as being a bit extreme to the casual observer, I have no doubt that triathlon has made me more goal-oriented and has taught me dedication, perseverance and even humility.  These attributes serve me well in my life, particularly in my career - I also find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly believe that these attributes actually detract from my career.

There seems to be cognizance and general consensus that exercise is important, but the common excuse of most people is that they don't have time.  This is such crap.  If you are passionate about something - whatever that is - you make the time.

Although triathlon can be a social sport, the workouts are truly individual and can be scheduled with regard to professional commitments without the risk of disappointing an entire team.  It is not that swimming, biking or running ranks in importance to work, family or any of my other commitments;  instead I meticulously carve time out of my schedule to make it all fit in.  It would be easy to make excuses and say I don't have the time....but with some ingenuity anything is possible. I schedule my workouts the same way I do any other meeting, and I stick to the plan - as a result, my life is ridiculously regimented but I'm happy that way.  I've learned to wake early and be efficient with my time (it is amazing how much one can get done before 7am!).

There is a huge commitment that comes with the goals I set for myself.  It is weeks, months, years of effort that go into training - not one day.  I have good days and bad days, and just because I am tired doesn't mean I am burned out and need to give up.  You get out there, you do what you have to do, and you commit yourself to being better.  This is not all that different from anything in life - it is not a single deal that makes a career, but rather the culmination of years of effort and the ability to consistently perform over time.  Does taking an hour from my day to run negate my success as a professional?  Not when a career is measured in terms of resilience and fortitude over the span of a lifetime.

The sense of personal accomplishment I have achieved over the past two years is thrilling and anchors me with an infectious love and passion for this sport.  I'd never have imagined that I would toe the line at Kona, but I got there.  I've pushed myself to the limit and prevailed. Triathlon has taught me that I am my own biggest obstacle, and that in order to achieve my goals, I need to be determined to take ownership over my own success.  Does this make you mentally tough?  You bet.  There is no corporate training session that could ever achieve the same mental toughness that running an Ironman marathon through lava fields in forty degrees teaches you.

At a conference this week I was reminded of a favorite quote that really echos how I feel about the criticism I get - 
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt  

Perhaps it is my own naive belief that a successful person needs to be well-rounded, and perhaps someday I will stop being Peter Pan long enough to see the error of my ways.  For the meantime, however, I will continue to be passionate about all the roles that I play.  And those critics?  Well, they can just try to keep up.  :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What happens in Vegas....

Traveling to Las Vegas to race a triathlon seems like a strange thing to do indeed, but when the WTC decided to relocate the Ironman 70.3 World Championship to Lake Las Vegas I was intrigued.  Heat, wind, hills.  Sounds kind of like a certain volcanic island in the Pacific, doesn't it?

In the days preceding the race, we toured around the course and started to understand why the race organizers selected this location for the championship.  It was clearly intended to be a challenge - non-wetsuit swim leading to a hilly and hot ride in the desert, capped off by a 3-loop run course on black asphalt.  Even T1 was difficult - you had to exit from the water, run nearly half a km to transition and then drag your bike up a switchback.  Yes, a switchback!

Race morning did not start well.  Note to self - remember to bring your nutrition to transition in the morning!  Upon realizing that we had forgotten our GU Brew in the hotel fridge, I set off on a panicky 2k run back to the hotel (in my flip-flops no less) to retrieve my nutrition before the 6am closure of transition.  Not good!  Luckily, the medical director was kind enough to give me a ride part of the way back to the hotel and another kind spectator gave me a lift part of the way back to transition so I made it back, frazzled, precisely at 5:53am.  7 minutes to clear out of transition.

A typical 70.3, it was a wave start and I lined up with my AG for a 7:20 start.  We were over 40 minutes back of the pro start and watched all of the pros exit the water before we even got our toes wet!  The swim course was one-loop in the rather murky waters of Lake Las Vegas.  What a strange little man-made lake.  It was an in-water start, so each wave had 10 minutes to warm up and move into position as the preceding two waves moved through to the start.  Even though the water was over 80 degrees, it felt cold and I was shivering as I treaded water, or perhaps it was just nerves.  The start was surprisingly rough for only 100 people and I was pretty battered around for the first few buoys.  I managed to hold myself together enough not to backstroke and by the turnaround had passed a few blue-capped swimmers from the preceding wave, but started to struggle on the return.  The sun was glaring on the left and I found bilateral breathing to be dizzying, so ended up breathing right only and stalling my stroke.  I felt awkward and heavy in the water and knew even before I hit the dock that my time was rotten.

Sure enough, some quick math in subtracting 40 minutes from the clock time told me that I had spent 38 minutes flailing around.  I was annoyed, frustrated and felt like crying.  The little devil voice in my head really, really wanted to quit....it was Kona deja vu as I plucked my bike off a nearly empty bike rack.  I had exited the water in 62nd position - almost 2/3 to the back of my wave.  Really must learn how to swim.

As I mentioned previously, the exit out of T2 was a rather treacherous switchback and my heartrate was jacked by the time I hit the mount line.  But along the way up the switchback came a game changing moment.  Several of the spectators were being really rude and saying stuff like "see ya later, suckers" and "glad it's not me out there".  It was inappropriate, rude and really, really got me going.

I may not be able to swim, but I can ride.  And ride I did.  I took the first hill fairly conservatively up to Lake Mead Parkway and through the no-pass zone, but after hitting the first hill it was game on.  The course was challenging and hilly, but definitely easier than Sooke and I had nothing to lose.  As Bjoern had suggested, I rode the uphills hard knowing that I could recover on the downhill and by the time I hit the turnaround, I was averaging 35kph.  My favorite moment of the day was the reaction of one of the men in the 35-39 age group whom I traded positions with a couple of times (me on uphills, him on the downhills). When I finally passed him once and for all on the final descent out of the park, he shook his head and said "but you are just so little".   

The turnaround yielded headwind and it was at that point that I became cognizant of the heat, so I dialed it back a bit.  I was also starting to struggle with nutrition - the aid stations were quite far apart and I was not able to quickly refill my water bottle so ended up running out of water three times.  The air was dry, my eyes stung and the back of my throat was scratchy and parched, yet I had to keep riding fairly hard to stand a chance to make up for my abysmal swim time.

By the time I reached T2, I was dehydrated and headachy.  Fearful of bonking or getting a migraine, I spent extra time in transition drinking water.  Three full glasses of it!  Without water, my run would be over before it began and I knew I had to pay special attention to hydration.

I'd like to say that I felt springy and happy coming off the bike...but the adjectives dull, hot and wilted come to mind.  The black asphalt was hot, so very hot.  The three loop run course was full of people as I exited T2 and there were spectators everywhere.  If the run had been more desolate, it would have been easy to surrender to the hot black asphalt, but with so many people around there was no chance I was giving up easily.  I spotted Bjoern almost immediately, and he told me that I had ridden myself into 8th place in my AG with a 2:39.

Wow, talk about information having an impact.  My heart leapt a little....8th in AG at the WC!  My hard work on the bike had paid off!

Then his next words put fear into the mix - "run as hard as you can, you can do it".  Damn.  There were only 4-5 minutes separating 4th to 12th place in my AG.  If I fell off, there were several girls hot on my heels that would happily run me down even despite the heat and the challenging course.

Because of the looped run course, it was very hard to tell who you were passing in your AG and whether they were even on the same loop.  I was passed very quickly by two girls who were absolutely cruising and started getting down on myself.  The run course was 1.5 miles down, 2 miles up, 2 miles down, 2 miles up, 2 miles down, 2 miles up, 1.5 miles down.  The downhill hurt, the uphill hurt and it was just damned hot.

What I rationalized, however, was that if I was hurting...chances are everyone else was too.  Those girls passing me fast and then walking up the hills were messing with my head, and by the third lap I had had enough of the tortoise and hare bullsh*t.  My pace may have been slow, but it was steady, and that was somehow good enough to keep me in the game.  I skipped the aid stations on the last hill and ran as hard as I could, passing two girls in my AG in the last 2k.  I felt really fast but I know better :)

Sub-5 was out of the question, but I ended up holding on to 8th in my division with a 5:04.  Am I entirely satisfied with that?  No, of course not.  My swim was disappointing and I lacked focus for much of the run.  Knowing that a mere 3 minutes separated me from the podium really made me kick myself after the fact.....but I'll be back for another go!

There were some victories - my bike split was the second fastest in my AG (one of the fastest female age-group times of the day) and I was able to bounce back from being dehydrated coming off the bike.  I played it smart, took the time to drink and eat on the run, and ended up feeling great at the end.  So while a podium finish would have been nice, 8th in AG is not terrible.

Big hugs and thanks to the awesome Vancouver team - Stephanie, Rachel, Susan, Stephen, Amy, Andrew and Mark.  I'm thinking Whole Foods should definitely give us preferred customer cards for our patronage this week!

Huge thanks and gratitude to Coach Bjoern for all the wisdom, support and patience.  You somehow managed to keep us all in line and still smiling despite the tough heat training.  

And of course, huge props to Speed Theory for your support and assistance.  That bike split goes to you.  :)

Team Oss-some!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Riding Miss Daisy

I'm so happy today!!  Speed Theory pulled out all the stops and managed to accomplish the impossible...a replacement frame for my poor Ora in less than a week.

So without further ado, I introduce you to the very beautiful and fast Oopsie Daisy!    

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Prior to his incredible race at Ironman Canada last weekend, my friend Doug wrote a very thoughtful and practical blog post about not freaking out before race day.  With ten days to go until the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, his comments are particularly relevant to me right now.  Although unintentional, I find myself trying to gain control over the things that I cannot control (such as being obsessive over weather reports...42 degrees....really?!) and getting mired in the details and the "what ifs".

So, I methodically started making my way down Doug's to do list in an attempt to control the chaos.  I stocked up on nutrition, made my geeky checklists (and got laughed for said checklists), and put my plan together.

Yet, as much as we try, events beyond our control happen despite the best laid plans.  And sometimes the unthinkable happens.

To do list item #2 is bike cleaning.  This means REALLY cleaning it, with a toothbrush and q-tips if needed, because everyone knows that clean bikes go faster.  Plus...I love my beautiful bike and she's much prettier when she's sparkling.  So last Friday evening I set to work making Ora pretty.

And there it was.  The unthinkable.

An unmistakable, horrible hairline crack on my beautiful girl.  I cleaned the top tube again, desperately hoping that the thin line taunting me was just an apparition.  It wasn't. The horrible, sinking realization that my top tube was cracked.  The unthinkable was real - my beautiful, precious race bike was broken.

I was crushed.  Tears flowed.  The rule about not panicking, totally forgotten.  Sheer panic set in.

But, alas, I promise you that this story has a happy ending.  Those who know me know that I regularly wax rhapsodic about Speed Theory.  The folks there - especially Jeremy, Doug, Mike, Murray - have been so very patient and kind with me.  I walked into their shop two years ago with an entry to Ironman and a dream, and got from them in return patience, support and knowledge. And if you are skeptical, I beg you to read on.

If you are looking for a commodity, you can shop online.  You'll probably get a really good deal on your brand new, heavily discounted, late model P4 of unknown origin and you'll look really great riding those cheap Zipp 404 firecrest wheels with your half-price powertap from e-bay.  Triathlon is an expensive, gear-oriented sport and it is definitely hard on your wallet to keep up with the Joneses in the carbon, aero-everything department.

But is it worth it?  A resounding no.  The more expensive the purchase, the more you have at stake.  If you expect a warranty to be honored or if you expect any aspect of service whatsoever, then you deal with a local bike shop.  Yes, the prices are retail.  However, you are not paying for a commodity or an off-the shelf do-dad - you are paying for the service that goes along with your precious carbon baby.   You are paying for the expertise and the time of the people that you involve in your purchase decision, and for the help you will inevitably need when your bottom bracket starts to click or your seat position hurts your knees.  When I made the decision to buy a tri bike, Doug literally put in hours of time with me bouncing around options and ensuring that the fit was right before I committed.    Utilizing this expertise only to walk out the door and purchase the bike on the internet would have been an embarrassing deception.

If you are unconvinced and still sitting poised to buy those Zipps on craigslist, perhaps the rest of this happy story will change your mind.

I sent a note to Jeremy about 30 minutes after finding the crack.  Friday night, 9pm.  It was the weekend of Ironman Canada, the shop was closed for three days and the timing could not have been worse.  Yet, Jeremy responded instantly and jumped in without hesitating.  Less than a week after discovering the damage, a new frame is on its way. Not only that, but he took the time to speak with me several times and allay my fears.  While the butterflies in my stomach will not entirely settle until the new frame arrives, I am floored by the astounding responsiveness and immediate plans set in place to resolve the truly unthinkable by these exceptional individuals at Speed Theory and Podium Imports.  Their unwavering commitment to service and the product they sell, in my mind, is unparalled.

Cracks in carbon frames are remote, but manufacturing flaws can occur despite anything we might do.  For this reason, many manufacturers (including Orbea) stand by their products with lifetime guarantees.  However, it is the strength of the relationship with the seller and distributor that will enable a warranty claim. This story could have ended very differently.  Had I bought my bike second hand or had I purchased it on the internet - I would now be sitting without a bike for my A race.  Up sh*t creek so to speak.

Instead, I chose to deal with a local bike shop (and its distributor) who are committed to their product and dedicated to the highest level of customer service possible.  It is relationships that create a sound purchase, not the mere act of purchasing itself.  Jeremy and his team have gone above and beyond for me, and quite frankly, I cannot express enough gratitude right now.

Sorry, internet, this customer is sold.    

(Thank you - Jeremy, Brian, Doug, Mike, Murray.  You are A-list, second to none in this bike business stuff.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

We did it, hooray!

Last week, I took care of my niece Lily for a day.  Lily is terribly precocious for a two year old (or maybe that's just auntie pride), full of spirit and very, very energetic.  When we dropped her off at home after the day together, she was still chuffed and raring to go (possibly from all the sugary treats we fed her). I, on the other hand, was completely wilted.  I can run a marathon....yet a two year old does me in.

If you've been around a toddler recently, you also will be very familiar with Dora the Explorer.  Lily is all about Dora.  If you try to steal her fries, it's "Swiper, no Swiping!", and when she's proud of achieving something, she shouts the ubiquitous "We did it, we did it, we did it, hooray!".  It starts to stick in your head.

So on Sunday in Sooke, when I found myself in the very, very surprising position of leading the women's half-iron race with 10k left in the run, the mantra stuck in my mind with every painful step was, you guessed it, none other than we did it, we did it, we did it, yeah!  Stupid, yes.  But true.  I didn't willingly choose this mantra, but it just kind of stuck there like that terrible song you hear on the radio that will not leave your mind.

The Sooke race was my third half-iron race this year, and a tune-up for the Las Vegas 70.3 in September.  There is no better way to gauge how everything is coming together by putting it to the test, and this race definitely challenged me and surprised me in so many ways.

Having had three categorically shitty race swims so far this year, salvaging a decent swim was goal one.  Bjoern suggested to me that perhaps I should try to start further to the front since the half-iron field was small.  This terrified me....but I listened.  And it worked!  Although there was some confusion when the gun went off (we weren't ready), I found myself very quickly in a nice little pod of swimmers being pulled along.  Those mythic "feet" that I have heard so much about really do exist!  To be fair, the "lake" was actually more like a little puddle, barely big enough for the two-950m laps, so this was a very tame, calm open water swim by any standard.  Yet, it was exactly what I needed to gain a little confidence with the whole swimming thing.  33 minutes and change later (still not very fast by swimming standards but positively blistering for me), I bounced out of the puddle and into T1.  So, so very awesome!  

A week before the race, it was announced that a new bike course was to be unveiled - a "scenic" and "spectacular" one-loop course along the coastline.  They adjectives they failed to include were "ridiculously hilly" and "savage"!  At over 1300m of elevation gain, the bike course had almost as much elevation as Ironman Canada, over half the distance.  So it was with a sense of foreboding that I set off on Ora....knowing exactly what was in store for my poor legs.  

The first section was surprisingly fast, notwithstanding a few rollers, and then we hit the hill up to French Creek.  It was literally like slamming into a wall - 39/25 felt like the hardest gear in the world and felt like I was doing about 5 rpm.  I honestly thought I would just tip over!  There was nothing I could do except muscle my way up a few of the nastier inclines and my rule about spinning up the hills went out the door.  Quads be damned, I was standing.

I had trouble getting into a rhythm because the course was so undulating and there were only a few sections where you could really put your head down and work.  The last 20k felt like a total slog - I was exhausted and totally relieved to reach T2!  I knew my split would be comparatively slow to recent races, but even so, seeing 2:50 was discouraging.  My legs were shot and I had a half-marathon to run.

T2 was a comedy of errors.  My bottle of cola exploded all over me and I kept dropping my nutrition.  I ran about 2k with my hands full of stuff and must have looked so silly while I settled in.  After 3k, cruise control was set into my planned 4:30/km pace, legs surprisingly responding well.  And then the mental game started.

At T2, someone said "she's 2 up" and I had no idea what they were talking about.  Then a few other spectators told me the same thing - Stephanie was 2 minutes up on me, in the lead.  In Boise I wasn't able to sustain an AG win on the run, so I was nervous that I would outpace myself and end up getting run down again.  I also really like Stephanie and didn't feel particularly competitive against her - she had swam and rode extremely well to be out front and if the cards dealt a win for her, I was good with it.  Yet, I was cautiously optimistic that if I ran the race I wanted - a 1:35 half - that I could catch her.
Cruise control on.  Lap 1 almost done!
I reached Stephanie on the short downhill at the end of the first lap and we spoke briefly, cheered and laughed.  It was a positive, wonderful experience - a friendly competition that made me work to be as strong as someone whom I admire as an athlete and a person (Stephanie, you are awesome!).  It was just fun.  And honestly, if the roles had been reversed, I'd feel the same way.

It would have been great to end the race then, feeling happy and giddy.  I started running out of steam after the second turnaround, and even the adrenaline of being in the lead started to wane.  Even though the volunteer on the bike lead was fabulous and tried to distract me, the last few uphills were grueling.  That's when Dora snuck into my head.  Silly, silly run mantra....but it worked!
I did it!
5:02:48.  Not a PB, but a solid ride on a very tough course, a run executed as planned (1:34:38 split)....and for the very first time, a win.  Pretty cool, huh?  

Big cheers and hugs to Stephanie for motivating me to keep kicking it to the end, to Bjoern for encouraging me to be more confident and to Jeremy, Andrew, Don, Mikey and Jared for being friendly faces out on the course (and congrats on your races!).  Huge thanks to all the good folks at Speed Theory for their support (and for keeping my Ora in fine working order to crank up those hills), to Doug in particular for reminding me not be a stressball and not least of all to Lily, who taught me the silly little mantra that kept me in the game.  We did it, we did it, we did it, hooray!!!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to be a weekend warrior in 5 easy steps

One of the definitions of weekend warrior in the urban dictionary is "a person who holds a regular job during the week which restricts their ability to....partake in awesome activities, and thus plans epic weekend adventures to compensate.  As much variation and quantity of awesomeness is packed into the weekends as physically possible...".  

This past weekend was definitely in the style of the weekend warrior, and involved much packing, logistics and some ingenuity to make it all happen.  It was my mom's birthday, so our family gathered at my aunt and uncle's lovely home in Westbank (sans aunt and uncle, who were traveling) to celebrate.  Two kids, two dogs and a small space always makes for interesting times!

Not being one to pass up a little suffering, my training plan amidst the birthday festivities was to participate in the inaugural RBC Kelowna GranFondo on Saturday and do the Peach Classic olympic distance tri on Sunday.  The across the lake swim was also going on Saturday morning...but alas, it conflicted with the bike ride!  :)

All in all, there was much awesomeness jammed in (and very little sleep).  Some tips on how to make a successful and awesome warrior weekend for yourself:  

1.  Look the part

The package pick-up and expo for the Kelowna GranFondo was smooth, efficient and well organized.  We were quickly handed our packets and ushered into the merchandise area, where I was very quickly suckered  persuaded into assembling myself a custom pair of Oakley split jackets.  To be honest, I have had my eye on these very slick looking frames for a while, am a bit of an Oakley junkie and was probably a very easy sell.  However, Jeff from Fresh Air Concept was adept at enabling my weakness for high-priced sunnies - he assembled a great looking black and red pair to match my Speed Theory kit, including two pairs of vented lenses so very quickly that I was unable to balk and run away!

Do slick matching sunglasses make you a faster weekend warrior?  You bet!

2.  Ride hard or go home

5am Saturday morning brought a gorgeous, calm and sunny Okanagan summer morning.  Yippee!!  There has been so much Saturday morning rain slogging this season that the prospect of NOT having to ride in the rain brought on relentless joy.  My brother-in-law Mark and I showed up early, which turned out to be needless because the good folks at TOIT learned many a lesson from the start of the Whistler GranFondo (WGF) last year.  Unlike the chaos of the WGF start, Kelowna was laid-back, well organized and really pleasant.  Lots of bike racks, potties and space to move, and the riders in general were less aggressive and pushy.  There were only 1400 riders and the event had a grassroots, happy feel to it.

Without ado, at 7am sharp we were off for a (supposed) 115k journey along Okanagan Lake to Vernon, with a return loop back to Kelowna along Kalamalka Lake, Wood Lake and through Oyama.  The route was stunning and challenging, with a tough climb up to Predator Ridge, some interesting and technical terrain and fast downhills featuring gorgeous vistas of the valley over Kalamalka lake.  I was really impressed with the course support - you pulled over and the volunteers just took over.  Water bottle full, handfuls of snacks and off you went!

This was a catered training ride for me and I rode fairly hard, averaging a very nice 31 kph over some challenging terrain, including a very slow 5k section of gravel.  Mark fell victim to a couple flats, so Ruby and I were left to show those mamils how it's done.  Was back and forth with a good group of riders after Vernon, but on the way back to Kelowna we were accidentally steered off course by one of the volunteers.  It didn't seem right to turn, but the vollie said nothing to the contrary so I followed her directions around the corner.  Along with 2 other riders, we rode just over 4k before realizing we were off course.  The nearly 9k diversion cost me 20 minutes!  Although it is not a race, I was frustrated that the vollie steered us off course because (a) I did not want the extra distance and (b) it cost me one of the top women's positions (and bragging rights!) in the ride.  Argh!  Official finish time - 3:56 for 123k, but would have finished at 3:37 were it not for the bad directions.

Big warrior points for not only riding hard....but doing extra to boot!  Hey, at least I looked good doing it...  ;)

3.  Be a survivor

Saturday afternoon and evening brought with it rain clouds, kids pool time and the usual chaos in the extended Frank family household.  My sister's dog consumed not only all of poor Bogey's treats but also my pre-race nutrition (who knew dogs ate Bonk Bars?), numerous pieces of furniture were broken in (or is that broken?) and my niece Lily now has a lifelong fear of birthday sparklers.  Best quote of the day: "Mama burned a hole in my pants and a hole in my leg!".  Luckily, many a two-year-old's problems can be solved with chocolate cake.  

With some stroke of luck, the casualties of the weekend were limited to a number of bottles of wine, a mouse (poor mouse) and Lily's leggings.  Being a weekend warrior is all about surviving.  That being said, some cautionary words of advice to anyone planning a family reunion:  damage deposit.

4.  Tri hard

If you thought a 5am wake up on a Saturday morning was bad, try 3:45 am on the subsequent morning.  Weekend warrior day 3, sponsored by caffeine.

The 6:45am start for the Peach Classic not only necessitated this early start, but also required me to be supremely organized.  Car packed and ready to go the night before, I left Westbank promptly at 4:45am to make it to Penticton at 5:30am for check in at the race.  An Olympic distance tri does not play to my strengths at all, with its inordinately long swim leg compared to the bike and run portions.  However, my recent toils over open water swimming made this a good training experience for me, knowing ahead of time that to do well I would need to swim well.  And, to be clear, I just don't swim very well at all.

The two loop swim in choppy water was rough on me.  It was a personal success insofar that I managed not to panic despite the torrid conditions and congested start.  I knew coming out of the water that I had a lot of ground to make up on tired legs, but embraced the challenge of the chase.  The 40k ride along the Naramata bench is fast, helluva good time on a tri bike and by the time I returned to transition I felt somewhat better about things.  The flat, looped run course along Lakeside was little boring, but you do get to see everyone around you. My legs were tired but in a good way and I put in a solid run effort at what was essentially half-iron pace (but dismayed to note that the 10k was almost .5k long, turning my 42 minute 10k into a 43-something posted time!).

After a dismal swim, I posted the 6th fastest women's bike split of the day and 5th fastest women's run split of the day to finish a solid 10th woman and 4th in a competitive AG.  Really, really must learn how to swim dammit!  

5.  Eat, drink, be merry

Hedonistic gastronomic excess rounded out the remainder of the weekend.  One must really bask in the simple pleasures once in a while, particularly when those simple pleasures include a reward of french fries, fish tacos and wine touring.  The Naramata bench boasts some fabulous wineries, amongst them some incredible family-run, small-lot vineyards that are definitely worth seeking out.  The hidden gem award of the weekend goes to Nichol Vineyard, while humble and unapologetic in its simplicity, easily has the best Okanagan Pinot Noir I have ever tried.  The tasting was manned by an interesting fellow named Matt, who could tell you not only where the location of the crop was that produced the wine you were tasting, but also had an unassuming intelligence about the entire operation and the wines they produce.  We got to try not only the bottled vintages, but also several wines direct from the cask in varying states of readiness...all incredible.  I almost don't want to spill the secret!

You would think that all this weekend warrior awesomeness would just make me tired, but it doesn't.  Today, back at work, I feel energized, enthusiastic, inspired and look forward to the next great adventure!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sometimes racing is training!

I entered the Subaru Vancouver half-iron on a whim only four days before race day.  The weather forecast was looking decent and my recovery post-Boise was at a point where I felt I could at least put in a training effort for the duration of the race.  After all, the race is basically in my backyard and is a fantastic opportunity to try out some new things during a race that otherwise holds very little priority for me.

So this race report is essentially my personal assessment of how I faired compared to my very quickly drawn up objectives for this training race.   It is also interesting to have quantifiable comparatives since I did the same race last year.

Swim Goal - Be Calm, Cool, Collected.
2010 result:  37:27;  2011 result: 35:47, -1:40

The swim is undeniably my weakest link.  I am extremely nervous in the water and not a comfortable swimmer in the least - swimming in large groups of churning open water is absolutely panic-inducing.  I hyperventilate, forget everything I have ever learned and usually end up doing some version of the funky chicken backstroke.

Today was no exception - I failed miserably in my attempt to stay CCC, and even did WORSE at controlling my panic than I did at the Canada Day 2k only two days ago.  The first lap of the course was miserable, and I just could not pull myself together.  I collected myself on land after the first lap and managed to talk myself back into getting in, but barely.  It was a rough, frustrating swim and I never got comfortable.

Swim objective rating:  FAIL.
Serious, serious work on composure in open water starts required.

Bike Goal:  Tone it Down.
2010 result: 2:44:42;  2011 result: 2:39:28, -5:14

While I felt that I could improve on last year's time, I wanted to experiment with generally toning down my bike speed to see if it would improve my run.  My time goal was 2:40 - this is about 5 minutes slower than Boise, but still almost 5 minutes faster than last year.  I also wanted to ensure that I was taking in nutrition properly - gel every 30 minutes and a bottle of GU Brew per hour.

I find this bike course difficult - the 4 laps at UBC are choppy and I find it challenging to get in a rhythm.  By the second lap, you get lost in the sea of riders doing different paces and the turnarounds really mess up consistency.  There are short fast sections, but it is very, very broken up.  I rode the first lap at about 80% effort and was pleased to find that I was dead on goal pace at 40 minutes.  Overall, my ride felt very comfortable, and none of my previous headache or vision problems reappeared.  It was a somewhat frustrating to make a concerted effort to slow down to ensure I took in my nutrition, but that was the plan so I stuck with it.  It was also difficult to hold back and not push the way I usually do on the bike. Time-wise, I executed exactly on plan albeit feeling like I had left quite a bit out on the course.

Ride objective rating:  SATISFACTORY WITH COMMENTS.
Although I felt great getting off the bike, think I left a little too much out there.  The nutrition plan worked well, but still feel that I have not found the exertion-level sweet spot.

Run Goal:  Hang it Together, No Stopping!
2010 result: 1:35:34; 2011 result: 1:28:26, -7:08

Aside from my very first sprint tri (which was incidentally 2 years ago today!), I have never run well off the bike.  My tri run has always been a battle of attrition and sheer will, the results of which have always fallen far short of my open times.  With a concerted effort this year to improve my run efficiency and leg speed, particularly on shorter, more intense distances, I have PB'd all my open distances from 5k through 21k - this has put more pressure to improve my tri run times because I know I can do the pace.  It's just about hanging the run together after time spent on the bike.

My goal pace was a 4:30/km.  This is quite a bit slower than my most recent half-marathon pace of 4:08, but I have never managed to stay at 4:30/km during a half-iron much less anything faster, so I didn't want to overextend my wish list too much.  Coming off Boise I have also not been doing much run work - only 20-30k per week - so felt that 4:30 was a realistic goal.

To my dismay, my left sock was missing from my shoe in T2 so after rifling through all my belongings (and wasting way too much time), the run started on a frustrating downturn.  I would be the one-sock girl today...and the chafing on my left foot started almost immediately.  Despite the discomfort (my foot is a blistery, bleeding mess!), I was able to ease into a 4:30 pace very readily and surprisingly found the pace to be extremely comfortable.  5k passed, 10k passed, then 15k....all very quickly and I felt great.  The last 5k was a bit tough due to some serious headwind, but I knew that the tailwind would be there to carry me home.

Nutrition-wise, I have always suffered stomach upset on the run, so decided to carry with me a small flask of flat cola to get through the first 6-8k.  It was great!!  Not only did I not need to worry about sloshing drinks all over me at the aid stations, but the flat cola totally settled my stomach and was enough to get me through the run without having to rely on the dodgy race-supplied carb drink...which I knew from past experience does not work for me.  I also managed to take care of (ahem) my "business" on the bike so was able to go without my typical potty stop during the run....I realize that this may be TMI for some, but the 2 minutes or more spent dallying at a porta-potty is a huge time waster!

Unlike Boise, not a single person passed me on the run today.  Also unlike Boise, which was a total sufferfest at which I walked almost every aid station, I walked only once for about 15 seconds to take down my gel with some water.  I played my own game, using my rules and my pace.  It was a great feeling to finish strong.      

Ride objective rating:  EUREKA!!!!!
So very happy with the run today - it was consistent and comfortable.  Will I try to go faster?  Yup.  But for today, I'm happy as can be.

Overall 2010 result:  5:02:48.

So apparently sometimes racing can be training.  Despite the very positive end result and finally breaking that magic 5 hour barrier (albeit on a short course), I believe I can do better.....but continuous improvement is really why we do this sport, isn't it?  I learned more today than I do on most training weekends, and now can turn my attention over the next couple of months to applying the lessons learned today. :)  

W35-39 podium!  Yay!!
Thanks and props to the good folks at Speed Theory for their support, for everyone who volunteered and everyone who came out early on their Sunday morning to cheer!  It was a beautiful summer day!  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Giving back

When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others - Chinese Proverb

It's easy to take and not pay it forward. We're all busy with professional and personal demands and it is very easy (or convenient?) to forget the bigger picture sometimes. The reality is, though, that we all rely on others no matter how independent we try to be. Whether it is reliance on our family, on our employers or on complete strangers, there is not a single day that goes by that any one of us can say that we were truly independent. As a result, I feel quite strongly that if you take, you need to give something in return.

I've spent the last two weekends doing a little to give back - first, two days for the Ride to Conquer Cancer and last weekend as a volunteer at the Scotiabank Half-marathon. Despite some nasty weather for the two-day ride, it feels good to be part of something important to my community. Over $11 million dollars were raised for the benefit of the BC Cancer Foundation as a culmination of the efforts of nearly 2,800 riders and volunteers!

Although somewhat less philanthropic, it's also easy to forget that every single athletic event is the culmination of the spirit of volunteers. The events I participate in would simply not happen were it not for the many people offering their time and assistance! It is a positive first step to say thank you to the volunteers and express appreciation for their time while you are wrenching gatorade from their hands or getting them to help you put on a pair of stinky sneakers in transition.....getting involved yourself is a fantastic way to give back to the sport.

While road races and triathlons have a big volunteer component, ultra running in particular impresses me with its culture of volunteerism. Many ultras even require their entrants to have proof of volunteer hours as a pre-requisite for participation! Although I'd like to believe that everyone who participates in events takes the time to volunteer at one, I know many people who simply never have given back....and think that it's a great idea to make it a pre-requisite!

So, the next time you have a recovery week and a few hours, get in touch with a local race director or sign up as a volunteer on the website of one of your favorite races. Not only is it a great way to get a front row seat for the action, but the reality is that many road races and tris would not happen without the effort of volunteers. So, for the love of our sport(s), get involved! :)

Team KPMG at the Ride to Conquer Cancer