Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winter Training!

I know that it is only December and winter has only been around for a couple of months, but I'm really loving it right now and I hope the love continues on into March. It stems from my newfound love of cross-country skiing. It is relaxing and a great workout at the same time! Because my feet are still not feeling 100%, I am mixing my running with skiing and I think it is adding a lot of good stuff. Combine that with yoga and I am a happy, healthy, fit vegan triathlete!

I officially signed up for the Saskatoon half marathon on May 25th. I'm pretty excited about it. I was thinking today about setting a time goal. If the training goes well, which I'm hoping it will without injury, I would like to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. My half marathon time in the half Ironman has been around 2:30 both times I did the half IM, so I think I should be able to do a 2-hour half marathon without all the swimming and biking. It will be so different though. I'm excited for it!

In January, I'm going to hit the pool and the bike as well. I'm hoping to get to the pool 3 times, ski at least once, run twice, and bike twice a week. I am going to get myself organized in January and just get back in the swing of things so that February will have specific goals and workouts. I'm excited to get back into training - so much fun! Hopefully my personal life stays pretty stable so that I can concentrate on my training.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Training Fun!

On Sunday, I embarked on my first cross-country ski adventure of the winter. It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day and my friend and I went out for a quick run on a ski trail that I hadn't been to before. Admittedly, this is the first time I have ever sought out skiing in the city, as last year I went skiing for the first time in my life and went to a beautiful area in the northern part of the province. Sunday's ski was great, but it really worked my lower back (as I found out later that day with uncomfortable tightness). A nice soak in the tub helped it out. As did last night's two-hour yoga session with lots of spinal twists. What will I do if my yoga teacher/good friend leaves for Mexico for the rest of the winter?! Today, my back feels great, my abs are sore, and I feel taller and lighter. Yoga, seriously, is THE SHIT!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Perspiration and Inspiration

Today I did some holiday baking and knew that I had to get out into the winter wonderland that I live in. So when I got my first reminder about Saskatoon's 30th Marathon, I was reminded that I am going to do my first running race since I was in Junior High School. I have completed an Ironman, two half Ironmans, numerous other triathlons and duathlons, but I have never ran a long-distance running race. I decided after Ironman that 2008 was going to be my year to do that. My co-worker and I made a pact to do it train and inspire each other for this.

So I went out today and got in a good 40-minute run. I have to admit, though, that my feet weren't necessarily happy about it. My form started slipping near the end and my back wasn't as straight as it could have been and my pelvis was "tipping." So my ankle protested with a slight ache that I took note of right away. I walked for a bit and stretched my ankles a bit. I was near the end of my run, but I wanted to see if fixing my form would quiet the ache and it did. So I ran the rest of the way home, focusing on my form and cooling down.

I have to say that I am very anxious to get back into the full swing of training, but I'm not quite sure that my body feels the same way my mind does. Easing back into it is the best way, but I'm just so excited about it. Luckily, I'm playing lots of guitar, practicing yoga, and developing my website. So I have lots of distractions, but I'm definitely feeling the itch.

So I put up a countdown on this page to remind me of how much time I have to train for the half marathon. A good plan is what I need. I'll work on that to curb the itch of training.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ironman advice

So I subscribe to many online 'zines about triathlon. The one I got today from Trifuel is a really good one on racing for Ironman. I tried to transport myself to a year ago when I was starting on my training plan and thinking about what this article would have done for me. I don't honestly think I would have known what it was talking about, but now that I've been through it I can really appreciate the advice given. So I thought I'd add the four keys that they talk about and add my comments. The whole article is here.

The Four Keys

by Rich Strauss (Crucible Fitness) and Patrick McCrann (Performance Training Systems)

1. Execution, not Fitness.
All you've done for 9 months is build a vehicle. Ironman racing is about how you DRIVE that vehicle, it is NOT about the vehicle. The majority of athletes on race day are fitness-focused (look at my T-shirt, look at my abs/veins/etc, look at how fast I can go in the first hour of the bike, etc.) As coaches we can make you stronger, but we can't fix stoopid if you decide to race your own way.
I definitely took their advice before my race. I am glad that I did this one right.

2. The Line.
Nothing on race day really matters until you reach The Line on the run. The Line is the point at which continuing becomes very, very difficult. You define success as simply not slowing down at The Line. EVERYTHING before The Line is simply about creating conditions for success for when the Line comes to you.
I had no idea what The Line was before Ironman. After reading this article and looking back, I know what The Line is. For me, it was after the sun went down and I was running with a few people with our glowsticks dangling. I was carrying my purple Powerade bottle and suddenly it felt really really heavy. I thought that my arm was going to fall off if I kept carrying it, but I kept it because carrying it outweighed the thought of drinking anymore orange or yellow Gatorade.

Additional Kool-Aid flavored thoughts we'd like to put in your head regarding this point are:
a) A successful race = a good run. There is no such thing as a good bike followed by bad run, period. In our world, if you showed up with solid run fitness, had a "good" bike and a poor run, we will ALWAYS assume you boogered your bike pacing unless you are missing a limb or are in the ICU with an intestinal parasite.
ABSOLUTELY!!! I 100% agree with this and race every race with this in mind.

b) If you think you can ride faster than we're telling you, prove it by running well off the bike first (preferrably not attempted for the first time on IM race day).
c) Ride your "should" bike split vs your "could" bike split. Your Could split is what you tell Timmy you could ride on a good day, when you're out together for your Saturday ride. If you say you "could ride a 5:50," your Should split is likely 6:00 and defined as the bike split that yields a good run (see above).
d) Don't eat the paste. Ironman in general, but especially the bike leg, is at best a special ed class: you only have to show up with your C game to be at the head of the class. If you find yourself doing the opposite of everyone else, you're doing the right thing. If Jimmy and everyone else is in the corner eating the paste, don't join them! Sit down, do what we're telling you, and don't eat the paste! Lots of people passing you in the first 40 miles? That's good, don't eat the paste. Going backwards through the field on a hill? That's good, don't eat the paste.
Not eating the paste is really really hard to do when everyone around you is eating the paste and you're thinking "Why can't I eat the paste? Everyone looks like they're doing so good by eating the paste." However, I'm glad that I didn't eat the paste. I'm glad I prepared myself to not eat the paste. My first memory of not eating the paste was in elementary school where we were being tested compared to national standards. We were doing a "long" run and everyone was sprinting right off the start. I ran at the back of the pack at a slow-and-steady pace and then I passed everyone. It was really hard to be at the back of the pack at the start, but it ended very well.

e) Think you made the mistake of riding too easy? You now have 26 miles to fix that mistake. Make the mistake of riding too hard? That mistake now has 26 miles to express itself, to the tune of X miles at 17-18' walking pace vs X miles at 8-10' running pace. Do the math. How is that bike split going to look as you are walking/shuffling the last 10 miles of the run?
Absolutely! Struggling for the run of any triathlon is my worst nightmare. I race every race so that I can finish the race by sprinting to the line. I sprinted at the end of my first triathlon 5 years ago and I sprinted the end of Ironman in August. It is the most satisfying feeling.

f) Every time you feel yourself about to get stupid, look at where you are. Are you at The Line? No. Then sit down, shut up, do what you're told and don't be stoopid. Please. :)
These guys are pretty harshly amusing.

3. The Box: all day long you are going to race inside a box defined by what you can control. Ask yourself "What do I need to do right NOW to create the conditions for success at The Line? Is what I'm doing right now counter to this goal? From what we've seen first hand on the IM courses this season, we believe you should ask yourself "Am I participating in some short-term tactical masturbation?" If yes, STOP!!

On the swim, the Box is the space your body occupies in the water: focus on your form and the rest will come. On the bike, the box is probably about one aid station long. On the run, the box begins as 2-3 aid stations long but often diminishes to "from here to the next lampost/manhole cover/mail box." Regardless:
a) Keep the box as big as you can for as long as you can.
b) Keep in the box only the things you can control. Let go of the rest.
c) Exercise this decision-making process inside your box: Observe the situation, Orient yourself to a possible course of action, Decide on a course of action, Act (OODA Loop).
I don't think I understand what the Box is.

4. The One Thing. If you swallowed the Kool-Aid we're serving you here, you will show up at the Line, in your Box, ready to git'erdun and simply not slow down. But we're not done yet. There is still some psychological stuff you need to address.

During the course of your race day, expect your body to have a conversation with your mind: "Look, Mind, you've had me out here slogging away for 132 miles. This is really starting to get old and very painful. You need to give me a good reason to keep going forward. If you can't give me a good one, I'm gonna slow down and you can't stop me!" Before the race, you need to ask yourself "Why am I doing Ironman?" In other words, you need to determine what is the One Thing that put you in this race? To finish in the daylight with a smile on your face? To run a 4:10? Whatever your One Thing is, be absolutely clear and rehearse your mind/body debate beforehand. But be warned: your body can be a helluva good negotiator at mile 18, especially if your mind hasn't prepared its rebuttal arguments beforehand.
Absolutely! For me, I told myself "You have been waiting to do this race since you knew it exists. You absolutely can do this... you will BE AN IRONMAN." That was what went through my mind when my body started to protest, but it helps that I had a great run.

Unity of purpose creates clarity of focus, yielding breakthrough performance.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Balance

In yoga, balance is my biggest problem. Some days are better than others, but usually I have a hard time standing on one foot for too long. This is quite opposite from when I was a kid and the balance beam was my favorite part of gymnastics. So it really isn't surprising that I need more balance in my general life as well as in my yoga practice.

Last night I went running with my friend and her baby. It was snowing and we got a few centimetres of the white, fluffy stuff. We went for about 40 minutes (according to my friend) and it was really good. I've been having some emotional difficulty, but the run really helped with that. I think I just need to keep getting out and getting the old cardiovascular system going.

During the run, I couldn't help but marvel at how easy it was to run like this after being on hiatus for the last few months. Apparently my base is pretty good. It always surprises me when I can do things like that. Good to know.

My right hamstring is a bit sore right now after Monday's intense yoga session, but I have been stretching it and I think it'll work itself out soon enough. I could really feel it last night during the run. I'm going to ice it tonight as well.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pure Bliss

This week I spent more than 12 hours in a car driving for work. The work I did was worth it, but my body felt more than lethargic. Last night when I got home, I had to muster all of my strength just to eat some food before crawling into bed. Long days do that sometimes. I had every intention of popping right out of bed and into my running shoes, but when the alarm went off and my eyes had to open, I knew it was not happening. Rest is what I needed.

However, after another day in the car, my legs needed an outlet. So after work, I promptly put on my layers for a really cold run-walk. It was 5:30pm so rush-hour traffic was at its peak. So I went to where the cars weren't and I could just do my thing. That is the great thing about living near the river... no cars, just the trees, the snow, and my feet. I'm not sure if it was all the rest that I've given my body over the past couple of months, but I felt like I was flying down the trail. I didn't see anybody on the trail... it was just me. I felt this complete sense of peace and calm in my body, in my mind, and I remembered that THIS is why I run... THIS is why I do triathlon. It's for the sense of peace that I get when my heart is pumping, my nose is running, my feet are thudding, and my breath is laboured. It was dark out, the trees were sparkling from the snow, and my breath looked like smoke coming out from under my neck-warmer.

I have no idea how long it took me, but it felt like my fastest run of the year. It was effortless. I had to make myself walk periodically, but all I wanted to do was run and run and run until I passed out. But I know my injury well and know that I must not push it even close to my limit. So I just enjoyed the break in between the bursts of flying through the crisp air. Amazing. Purely amazing.

Monday, December 03, 2007

YOGA!!!!!

Tonight I went to a 2-hour yoga session that my friend, Georgina, teaches. It was so so fantastic! We did a ton of partner stretching and poses, which was really awesome. It works the core, the balance, and the strength. I couldn't really do much for inversions tonight because I was having lots of issues with dizziness and blood pressure, but I did do a tripod headstand and held it, which I haven't done before. G shows us so many poses and some of they are so hard and at first I was intimidated, but now that I've went so many times I'm definitely getting the hang of it. I can even do crow now! It's so great to be able to see my poses progressing.

Tonight we did a 4-person downward dog partner pose and there are pictures! We also made a pyramid, facing the mirrors and it was really awesome. We also did some partner stretching, which I'm sure made me grow. Just a fantastic session!

Walking down there, I could feel the muscles around my shins from walk-running yesterday. It feels good to get my body going again. Having a healthy body is imperative to having a healthy mind and these days both are doing great. It's interesting how when one door closes, a myriad of other doors open. I knew that it would happen, but I did not expect my path to be so apparent and easy. Who knew life didn't have to be hard!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I'm back!

Today I went for a run-walk and it felt really good. My feet feel good and my body was happy to be back into doing cardio workouts, even if the weather is a little on the chilly side (ie. -20 degrees Celsius). I love it when the frost collects on my eyelids and on my neck warmer. I wish I could get a picture of it, but it melts as soon as it hits the warm air of my house. After my run, I did some meditation and yoga just to let the feeling of the run sink into the muscles. It felt really good and I'm hoping that by going slowly, I will be running regularly in January. I'm also going to set up my wind trainer next weekend and maybe invest in some Spinerval videos for the winter. And I may have found a coach for the next season.

So far, my season looks like this:
* - Bridge City Duathlon - Saskatoon, SK
May 24, 2008 - Saskatoon Half Marathon - Saskatoon, SK
June *, 2008 - Spin off Spadina Olympic Triathlon - Saskatoon, SK
July 6, 2008 - Great White North Triathlon - Stony Plain, Alberta
August 11, 2008 - Frank Dunn Triathlon - Waskesiu, SK

I might also do a bit of road bike racing and definitely will be doing some mountain bike racing. I'm looking forward to next season!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Back on the Wagon

The other day I was massaging my feet and realized that they haven't hurt in a couple of weeks. I felt the familiar pang to go running, but I know better than that. So I thought about what I could possibly do to get back into exercising. Honestly, I have little desire to get on my road bike. I have not ridden it since Ironman and I'm sure that she's kind of mad at me, but I just can't do it yet. I thought about maybe going to a gym and trying out an elliptical machine, but I generally hate both the gym AND elliptical machines. Suddenly, it came to me... WALKING! Walking is a lower-impact form of running! I deemed myself brilliant at that moment and decided that I was going to get out into the cool, crisp, pre-winter air and go walking in the morning.

So this morning was my first walk and it felt really great. A friend was supposed to come with me, but after waiting for 10 minutes I decided to just go on my own. I have missed running along the river and just running in general. It felt so good to get outside. Here was my route:



For the past couple of weeks I have had a pretty nasty cold. My ear has gotten infected and it is taking quite a while to get better. It is because of this that I'm not in the pool. Pools + ear infections = bad news for me.

However, I hope to get back in the pool soon enough and with this walking stuff, I'm pretty excited to get back into training mode. That's the beauty of taking time off - it really makes you want to get back into it. I am currently making goals for next season and planning out my off-season from January to April. I'm even starting to itch to get on the trainer, but I'm going to purchase some training DVDs so that I don't get super bored right away. There's plenty of time to get on the trainer... no need to rush it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm getting a bit antsy

I have to admit that being out of the training routine has made me a bit antsy. I always have enough activities and interests to fill my time, but I am really missing getting back into my routine.

My feet are healing nicely, which may in part due to the calcium supplements that my naturopath recommended (side note: liquid calcium tastes yucky!). I think I am going to take most of November off from running, but I'm going to get back into swimming on Friday. I'm going to swim with the Masters' swim club and I might join a gym for a couple of months to see how it goes. However, I'm not going to train so much as just get back into the swing of things slowly. I have forgotten what it feels like to workout just for the sake of my own mental and physical well-being. Ironman really did a number on me!

At the same time, I'm still doing yoga and it is AWESOME! I am loving it so much. I'm sure that it has helped with the healing process as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

At least I can still swim!

I honestly can't believe that it has been 7 weeks since Ironman. The time has flown by! I have spent much time with my family and friends. I've been doing yoga like nobody's business and I've been getting [almost] weekly massages and chiropractor adjustments. Between all of that, my back is feeling almost 100%! My feet, on the other hand, are not.

Yesterday I saw a sport doctor about some pain that I've been having in my left foot. Almost 4 years ago I had a stress fracture in my right foot that put me on the running sidelines for almost 4 months. It was super stressful for me because I had no idea what it was and I kept running on it thinking that I could push through it. However, now that I'm a much more experienced athlete, I know the difference between pain you can push through and pain that you should pay attention to. This is pain that I need to pay attention to. The pain started 3-4 weeks ago at the base of my little toe. Every time I accidentally bump it on something, a shooting pain goes through my toe and foot... like a needle. THIS is BAD pain. As of a couple of days ago, the more familiar feeling of pain at the ball of my foot has begun. I have not run in 5 weeks and I don't plan to run until all of this pain stops. I'm not sure that I completely agree with the doc that it's "just" a stress fracture. The 5th-toe pain seems very bad, but if it doesn't get better in a couple of weeks I'm going to go to try to see a sports doctor that isn't at the MediClinic.

I constantly have feet problems because I have ridiculously flat feet and big bunions (that are apparently hereditary and exacerbated by the fact that I used to figure skate). So I am going to do two things:
1) Talk to my doctor about my calcium levels (I just had a blood test to test my vitamins, minerals, cholesterol, and all that good stuff) and then take those results to my naturopath and see what she thinks;
2) Get a referral to an orthopedic doctor to probably get orthodics for my shoes. Since I have stellar health insurance, pretty much all of it will be covered.

So this morning, in light of my feet problems, I decided to drown my sorrows in a 40-minute yoga session and then a good half-hour in the pool (it's a start, anyway!). It feels good to get back into the pool and be active. Since Luke's schedule has changed, I am going to do the Master's swim club again until December and see where it goes from there. I hope to swim 3 times a week, bike 2 times a week (in addition to biking to work), and do yoga 4 times a week. I'm just absolutely loving the flexibility that yoga gives me and how I feel so grounded and calm afterwards.

In terms of nutrition, I'm [obviously] more conscious of my calcium intake and I'm going to look in my nutrition books about high sources of calcium and absorption inhibitors. For a while after Ironman I tried to eat mostly raw foods, but I kind of gave up. It is REALLY hard to do! Way harder than going vegan. I know that I wouldn't have a problem if I was in a bubble and I never socialized with people and I didn't live with someone else and I never ate with anyone but myself. However, this is not my reality. Also, I live in a climate that is cold for 6 out of 12 months. I do believe that it is probably a healthier choice, but I think I'm going to aim right now to being 25% vegan and eat more salads and experiment with raw food recipes. Until then, I'm going to enjoy pasta with tofu, chickpea curries, quinoa (the super food!), pizza, and all of the cooked foods that I previously took for granted.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Life after Ironman

The day after Ironman was intense. I awoke at 9:30am to pain. Every molecule of my body screamed in pain, even my hair. I whispered to Luke to wake up and he asked me how I felt and I winced a smile. I hurt. A lot. Even more than I thought I would. I slowly got up and shuffled my way around the room. By the time I got dressed, Luke had already made oatmeal. It was demoralizing how slow I moved... we named it the "Ironman shuffle." The family that we stayed with made us a wonderful vegan lunch and I ate it gratefully. However, I spent most of the day in bed. Eventually we made our way into town, sat on the beach for a while reading, and then went to the awards banquet. We found the Saskatoon people and all of them were moving much easier than I was. In fact, there weren't many others at the supper who were doing the Ironman shuffle, but maybe it's because those people stayed at home in bed!

My feet and back hurt the worst. On both feet, the toe next to the big toe was sore and the nail was black (and still is). My back felt tight and inflexible. The areas where I chaffed didn't feel great either, but they paled in comparison to my feet. I had a sharp pain under my ankle bone that hurt a lot for a few days, which was my biggest concern because it felt like a bad pain that reminded me of my stress fracture a few years ago.

However, my mind was great! I felt free and easy and happy. I was on cloud 9! I still feel like I'm on cloud 9 when I get home and read a book and hang out with my friends. My time being so limited has really made me appreciate the relative slowness of my life right now. Since Ironman, I've done a lot of yoga and sleeping. A lot of sleeping. I bike to work and my back usually hurts by the time I finish the 6.5 km ride. My chiropractor and massage therapist are both helping me out with that. Sleeping is the best right now and with the changing weather, it definitely fits well with my environment.

Today I went for my first run since Ironman. It was a crisp, bright morning and I thought a quick half-hour run would be nice. So off I went on my regular route with my layers of technical shirts, my long pants, and my shoes. I was 6 blocks from home when my aforementioned pain came back in my foot and I was forced to stop running. In fact, I limped the rest of the way home. I'm not sure if I should pursue this injury or just wait a few more weeks before I run again. I'll probably wait another 2 weeks before I run again and just bike and swim (if I feel like it) and see how it feels after that. It kind of sucks because I absolutely love running the fall... the crisp, clear air, the red cheeks when I get home, and just being outside to watch the leaves change colour and fall to the ground are so great. However, maybe I'll just go for walks! I can do that now!

Needless to say, I'm enjoying every moment. I spent the last year stressing out about August 26th, but there was part of me that knew that August 27th and everyday after that would be awesome... and it is!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pain is temporary, Ironman is forever!

Ironman Canada Race Report - August 26, 2007
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada

The morning started bright and early at 4am, but it definitely wasn't bright outside. Luke made me some oatmeal while I made sure I had all of my Special Needs bags and a couple of last-minute details for my bike. The day before I had checked my bike and my transition bags, which took a lot of pressure off for the morning of the race. At 5:00, we headed down the hill from our host's house to find a parking spot. There were so many nervous people driving around, trying to find a good parking spot. We settled for a decent spot and walked the rest of the way, following the large group of people. We finally got to the spot where Luke and I were forced to part ways, as only athletes were allowed in certain areas. I saw lots of teary goodbyes with lots of hugs and promises to see them at the finish line. Luke and my goodbye was very similar and I think even he got a little emotional. So I was on my own to drop off my Special Needs bags and get body marked. I waited for the most difficult 45-minutes of the whole day to get body marked. It was a little frustrating, but I basically was in a bad line-up and eventually found a volunteer to mark me up with permanent black markeras number 2094. After that, I headed to my bike to pump up my tires one last time and to fill up my bottles with my pre-mixed Gatorade. I hesitantly made my way to the timing mat where there was a constant stream of "beeps" making it sound like the beginning of the end. Once I went across the mat, I knew that there was no turning back. This was it. I was on my way to becoming an Ironman.

Racking my bike the day before the race:


The transition area pre-race:





Before the swim, I did a few strokes to "warm up" my body and prepare it for the 3.8km swim. Luckily, I ran into a Saskatoon triathlete and she helped to calm my nerves and we wished each other a great day. Soon enough the pros were off and 15 minutes later at 7:00am, the canon went off and the 2700 triathletes made their way across the massive water. Needless to say, it was intense. So many people making their way to the same destination taking approximately the same route made the whole thing a little difficult. However, I tried not to let the arms and elbows that occasionally slammed into my body disrupt my stroke or frustrate me. About halfway through I got a good fist in my right eye and had a lot of pain. So I flipped over to my back and took off my goggles as I did a bit of backstroke to recover from the pain shooting through my head. I have to say that I got hit by so many men that it was rather upsetting. I did not hit anybody, so I can't figure out how other people can hit me. It upset me a little, but I knew that this was not the time to think about it. So I flipped back onto my front and continued through the course. I came to shore and looked at my watch and was very happy with my 1:31 time as it was only 1 minute more than my goal. As I ran onto the beach, I saw Luke standing in the front row yelling and waving at me. I smiled big for him and yelled out a quick "I love you" before I headed to the transition area to be stripped of my wetsuit.

Before the canon:


After the canon:


A couple of aerial photos:




This was me coming out of the water:


The volunteers at this race were unbelievable. I've never been to a race quite like this before and it was so amazing to have people there handing the bags to us and wishing us well. It was so great. I quickly changed into my bike shoes and put on my helmet and gloves, took a gel, and headed out. Main Street of Penticton was absolutely packed with people. It was like coming in to Paris in the Tour de France. I wanted to go slow so that I could see my family. Sure enough, I spotted some of the matching orange shirts that they had worn with my race number on it and a picture of me ironed onto it. I waved and heard them shout out "There she is!!!" as I cruised by. I felt like a celebrity and couldn't help but have a big smile on my face. I knew that I had to enjoy this because the next 180km would not be as much fun.

Here I am having the time of my life... for the first 5 minutes of the bike ride:



So off I went to take on the bike course. It was hilly and windy and long. Honestly, I think I've blocked most of the 8 and a half hour bike ride out of my memory. Going up Richter's Pass was tough, but doable. The hardest part was the turn-around portion of the bike where you feel like you're not really going anywhere because you end up where you started, and you know that the whole time you're biking that part of the course. However, at the middle of the turn-around, we got our Special Needs bags, which was pretty fun. I put in some Ibuprofen (which I quickly took for my sore knee, neck, and back), some blue Gatorade (orange and yellow Gatorade gets gross after a few hours), and some crackers (so as to eat something that wasn't Gels, Gatorade, or Clif bars). I took a little time to eat my crackers and I headed back on the bike. The only thing that got me through that part of the bike was knowing that my family was waiting for me at the last climb of the day - the Yellow Lake Road. So I kept going, slow and steady (I averaged 22km/hr on the bike, which is by far the slowest I've biked in a race for the past 2 years). The wind was really crazy throughout the day and it took me by surprise a little. I mean, I'm used to the wind, but wind AND hills?!? I repeatedly swore at whoever designed the course. Eventually, I got to where my family had waited for four hours and I could see the clump of orange on the side of the road. I had a crew of about 10 people, including my sister from Yellowknife, my parents, my aunt, my 87-year-old tough-as-nails grandma, some cousins that live in the relative area, and Luke. It was absolutely awesome! Luke ran with me for a bit and everyone cheered, clapped, jumped around and took pictures as I biked by. I kept going with the energy that my family had given me. It was what I needed to get me through the last 30kms, which were also the easiest kilometres of the whole ride. I had never been so happy to be running as I was after that killer bike ride.

Two professional photos:



Here is me at the Yellow Lake hill:




My support crew waiting for me at Yellow Lake:


They waited for 4 hours for me to bike by:


(I have the best family ever!)

In the transition, I immediately noticed the sting from chaffing that had started in the swim and continued on the bike. I have never chaffed before in a race, but I sure did this time. I chaffed under my arms, at the back of my neck, and where my heart-rate monitor sat. I now have a new appreciation for Vaseline and the volunteers who were so kind as to apply it for me. Honestly, they were the best volunteers ever!

The run was my most dreaded part of the Ironman, but turned out to be the best part of the race. I saw my family 3 times before I headed out onto the long part of the 26-mile run. Before I left downtown, I gave all of my family big hugs and my grandma stepped out onto the road and said that she was coming with me. I laughed and said, "Let's go!" But I ended up going at it alone. I ended up passing lots of people throughout the marathon because I had saved my legs for this and also I was feeling good from the adrenalin. It is really amazing stuff. At the turn-around, I got my second Special Needs bag and ate some more crackers, took another ibuprofen, and drank some purple Gatorade (and ended up carrying the bottle with me for about 6 miles). After the turn-around, the sun went behind the mountains and I got to run in the dark. It was hard to tell where the inclines were (I walked all of the uphills and most of the aid stations), but it was pretty cool to run on this mostly deserted highway (because of the race). All I could see for miles were the purple glow-sticks that were given to us by the race helpers. It was pretty cool and I loved every single moment of it. I think that's what I love the most about races - the preparation is the hard part, but being there and doing it is the best feeling and I live in the moment more than I do in any other part of my life. It is a beautiful thing.

Here I am starting the marathon:


My 87-year-old grandmother drove 15 hours to watch me race:


Here is the professional shot of my run:




Coming into downtown was awesome. The crowd had gathered mostly at the finish line, but I got to see two of our hosts on the side of the road and they ran with me for a few blocks. I got to chat with them and they were so excited that I was doing well and could talk. Not only that, but I was smiling. I knew that the end was near... very near. So they dropped off and headed to the finish line themselves. I came around another corner and took my family off guard by seeing them before they saw me. They ran with me for a few blocks and were also impressed with how good I was doing. I was smiling, chatting, and genuinely having fun. They headed to the finish line while I did the extra 1km out-and-back before the finish line. It was crazy because I could HEAR the announcer saying names and I could hear the music and I was so antsy to get there. So I started sprinting and passing people. A couple of guys made some comments about my youthful age and I just laughed and waved. The last 50 metres is kind of a blur. I saw my family and I gave a whole bunch of high-fives as I came into the finish area and I closed my eyes as I crossed the line. I only vaguely remember the announcer say, finally, after 12 months of training: "Crystal Clarke from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!"







My space cape to keep me warm at the end of the race:


It was an amazing feeling and an amazing day. It was one of the best days of my life and I feel so privileged to have been able to be in such a race with such amazing support-people. Not only did my family come and be so amazing, but I have had a super supportive group of people in Saskatoon that dealt with me on an ongoing basis, from my chiropractor to my friends to my counsellor. I honestly could not have done this without the support of all of them. That being said, I have to thank Luke the most for putting up with me for the past few months. I have been training for this race for as long as we've been a couple and he has been more supportive than I could have imagined and I'm excited to continue our life together.


My support crew:


My mom and dad:


My biggest supporter:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Today is the day

It is 2.5 hours before the canon goes off and I'm completely ready. I had a good night's sleep. Well, mostly. It was a little restless, but for the most part it was a good one. We went to bed at 7pm, which I don't think I've done since I was a kid, except when I was sick.

Today I plan to stick to my race plan and take it easy on the swim and bike, and walk up the hills and at the aid stations on the run. I hope to come in to the finish line within 15 hours and I hope to come in with a smile on my face and with my family standing proudly at the sideline. I feel very lucky to be able to take on this challenge and to be so close to completing it. Today I will be an Ironman.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Birthday and Warm-up Race

I have to admit, I'm extremely nervous. In 10 days I will be doing the race. I'm still reading "Going Long" and apparently it is normal to have doubts and feel nervous.

I spent most of my 27th year of life training for this race and I hope that I don't look back on it and think it was a bad idea. Last Friday was my birthday and I had so many well-wishes for a wonderful year. Honestly, I can't wait to not train for this race. I love training, but lately it has become cumbersome and all-consuming. I can't run without thinking about it, I can't bike without making sure my cadence is correct, and I can't swim without thinking "Can I do this 2 times more?" I can't wait to enjoy training again. It has become work for me, when it is supposed to be a hobby.

The past few weeks have been very difficult and I've struggled to maintain my mental health. In fact, right after my last post I went to emergency for anxiety and was put on medication. Ironman has been a major factor in my anxiety lately and panic attacks have been ruling my life and my training for the past 6 weeks or so. It was my last resource and I decided to take it. I have decided it's better to do that, finish the race, and still have friends than to continue living "on the edge." So far, it's helped a lot and I've been able to stay focused.

On Sunday was my "warm-up" race in Waskesiu. It was a great race. I wasn't very well-rested due to my good friend's wedding the night before, but the lake was calm and the sky stayed clear for the whole thing. The swim was longer than 1.5km for sure, but I kept my pace steady and I raced my race. On the bike, I really held back and had a hard time doing that. I wanted to kick it up and beat my PB, but I had to remind myself that this was not my race. On the run, I have to admit that it hurt a little. My left Achilles heel was sore and my hip flexors were tight... probably due to my lack of yoga as of late. However, I went with my pace and I reminded myself that next year I can rock out on this race. This year I have a different goal. So I was more than 15 minutes behind my PB set last year of 4:05 and came in at 4:22. I ran across the finish line with my cousin who is 9 years old. My family was all there, including my 21-year-old brother and my 86-year-old grandma. My boyfriend's family was also there. It was so nice to have so many people cheering me on as I came past them on the bike and in to the finish of the run.

So now I am mentally preparing for the race in only 10 weeks time. I'm going for short swims, bikes, and runs (ie. nothing over 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours, respectively). Every run I do, I end by imagining running across the line and having them call out my name: "Crystal Clarke from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" It gives me shivers to think about and it feels so good when I imagine it, which is nothing compared to what it will actually be like after the grueling 15+ hours I will be on the course.

I'm excited, but so scared. And I've heard from numerous people that I'm not the first person to have Ironman drive them crazy. If anyone reading this is considering doing Ironman, make sure that your life is fairly consistent and grounded before you decide to do this race because it can bring up every little change and make it seem huge. Maybe I should start a counselling agency for people embarking on Ironman. I wonder if such a thing exists already.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tapering, Counting Down, and Mental Training

I honestly think that hardest part of this race is going to be the mental part. While I am pretty good at pushing myself and mentally preparing myself, this is going to be an event that is beyond anything I've done before. It's so exciting. I started re-reading the chapter of Going Long that talks about mental training. Apparently at the start of a race people either think that they have not trained enough and they are going to fail or else they think that they are #1 and they are going to win their age category. I think I fall in the middle somewhere; I believe that I have trained to the best of my ability and knowledge at this point in my life. Sure, I could have trained more this winter and summer, but I had good reasons not to. So I'm focusing on the fact that I am ready and WILL finish this race. They have some interesting techniques in the book that I haven't tried and would like to incorporate in my training in the next few weeks as I start to taper on the amount of training.

I have a really hard time with tapering. I'm sure most triathletes do. The idea is that one doesn't tire out before the race. It makes sense, but I'm not cutting down on my training a whole lot until next week. The weekend after this one coming up is a 'C' race. Last year it was my A race, but this year it has been demoted to C because I am basically using it as a really intense brick workout. It ensures that I taper correctly before the triathlon because I'll taper for the race, recover from the race, and then keep tapering for Ironman. So while my quantity of training is decreasing, I'm hoping to keep my quality of training at a high standard.

Yesterday morning I went for a wonderful run in the morning. I've been training in the heat to mentally prepare myself for the "I'm going to die in this heat" that I will be thinking during the race, but I decided to give myself a break and just do a run that I enjoyed. And I did. It was GREAT! I did a nice tempo 40-minute run and it was just wonderful. Now I remember why I love this sport... I get to do all of my favorite things! I don't even have any stats for it right now, I just went and it felt good. Maybe that's a stat in itself.

Only 25 days to go!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Let the Countdown Begin

At 3:30 today, it was at least 30oC (close to 40 with the humidex) and the wind was strong (26 to 37km/hr), but I made sure to get on my bike and get in a ride. Ironman is less than a month away and I know that I should be tapering, but I'm not quite ready. Well, maybe I already am, but it's mostly by accident. There are many things going on with me right now and it is inhibiting my training in a major way. However, I still feel ready for the race and can't wait for August 26th to come.

The ride today was hot and hard. I did an out-and-back ride on a route that I use often. It has some hills and it has great scenery and is relatively close to my house. Going out I averaged about 19 km/hr, which sounds more brutal than it was. In my mind, I pretended that I was climbing the huge hills that will be part of the Ironman ride. The wind definitely helped with this and I used my granniest granny gear more than once. It felt weird to use it as I hadn't in so long, but it was good to know that it's there when I need it. That's why I keep my small chain ring. The ride was so hot that I drank two bottles of gatorade and one bottle of water. I had a gel before I went, but it wasn't enough. I'm pretty much obsessed with my glycogen levels while training. It's probably not necessary to be obsessed, but when I was coming back I felt a pang in my stomach and knew that my glycogen was low. As soon as I got home I had a smoothie with tofu, hemp, frozen strawberries (picked by my own hands), and raspberries from my garden. It was great.

While the ride out was super hard, the ride back was awesome! I was anticipating a great ride back, but this one blew my mind. I got up to 66.7 km/hr on my favorite hill to go down (I actually kind of like going up it too), which is the fastest I've ever went on that hill. I could have went faster, but my gears were tapped and my legs were spinning at about 113 rpm. IT WAS AWESOME!!! Such a rush! I was going 34km/hr on the flats and up to 60 km/hr on the smaller hills. It was great, just great. Felt so good.

I even wore my heart-rate monitor today, which I've been trying to use more lately. It's interesting to know where I'm at, but not necessary. I think that I will wear it for Ironman just so that I can keep track of where I'm at.

So in terms of stats, my ride looked like this:
Distance: 42.63 km
Time: 1:46:04
Avg speed: 24.1 km/hr
Max speed: 66.7 km/hr
Average heart rate: 142
Time in zone: 1:44:02

On Friday I went for a 45-minute run in the heat. Basically right now I'm climatizing myself. I am quite afraid of the heat of Penticton and am preparing myself for it to be a hot day and if it's not, I will be just as happy. It was a good run and I was drenched by the end (not really surprising). I forgot to take my stats from my HR monitor before I went for my bike ride, but I would say that I was in the same area for average HR.

I've still be swimming in the outdoor pool Tuesdays and Thursdays and I'm really enjoying it. I think that I'll keep with it just because it's so nice to swim outside. Lately I've been doing some intervals just so that I can remember what it's like to push myself with swimming. I think I'm not really pushing myself because I know that during the race it's just about getting through it. However, it would help the whole race if I felt strong in the swimming, which is why I'm doing the intervals.

My next triathlon is in two weeks and I'm pretty excited for it. This will be my fifth year doing this particular triathlon and it used to be my "A" race. It has an odd bike ride at 63km and a 13km run (usually it's 40km and 10km, respectively) after the 1.5km swim. I'm not really prepared for such a short race, but it'll be fun anyway. I don't really expect to beat my PB that I set last year, but it would be cool to be close. I'll start to taper next week. That's kind of the beauty of putting a race 2 weeks before Ironman: it forces me to taper and recover in the weeks that I need to before the BIG one.

So the countdown begins: Ironman is a mere 4 weeks, as in 28 days, away. Bring it on!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Earth will keep Revolving Around the Sun despite my Ironman Time

I had a rough night last night and my anxiety levels were very high. This morning I woke up feeling like I had just been hit by a bus, not unlike what Michael Rasmussen must be feeling today as he watches his fellow cyclists leave him behind. I watched the Tour de France this morning, but was vibrating the whole time. My heart-rate was elevated even though I was not spinning my legs on the bike, pumping my arms up a hill, or slicing my arms through the water. I am working on a post about my anxiety and its effect on my training... or maybe it's on my training affecting my anxiety. Either way, they go hand-in-hand these days.

So I took the day off of work and am glad that I did. I did some meditating, some chilling out, I chirped at the birds, and I went swimming. I did 6 x 200m intervals in the water and was worried that I didn't have a stop watch to see what my time was. Then I had a thought... does time really matter? Does it REALLY matter if I shave off a few seconds off of my 200m time? The reason I do intervals is to be faster for the 4000m swim I have to do in exactly one month. Since I am trying really hard not to have any time goals for Ironman, I really shouldn't be worried about times at all. I should be focusing on getting in my long rides/runs/swims and doing intervals the rest of the time. It doesn't matter how long the intervals take me - what is important is that I do them and push myself. Maybe it matters to a pro or even someone trying to win their age category, but it does not matter for me at this time. Realizing this took tons of pressure off of me. So I just pushed through the 200m intervals and tried to get my heart-rate up as much as possible. I tried hard to make my arms feel mushy and pretty much succeeded.

I think I just need to keep realizing what is important and what isn't. Priorites are important at this point.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rest and Inspiration!

I can't believe it's been over a week since my last update! There are a number of reasons for this: a 4-day weekend with no real training, the heat may have gone to my head, and the Tour de France is so controversial that I can hardly concentrate on anything at all!

Last Tuesday I did my first lane swim in an outdoor pool. It felt quite fabulous and now I'm trying to make my two swims during the week be in the outdoor pool. It takes a lot of planning to take my swimming gear to work, the pool, to work, and back home again. That is probably my biggest challenge right now: planning. Especially when I'm trying to find a way to carry all of my gear for bike riding AND swimming in one day, all based around work. Whew! It's tiring!

That being said, I'm growing ever-more confident that I will, indeed, complete my first Ironman. I feel stronger than I ever have before and I've been training in the heat to prepare my body for the hell that will be Penticton in August. Running in 35oC heat always causes me to have thoughts like, "I have to stop. I can't do this." However, I overcome those thoughts with how it is good training and I can most definitely do this! This mental training is just as important as the physical training that I'm doing.

Last weekend I had a 4-day weekend. There is a wonderful music festival in the boreal forest that feeds my soul with music, food, wonderful people, and lots of dancing. It is the one weekend a year that I leave my running shoes at home. Despite it being an inconvenient time of year, it is very important to me to have this weekend of solace from training. It's important so that I can continue my training with vigour and passion. That being said, it is also kind of difficult to get back into the swing of training once a lull has occurred. So I am taking it slowly but surely. This weekend I'm planning a 6-hour bike ride with a 1/2 hour run afterwards.

I have also been trying to fit in time to watch the Tour de France and to tend to my garden, both equally important to me. The garden is mostly weeded and I'm feeling better about it. The Tour, however, is a gong show. Doping and controversy hover over the race like a dark cloud and it's discouraging to watch. Rasmussen, the man in the yellow jersey, has just been kicked out of the race by his team. I imagine that his team found out he has been doping or transfusing his blodd and his team wanted to save their ass. As an athlete and a cyclist, it makes me a bit jaded. I understand that these riders are under a lot of pressure, but it hurts the riders, the sport, and the fans who defend them continuously. Not to mention their sponsors. After so many years of the TdF, will people continue to put up with this bullshit? I am not sure. Every year I watch it as much as I can (although this year has been sparse because of so much training and other stuff going on in my life) and I even get cable just to watch it. Perhaps I won't do that next year, I'll just read the cycling news networks to find out who is doping, transfusing, or getting kicked off of his respective team. Or perhaps I'll be a die-hard and just put up with it. At this point, I have to wonder if anybody in the tour ISN'T doping. Oh well, I'll just keep watching so much and hope that a something good happens.

As for the rest of my training, it's all coming along nicely. I'm incorporating more yoga and meditation, which are treating me right. My body feels so good now. I think I could do Ironman right now. It's a great feeling for sure.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Swimming, biking, AND running?!

Last week, I committed to myself to get in a good weekend of training hard. So I did that.

On Saturday, I went swimming in the pool. I think people were surprised I was at the indoor pool rather than the outdoor pool, but the outdoor pools here don't have lane swimming (I think that this is ridiculous and would like to see it change). I didn't push it too hard because I think I've forgotten how to push it while swimming. I'm going to test this theory later this week, but I'm really having a hard time pushing myself to get my heart-rate up while swimming. It may have to do with my anxiety, but I will have to explore that further later. So I did an easy 2100 metres. a 250m warm-up, 3 sets of 500, 100m of kick, and 250m of cool-down. It was refreshing and it felt good. I am going to try to work in some intervals soon, now that I've gotten my swimming rhythm back.

Sunday was the big training day, though. I had a long bike followed by a short run planned. I did two laps of my favorite loop that even has some hills. The first lap I was accompanied by a couple of great triathlon people that let me talk almost non-stop about my personal problems. They were extremely supportive and without them there, I'm not sure I would have been able to continue on the second lap. However, I must have warmed up a lot from the first lap because I picked up the pace a bit (about 1.5 km/hr) and ended up with:
Distance: 115.70km
Time: 4:28:52
Max: 37.1 km/hr (on the flat!)
Average speed: 25.8 km/hr

That pace is a great pace for me and didn't even feel like a race pace. So it was really exciting. My legs just felt really good. Afterwards, I changed into my shoes and put on my hat (it was hot and sunny, not unlike Penticton in August!) and did a nice 35 minute run. I didn't go very far and it kind of hurt, but bricks are so important in training. It felt good to get out there and run... and it started feeling really good at the end, but I didn't want to push it.

All-in-all, a great training weekend!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Holy Heat, Batman!

Yesterday I went for a grueling long run by the river. It was so hot! It was about 31oC and felt like 36 with the humidity. It was almost unbearable. The first few kms were especially hard. I would run for a few minutes and then stop to walk. I did almost 11km in a little over an hour, which is pretty good for me on an average day, let alone a really hot one. I drank gatorade with my new fuel belt and it worked all right. It wasn't really ideal to have something jiggling up and down while I was running and I was sweating so much that it was uncomfortable. But once it was done, I had a cool shower and it felt so good and I was glad to have done it. I'll have to do more training in the heat from now until Ironman. That's the beauty of doing a race where it is so hot. Here is the map of the run :o)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Recovering is so much fun!

Last week was my recovery week from the Half IM and I have to admit that I loved every minute of it! I slept in, went for walks, and biked slowly to work. I went to a concert and I watched movies with my family. It was glorious!

At the same time, I feel even more inspired to continue the building period of my training. So this week has been about getting back into the swing of training. It's funny how I miss something only when I haven't done it in a while. I've also changed my schedule to include yoga 2-3 times a week in the morning. This will work because I should be running when it's hot out later in the day. I'm a big believer in training how one races and the run is never the first event.

So on Monday morning I did yoga, but my most favorite DVD will not work anymore! So I was thinking that I might start going out to the back deck to get in my sun salutations. Tuesday morning I went for a run, after skipping my Monday night workout due to family and home stuff. Then last night I went for a stellar bike ride! I held a 25.5 km/hr pace for almost 2 hours. It was a great ride... one of those perfect rides where the sun was out, the wind was low, and my legs were responding the way that I like. In fact, I don't think my legs have really responded to me that way all season... this is my favorite part of training! Feeling the power build and the blood rush, and all the endorphins flow through my body and I feel free from everything, like I could fly! So good.

So today is my day off. I was going to go swimming tonight, but after last night's workout I think it's best to give my legs a break. But it's back to the grind on Thursday with a swim of intervals in the morning and a mountain bike ride with my beloved women's ride. Friday morning is yoga time and I might go for a bike ride at lunch time. Saturday I'm going to do a long-ish run and Sunday I'm going to do a 4-hour bike ride with a short run for the brick workout. I'm excited for a weekend at home!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Race Report: The Great White North Triathlon in Stony Plain on July 1, 2007

Two years ago I embarked on the Half Iron(wo)man in Stony Plain because it was recommended to me by my training partner and friend, Maybel. We did the race and I had a blast. It was my first long-distance triathlon and was by far the hardest triathlon I had ever done. It was at this race that the idea of a full Iron(wo)man popped into my head. Maybel had done Ironman Canada and she is one of those people that liked to push me a little bit towards these crazy goals. Luckily, I am very receptive as a goal-oriented person. So when I did this race 2 years ago, I finished with a time of 6:41. I knew that I would beat this time, but I had no idea by how much. I was hoping to be around the 6 hour mark, but I am quite happy with the 6:32 that I finished with.

But back to the beginning...
The day before the race, my partner had left to go to a concert with the promise that he would be here when I awoke at 5am the next day. So I spent the afternoon reading my new yoga magazine, stretching, mentally preparing, packing my race bag (twice), eating, and hydrating. I went to bed at the ripe time of 8:00 pm. I easily awoke at 5 with Luke just rolling in from the concert. I made and ate the oatmeal that we concocted that is rich with almonds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and soy milk. It is seriously so good! We eat it almost everyday and it felt good to be full. I wasn't very nervous, thanks to all the mental preparation I had done the day before, so it was easy to eat.

We went down to set up my transition from the swim to bike. My bike was already set up from the night before, so it was pretty easy to do. I noted the mud that was right by my bike and tried to count the number of racks to mine, but the whole transition area was an unorganized mess. The organizers had gotten new racks this year so they didn't have enough and I personally hate the A-frame racks. My bike never touches the ground making it difficult to unrack and rack.

I did a quick warm-up in the lake after I ate a Gu gel at around 7:35am, with the race to start at 8:00. With 700 people in the water at one time, I knew that the beginning was going to be pretty crazy and I was right. The gun went off and my most unfavorite part of any triathlon began. I am generally a middle-of-the-pack swimmer and I put myself in that position when lining up for the mass start. However, I think that some people who position themselves don't believe they should be there. That is the only reason that I can understand for people hitting, kicking, and swimming over other people near them. I learned after the race that there were problems with the buoys moving with the swimmers, so maybe people were sighting and not going straight because of that. It still doesn't explain the hitting, kicking, and pulling me under. It was very ridiculous and I wasn't happy with it at all. While I tolerate the swim and I love training for the swim, I dislike the swim portion of the triathlon because of the splashing, crowding, and hitting. It just doesn't seem necessary for age-groupers to do. A friend of mine said that I should start near the front because the fast people will just go around me and because they actually know how to swim, they won't hit me. I may consider this for future races. I came out of the water at 43:49, which is about a minute faster than last time. I was pretty happy about this. I was quickly stripped of my wetsuit thanks to some awesome volunteers and I was off to my transition area.

When I did this race two years ago, I was shell-shocked at the chaos of the huge transition area and of the rest of the race. So this time I was well-prepared thanks to all the time I had to myself the night before and my transition was fairly quick. So I was on the bike before I knew it!

The bike is always home for me in a triathlon and this one was no exception. I was hoping for an average speed of 25 km/hr, but I had an especially good bike ride and ended up with a 27.6 km/hr speed. I don't think I've ever held that speed for so long before. However, the wind was minimal (even though I did hear people complain about it, but I'm from Saskatoon where the wind blows hard) and the conditions were exceptional: not too hot, not too crowded, and my legs were feeling good. There was a bit of drafting going on, which I wasn't keen on (I play by the rules because I like the rules). There was also a sketchy part of the ride where Hearbreak Hill is situated by the river. There was a big pothole at the bottom of the hill and there was a crash of two people there, one of whom I know from Saskatchewan (a race organizer for the Frank Dunn Triathlon, Mark Nagy), and they were pretty scraped up. I don't think they were hurt more than some bad road rash. Hopefully they fix that part for next year! There was quite a bit of traffic on that part of the course, which none of us were excited about. Some big trucks were on the roads and with almost 700 cyclists on the road, it becomes difficult to share the road. Nonetheless, I finished the bike in 3:15:39, which is an 11-minute improvement from last time. I was definitely satisfied with my bike ride!

My transition to the run was smooth. I was very nutritionally ready thanks to the practice I had at Spin Off Spadina (the Saskatoon race two weeks previous). I have been practicing with gels and Clif bars and Gatorade and it seems to work well for me. I didn't have the urge to pee on the bike at all, which can be worrisome, but I know my body and know that I could have went, but wanted to wait until the transition area. I took some time after T2, which was at a different spot than T1, to go to the porta potty, which ended up being my only bathroom break the whole race. Sometimes I really think that my body and mind listen well to each other. I think it is because of the yoga that I do and the awareness that I have of both, and at times I think I can control my body through my mind.

The run was fairly uneventful. I knew what I had to do: slow and steady, walk through the water stations, drink Gatorade at every water station & soak my head with water, and don't push it too much. I prefer to finish a race strong, which is why I don't push it on the run. I lost about 3 minutes on the run with a 2:32 half marathon time. If I was just doing a half marathon, I would be content with this time. So to have this time with minimal running (ie. nothing more than 5-8km since last summer) was amazing to me. It just goes to show what is necessary and what isn't. Sure, my time would have been better with a little more running. However, I know that if I run too much or too often or too hard that I easily get injured. My number one goal of training is to not get injured, which means that the running is last on the priority list and biking is the highest. I met some cool people along the way: Nola from Calgary chatted with me on the bike going up one side of Heartbreak Hill and then we ran together for the first few kilometres until she cramped up, but she passed me later on; Kelly is the mother of two wonderful girls and has done Ironman, who also would love to finish the Half in 6 hours, and she finished a few minutes behind me when she cramped up near the end; then there was #456, a bald guy in a red jersey that leap-frogged me on the bike and the whole way through the run as he ran-walked, but he cramped up near the end and I finished on top. I felt like the tortoise, as I just pushed on slow and steady.

The whole run felt pretty good and I smiled and cheered people on the whole way. I thanked every volunteer for coming out to make the race possible. I gave every Saskatoonian that I knew a high-five and they were all impressed with how chipper I seemed. There is something about races that I just love. The energy of it all and every person there pushing themselves to the limit. There is no other way to know one's bodily limit until they reach it, whether it be a stomach cramp making you fall to your knees with only 4km left to go or whether it be an injury before the race and you having to WALK the entire 21.1km. It is an amazing feeling to know one's limits.

When I was 1km left to go, I felt so great. My stomach was not upset, my quads were a little sore and my Achilles heels were tight, but I got to finish the last kilometre strong. I came around the corner, heard the announcer say my name and announce that I was doing Ironman this year, and I shouted out a big "WOOOOHOOOO!" as I crossed the Finish Line and smiled for the picture. I finished the race with a final time of 6:32, 524th overall out of 622 and 28/33 in my age group. Wade Churchill, the race director, shook my hand and put the finisher's medal over my head. I thanked him and said, "See? Vegans can do it too!" (See here for the details on the food at this race). He laughed and gave me a big hug. Then I saw my partner with the camera taking pictures and he gave me a big hug. I was all emotional, as I always get after a race, and so happy to be done. I have graduated to a whole new level: an experienced triathlete. This one was my 10th triathlon, my second Half IM, and my first full tri this year. So exciting!

I am so glad to have done this race as it is great preparation for IM and it really boosted my confidence in myself at being able to complete my first IM. Not to mention, it is just a great, well-organized race.

Photos:
Transition area at 6am:
Setting up the transition area:

I'm read to go!

My camera-man and partner, Luke
Some nervous 700+ swimmers before the gun went off:

Off we go!
A sea of arms and neon swim caps - it must be a triathlon!
This is just the beginning...
Second lap (I'm waving at Luke in this photo)
I just dove in to start the second 1000m lap:
Coming out of the run at 43 minutes:

Transition 1: Utter chaos!

At home on the bike for the next 3 hours:
Transition 2
The end of the run: a half marathon of 2:32
A finishing time of 6:32
Happy to be done!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Balance shmalance

I know it has been almost a month since my last update. There really is no excuse. However, I guess it could be seen as I've been training more than putting time into the internet... and I have. I have been in emotional turmoil about the upcoming Iron(wo)man and considered dropping out. Not because I couldn't do it, but because of the anxiety that I have felt surrounding it. Alas, I decided to suck it up and push on. So that's what I'm doing. I have a whole list of bike ride times that I'll put at the bottom and I did half of one triathlon (it was called after the bike portion because of lightening). However, during that race I was nutritionally superior to any other race I've ever done. I am hoping to continue with that trend for the rest of my races.

In terms of finding a balance, I'm not sure that I have, but I have given up on a lot of things that had been weighing on my mind: First of all, I am not going to have a clean house while I'm training for Ironman and we decided to hire someone to help us with the bathrooms and floors. I think L has accepted this fact and is cool with it, but we both like a level of cleanliness that is mostly obtainable so we're going with that. Also, I'm not volunteering for anything more than I'm already doing (this is a constant battle as I get asked to help out with something almost everyday). Laundry won't always get done, but I will keep my workout gear as clean as possible (not so much a choice as a necessity - especially bike shorts!). And finally, my bikes get priority over my car - this is just a reality in my life and I like it that way.

This weekend is my first long race of the year - the Great White North half Ironman in Stoney Plain, Alberta. I did this race two years ago and had a great time. Well, the whole thing was great except the run, which was a little painful. I don't really feel prepared for the run, but I am pretty prepared for the rest of it, so I figure it'll all be fine. It's such a great race and I'm glad to have this as my "halfway point" for the summer to Ironman.

So I'm just picking away at my training and I'm reading "Going Long," which is an awesome book. It's inspirational and I wish that I had read it 2 or 3 times over the winter instead of hiring a coach. If I ever do Ironman again, I'm going to shop around for a coach that works well with me. I liked my coach on a personal level, but I'm more of a "why" person and need explanations that I didn't get. Also, I felt a little neglected at times and my questions didn't get answered periodically. So I'm on my own until the race, but am going to seek guidance from a couple of friends and my new "bible."

Here is what my training on the bike has been like (mostly):
June 8
Distance: 33.77 km
Time:1:31:45
Max:37.3 km/h
Average speed: 22.1 km/h

June 9
Distance: 65.13 km
Time:2:46:38
Max: 38.9 km/h
Average speed: 23.4 km/h

June 16
Distance: 15.65 km
Time: 38:11
Max: 50.4 km/h
Average speed: 24.6 km/h

June 17 (ie. Spin off Spadina triathlon)
Distance: 39.28 km
Time: 1:28:01
Max: 39.6 km/h
Average speed: 26.8 km/h

June 23
Distance: 63.19 km
Time: 2:35:19
Max: 33.4 km/h
Average speed: 24.4 km/h

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Long rides are great!

Friday night I was lame. All of my friends were out dancing and I was at home sulking at the fact that I was getting up at 6am to go riding. I love it and hate it at the same time. On Saturday morning at 6:30am there is almost no traffic, the sun was shining, the air was a little nippy, but it felt good. I did a good 70km at a good pace:
Distance: 69.65km
Time: 2:46:47
Avg speed: 25.1km/hr
Max: 39.9
We had a head- to cross-wind coming back, but I had a ride back to the city which was nice. I used a PowerGel on the ride and it helped a lot. It felt good to ride for such a long time, even though my left foot keeps cramping up and my butt area was kind of sore after that. Small prices to pay, I suppose.

On Friday I had my first swim in many weeks and it felt pretty good. I'm not very worried about the swim, so I just feel like I'm just maintaining right now. I'm just not motivated in that area.

Last Thursday morning I ran the same 4.8km in 33 minutes, which is 2 minutes faster than Tuesday. On Tuesday I did intervals and on Thursday, I just tried to keep up a faster pace to see how it would pan out. It felt better than the intervals, but I think I need to do faster intervals and maybe some hills. Basically I have to get up earlier to fit it all in. That night I climbed hill intervals with my women mountain bike group, which was uber fun. After the hill climbing, one woman and I did a nice half our, fast-paced ride. I got home completely rejuvenated.

On Sunday I did my first mountain bike race of the season. 1:21 of high-paced single-track, hill-climbing, and stellar down-hills. Fun times!

Last night (ie. Monday) I did about an hour of swimming at a pace. I did some 500m intervals and it felt good, but again I was not motivated to move my butt. In total, I did probably around 1800m.

This morning I went running in the windy cold rain and then biked to work. Tonight I'm going to hit the trainer for about an hour while watching Sex and the City. Should be fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Wind

In Penticton, the wind is a prairie myth. On the prairies, it can be a cyclists best friend or worst nightmare. Yesterday, it was a little of both. That's what a cross- to head-wind can be. As I cycled out to meet my friend (thank goodness for Heather as my motivator!), I couldn't help but think about how painful it was. After back-to-back runs Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, my thighs were rubbery. They felt like stopping, they begged me to stop. My stomach was growling and wanted actual food instead of the sports drink I was drinking. My mind was reeling from a normal day at work. The only thing I kept thinking was "spin spin spin spin spin." I took solace in the fact that Wednesday was an off-day. Thank goodness! My cardio is really coming back so I don't have to worry as much about my lungs, but my legs were so tired. I knew that if I just spun it out I would make it in "decent" time. Decent was an average speed 18km/hr going out. By the end of the day coming back, with Heather breaking the cross- to tail-wind, it ended up being about 40km at 21km/hr. Brutal. Definitely one of my hardest rides this year, but I'm sure it won't be the last. So while we don't have mountains, we have the relentless, whistle-in-your-ear-until-it-rings wind.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Balance

I find that balancing my home life with my work life with my training life to be the most difficult part of training. It is a kind of training in itself. This weekend was a long weekend and I had big plans of a long road ride and a long run. Well, I guess 1 of 2 is good. It probably just wasn't the right "one." I went for a longish run yesterday (Monday):
9 minutes running:1 minute walking for 8km in 1:02
It felt pretty good, despite the down-pouring rain. I wore headphones for part of it, just to get me going, but I turned off my iPod shuffle halfway through.

On Sunday I went for an easy-ish mountain bike ride along the river with the dudes from my LBS (Local Bike Store), which was pretty fun. We stopped a lot, which I'm not super into, but it was good anyway.

This morning I went for a short run with some short intervals in it. I did 4.8 km in 35 minutes. It felt pretty good as well. It was windy and cold outside, but good anyway. After I got home I did half an hour of yoga, which felt amazing. I'm going to try to make this a regular occurrence after I run. Tonight I'm going to do a short road ride after work, probably around 35km. It is supposed to be cool for the next few days, but I kind of like it. I'm like that. Wednesday is my day off and Thursday I'm going to run some hills and then hopefully ride with the women for a mtb ride.

Somewhere in there, we're trying to plant our garden and do laundry. I might hire someone to clean our house. I don't know how long I can juggle all of this while standing on one leg. Balancing is hard!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Biking is fun!

Training inside on the trainer is like torture to me. I feel lethargic and I don't really care. I find it hard to do intervals because I have no incentive. There's no downhill, there's no wind at my back.

Thank goodness for outdoor training!!! This weekend I hope to get in a good 60 to 80km ride. For the past couple of Tuesdays I've been doing some hills on Highway #5 because it feels so good. I even have a friend to do it with! I quickly jotted down my stats from last week and I did it this week too... I guess just to compare. It's nice to know I'm getting faster... even if it is marginally.

Tuesday, May 8:
Distance: 40.5 km
Time: 1:39:36
Avg: 24.4 km/hr
Max: 41.3 km/hr

Tuesday, May 15:
Distance: 41.12 km
Time: 1:37:51
Avg: 25.3 km/hr
Max: 51.0 km/hr

Tonight is the mountain bike riding with the ladies, but I might skip it. The house is still a disaster from moving and vacationing. Plus it would give my legs a nice break.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A quick update

The holidays were great for my mind and soul, but bad for my training. It comes as no surprise, really. So last week I started getting back into it with some walk-runs and short bike rides. This week is building on that and next week I will be in full swing. Here is what it looked like:
Monday: short run-walk, bike to work
Tuesday: 4km run-walk, bike to work + 40km bike ride
Thursday: 5km run-walk, bike to work + mountain bike riding (climbing and descending)
Friday: yoga and bike to work
Sunday: longish run-walk (8km)

I'm hoping to find a way to incorporate my yoga into my training better than before I went on holidays. So far I haven't started swimming yet and am doing the yoga instead. It feels great, but I will start back with the swimming soon. Hopefully the schedule will work itself out. I will be updating more regularly from now on with details of my workouts. Fun stuff!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Going Long

I can't believe it has been so long since I updated. Sometimes blogging just slips my mind.

Easter weekend was basically a write-off. Between family, moving, and relaxing, training was minimal. I did do a lot of lifting and reaching - I'm sure that can be counted as weight training. I did go on some long walks with my partner and my family's dog, but it was really cold that weekend and it was Easter. A good time for some time off.

The week after Easter was crazy. I did do some biking on my trainer, but I have been having some back and neck issues. Last Thursday I tried to run on the treadmill, but I had a shooting pain down my right hamstring. I have since learned that it was probably my piriformis muscle pinching my sciatic nerve. Whatever it was, it made me literally stop running on the treadmill, go to the chiro, make an appointment with my massage therapist, and now it is gone with a little bit of muscle soreness in my lower back and butt area from the massage yesterday. So now I'm stretching my butt and my lower back a lot. I must have had a minor issue because I went for a short, slowish run this morning and I felt pretty good, except for the tenderness of my butt.

On Saturday I went for my first outdoor road ride of the season. Yep, April 14th was the day. It was the hottest day of the year so far and it was GORGEOUS! I didn't got far or long and only got in 30km, but it felt good. We are very busy preparing for our trip to California, so I'm trying my best to balance life and training. All I have to say is that I'm very lucky I have good employers that allow me flexibility.

Monday morning saw me hit the pool for a nice 3000m workout with the Masters' swim club. It felt good. And that brings us to today. This afternoon I'm going to head out for a bike ride (again, the good employer thing). I'm excited to hit the road and trails in Oregon, California, Utah, and wherever else the wind takes us.

The other day a triathlete that I know suggested a book to me that I probably should have bought last year when I signed up to do IMC. Better late than never, right?! I've read Gordon Byrn's stuff on the internet, but hadn't heard of Joel Fried. Apparently, he is also renowned in the world of triathlon. So I ordered Going Long off Amazon and it came today! I am so excited to be able to read it on our trip. I hope that it will inspire and educate me on this journey of training for my first Ironman.

Also, I have made another decision lately. I am going to sign up for IMC 2008. I figure that since I will work so hard to get my base for the first one, it would be great if I could build on that for a second one. So that's the tentative plan. It may sound crazy, but I also figure I should make this decision now rather than later because once I do IMC 2007, I may not want to sign up for IMC 2008!

So that's where I'm at. I'm having lots of fun and can't wait to go on holidays. This blog will likely be dormant until after May 7th.

Things to look at:

This is a good image of the piriformis muscle:


The Stretching Instititute has some good stretches to do.