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.

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!