Friday, July 31, 2015

2015 Belwood Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Where did July go?? Yikes! It feels like I was racing just yesterday! Oh wait, that was the race simulation day with our club... So I better get this race report written before another one comes looming over me. Here we go!

*scratching head* Wait, that was quite a while ago... Where did my memory go?? Jeez, I'm getting old.

Belwood, Belwood, Belwood... I think I remember now...

Second race this year for me in the Multisport series. As I said a few months ago, I decided to take the year off from long distance racing and focus on getting stronger and faster (maybe). Less pressure, more fun. And get the hips and knees working again! That's THE mission.
This race came just one week after the IM Muskoka 70.3 swim and relay/volunteering adventure and needless to say, I was pretty pumped about it. However, a little cautious and nervous too, because I had not run more than 5K this year and this was going to be a longer type of sprint tri, with a 30K bike and a 7.5K run. *gulp* But I have to trust the process and put faith in my body's ability to overcome. I could not have been more careful until now, and worst case scenario I'd have to walk a few kilometres. No big deal, it's not a marathon after all.

With this "plan" in mind, I managed to let go of most of the stress and embrace the "whatever" attitude that has been driving my season thus far. Zin was going to be my sherpa for the day and together, we woke up at the crack of dawn to drive the 70km from our house to the Belwood Conservation Area. This race is of my favourites and I could not wait to get the day started! Once on site, I was surprised to see so many people compared to last year. The field was packed and as usual, my AG is one of the most competitive. Of course, all my expectations went out the window.

I racked my bike in transition and set up my little mat, then went to pick up my bib, chip and get body marked. A lot of members of our club were there, so I was chatting left and right, which kept me relaxed. A girl told me in transition that she knew me from reading my blog. Well, hi there stranger!! Leave me a comment *wink wink* (ok, this happened after the race, but most likely I'll forget to talk about it once I get there, so I am taking the opportunity now).

Then I squeezed myself into my wetsuit and joined the troops by the lake. I was going to be in the second wave, along with the older guys, and from my experience at the races that I've done this season, it's been working pretty well for me. These guys aren't the most aggressive, and they swim rather carefully. Once the horn went off, I put on my best motor boat impersonation and tried not to swallow too much water while grunting underwater. It felt like a super hard swim catching feet here and there but mostly a solo effort. I looked at my watch coming out of the water: 15:00 min - very happy with the result! Quite the difference from the first swim in Woodstock.
My heart was beating out of my chest and it didn't settle for a while, especially with the long-ish run to transition. I got on my bike in a jiffy, but I was gasping for air with each pedal stroke. To say that I was racing hard was an understatement. I was wondering if I wasn't going to blow up at any moment!
After a few minutes I looked at my watch, I was going over 33kph. I passed a girl in my AG within the first 5K, and it gave me a mental boost. Someone called the fast bike gods and didn't tell me? But then I remembered why I liked this race so much. The bike IS smoking fast!! By the mid-point, I was averaging over 35kph. I could not believe it, but then the reality hit me in the face just like the head wind that was waiting around the corner. BAM. Slow down, girl. You get to reeeeaaaaaally push those pedals now. I took a gel as usual, then got back to work. This whole time I was breathing hard, definitely pushing all the watts. Looking at my HR average (175bpm) on Strava, this ride was a true sufferfest. Graph below says it all.
I could not say that I wasn't racing my heart out. I remember one girl from my age group passing me, but overall I was passing a lot of people and doing awesome. Beast mode ON! I continued this trend thanks to the good amount of caffeine that just hit my system (that's why I stopped drinking coffee last year, haha) and finished strong with an average of 32.5kph. I kept my expectations in check though. I was there to give it my all, but not die trying to beat my PB.

Back in T2, I did a quick body check - all systems a-ok. It was a scorcher of a day, so I decided to take my cap with me. I was also racing in my brand new Coeur Sports team kit and I was feeling all kinds of fast and fabulous in it, just like the pros (hey, guys, have you seen my logos?? ;-)). The cap was, of course, matching my kit and my nails, which I had done for the first time this year - just for the occasion. I may not be a girly girl, but I could not pass on the opportunity to wear ALL THE PINK. Did I just say that out loud??
The legs didn't feel good at first... But of course, I can still count the number of bricks I've done this year on my fingers. But I pushed on. My secret goal was to finish the run under 6min/km, but given that I was running 30 sec slower/km, it didn't feel like an attainable goal at the time. However, my love for this race kept my spirits high. I was having a blast and no way I was going to let the negative thoughts invade my zen space.

I stopped looking at my watch and went by feel. I've started doing this more and more lately since I don't have a lot of expectations and it's been quite liberating. I am learning to stay in the moment, listen to my footsteps and my breathing, taking it all in and just enjoy being able to move, you know. If I were to start thinking about the heat, the wind, what could happen to my legs, what happened last year, what went wrong, etc, I find that it completely ruins the experience. Who wants to run cranky anyway?

I took water at each station - one cup to throw on my face, and one to throw on my back. Whatever I managed to drink was good enough. By the turn around, I had put on the turbo and I was feeling awesome. Let's take a look at the effort thanks to Strava...
Dang. Looks like I could have pushed harder. Joking... That's what a negative split looks like.

Eventually I saw the finish line and I was pretty relieved to be reaching the end of my longest run without pain in my knees. I kept running strong and I was so glad to reach the chute, when all of a sudden a lady passed me and I saw that she was in my age group. She was sprinting hard and I tried to stay with her, but I had no more gears, alas. I finished just a few seconds behind her, without regrets.
You can see me running down the chute in the picture above. Once I reached the finish mat, the photographer was busy checking his iPhone and did not take a picture of me. I was a little bummed, but I wasn't going to yell "Dude, what about me??". Maybe whatever caught his attention was really important. Oh well, this one will do.

Julie waited for me and told me that she chased me the entire day and thanked me for making her work hard. Remember the lady I passed on my bike in the first 5K? Well, it was her and she had made it a mission to beat me. This absolutely made my day. Knowing that I was someone's competition made this race even more special.
I finished 6th in my age group and exactly 5 minutes slower than last year, all lost on the run. At the end of the day I had an awesome swim, an awesome bike and a decent run, and I met my goal of running under 6 min/km. For my longest run this year, it was not too shabby, me thinks.

And that's all folks! A little abrupt, I know, but I've delayed this post long enough, plus I'm too sleepy to keep writing. See you next time!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Team "Beets and Pickles" IM Muskoka 70.3 Race Report

Last year when I signed up for IM Muskoka 70.3 I was CRAVING another endurance event. I was in the middle of my depression flareup and I needed a goal. Something to get me going, to make me feel that I can. Despite the fact that my body could not, but I didn't know that. A month after I signed up, I attempted to run again, and that was a beautiful disaster. Since then I've had many highs and lows, but after starting working with a physiotherapist to address the weaknesses in my body, I had to abandon the idea of putting any mileage on my legs that would create additional damage. This was the hardest decision of all and it required very painful mental workouts to LET GO.

IM Muskoka 70.3 was the one race that I was hanging on, despite knowing that I would have killed my legs if I chose to race it unprepared. But once May came and went, I had to make the decision to either ask for a partial refund or change it to a relay. At just one week from the deadline, I asked my friends on Facebook if someone was open to be in a relay with me, and to my surprise, Ken and Robin jumped in right away. None of them had an experience with the half Ironman distance, but I knew without doubt that they could do it, and do it brilliantly. And so Team "Beets and Pickle(s)" was born.
The excitement grew as the weeks went on, but for once my race anxiety remained low. A 2km swim? Bring it on! I started swimming in open water more regularly and noticed my times improve significantly. I was secretly hoping that I maybe, just maybe, I would be able to PR this leg. Either way, it was going to be fun because I love, love, love open water swims. Insert all exclamation marks here.

We went to Muskoka on Friday because Zin and I chose to make it a mini vacation. We also needed some time away to relax before the race and thankfully, Canada Day cooperated with our plans and gave us the opportunity of taking 2 vacation days to make it a 5 days break. Hello Muskoka!!
On Saturday we met with Phaedra, her husband, her friends Heather and Dave, and Louis from our FMCT club to go on a short bike ride. I ended riding 1.5h on the Muskoka hills, pretty much at race pace. At first, out of necessity because all these folks were a lot faster than me, then solo because I could not keep up with them and they turned around earlier anyway. I was the only one not racing, so it made sense that I pushed a few extra mile(s).
I found them again at the end of my ride, as they were watching the parade in downtown Huntsville.
For lunch we met with Robin and unfortunately had one of the most disappointing restaurant experiences ever. The food was mediocre, it took forever to get served and it was definitely not appropriate for our appetites. But we had front seats to the city's celebrations, so that explained the inflated prices.
Around 1:30pm we went to Deerhurst to meet with Ken and check our team in for the race. The registration process was rather painless, as this event is a very well oiled machine after a few years in the running. We were in and out in a jiffy. We discussed the time to meet the next morning, paid a visit to Ken's bike in transition, then waited for the athletes' meeting. After saying our goodbyes, I decided to go on a run, since that was in the plan and I had 30 min to spare. Alas I didn't think of taking water with me, and by the first 1/2 km, I was already thirsty as hell. The temperature was at its peak and I was overheating big time. I ran 4km before calling it quits. Knee was a little upset after the morning ride and I ended walking the last km back. It was a perfect reminder that I had made the right decision to leave the bike and run to stronger and better trained people.

I joined the athletes meeting where I finally understood how the relay business was going to work. One thing for sure, it was going to be a long day. What to do, what to do?? I walked over to the volunteers' booth and asked if they needed people still. I was told that places to volunteer on site were limited, but that I could call the transition captain in the morning and check if she needed someone. I took a volunteer t-shirt and hoped for the best.

We went for dinner to Boston Pizza, where the boys carb loaded in style with pizzas bigger than their faces. I chose to eat a salad and dry ribs, but skipped the booze and the dessert (who am I??).  Then we went to bed early and woke up even earlier, so we could check out and make sure that we didn't forget anything. We drove to Tim Hortons for breakfast, but we had to wait a few minutes for it to open. Now that was a first. Then we made our way to the airstrip where we left the car, followed by a ride in the shuttle to Deerhurst.
We were right on time, it was 6am I believe. I went over to Ken's bike and it's like every guy I knew in the race was within a 20 sq feet radius. Of course, I noticed Virgil right away and I went over to say Hi. Photo op!! (and good luck!)
Shortly thereafter, we learned that relays had a special rack in a completely different location in transition. Okay then... let's move our stuff. The relay logistics were clear as mud after all. At the new location I started wrestling with my wetsuit, which is always a painful experience since I put on 10lb and all of a sudden it became two sizes too small. Eventually I managed to squeeze my butt in, took my swim cap and goggles and began the walk towards the swim start. Zin had already left transition since his start was 25 min before mine. I was hoping to get there just in time to see him start and I did just as the gun went off. (I bet he doesn't know this).

The water was warm and it took me by surprise. The lake was quiet and the conditions were just perfect for a swim PR. If only I was not going to fall apart by rushing too much. Not sure if it helped or not, but being in the last wave put my mind even more at ease that no other wave was going to swim over us. After a short warm up, I lined up with everyone else and I just treaded water for a little while...Then the gun went off and I settled into the groove that I'd been practicing for a few weeks already. Fast turnover, complete strokes, thumbs brushing by my hips. It was rather uneventful until the first turn buoy where I ran into a lot of people breast stroking. The next 200m were spent mostly navigating between people, then once I turned another buoy, I found a pair of matching feet and I started following them. The effort seemed adequate, but I could only hope he was going fast enough. Of course I had no idea, it's not like I was going to check my Garmin mid stroke (it was under my cap anyway, so tough luck with it).

I stayed on this guy's feet until the last 100m, where I passed him. I was feeling really bad for touching his feet over and over again, but it's not like I could put on the brakes every time he slowed down. I took a good look at him when I passed him, hoping I could find who he is so I can say thanks. To the gentleman in a ROKA Maverick Pro with colorful goggles, thank you!! Perfect sighting too! (Update: I found him thanks to the race photos and thanked him via Facebook. Such a gentleman, it was a pleasure to exchange a few words with him).

I came out of the water with a 3 minute PR and I was ecstatic!! My fastest time in Muskoka was over 41 minutes and I was only hoping for a 40-something. When I saw 38 and change my eyes popped out of my head. How is this possible?? Apparently like this:
You can tell by the race photos, I could not be happier. Last time I felt like this was when I finished the IM swim in Mt. Tremblant.
Robin saw me right away and she ran up with me towards transition. Since it was a 400m uphill, it was not difficult to follow me. My heart was beating out of my chest, but my mission was complete. I did my best and made my team mates proud. Back in transition, I put the chip on Ken's ankle and off he went!! It felt weird to not have to remove the wetsuit and to stay behind, but now a different kind of mission was starting: Keep calm and cheer on.
I stayed with Robin for another hour and we watched the first pro men coming into T2 and going on their run. For some reason, Ken's splits were not showing in the tracker, when everyone else had no issues with theirs. Of course, we were freaking out big time. Robin went to ask the Sportstats people if they knew of any riders DNFing, and she was reassured that everyone was still in the race. With a bit of relief and a lot of hope that he was going to make it through, I went to the finish line where I joined my catchers family. Earlier in the day I had ran into Kari and Dorothy, the volunteer captains at the finish line and asked them if I could join them like I did in the years prior. They welcomed me with open arms and unknowingly, they made my day.

And while I was unboxing medals and arranging them on the rack, Ken was kicking butt on the hills and was looking sharp doing it!
I kept messaging back and forth with Robin, both of us waiting with baited breath for Ken to finish his ride. Eventually I heard the announcer say his name and I jumped up and down with immense joy. Only one leg remaining. Go Robin, go!!!

Meanwhile, my shift started to get interesting. We saw Lionel Sanders coming through the finish line then getting bored waiting for his competition to show up.  I had the honor of giving him his medal. With a 15 min lead, he completely killed the field. The girls came in much later as well, so the first hour of pros finishing was rather anti climactic. Are they here yet, was the question that we kept asking ourselves. Jeez, what takes them so long? Haha. Well, the heat and the hills are a match made in Hell, so .. respect. At least none of them collapsed like some did in the past.

But the day was only getting worse for those still out there. Temperatures were raising fast and I was wondering how Robin was coping with the heat and the lack of shade on the course. Soon enough, athletes started pouring through the finish line and I was getting sweatier and stinkier by the minute. Being a catcher will do that to you, but I don't mind it at all; helping these athletes find their legs again after leaving it all on the course is a wonderful feeling. I spent my time at the finish line switching between giving out medals, catching people, welcoming all my friends with whatever voice I had left, holding the banner and eventually, handing out finisher t-shirts and caps. I was at the banner post when Robin crossed the finish line and I remember yelling something silly like "Here comes my medal!!".  I was so proud of my team mates and the fact that together we came in under 6h (5h56 more precisely), for a 28th/73 place in relays.
At the end of the day, it was a tough race, especially for Ken and Robin, but they pushed themselves hard and gave it all. I am super happy that both of them had the opportunity to race in an Ironman event and for Robin, to participate in a triathlon (just like her daughter, who loves them). I could not have asked for better team mates. Many thanks to both of them!! You can read Robin's race report here.
My hubby finished the race with a huge PR, and an outstanding time of 5:21, despite a flat. All our racers from the FMCT club made it as well, and for some it was their first ever triathlon. I am so proud!!
Spending the day racing, cheering, volunteering is the best experience one can ask for. I can't wait to go back on August 30 at the full IM Muskoka for a bigger and louder finish line. I love my catcher friends and it's such a treat to spend a few hours with them. They are the most positive, enthusiastic and fun team, you better believe it. Thank you Kari and Dorothy!!

And that's a wrap folks!! Thank you for reading and cheering along. Sometimes, things turn out for the better, despite the obstacles in the way. Now more than ever, it's best to seize the day!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Things are clicking left and right. Clickety clack!

Hola! How are you?? Still here? Yay!!

Me too!! It's been again 2 weeks since I last blogged, but it seems to be my current cruising speed. In other words, I've been lazy. But that's ok, it's not that I've had any Earth shattering news to share with you. Same old same old... until this week. This week has been pretty great workouts wise. I decided to get back in the saddle regularly and put some work into the program that I started on Trainer Road 3 months ago. You know, the one that I was very motivated to follow, but I failed miserably after 2 weeks and just gave up, because. Too much stress, too little fitness, and mostly because I shifted my focus towards physio.

But two months later and a few good weekly outdoor rides, I decided to pick up right where I left off. And to my surprise, it was with great success. Most notably, it looks like my fitness has significantly improved since April and this time I didn't feel like passing out before the end of the workout. I finished it without difficulty, and with an average heart rate lower by 20bpm in the hard intervals. Now that was a huge surprise. See below, the failed workout in April, where my HR was in the high 180s, and now, where it did not go above 169.

Ericsson in April - gave up in the 3rd interval, could not follow the instructions. Too hard, despite having lowered my FTP by 10pts. 
Ericsson in June - followed all instructions, could hold all cadences, heart rate stayed in the 160s. I even did the single leg drills. Yay me!
(Ignore the heart rate anomalies in the second workout... the Scosche strap got too wet and I had to tighten it for it to return to reading the HR properly. After I adjusted it, it came back within the normal range.)

Needless to say, this workout gave me a huge moral boost. Finally, proof that everything I've done in the last few months was not for nothing and that my fitness is coming back. And to confirm that this was no fluke, I did one more workout 2 days later and finished it again without difficulty.

I even got off the saddle as per the instructions. This workout was focused on leg power and although I am not used to grinding my gears, I did just as it required, alternating intervals between 75rpm and 85rpm. I can't wait for the next workout now. Luckily the weather will be crap tomorrow, which means that I'll have to do my ride indoors. Back on Watopia (the new Zwift island) and Trainer Road!

Last time on Zwift I managed to get the polka dot jersey (fastest climb) and hold it for most of the ride. Must have been a slow day... here I was during one of the recovery intervals, spinning my legs at 75 watts, haha.
What else is new? Not only the bike clicked this week, but the swim did too! Despite going to the pool only once or twice a week, I tried to keep my focus on finishing my strokes properly and increasing my turnover. And it's been working! 

On Tuesday I went to the pool and I was glad to have another friend from the club with me as a challenge. I tried keeping up with her, doing 300m sets alternating between swimming with paddles and without. And by the 3rd interval I was flying!! Definitely my fastest swim this year and possibly... ever!!! Followed by 3 loops at Professor's Lake this morning, where I also challenged myself to keep a high turnover and it paid off. I can't believe how good all these workouts felt.

The run was a bit on the back burner this week after having a great few workouts last week. For the first time this year I ran twice 5k without pain, and even completed my first serious speed workout of the year (10x400s).

This week I returned to physio and I was told that focus needs to turn towards my abdominals as I hurt my back last time I went. The PT told me that I have a strong back, but the front, not so much. So we need to fix that before we move on with the leg and hip strength because I tend to arch my lower back too much and I am not able to engage my glutes properly. So there is that. I feel that I've already started to neglect my physio workouts, and I have to get back on the bandwagon asap. The good news is that my IT bands and hip strength are really improving and that showed in my running. But as usual... patience. 

I still don't have any races in my calendar longer than 10K this year and it will probably stay like that. I would love to do a 1/2 marathon later in the fall, but Zin thinks it's better to wait until next year so I'm willing to listen to him for now. I don't want to rush things and I still don't have the confidence that my legs are strong enough for that kind of distance. I am not defined by a distance, am I right? I just want to stay happy and healthy. Fingers crossed this won't be another roller-coaster ride. 

What else can I tell you guys? Maybe share a few photos to see what I've been up to? Why not! :-)
I've led quite a few rides for the FMCT club and they've been so much fun!
Bought a new pair of kicks: Hokas Stinson ATR and they are pretty awesome
Saw a big snapping turtle on my run.
Bought a wonderful scarf from Coeur Sports and I fell in love with it instantly
Sherpa duties at Rose City / Welland Half Iron triathlon where hubby kicked serious ass.
Alright, that's enough for today. The ZZzzzzZZZZzzzzzs are calling me. But first, Channing Tatum and Jimmy Fallon are saying dirty jokes on TV and excuse me...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015 Woodstock Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Holy macaroni, is this a real race report?! Yes it is!! It's not a volunteering, cheering or spectating report. It is true, I completed a triathlon last weekend and I cannot wait to tell you all about it. Sharing pictures though, that's something else. I was truly apprehensive to see myself in race pictures and they did not disappoint. The 10lb that I packed on since last year scream at me from the whole mid section. But now that's out of the way, let's get on with this report. Nothing I can do about the pictures and my stupid weight.

There was little mental preparation going into this race as I had no doubt that I could go the distance, but the big unknown was going to be the run. Before the race, the longest I had run without knee pain was about 4km at the simulation day. However, going even that far after a 40km bike gave me hope that if I stick with my physio program and continue believing that I WILL get better, maybe that would become true eventually. I had zero expectations with regards to finishing times, no podium goals, not even a PR. I did zero speed or hill work this year, and the number of bricks completed can be counted on 3 fingers. I barely maintained my fitness through my emotional ups and downs and truly the biggest challenge has been to keep my head above water.

The morning of the race I woke up at 5:30am with the plan of leaving the house before 7am. I showered, had a big breakfast (as usual) and made sure I packed a banana with me because that's the only pre-race ritual that can mess up with my mojo big time. I also took a gel to eat on the bike and some Gu Chomps in case I needed them on the run.

Zin drove me to Pittock Conservation Area and as soon as I got on site I ran into Ken, Dana and Phaedra. We all lined up to pick up our race kits and managed to keep the nerves at bay by sharing last minute tips and posing for pics. Here are a few of them that Zin turned into a GIF. I like this version much better than the individual ones. Did you spot the chocolate milk ad placement? Haha!!

Then before I knew it, I had to go in transition and set up my stuff. Phaedra found me a spot just beside her and I felt special racking beside a champion.
I also ran into Dave Jenkin, my old coach who moved to Woodstock and started the Woodstock Triathlon Club there. It was great to see him again. I thought it would be cool to take a picture together just like we did last year. We gotta keep the tradition going!
Soon enough it was time to go. I went in the water for a short warm up and I was pleasantly surprised by its temperature. Just perfect, although a little choppy for my liking. I also think the water was slightly warmer than the air temperature, and I was still on the fence about racing in my tri top or add a cycling jersey on top.

I left in the second wave, the yellow caps. I got into a groove pretty quickly and despite being swum over a few times, I only swallowed a minimal amount of water. Yay me, because given the amount of goose poop I walked in along the shore, I was a little worried. Not very surprising, I had the slowest swim ever. I came out of the water in 17min and change, but the disappointment only lasted a second. I was a little too dizzy coming back into transition to worry about paces.

The long run out made things even worse as it elevated my heart rate through the roof and left me wondering how in hell I was going to bring it down so I can breathe normally again. To add insult to the injury, the bike out was up a hill, then I had to face a head wind for a third of the ride at least.
I didn't have to say a lot of "on your left" this time around, as I kept being passed over and over again. I only remember 2 girls in particular because we started and finished the ride very close to each other. The first one was in my AG and she passed me within the first 100m of the run and the second one was a 17yr old, whom I kept passing on the downhills, and she would pass me back on the uphills. She also took off on the run and I never saw her again.

I ate a gel about half way on the ride and drank a little from my water bottle. For once I was glad that I didn't have to pee on my bike as I was working hard to keep up the pace. No distractions allowed! Overall, it felt like a lot of work and not much fun. You really don't have time to smell the roses in a sprint triathlon.

Compared with last year, it took me exactly 3 extra minutes to complete the bike for a total of 43:30min. The HR was exactly the same, an average of 170bpm. It definitely showed how much power I lost on the bike, but I am not going to mourn it forever... it will come back if I put the work into it. Anyway, I consider myself lucky for having had a perfect ride once more, without physical or technical issues of any kind.

Coming back in transition, I put on my socks and running shoes, grabbed my gels and off I went again. The way out of transition is along a wooden path on grass/dirt, then it changes to gravel, then concrete over the dam, then dirt again. Quite the mix of surfaces I should say. Here is what it looks like within the first 200m.
I am posting this picture because I'll have to come back to it in a few minutes. But until then... let's keep running. Again, I felt pretty slow and sluggish, but I remained concentrated on the job at hand.. er, feet. Looks intense, doesn't it. That Imraan guy sure doesn't like it that he's getting chicked.
I did my best not to blow up, but I still ended with a stitch after 3km. I didn't want to stop, so I pushed through, mentally tricking myself into believing that a downhill was going to magically appear and take away the pain. But more realistically, the trick of hitting the ground with the opposite leg on an exhale was going to yield better results, so I tried to concentrate on doing just that.

Maybe the stitch went away in the last 300m, or maybe I don't remember that pain, but soon thereafter I remember falling on my face on that lovely wooden path that I shared with you earlier. Just before turning into the finish chute, I tripped on a root and flew a few feet ahead in a very dramatic display of grace and agility akin to that of an elephant on skates.
I picked myself right up, dusted off and kept running. I knew that I was going to have a nice rash on my left arm and leg, but those were going to be my only battle scars that day.
I'll take a rash over knee pain any day!! Alas the photographer did not get a picture of me with my arms up in victory, but the sentiment was there. I finished my first triathlon of the year, and despite being the slowest ever, it was a huge WIN for me. No pain in my legs, and this, my friends, is the sweetest gift at all. The gift of running with a smile on my face and achieving a goal that I didn't think I'd be able to reach again. Not much else is left to say. I will just sit here inside my little bubble of bliss and allow myself to hope that a pain free racing season may be possible after all.
I'll leave you with a photograph of Phaedra and I while we were waiting for the awards. This amazing lady took the win (again!) and because she's such a great friend, I stayed around to add my cheers to those of the crowd. Any time I can share a race with her, I feel completely spoiled.

And that's a wrap! Next race, IM Muskoka 70.3 where I'll be racing as part of a relay team (I changed my registration because it was not a good idea to do it all by myself and undertrained). Look us up as team "Beets and Pickles". I'll be swimming, Ken (first picture) will be biking, and Robin will be running. This is going to be FUN!! By the way, Ken finished his first ever triathlon in Woodstock (and he kicked ass!!) and Robin will take part in her first ever triathlon in Muskoka, after completing a 100 miles (!!!) trail race last month. Go read her blog, you'll be inspired.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Believe, do something

Last week was a lot more manageable. Not only I had Monday off and spent a few good hours riding my bike with friends, but it also went pretty well on all fronts (work, family, monster slaying). Thanks to Emma, there is even a new picture of Zin and I worth of a frame now. Aren't we cute?
It's now saved as wallpaper on all my electronic devices. In my happy place with the love of my life, it can't get better than that.
Here are a few more from the day because why not?
We had to wait for a train. Now that was a first.
Then Zin posed with our fearless ride leader Emma, who just as I thought, has grown some nice muscles in those legs of hers over the winter. I can't even. She's now waaaaay stronger. But I love her just the same. She's going to kick some serious ass in her first ever triathlon season.
On Tuesday I took a day off. Alas not from work, but I gave my legs a rest since riding 100km over two days was a bit of a shock to them.

However, I showed up to the track the next day, especially after promising to a young member of our club that I would work out with him. I took him under my wing since he joined and it's amazing to see him taking his first steps into triathlon so to speak. He's determined, and I think that he will do pretty good once he gets a little more confident. For now it's all about enjoying the process of learning new skills and building a good base, one km at a time. I am really happy for the opportunity to be there for him.

So we did the speed workout and overall we ran/walked for 5.6km. My legs felt just fine, but mostly because it was interval work and I gave myself plenty of rest in between the fast laps. It was a short workout, but it made me believe that a comeback may be around the corner. My PT seems to have a plan for me. He keeps telling me that I'm making progress and I have a sneaky suspicion that, not only he wants me to go back to running, but also get faster.

On Thursday I went to the pool and swam 3 x 700m in my ROKA SIM shorts. Despite being a bit lower in the water than the week before, I managed to swim 5sec faster per 100m, mostly due to paying attention to my stroke for as long as I could keep focus. I'll timidly call this progress.

Then on Friday I went to my physio where I worked hard as usual, doing all kinds of running and strength focused exercises. This PT really knows how to tap into your psyche and make you feel good about yourself. Which may have been a little foolish of him, because this happened as soon as I got back to the office:
Yes, you read this right. 5 races (because discounts matter)! All sprints, with the exception of Wasaga Beach Triathlon. For now the Muskoka 70.3 is still on the schedule, but I will most likely drop out after the swim, or the bike or walk the 1/2 marathon, or not do it at all. I will be there because it's my hubbs' A race, but I don't have any expectations for myself. It'll probably be as foolish to even toe the line.

Alright, so now that's done, I'd better get in the groove, right? On Saturday I went back on my bike, this time with the FMCT tri club. It was a very chilly day (only 2C when I woke up!), but Zin and I plus 3 other brave souls showed up and we rode to Erin for a treat at Holtom's Bakery, then came back all schuss on Mississauga Rd, which is always a great adrenalin trip. I didn't even beat my fastest time on this downhill, but of course, I wasn't drafting behind Zin. Here are some pictures from day because they are all awesome memories.
I came back home and relaxed for the rest of the day, then on Sunday I did it again. Well, not quite, but our club organized a "brick day" and this time I showed my young friend how to change gears on his brand new road bike and bomb all downhills because it's always a pity not to! Then we ran for a bit on the Caledon Trailway and called it a successful day.

Needless to say, I feel much better today.
Almost 9h of training this week. Say whaaat?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

IT hurts

Every time I come out of a crisis, I feel completely lost about how and what to write here. Should I talk about it, should I just brush over the subject, or completely ignore it? IT. The monster living inside my head that takes over my thoughts and chews my brain, inch by inch until it feels about to explode. It's hard to explain if you've never been inside my brain. It hurts, a lot. It hurts my head, it hurts my body, it's rather unbearable the way I feel trapped inside a very tiny room with white walls. I can only make one step in each direction before I start to panic, over ventilating, heart beating out of my chest, in full panic mode. There is no way out, the pressure on my chest, the claustrophobic feeling triggered by the overwhelming amount of thoughts that keep bouncing inside my head. Many times I think there is no way out. It's just a matter of when I am going to lose the fight.
I start folding the laundry. It keeps my hands busy. It keeps me in a state of usefulness. The 3 baskets of clothes have been waiting for me for 2 weeks, but I ignored them. With more clothes added to the pile, the less adequate I feel for the task at hand. I manage to put away 1 basket and a half. But one hour from now, another one will take its place. It always feels like a sisyphean task. And predictably enough, I start crying again. Two hours of crying is quite a workout. Some days, it's all I can do for my family as I leave most of my energy at the office. I live in a constant state of mental drain. If it makes sense, I dream of a brain battery that I can recharge on the spot, like a robot.

Physically, there is a long way to being active to the point where I don't hate myself. I usually feel active enough to work out, but looking in the mirror is always hard. I miss the days when I had the energy to move mountains and I was not broken both mentally and physically. The month so far has been like a long walk through a swamp. Not only I did a lot of physio workouts, but those didn't get me outside of the house enough. This week I tried putting a little spin on my workdays so to speak, by biking to work and back. I've always been fearful of the drivers in my city, they are rather... intense. I made it 2 days back and forth and I didn't die. Now that was surprising. Each ride took just a little under 30min, and overall I enjoyed them. Which means that for the first time in a long time, I biked 3 times this week. And I smiled every single time.
It gives me hope to see these smiles. If I can be outside, if I can focus on things that bring me joy, I feel safe. I may be the least safe on the road, dodging cars and potholes, but being alone with my thoughts is certainly more dangerous.

I also had company this weekend. My friend Carol spent 2 days at my place with her boyfriend. She is training for the mighty Ironman Muskoka and she went on her longest ride ever yesterday with my hubbs and 2 other friends of ours. I couldn't go because I'm not fit to ride over 100km and I already go against my doctor's orders every weekend with the rides that I lead for my tri club. This picture that we took just after a long and gorgeous descent today, reminded me of our best times on the road, training for our first 70.3, two years ago.
In two weeks from now we'll be returning to Muskoka for a training weekend with the club, but once again I won't be allowed to ride long. I'll have to find a lot of mental tricks to stay present. Ideas are welcome... At least my boys will be with me and maybe they will be willing to spend some quality time with their mom instead of staring into their phones.

This post is bouncing all over the place and I'm not sure where to go from here. So maybe I'll just talk about today. It was our club's first race simulation day event, where we swam, biked and ran, just like in a race. We even had transition racks hand made by Zin.
With 16 people in attendance, it sure was a very successful event. We swam in circles for a while, simulating open water swimming, and that was a lot of fun.
Then we went on the bike ride and I chose to lead the 40km group. Other people, more speedy than me chose to go on their own, others did the 55km loop or the 20km one. To each their goals. I have no goals other than staying outside of the dark corners of  my brain.
I found the same uphills and downhills that I've been enjoying in the past few years, but traveling across these roads is always a new adventure. You never know what your legs are capable of. Today, it took mine more than 20km to go from wet noodles to pistons. I made it back with a big grin on my face, then I finished with a run. My longest run this year, 5km, wow. It took me 34min, between walking up the hills, taking pictures of other runners in the group and stopping to smell the lilacs.
My knees started to hurt at 4km, but I ran/walked the last km and made it back in transition where I scarfed down a few pieces of watermelon because it was the best ever. Then I went home, ordered food for lunch and collapsed in the couch with a beer. I am hoping that it refueled me enough to reach the end of another week without banging my head against (invisible) walls.

And since this is a long weekend, tomorrow I'll be riding with friends again, but this time from Burlington. I love me a slice of Escarpement, but I may not be able to keep up with Emma, who just finished the 8 Days in California Trainer Road Challenge. Read all about it here. She has become a beast on the bike... but maybe, just maybe she will be tired enough so we can chat in between hills.

What else? I don't feel like going into too many details of the last weeks worth of workouts. I reached 7h of workouts/week, with the help of bike commutes and picking the garbage on the side of the road at the semi-annual Adopt-a-Road club event. The physio focus is still there, but not as intense. I forget to stretch throughout the day, but I foam roll more often than before. I have made great progress in strength and agility and the physiotherapist seems rather happy with me, but I haven't seen a major difference in my knee pain just yet. Trying to stay patient. And remember to stretch. If you feel inclined to see how I filled in my weeks, here's a Training Peaks snapshot.
As for the state of my mind, one day at a time... it's all I can do. I know that most of you, for not knowing my past, assume that I am still dealing with the Ironman blues, or that I got depressed for not being able to run, or because I am not losing weight, or some other vain trait. Before I end this post, I wanted to tell you that this isn't the case. Why do I feel the need to justify myself? Because of articles like these which are hard to avoid nowadays. You see a lot of smiles on this blog, but I have plenty of pictures crying as well. The smiling pictures help me go back to those moments of joy. The sad ones have their purpose too, but I don't feel like bringing other people down with publishing them. I have been depressed for over a decade. Running and exercise just helps me cope with it. For the rest, there is no magic wand or snapping out of it. IT just is.