Sunday, August 23, 2015

A training update full of goodness

I can't believe that I haven't written a training update since the end of June, but it's the truth. I've been a lot of fun at the races, but I didn't take any time to blog about the behind the scenes. But it's time to change that because I have a few milestones lined up and I can't wait to share them with you.

First and foremost, I have just finished my biggest training week this year, just shy of 10h. And it was full of sweaty goodness, but it may help if I put it within context. Last week we traveled to Mt. Tremblant to volunteer at IMMT.
We spent Saturday on the road, Sunday on the job (bike catchers) and Monday back on the road. By the way, if you want to see what it looks like to be a bike catcher, here is a video from our team captain (you can see me in action at 00:54):


And in the following video is the less fun part where I had to stop people who DNF'd from going over the mat with their chip (Zin caught the bike):


It was hands down the hardest volunteer job that I've done. Over the span of a 5h shift, I walked/run more than10km and it was no joke. I had my Garmin on for about 4h and you can see all the trips around the transition area that I made with the bikes. You could be either at the finish line to catch the bike, then hand it over to a "runner" who would put it back in its place, or the aforementioned bike runner. We rotated between those 2 jobs every hour or so, but both were rather intense. You can see my Strava workout here. The FlyBys are rather hilarious - see all the people that didn't turn off their bike computers and remained in transition for hours, lol.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on my feet during this trip. And I didn't even mention the run I did right after we arrived at the hotel. We stayed in Ste. Agathe des Monts, a small and charming little city about 30 min out from Tremblant. Zin told me that there was this Strava segment that didn't have a QOM. It was a 1.5km loop around a small peninsula and I said sure, mission accepted. From hotel and back it was going to be a 7km run. What I didn't know about this place was this:
Someone said hills? This place had ALL THE HILLS. And the biggest one was right at the begining of the segment (after the 2km mark). FML. Did I mention it was hot as Satan's balls too? Yeah well... to have suffered on this run is an understatement. It was pretty though...
I did get the QOM, but I finished a drenched, tired and hungry mess.
The trip to Mt. Tremblant was a nice break from work and our routine, but once I made it home, I really needed to stretch my legs. Stretch, spin, move... it led to a trainer workout. Nothing better than a few easy loops on Zwift Island, where I could not help it, but try to break a few PRs up the mountain and in sprints. I was also eager to try my bike after the Retul fit that I had on Friday before our trip. It had become apparent that my previous fit was still hurting my hips/legs, so I had no choice but book another fit, this time with a Retul specialist - and trust the process. The verdict was to bring the saddle back up 3/4 inch and move forward 1.5 inch, and move the handlebars up 1/4 inch. It may not look like much, but it was actually a big deal.

I won't bore you with all the details, but here is my position before and after. Basically, you can see the position of my knee relative to my toes and the angle in my forearms and you will understand that I was too far back and I was not engaging the right muscles in my legs.
Now I feel that I am using my quads more and I am situated on top of my pedals instead of behind them (to an extent, it's like riding a spin bike vs a recumbent bike). I am also more relaxed on the aero bars and I should expect less back and hip pain, for having my hips open more. In the process it also happens that I found a few more watts that were hiding in my engine, so coming back from Tremblant, I was eager to see if they translated in my own setup. I did not have any major revelations during my quick spin that night, but I did break my climbing PR and overall it felt a little easier than before.

On Tuesday morning, Zin and I went to the quarry for a swim. He woke me up at 5:30am, and for not being a morning person, I don't think that I really woke up until half way through my swim. Secretly I was hoping that the quarry would be closed and I could return to bed, but no such luck. I did 2 loops and I felt like eating my arms by the end of it. We stopped for breakfast at Coffee Bean and we had a glorious meal. 3 eggs with Canadian bacon, toast and potatoes, but thankfully I did not finish it all because it was just obscene to eat so much food. Then back home, shower and work - and I could barely function that day - I still wanted my damn nap.
In the evening I did my physio routine because I missed it in the morning. I worked those hips and glutes like a champ, and I could barely walk afterwards. Finally a good sleep, and the next day I was back on the sweat train. Slowly but surely I have been making my way through the Sweet Spot Base Training program from Trainer Road and I had reached the dreaded Palisade workout. 1.5h of over/unders and could barely contain my enthusiasm. However I put on my big girl panties, aka my bike shorts and hopped on the trainer, hoping for the best. It was not easy. I wasn't expecting 30 watts to show up on my graph magically, but it was manageable without me wanting to scream at my screen.
And with that, the hard work in this training program is done. I only have 3 easy workouts left, then I can test my FTP again. After the bike workout I even went out for a run. A quick 20 minute brick, and it was glorious. I have to run more. My next race is an Olympic distance triathlon and the 10K run at the end won't run by itself.

The next day it was swimming again. This time we went to Professor's Lake and I did 3 loops there. At each loop I tried kicking for the 250m between the middle buoys. It was not easy to find a rhythm that helped my stroke. I am too high in the water for kicking without too much drag. The swim wasn't bad in the end, but I am still not convinced that kicking in open water would help my cause. Not even a tiny bit, especially seeing how much energy it sucks out of me. I think I'd rather concentrate on gaining more upper body strength so I can complete each stroke with an increased cadence instead.

On Friday I rested, but on Saturday I was at it again. I took my bike for another 45min spin outdoors, then completed my longest run this year. A full 8km in the scorching heat, carrying my water bottle like in the good ol' days. No pain. Just a little tightness to remind me that I need to be vigilant. That I cannot dream big just yet. My husband may have signed up for an Ironman, but I still have to wait. Another year, maybe. Nobody knows when all this will be just a nightmare of the past, if ever. I have become accustomed to being patient and grateful that I can still move, even if it's not for hours on end.
Sunday was another beautiful day. I started it with a group ride with my tri club, a hilly and windy 60km, but just about perfect from all other aspects. Again, I wasn't sure if my bike fit would deliver enough comfort on rides over 2h, but in the end I came back home with a huge smile on my face and no pain anywhere. Can I have a yay? Make that a yippee ki yay, mother f*er!! (please don't get offended if you don't get the reference). Then in the afternoon, I even went back to the quarry for 2 more loops. I did one loop relaxed, concentrating on my stroke and the second one like a motorboat, high cadence and shit. In the end, the first one was slightly faster, so the proof is still in the pudding. I need to prevent my stroke from falling apart that is.

And this my friends, is an update that I've been waiting to write for long time. Finally, legs are coming around, both in cycling and running. I am making slow but steady progress. I am finally feeling better inside my head too. I did not feel the need to draw semi colons in a while. I am smiling again. I haven't had a bad, terrifying thought in a few weeks, call it months even. I am making new friends. I am giving back as much as I can. I went back on my nutrition program and I lost 6lb in 3 weeks. I feel that things are moving into the right direction, that I am staying positive and I don't worry that much. Maybe this is the right wave, and I'm riding the hell out of it.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015 Bracebridge Sprint Triathlon Race Report

If you haven't noticed by now, I like going back to the same races year after year, especially the ones that I enjoyed a lot. This race seems to fit well in my schedule since we've been sending the boys to camp in Muskoka. Last year it was my first ever sprint distance and an automatic PR, so it was only natural to see if I progressed in any of the disciplines. I wasn't necessarily planning on beating my PR, but I was hoping to see at least a better swim time since it's been the trend lately. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and see how it went, shall we?
Because of the 2h drive to the venue, this race had me waking up before the crack of dawn. Alarm clock went off at 4:30am, and we left just shortly after 5am. It was too early to have breakfast at home, so the plan was to stop by a Tim Horton's Drive Thru and eat on the go. And it's exactly what we did. I ate 2 boiled eggs that I brought from home, a raisin bagel and an orange juice. Saved a banana for transition, just before the start because it's tradition. We arrived on site at 7am and I quickly grabbed the race bib, chip and got body marked. The transition area seemed fairly empty and due to lots of people being late (they got a spanking from John Salt), the start had to be pushed back by 15 minutes.
This gave me plenty of time to set up, chat my anxiety out, go for another portapotty break and finally wrestle with my wetsuit. I even got time to strike a pose to showcase the awesomeness of my shredded armpits. Time for a new wetsuit, you think?
This one is obviously dead and the ROKA I have in the closet doesn't fit me anymore. I am however waiting to receive another cheap one from XTerra to replace this one. Thankfully I managed to buy it during one of their Flashback Friday sales. Can't beat $119 US bucks. I got 3 good years out of this one, so it's not bad for a wetsuit under $200, right? Anyway, I don't think the rips slow me down that much, but the suit is certainly uncomfortable for being too tight.

Rubber bits and all, I went to the river to warm up. Took a few strokes out and back, then went to give a kiss to hubbs. We chatted for a few more minutes, then it was my time to line up in the time trial start. One person leaving every 5 seconds. 2... 1... Go. I felt fast for a bit and then not so much. Unlike last year, I didn't have to zig zag to pass people, but once I reached the turn around buoy, it was like a hit a wall. Could have been in my head, or just the current... But I felt tired. I pushed as hard as I could and it felt like forever to reach the transition mat. I looked at my watch coming out of the water and saw 15:45. Decent result, but I knew in the moment that I didn't beat my previous time in Bracebridge. Oh well, no biggie. Moving on...
I struggled to take off my wetsuit, as usual. However I knew that I had a very shitty transition time last year, so my next goal was to beat that. I moved as quickly as I could with the heart beating out of my chest and eventually got to the mount line, then on the road where I had a sudden brain fart. Do I have to go left or right?? I am glad that cars were blocking the road on the right, because it helped with the split decision to go left and not embarrass myself asking the volunteer which way to go.

Legs were feeling fine but not great. Particularly my right piriformis was giving me grief and I could feel it with each pedal stroke. I definitely need to go for another bike fit, as Zin thinks I am still doing weird things with my hips, especially in aero. I chose to ride "conservatively hard", knowing that this route had its share of hills. No gasping for air this time, but settle the heart rate and ease into it. The first big hill came at 4km in, and I spun up in my lowest gear. I felt bad for another athlete whose rear derailleur broke half way up and was waiting for someone to pick her up.
Then the rain came. I like biking in the rain, but not as much when it involves the Muskoka hills. Another reason to slow down a bit, but ... just a tiny bit. I could not wait for the turn around - I don't know why but my anxiety kicked in. I was still trying to go as fast as I could and pass people, but any race with a time trial start is a rather lonely one. There may be some people in your AG around, but overall it's hard to know where you are in reference to them. I don't remember any girl in my AG passing me, but I imagined a good number of them being ahead of me. I saw Phaedra around km 8 flying downhill in the opposite direction. For sure I wasn't going to get the top spot that day, hahaha.

On my way back I tried going a little faster and I think I succeeded, at least according to the Strava flybys. See how my effort compares with that of last year. Coming off the bike, I was convinced that I beat last year's time, but Strava does not lie. On the road segment, I was slower by 17 seconds. Hey, every second counts (which should have been the title of this race report).
Back in transition, I remembered my goal of going as fast as I could through them. Decided to go sockless again, only the second time in a run since Lakeside Tri. It was just a 5km run after all and my feet were not in bad shape to start with. As usual at this race, the way out of transition and onto the road is UP. A 200m hill which takes your breath away and feels like death. Surprisingly enough I recovered ok after that and kept pushing through. I didn't wear my heart rate monitor during this race, so I was going completely by feel. 5Ks are supposed to be hard, and once more, I chose to keep an eye on the pace and take it from there. I was targeting a pace between 5-5:30/km, but I only peeked at it once I got to the turn around. I was feeling strong and the legs were having the best day ever. So I tried to push a little harder and found another gear. Now that was a surprise.

Here is how it compared with last year. Definitely a faster run (and a longer course by 200m! - does not include the first 100m uphill out of transition because it took that long to switch sports on my Gamin watch).
2015 run
2014 run
The last km was hard though. I could not wait to reach the finish line, especially as I could hear Steve Fleck announcing the finishers from across the river. So close yet so far... Despite being all downhill, the last 200m were not easy - the grass was wet and I was very careful where I was placing my feet. I didn't want to roll down the chute, but run through it, you know. I was so damn happy when I saw the finish mat, I raised my arms up high and celebrated with every ounce of energy left in my body.
It took a little time for the Sportstats results to upload and I had no idea what my finish time was, but eventually Zin told me "you go it!" and gave me my new PR time : 1:28:52 - best time by 8 seconds!! In the end I had a slower swim and bike (by mere seconds each time), but faster run and transitions. Given that the run course was shorter last year, it makes the difference even more significant. I am stoked with my result, especially since I wasn't hoping so much.

Little by little, the legs are coming back!! Next tri, the Wasaga Olympic distance at the end of the month. But for now, a little bit of rest for my hips and glutes to feel 100% again.

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...