Thursday, November 10, 2016

Team Coeur Sports 2017



For the third year, I'll be joining Team Coeur Sports!  This group of women have become an incredible group of friends and inspiration to me.  I'm so grateful to be included among these strong, empowered, courageous women.  And I'm excited to represent a company that not only makes the best, most stylish and comfortable triathlon gear out there, but also represents values so well aligned with my own - women supporting women, heart & courage, inclusiveness, integrity, and empowerment through sport. Thank you Coeur Sports!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Race Report: Amphibious Challenge


Well, it is officially off-season and I have obviously been notably quiet.  It is funny how the second I finished my race season, every other area of my life picked back up to fill the void (and then some).  In the weeks since the Amphibious Challenge Swimrun, which I'm very excited to tell you about here, I attended two weddings, brought home my adopted puppy, and had the busiest period of the year at work.  It has essentially meant a forced break from training.  Unlike at the end of last season, I was actually on quite a high following my last race and felt like I was motivated to train still.  However, this busy season has prevented me from really getting any training in, save for the odd run and for my Tuesday night coaching duties at OTC's Tour de France.  I'm working on getting back into the swing of things though and figuring out George's (my puppy) schedule and how to fit training in around his walks.  I'll leave this though so we can talk about the swimrun!

First, what the heck is a swimrun? 

This was a question that I asked myself when Dave first mentioned this race to me.  After a bit of research, I discovered that a swimrun is an adventure style race that incorporates multiple legs of open water swimming and running over various types of terrain.  The story is that the event originated as a drunken bet between Swedish brothers.  The original swimrun, held first in 2006, ÖTILLÖ has grown massively and is now considered the World Championship, consisting of 75 kilometres of which 10 km are open-water swimming and 65 km are trail-running, across 24 islands in Sweden. There are a number of swimruns, both independent and under the ÖTILLÖ banner,  now world-wide, and I was fortunate enough to participate in the first swimrun in Canada - the Amphibious Challenge.

So what is the Amphibious Challenge? 

Canadian adventure racer, entrepreneur, and founder of Stoked Oats, Simon Donato, brought the concept of the swimrun to Sheenboro, Quebec with the Amphibious Challenge.  The race consisted of about 12k of running and 3k of swimming.  It started with a longer run of ~9k at the historic Hotel Pontiac and then proceeded with shorter swim and run segments across 6 islands in the Upper Ottawa River to finally return to the Hotel.  All of the racing is done while wearing both a wetsuit and running shoes given that there are a lot of short transitions between swimming and running.  I'll talk a little bit about my equipment next. 

As I mentioned, this was the first event of its kind in Canada.  Simon, obviously has experience with the format, as he raced at ÖTILLÖ for his show, Boundless.  He also benefitted from amazing community volunteers who helped put on a truly incredible event.  It was one of the best supported, friendliest events that I have ever participated in and it was so heartwarming to see how much pride the community had in Sheenboro. 

So how'd the race go? 

Before I signed up for the race, I had a chat with someone who had completed the Casco Bay Islands Swimrun.  He told me that it was, "the most fun [he] had ever had with a bib on."  Well, we didn't wear bibs, but I can definitely agree that swimrun is a blast.


I spent the week ahead of the race organizing my gear: wetsuit with the legs and sleeves cut off, whistle, compass, pull buoy, paddles, trail shoes (New Balance Vazee Summit), merino wool socks, Coeur Sports bikini, cap and goggles.  I posted the before and after image of my wetsuit on Instagram to the shock and dismay of many that I would take scissors to a wetsuit.  It allows you to run more freely, as well as stay cooler while running though still retaining some warmth for the water.  The pull buoy involved creating four holes through the pull buoy, with metal bushings to ensure the bungee cord didn't rip through the foam, and bungee cord to secure the whole thing to my leg while running and swimming. I followed this pull buoy modification tutorial from Head.

The race was a Saturday morning, so I traveled up to Frankie and Dave's cottage after work on Friday.  We had a lovely group dinner, along with Valerie (who was also racing) and her family.  After dinner we all made our last equipment adjustments, then got to bed for a 7 am wake-up call.  Dave made a delicious baked oatmeal breakfast. We also got to kick off the day of celebrating Dave and Frankie's 33rd anniversary by listening to a great song by a Canadian artist, Royal Wood, that was absolutely perfect given the day, "Forever and Ever." (There was also a breakfast of Stoked Oats and Kicking Horse Coffee at the event, but we decided to eat before going over. I love Stoked Oats though too!)  We made our way to the Pontiac Hotel - the race start and finish location - to get ready for the day.

It was absolutely freezing and the river was cloaked in a thick blanket of fog that morning, so Simon and the race organizers postponed the start a bit until the fog lifted in order to ensure the safety of the athletes.  Meanwhile, we all huddled inside the hotel dining room to stay warm and laughed about how silly we all looked in our wetsuits and running shoes.  It was a small field of about 23 people, and there were quite a few familiar Ottawa faces amongst the group.

Photo Credit: Christina Williamson Photography

It was finally time to get the day started, and we got to enjoy a beautiful rendition of "O Canada" along with a speech from the mayor of Sheenboro.  Then we made our way onto the beach for the start of the race.

The first run was about 9k, and I took off conservatively, though was trying my best to stay close to the lead group.  While it was quite cold, I warmed up very quickly given that I was wearing a wetsuit. Eventually, I unzipped the back to let some breeze in to cool me off.  I had also strapped my paddles to my race belt, which turned out to be pretty annoying at first.  But the scenery was beautiful enough to distract me from those concerns as we ran through the woods on a four-wheeler trail.  All along the way, we were greeted by cheering Sheenboro residents and cottagers to help motivate us and guide us along the route.

Once we reached the first water entry-point, I grabbed a drink and walked into the river.  After swimming a few strokes, I realized that I had forgotten to zip up my wetsuit, and struggled to get it zipped so I could continue on my way.  As I got closer to the first dock to exit the river, I also realized that my bungee cord had come loose and I was about to lose my pull buoy.  So the first part of my run was a trot as I tried to fix the bungee cord.  In fact, most of my "running" from that point on was more of a careful trot due to the topography of the islands we traversed along the route.  Each island was beautiful and we were always welcomed warmly.  At each re-entry point for the river, we were checked off the tracking list and pointed toward the next island.  All of the volunteers were fantastic, and many of those volunteers were actually the owners of the islands, so it really was wonderful of them to open their land for us to use during the race. Thank you!

The swims became increasingly choppy as the wind picked up throughout the day.  I also spent three of the 8 swims with a man drafting on me.  In the type of conditions we faced, it meant that I was doing a lot of extra work and probably swimming much slower than I would have liked.  I finally lost him as I tried to pick up the pace in my trotting across the islands, so I was able to complete my final two swim legs on my own.


The final swim was by far the hardest, and it seemed that the shore would never appear.  The current was stronger at that part of the river, and there were a few boats passing, so I ended up sighting quite often to ensure I wasn't wasting time going off course, or about to get run over by a boat. I finally reached the beach for the final run to the finish.  It was wonderful to be greeted by lots of spectators and volunteers at the finish.


After a fun day of swimrunning, I was quite happy to finish 4th overall and as the second woman (Michelle crushed it and I had no hope given that first longer run portion).  We cheered in the other finishers and tried to warm-up (I immediately put on my new Farm to Feet socks that we received in our race goody bags).  Then we enjoyed a fantastic lunch with chili, salads, homemade baked goods, delicious bread, and cookies.


All in all, I would highly recommend this particular event and swimrun in general.  It was an awesome experience, a lot of fun, and a great new challenge.  The Amphibious Challenge was one of the best events that I have participated in due to the great support of the community.  If you are looking for a fun challenge for next season, you might want to make a trip to Sheenboro!

The weekend was also a really wonderful one overall.  A huge thank you to Frankie and Dave for being such gracious and generous hosts.  They also shared a lovely gem with us - the North Fork Country Kitchen - where we had a fantastic dinner on Saturday evening.



Monday, September 19, 2016

Race Report: Canada's Army Run Half Marathon





This was my first time participating in the Army Run and know I totally understand why it is such a popular race.  The Canadian Army puts on an amazing, well organized race.  It is very inspirational to run alongside active and retired members of the military, including many ill, injured, and disabled athletes. The race is very family friendly with fun activities for kids, displays of military equipment, live music, and a good sized race expo. 

The course is also beautiful, which reminded me how lucky we are to live in Ottawa.  I run most of these roads every week, like the pathway that winds along the Ottawa River and the Canal, or over the picturesque Alexandria Bridge with its view of Parliament, the Canadian History Museum, the National Gallery, and my office (haha).

So what about my race... 

Well, I went in to the race with very low expectations for my finishing time.  I knew that I couldn't expect a PB, given that my body really doesn't know how to run fast right now and that I hadn't trained for a PB.  Since Timberman, my longest run was about 12k and I had only done 3 tempo sessions.  

The day before the race, I had a realization and posted this on my Happy Triathlete Facebook page: 
Running a half marathon in the morning. I've been worried about not running it as fast as I would like, but had a realization today - this race isn't about me and it's certainly not about a PB. I signed up for this one as a fundraiser for a charity I feel very strongly about. This race is about having fun in support of an important cause. And it's about the 4 friends and family members that battled hard against cancer over the past 2 years that inspired me to get involved with Imerman Angels, and the many before them and the many that will have to face their own battles or support someone through cancer in the future. So I'm running for them. And of course, because it's the Army Run, I'm running for the courageous men and women of the military, who put themselves in the face of danger for us everyday.
So I did exactly as I said... I had fun and when my legs got tired, I thought about all the courageous people who face cancer every day all over the world.


I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but my "strategy" on Sunday was to just run and see how long I could hold on to a decent pace.  My goal was to run faster than 8:00 miles if possible, or as close to it as I could for as long as I could. Looking at my 5k splits, you'll see exactly where the wheels started to fall off!  The first 10k went pretty smoothly.  My legs felt strong and overall, I felt good despite what was turning out to be a very hot, humid morning.  The course had tons of people along it cheering, as well as official cheering stations, which was helpful. My only complaint was that there could have been one or two extra aid stations, especially given the heat, but I think I was spoiled at Timberman, where there were a ton of aid stations.  I was carrying a bottle with electrolytes in it and grabbing two to three cups of water at each station - some in my mouth, and the rest over my head.


At the 10k mark, we had a steep climb up the Alexandria Bridge, and that was when my legs decided they weren't going to bring the pace back down.  Luckily there were tons of people at the end of the bridge around the National Gallery, so I did get a little boost there.  Then we ran by my office and towards Rockcliff, which was awesome because we actually had quite a bit of shade in Rockcliff.  At 13.5k, I saw Chris Koch.  It was so inspiring to see him crushing the course on his longboard.  Chris was born without both arms and both legs, so he was doing the full Commander's Challenge - 5k plus 21.1k on a longboard. Truly amazing!  Then at 15k, I got to give the Governor General David Johnston a high-five outside Rideau Hall (his house).

As we ran back along Sussex Drive, the winds really picked up and I started to hit a wall.  My legs weren't turning over the way that I had hoped and I started to struggle.  At 17k, my stomach decided it had enough too and a bit of nausea set in, making the last few kilometers quite uncomfortable.  As much as I kept telling myself to speed up and just use up whatever was left in the tank, my legs just weren't up for it.  The last few k seemed to take an eternity, and finally, finally the finish line was in sight.  Instead of speeding up, I just smiled and relished the people cheering, the Canadian flags lining the chute, and the fact that I was healthy enough to do a half marathon.  After crossing the finish line, I got my dog tag finisher medal from one of the military members and thanked her for her service.



For the first time ever, I grabbed a space blanket since I was soaking wet and afraid that I would get too cold post-race.  After filling up on as many water cups as I could hold, I found a few OTC friends and one of my favourite former colleagues. I was definitely happy to be finished that race, but all in all had a pretty good time!  Final time was about 10 minutes off my PB, but also 10 minutes faster than my half marathon at the end of Timberman, so I'll take it!

Final Time: 1:45:33

A HUGE thank you in particular goes out to all the wonderful friends and family members who supported my fundraising efforts for Imerman Angels! Together, we've raised over $1100 and I can continue fundraising until December, so if you'd like to contribute to this amazing organization, you can donate here: http://imermanangels.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=3045

Thank you to Brent Smyth for encouraging me to get involved with Imerman Angels. Thank you also to the amazing Army Run volunteers and to our Canadian military, past and present, who serve our country and protect us all day in and day out.  Thank you to the supportive, amazing women of Team Coeur Sports, who inspire me everyday.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Race Report: Cornwall Triathlon 2016

2016 Cornwall Sprint podium!
On the Friday after my first half iron distance race, I sent an innocent email to the race director of the Cornwall Triathlon, inquiring if there were any spots left in the Sprint Tri.  I was planning to travel to Cornwall to cheer on my roommates anyways, and Cornwall holds a very special place in my heart (first triathlon ever and first race back from stress fracture last season).  But I was expecting to hear that the race was sold out (it usually is, for good reason)... and instead Rob wrote back that he had "made some spots" in the sprint.  "Okay, I guess I am racing then," I thought!

Two days later, on Sunday, just a week after Timberman, I did the Cornwall Sprint and I am so happy that I did!  As always, the organizers and volunteers put on a fantastic event.  For a local race, they really give the athletes a first-class / luxurious experience.  It is inspiring to see how supportive the community is of the race.  Thank you so much for taking such good care of us!

Cornwall race day is pretty easy.  We woke up early in order to hit the road by 5:45/6 am for the hour and 15 minute drive.  Our car was packed with athletes, bikes, and gear since it was Jenn, Gilly, Gavin, and I making the trip down to race.  The second we arrived in Cornwall, the rain started to pour, which made setting up for transition a little bit more interesting.  After I paid my race fee and got body marked, I decided to settle in to a spot in the lobby to relax while I waited for my race, which didn't start until 9:50.  The Olympic went off much earlier, so Jenn, Gavin, and Gilly had to set up and get ready to race.  As I waited, I got to say hi to my Coeur teammate, Amy, who had made the trip up with some other athletes from her triathlon club.  It was nice to see her again, just one week after Timberman! (She went on to win the Olympic!)  The rest of the pre-race time was spent relaxing and staying dry.


Swim:  This was the first year that Cornwall timed the transitions, so I was really excited to see what I could do on the swim this year.  Last year, my swim was 10:25, but with transition included the time that appeared in my race results was 12 something.  The rain had cleared by the time the sprint started, and the sun had started to peek out from the clouds.  As the women waited for our wave to start, we joked about being swamp monsters given how high the weeds were this year.  Once it was time to start, I took off like a shot, hoping for clear water.  I settled into a hard pace, determined to best my time from the previous year. Compared to Timberman, this swim felt so so short!  And before I knew it, I was already turning the last buoy toward the swim exit.  I was super happy to see that I came out of the water in 10:00! (Personal fastest ever sprint swim!)

Swim exit photos... so flattering LOL!


T1:  The run out of the water was lovely this year, as they had laid down a red carpet (literally) for us to get to the transition zone.  I missed the wetsuit strippers, so had to get my wetsuit off myself (not too hard with the Roka Maverick!).  My swim to bike transition has always been a little bit slow, and was again this time around, but that is okay.

Bike: I could definitely still feel some of the effects of Timberman in my legs during the bike leg, as I just couldn't quite get the speed going that I wanted.  There were lots of men drafting (on me at times!!), which was kind of frustrating, and I ended up taking the turns quite slow given that it had been pouring a few hours earlier and there was still water on the ground.  But all in all, the bike went well.  My number one goal was to stay in the lead and not let any women pass me, so it was a success!

That's me way up on the hill. Thanks to PMC Photography for the excellent photos!

T2T: One of my fastest T2s ever!  In and out and on the run!

Run:  The run was going to be all about giving a solid effort.  At that point, I really wasn't sure how my legs would hold up and again, all I wanted to do was hold off the rest of the women.  The volunteers were again just so awesome as were the spectators.  I had no clue of my actual speed, since I turned my Garmin on inside the gymnasium during the rain before leaving it in transition, so it was only showing the time with no pace.  So, I focused on trying to keep the legs turning over strong and staying in the game the whole way.  At the turn-around, I knew I had a pretty solid lead and as I approached the finish, I couldn't help but smile and relish my first overall female win!


There are a lot of reasons that Cornwall is one of my favourite races, and the whole experience of the day confirmed those reasons once again.  Thank you to Rob for "making a spot" for me to race.  It was fun to test the limits of what my body was capable of the week after my first half ironman.  We can definitely blame the post-Timberman endorphins for my somewhat rash decision to race again so soon, and I'm just glad that my body was ready to perform again.  As always, it was so fun to be out on the course with so many friends and teammates - from Ottawa Triathlon Club to Team Coeur Sports!  Congratulations to everyone who raced and thank you again to the volunteers and organizers!



Results: 

1st Female, 8th Overall

Swim: 10:02
T1: 2:02
Bike: 35:43
T2: 0:49
Run: 22:42
Final Time: 1:11:18




Monday, August 29, 2016

Race Report: Timberman 70.3 2016

It's been a week since Timberman, and I think I'm still on an endorphin high from the race.  It was hands down my favourite race of my triathlon career (Cornwall last year is a close second).  The day turned out spectacularly thanks to a few key factors: 1) perfect plan execution, 2) fun maximization, and 3) excellent organization.



1) Despite significantly under-training by most standards, I spent the final few weeks of preparation for Timberman honing in on a plan for race day.  I practiced my nutrition and hydration by creating close to race simulation conditions (time of day, heat, pre-workout meal timing, intensity, etc.).  And I made sure I knew what my race pace effort felt like, as I planned to use perceived exertion on race day.  Then, I wrote a plan for the day in terms of pacing, nutrition, hydration, and the mental side of things.  And I wrote a plan for dealing with adversity.  Then, come race day, I stuck to the plan.

2) A very big part of the race day plan was to have as much fun as possible.  The race was a huge success on that account.  I smiled a LOT, if not the entire way.  I thanked volunteers. I interacted with the amazing spectators.  And I just constantly reminded myself how beautiful the day was and how lucky I was to be out enjoying it doing the thing that I love the most.

3) Timberman is a great race, and one that I would highly recommend.  The town and surrounding area is very supportive, and the spectators and volunteers were top notch.  The run became very hot, but the aid stations were well stocked with water, ice, cold sponges, etc. for us.  I also had an amazing race sherpa in my mom! She was super helpful all weekend and definitely helped to take a lot of the race day stress off my shoulders.

Now that the summary is out of the way, please bear with me, as this will be quite a loooong report because I have a lot to say about this one!

Pre-Race: 

We began the drive to Timberman on Thursday night after work, then finished up on Friday morning, arriving in Gilford around noon (it's about 6 hours from Ottawa).  The first stop was packet pick-up at Gunstock Mountain Resort.  It was smooth sailing through a short line and before I knew it, I was in possession of my first racekit for a Half Ironman!  We made the customary tour of the merchandise tent, picking out a "names" tank top for me and an "Ironmom" t-shirt for my mom.  After registration was complete, we drove about 15 minutes to our cute little cabin in Alton Bay.  If you're doing Timberman next year, I highly recommend the Winn-a-bay Cottages. The owners were super nice, the cottage was minimal but very clean, and the price was great.  Alton Bay is really cute too, and has lots of options for post-race ice cream!  We checkedin, then had a quick lunch, before heading out to do our grocery shopping for the weekend.  Friday flew by!!

On Saturday, I did my pre-race activation bike and run in Alton Bay.  During the run, I had a terrible side-stitch for the first time in years!  It freaked me out a little bit, but stayed away for race day.  I had breakfast, then took my bike for a check-up (the only hiccup was that the bike mechanics had moved to the state park, but we didn't know that so drove up to Gunstock Mountain).  The bike was fine, of course, but I wanted to be 100% sure.  While we waited on the bike, I did a warm-up swim in the beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee.  There was a lot of discussion among the athletes swimming there, because the swim start had been moved to an area of the beach that had a very shallow, rocky bottomed stretch of about 50m before we could reach water we could actually swim in.  We all wondered whether and how we would run across those rocks if the start was a beach start.  We also wondered how warm the water was and whether we would have a wetsuit legal swim!  Luckily, I got the answers at the athlete briefing - water was currently wetsuit legal and the start would be an in-water start. Big sighs of relief!!

After the athlete briefing, we returned to our cabin to make an early dinner and prepare for Sunday's race.  I laid out my gear carefully, then packed it all up as we grilled our delicious dinner (no stove at the cabin, but we made do by throwing it all on the bbq) of salmon, chicken, veggies, and sweet potatoes.  I painted my nails "mermaid" shades after dinner with a teal and a blue/green sparkle polish.  We were in bed around 9:30.

Race Day!

Up and at 'em for race day at 3:45!  My swim wave was scheduled for 7:04 am, so I wanted to make sure that I had my 3 hours before race time to eat my breakfast.  We loaded up the car and drove up to Gunstock Mountain to catch the shuttle.  It was a smooth process and within no time, we were on site for the race.  I got set up in transition and made a few stops at the port-a-potties before making my way to the swim start.  Mom came over with me to keep me company and to take my morning clothes and bag from me.  It was so nice to have her there, although I was a bit nervous and probably not the most fun to be around as I waited for the day to start.


Swim: 27:51

Before I knew it, wave #10 was lining up to head under the swim start arch.  We watched the men leave in front of us, then were given the go ahead to wade out to the start line.  The women in my wave were all chattering in a nervous, but friendly manner as we waited for the horn signifying it was time to swim.  With the blast of the horn, we were off into the crystal clear and calm lake.  My plan was to get out ahead during the first 200m or so, so I took off at a sprint.  I couldn't help but think to myself how lovely it was to be swimming almost alone in this beautiful lake on a gorgeous morning.  I kept the buoys in my sights though and focused on catching lots of water.  Around buoy three, I saw another white cap pull up to me, then pass me.  I tried to keep her in my sights, but by that point was having to dodge a lot of men in the wave ahead of me, so eventually lost her.  The water had become a bit choppier as we got further out into the lake, so I tried to keep my focus and swim my own race.  The swim simultaneously seemed to take forever, and to fly by, if that's possible.  I was feeling strong and confident as I approached the swim exit, swimming until the last second as usual.  Running out of the water, I realized there were two other women from my wave with me.  But, my plan for the day involved not worrying about anyone, but myself, so I took my time in T1 - getting my wetsuit stripped, putting my socks on, drinking some water, etc. to make sure that I was comfortable and READY for the bike.


Bike: 2:46


Pure joy. That is how I can sum up my bike ride at Timberman.  It was the most enjoyable part of the race.  I stuck to the plan of focusing on my own race, staying hydrated and eating every 10-12 minutes, and having as much fun as possible.  The course was hilly and windy (in both directions?).  At times it was crowded, and at other times, I felt like I was out on a nice long bike ride by myself.  I got to say hi to Brian, Alan, and Amy though and those moments helped to fuel the journey.   On one downhill, I whooped with joy, probably terrifying some of the people cheering on the side of the road, but I was so happy to be riding my bike that I didn't care (the way up that hill though had been my only moment of wondering what I had gotten myself into... so the way down was very sweet).  My bike handling skills have always been a bit weak, but I am proud to say that I managed two very successful bottle grabs at aid stations to refill my front water bottle (regretfully, I missed the fourth and final aid station, so spent the last 15k with only a few sips of water). Most of the race was spent uber-focused on how my body felt, what my legs were doing, how far I was from the next rider, etc., but I also had some thoughts of how much fun I was having as well as the lyrics of Sia's "Unstoppable" running through my head (my new favourite pump-up jam after CBC's tribute montage to the Team Canada women from the Rio Olympics).  At 30k, I was surprised to see that I was well ahead of my dream pace, which set off a little spark of hope that I could hold onto that pace for the remaining 60k.  My legs were on board with that spark of hope it seems, and I finished way ahead of my highest expectations.  All in all, Pistol Annie and I had an awesome time out on the bike course; I still LOVE riding this bike and together, we are damn fast!


Run: 1:55:56



The run was tough, but still pretty fun!  The course has two hilly loops along the lake shore through a residential area.  There were tons of spectators all the way along the course and what seemed like endless aid stations (thank goodness!).  The sun had come out at about 60k on the bike, and it was getting quite warm at that point, so on my way out of T2, I had some young volunteers slather my shoulders and arms with sunscreen.  I also got to say  hi to my mom right at the start of the run and again at the halfway mark - yay!  My goal for the run was to hold on to a reasonable pace and keep my heartrate low.  Given my run training this year, that pace isn't quite what I would like it to be, but I just wanted to finish the half marathon in one piece and to run the whole thing, so I knew that I had to be realistic. I carried a bottle with my leftover Osmo and I took a cup of water or ice at almost every aid station (some water in my mouth and some over my head).  I also took two sponges to put in my tri top to help me stay cool.  After ending up with heat stroke at Nationals, staying cool and hydrated was my top priority!  At 7k, I had to stop, remove my shoe and massage my foot, since the ball had gone numb and tingly.  It seemed to help clear it up, and my foot felt relatively normal the rest of the race.  However, my left glute really didn't seem like it was doing its job, so that will be something to work on for next time.  I got to see more friends out on the race course, including Magali who was crushing it.  The run passed rather quickly and with about 2k to go, I thought, "I'm doing this. I'm almost done my first half ironman!!"  It was a great feeling and helped to power me toward the finish line with quite possibly my biggest smile ever.  Crossing a finish line is always a great feeling, but this time was especially exciting.



Overall Impressions:

I loved this race, and I surprised myself to discover that I truly enjoyed every second of it!  If you had asked me how I felt about the distance in advance of the race, you would have heard a lot of trepidation in my voice, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of doubt that I would even want to do another half iron-distance race ever again after I finished Timberman.  Well, I was wrong.  I love the 70.3 distance.  It was a blast.  Now, my day went extremely well and I know that it probably couldn't have gone any better, but it could have gone a lot worse.  There are so many factors and elements that have to fall into place to have a good day out there and they all seemed to fall perfectly for me.  The weather was gorgeous, the spectators and volunteers were fantastic, my hydration and nutrition was spot on (at least for me), and I beat my expectations in terms of times.  I know that it might not always work out so well, but that's the beauty of it and the challenge we take on when we race.  I'm very excited to see where I can go with the 70.3 distance (particularly if I train properly for more than a month), and I'm so grateful for my experience at Timberman.

Thank you to my super sherpa Mom!  Thank you to Coeur Sports for your support and amazingly beautiful team race kit, for bringing cool/inspiring women into my life (hi Amy, Julia, Olivia, Denise, and Katie), and for hooking us up with some other awesome sponsors (Roka Sports and Argon 18)!

Final Stats:

14th AG (30-34), 69th Woman

Swim: 27:51
Bike: 2:46:57
Run: 1:55:59
Final Time: 5:15:16

Friday, August 12, 2016

Training Update: One week to Timberman!


With Timberman now just over a week away, it's definitely time for an update on my training.  Since Nationals, I've really put my nose to the grindstone and have felt pretty good about my focus and my progress (even in the middle of moving houses!).  Over the last two weeks, I've gotten in a few key sessions that have built some confidence going into the race.  That said, I'm still just focused on finishing the race with much lowered expectations after a pretty mediocre summer of training.  I do have quite a bit of extra motivation though lately thanks to the athletes crushing it in Rio at the Olympics!!

Swimming:  I've finally brought some consistency to my swim training, getting in two to three swims per week over the past few weeks. It's starting to slowly come back and I'm hoping for at least a decent swim at Timberman. The open water swim last Friday morning was definitely a highlight! I also had a great practice two weeks ago where I crushed 20x100s (1 each on descending intervals 1:40, 1:35, 1:30, 1:25, five times through).



Biking:  The bike has felt really good too.  I have had two good long rides since Nationals.  One solo and one with Jenn (on a hilly and windy route).  Both left me feeling strong and more confident that I can handle 90k in a race.  On both rides I practiced my nutrition and hydration strategy as well, and I think I found something that will work for me (sorry for not letting us stop for coffee in Wakefield, Jenn!).




Running:  And I brought my distance up to one last long run at 18k earlier this week.  My running needs a lot of work in the off season, because I feel like I've totally lost my running form and fitness this summer, but I should be able to get through Timberman.  It won't be fast or pretty, but I think I can get it done!

So there you have it, it's mostly taper time with one more big ride on the weekend, and lots of rest / foam rolling / focusing on nutrition.

Oh yea, thanks to the Ottawa Triathlon Club, I got to go to see the Ottawa RedBlacks play last weekend! Gorgeous night for a win!

What events do you have left this season?  How is your training going?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Race Report: Canadian Standard National Championships (Ottawa Triathlon)

Smiling after the race, despite all the suffering during the race.


Brutal.  

That's the main word that comes to mind when I try to describe my experience at Nationals (the Ottawa Triathlon weekend included the Canadian Age Group Standard National Championships).

I'm going to do my best to keep this report as positive as possible, though I admit that is hard to do. The best thing that I can say about the race though is that I learned a lot.

But first, let me get the negative stuff out of the way: it was not a fun day.  It was hot, miserable, and not even a triathlon. I have a lot of work to do on my running, which has suffered from a change in my training that never really got followed through on when I lost my coach in April.  That's my own fault though, and I am definitely not afraid to own my mistakes.

Going into this race, I had really lowered my expectations.  It's hard to explain why, but I've felt very little motivation over the past few months.  My training hasn't been very consistent.  And I haven't been very healthy.  I caught a cold or something after Tremblant that lasted for weeks, then I thought maybe I had strep throat at the beginning of Nationals race week.  Not ideal.  Anyways, despite lowered expectations, I was still looking forward to racing in Ottawa and I was excited to be out there with so many familiar faces on the course.

As race day approached, the nerves started to set in though.  As much as my motivation has been lacking, I do care a lot about triathlon and I want to do as well as possible (obviously being realistic as well).  Jenn and I did a pre-race warm-up on Friday morning, then I went to the office with my coworkers well aware that I would be leaving early to prepare for my race.  After work, I cleaned my beautiful Argon 18 E-117 Tri+, then Gilly and I rode over to drop our bikes off and pick up our packets.  We flew through pick-up, then caught a ride home (thank you!!) with Joe and Jen. It was a dreadfully hot day and we weren't really looking forward to running/walking the 3k home (but how great is it to live so close to the race site!).  When we got back to our house, we had a nice dinner (grilled chicken, roasted veggies, grilled asparagus, and quinoa topped with guacamole - yum) with Jenn and Evelyne.  I painted my nails while we relaxed after dinner, then packed my gear before bed.  My dream of an early bedtime somehow slipped away, and before I knew it the clock was past 9:30.  We had a very early 3:35 wake-up call, so I had been hoping for a bit more sleep, considering I couldn't sleep at all on Thursday night. Oh well!

Race Day: 

We made our way to the race site bright and early, but the day started to go off the rails immediately after stepping foot on site.  A guy walking by said, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they've just made the race a duathlon." Cue panic.

The swim was meant to take place in Dow's Lake, which had always been a source of anxiety for pretty much every athlete ahead of the race.  Dow's Lake is definitely not known as a place you'd want to swim. It's part of the Rideau Canal, and after a very hot summer with not a ton of water flowing through, it was looking quite gross.  But the race organizers kept insisting that it was fine for swimming and had passed all the required water safety hurdles from the ITU.  So as much as I didn't really want to swim in Dow's Lake, I had accepted that I would be swimming there come race day. Not to mention, I rely on the swim to put me in a good position for the bike and run. Coming out of the water near or in the lead helps me stay focused on my own race, rather than get caught up in chasing other girls.  But the water quality test results didn't come in on time, and the organizers had to cancel our swim (as well as a few other races).  Eventually, the test results came in and the water was fine, so later races did include the swim, which was very frustrating for me.

Run #1 (2.5k):  


This was my very first duathlon (and likely my last). I had no idea what to do pace wise for the first run, particularly since it was 2.5k. So I mistakenly did what I always do in my swims, I sprinted to get out ahead of the pack.  That lasted about 3 minutes, then the group caught up to me and a few girls started to pull away after we crested the hill. They had us doing one lap of the run course for our first run, which was a lovely 2.5k loop with a hill to start. I definitely took that out too hard.

T1: 

The great part of a duathlon is the transitions are significantly simpler. Take off running shoes. Put on bike helmet and shoes. Go. No bibs in the race since we had sweet race number tattoos, so that helped too. Also thanks to Jenn for reminding me that I could loosen the internal straps on my aero helmet, so it was much easier to put on than in Tremblant!

Bike: 

I'm pretty familiar with the bike course, since I run it or drive it several times a week.  The road was not in great shape though, so there was a lot of pothole avoidance going on and by the end, my aerobars had come completely out of place so I could no longer shift properly. Yikes! BUT, the bike was a success for me.  The 40k went by quickly, I felt strong the whole time and tried to just stay consistent.  From what I heard, the lead girls were doing a bit of drafting, which is kind of unfair, but not much I can do about that.  I also likely went a tiny bit too hard, given that I knew I had girls ahead of me, but overall I'm really happy with my bike fitness. My cycling has come a very long way over the past few years, and I'm proud of that.  It was great to see some familiar faces volunteering along the course, and my the course was beautiful.  The canal really is lovely, and being able to race along it made me appreciate the fact that I live in such a beautiful city! Nutrition: 1 water bottle, 1/2 bottle with electolytes, and 1 Gu Roctane in Chocolate Coconut (first gel in about a year and a half, so that was an experiment).

T2:  Another quick transition to the second run. Not much to report.

Run #2 (10k): 


This face tells the story perfectly... sufferfest! Thanks to Rachel for the photo.

From the first step, I knew this run was going to be a disaster.  My legs were not responding at all and it felt like I was barely moving. Starting the run uphill didn't seem to help, and it was really only the fact that I saw lots of friendly faces (Ottawa Triathlon Club volunteers, Simon's family, Aaron, Stephanie - THANK YOU for cheering!!) that I was able to finish.  At times, I allowed myself to be mentally defeated in addition to physically exhausted.  It was very hot and humid by that point in the race, and things just did not feel right at all.  I ditched my hand held water bottle at the top of the first lap, because it felt like it was throwing my body off since I hadn't trained with it, but I really wish I had kept it since it had some electrolytes in it and I think I needed those.  I also took a gel at the top of the first lap, which really didn't seem to do anything at all. The whole run was a struggle and I just could not wait to be done.  However, I did try cheer for my friends, to remind myself that I was lucky to be out there running and to be grateful for the opportunity to race with friends surrounding me in my home city.

But I did get a smile in! Thanks to Stephanie for catching this one. 

The finish finally approached, but I had nothing left in the tank so I got passed literally at the line for 5th in my AG.  It was the first time that I couldn't even muster the energy to smile for the finish line photographer, and that makes me pretty disappointed in myself.

After grabbing water and some oranges, and finding some friends, I realized that I was really not feeling well at all.  So I walked over to the med tent to lie down.  My heart rate was pretty elevated (this was now about 10 minutes post-race) and I couldn't breathe.  So I rested with some ice packs and chatted with the really friendly doctors and medical volunteers for about half an hour.  Finally it was time to head home!

Post-race Reflections: 

There are a lot of good things to come out of this race, so I'm working on focusing on those.  I had a great bike ride.  I didn't have to swim in Dow's Lake (yuck).  I had so many friends out racing and volunteering, and therefore lots of encouragement along the way (thank you again and again). I got to practice overcoming adversity and adapting my plan on the fly.  And I got a kick in the ass to focus for the next month so that I'm ready for Timberman 70.3.  It was a humbling experience, and reminded me to respect the need to train and prepare properly!  Over the next month, my plan is to focus on my nutrition and hydration plan for Timberman, as well as get my butt running more!  Crossing my fingers that my 5th place finish is good enough to qualify for Worlds after the age adjustment.  Congratulations to everyone who participated in the inaugural Ottawa Triathlon race weekend. It was a small, but very competitive field of talented athletes!

Thank you to all the volunteers, to the race organizers (though I would suggest maybe moving the race next year to avoid the Dow's Lake issues), to my tri family, and to Team Coeur Sports!  As much as I suffered out there, at least I looked good doing it in my team kit.

Final Results: 

5th AG/26th woman

Run #1 (2.5k): 9:12
T1: 1:13
Bike (40k): 1:11:18
T2: 1:08
Run #2 (10k): 47:05
Overall time: 2:09:54