Friday, June 16, 2017

Race Report: Victoria 70.3

Hello, friends!  If I'm not going to post very often, then I guess I'll at least stick to interesting stuff-- like race reports!  On June 4, I competed at the Ironman Victoria 70.3 on beautiful Vancouver Island.  Bear with me as we explore the highs and lows of that gorgeous and challenging experience.

Last fall, in the midst of my three month long sabbatical from training, I signed up for a half ironman.  While the timing wasn't great (for signing up for a race nor for being prepared to race so early in my usual tri season), the venue was perfect.  Victoria is a pretty short trip from Seattle, where my grandma and cousins live, so I would be able to combine my race-cation with a nice visit with family!  Even better, my sister decided that she would come up for the race - a first since I started tri-ing 4 years ago.  Mom, grandma, and sister's partner also decided to come play support crew!  It was so special to have them all there and it definitely made it worth travelling out to BC to race.

Before I get into the details, let me give you my top 4 moments of Victoria 70.3 (because I want to focus on the positives):

  1. The GORGEOUS course!! Man, it was stunning. From views of the water, to sections where we seemed to ride in the middle of old growth forest, to a picturesque lake swim and cottonwood dusted fairy-land run course... it was all so pretty.
  2. The smell of the sea that caught my nose as I finally found a section on the bike course to put pedal to the metal around the 60-65k mark.
  3. Flying downhill after the turnaround at 72.5k.  A sweet reward after a very steep climb.
  4. Hearing (though not always seeing) my family cheering for me at various points throughout the day!

Okay, with those to form the basis (and hopefully soften some of the rest of the report), here we go!


I flew out to Seattle on Thursday morning.  The plan was to meet Grandma and Mom in Seattle, and for Taryn and her partner to also meet us there, so we could all head to Victoria together on Friday.  Mom and I went to the M├ętier Cycling shop to have my bike re-assembled. There were some dicey moments where the piece to hold my seat post in place had fallen into the bike frame and we were unsure if it would come out... but in the end, the bike was back in one piece and ready to ride.  Then, we had a great family dinner with my cousins Thursday night.

Friday, we took a magical ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Victoria.  I was reminded of how much I love and miss the water!  We arrived and went to our VRBO, a lovely house in an neighbourhood full of beautiful old homes in Victoria.  Then we went over to the race site for packet pick-up, followed up by Pizza at Lido's on the Waterfront (delicious food and a gorgeous view).

Saturday, we had a yummy breakfast and then drove the bike course.  It took us forever (nearly 2 hours 40 minutes including a bathroom break) to drive the course. Phew!  After the drive, we went back to Elk Lake so I could rack my bike and meet Coeur teammate, Heidi for a swim.  I made the mistake of racking my bike and thinking I could go back in to get it for a quick spin-out ride, but I wasn't allowed to take my bike out which meant I had to trust that everything was fine (I checked the gears, but not the brakes - yikes). Heidi and I had a great swim.  The water temperature was perfect!  After the swim, I took a quick jog on part of the run course. I was in awe of how pretty it was.  Then we went home to make dinner - grilled salmon and chicken, sweet potato, beets, and fresh tomatoes. I prepared my race gear and got to bed by about 9:30 pm (a little later than I was hoping).

On Sunday morning, I woke up at 3:30 to eat my overnight oats and drink some coffee.  Then mom and I piled into the car to go to meet the shuttle buses.  It definitely felt like a tight squeeze timewise, as we didn't really get to the transition zone until almost 5:30!! Luckily mom held a spot for me in the port-a-pottie lines while I dropped off my stuff in the T-zone.  By the time I made it to the swim start, the pro-men were just going off to start their race (technically 6 minutes to my race time and I didn't even have my wetsuit all the way on!).


The swim was pretty intense!  It was my first time doing a self-seeded start and I was really excited to swim with the fast fishies for once.  There were a small handful of pink caps (and women in their blue AWA caps) up at the front and I was happy / proud to be one of them among a big crowd of men.  I had been one of the last people to wriggle into my wetsuit, so I was also happy when we had 2 minutes added to our start time to give the pro-women a bit more clear water.  Since our chips would go off as soon as we passed under the start arch, we filed mostly single file through a narrow opening in the fence once the starting cannon went off.  The whole way out was a blur of thrashing arms and legs.  It was definitely the most intense open water swimming that I've been part of, as we all jostled for position and tried to either catch a draft or lose those drafting off of us.  It didn't necessarily feel like I was swimming that hard, but I definitely felt like it was taking a lot of energy.  As I turned at the last buoy to cross over to head back to shore, things started to settle a bit, and I tried to pick up my pace a little.  Despite very minimal swim training over the course of the winter and spring, I felt pretty strong and like I was catching the water well.  Though I had no idea at the time, I'm very happy with a sub-30 minute swim.


As I exited the swim, I saw my friend Betty! She caught some great photos. Betty used to live in Ottawa, but has relocated to Victoria.  T1 was uneventful.  It felt pretty smooth, though I wish I had taken the extra seconds to strap my watch on rather than fiddling with it for the first couple hundred meters on the bike.


At the very beginning of the bike, Coeur teammate Liz flew by me!  I knew she'd be coming since I had heard her name announced when I was in T1.  We exchanged a quick hello and she was off like a rocket!

The bike was a challenge.  When we drove the course the day before, it took us so long, so I should have known to expect a slow go of it.  With some wicked wind (head wind? cross wind? who knows?) and lots of jockeying during the first 20-30k as people streamed onto the course, the first half was tough.  There was a no-passing zone too, which was kind of a nice reprieve for the legs, but we got stuck behind a poor girl who probably didn't need a bunch of people essentially drafting off of her.  Two men broke the rules and passed anyways, setting off a bunch of yelling from the rest of us. (Also realize we shouldn't have been drafting, but man it was nearly impossible to stay far enough back! I also found there is a lot of drafting that gets overlooked and it was clear to me who was benefiting from drafting and who was riding off their own merits. Sometimes being a rule follower is frustrating!).   Anyways, most of the ride felt challenging, even on the way back when we maybe had some tail wind. I just felt like I could never settle into a pace, that I was constantly turning or finding myself at another short and sharp hill.  I definitely hadn't really understood or prepared for the course properly (lack of endurance and lack of hills definitely was hard to hide from).  Overall though, as I said before, the course was stunning and I often caught myself in awe of how beautiful it was and how grateful I was to even be out there riding my bike. When I found myself in a mentally dark place, I reminded myself of those very things - it's pretty here and I'm pretty lucky to be riding.

Gear: Argon 18 E-117 Tri+, Bontrager Ballista helmet, Pearl Izumi Tri Fly V; Fuel: 3 bottles water, 1 bottle concentrated NBS Nutrition Hydration in Pineapple (yum!!), lots of cocoa date nut balls.


Off the bike and onto the run. Another uneventful transition, which is exactly the kind that I like!


So for two years, I've been biking in shoes that are just the slightest bit too small.  I had fully intended to find new bike shoes before this race, but I was unsuccessful.  Which meant that my toes were numb, from a combination of cold and the tight bike shoes, for the first 8k of the run!  Not ideal by any stretch and definitely not ideal when it is a trail run... bringing me to say that I also wish I had worn my trail shoes instead of my regular running shoes (which are essentially racing flats). I even packed my trail shoes, and contemplated wearing them, but in the end did not.

Gear: New Balance 1500 v3s; Fuel: 1 Salted Chocolate Gu, 1 Cherry Lime Gu, 1 bottle NBS Nutrition Hydration in Pineapple, and water at almost every aid station (1 cup to drink, 1 cup over the head to stay cool).

The run went like this:

1-6k - Wow, I actually feel pretty good, and my pace is pretty close to target, but man, I have to pee! Peeing on myself when running on a dirt trail doesn't actually sound appealing, better find a port-a-pottie.

At 6k water station - pee break! Sweet relief!

6-8k - Totally lost my legs and now we have a hill to climb, yuck!

8k to 10k - This feels brutal, though the gel seemed to help a bit.  Begged some kids for some cheers and encouragement.

At the start of the second lap - super thankful for all the spectators and get a surge of energy, though it does not really translate to a surge in pace.

10k to 17k - Okay, this isn't horrible, but I just can't get my legs going any faster!

17k - On the second time coming back down the hill, witness a woman face plant.  Stop to help her, but she claims to be fine despite gravel hanging onto her lips (ouch!) and blood all over!  At that stage, I stopped to help for 2 reasons - 1) I genuinely wanted to help! and 2) I had sort of given up on my own race, so didn't care at all about losing time to help someone in need.

20-21k - so freaking happy to be almost done!!!!

Crossing the finish line was pretty sweet, though admittedly I was disappointed in my overall time.  I had gone into the race convinced that I could have a better run time, but in the end it was slower than at Timberman.


The consensus from Coach Dave and myself was that I definitely didn't build up enough endurance, which meant fatigue on the run.  It is hard to hide a lack of sufficient training, but life (a crazy period from April - present at work and a big move at the end of April) got in the way.  I also admittedly made a lot of excuses and just didn't do what needed to be done (not enough swims and from the look of my run photos, not enough strength work).  So, I'll just have to do another 70.3 and learn from this one!  (I'm looking at you Maine...)

In the end though, I still enjoy the 70.3 distance.  I got to race on a truly beautiful course.  My family was there to support me and I can't thank them enough for coming to the race!  And I got to meet three more Coeur teammates - Heidi, Liz, and Christine.  My Coeur Sports team kit makes me feel like a rockstar and Pistol Annie is still a dream bike (even though I definitely need that bike fit I have scheduled for next week).  All in all, it was good!

Final Results: 5:39:22 (17th AG, 81st woman)

Swim: 29:39
T1: 2:02
Bike: 3:06:15
T2: 1:36
Run: 1:59:50

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Race Report: MEC Spring Flyer 10 Miler

On Easter Sunday, I completed my first race of the season!  It went really well and I'm very happy with the result.  The MEC Race Series is a super affordable, well organized series of races throughout the summer.  There are various distances and formats (road, trail) to choose from.  For this race, my coach suggested the 10-mile distance, which was new to me.  As someone who uses mile pace, it was easy to wrap my head around what pace I wanted to hold for the race and where my finish time would fall based on that pace - easy math is always fun.

I was also really excited, because my parents are in town visiting to help me with my move to the condo that I recently purchased and will take possession of very soon.  So mom, dad, and George got to come to watch the race!  George ended up mostly staying in the car and away from the runners.  He isn't quite sure yet about runners, and often gets scared and barks at them.  But since the course was an out and back, mom and dad had plenty of time to distract George and still watch the start and finish of the race.

The course itself was very mentally challenging, because it is a course that I ride at least once a week (with multiple loops), so I know every curve and every little hill like the back of my hand.  The 5 miles to the turn around were definitely a struggle, as was the last 2km to the finish.  Luckily, I made a friend and had a nice chat during the first part of the race for a few kilometers.  Eventually, he bid me a good race and took off like a rocket.  After the race, I thanked him for holding back to chat with me.  Toward the end of the race, I had a girl to chase which helped keep me focused.  I had seen her at the turn around and thought I would be able to catch her since she seemed to be slowing down a bit.  Unfortunately, I also slowed down slightly in the last 1.5km and another woman passed me, so I ended up finishing 8th overall despite my efforts.

In general, I am really happy with how this race went.  It was the first time in a long time that I held 7:30/mile pace over that distance, so it is a good sign that my run fitness is coming along and that the speed and tempo work that my coach has me doing is working!

The best part of the race though was definitely the Camino dark chocolate bunny that we received as our finisher's prize! Yum!! Thanks to MEC Ottawa for a great race.  Thanks to Coeur Sports for the very stylish and multi-purpose race kit (my aero tri top worked well for the weather we had on race day). Thanks to mom and dad for all their help this week and for always being the best cheering / photography squad!

Final Time: 1:15:05 (8th woman overall)

Camino bunny! Very appropriate for an Easter day race! Yum!!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Training Update: March 2017

Somehow it is the end of March... things have been a whirlwind this month in literally all aspects of my life.  Despite also being sick and missing a full week of training, my training was pretty consistent for the rest of the month.  And I feel like I'm starting to make some fitness gains because of it!

Here are a few highlights...

Related to swim-bike-run life, I participated in an NCCP Community Coaching course for triathlon along with many of my co-coaches from the Ottawa Triathlon Club.  The course happened while I was sick, so I didn't quite get as hands-on as some of the other participants, but I had fun and learned a lot from our facilitators and my peers.

Swim:  Swimming is still a weak spot, but I've committed to joining a triathlon swimming program starting this coming Saturday. I'm hoping that having a set time and place to swim, plus a group to hold me accountable, will help get me back in the pool on a more consistent basis.

Bike: My rides have started to get longer and more frequent in recent weeks as I build toward Victoria 70.3 in early June.  I did an FTP test last weekend, and felt awesome and so strong.  Hopefully the snow and ice melts soon, so we can get out on the road!

Run:  My runs have also started to get looong and more intense.  I feel like this is the area where I had the most work to do, and I'm finally starting to feel like my running is coming back.  It's exciting to hit paces that I haven't hit in a while and to do it comfortably! Plus, George is getting old enough to run with me!

So, things are trucking along and I'm trying to balance it all.  Life is busy, but good!  How is your training going?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Training Update: February 2017

Things are starting to click again in training. At least that's what I like to tell myself.  I'm getting most of my workouts done and I'm finding ways to fit things into my new schedule of being a dog mom. The past few weeks I have missed a lot of swimming due to a significant run-in with a food processor blade (*ouch*), but I finally got back in the pool yesterday.  After a few days of contemplation earlier in the month, I've also come up with a new plan and new goals for the season which have me much more excited about training and racing than I had been with the original plan.  A separate post on those is due to hit the blog as well as an update on some exciting developments.  But for now, training:

Swim:  As mentioned, I spent a few weeks out of the pool.  Cutting my finger so significantly was unfortunate timing, since I had finally gotten back in the pool after a very long break.  But I swam yesterday, and hopefully will make it a more consistent habit now that my finger has healed.

Strength work at OTC Wednesday nights!

Bike:  Our Wednesday night HPS group has had some fun rides lately with lots of "sweet spot" time as well as a longer ride last week.  We have a great group this year, and it is motivating to coach and train with them.  At home, I've made the Saturday trainer ride a consistent habit.  Lately it has been my excuse to watch lots of Netflix, and I'm loving the Archie comics inspired "Riverdale" for my rides.  If you haven't checked it out, and especially if you read Archie as a kid, you should give it a watch!  The new episodes come out on Fridays, so it is perfect timing for my Saturday rides (though I usually need to watch something else since each episode is only about 40 minutes).  This past week, a new kit from Coeur Sports added some stylish motivation to get on the bike!

Run:  While I've struggled to get in all of my runs, mostly due to some personal stuff going on the past few weeks, I'm enjoying running again.  It has also been fun to get out on snowshoes for a few runs recently (including a particularly slushy, warm, sunny run yesterday on the SJAM Winter Trail).  I also made it to my first outing with Run-to-beer-Ottawa, a fun group that starts and ends its runs at local breweries in celebration of community, running, and delicious craft beer.  We had a great time, and I met some "internet friends" for the first time - Ashley (the leader of the beer and running /  yoga movement in Ottawa) and Katrina.  We also ran on probably the worst weather day of the winter, but the blustery, blizzard type conditions didn't stop us!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Back on the Train: Weekly Training Update

For the past two weeks, I have actually been pretty consistent with my training!  Last week was my first week with an official training plan, and the week before, I was motivated by the fact that I had my plan starting to get out and start early.

I'm working with a new coach this season - David Harding - of DEKK Coaching.  He is a local Ottawa runner and triathlete, and his resume includes multiple Boston qualifiers and a recent trip to Kona for Ironman World Championships.  Of course, I'm not a marathoner or an Ironman, but my desire to get my running back on track this season led me to Dave. I'm looking forward to having the accountability and structure provided by a coach for this season.

So with that, I commenced my 2017 official triathlon training last week!

Monday - Okay, so I didn't really start off on the right foot.  Waking up to swim at 6:30 am wasn't happening and then the day just got away from me!

Tuesday - 6k run with my new running buddy

Wednesday - I'm coaching HPS with Dave again this year, and we had our Lactate Threshold Test last week.  The gang crushed it and worked so hard.  We have a fantastic strength program this season too from Coach Jenn, so we hit our upper body and core along with lots of mobility work.

Thursday - Another run, but this time on the treadmill.  I am still not a huge fan of treadmill workouts, but I got it done by watching Harry Potter as I ran.

Fridays will be my official rest day this season

Saturday - 60 minutes on the trainer in the basement while George watched me with intense curiosity.

Sunday - 10k along the Rideau Canal

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bullet Journal Life

I am a list addict.  And I like to write my "to do" list down by hand.  After years searching for the perfect planner, I discovered the bullet journal method last summer and retired my planner.  For years, I was posting sticky notes of to-do lists in my planners anyways, so a bullet journal seemed like the best choice for me.  Since July, I've used mine religiously and it has definitely helped improve my organizational skills and productivity.  The best part of the bullet journal is that it is completely customizable. Yes, it requires a little bit more work than traditional planners, but it is totally worth it in my books.

So, what is a bullet journal?  It's the simplest form of planner.  

Step 1) Buy a blank notebook - lined, unlined, gridded, anything that suits your fancy

Step 2) Start making lists

Okay, you can have a few more steps than that.  The main principle is that you create daily lists of tasks, meetings / events, and items to remember.  Each item gets a special bullet and when completed, each item gets an X over the bullet.  Items that are not completed are migrated to the next day's list.

It is recommended that you number your pages and create an index with a few blank pages at the front of your notebook, so that everything is easy to find.

Further, I like to create a "monthly overview" page and each week, I have a "weekly overview."  This is where I can write down events and things to remember for the coming month and then in slightly more detail for each week.  I do my weekly overview on the Thursday or Friday in advance of the next week.  I also include a "goals and bucket list" page next to my monthly overview.  Finally, you can add any other lists your heart desires - movies to watch, books to read, places to travel, money spent during the week, weekly workouts, meal plans and groceries, etc.
With everything contained in one place, you can stay organized and on top of everything!

For the athletes out there (this is a triathlon blog after all), tracking your workouts is another thing you can do in your bullet journal. I'm going to start this for the new season, but it is something I have done in the past.  I like to write out the workouts for the week, then leave space to write out what I actually did and how I felt, plus any other notes about the workout.  While there are obviously a lot more high tech options, and I use those as well, having my workouts in the same place as my other tasks allows me to maximize my schedule and foresee any barriers to my workouts in advance (e.g., a surprise birthday party the night before a big trainer ride).

My notes: 
- Currently using a Moleskin lined notebook
- Purchased a Leuchturmm1917 dotted notebook (they actually make an "official bullet journal" version as well) for when my Moleskin is full
- I use a set of Artist's Loft Illustration Pens, because I like to make my journal look pretty
- You can fall into a black hole on Pinterest if you search for bullet journal ideas.  I am not an artist and I don't have time to actually illustrate my journal. Figure out what works for you by experimenting and don't get caught up in the hype created by the internet on this stuff. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kicking 2017 off with Whole 30

The push to do Whole 30 could not have come at a better time.  I spent the last week of December and first week of January at World Juniors (Go Canada!! Silver!), which meant eating out every meal and drinking a lot of Molson Canadian and wine at the games.  Combine that with my severe lack of training and general indulgence over the past few months, and my body was screaming at me to kick my junk food and booze habits.  I literally got a funny taste in my mouth after eating candy on January 1st and then had a bathroom break reminder not to eat candy (sour jujubes are soo good though) pre-run in Montreal (yikes! and sorry for the TMI).  Anyways, Whole 30 will give my body the reset that it needs to start the year right.

For those unfamiliar, Whole 30 is a 30 day plan that prohibits added sugars (even natural sweeteners like maple syrup), dairy, legumes, and all grains.  It is not meant to be continued strictly beyond 30 days, and is not a "diet."  Other restrictions include not being allowed to weigh yourself during the plan (which I never do anyways and didn't do before starting) and no recreating "junk" with approved ingredients. Here are the Whole 30 rules.

I usually keep a pretty solid nutrition plan going, where I limit sweets and refined grains and eat mostly veggies, protein, and complex carbs from sweet potatoes, oats, and fruit.  I have lots of healthy fats in my diet as well.  However, I eat a lot of dairy, though I've cut back a lot on that over the years, I usually have Greek yogurt at least once a day.  Lately though, things have gone south with the sweets and the alcohol, plus some not great food choices - pizza, I love you, but really shouldn't eat you more than once a week! So I'm mostly using this challenge as a way to hold myself accountable to getting back on track. It is really helpful to have my Coeur Team sisters doing it too! (See #CoeurWhole30Challenge on Instagram). And I'm hoping to see how I do with no dairy and no sugar.  Plus, reducing my alcohol intake isn't a horrible idea.

Note, while I understand that Whole 30 is meant to be followed to a T, I am just going to do my best to stick to it 90% or more of the time.  I'm on day 5 and I've already had two glasses of wine and a few tortilla chips during taco night on Tuesday.  Am I a failure? Not in my books, though the die-hard Whole 30 crew may disagree.  For me this challenge is mostly just to get back on track with my eating and not to determine if I am actually allergic to any foods.  So I'm doing my best and t that will be that.

Here's to feeling better inside and out, and to a healthy, happy 2017!

The key to Whole 30 is eating delicious, nutritious and varied meals.  I'm taking this as a great opportunity to get back to my food blogging ways, so I'll share all of the recipes that I make for this month!  Starting with week 1...

Week 1 Recipes: 

Mexican Meatball Soup - modifications were to use all broth in place of broth/water combo and to use sweet potatoes, as my store was sold out of butternut squash.

Crockpot Sweet Potato Chipotle Chili - modification was to cook this on the stovetop in my Le Creuset.  I cooked the meat first along with the onion and then added spices as it was close to finished cooking, then I added the remaining ingredients, brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down and simmered for about an hour and a half.  Serve with avocado for some healthy fats!

Chorizo Egg Cups

6 eggs
1 link chorizo sausage (ask your butcher if it has sugar in it!)
1/3 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped spinach
Salt and pepper

Remove the sausage from the casing, and cook over medium heat, breaking the sausage up as it cooks into small pieces.  When the sausage is nearly done, add the diced red pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir the spinach into the sausage and pepper mix. 

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with salt and pepper. 

Grease 6-8 cups of a muffin tin with coconut oil, then divide the sausage and vegetable mix evenly between the cups.  Divide the egg mixture between the cups (I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup and poured the egg over the sausage and veggies).  Bake 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are firm to the touch.  Cool and store for up to 4 days. 

Date Balls

1 cup dried, pitted dates
1 cup nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1 tablespoon almond butter
Himalayan salt

In a food processor, process nuts until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until a ball starts to form.  Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then form into small balls. Return to either the refrigerator or freezer for storage.

Some other things that I've been snacking on include dried figs, apples with almond butter, nuts, and Coconut Barnana!  While snacking is also not technically recommended on Whole 30, I have allowed myself snacks between meals.  I'm trying to get better about grazing, and I am going to work on reducing my reliance on dried fruit and fruit for sweets next week after a better meal prep this coming weekend for week 2!