Thursday, May 28, 2015

Race Report: Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 10k

I have realized that I have really missed writing race reports. So I am extremely happy to be back to race season, and even happier to have a "good news" race report to share to kick things off! (Yes, I ran a 5k a few weeks ago, but for some reason I'm not counting that as race season.) My apologies for a super long report! That is what happens when I get excited!

This past weekend was the biggest sporting weekend of the year in Ottawa - the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend! The weekend showcases the beautiful city of Ottawa and attracts runners from all over the world -- 49,439 runners in fact.  There is something for everyone, from the 2k family run to the full marathon.  And the support from the people of Ottawa is incredible!! This year the 10k received an IAAF Gold ranking, which is a huge deal, and it was the Canadian National Championships, so it attracted some of the very best runners in Canada and around the world.

It was my first time participating in race weekend, and I was excited. For Christmas this past year, I asked my grandma for race registrations, and one of those was for this 10k. Thank you, Grandma!! The race sells out very early every year, so Christmas was about the time that I had to decide to run the race anyways.

In the weeks leading up to the race though, I started to hem and haw a bit, thinking that maybe it was a mistake to run such a big, crowded race in my attempt at a new personal best for the distance.  I had heard that it was a tough race to PB in, because there were just so many people (over 13,000 in the 10k).  But, in the end, I decided that the experience was what I was looking forward to the most and a PB would be a cherry on top!  I'm so glad that I decided to run.

Race weekend arrived and I was back to being excited to run.  After work on Friday, I made my way to the race expo to pick up my race kit and take a tour through the expo.  It was overwhelming how many people were there, but the volunteers were fantastic and friendly, and kept things moving quickly.  I had a busy evening ahead of me, so I didn't look too closely at the expo, and instead made my way home to do my last shakeout run and prep for our "family dinner" at Gillian's house. 

Got my bib!
 I shouldn't be surprised when my shakeout runs feel like garbage the day before a race, but this one felt pretty bad and I was starting to worry about my peroneal tendon, which was quite tender.  After a chat with Jenn at dinner and some mobilization of the ankle, I decided that maybe my new shoes were the culprit and decided to wear my old shoes on race day (strangely enough, my new shoes are essentially the same as my old ones, except I did hear that the upper was slightly different on the Wave Sayonara 2 versus the Wave Sayonara, which would potentially be the reason for the issue with my tendon since the 2 feels a bit less stable around my ankle than my old shoes).

Power bowl of goodness!
We had a really lovely family dinner with Gilly's parents who were visiting since her dad was running the marathon on Sunday.  We made power bowls full of protein, rice, quinoa, veggies, delicious sauces, and other toppings.  We also enjoyed cider from her parent's vineyard - Hoity Toity Cellars - so good! I made a mixed berry, grain-free crisp (drizzle berries with maple syrup, toss with some coconut or almond flour. In a food processor, combine 1-1/2 cups mixed raw nuts - pecans, walnuts, almonds, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/2 cup coconut, 10 pitted Medjool dates, and cinnamon  into a coarse mixture. Bake just the berries at 350 until bubbly, then generously top with nut mix and bake an additional 10 minutes (covered in foil).)  It was a perfect pre-race weekend evening.

On Saturday, I woke up at my usual time to do laundry, relax, paint my nails (Butter London in "Teddy Girl"), and prep to teach barre class.  I taught two classes, and tried to keep my activity in class to a minimum.  Then I went home, relaxed and ate my normal pre-race meal (oats with almond butter and banana) about 3.5 hours before the race. Throughout the day, I hydrated with Osmo Nutrition Active Hydration.  It was a bit difficult trying to figure out what to do with myself for a 6:30 pm race start. In the end, it seemed to work out just fine.

At 5:15, I drove downtown, found parking about a kilometer from the race start, and ran over to the starting area.  I did my warm-up drills and strides, had one last sip of water, then made my way over to the blue corral for the start around 6:10 pm. I found Mark and Gilly, then just waited for the race to start.  The nerves had really kicked in after barre class, and now they were at a full pitch as we listened to the national anthem and watched the elites start. I had positioned myself right between the 40 minute and 45 minute pace bunnies.  Finally, our wave was sent off and we ran under the start arch to turn up Elgin Street and get on our way!

The best part of the race, by far, was that the streets were jammed with people cheering.  Almost every stretch of the course, had at least a few people shouting encouragement and some parts of the course - the starting 2k and the final kilometer - were incredible.  It was so motivating to see all of these lovely people out there cheering on complete strangers.  It was also motivating when I came across friends and colleagues.  Thank you so much!!! You are the best. I gave a few cute little kids high-fives as I passed by during various parts of the race as well.  What a mental boost that gave me!

It was really difficult, especially with all those cheering fans, to keep things under control in the first 2k of the race.  I was trying my best to keep myself on my pace (which I had written on my hand), but the adrenaline definitely took over (out in 6:28 for the first mile, oops!).  As I started to "settle in" or maybe "get tired," my pace dropped a bit. I saw Elly (Coach Mike's wife and a friend from Saturday track) at 2.5k and had a quick  hello. It was definitely crowded, and I did my best to dodge people and stay out of the way.  The first half of the race was quite windy as well. The worst part was that the first aid station wasn't until 4k and my mouth was so dry from having stopped drinking water so long before the race (this did not help me, as you'll see later).  I was starting to worry that I had missed the part in the race info where it said there were no aid stations, but then finally one appeared and I slowed down to a walk to have a sip of water. 

After the aid station, we had a nice little kick up a short, steep hill to get to the halfway point.  I shortened my stride and tried to keep pace but keep my heart rate under control on the way up the hill.  After the hill, I was happy to see the 5k mark and to see my time as just around 21 minutes. 

We started into the second half of the race and at first, I was feeling great, but the heat kicked in and the wind died down, and I began to struggle mentally.  I tried talking to myself to remind myself that I was really happy to be out there, that I was having fun, that I was lucky to be able to run, and that surely smiling would make me run faster.  It seemed to help for a bit, but then I started to worry about my stride - did it seem off?  I focused on breathing and just putting one foot in front of the other.  At a few points, I tried quickening my stride to get my legs going a bit faster.

Suffering a bit along the canal... but not as much as the other guy.

At somewhere between 7 and 8k, I saw my friend JP (the 40 minute pace bunny) dry heaving over the canal railing. I asked if he was okay and he waved that he was fine. Luckily for me, he started running again and caught up to me at about 8.5k. I ran most of the rest of the way trying to keep up with him, and feeding off the energy of the massive crowds cheering along Queen Elizabeth Drive.  It felt great to look down at my watch and see that my goal was within sight (and to look down the road to see that it was physically in sight too!).  But... then I peed my pants. Yep.  Again. Dang it. I had taken every precaution, or so I thought. So, as much as I wanted to sprint the finish (especially since I could see how close to sub-42 I was), I had to just run and try to keep moving, while simultaneously hoping that pee wasn't flying off of me and hitting the runners behind and hoping those lovely people cheering didn't notice either.  So 42 ticked by, but I was close!  And I remembered to smile as I crossed the finish line!  So happy to have a good race and so happy to be done!

Big smile and thumbs up on the way across the finish line!

Final time was 42:18.8, a new PB by almost 2 and a half minutes, and good for 10th in my age group. I was really happy with my race and so thankful for all the volunteers and people cheering for all of us. Ottawa Race Weekend is truly a stellar event and I will definitely be participating again.  I also loved sporting my Team Coeur Sports race top!

With Gilly post-race. She also set a new PB!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Training and Life Recap: Week of May 18

The week leading up to a race is always exciting.  There were lots of nerves and some questioning of my readiness, but mostly excitement for my first Ottawa Race Weekend! It wasn't an "A" race, so I didn't really rest or taper for the run, but I wanted to do my best. The race ended up going really well too, so I was happy!

Monday:  It was supposed to be a rest day, but with the long weekend and an extra day to enjoy Mont Tremblant, I couldn't resist hopping on my bike to hit the 5i50 course and meet Duplessis for the first time.  There were a few moments where I questioned my sanity at having signed up to "race" on this course, with the lovely uphill way out to complete twice during the race.  It was not fun.  However, what goes up, must come down! I'm glad to have had a chance to see

Tuesday: An early swim, but I wasn't feeling well, so I hopped out after 3300m.  We did a set of 100s and 50s fast with lots of rest.  In the evening, I decided to skip my 45 minute spin on the bike in order to rest and prep some healthy meals for the week.

Wednesday: Last speed work session before the 10k race - 3x1k at 10k pace with a minute rest, then 4x400 at 1500-3k pace with 2 minutes rest.  The workout went well and it was a beautiful night for a run! My new Road ID came in the mail too! I added the "Believe" charm as a reminder to believe in myself and believe in my training.

Thursday: A super easy ride with my buddy Erik in Gatineau Park (23 miles) up to the Champlain Lookout. The instructions were to not try at all on the hills (and it's all uphill on the way out), so we were able to have a nice chat during the ride.

Friday: A shakeout run before Saturday's race.  Shakeout runs always feel like garbage, but I'm learning not to worry about that at all!

Saturday: Race day! Stay tuned for a full recap in the next few days!

Sunday: Another day of riding in Mont Tremblant.  This time we were out for 2.5 hours and rode almost 70k. It is so pretty in the region around Mont Tremblant, and we were rewarded for our effort with beautiful scenery.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Training and Life Recap: Week of May 12

After a not-so-stellar week, things really turned around last week with some attitude adjustment (I shouldn't be surprised by that at all) and a nice little pep-talk email from my coach (thanks Mike!).  I also got to enjoy some gorgeous weather and visit Mont-Tremblant for the long weekend. It was a good week.

Monday: My weekly day of rest and recovery.

Tuesday: I missed my morning swim after waking up feeling a bit sick (light headedness and trouble breathing/swallowing sent me back to bed).  However, I was feeling better by the afternoon and managed to get out for my hilly tempo run.  Coach instructed me to find a hilly route, and I discovered just how hilly my neighbourhood really is during my run - 15 minutes warmup, 20 minutes at tempo, 10 minute cooldown. It felt pretty good! Strong and right on pace.

Wednesday: More hills on Wednesday, this time on the bike. I joined my OTC group for our weekly outing in the Gatineau Park.  I warmed up with the group then did 8 repeats of the infamous Pink Lake hill. It definitely required me to dig deep and on each repeat, I told myself, "just try to do one more."  I made it to 8 after taking a gel at the top of the 6th repeat. It was a gorgeous night to be out on the bike though and workouts like that definitely help to build confidence and mental strength.

Thursday: Time to give the body a little break with a nice, easy 45 minute run. I made it out during the afternoon and enjoyed the beauty of Ottawa's downtown, with views of Parliament, the Library of Parliament, the War Museum, the Museum of Civilization, the bridges and of course the Ottawa River.  I sure am lucky to live in such a beautiful city, with amazing paths for running and cycling! Later in the evening, I attended a barre class for one of our new instructors-in-training. She did a great job and I got a great workout!

Friday: Thankful for an easier (albeit super long) swim workout in the morning. My legs were toast, so I was happy that the main set was actually a pull set. We swam 4800m to start the day off right!

1k repeats in the Arboretum! Gorgeous

Saturday: One of my best workouts to date. I was so happy with how my run went. It was 2x(4x 1km at 10km pace with 30 seconds rest) and 4 minutes between sets.  I hit the paces I wanted to hit, stayed relaxed, and even ran the second set faster than the first, with my last repeat as my fastest. Great for my confidence with the Ottawa Race Weekend 10k coming up this week!

The Americano at Cybercycle in Mont-Tremblant is amazing!
Sunday: A lovely ride in the countryside around Mont-Tremblant with my lovely host for the weekend. The roads left a bit to be desired, but the scenery made up for it. And the reward of one of the best iced Americanos ever, plus finding the perfect new triathlon shoes at Cybercycle in Old Mont-Tremblant village, was the cherry on top!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Race Report: Alive to Strive 5k Team Challenge

Okay, so I started this post like 2 weeks ago, hoping some more pictures would pop up, but alas, no luck... so let's just get on with it...

Let's kick off the 2015 race season, shall we?! At the end of April, I felt like it was about time for me to get out there and test the fitness.  And what better way than to join my Ottawa Triathlon Club family for a fun 5k Team Challenge to raise awareness about kidney disease! 

Back in March, a message appeared on the OTC discussion board about forming teams for the Alive to Strive 5k Team Challenge.  Joe, our HPS coach, had participated last year in the 10k (he placed 2nd!!) along with me and a few others from the club, so he kicked things off and got the ball rolling on forming teams.  We ended up with 3 teams from the club - The OTC SuperSonic Youth, the Over-50 Shades of Gray, and the 7 PM Itch.  The smack talk was fast and furious on the message board as race day approached, with talk of "age graded" times and "respecting your elders." 

My team was pretty stacked with some super-fast guys, so I definitely wasn't expecting to contribute to our overall team time (comprised of the top 4 times).  Instead, I was just happy to be out there on a gorgeous day, running with friends!

I spent a nice quiet evening at home on Saturday night (wild life of a triathlete / runner, eh?), watching hockey and eating my pre-race meal (homemade pizzas - BBQ chicken and spring veggie deluxe).  I had a relatively early bedtime so that I could wake up at 7 to eat my pre-race meal by 7:30 (3 hours pre-race).  The idea is to start getting my body used to the race routine again, so this 5k was good practice.  After my breakfast (oats with banana, almond butter, protein powder, and cinnamon with a coffee), I filled a bottle with Osmo Active Hydration for Women to drink while I painted my nails (pink and blue sparkle) listening to 90's Jock Jams on Songza. Then I got dressed and drove to the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.  I was happy to run into Missy, who graciously offered to hold my keys and my extra layers during the race since her boyfriend was also running! Thanks Miss!!!

Near the start line, I ran into Coach Dave and caught up with Coach Joe, Mark, and Blaine for a warm-up jog. After a pitstop for a pre-race pee break (I had stopped drinking water when I parked the car at 10), I went over to the grass to do my drills (As-Bs-Cs) and strides.  Then we all congregated at the start line. 

I started out maybe a little too fast, given the adrenaline and the fact that I knew everyone in front of me (but I also knew I wouldn't be able to keep up to them). The race was an out and back and the out was downhill most of the way, so I tried to bring it back under control in order to save some legs for the uphill drive to the finish.  I felt controlled and relaxed, albeit a bit warm in my long sleeves and running capris.  I could see Aaron and Ryan up ahead and hear Simon behind me. 

I skipped the water stations for fear of breaking my focus and instead focused on pacing, breathing, and form. The turnaround was not quite halfway, and as I ran back up the hill, I shouted encouragement to my OTC friends. The hill was a bit brutal and it became harder to keep on pace, but I tried to push onward and bring it back down to hopefully break 20 minutes.  Alas, I rounded around toward the finish and saw 20 minutes tick past with a ways left to run. But I put it in top gear to finish strong given that most of my team was already there!  It is so fun to finish on a track!

Another great race by Alive to Strive; the organizers and volunteers are really top notch. The best part of the post-race celebration was the fascial stretch therapy from Canadian Strength. My legs felt brand new thanks to David and the crew, which was needed since my right glute was so sore for some reason!

Overall, it was a great day with friends from the club and a fun way to kick off the 2015 race season! (Oh yea... final time: 20:39.8, which is my fastest in a race setting!)

Delaney and John ran with weighted vests to simulate the weight gain that people going through kidney dialysis experience.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Put the Lime in the Coconut Cashew Bars and Carrot Cake Balls

I've been having a love affair with my food processor (and nuts and dates) lately, using it to churn out "treats" for my rides and for those long days in the office.  These are definitely treats, given the significant amount of sugar (albeit natural sugars) in them, but a little bit goes a long way in satisfying my sweet tooth or in helping to give me a boost of energy to finish a ride. A few friends have asked for these recipes, so I thought that I would post them here for everyone to enjoy!

"Put the Lime in the Coconut" Cashew Bars

1 cup pitted Medjool dates
1 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
Juice and zest from one lime
2 tablespoons chia seeds

In a food processor, blend all ingredients until they from into a sticky ball.  Either press the mixture into one half of an 8x8 pan (or maybe a loaf pan), or form into 1 inch balls. Refrigerate until serving. I cut mine into small bars and prepackaged them so that I wouldn't eat the whole pan in one sitting.

Carrot Cake Balls

1 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium-large carrot)
1/4 cup coconut flakes
Generous shake of cinnamon
Shake of nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger

In a food processor, blend nuts, then add remaining ingredients and blend until they from into a sticky ball.  Form the mixture into 1 inch balls. Refrigerate until serving.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Training and Life Recap: Week of April 27 and May 4

We skipped spring and went straight to summer! And that is fine with me!  I also skipped writing last week's recap, so here we go with a double. A roller coaster of the past two weeks with some hard training and some hard days mentally. I'm looking forward to moving on this week and focusing again on the hard work that I have put in already, and staying positive and focused on what is ahead! We are now only 5 weeks out from Tremblant!

Week of April 27

Monday: Rest day! It feels weird writing these weekly recaps and starting with a rest day, but I'm so happy that I have switched my schedule to be able to enjoy the weekends to their fullest.

Tuesday: It was the final week of the pool being closed, and I just couldn't quite bring myself to drive all the way to the pool in Gatineau. No swim. In the evening, I did a ride out on the parkway with Brent and Erik. I also did my first ever climb of Blair Road Hill... that's a serious hill there!

Wednesday: Early morning brick in Gatineau Park. I did small loops of 6x6 minutes building from Z3-5 during each. Then I ran easy for 32 minutes.  It was an absolutely gorgeous morning and an amazing way to start the day (Jenn joined me for part of the ride too!).

Thursday: An easy 35 minute run. It did not feel awesome - my cadence and stride felt totally off - but I got it done.  I also took a trip to the bike shop (Cyclelogik) to start my search for a TT bike!

Friday: A super short (2000m) swim to start the day.

Saturday: I went out to watch Jenn run the MEC 10k. While she raced, I did my workout - 3k at 10k pace, 2k at 5k pace, and 1k at 3k pace.  Whew, that was a tough one! In the afternoon, I picked up the Felt B14 to take for a test ride! What a sweet ride!

Sunday:  Nice loop of Gatineau Park with the ladies! It was a perfect day for a ride. The park was jam packed with people, since it was still closed to cars. We are so lucky to have an accessible, beautiful and challenging place to ride!  After the ride we hit up Art-Is-In Bakery (yum) for some treats and a visit with our old training buddy Jen who was visiting from India!

Week of May 4

Monday: A well deserved rest day (in my opinion).

Tuesday: First swim back with ROCS in 3 weeks.  It was rough, and the pool was set up for long course!  My stroke felt totally off all practice long.  In the evening, I took an easy ride with Jenn and Dale on the river pathway. The path was a bit too crowded for my liking, but it was a really nice night.

Wednesday: A tough night of training with the High Performance Squad out on Rockcliff Parkway.  Whew, lots of intervals and some wind to deal with as well. I was doing some work on alternating cadence, which made it a bit interesting. After the ride (1:10), I had a run with the first 15 minutes at tempo pace (7:04 average), then 20 minutes easy.

Thursday: The worst run of my life.  I was physically and mentally stressed out during this run, and it was only meant to be 35 minutes easy.  Everything felt awful. I have never wanted to quit so badly.  This run was the culmination of some hard training, but also a downward swing of my mental state where I'd been playing the comparison game and only focusing on the things that weren't going well. Sometimes being in the weeds of the day-to-day training can take its toll and prevent me from seeing the big picture. All I could do was put that run behind me and remind myself that I do triathlon for fun, because I love it, and that I can only focus on what I am doing.

Friday: No swim in the morning. My body was craving sleep, so I stayed in bed for an extra hour and a half and just woke up with enough time to do my strength workout before work (upper body and glute activation focus). In the evening, I had a great chat with Coach Dave when I went by to pick up his old TT to borrow for a bit.  Then, we had a tri-family dinner at Gilly's with some amazing food - grilled chicken and salmon skewers, grilled veggies, this awesome salad and this AMAZING dark chocolate tart (wow, I may never make another dessert again), along with some delicious wine from Gilly's family vineyard. A lovely evening!

Saturday: A long morning at the barre studio meant I was on my own for my run workout and bike. I also stopped by the bike shop again to pick up the Scott Plasma 30 for a test ride. Run was drills, strides and 20 minutes easy. Then, I hopped on the Scott for an easy 40 minute spin.

Sunday: Time Trial Sunday! I had the date wrong for the OTC time trial, so I had to do it alone on Sunday.  It was actually kind of awesome though.  There were many points where I was cursing life and just couldn't wait to be finished, but I also loved having a chance to push myself.  My legs and lungs were on fire by the end!  It was great to have Jenn, Dale and Gilly around too, and Jenn as my official timer.  Before my TT, I went with Gilly to cheer on Dale, Colin, and Jenn (and pirate runner) at the Sporting Life 10k! I love race season!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Attitude is Everything

Image from:

I saw this great quote from Lou Holtz today and it really summed up the way that I have been feeling about my approach to training and racing triathlon.

After a wonderful weekend bike ride with friends, I thought I'd put down some thoughts on how my attitude toward cycling has changed my performance and my enjoyment of the bike already this season.  I know that I have some work to do on the bike and that I can continue to improve my strength and technical skills, but what I am realizing is that a lot of what I had to improve on was just related to my confidence and comfort level.

With spring / summer finally arriving in summer, I have spent quite a bit of time out on my bike riding alone and with friends.  And, I have never felt happier to be on my bike or more comfortable.  I think there are a few things happening:

1) I've come to see cycling, not as a weakness, but as an area for continued growth.  Where I used to worry about holding people up or being too slow to ride with stronger cyclists, I'm viewing those rides as opportunities to push myself a little bit harder.  I'm reframing how I view my cycling to focus on the positives. If I drop back in a group, instead of cursing my weakness like I used to, I put pedal to the metal and give myself a chance to work harder to catch up.

2) I'm enjoying myself and grateful for the chance to get out on my bike.  I'm smiling and taking in the amazing sights, gorgeous weather, and opportunity to spend time with my friends.  I'm thankful for my health and for the amazing places my legs can take me.

3) I'm dropping, "I can't," from my vocabulary.  Similar to the "have no fear" lessons learned while learning to  skate ski, I'm just doing the things that I once thought I couldn't do or was too scared to do.  Flying down a twisty hill on my bike is now a challenge I'm willing to accept. Other people do all of the things that I've been too scared or too uncertain to do, so why can't I do those things as well. If I hear a voice in my head (or out loud) say, "I can't," then I do exactly that thing immediately.

With these changes has come an immense boost in confidence, as I see myself starting to keep up with stronger riders or flying down hills where I would previously tap the brakes the whole way.  And because I'm embracing the joy of being on a bike, I'm approaching even my hardest rides with a positive attitude, which is translating to fitness gains as well.  What I am realizing is that I have the ability to be a strong cyclist, and I was motivated to get out there and ride, but the attitude component was missing.  Now that I have made an attitude shift, I think the "how well I ride" part will fall into place!