Monday, September 28, 2015

Short vs. Long Course

As a short course triathlete, I often find myself explaining to non-triathletes that I don't do "full triathlons."  I find myself saying things like, "I just do short ones," or "maybe one day," or justifying why I ONLY do sprints and the odd Olympic distance race. It is not that they aren't impressed. It's just that somehow the Average Joe thinks that if you do triathlons, you are an Ironman (way to go on the marketing there). 

When I was competing at Worlds, for some reason, I had this feeling that somehow my accomplishment of going to Worlds in a sprint triathlon was less of an accomplishment than someone who competes in a half or full iron distance event.  I tried to shake it off, because really, I work hard.  I put in lots of hours and I make sacrifices in my personal life similar to those made by people who do longer events. Just because my event only takes a little over an hour doesn't mean I should feel bad about it. Obviously it takes guts and perseverance to complete longer events, and I have tons of respect and admiration for those who take on that type of challenge. But for me, at this point, it has not made sense to try for anything longer than an Olympic.

As I contemplate my next move, I wanted to talk about why I love short course triathlon and why I think it is perfectly reasonable to not be an "Ironman" at this point in my triathlon career. 

Shorter races mean less training time. 

I can't imagine what my life would be like if I had to add an additional 4-8 hours of training per week.  I also can't comprehend how people with families do it. Again, I'm totally impressed by those long course athletes.  At this stage, I like having a semblance of a life outside of work and training. (I also have found it really difficult to convince anyone to date me, even with the lighter training schedule I have... I'd probably be dooming myself to cat lady-hood if I decided to do a longer race right now.)

Shorter races mean I can RACE.

I like racing. I like trying to go fast.  Sure, it's possible to be really fast at longer distances. I'm just not ready to give up on going really fast over short distances.

Shorter races mean I can do local races.

We do have several nearby options for long course races, but that can't beat the plethora of local races at the sprint and Olympic distance.  Local races mean familiar faces, sleeping in my own bed, and easy travel time.

Sometimes it feels like there is an expectation that you'll go longer and longer distances in triathlon.  It is okay to "just" do sprints though (or even super sprints if that's your jam).  As a relatively new triathlete, I feel like I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve upon in the shorter distances (like staying injury free). While there is a chance that I may attempt a half iron distance race next year, I will most likely be sticking to the sprint and Olympic distance.

What is your distance of choice? Why? Are you jumping up to a new distance next season?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Race Report: Age Group World Championships

It is crazy to think that I'm writing my race report for Worlds. This race was one that I set as a goal for myself way back in September 2013, right after my first triathlon.  When I realized that I could potentially qualify, with enough hard work and dedication, I set it as a goal.  Then I qualified to represent Canada last summer, and I worked hard the past year training.  And now, the race has come and gone.  The whole process was full of ups, downs, and everything in between.  I spent hundreds of hours swimming, biking, and running. I battled my first injury.  I met lots of awesome people.  And my love for triathlon grew and grew.  Chicago was the focus the whole time.  So, how'd it go?  Great. It was awesome. I'm so happy and grateful to have had the experience.  Let me tell you more...


We arrived in Chicago on Monday to allow for plenty of rest, relaxation and adaptation before the race on Thursday.  I got to swim in Lake Michigan and bike and run along the beautiful Lake Front Trail.  Mom, grandma, and I ate some delicious food (Eataly, Owen + Alchemy, Quartino's, and Whole Foods were our picks). On Wednesday night, we opened up the week with the Parade of Nations with nearly 7,000 fellow athletes representing 65 nations.  And before I knew it, my race day had come.  Of course I engaged in all of my usual pre-race rituals, and we racked our bikes on Wednesday afternoon, ready to race on Thursday.

On Thursday morning, I had overnight oats and around 7:50 was off to set up my T-Zone (which turned out to be smack in the middle of a sand pit).  Jenn came with me to be my super Sherpa, and helped to keep me calm as the time ticked away to my 10:40 race start.  As the start neared, I wriggled into my new ROKA Maverick Elite wetsuit (love it!) and went to join the other purple capped ladies of the 25-29 age group in the corral. Finally, it was time and we jumped into the icy cold (63.5F) Lake Michigan!


The swim was mentally and physically exhausting.  I started out in a decent position and sprinted as usual, but I could not shake the girls around me.  It was a strong indicator of the level of talent in my age group.  Over the course of the 750m, I was stuck between two groups of two girls.  They kept pinning me between them, and I could not find clear water.  I could see the two lead swimmers up ahead and desperately wanted to bridge up to them, but couldn't.  It was frustrating and I found my mental energy was wasted on worrying about the girls next to me. Finally, with about maybe 300m to go, I decided to only worry about myself and I found that I started catching more water and feeling better.  It was wonderful to see the swim exit!

T1:  Drats! This was one of my worst transitions ever.  We had a 380m run from the swim to the T-Zone and I managed to pass three or four girls on the way.  But I struggled getting my new wetsuit off and then in my excitement to grab my bike, I left not only my watch (I wear it on my wrist for bike and run, but not the swim), but also my race bib.  I didn't realize I had forgotten my bib until I was nearly to the exit, so had to run back upstream against girls with their bikes flying at me.  All the girls I had passed, plus some, passed me back on the way out to the bike.


The bike was pretty fun, though really windy in one direction. It was also getting pretty crowded on the course by the time my AG got out there (and it was 3 loops), so it was difficult to avoid drafting.  A few times I really wished that I had my watch, but overall, I just tried to keep up a solid effort.  I'm happy to be realizing the gains of my extra work on the bike during my injury.  There is still a lot of learning and improving to do, but I've certainly come a long way!

T2:  After my disastrous T1, I just said, "screw it!" and tried to get out on the run as fast as possible.  That meant shoving my sand crusted feet into my running shoes and again just leaving my watch sitting in the T-Zone.  I figured it was only a 5k, so I could handle the sand (my feet were not pleased with that decision).


The run was HOT and I definitely should have been faster.  But it was also awesome to have so many friends, family and fellow Canadians cheering me on while I was running.  By that point, I was really having a great time, despite feeling like things hadn't quite gone how I'd hoped.  I smiled and cheesed for the cameras.  As it was time to round Buckingham Fountain the second time toward the finish, I felt a surge of pride and accomplishment.



Chicago was an amazing experience.  It was pretty magical to be surrounded by so many like-minded people from all around the world, and to have the opportunity to represent Canada in international competition. Everyone was friendly and excited to be there.  Strangers stopped us on the street to wish us good luck or struck up conversations with us after noticing our team apparel.  The venue in Chicago is stunning, and we really lucked out with the weather.  Racing against the backdrop of the iconic Chicago skyline is such a unique experience.

Do I wish things had gone differently on the day? Yes, I do. I had set some lofty goals, but I had also tempered my expectations due to my injury.  As my coach reminded me, I had already achieved the biggest goal of the summer by getting back to running.  BUT... I still wanted more.  Or maybe I just feel like I don't want that race to be it. I don't know.  I'm feeling a bit unsatisfied with how it all ended. This could also be related to the fact that I don't have a single plan on the horizon, which is an unsettling feeling and one that I'll write more about in a day or two.

Leaving aside those feelings though, I definitely accomplished my goal of having fun and I didn't let the little things get to me in my race. Despite the challenges, I still smiled and still soaked up how amazing it was to be out on that course. It was a privilege to participate and that is not lost on me.  Representing my country and coming in the top 10% of women is awesome.  Having my mom and grandma, plus friends (new and old) to cheer me on was so special.  Receiving well wishes from so many of you made my heart burst with joy.  I am so lucky. I am so grateful for the experience and for all the support I have received over the past year.

A huge thanks to my family, friends and training buddies, Coach Mike, Coeur Sports and our amazing sponsors, Triathlon Canada, and all of you! 

Final Results:

11th AG / 78th Woman
Swim: 11:09
T1: 4:21
Bike: 32:30
T2: 2:40
Run: 22:59
Total: 1:13:37

Friday, September 11, 2015

Chicago... It's my kind of town!

On Sunday, mom and I will be hitting the road to Chicago. I couldn't be more thrilled to have the chance to race next week in one of my very favourite cities.  Chicago holds a special place in my heart because I had the opportunity to live there for two summers in university.  The second summer my bedroom window overlooked Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain, and the vast expanse of Lake Michigan.  On a warm summer night, I could look out and watch the fireworks over Navy Pier.  In early August, I could hear the headliners at Lollapalooza as clearly as if I was standing in the front row.  Chicago has a bit of magic to it. It has so many cool little neighbourhoods, full of culture, amazing food, and interesting people. I'm happy that I get to soak it all up next week and share the experience with my teammates and family.

It's been a long road, but I am so glad that I set this goal for myself.  As soon as I heard that Chicago was the host city for 2015 Worlds, I set myself on a mission to qualify for Team Canada, because I wanted to race there.  I'm thankful for the people that helped me to make that dream a reality.  It's so important to set goals, big and small, and I think it's also important to reflect on the journey at the end.  Well, we are so close to the end of this little journey.  I'm actually not sure what the next goal will be (it's a scary, but exciting feeling), but I have some business to finish next Thursday first!

I'll plan to update on the Facebook page, as well as my Instagram page while I'm in Chicago! There will also be a live finish cam on on Thursday. I'm expecting to finish sometime between 12:48 and 12:58 p.m. EST (depending on how things go.).

Before I sign off on this one, because I think it's okay to put your goals out there and own them...

My goal is to finish in the top 3 of my AG next Thursday. That would get me to Worlds in Cozumel next year (since I couldn't finish my race at the qualifier).

My #1 goal though is to have FUN and to SMILE and to soak the experience up as much as possible.

The specific goals (these may or may not be enough to reach my big goal though)

- A swim like Cornwall - 10:30
- A bike faster than last year in Chicago -  under 34:00
- A run where I tap into all the built up frustrations from my injury and leave it all on the course - 21:00
- Cool, calm and fast transitions
- RACE the whole thing

Chicago, here I come!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Training and Life Recap: Week of August 31

Down to the wire.  It's now only 8 days until I line up to start my race at Worlds.  At this point, I'm in the best place mentally that I've been all season.  I stopped worrying about things and just decided to keep moving forward in order to get myself to the start line healthy and happy.  That means I stopped worrying about trying to shed a few pounds (I gained 8 during my stress fracture) and started focusing on fueling my best to get me to Worlds.  That means I missed a workout because sleep seemed like a better idea. That means I tried  my hardest in the workouts that I did. That means I have been reflecting on how much I love triathlon.

Monday: A rest day!

Tuesday: I was in a rush and got lost on my way to do my brick, so I ended up cutting it a bit short. It was a warm night, and I got to enjoy a beautiful sunset!

Wednesday: I got to swim with Colin and Jenn in the morning.  ROCS practice was on hiatus between seasons, so it was up to me to do a workout on my own. After a solo warmup, I joined Jenn and Colin for their 100's.  In the evening, I had a very sweaty and hard tempo run.  It was 3x10 minutes with the first 10 at marathon pace, next 10 at tempo pace, and the final 10 building from tempo to 10k pace (5 minutes rest between efforts).  It was mentally and physically challenging.

Thursday: I skipped my morning ride, because as I mentioned above, sleep seemed more beneficial at the time.  In the evening, I was teaching barre classes, so it ended up being an extra rest day for me.

Friday: A late night, solo swim that started out delightfully (I was the only person in the pool).  It didn't end as well, but at least I went (it was 8 pm on a Friday night).

Saturday: Track brought another test for my leg.  I had 3x1k at 3k pace to complete and just like Wednesday's tempo workout, it was a challenge.  It went relatively well, though it certainly wasn't comfortable! I was thankful that Adrian decided to hop into my workout and just pace me through it.

Sunday: Jenn and I hit the River Pathway for an easy Sunday long ride.  We ended up at about 2:20. I took it mostly easy, though Jenn was able to convince me to put in about 15k of a steady effort, plus some big gear intervals.  The legs felt great and it was a beautiful morning to be out riding.