Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Race Report: Early Bird Sprint Triathlon

My first race of the year went off without a hitch, though I was fully prepared to not even race.  Why? Well, a little clumsiness had led me to sustain a concussion a week from race day, which lead to a week of little to no training and a few half-days at work to give my brain a break from the glare of a computer screen and the severe headaches that resulted.  I rested a lot, tried my hardest to actually sleep (something that seems to still be evading me), and crossed my fingers for the clear to race on Saturday.

Friday afternoon, I was feeling well enough to go pick up our race kits at Carleton.  It is so nice to race so close to home!  After grabbing my kit, I went for a quick shake out swim, since I hadn't been in the water in over a week.  Then I realized I forgot to get Jenn's kit, so I ran back to the transition area for my "run activation" and caught the end of Geordie's pre-race orientation. I got to chat with quite a few OTC friends, including Stephanie, who would be completing her first triathlon!

Before I get into my report, I just want to say a few words about why I decided to race on Saturday.  I was not taking it lightly that I had sustained a concussion and had been really trying to take care of myself all week.  Concussions are very serious and I am really lucky that mine seems to have been a minor one.  The concussion was obviously on my mind, but so was the desire to race and benchmark my fitness. Training this winter/spring has not been ideal and at times, I have really lacked motivation and inspiration.  There have been times when I have forgotten how magical triathlon really is and so I knew that I NEEDED to race.  I've said it many, many times, but the very best part of triathlon is the people and I knew that the Early Bird would be a huge reminder of that.  Not only would I see tons of familiar faces out on the course, but I would also get to witness a ton of people experience the magic of triathlon for the first time ever, and I did not want to miss out on the experience.  I knew going into Saturday that there was the possibility that I might have to pull out of the race, but I did that a lot last season with my stress fracture, so I was fine with it. I also knew that I would be so sad if I didn't line up at the start with my friends and fellow athletes.  Plus happy chemicals are helpful for recovery, and there would be plenty of those emitted during the race! In the end, I am so glad that I got to race.  It was a blast and a pretty good confidence booster at this point in the season.

Race Morning:

Jenn and I got up at 5:30ish. I had overnight oats with berries, almond butter, and nuts, which has been my breakfast for a few races now and seems to work for me.  I skipped the coffee for this race, given that caffeine isn't great for concussions.

We packed up the car and arrived at Carleton by 7.  The race site was already getting crowded, but Jenn and I found decent spots in transition to set up our bikes.  We got body marked and then jogged over to the pool.  Because of the long T1, we left our shoes outside the pool exit along with the other participants.  There was plenty of time to say hello to friends and take a quick splash in the diving well to warm-up.  I had a snack in the back pocket of my jersey that I forgot about until I jumped into the warm-up area, oops!


Somewhat intimidatingly, I lined up 3rd based on my Early Bird time from two years ago. And the nerves officially kicked into high gear!

It was not my strongest swim performance, but that was to be expected given my lack of swimming this winter/spring. It will definitely serve as a kick in the butt to get back to the pool!  The swim was fairly uneventful, except for being passed by a very young kid (who started at least 2 people behind me).  The end of the 500m could not come soon enough, and I very, very cautiously walked out to find my shoes. (There was no way I was chancing a fall on the stairs!!)

T1:  After exiting the pool area, I found my shoes, but then struggled to get them on my soaking wet feet.  The run to the T-Zone felt strong, but it also felt so long (nearly 500m).  Once at my bike, I took my time getting my helmet, glasses, and shoes on before running to the bike exit.  I decided not to try a flying mount, since I was riding my new bike for only the second time ever!


Wow! I LOVE my new bike.  The bike has felt like the strongest part of my training this season, so far, and it felt like that work paid off at the Early Bird.  I didn't look at my watch, but once, and rode based on perceived exertion.  I paid special attention to how my head was feeling and tried my best to keep a steady effort all throughout the course.  Just after the turnaround at Clegg, a man passed me, then slooooowed down. I wasn't pleased, so I passed him again on the hill by the locks and tried my best to keep him behind me until the finish.  There were admittedly a few times during the bike where I suffered a bit, but all in all, it was a fun ride.  My new bike is a dream, though I think I'll have to continue to adjust the fit.  In the end, it was probably my fastest bike split ever, so I'm extremely happy with the result.

T2:  A fairly quick, though again cautious T2 given the mistakes I have made in transition in the past.

All business coming down the chute!


A week or so before the race, I did a practice run on the grass up the hill that appears during the first kilometer of the run... so I knew what to expect.  My plan was to keep things steady, pay attention to how my head felt, and just do my best to hold it together.  I expected a pretty slow (for me) run based on my complete lack of speed training.  However, I was happy to glance down and see a 7:30/mile pace at one point.  On the run, I did what I always do to keep the motivation high - I cheered for almost everyone that I came across.  It is always nice to have names on the bib, and hopefully my words of encouragement helped the people that I saw as much as they helped me!  About 2ish kilometers into the run, I was finally passed by a very speedy young lady.  She was flying, so I knew that I just had to hold on for second place (and hope that the staggered start meant there wasn't someone else behind me that was faster).  The downhill into the finish was awesome and I was very happy to be finishing the race!

Oh right... I'm supposed to smile for the camera!

As expected, race day was a ton of fun! In the end, I am really happy that I decided to race.  I was able to complete the race with no headache (pre-, during, or post-).  It was a huge boost in confidence at where my training is and a good indicator of where I need to go next.

Thank you so much to the amazing crew at Somersault Events, the volunteers, Geordie and the Ottawa Triathlon Club family, and all the awesome people who found themselves out on the course last Saturday.  Thank you as well to Coeur Sports for keeping me looking very stylish and comfortable in my team kit! And thanks to Ottawa Fit and Mopify for the fantastic race photos!


Swim (500m): 8:25.7
T1: 4:24
Bike (22k): 36:57.9
Run (5k plus T2): 22:30.5

Final Time: 1:12:17 (2nd OA Female, 1st AG, 11th OA)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Training and Life Update: Week of May 9

Another week of training in the books, and look, another post! The pieces are sort of starting to fall together.  It was another week of consistency and fun, and that is what will get me to race season in good form.   However, we are approaching race season VERY quickly, as the first race that I'm signed up for is the Early Bird, this coming Saturday! Yikes!

Monday: Run commute - 6.8k. An unplanned rest day (minus my commute of course).

Tuesday: Swim - 2500m, Run commute - 6.8k. A long course swim in the "fast lane" was a lot tougher than I had hoped it would be, but I sort of survived.

Photo Credit: Kirsten

Photo credit: Kirsten

Wednesday: Morning run commute, Evening Brick.  The OTC group met out at the parkway for some intervals and a brick run.  I got to ride my new Argon 18, but it was giving me some issues, so I missed part of the ride so that Dave could help me fix the shifter (thank you!). The run with the group felt pretty good, though my legs will need some getting used to the new TT position!

Photo Credit: Kirsten (Prettiest sunsets along the river here!!)

Thursday: Run - 8.7k.  I extended my run home again for another long-ish loop.  It felt awful.  I don't really understand my body or heart rate training it seems, given that the pace that I held was significantly slower, at the same heart rate, as my run on Wednesday night.

Friday: Swim - 2500m.  I postponed my swim again to Friday this week, since I was exhausted on Thursday morning. Our main set went 2x50, 100 + 50, 2x50, 200+50, 2x50, 300+50.  It was on whatever pace we felt like holding. I aimed for 1500 pace for the set.

Saturday:  Bike - 90k. We had an awesome group ride out to Alice's Cafe with great friends.  It was perfect weather to start out and nice of the boys to let us draft off of them a bit.  Unfortunately after a long stop for snacks at Alice's, the weather was not so kind on the return to town.  The last 6-7k were in the pouring, freezing rain.  It felt like I had a gallon of water in each shoe and I even had to wring my socks out when we got back to the car. Wild! All in all though, it was a great ride and a nice send-off for Colin as he departs for his new adventures in the wild west! (I wore my new Coeur Sports cycling shorts on this ride and they were MAGICAL. So comfy!!)

A little bit muddy and wet after that ride!
Sunday:  Skills and drills at the Bytown Storm Drafting Clinic.  It was nice to see lots of familiar faces on a very chilly Sunday morning.  We practiced a lot of drills for balance, cornering, contact in groups, and drafting / pacing.  While I don't actually have a draft legal race on my schedule, I am always up for learning better bike handling skills!  Thanks to John and Adam for leading the clinic. (Sorry I left early due to frozen fingers and toes.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Training and Life Update: Week of May 2

For May, I am going to get back into posting about my training.  I'm hoping that this consistency in posting will also help me with my consistency in training.  It's definitely easier to hold myself accountable if I imagine that someone out there reads this blog!

Last week was actually an amazing week of training. It was tough and it was at times frustrating, but I'm pretty proud of myself for getting in pretty much all of the workouts that I had planned for myself.  This self-coaching business is taking a lot of getting used to and I definitely had many periods over the last week of doubt and worry about my fitness level and about whether I will be "ready" to race in a few weeks.  But consistent workouts and following the plan are helping to boost my confidence.  Add in a few workouts with some good friends and the fun factor was covered off as well!

Monday: Run - 8k. I tricked myself into a longer run by purposely heading in the opposite direction of my house after work (I'm still run commuting for now, though revisiting whether I will continue much longer).  Normally, I pass by our house about 3.5k in if I head toward home, and it can be very tempting to just go into the house.  So, I ran over to the Quebec side of the river first, which forced me to extend the run by quite a bit.  The run was not great - heart rate way too high, some gastro discomfort, etc.  But I did it!  And then I got to go pick up my bike from FedEx.

Tuesday: Swim - 2200m.  I made it back to ROCS!  This was a big win for the week.  Now, mind you, I actually cried on deck when I realized that it was long course.  It was never long course on Tuesdays last year.  But I forced myself to get into the pool, and it wasn't so bad. (Swim demons obviously still linger.)

Coach Dave and I after the HPS ride!

Wednesday: Bike - 1:00ish.  We had our first outdoor ride of the season with the HPS group.  It was a lot of fun and a good challenge.  My bike fitness may be the bright spot in my training at the moment, but it is always a humbling experience to bike with this group. I'm telling myself that it's good for me to be at the back of the pack, because I have one of the first aid kits this year. Jenn and I missed the brick run, because she was being a Good Samaritan and helping out a guy who had blown both of his tires.

Thursday:  I turned my Thursday into my rest day, as I wasn't feeling a 6 am (long course again) swim. Plus in the evening, I had to be home to meet Adam from Velofix Ottawa for my new bike!

Friday:  Swim -  2650m completed. I pulled myself out of bed for my morning swim with ROCS and was glad that I did.  While I am definitely far off the times that I need to be hitting, they seemed a little bit closer at this workout.

Saturday: Trail run - 8k.  Jenn and I took to the Wolf Trail for a "hard effort" run.  We had contemplated signing up for a local 10k trail race, but in the end decided to do it on our own. Man, trail running is hard.  Running hard is also hard. My body was in utter shock after the lack of hard effort training lately.  I also ate it and ended up with a bruised and bloody left knee after a fall (on a flat section, of course). The second half of the trail slowed us down quite a bit, as it was steeper, muddier, and rockier on the descent.  We finished off with a little dip (toes only for me) in Meech Lake, which is definitely not warm enough yet for swimming! It was like an ice bath, though it felt amazing after a hard run in (finally) warm temperatures.

I need a pedicure... frozen toes in Meech Lake post-trail run!

Sunday: Bike - 64k.  Jenn, Dave and I braved some crazy wind on our ride out to Carp.  At times it felt like we might be blown sideways off our bikes, and then at other times it felt like we weren't actually moving forward.  We stopped for a nice snack at Alice's Cafe (a great reward for the windy ride), then turned around to head home.  It was mostly smooth sailing on the way back and we completed the distance in about half the time!  Always nice to have good company when the riding is tough!

A few things that resonated with me this week: 

On resilience: "Emotion into Execution: My Path to Resilience" by Loren Rowney

On running: "Why I Run" by Nick Triolo

On owning your strengths: "Stop Using Qualifiers" by Carrie Cheadle

Friday, May 6, 2016

Gratuitous Bike Post

My new Argon 18 E-117 Tri+ arrived and Adam from Velofix Ottawa put her together for me!  I just need to get a bit of a fit done (so much adjustability to this bike) and she will be ready to ride! (And then we will give her a name.)

Thursday, May 5, 2016


It's been a few weeks now since my coach let us know that he would not be able to continue coaching his athletes for this season due to some unforeseen health issues.  My roommates and I (all under the same coach) spent about a week trying to figure out what our approach should be to the season - get a new coach, coach ourselves, find someone to consult on our plan, etc.  I think we have sort of settled on coaching ourselves, which I think will be a fun adventure.  The group is very talented, with diverse athletic backgrounds. We have last year's plan to work off of, though in my case, I had a different coach last year, so I'm modeling my plan on a modified version of what they did last year.  We may still find someone to consult periodically, e.g., in advance of races or more generally, but for now, we are on our own.

Here are a few thoughts that I've had over the last few weeks:

- I had been following a plan based on the principles of Phil Maffetone.  Unfortunately, I hadn't progressed that far past the initial phase of training at my MAF heart rate. This means that I will have to figure out how and when to bring back the speed into my training.

- There are a ton of great coaches in Ottawa (and beyond)!  Every coach has their own style and focus though, and it's tough to navigate who might be a good fit.

- Though there are many great coaches out there, it just didn't feel right to get a new coach.  The coach-athlete relationship is a very important one and one that takes time to develop.  In mid-April, it just felt too close to the start of the season to find a new coach.

- Even before losing my coach, I had been feeling a bit different about this season.  I wouldn't call it unmotivated, but it was close to something like that.  The solution for me has been to focus on the "fun" and on training with friends.  Not that having a coach takes the fun out of training, but it certainly makes it harder to train with friends and it makes everything seem a bit more "serious."

- I love to learn about triathlon.  Coaching myself will give me an opportunity to learn a lot and to experiment with what works for me.

- Accountability has always been one of the main reasons that I liked having a coach. However, I'm going to take this opportunity to work on my personal accountability and my own motivation to train and race.

So, there you have it. Along with my tri-sisters, I am coaching myself (with their help of course, because they have tons of expertise and experience to bring to bear).  I don't know if this is a permanent move, though I am excited to just see how it goes. It will require me to be accountable to my plan, honest about how my body and mind are feeling, and open to learning new things along the way!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Training Update: April?!

My goal is to get back to posting regularly about my training; however, that would require me to train regularly. April was a fairly inconsistent month, and believe me I am full of excuses why - vacation to Colombia, birthday celebrations, dropped by my coach, uncertainty over what to do with no coach, etc.  But excuses won't cut it on race day. So, I'll just own the fact that I was pretty lazy in April. 

My approach to this season has so far been a bit incongruous to my goals, but I'm hoping to flip the page here in May and really buckle down to focus on my upcoming races -- especially since there are only 3 weeks until my first race!  However, my approach has been to focus on work and my relationships first, with triathlon not taking a backseat, but just taking a supporting role.  Triathlon this season is about fun first and foremost.  Those goals that I set are important to me, but they come after fun!  

So here is my April update.  As much as my training was inconsistent, it was a lot of fun! Quite a bit of training was done with friends, and that definitely helps with the fun and motivation factor.

Swim:  My swimming was a bit hit and miss, but mostly miss. I did make it to the pool a few times on my own, and got my butt kicked one day by Kim.  I also got to help out some OTC members at the Swim Clinic, which is always a lot of fun!

Bike: I finally got to ride my bike outside!! I would say the bike was the strongest part of my training in April.  Kirsten, Dale and I made the season-first visit to Alice's one Sunday.  I rode some intervals on the Parkway.  And I got out for an awesome ride on a beautiful day with some of my favourite people in the Gatineau Park last weekend to finish the month off strong. 

Run: I continued to run commute in April, rain, snow or shine! We also had a few fun group runs, including some fun downhill repeats and a run to help shake off my birthday party hangover (yikes!).  Last week, Jenn and I completed a run test (increasing heart rate each mile).  It was the first hard run that I have done in a long time, and unfortunately it shows that I still have a lot of work to do! Time to step things up a notch. 

Came home from Colombia to a ton of snow!
Other: I hit the driving range to celebrate the last day of April and the beautiful weather we had last Saturday.  It was definitely a surprise to see how well I was hitting the ball, and it has inspired me to try to golf a bit more this summer.