Monday, July 25, 2016

Race Report: Canadian Standard National Championships (Ottawa Triathlon)

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


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.


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!


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

Friday, July 15, 2016

Training Update

Oh hello, friends!  I've been pretty quiet, but I've been putting in (some) work at least to prep for my next big race (one of two "A" races of the season), which is rapidly approaching next Saturday!!  I'm a bit nervous for this one and I had a bit of an "uh oh" moment this week when I realized that I have no clue what my race plan is for next week.  The last time I completed an Olympic distance race was September 2014.  Last year at Nationals, I was just coming off my stress fracture, so I didn't run, which meant I didn't have to worry about nutrition or pacing the bike.  Soooo I'm a bit stressed out at the moment.  The summer seems to have flown by and I just can't actually believe that it is already time for Nationals.  You'll find me scrambling to get my act together this weekend so I am ready to race.

Finishing a hot, humid run in the hammock...

 On to the update: 

Swim: I've been in the pool only a few times since Tremblant, with an open water swim thrown in for good measure.  For some reason, it has just been especially hard to motivate myself to swim this season.  In general, I'd say that I'm lacking motivation this year, but it has been nice to have a more relaxed approach to training.  It means that I can't focus on results, because I frankly haven't put in the work.  But I think that I'm okay with that right now.

Rainy ride in the country

Trans Canada Trail!

Bike: I've missed a few long rides lately, so will be playing catch up the next few weeks as Timberman approaches (geez, time is flying!!). I did have a lovely 60k ride recently from Almonte to Ottawa. It was about 50% dirt / crushed gravel road, which was quite an experience and it poured for about 45 minutes at the start of my ride, but it was so peaceful to be out in the country and it was so cool to ride on the Trans Canada Trail.  Last weekend, Jenn and I completed a very wet swim-bike brick at race intensity (it would have been a mini-tri, but a crazy storm rolled in as we finished our bike ride, preventing us from doing the run).  It was good to push a little bit!

Long runs in the heat of the day

Run:  It has been hot and humid lately.  Like we are living in the jungle or something.  I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of crazy heat at Timberman (especially after watching friends race at Tremblant in the 30+/super humid weather) by going out for my runs at ridiculously hot points in the day. I started to carry water with me again after one run where I was so thirsty that I stopped at every single water fountain I could find.  Time to log some more miles!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Race Report: Mont Tremblant Sprint

Second race of the season.  Second attempt at the Tremblant Sprint.  Second place finish!

Two is a good number for me this season.  Now, I'd obviously prefer #1, but #2 means that I have lots of lessons learned from this race.


On Thursday night, I had quite an adventure with Dave trying to get Pistol Annie set-up for the race.  The aerobars had been put on too close together, and they are quite difficult to adjust on my Argon 18 E-117 Tri+.  After about 4 hours and 3 shifter cables later, she was ready and I was feeling badly for wasting Dave's evening when he should have been packing for his own race in Tremblant.  Very thankful to have good friends who are generous with their time and knowledge!

On Friday, Adam, Jes and I drove to Tremblant.  We had a detour for our Costco run, since it was a holiday on the Quebec side of the river, but eventually we made it to our AirBnB.  We quickly unpacked the car, then drove down to the village for packet pick-up and a little pre-race activation for me. It is always so exciting to be in the village on race weekend.  Ironman and the village of Mont-Tremblant bring out all the bells and whistles for the weekend. It is amazing how supportive the community is of the races!

We went back to our cottage to relax and make dinner - salmon, chicken, roasted veggies, and salad.  While we waited for Jenn and Gilly to arrive, I organized my race gear, painted my nails, made my breakfast of overnight oats, and foam rolled.  We also enjoyed watching USA Gymnastics Nationals and on Saturday USA men's gymnastics Olympic Trials (so incredible and inspiring)!  I got in bed around 10:30, a little later than I'd hoped, but good enough.

The alarm went off at 4:15 and before I knew it, I was back in the village setting up my transition area among the sea of athletes competing in the sprint and 5150.  A short walk to the swim start, a long time getting my Roka Maverick on, and a little warm-up were all that stood between me and my second race of the season. 


The swim was pretty uneventful.  I positioned myself near the far right edge of the beach, hoping to get a good line to the buoys.  There were two girls slightly in front of me, but I knew that I had a good shot of slipping between them and getting out front.  After a few big bounds into the water, it was time to swim and put the pedal to the metal to take a lead.  I swam pretty hard for the first 150m, then settled in a little too much to a pace that was probably not hard enough. It didn't feel like I was moving particularly fast, but that is definitely an indication of my current swim fitness.  Unlike the previous year, I had no problems swimming through the wave ahead of me and there was little to no contact with any other swimmers.  Turning toward the exit, I had to de-fog my Roka goggles, because the sun was so bright that I could no longer see the buoys.  It felt like the beach would never come, but then I was suddenly out of the water and running the long path to transition.  It was awesome to have the support of the crowds lining the path and of course to have my own personal cheering squad - Jenn, Gilly, Adam, and Jes!

T1:  Moral of the weekend -- I need to work on my transitions.  This one was especially slow as I had a hard time getting my helmet on over my braid.  I lost a lot of time struggling with it, but was finally on my way.  With my new bike, I hadn't had time to practice flying mounts enough to be comfortable trying one in race.  So I ran with my bike shoes on and actually felt like that part was pretty fast (and no trouble clipping in at the line).


Oh, Duplessis. How I loathe thee... The main reason for signing up for the sprint again this year was to avoid having to ride Duplessis twice in the Olympic.  It's 10k uphill.  The hills are relentless with changes in pitch and a pretty significant gain in elevation.  On one of the hills, I met Will as I was trying to pass him and not get caught drafting (geez that is hard on a hilly course!).  Will told me that I was the first woman and to pick it up.  I tried, I swear!  But around the 8k mark, Stephanie passed me.  This is where I learned the lesson that I need to start "racing" my races.  When I saw her, I really tried to pick my pace up a little bit, but it was hard to do that and climb at the same time.  Anyways, leaving those excuses behind is what will get me to the next level.  Racing is supposed to be hard right!  In the end, I was super happy with my bike, because it was nearly 6 minutes faster than last year!! Woot!! Oh yea, I LOVE my new bike. Pistol Annie is a dream to ride. Thank you Dave for spending so much time helping me to get her ready on Thursday night!

T2:  Not much to report except that perhaps my race laces are too tight on my New Balance Vazee Pace shoes.  A bit of a struggle to get them on properly, but I got on my way quickly and I didn't forget anything important, like my bib or my watch... 


Holy hills! There are 7 hills in 5k on this run - 3 on the way out, 3 on the way back, plus an extra hill for good measure up into the village.  Over the past while, I've been practicing my downhill running, so I felt pretty good attacking these hills and taking advantage of the free speed on the way down.  I knew I had one girl ahead of me, so tried to just go for it on the run.  At the turnaround, I also saw the girl in third close on my heels, so I knew I had to really pick it up on the way back to the finish.  However, I felt like I could have put the jets on a little bit more and actually "race" this one.  That is something to work on for the future.  It was so nice to have lots of friends cheering out on the course and those cheers and the great volunteers helped me to the finish!  The finish line at Tremblant is pretty awesome and makes you feel a bit like a rock star coming down the chute with the announcer calling your name and the flashing strobe lights and music blasting.  Canadian multi-Ironman Champion Lisa Bentley presented me with a finisher's towel and medal after I crossed the line.

Heart and Courage all the way!


After the race, I was exhausted.  Sprints may be short, but they sure are hard! It was a really fun race and I was so happy to have been able to finish.  I'll take some lessons ahead to Nationals on July 23 - particularly the need to dig deep and actually "race." I admit that I'm a bit disappointed that I only finished 45s back from 1st, largely due to my transitions, so that will be another area to work on over the next few weeks.

Overall Female Podium

Women 30-34 Podium
In the end, I had a great weekend at Tremblant and I'm happy with the result.  Thank you to my sherpas for the day, my training partners, friends, and Team Coeur Sports.  Photos are a mixture of official race photos (Finisherpix), race photographers, and our own. Thank you to all for your beautiful photos!

The crew on Sunday for Jenn and Gilly's 70.3!