Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why am I doing this again?

When you sign up for a big challenge, something that is going to require a significant sacrifice of time and money and social life and involves a heck of a lot of hard work, it’s generally a good idea to have a solid understanding of why you’re doing it.

Since last August I’ve been trying to get a grasp on why, exactly, I decided for another go round at IMC.

Really, why would I want to do this again? Constant fatigue, constant hunger, ridiculously early mornings, saying no to pretty much every social event from May forward.

Further, over the past few years I’ve become disenchanted with so many things around the Ironman events: the international company that runs the series; bucket listers doing it for the “wrong” reasons; the ridiculous mythos surrounding the iron distance races; the idea that IM is the only “real” triathlon; etc… My list of what bugs me about Ironman goes on; I won’t bore you with the whole thing.

As I seem to have so many reasons not to, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what IS my reason for doing another IMC.

This past weekend I went to Penticton with a friend for a mini training camp to swim, bike and run on parts of the course. We biked the marathon course on Friday then rode the bike course (or an abbreviated version on my part) on Saturday, as well as doing a number of runs and a swim in Tuclenuit in Oliver.

Going over the hill at Skaha Lake Estates last Friday brought back how I high-fived and cheered on friends as they ran the other way, as they passed me or as I passed them. I told Valencia about cheering on Lisa Bentley, one of my triathlon heroes, as she ran to victory while I was starting my marathon. I pointed out the spots where my sister and mother were waiting to cheer me on. I remembered excitedly blathering on to Andrew about my day and where I thought everyone in the club was and even introduced him to my mother (probably all in one breath) as he ran beside me for 20m at the Skaha aid station at about mile 22 (I’m pretty sure nothing I said made any sense). I thought about the times where I was talking to other racers and where we were running side by side in silence

Riding over Richter, through the rollers and up Yellow Lake, however, was what truly reminded me of what a phenomenally amazing day IMC 2007 was. Moments where the crowds made me feel like a rock star or a Tour de France champion and moments where it was just the sound of my body moving through the water or my wheels turning or my feet hitting the pavement to keep me company.

It was truly one of the best days of my life, the culmination of a year of sweat and tears and panic attacks, a huge event shared with family and friends on the course with me or cheering from the sidelines or their computers.

So why am I going back?

I want to do it again because the :02 in my time of 13:00:02 has been bugging me for five years. I want to have a finish time that starts with 12, darn it! I want to do it again because having a big goal and people to share that goal with is phenomenal. I want to do it again because I love the training, I love the lifestyle, I love the camaraderie, and I love the support I got on course from volunteers, friends, family and total strangers. Most importantly, as I remembered last weekend, I want to do it again because Ironman Canada 2007 was FUN and I want to experience that again.

My Mum took a picture of me after I was finished in which I smile a 1,000 watt grin. I want to grin like this again on August 26 2012! [Picture to be added when I dig it up.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kelowna Apple - Quick and Dirty Race Recap

Last time I did the Apple in 2008 my overall time was 2:47:28, and it was a PR that I haven't beaten since.

In 2008 I was determined to set a new run PR and was so disappointed at failing to do that it took me a while to realize I'd set an overall PR (I've put a lot of work into the mental side of things over the last three years because of this meltdown).

This year I again went in with high expectations for my run and was again unimpressed with it, but it did at least turn out to be better than 2008. The bike was on par with what I've done in the past few years but apparently this is the year of the swim!

2011 splits:
Swim: 26:54 (2008 - 31:11, no wetsuit)
Bike: 1:19:26 (2008 - 1:18:56)
Run: 51:48 (2008 - 53:52)


Now I need to figure out how to get the same improvement for my bike and run.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Osoyoos Half - Pre Race & Swim

Three alarm clocks (iPod, phone and motel alarm clock) proved adequate to wake me up on race morning. I had debated setting a wake up call but forgot to see if it was possible. Luckily for me there wasn't a triple apple device/cellular/electrical failure, but in future perhaps I shouldn't push my luck.

I then proved that quick oats definitely cannot be cooked the same way as instant ones. It was difficult to decide whether stodgy or gluey was the more appropriate descriptive term for breakfast. Happily the coffee was excellent and, as a bonus, I didn't do a "Valencia" and dump it on anything.

After that the regular race morning ritual of going through the checklist one last time before packing my bag and heading out. 

Being in transition in the morning and knowing very few people felt odd. I'm used to having an LETC horde in any race I do, plus I now know lots of other Vancouver area racers. That didn't stop me from talking to everyone at my rack, of course, but it did still feel a bit lonely.  I eventually bumped into Andrew Graham on the beach, just in time for him to do up my wetsuit (thanks!) and shortly after my swim warm up I found Kristie. I stuck to her like badly cooked quick oats as I wanted to draft off her, or at least try, for the swim.

We watched the men head out then waited seven minutes for our turn. I started near the front and was jostled and bumped a fair bit, but having done a 1,500m battle swim time trial with Bronwyn, Clayton, Dr. Dave and Amanda in June it barely registered. The start put me in a good position to find a draft and I managed to swipe a good pair of toes from someone pretty quickly. 

Nearing the first turn buoy I decided I'd give the turns we'd been practicing with LETC a try. At the buoy I did one back stroke then back to free and ended up facing the correct direction with a nice pair of feet directly in front of me. Normally I lose my draft on the turns so this was quite exciting.  I executed the turn again at the next buoy and ended up hitting my draft amidship. Not only was I keeping up on the turns, I was gaining!
It was a two lap swim so after 900m we had to exit the water, run around a buoy on the sand then get back in. This turn I didn't execute so well.  I cursed as the women I'd been swimming with gained several yards on me on the beach. Happily I had also mastered the dolphin dive in training with the club and quickly got back with my pack.

Two more fast turns, several upgrades to faster feet and we were on our way back to the beach. The pace picked up and the group I was with got strung out into a long line, I was second back but as we got out of the water it looked like there were at least six or seven of us.

On the beach I checked my watch and was stunned at my time - 35:40. I'd just set a 2km PR of 36:42 at the VOWSA Canada Day swim and didn't expect to match it, must less beat it by a minute. I headed to T1 feeling pretty amazing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Osoyoos Pre-Race

I watched the Vancouver Subaru sprint and half iron the weekend before Osoyoos and came to the realization that a half iron was a ludicrously long distance for a race!

I've done enough halves (halfs?) that I know the distance and how long it will take me, but as I've only done sprints this year it seemed like a long, long time to be racing.

I felt terribly unprepared in general.  I don't know why as I've put in the time and distance but somehow it didn't feel like enough. That's probably a good thing as any race I've gone into cocky has inevitably turned out to be humbling.

Part of feeling unprepared is that I haven't been as focussed on my training as in past years.  Work has been extremely stressful for quite a while and I really haven't been able to plan anything much in my non-work life. Stress has also had other fun effects.  A bad day  at work after a bad night's sleep and a kinked back lead to the mother of all taper tantrums/meltdowns on the Thursday before the race. As an FYI, a large, open plan office isn't a great place to lose it, I suggest you plan your breakdowns for more private locales.

Happily, that seemed to clear my nerves. I was still concerned about my back but a massage appointment on Friday morning fixed the worst of the issue and I felt I could complete the race.

In being "planning challenged" I was very disorganized in my preparation for the half: I signed up a week and a half out from the race, I found a hotel the weekend before and arranged a car rental on the Wednesday prior.  So in packing on Friday before heading out I knew I would forget something. On Facebook I offered Okanagan cherries to the first person to figure out what I forgot.  There were 40 replies, the most popular item was a race belt, an item I have yet to forget but apparently a lot of my friends have. Happily no one thought I was clueless enough to leave my bike behind.

The definitive list of things I forgot:
- bento box (I could have survived without, must learn to be a better roadie!)
- earplugs
- helmet number. OK, not something I packed but I forgot to put it on my helmet and only figured it out 70km into the ride
- instant oatmeal. Quick oats are pretty sludgy when you just add boiling water rather than cook 'em for 5 minutes

I stopped in Chilliwack on Friday night and had a short visit with my dad. Saturday was a mellow day, on my way up I drove the bike course then registered, napped at my hotel and did my short pre-race workouts and the pre-race meeting. I didn't see Andrew Graham but did meet up with Kristie briefly.

Then it was back to the hotel where I ended the day calm and looking forward to racing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Iron Mountain Sprint Race Report

Another short triathlon, another small field and another podium finish. I could get used to that last part!

I had been warned the race might not be the best organized but was still surprised that it started half an hour late. My swim warm up went from reasonably long to way, way too long - I was in the water for 55 minutes before the race started. That was plenty of time to get chilled and lose all benefit of my warm up run. I guess I'm not used to doing the "second fiddle" races, like sprints seem to be.

It was a beach start but with only about 70 racers and a wide starting area it wasn't too crazy. From some reason everyone seemed to swim way off to the right. After the initial 100m the swimmers around me all swerved to the right and to get a draft I would have had to swim about 10m off course to get a pair of toes.

I opted to keep my line and try to get a draft at the first turn. Unfortunately the swimmers at my pace took the turn wide, I didn't get jostled but I also didn't get close enough to draft. Same thing at the next turn. Very odd. I spent the return leg just out of draft range from a pack of about 10, never managing to catch up.

Swim time: 15:39

I lost a bit of time in T1 cleaning off my sunglasses, it had been raining all morning and they were too fogged up to see through. The guy next to me on the rack took the time to towel off! Did I mention it was raining?

I spent most of the bike passing people, which was good for my ego. There were lots of beginners, so a lot of yelling "On your left!" so they'd move over. It was pretty spread out though, not s terribly crowded course.

One of my bike goals was to be passed as late in the ride as possible by Natasha. I'm a faster swimmer than her (for the moment!) but she's a very strong cyclist so I knew she was coming. She caught me 2/3s of the way through the third lap, so I was happy with that. I kept her in sight the rest of the ride.

Bike time: 48:20

A bit of a rookie move at the dismount, I got off my bike a too soon and had an extra ten seconds of running.

Quick change to run gear, to the cheers of LETC folk who'd done the Olympic earlier in the day.

I could still see Natasha in front of me but knew from her pace it was unlikely I'd pass. Not that I didn't try!

On the second loop Stephanie, who had her schwag from winning the oly women's race, told me I was probably the 4th woman. This gave me an extra push and as I passed a two women I had the urge to ask which lap they were on. Sadly they were on their first and I never caught Natasha so I finished 4th overall. Also, because the race had ten year age groups, Natasha was in my AG and took first.

Run time : 22:04 (4.6 km course)

Overall time: 1:28:41