Sunday, December 30, 2007

Who's to Blame??

This morning I was reading blogs and forums (rather than getting my butt out the door and training) and I read a very moving post on the Slowtwitch Forum.

So who got me into triathlon? Possibly my roommate (very indirectly), probably my run coach (much more directly), could be Simon Whitfield, or maybe even my sister.

I'll tackle this chronologically.

I'm an Olympics junky, I would happily take two weeks off work and watch the Olympic coverage all day. I watched the CBC coverage of Simon Whitfield winning the first ever Olympic triathlon at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and was swept up in the excitement of it all. Of course I was swept away by every sport that was covered (with the exception ice dance, I get wound up by all the Olympic sports, even curling). It never occured to me at the time that I could actually do this sport, just that it was cool.

Skip forward a few years to the fall of 2003. My roommate had some friends in from out of town and the basement suite suddenly felt incredibly small and I needed to get out. I walked to Kits Community Centre and looked through one of the calendars for the 2004 programs and thought about signing up for something. Pottery didn't look that interesting, dancing held no interest for me, running looked sort of interesting though. I had no desire to run a marathon or even a 10km race but I was getting bored of ultimate after more than a decade of playing and was looking for something else to keep me in shape so this sounded like the ticket.
The run group coach, Andrew, is big on getting people to have goals to train for so I somehow ended up deciding to run the Vancouver half marathon in May. I still have no idea how or or when this became something I wanted to do, obviously it was Andrew's voodoo mind tricks!
The run actually turned out to be a lot of fun. I missed my time goal by a minute but three of my very good friends came to cheer me on which more than made up for it. Having missed my time goal meant I really had to sign up for another half and I succeeded in breaking two hours at the Fall Classic in November. I was definnitely hooked on this running business!


My sister moved to Penticton (I can't remember exactly when) and as we're very close friends I visit her fairly frequently. In the summer of 2004 I was there in late August, right at the same time as Ironman. I had very little idea what the race was all about but am big on spectacle so I borrowed my brother-in-law's bike and rode down to see the swim. I just missed the swim start, so I stuck around to watch the athletes exit the water and was thrilled to hear the announcer say the name of some I recognized - Andrew Tuovenin, my run coach. Now that I had someone to cheer for watching the race became way more interesting.

My sister lives just off the race course so I'd take a break from playing with my nephew to cheer on Andrew as he headed out along South Main on the bike course and then back in along Skaha Lake Road. I caught him as he was heading out on the run then I had to head back home to Vancouver.

The whole Ironman thing struck me as very cool (no way I could ever do it!) and got me thinking about triathlon so when, at the end of the fall 2004 running session, I overheard Andrew saying he was starting a tri club I was very interested. I emailed him and asked if the fact that I was a slow biker and swam like a rock would make me a bad candidate for this tri club business. He said I'd fit in no problem and the rest is history.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Home again, home again jigety jig!

There's been a fair bit of travel over the past week, all worthwhile but I'll be happy not to do any road trips in the near future!

I bussed out to Chilliwack, drove from there to Penticton with my parents and then did the reverse six days later. Greyhound was chaos, bad in Vancouver and absolutely nuts in Chilliwack, so the busing wasn't so fun. I guess it isn't really the holidays unless you have some crazy travel stories.

A great time was had by all: my nephews were so much fun and were very good at letting their aunt play with their toys, my parents were in heaven hanging out the grandkids, and my sister and I had a great time despite the fact that we didn't managed to break the cribbage tie (one win each this visit). I kept my Boggle crown despite grossly unsportsmanlike conduct from the other competitors, it was good thing the boys weren't around to see!

It was interesting being back in Penticton. When we drove through Keremeos I realized that this was my first time on the IMC course since I did the race. I found it quite emotional and was surprised by this. On boxing Day I went for a run along South Main - again it was a very odd feeling, everything was obviously very different (less people, more snow) but I felt I could hear echos of race day. The biggest mental wallop came when we were heading out and I could see the slash of Highway 97 alongside Skaha lake and I remembered what it felt like riding down it and knowing I was so close to the end of the bike course. I know that having just said goodbye to my sister and the boys left me susceptible but again this was unexpected.


On a training note, I managed to get in two good runs of just under an hour each. I'm finally feeling good running for the first time since I came down with the flu. I'm pretty far behind as far as fitness is concerned but Alan promised he'd go easy on me for January (probably means I should be very, very afraid come February!) so I don't feel the need to cram in training sessions to prep for the season starting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Power Of Belief

I've been following a number of Elite/Pro triathletes' blogs for some time (much easier now that I'm using Google Reader). I think it's very cool that they share their insights into training, racing and life in general. Often it's a peek into an entirely different world but sometimes they iterate my feelings precisely. Colin Jenkins came pretty darned close with his post on the power of belief, nicely describing why it's important to have a great coach (or coaches) you trust and great people to train with.

I found Leading Edge largely by fluke (another story for another day) and am incredibly lucky to have access to two skilled and experienced coaches, fantastic one-on-one coaching, and an incredible group of enthusiastic clubmates.*

I'm looking forward to getting back to training in '08!

* We might be less than enthusiastic if Alan or Andrew ever tried to get us to do the N+1 drill Colin mentions!

Monday, December 17, 2007

12 Days of Christmas

In the spirit of the season (with some humour added):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Fe11OlMiz8

Frustration

Overall it was great weekend - trip to Chilliwack to visit the parents, X-country skiing in Manning Park, Gisels' house party, watching a classic movie from the '90's, hanging out with a good friend, sleeping in ... Pretty good by most standards, so I really shouldn't let 50 minutes get me down.

I decided to go for a run on Sunday, it was raining and windy and cold but I needed to get out of the house so I bundled up, got some good tunes lined up on the iPod and headed outside for an hour run. After about 20 minutes I wasn't feeling so hot so I downgraded from aiming for an hour to 55 minutes (woohoo, a whole five minutes off!). After 30 minutes things weren't getting any better, despite my attempts to go at a slow easy pace my heart rate was over 180. This is the point where an intelligent athlete would realize today was not the day for them to run and go home. I have never claimed to be intelligent nor am I comfortable calling myself an athlete so this was not an issue.

It is incredibly frustrating to know that a few months ago I could run for several hours but now I'm struggling to get close to an hour. Yes, I know that I'm still fighting the after-effects of the flu and I've been away from running regularly for a while and I should be running within my current abilities, not where I think I should be but, but, but ... I can't even run for an hour! I should be able to do an hour easily darn it! In fact, I'm signed up for the First Half half marathon in February so I have to be able to run for longer otherwise I'll tank in the race.

With this mindset in place, despite the fact that at 45 minutes I was pretty much done in, I kept running and rounded off at an even, if completely unsatisfying, 50 minutes. Then I hit the couch and felt terrible for the rest of the day. Definitely not the smartest bit of training I've done this year.

This week I will get in a couple of runs but I will really, really try to go easy and will be willing to pull the plug if it doesn't go well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Benchmark Day

Today was the last day of the fall swim session and I was looking forward to Fun Day. Usually the last class of the session is a good hard workout but with lots of goofy stuff and a lot of fun, which is why it's called "Fun Day". Turns out that as Paul missed Monday's class the benchmark session got bumped to today.

I was choked that I missed the previous benchmark class (I slept in) so I guess it was a good to get to at least one of the benchmark sessions. However, as I'm still kicking the dregs of the flu I'm not feeling anywhere close to full speed and as I've put in so much time in the pool this fall I really wanted to have a good solid speed session to see if I've improved.

After a shaky warm up, the swim session didn't go too badly. I did sound bad enough that Paul suggested I do the second set of 100's with a pull buoy so as not to stress my lungs too much. (Hearing me cough after my first 100m set he commented "I don't want to have to use that shiny new spine board on you," pointing to the first aid stuff on the wall.)

I did the first two 100's in the second set with a pull buoy then the last without as I wanted to go all out at least once. I had a decent last hundred but seriously felt like I was going to pass out. No spectacular times but considering the state of my lungs I'm pretty happy with the session.

25m Fly: 28:9

3 x 100m Free (on 60s rest):
1 - 1:50
2 - 1:48
3 - 1:45

50m kickboard - 1:14

3 x 100m Free (on 90s rest)
1 - 1:49*
2 - 1:49*
3 - 1:43

25m Free all out - 21.0

* with pull buoy

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I forgot about the Flu

I forgot about the flu. Okay, not that the flu exists, I know that. I know it makes you miserable for a week and everyone avoids because you look and sound awful, I remembered that. I even know a bit about the great flu epidemic of 1918. In fact I've had the flu a lot in my life, one of the joys of being an unfit asthmatic couch potato as a child, so I'm pretty familiar with the whole experience.

What I forgot about was the after-flu. You know, the week or two after the flu where, despite having kicked the virus, you still feel like horrible, like you've just been run over by a road train. You're tired, still a little sniffly and generally cantankerous.

The reason I forgot about the after-flu is that I haven't had to deal with it for a while. The last three years I've had a flu shot. I still got the flu, but it wasn't as bad, didn't last as long, and there was no after-flu. This year I didn't quite get around to getting a shot, next week always seemed like a convenient time. And then I got the flu last week, so now I have the after flu, and I'm really not enjoying it.

I'll be getting that flu shot. This week.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Things to do in the off season

Things I've been up to in the past months:

  • Sleeping in (anything past 7am counts)
  • Spending time with friends of the triathlon and non-triathlon variety
  • Heading out to the 'Wack to see my parents
  • Setting unrealistic goals in the ST Swim Challenge
  • Catching up on my reading
  • Discovering new authors (thanks Jason!)
  • Planning my apartment repainting
  • Procrastinating about painting
  • Snowshoeing!
  • Running the Fall Classic 10km (52.48.8, 41 out of 172 F3039, 117 out of 570 women)
  • Getting sick but not getting stressed about it
  • Trying to be girly (next time I won't wear a dress the same colour as the photographer's backdrop!)
  • Going to parties, and staying past 9:30pm
  • Finding more cool Google programs
  • Generally relaxing, recharging and taking it easy

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Swim Challenge

So this is technically the "off" season, in which one supposedly takes time "off" from training to mentally, physically and socially recover. Some crazy folk don't seem to do much downtime, if the majority of triathletes are like the posters on the Slowtwitch forum then the average triathlete spends their off season trying to get stronger, faster, skinnier, and fitter. I'm not sure how this differs from their on-season, or how this counts as taking time "off" but they seem to think it works.

Yes, I may mock them but I am also quick to join them.

Some Slowtwitchers started a swim challenge for November, where you set your swim goals for the month, track them with a Google spreadsheet and post updates on the forum. As I mentioned in an earlier post, after my month long recovery from Ironman I decided to focus on my swim, so this seemed like a grand idea.

I did the math and figured I could do 28km, and I signed up for 35km. Unsurprisingly, I got a bit behind.

As of last Monday I had four days in which to do 8km. 2km a day isn't too tough, less than an hour of swimming per day so it wouldn't be too hard. I could do it. I was psyched! I was ready to finish the challenge! I was, um, sneezing. And dying of a sore throat. And really wishing I'd gotten a flu shot.

Grrr.

So I missed my goal, ending November with 26,800 metres swum and 8,200 to go. I didn't even hit the 28km I "knew" I could do. I did, however, put in a solid swim effort for the month so I'm thinking all's well that ends well.

I've decided not to sign up for the December swim challenge!

Ch-Ch-Changes

My sister has recently entered the blogosphere and, as is usually the case, she is doing way more interesting things with it than me despite the fact that she's been doing it for far less time. Being related to highly intelligent people can be such a burden.

A lot of the stuff she's doing is quite cool and it inspired to me change up my blog, something I've been meaning to do for ages. (Now I just need someone to inspire me to paint my apartment!) Having been down with the flu all week it sort of makes me feel I'm doing something training related.

It's the same basic set up, with a few minor changes. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Plan is Forming

Posts have been few and far between since Ironman Canada, partly because I'm not doing much tri stuff but mostly because I have no desire to document my life at the moment. And really, the fact that I'm swimming twice a week is lovely but not terribly interesting, especially now that butterfly is no longer an exercise in near drowning.

This dearth of news and lack of interest in reporting is unlikely to change before the new year. I do, however, think that it's worth reporting that I've figured out a goal for next year. Actually, as my last goal took a year to achieve I figured what the heck, why not go for a two year goal. If this keeps up I'll be like the Chinese Communist party and coming up with five year plans, (desperately trying to tie in a pun tying in the Long March and tri training and failing miserably).

To rewind a bit, on the weekend I met with my coach and had a chat about my goals for the coming season. I started out with no real idea of what I want to do next year except have a goal and go faster. Not a lot for Alan to work with there.

After talking things through a bit I decided that I want to see what I can do at the Olympic distance. I'm conservative in most things in my life, racing being no different, so I think it would be cool to push my boundaries and see how hard I can go at the shorter distance.

We started talking about ITU short course Worlds: 2009 in Australia, 2010 in Bulgaria, 2011 in Beijing, etc. Okay, it turns out that 2010 Worlds is actually in Budapest not Bulgaria, but I stopped listening when Alan mentioned Australia so all I remembered were two other destinations starting with B.

While Alan was singing the praises of someplace starting with B, I was thinking that I hadn't seen my good friend Jason in way too long. Worlds would be a pricey trip regardless of whether I went to Australia or some B-place, in fact financially it would be a choice between the two so why not do worlds AND visit my friend in one trip?

So, here's the plan - next year I'm going try to qualify for 2009 ITU Worlds. Triathlon Canada hasn't announced the qualifier races yet so the rest of the planning is up in the air until early 2008.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen, I have a plan!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No Contest

Okay, like there was any doubt!

I've spent the afternoon online with a minimum of four windows open at anyone time: the ironmanlive streaming video coverage, the offical online updates, the Slowtwitch forum commentary and the Track an Athlete page. At Five my roommate turned on the hockey game so add that into the mix.

Watching the men race was great but the women are seriously inspiring.

Kona!!

Why, oh why does it have to be a beautiful sunny day today? I planned to watch Ironmanlive all day but after such a nasty rainy week I really, really should be outside.

Bike or watch???? I'll have a bagel and think about it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Next?

A lot of people have asked this in the past three weeks. Actually, people were asking me before IMC what the heck I would do once I was done. I think the assumption is that I now have to do or want to do something bigger and harder and tougher than Ironman, which really isn't in the plans at all.

I don't necessarily want to go bigger and harder but I do need a goal. I also need something to do! I'm unaccustomed to having all this free time and am a little lost. I've also lost a big chunk my social network as my training partners have gone back to reconnect with spouses, partners, cats, etc. My most meaningful relationship is currently with Louis, my bike, and I actually think we need some time apart so the free time isn't so useful.

I do I think I've finally figured things out. I have a few solid goals, not really related but they hit various needs.

Let's start with the social side. I've decided to play ultimate again if my friend's team will take me. I haven't thrown in almost two years so it will be quite humbling - I left the sport as a solid, if unspectacular, handler so I may be forced to run or play defence instead.

On the training/tri side, Paul asked me "what's next" at today's swim. He also asked a more pointed question, what did I want to achieve with my swimming this session. It made me think about it and have to give a slightly more refined answer than "Be faster."

I want to work on swim technique for the fall then swim speed for next year. Paul seemed to think that was a great goal and suggested that I do a swim overload - swim 3-5 times per week for the next eight weeks so I really dial in the technique and have a good base in place for '08. I'm enjoying swimming quite a bit this year and would like to stay in shape but give running and cycling a bit of a rest so this works for me. Now I have a rough training plan for the next two months and leading into next year - yay!

What about a short-term goal? Having x-ed off one major accomplishment this year I really want to cross something else off my "Life's To Do List", something I've never done but have wanted to do for a long, long time. Yup, this fall I'm gonna go go-karting! I'm a terrible driver and afraid of going fast so I'm sure it's perfect for me. Let me know if you wanna come.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recovery Blues

I'd heard that getting over an Ironman can take a while. I've been warned not to train too hard or do too much intensity. I was prepared for injuries and aches and pains and even for the post-race blues.

What I wasn't ready for was to have my immune system and GI tract go on strike!

After the race it took about three or fours days to walk properly and get over the soreness from racing. My stomach was still a little touchy after my post-race blow-up/collapse so I was sticking to the healthy and slightly bland choices, but aside from that, YAY! I was ready to take on the world.

The Friday after IMC I came down with a cold, killing camping plans (and causing havoc for a friend of mine who left her cell phone at work and only got my multiple messages after finishing loading up her car on Saturday a.m.). I spent two days in bed then was mostly over it and YAY! now I could resume normal life.

The Monday of the long weekend I went to watch my club mates have fantastic races at the Vancouver tri. A great day, except my big toe was killing me. (icky details follow, skip to next paragraph if you don't wanna know) I decided to take matters into my own hands and pierce the toenail to let off some pressure. I thought I kept it clean and that the needle would be properly sterilized when I heated it up.

About 24 hours after my impromptu procedure I was feeling good again and, yay, finally ready to get back into workout mode. When I got home from work on Wednesday, however, I noticed that the big toe, and part of my foot, were crimson, hot and puffy. Not generally the recommended state for toes and/or feet. After confirming with the BC Nurseline that, indeed, this was not a good condition for a toe to be in and that I should, in fact, get medical attention pdq I found a clinic that was open late and got myself some antibiotics.

I'd made plans to go hiking on Saturday and I was bloody well going to go! Luckily the toe seemed fine by Friday and I survived hiking the Diez Vistas trail with minimal discomfort. It was actually a great day with beautiful weather and not too many people on the trail.

We went to a bar for a dinner afterwards and either mixing beer with the antibiotics was a bad idea or the eatery itself was a bad idea because I had a hellish night and suffered the symptoms of a classic dose of food poisoning. After swearing I wouldn't touch chicken broth again after IMC, it turned out to be one of the few things I could stomach. It was kind of funny that that, bananas and flat pop (gingerale however, not coke) were my staples for two days, sort of like living off an aid station but without the volunteers.

So seventeen days out from IMC I've managed one run, one ride, one swim and one hike. I'd intended to take it easy after the race but this is a little nuts!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mutual Admiration (and lack of comprehension) Society

My friend Cassandra and I have very different hobbies. Both of us are equally obsessed with our hobby but neither of us can comprehend why the other would spend hours doing what they do. I've spent all my spare time this year swimming, biking and running while she's spent all her time cutting, basting and sewing.

We had a fun conversation last night where I gave her the lowdown on Ironman then she gave me the lowdown on Dragon*Con. While we both had our victories she actually won a prize for her efforts!
The winning costume

I have no idea why anyone would ever spend hours hand sewing 997 buttons onto a costume, but then Cassandra doesn't really get why I bike up Cypress or Seymour (much less both in the same day). I don't get it but I admire her for it.

Congratulations Cassandra!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

IMC Executive Summary

Here you go Dad:

Times:
Swim (3.8km) - 1:22:39

Bike (180km) - 6:44:53
first bike segment (40mi) - 2:24:09
final bike segment (72mi) - 4:20:44

Run (42.2km) - 4:31:17
first run segment (13.1mi) - 2:19:41
final run segment (13.1mi) - 2:11:36

T1 (swim to bike) - 14:47
T2 (bike to run) - 6:26

I had a friend comment that in my race report I made it sound easy so let me throw some more numbers at you. In training for IMC I did the following:
453 workouts
over 425 hours
covering 4,373.4 km

Race Recap
The day of the race was spectacular. It was overcast and cool, pretty much exactly what I ordered.

I had clear water for the swim and it was one of my best swims of the year. I believe my perma-grin started as I made the second turn in the water (you get a lot of water in your mouth if you're swimming with a smile!).

The bike course was crowded but the other riders were far more courteous and savvy than those I've encountered in shorter races. I loved the hills as climbing is my biking strength and that's where I had the chance to gain on other riders. The headwinds were hard to deal with but they were only for a short time.

The run wasn't at all what I expected, and I surprised myself with my time. My biggest struggle was to keep my heart rate down. The cool weather was a boost although the winds didn't help on the return.

The energy from the crowds was amazing and the volunteers were fantastic. Racing with 2,600 participants is overwhelming but the fact that the volunteers outnumbered the racers 4,200 to 2,600 is staggering.

Retrospect (one week later)
I don't think I have ever been so prepared for anything in my life as I was for this.

First and foremost my coach set up a great plan and we adjusted as we went along. I think I asked Alan about 50 questions a week!

I had a fantastic group to train with. Everyone was inspiring and helped greatly in pushing me to keep training and pushing my limites. Part of why I signed up for the 2007 race was so I could train with this group and I'm very thankful I made that decision as they made a huge difference.

I had planned everything down to the socks I would wear and how I would cook my potatoes. I read blog write-ups and race reports from people who'd done IMC and other Ironman and Iron distance races. I asked vast numbers of questions of people who'd done the race and were planning to do it - what did they put in their special needs, what did they wear, how did the transitions work, etc. I finally made myself learn to change a flat and even changed my clubmates flats if they'd let me. I became very boring as I ate, slept and breathed Ironman.

Add to that I had luck with the weather and having no mechanical or gastro-intestinal issues during the race.

I want to be sure I remember this if (when) I do another IMC as I know I'll want to better my performance but I don't want to go in cocky about the race as I've done it before.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Race Day Part 1

The morning in the house was uneventful. Had breakfast and tea and packed the last few items in my special needs bag then we were off the join the queue to get bodymarked and into transition.

We had to wait a bit but as we were there relatively early we didn't face the chaos that later people did. Leah waited an hour and finally just found a pen and marked herself.
I pumped up my tires, put my water bottles on my bike and stood around wondering "now what?" It was too early to get into my wetsuit and I didn’t want to bug my friends by chattering at them so I wandered around transition taking in the sights. It was interesting watching people dealing with nerves in different ways - some chattering, some rearranging their gear, lots of people on their iPods.

Finally, it was getting close to race time. I donned my wetsuit, scarfed back my first gel of the day and headed out with Teresa and Stan to the beach. We wanted a clear swim so went way, waaaay to the far side of the beach as that would get us out of the crush of people (I had to laugh when I saw the overhead swim start photo as the densest crowd on the beach was the West side where we were!).
Eagle-eyed Andrew Louie managed to spot us and get a photo.

The pros started, then we sang “O Canada” and we were blasted with bad ‘80’s music until the cannon went off.

The Swim

My plan for the swim start had been to wait out the crowd and then go in so I wouldn’t be dealing with a crazy pack of people. When the gun went I started walking in slowly and let everyone get ahead of me. Luckily it's a shallow beach so I could walk for almost two minutes. I finally got bored of walking and got in and started to swim.

For the whole first leg of the swim (1,612m) I either had clear water or just one person in front of me that I could draft off. Not at all what I was expecting! This seemed to take forever but somehow when I started to see weeds and the sandy lake bottom that meant I was getting to the first turn it felt like I'd got there in no time. After the turn I was a bit closer to the rest of the pack but still on the edge then somehow, when I turned to do the return leg, I got right in the thick of things. By this point the pack had thinned out so it was more about negotiating my way through than it was about avoiding getting battered.

Near the end of the swim I did get clocked in the face, some guy was pushing me off my line and his elbow connected with my cheekbone. It didn’t hurt too much and I didn't mind as I felt that I had earned my place as an Ironman swimmer now that I’d taken a hit in the water.

The exit was fun, after almost an hour and a half of quiet swimming we came out to cheering crowds on the beach. As I stood up I spotted friends of mine and grinned and waved to them.
I checked my time and was thrilled I’d done the swim in 1:22. I knew I could do that time under good conditions but had been unsure of how I’d deal with nerves the crowding so I'd planned on 1:30.

The wetsuit strippers were hilarious. I wasn’t given a chance to get my suit down very far, they pushed my hands out of the way, yanked it down, knocked me over and whipped it off. It was dizzying, it happened so fast.

I had a fairly slow transition as I got changed, made a pit stop and stopped by the sunscreen ladies (I came out with one very white leg) before finding my bike and heading out.

The Ride

I'd been so afraid of the swim that I decided if I could survive that the rest of the race would be “gravy”. After my great swim, this meant I left T1 in an excellent state of mind.
The T1 exit was my first taste of the IMC experience. Both sides of the road were jammed with people crushed up against the fence trying to get a glimpse of their friends. Someone from my club managed to get my attention over the general din and waved as I headed out. The crowd thinned as I headed South on Main St. but there were still people every ten meters or so.

A quick jog onto to South Main and I was getting excited as I knew my Mum and sister would be waiting for me just before Skaha Lake. I saw them when I was a block away and waved and yelled so they’d see me.

As South Main became Lakeside Road there was a long line of cyclists riding beside the lake as far as I could see.

At this point it was impossible to stay out of the draft zone, there were so many cyclists. Most people were good and avoided blatant drafting but I did see two women riding side by side chatting for a good 15 minutes (they were wearing matching jerseys so it was really obvious). I was pleasantly surprised at the high level of bike courtesy, at some Olympic tris I’ve done the riders have been fairly rude and refused to give way or passed on the inside with very little space. Names on the race bibs helped too – when “On your left” didn’t work “MAXWELL!! On your left” was quite effective.

The first real hill of the course was Mclean Creek Rd and everything bunched up here. It was difficult to pass without crossing the centre line but I got through the crowd and to the top. The road went by various horse farms and there were few crowds and no traffic, it was very pastoral, quiet and pretty. The ride down to OK Falls is on a pretty rough road and it was littered with various items that had launched off bikes: gels, tubes, bottles, CO2 canisters, etc. At one corner there were five of the yellow splash-guard thingies from the Profile Design water bottles.

I made down the hill through the slalom course of lost bike bits in one piece and into the crowds at OK Falls. The whole ride was like this, long stretches of quiet beauty then into the high energy of frenetic crowds.

The ride down to and through Olive and Osoyoos was great – mostly flat with a strong tailwind. The only real excitement here was when I was stung by a very angry wasp – the sucker did not want to let go of my arm. It hurt like crazy but was a minor issue over all.

Through Osoyoos I started to get excited, or rather more excited (I was having a fun day). As I neared the Husky Station I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I turned the hairpin bend, headed northwards and saw the hill up Richter pass – I got to go up the hill!!!!! It was at this point I realized I probably need some serious psychiatric attention!

Seriously though, I'm not a great cyclist on the flat but I'm much stronger, compared to others my speed, going up hills than on the flat and just this year I discovered the joys of screaming downhill at top speed, so hills are fun for me. Richter would be my first time on the ride to move up a few places.

I got into a good spin and passed person after person on the way up. I saw Karen and George, who’d been at the July training camp with me, and said hi and wished them luck. There was a pull out for cars about two thirds of the way up and side of the road was full of cheering fans. It was at this point that I discovered the crowds really like athletes who were smiling – I was having fun anyway so I was smiling to start with but by the time I passed them I was grinning ear to ear.

You don’t get to descend right away with Richter, you get a bit of a down then another hill before the serious downhill starts. I couldn’t get to that descent fast enough! On the down I got as aero as I could and thought fast thoughts. I couldn't help myself and had to yell "Yipeeee!" As soon as I was at a sane speed again I whipped through the options on my bike computer to see how fast I’d got. Max speed of 75.42km/h! New record for me.

After Richter there are a series of rolling hills, depending on who's counting there are 7-9 of them. They were big enough to slow people down on the upside and pick up some speed coasting down, my kind of riding so this was fun. Along here I caught up with Teresa, who I'd done most of my long training rides and runs with. We leapfrogged and bit and caught up on each other's races while doing so – 15 second conversations as one of us passed the other.

Nearing Cawston it flattened out and the wind picked up a bit. The only part of the course I hadn’t done was the Cawston out and back so this was the only bit I was unprepared for. The out was fine, largely because we had a strong tailwind. My special needs bag was actually there at the special needs pick up so I got to replace the potatoes I’d lost when while descending Richter. (I’ll give you my nutrition details later so I don't bore those of you who aren't interested.)

I took what I needed from my special needs then headed back. The tailwind that had pushed me out was now a brutal headwind. Added to this was the fact that the ride back was largely an ascent, so it wasn't particularly fun. My speed dropped dramatically and it was an effort to keep my heart rate down and my spirits up. I did pass a few people and tried to obey the drafting laws while getting the maximum advantage in passing (I rode like my Dad drives, get right to someone’s back wheel before pulling out to pass). Hopefully I managed to stay within the rules!

We turned off the out and back road onto Highway 3A. The wind dropped for a bit but then slammed into us when we reached Olalla. Again, it was a grind and it was sooo tempting to just jump on someone’s back wheel and draft. I didn't, however. I couldn't pass anyone so I got little respite from the wind. I've read a few race reports from pros and very good age groupers who all seemed to struggle with the wind so felt much better about how I did after the race.

As we neared Yellow Lake Hill I got excited again, not just because of the hill (I really do need help!) but because my Mum and sister would be there. I saw them at the base before they saw me, my sister started jumping up and down and yelling and cheering, which is uncharacteristic for but very cool to see. My Mum was my race photographer (now that her pre-race sherpa duties were done) and got a couple of good pictures here (see left).

I got into easy gears, kept my cadence high and attacked the hill. Someone from my club was there and cheering too. Now I was smiling and passing people and the crowd seemed to like that, which gave me a huge boost and really helped push me up the hill.

At the top the road along the lakes was flat and, best of all, sheltered from the wind, so I got into my aero bars and finally managed to spin easy and get up a good speed. There was a bit of a descent, another small climb then a much more fun descent (max speed approx 70km/h) then the final real climb of the race. There were quite a few people here to cheer so lots of positive energy to help me up.

After this, a long gently winding downhill then left on Highway 97, at which point we could see Penticton. Yay!

Once into town the crowds gradually got bigger and crazier. I could see a one of the male pros (not idea which one) racing to the finish line, which was very cool. What a feeling to think that I was in the same race as him, even if I was many, many hours behind.

A quick dismount at transition and then I gave my bike away to a volunteer. Carol, a friend of Teresa’s who was volunteering in bike transition, saw me and yelled encouragement.

I grabbed my bike to run bag and boogied to the change tent – I could not wait to get my bike shoes OFF! A guy in front of me was more eager than I was, he took his shoes off as soon as he gave away his bike then ran through transition barefoot.

In the change tent a volunteer attached herself to me and helped me get my gear on, which was very cool but a little odd (I'm used to doing this sort of thing myself!). I stopped at the sunscreen ladies to get greased up then headed out for the marathon.

The Run (cue foreboding music!)

I've had it drilled into my head over and over that Ironman is all about the run. You can set a world record on the bike or the swim but if you tire yourself and blow up on the run after it's all for naught.

I spent the ride trying to keep my HR within reasonable limits and to stay fueled and hydrated. I'd run after every long ride all year so I was hoping I was prepared. I'd watched the runners exiting T2 last year and had tried to ready myself for the pain I’d be feeling as I started out on the run. I knew it would be hard and painful but I would tough it out!

I exited T2 and waited for the pain to hit. My legs were stiff and a tired but I could run. Yet again the crowd's cheering gave me such a boost that I felt like I had a tailwind pushing me along.

As I turned down Westminster to do the out and back on Lakeshore Drive, Clayton saw me and ran beside me, heaping on the encouragement and praise. Going down Lakeshore I was passed by several of the pro men heading in for the finish – wow they were running fast!

Andrew Louie was on Lakeshore and got a bunch of shots of me.

I finished the loop, went back past Clayton on Westminster and turned up Main to the cheering of Colleen and Carol, I could hear the Carol for about a block!

As the crowd thinned I spotted a couple of volunteers and slowed to ask them if the top woman had come in yet. That obviously wasn't the question they were expecting, I guess it was unusual for athletes to be interested in what was up with the top racers. They told me no, there hadn't been a woman finisher yet. This was very cool as I’d get to see the top women in their final push! Shortly after I saw Lisa Bentley bombing down Main Street, I’m a big fan so I yelled and cheered (she won, if you're interested).

I kept seeing people I knew on the run course, which was fun. Again, as I headed towards Lee Ave I kept watch for my Mum and sister and yelled and waved when I saw them.

The run was very cool as it's one big out and back and I got to see almost all the competitors. 15 people from my club were racing plus I a few friends from out of the club and various people I'd met through training so there were a lot of people to keep my eye out for. I knew Jean-Yves wanted to hit 10:30 so I was nervously eying my watch and looking for him. When I saw him it was 9.5 hours into the race and I was 1 hour into my run so I did the math and figured he'd hit his goal no problem. Yay!

After that I lost my ability to do math and estimate finish times but as I saw each of my friends running towards me I cheered and waved and asked them if they were having fun. When I spotted Joanne I bellowed out her name and waved like crazy. Jae Wan ran to the middle of the road so we could high five. Everyone from my club seemed to be running well and looked like they were having a good day. Although some of them might have been smiling because I was acting like such a nut!

The locals who live along Lakeside/Eastside Road are essentially blocked in for the day of the race so many of them make the best of it and pull out couches and chairs to watch the race and have mini block parties. As on the bike, if I smiled I got bigger cheers so, as I'm a sucker for attention and I was having a great day, I grinned ear to ear most of the way.

At Skaha Estates I stuck to the plan and walked up the hill. A few people passed me on the way up but I gained it back on the flat/downhill, however at this point it wasn't about passing people anymore, it was about keeping my pace going and my heart rate down. Terri, who'd trained with LETC in 2005, and I played leap frog for a while, to the point that she turned it into a game of tag. I'm pretty competitive so it was hard not to chase her down when started this!

We ran down into OK Falls to the turn around and special needs pick up. I grabbed my bag, fished out my long-sleeved shirt (the weather was cooling off plus I didn't want to lose the shirt) but left the peanut butter sandwich and gum drops. I high-fived Teresa's husband and her friend Neal then headed back up the hill I'd just descended to start my return leg.

On the run in we'd had a tailwind and now I had to face it head on. While I find headwinds on the bike soul-sucking, on the run they don't bug me so much but I was still concerned. Up the backside of Skaha Estates hill I walked and took the opportunity to chat with people. One guy was dying from sore knees and was absolutely thrilled when I offered him Ibuprofen.
I saw Teresa and Bronwyn and a few other friends and cheered and waved and asked about their races, everyone was still having a good time.

Now it was just a matter of going from aid station to aid station (a friend described the marathon as“26 picnics") and sucking back chicken broth, flat Pepsi, Gatorade and the occasional gel. I walked the aid stations, partly for a rest and partly so I wouldn't be wearing the soup. At the aid station at mile 20 I caught up with Joanne's uncle and walked with him and chatted for a bit.
As I came to the end of the lake it really started to feel like the home stretch. At the next aid station I spotted Andrew, one of the club coaches, and he gave me a hug and ran with me for a bit. My Mum and sister were just down the block so my Mum got a great photo of Andrew and I running together. I yelled something incomprehensible but happy to my family and coach and kept going.

The next stretch was a gentle but long rise so it was a matter of watching my HR and adjusting my pace accordingly. Once the road flattened out I upped the pace a bit. At the 23 mile mark I checked my watch and saw it was 7:37pm. I thought about trying to break 13 hours but knew there was no way I could do 5km (3 miles is approx 5km) in 23 minutes. I totally forgot that I set all my watches five minutes fast because I'm late for everything so I actually had 28 minutes. I decided not to go for it as I didn’t want to bonk right at the end then changed my mind and figured what the heck, might as well go for the glory!

The crowds kept getting thicker and I thought they were just cheering because I was running strong, but it was because the 13 hour mark was approaching. When I turned onto Lakeshore Drive for the final out and back Mike Reily was whipping the crowd into a frenzy to cheer on people to break 13. I came around the corner onto Lakeshore going fast and smiling so got a great cheer. The energy was unbelievable. I saw my sister on the other side of the road and waved and told her to stay there – she was going to cross the finish line with me. (Not really suere where she was going to go but I was almost 13 hours into IM so I can be forgiven for not making sense!)

I skipped the last aid station, made the 180 turn and headed back to the finish. At this point I figured I was going to go for it for sure. I saw my sister and bellowed “We're going to break thirteen!!!” She took off like a rocket and I had to tell her to slow down!

I was bombing down the finishers' chute and apparently Mike Reily was yelling my name and getting the crowd to cheer me on to the finish, I didn't hear him as all I was aware of was the finish line and my sister. I grabbed her hand and lifted it in the air as we crossed the line. I didn't break 13, I missed it by three seconds and my final time was 13:00:02, but I could care less as the finish was the most spectacular moment I've ever experienced.

I figured I’d do the run somewhere around 5 hours, anything under that would make me happy.

My run split was 4:31:18. That surprised me a lot.

I also had a negative split on the run, I was about 8 minutes faster on the return.


To sum up, the day was fantastic, I had almost everything go right – perfect weather (cool and overcast), a clear swim, no mechanical issues on the bike, good nutrition and hydration and no major physical issues. Having my family there was so very cool and talking to my Dad after the race was great as he'd been watching it all online and was telling me all my stats.

Everything I'd heard about the volunteers, locals and crowds being fantastic turned out to be an understatement. I'd love to do the race again but I don't know if I'll be able to match this – either in terms of my performance or in terms of how incredible the day was.

Aftermath

Just so the gods didn't get jealous, however, it wasn't a pristinely perfect 24 hours. About 3 hours after the race my body did a Cleo. When I was a kid we had an ill-tempered and mostly insane siamese cat named Cleo. When we came back from a one or two week family vacation, she'd be all over us, purring and rubbing against against us, insisting on sitting our laps or twining between our legs as we tried to unpack. A few hours after we'd returned, however, she'd remember that we had abandoned her and she would savage whoever she was closest to (usually me).

At about eleven that night I lost the ability to stand and my entire GI tract went into serious distress (I felt like the Pepto Bismol jingle was all about me). My body was MAD at me, that's for sure. My Mum was ready to take me to emergency but Teresa is a marathon veteran (she's done 14) and knew what to do. I spent most of the night on the spinning bathroom floor and didn't really sleep so I was quite out of it for most of Monday.

T'was the Week Before Ironman ...

I'd spent vast amounts of time preparing for IM, not just physically but mentally – picturing the swim start and the crowding there, mapping the transitions, visualizing the bike course, planning the run course, etc.

I had also steeled myself for the week prior being totally insane – crowds and lines and nervous athletes everywhere. I was steeling myself to be brave and trust my plan and not be tempted to change nutrition/strategy/tapering based on urgings from the hordes of crazy iron people.


In thinking through the pre-week craziness I forgot to take into account that 1) I'd arranged to stay in a house well out of town and 2) I was going from working full time and having a crazy workout sched to only having an hour or two of scheduled anything per day. Life in the Penticton the week prior was very, very quiet.

Mum caught a beautiful sunset from the porch.


I went a little nuts with all the spare time and took up pacing as a new hobby. I kept trying to sit down then realize I was wearing a path in the kitchen tiles with no recollection of ever having left the couch. Next time I’ll bring a sudoku book or start on my macramé a little early!

Laying out the items for my gear bags could have taken up some of my time but that made me nervous and it took quite a while to commit to it. When I finally was done, pulling the drawstring closed on the bags felt terribly final and quite intimidating.






My Mum came in town for the weekend so it was fun taking her into transition the day before (they let people bring in their "sherpas") and showing her how it all worked. Walking her through helped keep me calm and forced me to actually visualize my route for race day.
Then it was an early pasta dinner, an early night and, strangely, my best sleep of the whole week.




Saturday, August 18, 2007

2287

So the IMC bib numbers were released this past week - makes it all feel very real and very close. It also reassued my paranoia that I'd somehow messed up my registration or accidentally withdrawn.

The past week has been nuts. In a month I've gone from a 25 hour workout week (the training camp) to 8.5 hours this week. I am wired, strung out, have no attention span, no short term memory and am a walking disaster and a complete gong show. I feel like I've been living on a diet of triple shot espressos laced with pseudo-ephedrine. I managed to leave a bike wheel in a liquor store - considering that I'm not drinking at the moment that's a fairly impressive acheivement.

Who knew having this much energy would be this exhausting.

I have the okay from Alan to put in some intensity work this weekend so I can burn off some of the excess.

I'm sure some of this is nerves but I am looking forward to Ironman. Sometime in the past couple of months the dread I was feeling has dissipated, at the training camp I realized that it might actually be fun. I think that once I get through the first km of the swim it'll be great, and I know I can survive the swim.

I feel like a kid in the week before Christmas - how many sleeps left??

Monday, August 13, 2007

Someone at N A Sports Has a Sense of Humour! Part 2

The athlete's guide is now posted on the IMC website. I took a quick scan through and came across the following very useful piece of advice on potential medical hazards:

"Trauma - Try to avoid it."

Never would have thought of that on my own!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Someone at N A Sports Has a Sense of Humour!

In my inbox today I had a message with the subject line: "SIMC WIthdrawal 2007 Notification."

I think my heart stopped beating for a full minute. Withdrawal Notification? Yea Gods, did I accidentally push a wrong button somewhere and take myself out of the race? If you check to see if your name is on the Participant List more than 50 times are you automatically out of the race as you're clearly too much of a freak for them be associated with?

Augghh!!

Turns out it was benign (mostly):

"Dear Subaru Ironman Canada Participants,

We will be assigning race numbers to the 2007 Subaru Ironman Canada on Friday, August 10. If you are not racing and do NOT wish to have a race number assigned, please let us know by hitting reply to this email (leaving the subject line intact) on or before Friday, August 10. Be sure to include your name in the body of the email. As per our entry policy, the refund deadline has passed and you will not be entitled to a refund nor do we allow rollovers to another year.

If you have any other inquiries, please do not use the “reply” function to this email and instead send a new email us at
ironhelp@vip.net and be sure to include the subject of your inquiry in the subject field as it will help us route your inquiry and expedite the response.

Jane GainsforthN A Sports, Inc."

I laughed at myself then forwarded the N A Sports email to Teresa with a note about my reaction so she could laugh at me too. I think I forwarded it. I didn't reply, did I? [insert hold music while I go and check my email.] Yes, I forwarded it!

I wonder how many of the 2,800 recipients of this email had the same reaction as me? Must be interesting to have to power to cause close to three thousand panic attacks with one email.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What, You Have to Kick?

I swam in the pool today for the first time in several weeks. After about 12 straight sessions in open water wearing a wetsuit, this was a rude awakening. I had to kick! My legs didn't just happily float along with no effort required from me, I had to DO something with them! How absolutely horrifying.

I had also started to feel somewhat muscular while swimming in my wetsuit. I had lots of great swims in Okanagan lake, Sasamat lake and the ocean and I was feeling strong, and toned, and even (don't laugh) a little brawny. Turns out that 3mm of neoprene can give you delusions of grandeur. Serious ones. Being in the pool reminded me that I have not, in fact, added any muscle mass. I still felt strong but my arms felt more like chopsticks than an imposing set of pipes! It's actually surprising that I go anywhere in the water considering the twigs I'm using to keep me moving.

Aside from a little bit of humility, it was a great swim. Being in the pool isn't the most exciting thing in the world but change keeps things interesting and putting in a structured workout in the water felt good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Training Camp Part Deux - Things Get Serious (and the weather turns terrible)

On Tuesday the camp started in earnest. We got our first crack at parts of the course and the workouts got significantly longer.


As per every day of the camp, we started out with a swim. I sneezing heavily after due to water up my nose but didn't think much of it at the time.

Bike – OK Falls (marathon turn around) to Osyoos and back.

Time: 3hrs
Ave Speed 28.69
Max Speed 53.87

We had a fantastic tailwind on the way down to Osoyoos, I didn't notice how strong it was and just thought I was riding like a god. Teresa and I mostly keep in sighting or talking distance and made sure to see Karen was doing okay. We got to the Oliver half bike course and I joked with Teresa that I wanted to stop and find the water bottle and bottle cage I lost on the race. At 1:20 Karen caught us up (after a mammoth sprint to catch up) to tell us that Andrew called her and that the headwind back was killer and we should turn back ASAP.

Due to the wind we decided to do a pace line back. Karen had never done one but after about 15 seconds of instructions (don't use your brakes, try to stay 6" off the person in front's back wheel, point to junk on the road, indicate when you want to drop back) we took off and she was doing it like a pro. About 20 minutes in I realized I'd told her not to use her brakes but hadn't told her the signals for slowing done and stopping – potentially a cause for concern! We fixed that at the roadworks.

Somewhere around Vassau Lake we lost Karen. She had a flat and had intelligently crossed to the shady side of the road to change the tube, meanwhile Teresa and I were looking for her on the other side of the road (we have how many years of post secondary education between the two of us??). Once we though to look 30' to thr right we found her! Karen told us she was okay and told us to go on. Teresa and I pacelined for a bit then decided to ride solo (I need the practice riding into a headwind). I saw a pile of glass too late to avoid it - just as I was about to swerve I heard the puncture and felt all the air run out of my tire. Teresa caught up with me and was eager to help, never having changed a tire, but I told her "Back off - it's my flat!" It was one of my fastest tire changes ever (still not very fast so I'm not telling you the time).

At the end of the ride we packed up the bikes then ran from the park along Eastside Road towards Penticton, our first crack at the run course. Karen was a great runner - turns out she's a coach for Team In Training so will have a HUGE cheering squad at IMC.

My HR was too high (171 ave), probably from trying to keep up with Karen, but it was a fun social run.

This was our first ice bath day – a shock for some of the club members who hadn’t done it before. We got some serious stares from some of the motel guests – apparently people standing in garbage cans full of ice water in a parking lot isn’t something they’re used to seeing. Later in the week we were asked if we were with the group in the garbage cans.

I was sneezing a lot and wondering if it was allergies or what? Figured too much lake water in my nose and didn’t think much of it.


On Wednesday the rain began.

We start with a short am swim. For some reason I adamantly didn't want to wear a wetsuit, can't remeber why now, but I relented.

After the swim I realized the sneezing wasn't because of allergies but due a sinus infection. I was hopefully some salt water up the nose would do the trick and I'd be over it.

While we were have breakfast and the rain started coming down harder and we went out for our tempo run into some fairly nasty weather.

After the run I decided to do the salt water up the sinuses trick to kill the infection and figured I could do up a solution myself, forgetting the results of the last times I’ve thrown table salt and tap water up my nose. There was less swearing than previous times I’ve done it but it hurt unbelievably and I decided I had to find a drugstore to get the sinus-ready saline solution.

We decided to move the bike repair session to the next day and go earlier for our ride. The law of group dynamics meant that we didn’t actually get away from the hotel that much earlier than planned but it felt like a victory anyway.

The plan was to ride from the top of Richter to the top of Yellow Lake but as it was so cold and wet and miserable we decided starting with a long descent would be a bad idea and we opted to start from the base of Richter (turned out to be the base of the second or so roller, but close enough). The ride out with Princess was initially a somber affair – this was our first crack at the Ironman course, our first real test of whether we were up for the challenge or not and we were a little tense. Luckily Teresa had the perfect remedy to hand – ACDC. We cranked Thunderstruck and headbanged, air guitared and howled our way through Keremeos and Cawston. As we kept going and going, and we ran out of tunes, the mood turned somber again. For me this was the part of the course I’d never seen (I’ve driven Yellow Lake tons of times, been to Oliver quite a few and to Osoyoos more than once) and boy did it seem like a long stretch of road. The weather didn’t help, it ocaissionally relented to only being driving rain but we drove through several hailstorms. We finally had to crank Thunderstruck again just to get us into the right headspace.

The rain let up a bit when we stopped and unloaded the bikes. The fast folk (Bronwyn, Chung & Stephanie) took off and disappeared pretty quick. Teresa, Karen and I followed at a more sedate pace. The rain quickly got back up to a fairly serious intensity. The three of us occasionally regrouped to make sure we were all okay (and once to redistribute cell phones) and on one of these times Teresa, with no thought whatsoever for karma or Murphy’s law, blithely said “Ladies, at least you know it can’t get any worse than this!” Thunder claps followed this statement and within minutes it was hailing. Thanks Teresa!

It weather was so ridiculous all I could do was laugh. While we were still in the rollers I saw a figure with a flowery umbrella standing at the side of the road and I wondered what kind of nut that could be. Wasn’t a nut, it was our coach! I gave him a thumbs up and kept going.

I got into a good rhythm and got lost in my thoughts so I almost missed the turn off at Becks Road. I waved at Andrew and kept going and had to do a quick stop to turn and keep going.

Teresa and I regrouped and rode to Yellow Lake together, Teresa insisting Olalla be pronounced “Ooh-La-La!” The climb to Yellow Lake was steep but not too bad. At what I had thought was about halfway – Yellow Lake – I saw Andrew and said I wanted to keep going to the top. Apparently Yellow Lake is at the top of Yellow Lake Hill. Who knew! Suddenly the second big climb of the race was a lot less than I’d expected – very cool!
I was happy to keep going and made it to what I had thought was the top (the second roller, just before the fun descent) and got ready for a fun ride down. I was at about 64kmh when a Winnebago in front of me felt the need to slow down to 40 and take over the entire road so I lost my speed and actually had to pedal – stupid motorhomes. Met up with Andrew at the bottom and was instructed to take 97 towards Oliver. The road was terrible – minimal shoulder, lots of traffic and the road was so busy that the cars and heavy trucks couldn’t give us much space. It didn’t thrill me too much and I cut the ride a bit short (turns out I was supposed to ride for three and a half hours so I cut it more than a bit short!).

Despite the insane weather it was a fantastic ride, on seeing me at the junction of 3A and 97 Andrew commented “You’re on a high!”. Strangely, riding in the pouring rain was when my sinuses felt their best all day.

We drove back to where we’d left the cars at the base of Richter and Teresa and I drove back the long way – backwards along the course route over Richter and up 97 through Osoyoos and Oliver. We decided Richter was a tough looking climb but not as bad as Cypress or Seymour and very doable.

I desperately needed French fries so we drove through A&W, at which point it seemed logical to get a burger at the same time (my 20% for the day - at his nutrition talk Andrew'd told us we should try for at least 80% healthy food). I realized, after I’d eaten it, that this was my first fast food hamburger since my pre-vegetarian days.

We hit a mall on the way back and while Teresa grabbed food I picked up saline solution for my sinuses, hoping that would clear out the infection.

LETC Training Camp - Full Crew

While I'm still working on the next installment of the training camp write up, here's the entire crew from the training camp in "Triathlete Action Figures" pose.


Back Row: George, Kathy, Stan, Andrew H., Joanne, Andrew T, Elvis
Front Row: Karen, Stephanie, Jean-Yves, me, Bronwyn, Chung, Teresa, Kristina

(Photo courtesy of Joanne)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Peach Race Report

My long delayed, and just plain long, weekend race report.

Race: Peach Classic (Penticton, BC), July 15

Distance: Olympic

Goal: Under three hours. I knew I wouldn't get a PR as the course is hard

Actual Time: 2:51:42 (includes 2 minute penalty - apparently I was drafting)

The Gory Details:
I knew that this would be a tough race, both becuase of the course and because it was the provincial championships and there'd be some fast folk. I was looking forward to it, however, as I'm getting to a point with racing where I find the challenge fun.

It turned out there were 20 people from LETC in the race, which was almost half our members and an amazing turn out, even better as we had both the coaches racing. We later claimed a couple of others to our number, but those details will come later.

Our hotel was very close to the start area so it was an easy and relaxed morning. I think I've got race prep figured out now so I had everything I needed and there was no panic. I got body marked and in to transition reasonably early and was set up with lots of time to spare. I did a run and bike warm up then gabbed with fellow LETCers and other people I knew and took my time getting into my wetsuit.

The men started 5 minutes before us so we cheered them on then lined up ourselves (thanks to Stephanie/Tim for the picture).

The swim course is pretty basic - swim from the Peach to the SS Sicamous and back. They had to change the direction of the swim this year (out on the beach side of the buoys, back on the lake side) as water is quite shallow and last year people were walking in the shallows on the return leg of the swim.

I placed myself so I'd have clear water, conveniently forgetting I need to practice swimming in a melee, and sighted off the Sicamous rather than following the buoy line. I ended up swimming almost entirely alone as most people followed the arc of the buoys rather than taking the shorter direct route. As I didn't do any drafting on the way out I probably didn't get that much of an advantage.

I felt slow in the water and was a bit frustrated, but I was only a little slower than previous 1500m swim times.

I had a quick transition then hopped on my bike. The course started with a flat out and back along the beach, essentially retracing the swim, and past my motel. Once we came back past transition we went up Vancouver Hill, a steep climb of about 1 km. The course then went along the Naramata Bench and followed Okanagan lake North. I'd thought Vancouver Hill was the worst of the hills but it was rolling hills from there and with few flats and quite tough.

I got quite aggressive, for me, on the bike and went hard on the course. I enjoy hills and am weaker in comparison to other riders on the flat so this was my kind of ride. Eventually I was with a group where we would leap frog each other depending on our strengths, generally me passing on the uphills and getting caught on anything vaguely flat. I spotted a woman in red about 500m ahead of me and decided she was going DOWN. We were a similar pace so it took some effort to catch her but I eventually managed to pass her. This turned out to be a fateful moment as the TriBC officials whizzed by on a motorbike and yelled something incomprehensible - not sure what it was but I got a penalty and two minutes added to my bike time so I guess I was doing something wrong. (I go out of my way not to draft so it took about a while to stop being angry about this.)

Red Lady and I leapfrogged a bit but I believe I beat her to transition, I was having so much going down Vancouver Hill (67kmh max speed) at the end that I forgot about her.

A quick T2 then onto the run and totally different race strategy. The course was just over 1 km of flat (same stretch of beach as the bike out and back) then 3km of a steep climb, the end of which conned you into thinking it would eventually flatten out but was gentle rolling hills to the turn then back the way you came. My goal was to take the run at tempo and if I had anything left after the turn around to pick it up on the downhill then go hard on the flat at the end.

One of my other goals was to beat the leaders out of transition, meaning I wanted to be out on the run before anyone finished the race. I was successful and got to see the leader loping in, making it look easy.

As both coaches were racing and I knew Andrew would be in the front pack so I counted the men as they passed me, when I saw Coach Drew he was 15th. I stopped counting as I didn't expect to see Coach Alan, who'd only just figured out asthma issues after several years of being unable to train, so soon but he was only 6 or 7 back from Andrew. Obviously the breathing difficulties are behind him! The coaches ended up 18th and 20th overall.

I was ready for the ascent, mentally at least, so I kept an even tempo and just kept moving forward. I saw almost everyone else in the group as I was climbing, the only person behind was Teresa, who'd dropped her chain on the bike. I tried to yell encouragement but it got a little tiring (I have to do races where I know less people!) as I was somewhat out of breath on the hill.

After the turn around I saw Teresa was close on my heels and hoped I could stay head of her. Near the bottom of the big hill she blasted by me, yelling "C'mon Alison!" There was no way I was going to keep up with her so I just watched her go. Hitting the flat after 3km of running downhill was a bit of a shock, it was surprising how hard it was.

As I neared the playground and water park across from the beach I spied Claire and my youngest nephew. I tried to do the run-by high-five with him but missed so had to backtrack and do it again!

My legs came back a bit after that and I picked up the pace as I neared the finish and managed to do my traditional 200m sprint to the end.

The run was 55min, my slowest yet for an oly but considering the course I'm happy with it.

The post-race barbecue was a lot of fun as we had four club members on the podium, Andrew and Martina won their age groups, this was provincials so they are also provincial champions, and Jessica and Stephanie came second in theirs. The second woman overall had trained with us once or twice so we decided Rachel was ours as well. Then Joanne's uncle came second in his age group so we claimed him too! We're a greedy lot!

It was a hard race, by far the toughest Olympic course I've done, but it was a blast and I think I'll be back next year.

Monday, July 23, 2007

IMC Training Camp - It Begins!

The Cast:
Coach – Andrew T.
Calves/Thumper – Bronwyn
Princess – Teresa
Club Reporter – me
Mom – Stephanie
Trooper – Karen
Thumper – Chung
Rumour Mongerers – most of the above
The family – Tim, Thomas, Matthew, Jessica

Sunday
After the Peach Classic awards ceremony the massive LETC crew thinned out as the non-training campers headed home. Left at the Bowmont were Andrew, Teresa & Bronwyn (in the Party Room), Stephanie and family and Chung & I.

We gathered at the Peach for the training week overview session. Of the six people participating in the full week camp five of us were LETC members. Karen was the only non-LETC member and joining into a pretty tight group but that fact that we’re a friendly (if somewhat gossipy) bunch and Karen is a thoroughly nice person meant that she fit in right away. Well, "fit in" might imply she was as cooky as the rest of us, which didn't seem to be the case.

We had a chat in a coffee shop about the camp and what was coming up. Overviewed the schedule etc. then headed back to the hotel for what became a common occurrence – a potluck feast.

I believe this was night when the Kieffer boys were swimming the length of the hotel pool apparently trying to drown each other - Stephanie said they were playing "Ironman swim."

Monday - The Camp Starts
As we had all raced the Peach on Sunday, Monday was an easy day – light workouts and getting to know each other.

Easy swim – 30 minutes continuous at a relaxed pace in Okanagan Lake.

We changed, washed off the duck mites (or whatever it is that causes duck itch) then got into our workout gear for a core strength and stretching session in the park across from the hotel. Unfortunately my camera had dead batteries, which is too bad as it was a beautiful day, one of the few we had over the week, and a beautiful setting.

After the workout I got in touch with my sister and hung out for most of the day on Lee Ave with her and the boys. Apparently the key joy in the inflatable pool isn't swimming in it but filling it with water (possession of the hose being of paramount importance).

Next installment - Getting serious and testing out the course.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Updates are Coming!

All right, all right - I'm working on updating the blog. I've been a little busy what with racing (Peach Classic) and training camp and all.

I was commanded by Teresa to write a report about the training camp, I can't disobey a Princess (even if she did cede her crown to Jessica Kieffer), so I'm working on it. So much happened that the report is turning into a monster - I'll try to break it done by day so it's a bit more readable.

The Peach feels like it happened months ago, so much happened in between then and now, but I'll try to fire up some brain cells and recall what happened.

So keep watching this space!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday!

The theme for the weekend seemed to be forgetting to check my schedule - kind of pointless to get a personalized sched if I'm not actually going to pay attention to it!

I showed up at Sasamat with no idea of how long I was supposed to swim and only a vague idea of how long I was supposed to run for (I recalled a "3" being involved). Nothing like coming prepared.

The IMC crew did a 70min swim almost all the way around Sasamat and then back again (when we stopped after 35min and wondered what to do next the logical suggestion seemed to be to retrace our steps/strokes). As usual I was at the back of the pack, for the first half I managed to draft off Bronwyn but on the way back she decided to draft off faster folk and I lost everyone.

It was a bit of a sombre swim for me, I'd gotten some sad news the night before and I spent much of my time in the water trying to come to terms with it. Being overtired from a late night (up until 11pm) didn't help my emotional state much. Not my most focussed swim ever but sometimes other things in life take precedence.

After the swim Bronwyn, Heather, Teresa and I headed out on a run route suggested by Joanne, which promised to be much flatter than the previous weekend's hike. We ran along 1st towards Ioco then followed a section of the TransCanada Trail into Port Moody. It was a fantastic route (thanks Joanne!), mostly flat and on soft trails and the occaissional boardwalk through tidal marsh.

We did an out and back but lost Heather/Turbo on the return. She was far in front and when she backtracked to find us it happened to be at one of the few places where the trail split in two - she was on the upper trail heading back while we were on the lower trail going the other way. A bit of a goof up but I think it all worked out okay (you'll have to get Heather's opinion though).

Coach Drew was hosting a barbecue at his retreat in Belcarra but we were all tired and needed to get home (to nap, houseclean, do laundry, etc.) so we were typical antisocial IM trainees and opted to go home rather than hang out.

NOT the Four Horsemen

So Elvis has arranged a couple of psycho, hard core, high tempo, bleeding out your eyes rides. Not something that would work for my training schedule or, to be brutally honest, that I could keep up with (I think bleeding out your eyes is not recommended for contact lens wearers). Didn't stop me from wishing I could keep up with the "big boys" though!

The second Elvis/Four Horsemen epic was to conquer two peaks - Seymour & Cypress. that sounded like a great idea but I had no intention of going Elvis' pace so Teresa and I made our own plans, with directions given to us by Elvis. Luckily Heather (aka Turbo) joined us so we had a rock solid navigator and

We started at Park Royal then Heather took us along bike routes to Dollarton then up Riverside to My Seymour Pkwy. We had a quick stop to doff layers then headed up. The first four-five km were brutal as usual, someone told me the grades are close to 9% in that part. After that, even though it gets less steep, you're so done in from the start that it hurts the whole way. A few km into to the climb we saw a doe, a deer, a female deer (sorry!) on the side of the road munching on a tree. She was unfazed by cyclists, I swear she gave me the "Roadie Head Nod." We heard woodpeckers and grouse further up the hill, very cool.

Time up: about 1:12

Down was more fun than last time (more comfortable with the road), aside from the occaissional idiotic mountain biker trying to ride me off the road.

We went back the way we came to Park Royal then Elvis' route up to Cypress. The turn off Marine Dr. onto 31st was blind corner so I was completely unprepared for the sudden steep ascent. I was yelling behind me to Teresa to gear down so she wouldn't stall like I did. Getting to the highway was probably tougher than getting up Cypress!

I didn't start my watch until we got to the "official start" (where club had started on our Wednesday climb a few weeks ago). I was okay on the first flatish bit but as soon as I ronded the first hairpin bend and hit the hill I was seriously struggling. I was getting a little demoralized, unprepared for how tough the second ascent was. Then realized I was in my big ring and was much happier, although somewhat sheepish, when I geared down.

I saw another deer, a male this time (I passed the buck!) (sorry) just before the picnic area. It was standing in the trees about 50m back from the road, in just the right spot to show off its beautiful rack of horns. We saw more wildlife at the top, although having vultures circling us when we stopped was more disturbing than cool.

Time up: about 1:02 - 4 min slower than the Wednesday hill climb but I was happy with it.

It wasn't my fastest time down Cypress but still a fun ride nonetheless. We then did the boring route back to Park Royal via #1 & Taylor Way.

We then ran from Park Royal along the seawall to Ambleside. I thought this would be a nice long stretch of beach to run on but apparently Ambleside has shrunk since I used to hang out there as a 13 year-old. Still a decent run, even if we had to weave through parking lots and amblers.

We ended the run by hitting the schi-schi-est coffee shop in that side of Park Royal, always fun to do when your grimy and smelly from 6 hours of exercise, and loaded up on food and caffeine.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hill Week

This past week was up and down, then up some more then down some more ....

Hills was the word of the week! I don't know if this was to toughen us up for the Peach Classic or because the coaches hate us, but there were some tough workouts.

Wednesday's bike workout was two repeats of 1min ALL OUT up Belmont (stupidly steep road close to Spanish Banks) on min easy then four repeats at pace riding up Spanish Banks hill. Thursday morning's ride didn't involve hills (yay), but rather multiple 1:30min "ALL OUT, SUPER HARD" intervals. Thanks Alan.

Thursday felt like deja vu all over again. Two repeats running 1min ALL OUT up some stupidly steep trail off Spanish banks then five repeats of 4min at pace up Spanish Banks hill. Somehow I ended up in the lead pack for the at pace pieces. "Somehow", okay it's not a mystery, I'm incredibly impatient and wanted to get the freakin' hills over with so I didn't take a break after the all out pieces and went straight to the next set. Elvis was the only person less patient than me. Yay for Elvis - makin' me look patient (by comparison).

I came to the conclusion that I am not a sprinter, I've lost what little fast twitch muscle I once owned (it's probably hidden under the bed with my HR monitor strap and various left socks). I vastly preferred the longer at pace pieces over the all out ones.

In case you think that was the end of hill week, there's more to come!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Canada Day Challenge Race Report

Race: Canada Day Challenge

Distance: 4km open water swim

Results: Character building?

I've been looking forward to this ever since I found a Canada flag towel (my parents were actually getting rid of it in a garage sale!) in the spring. Sort of a silly reason to be pumped for a race but I'll take what I can get. Also there were about 14 LETC'ers doing the race so it would be a fun crowd.

I have issues with crowds in the water and wanted to improve my drafting skills so this was my race to work on both. There were only about 50 women in the 4km swim start so this was a nice, small group and it would be easy for me to stick with the pack. I did the 2km race last year, it was after my first half iron where I'd conquered my fear of open water and the two swims were some of the best I've ever had. So I had high expectations for this year.

After a very relaxed, but somewhat cranky, morning I suited up and joked with my friends. I got into the water and had a nice easy warm up The a bag piper played (why are they at all the races I've done this year?) then we all proved that we're swimmers not singers when we belted out the national anthem. The 4km men's race started first and we waved and cheered as they took off. We went 5 minutes later and I was chatting and joking with my friends until the countdown and we were off.

The plan was to stick with the pack, work with swimming in a group of bodies and find a set ot toes to follow. The reality was a wee bit different.

As I started the swim I panicked. Not a high strung screaming and gasping panic, but an absolute and unshakable conviction that I DID NOT want to be there, I DID NOT want to do this swim, I DID NOT want to be in the middle of a pack. All I wanted to do was turn around and go back to shore. I did head up front crawl just to keep moving forward and, when no one was around me and there was no risk of taking anyone's teeth out, breast stroke. The pack quickly disappeared in front of me and I was on my own. A totally disastrous first 150m.

I finaly found my pace and got to swimming but spent the next 1,850 metres beating myself up for the crappy start and doing what a good friend of mine calls "catastophizing" - if I couldn't do this easy swim start how was I going to deal with the IMC swim start with 3,000 people and if I had a bad swim it would wreck my whole race and would I even be able to do the IMC swim and was all my training going to be for nothing and would I disappoint all my friends and family, etc, etc. Totally stupid and I knew it at the time but I was indulging my inner drama queen.

The second 2km I let up on myself a bit, largely because of the monotony of the swim. It's very hard to stay mad when you've spent 40minutes engaged in a something so incredibly repititous. And distance swims when you do them solo are an exercise in sensory deprivation.

At the end I was tired and disappointed, and didn't want to talk about my race. Happily all my friends had great races but they of course all wanted to know how my race went. I did hit the time I set for myself, which was under 1:30 (I was 1:25 something), and done with zero drafting so it was actually a good time and I should have been happy with it.

Alan asked me about my race and I refused to comment, then he gave chocolate and everything started to seem all right!

This was a regular training day so no rest for the wicked! I got my head on right and Bronwyn, Teresa and I took off for a 3 hour trail run. Bronwyn wanted to to Buntzen Lake and run the loop, Teresa wanted to do something flat and I absolutely didn't want to drive anywhere and find parking (it was now 10am on Canada Day, parks and their parking lots would be filling up). Turned out Bronwyn and I got our way and poor Teresa got a run route about as far away from flat as you could get without needing climbing gear.

We took a ridiculous route that was almost entirely steep uphill or a steep down, took us from Sasamat to Buntzen and covered part of the Diez Vistas trail and the Buntzen loop. At one point as we were scrambling uphill Teresa asked "Is this what hiking is?" I don't believe she was impressed!

It was a long, hot run but boy did getting back in the lake at the end feel great!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Holistic Swimming

Since September of last year I've been swimming twice a week with the YWCA masters swim program coached by Paul Cross. He's a great coach and I love the program. As of January I've been swimming on Sundays with LETC, coached by either Alan or Andrew. Again, both great coaches.

If you do the math that means that for the last nine and a half months I've rarely been in the water without a coach on deck, a workout written up for me, and access to constant feedback - I've been pumped full of technique, corrected and commented on for almost a year.

For several reasons (saving money, re-jigging my schedule, etc.) I decided not to sign up for the summer session with Paul and to swim on my own. I also missed the LETC group swim last Sunday so I've had four completely uncoached swim workouts in a row. It was fantastic!

Now don't get me wrong, it's no knock on the coaches. They're great and I'm pretty darned lucky to have access to three. It's just that I'm really enjoying swimming on my own. Much like running solo, when I'm swimming my own workout I can pay more attention to what my body is doing. In a group I tend to key off others, stress about keeping up, get annoyed at others being in my way and be distracted by various other ephemera and not pay enough attention to what I'm doing. Also, instead of focussing on recovery or kicking or whatever the aim of the workout is, I can focuss on what my body is doing, be more analytical about my swimming and really get a feel for the water and how I'm moving through it - call it holistic swimming if you like.

Not to say that I don't need more work on my technique, I'm just enjoying a different take on the sport.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

This made Me Cry

I'm such a sucker for a good ironman story!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Training is getting the way of blogging!

Yikes, I've been neglecting my poor readers (all three of you!). It seems that 20 hours of training on top of 40 hours of work and uncounted hours of cooking, laundry, and staring at the ceiling thinking "Yea gods, I'm tired," doesn't leave me much time to blog.

Last week had some pretty momentous workouts - on Wednesday I rode all the way up Cypress for the first time ever and my coach was super excited at how well I was doing at the top. I felt pretty strong, unlike the time I tried it last summer and ended up in an absolutely vile head space as the effort hurt so much. On the way down I hit a new max speed (which I won't mention here as my mother might be reading - Hi Mum!!) and caught and passed Jessica, one of the seriously super fast people in our group, which was quite cool.

Thursday's run was the "1-2-2-1" workout, doing 1 and 2 km pieces at pace. I was supposed to be going at my 10km pace but I was feeling so good, so fast and so smooth that I went hard and posted some pretty great times. My last 1km piece was about 4:35 - NOT even close to my 10km pace.

Going hard on the run felt great at the time but caused havoc after - once again highlighting why we're supposed to do these workouts at pace. My run on Friday morning was painful and slow, I didn't want to be in the pool at all that afternoon, for my ride on Saturday my legs were heavy and I had the "flat tire feeling" ("I can't be this slow, my tires must be low on air") and the run following the ride was just plain tough.

It's no surprise that Sunday morning I wasn't feeling motivated to get up. After I'd hit the snooze button the customary number of times (3) I started to lever myself out of bed. I could hear the rain outside and all I could think was that I had to run for three hours it. Just as I was reaching to turn my alarm clock off the sound of the rain changed from a steady pitter patter to a pounding roar. I hit snooze one more time and hid under the covers, needing another 9 minutes to hide from the day ahead.

I finally got myself out of bed, fed, into my gear and out of the house. I picked up my co-cop car and drove to Kits Beach, cursing at the road closures - 4th AND Cornwall were closed - what was going on? The rain seemed to keep coming down harder and getting worse. I was in the car waiting for Teresa and Mary to show, unwilling to commit to the day by getting out of the car, and sat staring at the tent on Cornwall and the aid station in front of it.

Tent? Aid station?? Oooooohh - mental light bulbs went off - it was the Scotiabank half marathon.

Suddenly I had no problem with road closures, or rain, or being up early. I got out of the car and ran up to Cornwall. I missed cheering the lead runner but got there as the second place man whooshed by. I stood in the shelter of a bus stop and chatted with two women waiting for their children to go by and we cheered and yelled as the sopping wet runners went by. Teresa had to call me on my cell to get me to the meeting point.

We decided to run first and swim later as we weren't sure we'd ever warm up if we went into the ocean to start. We ran backwards along the half marathon course, looking for friends and cheering everyone on. We must have looked pretty nutty as it was hard to tell if racers were laughing with us or at us but our cheering seemed to be appreciated. Once we had encouraged the last runners/walkers we were about 30minutes into our run and I was feeling pretty good, the mental lift of watching and cheering the race had a definite physical benefit.

The run was more of a mental challenge than a physical one, especially after Teresa stopped (she only had to do 2:15) but I felt no overwhelming physical fatigue, just lots of aches and pains. While the aches and pains aren't good, the lack of fatigue was quite cool.

I swam afterwards in Kits pool as I wasn't keen to go in the ocean alone. Swimming after running felt fantastic - it soothed away the aches and pains and I relaxed and had a nice easy swim.

A nice end to a hard week.