Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January Training

This is what my January training looked like according to my online training diary Fitness Journal:

First Half Update

The good news - the race is on.

The bad news - we'll be running over Prospect Point.

There's a reason I only did the Vancouver International Half Marathon once and it's name is Prospect Point! Oh well, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Or it puts hair on our chest. If the latter, I'm definitely dropping out of the race!

Dear Alison

This is a final pre-race update for the 2007 “First Half” Half Marathon.

We want to reassure you that the race will go ahead as scheduled, starting at 8:30am on Sunday, February 11, despite the damage caused to Stanley Park by December’s windstorm. However, the closure of a section of the seawall has necessitated some changes to the course this year. The most significant change is that the course will follow Stanley Park Drive from the foot of Pipeline Road, up and over Prospect Point (elevation 210 feet), and back down to Second Beach; rather than using the seawall around Prospect Point. This section of Stanley Park Drive will be closed to traffic. To keep the race distance an exact half marathon, there will also be a short-cut at Brockton Point, and the start line will move one block east to the corner of Pacific and Davie. A revised course map is available on our website,, and will be included in your race packet.

We would like to thank the Vancouver Parks Board for their help in ensuring that the race goes ahead with minimum disruption. The revised course will provide you with a close-up view of the destruction caused. The estimated cost to repair the damage is $9 million. While we will not redirect the proceeds from the “First Half”, which are promised to Variety – the Children’s Charity, we will be accepting donations to the Stanley Park Tree Fund at packet pickup and at the awards following the race.

Finally, if you are no longer expecting to run the “First Half” this year, why not volunteer instead? We are still in need of volunteers in several areas, and your help would be much appreciated. You can volunteer through our website at

We look forward to seeing you on February 11, and hope you accomplish whatever goals you may have set yourself.

Pacific Road Runners “First Half” Race Committee

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Running in the Frost

I love the way early morning frost causes the electric trolley busses to kick up insane amounts of sparks from the overhead wires. I have no idea what the science behind it is and, honestly, I don't really care. It's just cool have the busses zooming by, snapping and crackling, with big balls of orange and blue sparks spitting out behind them.

What makes it even cooler is that you have to be up very early to catch it. Once the busses have been running for a while the frost disappears and the busses become ordinary, losing that touch of the magical.

This morning was one of those frosty days. I was out of the house at 5:55 a.m. and feeling the urge to give in to martyrdom (Alison, patron saint of whinging runners!) because it was cold and slippery and early and running was not nearly as nice as being in bed. I was running down a mostly deserted Oak Street and suddenly had busses passing me from the South and from the North, all of them hissing and spitting and sparking furiously, adding brights spalshes of colour to the early morning pallete of grey and brown. As no one else was around it felt like a pyrotechnics display put on purely for my benefit, my reward for being up early.

A silly little thing but it made my morning.

For those who care about these things, it was 50min run, AHR 152, MHR 167.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Steveston Ice Breaker 8km Results

My offical time for the Ice Breaker was 41:30. The full scoop is:
209 41:30 3198 Alison Thompson F3034 15/37

Not sure how I ended up in the 3034 age group unless the organizers do age as of race day instead of age as of December 31. Should I ask them to correct this? Would I rather be 12 out of 26 or 15 out of 37?

My watch time was 41:13, there were no timing chips and a slow moving crowd at the start so I'm going to go by the watch time rather than gun time. As I was aiming for 41:20 I'm happy with my run, especially considering I had an insane side stitch at about 6km that I had to walk off and that was almost bad enough to set off an asthma attack. Teresa, whose race strategy was to stalk me, almost stopped because I looked so distressed (the distress was 95% about missing my target time and only 5% due to an impending inability to breath). Once I got back running I spent the rest of the race chasing down Teresa who, annoyingly, seemed to go faster when she wasn't behind me.

I think Teresa and I had a positive split but I wasn't smart enough to hit my watch's lap button at the 4km mark. I recall remarking that we were at 21:something at the turn around, but I also recall that we sped up considerably after hitting the 2km marker at 10:30 so that could be wrong. I'll see if Teresa has a more accurate recollection.

My HR was high the whole way, except for when the monitor wasn't working properly, then it was a relaxed 89. As per usual for a running race I ratcheted it up to ridiculous heights - hitting a high of 201 and averaging 179. I only really felt I was going too hard in the last 2km so I think that's just a normal racing HR for me. Alternatively, I may have the heart of a 19 year old (the calculation for max HR is 22o minus your age).

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Race Prep

Conventional running wisdom is that you should spend the day(s) prior to a race making sure you're well hydrated and not, for the purpose of example only, imbibe no liquids other than very strong coffee over a six hour period and, in the process, get dehydrated.

If I have a PR race tomorrow I'll have a whole new pre-race routine!

Okay, back to earth now. Tomorrow is not about setting a PR but about pacing. (Repeat that until it sinks in, please.) I'm going to aim for a negative split without starting too slowly. My PR for a 10km from a triathlon is 50:10 and for run only is 51:07 so I'm going to aim for a little over 5:10 minutes per km for an overall time of 41:20. I think. I've had far too much caffeine today to successfully do math.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Change of Plans

Joe Dixon is making life difficult! He went and organized a race at Cultus Lake the day after another race I really wanted to do, leaving me with the following dilemma:

I could do the Bare Bones Duathlon on the 12th in Penticton, get a chance to go over part of the IMC course and have a visit with my sister and nephews.


I could do the new race by Joe Dixon at Cultus Lake on the 13th, get in an early (and cold) Olympic race, spend less on travel and have a visit with my parents. The added bonus would be that my parents would get a chance to (and have no excuse not to!) watch me race.

Much as I would love the bragging rights I'm pretty sure I couldn't manage both, at least not without getting hurt. (Maybe a goal for next year.) (Doing both that is, not getting hurt!)

The Bares Bones duathlon was a great race last year but Joe Dixon does a bang-up job on everything he's involved with so I expect nothing different from this race. Normally the family visit is the deciding factor but no, this is sister and nephews vs. Mum and Dad. Technically, Penticton outnumbers Cultus three to two but there's some seniority to factor in here. Financially I save on travel costs with Cultus Lake but the race is more than twice as expensive as the Bare Bones was last year so it largely evens out. I want to familiarize myself with the IMC course but don't want to wear out my welcome with family there.


Unable to decide for myself I let the coach do it for me. Cultus Lake, here I come!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Perils of Recovery Week

Two years ago someone in the tri club told me that training for Ironman made you manic/bipolar. I remembered that this week as I'm doing everything to prove their words.

Last week I was tired, cranky, had moments of rage and got pretty unhappy. Laundry and dishes piled up (although that's somewhat normal). On my training journal I ranked most of my workouts as "Bad". At work I forgot how to spell.

This week, life is rosy, things are great and I'm making plans. Lots of them. And not just for me! I've finally done all my dishes, cleaned the kitchen and reorganzied the tri gear section of my closet. My workouts have been "Great" (even the evil spin session), I had a breakthrough in the pool and I've been blogging like a crazy woman. I've finalized housing for Ironman. I've read two Raymond Chandler novels (I should pace myself as he only wrote seven). At work I've tackled my filing and finished up a bunch of dull Joe jobs that have been sitting around forever. For the tri club I've sent about 500 emails to my fellow tri club Board members, come up with new projects (we need a newsletter!!), and updated, sorted and generally made pretty the shared spreadsheets.

What makes me truly realize I'm in a manic state is that I've started pondering what would be involved in organizing a triathlon. A half iron, to be specific. Not that I'd really do it, just a thought excerise of course. But it would be great if there was one in the Lower Mainland so that lazy Vancouverites wouldn't have to deal with ferries or mountain passes. I even got as far as picking a possible location and getting excited because I think I could easily get a good core of 50 volunteers there without too much effort. Once I started thinking about sponsors I realized I needed a serious time out. Reality check - my organizational experience in triathlon involves three hours holding up a stop/slow sign and 10 minutes picking up cones.

Reminds me of that time in Penticton, August 2004, when I stood on Eastisde Road watching bikes go by and pondering what would be involved in racing in a triathlon. Ironman, to be specific. Not that I'd actually do it ...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spin & Swim

Last night's spin class was evil. Eveeel!

The not so evil portion consisted of:
10 min warm up

Isolated leg drills

Cadence build - 30 sec at 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, a break and then repeat

Then it got bad:

3 X 30 sec at 100, 30 at 110, 30 at 120 on a 3min recovery
Hard gear and high cadence - I can't remember what the drill was called but I'm sure it was something along the lines of "The Lose Yer Lunch Drill".

According to Alan the goal for this was to hit our max heart rate within 90 seconds, go cross-eyed, forget our name and, as noted above, lose our lunch.

I couldn't do this in the big bracket nor could I do a cadence of 120 - I wavered between 100-110. I did, however, have difficulty holding onto my lunch so obviously I was doing something right.

This morning's swim was much more civil. Partway through the main set Paul hauled me out on deck to work on my body positioning and pull. According to him I'm putting all my effort into the front of the pull and too little at the end.

To fix this I need to:
  • Roll more. At the start of the stroke my body should be on an angle and my front arm feeling almost like it's away to the side. Mid-stroke my shoulders should be square to the bottom of the pool and at the finish my body should be rolled the other way.
  • Finish the push. I'm stopping before my arm is fully extended and not taking advantage of all the power I can get
  • Put my effort into the push in the second half of the stroke rather than my pull at the front. Paul said I'm pulling into my breath rather than pushing into it - that was the imagery that got the eureka lights going!

Working on that felt smooth and required much less effort, although the one arm stroke was harder as I had difficulty balancing in the water. I think I must have used my lats more today as my shoulders have migrated away from their usual nesting place close to my ears. Hopefully this will help the shoulder issues I'm trying to pretend don't exist as well as make me a better swimmer.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Swim Frustrations

Sunday was a frustrating swim - one of the goals of the workout was to increase our distance per stroke (DPS in swim speak), which you measure by how many strokes you take per length. We did various drills to work on sculling and the pull and my shoulders definitely got a good workout. My stroke count, however, went from the usual 22-24 down to an exciting 18 for one length then back to 24, cranked past that to 27 then steadied out again at 24.


I got so tense trying to get the stroke count down and annoyed at being unsuccessful that I completely exhausted myself. I finally decided to stop counting and instead work on form and relaxing.

The next day at the Masters swim at the Y the coach was half an hour late. Normally this would seriously annoy me but the thought of doing an hour of easy, continuous swimming instead of a structured workout made me very happy. No offense to Paul, but I was a little disappointed when he finally did show up.

This confirms for me that at the end of this Masters session I should swim on my own on weekdays. I'd been up in the air about this for a while. It's a big expense and, more importantly, I think I need the opportunity to just swim, to be relaxed in the water and not have a major workout plan. I might actually be looking forward to the long time trials in the pool - don't tell Alan!

First "Big Week" Done

So I finished my first big week of training and nobody lost an eye. Unfortunately I lost my temper and sense of perspective and had to do some apologizing so it wasn't a complete success.

I think going from being total slacker to a 14.5 hour week meant some adjusting needed to be done. Hopefully I'm now in the swing of things and have the crazy mood swings out of the way. I was reading a friend's blog and she sounded like she was doing almost all the opposite things from what I did last week - thinking positive thoughts and getting an upward spiral of positive feedback. I'll work on it in the coming weeks.

Meaning while, I've diarized a note on my work computer for the week starting February 12th: "Overload Week - Be Nice!!"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Early Morning Run in the Snow

This morning was the usual early morning run routine - hit the snooze button as long as is logically feasable. Decide not to run and to sleep in instead. Mentally kick myself as I should run, I need to do it and I'll actually enjoy it once I got started. Continue the me vs. me battle until I'm so awake that I don't have much option other than to get up and get on with it. Grab my gear, stuff down some sort of easily digested foodstuff and then walk in increasingly agitated circles trying to find something (usually it's on my head or in my hand). I'm sure there's an easier way!

We'd had another snowfall overnight, although not quite the 10cm that was predicted, and it was still going at 6am when I finally got out the door. The world was white and quite and beautiful. For the first half of the run I barely saw anyone and my footprints were the first to sully the snow. Even though it was snowing it was definitely warming up so the ice that had been so treacherous for the past few days was soft and not slippery at all.

I had three people getting into their cars on their way to work feel the need to comment on my dedication or to question my sanity. I'm so used to living in Kits where runners are as ubiqitous Not that I minded the attention!

Despite this being such a fantastic run, next Tuesday will still involve the same tussle to get up and out the door!

Marathon Spin Session

We still have snow and ice on the roads, making cycling possible only for the very brave or the very stupid. I am not brave (I'll the other to your judgement) so I decided to do my long ride inside on my trainer this past Saturday. Just to clarify, long ride meant 2 and a quarter hours. 2:15:00. That's one hundred and thirty-five minutes. On my trainer. Am I getting any sympathy here???

Lucky for me it was Hockey Day in Canada so there was a decent amount of distraction on TV to keep me going. After watching Ottawa slaughter Montreal I watched the DVD of The Godfather Part II. Interestingly, when someone scored a goal or got gunned down my cadence dropped by 5 to 10 RPM. Not sure if that really means anything.

I did exactly 2:15:00. I was so bored at the end I was staring at my HR monitor watching the seconds ever so slowly count up to my goal. Having stuck it out for an hour I wasn't going to do anything less than 2:15:00 but I sure as heck wasn't going to go a second over either.

The run after spinning was much easier than last week's shocker, my heart rate was still too high but I'm gradually getting my feel back for my pacing, which is a good place to be.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Essential Equipment for Spinning

The key components of any home spinning session: hydration and boredom prevention.

And who needs a fancy watch mount anyway? Mine came free with a bunch of broccoli!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Schedule

My coworker keeps asking me to let her in on the joke. Apparently every time she’s walked by my office over the past four days I’ve been grinning like crazy. I’ve tried to explain that I’m loving being back in training but she can’t quite understand why getting up at 5:30 am to go for an hour run before work would make me happy.

I also explained that by the end of next week I’m likely to be miserable and, sadly,in the same state every four weeks after that until sometime in July. Yes, if there’s one thing you can count on in tri training, it’s predictability!

So essentially my life for the next 7 months or so will be on the following schedule:

To understand how this feels the following may help:

Monday, January 08, 2007

First Weekend

My first weekend back at full time training is done. I survived. No one got hurt. A few people got glared at and several times I really didn’t make a whole lot of sense (putting my comments into context just took too much effort) but it all worked out in the end.

Executive Summary

  • Bike
  • Run
  • Core workout
  • Stretch
  • Wonder why the heck I'm doing this
  • Find inspiration online
  • Sleep
  • Swim
  • Run
  • Stretching is for weenies!
  • Attend board meeting
    Minimize accumulation of action items
  • Decide I love doing this
  • Sleep

The Long Version
Due to snow and a little bit of laziness I didn’t start my Saturday ride until well into the afternoon. The first fifteen minutes were shocking – how could I have gotten that out of shape (um, maybe by sitting on my butt doing nothing for two weeks??) and how could a small hill be that hard? Then I got into a rhythm and all was good in the world, for another 45 minutes. Sadly it was a 2 hour ride and boredom set in at the hour mark, shortly followed by painfully cold fingers and toes. Next time I ride on my own I need a clear destination that will take me the time allotted for my ride rather than circling around at random.

The 20 minute run after my ride was another shock. In two years of triathlon training I had never, ever experienced the post-ride “dead legs” phenomenon. For the first few minutes I was running totally flat footed and I felt like my legs weighed half a ton each. It was the hardest 20 minute run I’ve done in a very, very long time. Just to cap off a fun day I did 20 minutes of core work, 20 minutes of stretching then spent an hour trying to remember what made this all worthwhile. I looked up the IMC 2006 TV coverage on YouTube to try and bring back the love.

Sunday morning was the first swim of the year with the group and the wonderful new time of 8:00 am. I was hyped up for the swim and didn’t want to have to listen to all the talk required at the start of a new session I just wanted to swim. Swim and get into a workout and get my heart rate up and start on my way to becoming fast fast fast!

Of course I overdid it on the swim and died early in the long run after. My heart rate was through the roof and after 45 minutes I just wanted to go home. I made it through a 1.5 hour run and decided I would consider the fact that I didn’t whine and whimper the whole way a victory and leave it at that.

Usually I spend the bulk of a post workout Sunday on the couch either watching/snoozing through football or reading a book. This Sunday I had a three hour board meeting, which I was not looking forward to. Luckily the tri club board is full of awesome people and the meeting was actually the best part of the day. I had about 5 cups of coffee and managed to be awake and to contribute although, as mentioned above, I didn’t always make a whole lot of sense.

I know that I’ll get back into the swing of training and it will get easier, it will just take a little time. And patience.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Too Much Julian May

Reading too much pulp scifi can be dangerous to your sanity. I’ve realized I’ve started to think in effusive prose and excessive 3rd person!

As she sits at her computer; that culmination of science, technology and design so perfected at the entry to the 21st century (humanity’s salvation or its ruin?); she tries to marshal her swirling and chaotic thoughts. The triathlete, shoulders and hamstrings pinging with exhaustion and strain yet still game for one more workout, tries to rid her mind of the hyperbolic and adverb heavy prose of 1980’s era pulp fiction. She attempts to write a sentence not weighted down with ridiculous metaphor or simile, smothering her thoughts like an unexpected late spring snowfall burdening a delicate lilac bush.

She has only just begun her arduous year of training, her quest towards that athletic ideal and pinnacle of physical achievement – Ironman. The first month is always the hardest, exhaustion and pain settling into muscle, brain and nerve like pigeons in a stately historic building – unwanted but unavoidable. She knows, she knows deep in heart and to the very fibre of her being that if she perseveres, perseveres and does not let this stop her that the pain and exhaustion will fade and she can glory in the joy of training, finely tuning her muscles and honing her psyche for the unimaginable quest she has chosen, heading toward the ecstasy and glory of completion.

Her bicycle, black and yellow, sits in her closet unused but impatient, like a wasp forced into idleness, abuzz with internal tension. Although inanimate, it almost vibrates in anticipation of the morrow’s ride and the season ahead. Hills! Backroads! Scenic vistas! So much distance just waiting to be ridden and explored after so very many months, long months of idleness and unuse. It could once again exult in its ultimate purpose, ecstasies of glory in the simple perfection of balance, speed and centrifugal force.

The triathlete is content in her tiredness, her cocoon of exhaustion. She knows that in a few weeks she will be ready for the program and exulting in her physical reshaping. She also knows that if she reads a couple of Cormack McCarthy novels, with their spare and minimalist style, stark like a winter birch in the frigid north, that she will free herself of this obnoxious yet strangely addictive style of prose.