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.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Soapbox Addendum

Amy got up on her soapbox about an issue that's been bugging me for a while. I decided my comment to her was worth it's own post in this space. (edited a little for grammar/clarity)

Hey Amy,

I was talking with a friend about my discomfort with the Triathlete magazine swimsuit issue. My friend was of the "Power to them and their athleticism" school of thought. I couldn't clarify what pissed me off about the cover.

Then I laid out my eight months of Triathlete magazine on the floor to show her other covers. She changed her mind, and I decided not to renew my subscription!

The covers were as follows:

  • Dec '06 - Robin Williams & Rudy Garcia (both men, in race gear, standing facing the camera)
  • Jan '07 - Norman Stadler (man, in race gear, standing with his bike, facing the camera)
  • Feb '07 - Craig Alexander (man, in race gear, racing action shot)
  • Feb '07 Kona/Clearwater special edition - Craig Alexander (man, in race gear, racing action shot)
  • Mar '07 - Katya Meyers (woman, in race gear, racing action shot)
  • Apr '07 - Fernanda Keller (woman, in a bikini, sideways to the camera and show a lot of leg)
  • May '07 - Andrew Hannan (man, in run gear, running action shot)
  • Jun '07 - Maxine Bahns (woman, in a bikini, in a pose that I can't objectively describe other than as overtly sexual)
  • Jul '07 - Oliver Marceau (man, in race gear, racing action shot)
Six covers with men, three with women. Not great but could be worse. BUT, of the times when the women get cover space there's only one where the woman is racing and/or in racing gear whereas EVERY man on the cover is racing and/or in racing gear. None of the guys are in quasi-porn star poses, but are shown as athletes competing or ready to compete.

What pisses me off is that the last two times a woman made the cover her pose and clothing had little to do with triathlon, athleticism or anything positive but is sexually provocative. They're using sex to sell, and that's not what triathlon is to me. I've looked at back issues and the sexed-up women on the cover seems to be a new thing, hopefully not a trend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I finally figured out what is wrong with my bike. Yay!!!

For several weeks I’ve had “cathunkata thunkata” noise (with a corresponding bump) coming from my back bike wheel. I’ve checked the tire pressure, nothing wrong. I checked the rim. Nothing wrong. Checked the back gears and the quick release. Nothing.

Last night I took Louis out for a ride and the noise and bumping was worse. I remembered Mum talking about square tires when she lived in Vanderhoof & Fort St. James and wondered if this is what it felt like. Something twigged and I stopped, yet again, and checked my back wheel, yet again. Tire properly inflate? Yup. Wheel on straight? Yup. I was frustrated as what was going wrong was obviously getting worse but I couldn’t figure it out. Thinking of the square tires I picked Louis up and spun his back wheel to see if something was stuck on the tire and causing the cathunkating. This is when I finally saw the problem. It wasn’t something on the tire, it was the tire.

The side of the tire was giving out in several places, both coming unglued and fraying apart. This meant the tire was weaker and bulging out at this point. Bulging a lot. It looked like a snake that had just swallowed a rodent. Except that snakes, as far as I know, don’t generally look like they’re about to explode if they hit a bump (am I taking the simile too far?).

After the thrill of figuring out what was wrong I was now faced with a quandary, what to do about my ride? My options, as I saw them, were:

  1. Head home immediately and change the tire, maybe finishing my ride after
  2. Head home and finish my ride inside on rollers then change the tire
  3. Continue with my ride and keep my fingers crossed that the tire wouldn’t blow

#1 seemed like the most sensible option so I started back home. Then I realized that that would mean that I would only ride for 20 minutes and after fixing my tire it would be late and I likely wouldn’t have time to finish my ride while it was light. I’m just getting back into training after a recovery week and I really didn’t want to start missing workouts already.

Okay, option #2 then. What a great opportunity to get back on the rollers and try, once again to master them. Just because the first three attempts were intensely frustrating while managing to be mind bogglingly tedious didn’t mean the fourth attempt would be too. Hmm.

So I did a modified option 3. I kept going with my ride but did loops and stayed close to home in case the tire went “BANG!: and I had to walk back. This turned out to be the most boring road ride I’ve ever done (I did one leg drills to break up the tedium) but it was still better than going on rollers!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"YOU are not allowed to have any more coffee!"

Two and a half years in the tri club but this weekend was the first time a clubmate has felt compelled to cut off my caffeine intake. Friends from ultimate probably don't believe it took this long!

Aside from extreme hyperactivity on my part, it was a fantastic day. I arrived too late to catch the men's swim start but got to see the everyone else go. LETC had a fantastic showing: lots of podium finishes, many people qualifed for Worlds 2008 and every toughed it out on the extra long course (14.8km instead of 10km - BIG screw up!). A great day and a lot of fun to be out there cheering.

I'll link to clubmate's posts when they go up.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thanks Jason!

A friend of mine just forwarded me a copy of an email I sent to him back in January 2005:

"25-Jan-2005 12:57

So, yesterday I signed up for a triathalon. I am a truly terrible swimmer and I have a totally useless bike - can't wait to start!! I'm doing a sprint triathalon on March 13 so I have six weeks to be ableto swim 750 metres continuously. Currently I can do 3 25 metre lengths then I have to stop otherwise I start inhaling the pool (not a good tactic for increasing your speed). Despite sucking at two out of the three disciplines I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. "

Quite neat to see how far I've come!

Monday, June 04, 2007

38 Degrees of Triathlon - Oliver Race Report

I'll give you the good stuff first!

Swim: 38:21 (PR)
Bike: 3:10:49 (PR)
Run: 2:10:25 (PW)
Overall: 6:08:15 (PR)

Before leaving work on Friday I joked with a coworker that my race strategy would be to drink the gatorade and dump the water on my head. Turned out that was pretty much it.

Had a great time in the days before the race. I left work at noon and booked it up to Penticton - had a good drive (except for getting a big ding in the windshield) and got there in good time.

I got to my sister's after the boys were in bed so we had a quiet evening catching up before I retired to the "luxury guest suite." It was hot during the day but not at night and the tent trailer cooled down faster than the house so it was an ideal place to be sleeping.

My original Saturday plan was to meet up with club mates in the afternoon for a ride and run but when I got up I decided I wanted to work out before it got hot. My not-so-positive-thinking comment to my sister was, "I'll wait until tomorrow to get heatstroke."

I rode along East Side Road (part of the run and bike course for IMC) then came back home and had a nice easy run with my sister, which made me even happier I did my pre-race workouts in Penticton. I love the fact that we have something like that we can do together, she did her first official 10km this year and had a great race and I'm hoping to find a race we can run together. Or maybe an Olympic tri relay??

Had a fun morning and afternoon with the nephews, went to the park and played in the back yard and spent a lot of time not thinking about triathlon at all. The boys were great, they're so much fun to be around and to watch and they were so good while I was there.

The afternoon I headed to Oliver for bike check-in, package pick-up, pre-race meeting and to touch base with clubmates and friends. Had a nice easy swim in the lake, more of a get-to-know-you session than a workout. The pre-race meeting was long and hot and a bit late in the day and I was pretty pooped coming out of it .

Booked it back to Penticton for a stupidly large dinner, I made too much and felt guilty wasting Claire's food so I ate until I though I would burst. I think this might be my new pre-race fueling strategy!
Race Day
(All photos below taken by Torbin, more are in Joanne's photo album)
Race morning started well. I got out of bed when the second of my three alarms went off (clock, watch and cell phone - no I'm not paranoid!) and had a slow and easy breakfast. Went over my race list one more time then packed my gear and headed out earlier than planned.

There was an interesting start to the day, a good omen if you wish. Transition had pre-assigned spaces with ten bikes per rack, and things were pretty tight for everyone. Or almost everyone, for the four people at my rack life was great! It was nice to be able to spread out while getting myself organized.

This personal space theme carried over into the swim as I seemed unable to find anyone to draft off. I picked a starting spot that would have me on the outside of the turns (didn't enjoy the crush last year when I took the inside line) but was so wide I initially couldn't find any toes going the right speed to draft off then later couldn't stick with anyone as either they'd zig or I'd zag so I gave up trying and just swam.

It was a two loop course and we had to get out of the water and run around a marker on the beach before starting the second lap. I was apprehensive about this as the only other time I'd done this I attempted a dolphin dive and discovered that belly flops can hurt even if you're wearing a wetsuit. No dolphin dive/belly flop this time, just a run around the marker and back into the water. The short run jacked up my heart rate and it took about 50m to get it back down but after that it was a great swim. Forgot to get a split.

Getting out of the water at 38:21 was pretty exciting as I was pretty sure it was a PR (turns out I beat my swim time from my other half iron AND last year's 2km swim race). One thing I was sure of was that wetsuit strippers are some of my favorite people.

Had a slowish transition but somehow managed not to put on enough sunscreen. For some reason I decided I should spray my shoulders but not my arms, back or legs. I have a seriously odd burn on my back now.
Made the long trek out of transition (see picture below)

The bike had two facets for me - the first was the East side that was hilly and had one decent climb with a fun descent and the second was the West side which was mostly flat but with a wicked head wind. I loved the hills - I'm a decent climber and passed lots of people and I've recently discovered the joy of flying downhill at speed so this was my kind of course. Headwinds, however, are not my thing, in as much as something that feels soul sapping, spirit crushing and completely demoralizing can be described as not one's thing. I'm thinking I need to work on both my physical and mental headwind strategy for IMC.

Other bike issues didn't help much. My tribar set up wasn't right and on the second loop my shoulders and upper back were killing me when I was in aero. I put the bars on myself so no one to blame but my. My knees also go quite sore - I think this is from the bike fit and the new cleat position. I was quite worried on the ride but now I think it was actually from muscles unused to the work rather than ligaments stressing out (I think that's better, could be wrong). Finally, my left foot is so used to the old cleat position that it refuses to adjust and my foot pushes hard against the side of the shoe. At the end of the ride it felt like the bones on the outside of my foot were about to break.

The heat started to kick in on my second loop. I took water from the aid station and dumped it on my head, as the water was actually cold, this felt fantastic. About 20 mintues later I finished off the water in the bottles on my frame and reached back for the bottle behind my seat. Turns out that the water bottle in the road I'd seen on the part of the course I'd already done twice (and laughed at) was mine. I was now stuck with no water and was ready to get worried. Luckily around the next corner was an aid station and I managed to juggle getting water (to dump on my head) and gatorade.

Teresa, who is usually the same speed as me passed at this point and disappeared into the headwind, which wasn't terribly uplifting. I was obviously in a bad place mentally if I couldn't be happy a friend was having a good race. What with the headwinds, pain and preceived slowness I finished the bike feeling pretty low. Wish I'd known at that point that I'd beaten my bike time from Victoria by 18 minutes.

Took off on the run feeling pretty cranky. Torbin was cheering me on (and apparently taking photos) as I exited transition and I can't remember what I said but it was angry and I might need to apologize.

Before I get into the run, let me stop and say that the community support for this race and the volunteers (both in terms of sheer numbers and enthusiasm) were astounding. This was evident prior to the run but was really hammered home in those 21.1 km.

After leaving transition I took a right turn, hit the first aid station and was mobbed by elementary school kids yelling "Water!" "Gatorade!" "Gel!" each desparately trying to get me to take the item from them. It reminded me of friends' stories about backpacking in 3rd world countries and being mobbed by local kids begging for money or trying to sell stuff. It was a nutty scene and difficult to get through the sea of kids (especially as I didn't take anything from them) but it was impossible not to smile.

The run turned out to be either on asphalt or dry, dusty trails and there was very little shade. There was a whole lot of up at the begining and apparently some downhill bits that I only noticed on the way back as I ascended them. I started the run at about 11:30 and the heat of the day had set in, even worse the asphalt had heated up so it was reflecting up at us as well as coming from above.

The organizers set up sprinklers at the aid stations, brought in ice and sponges but still the majority of the people on the run looked like they were struggling. A number of locals living along the course came out with their sprinklers and spent at least two hours watering the runners (they were there the whole time I was running). These people seemed to be enjoying it, probably having several hundred athletes tell you how fantastic you are is good for the ego, but they must have been suffereing standing out in the sun for that long.

The aid station routine was: get ice (if they had it) and stuff it in my hat and sports bra, dump water on my head or go under a hose, and drink gatorade. At this point all I wanted was water, the thought of sugar turned my stomach, but I figured I needed the sugar and the electrolites and forced down the gatorade. A gel or two probably would have been a good idea but I didn't want to risk GI distress.

After I finished the first loop I had a bit of a mental tailspin. I walked the aid station then didn't want to run again. I really wanted to quit. At this point I checked my watch for the first time on the run and realized that if I did the second loop in an hour I'd have a PR. Wow this is a mental sport - that realization kicked me into gear, got my feet moving and my spirits in a happy place.

I haven't done the math yet but as I was at 5:03 cumulative time at the halfway mark and my overall time was 6:08 and my run time was 2:10 I think I either had an even split or possibly a negative split. I'll play with the numbers when my brain feels less fried!

One of the upsides of the run course was that all the out and backs meant I got to see pretty much everyone from the club out on the run. I didn't see Joanne, which I regretted at the time and even more so now that I know she set a half marathon PR on the run. I would have liked to have been witness to that! Almost everytime I passed some words of encouragement would be exchanged and I'd get a little mental boost.

Several times I passed Brian, who had been suffering from naggin injuries all season and was walking. I tried to say positive things each time I saw him, hoping I wasn't being annoying. On the second loop I passed Teresa, who'd passed me on the bike. There was no thrill in catching her, however, as she was walking and clearly having a tough day. I tried to chat with her and cheer her up but told me to go on. Shortly after that I passed Chung, who is usually a fierce competitor and should have been at least forty minutes ahead of me. I asked if he was okay and he indicated yes so I told him to drink and get ice at the next aid station. I saw Nicola from my masters swim who was having a rough day and told her to drink gatorade and get gels from the aid station (she thanked my profusely for this later as she'd forgotten she had gels on her). This was becoming a theme, over the last few km it seemed like almost everyone was in bad shape, it was pretty shocking and a bit wierd to be keeping my form and feeling reasonably strong amidst all that. I was constantly passing people and tried to say something positive to everyone I could.

I saw my sister near the finish, told her I was going straight to the lake when I was done (hopefully I also said something else nice, like "Thanks for being here.") and kept going. She told me it had taken her ten minutes to walk to where were from the start, which was awesome information and exactly what I needed, so much better than "You're almost there!. " She also said she'd seen Joanne and she'd had a great finish, which made me really happy. Claire's excitement at seeing me was fantastic, it's really special to have someone on course cheering specifically for you.

I finished in 6:08:15, beating my previous half iron by over 4 minutes. A very cool accomplishment on a very hot day! I didn't take any time to savour the victory however, I grabbed my medal and waded into the lake. That felt almost as good as the PR!

Sadly the heat knocked the stuffing out of a fair number of people. A couple club mates had to hit the med tent and the rest of us hit the lake or found a cool place to hide, so we didn't have a large cheering section near the finish. We did, however, have our club mates' boyfriends, husbands, co-mortgagees, etc. plus coach Andrew and Jessica cheering us on so that was awesome.

For me it was a great day and an excellent learning experience for IMC.

Geeky Stuff:
I already mentioned my pre-race gorge. I really think this helped as I didn't eat a lot during the race. I had about 3/4 of two Cliff Bars, one gel and two and a half bottles of gatorade on the bike.

On the run I had Gatorade at every aid station and tried cola once but nothing else. The cola was fizzy so not the best thing for me, although it helped me realize why some many runners were belching.

I also spent the two days prior drinking lots of Gatorade to top up the electrolytes in my system.

The above really doesn't sound to me like it was enough but I had a good race so something worked. One thing to keep in mind for IMC was that in the heat I really didn't want anything sweet, I'll try pretzels and other foods at the Peach and the training camp and see how they work out. Also, having two flavours of Cliff Bar on hand was great as I could switch up.

Heart Rate;
My average HR was 169. This is unusually low for me for a race, usually I'm well over 180 or 190. On the ride I actually tried resetting my watch a few times as I couldn't believe it was consistently registering so low. I think this is a good sign (or a sign that my watch is dying!), I'll discuss with Alan.

Bike stats:
Ave speed - 29.45 kph
Max speed - 63.67 kph
Ave cadendce - 89