Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kelowna Apple - Quick and Dirty Race Recap

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Osoyoos Half - Pre Race & Swim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Osoyoos Pre-Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Iron Mountain Sprint Race Report

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

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

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

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

Swim time: 15:39

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

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

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

Bike time: 48:20

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

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

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

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

Run time : 22:04 (4.6 km course)

Overall time: 1:28:41

Post Race Checklist

- Bag full of wet stinky gear
- Jiffy marker on arm(s) and leg(s)
- Body Glide in hair
- Mud / sand / grass on everything
- That thing that your club mate forgot (medal, wetsuit, keys, child)
- Random bruises
- Sunburn(s) in bizarre spots
- Desperate need for food / coffee / shower / nap / trauma counseling
- Big grin

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oliver Wine Capital Sprint Race Report

For my first triathlon of year I did the Oliver Wine Country sprint this weekend.

Normally I've done at least one race by this time of year but having done the Bahamas marathon in January and following it with a disastrous half marathon at the First Half in February, I was happy to take a few months off racing. Alan has said that there's no need to do Olympic distance races to prep for a half iron and I'm happy to stick with the shorter distances for now.

It was fun going back to the Wine Country Sprint (or wino race, as Alan has been calling it) as that was my first open water triathlon back in 2005 and my second ever tri. This was a very different race from 2005, that biggest difference was the lack of pre-race nerves. Well, that and the fact that I'm fitter and way, way more experienced. I lost track some time ago of the number of races I've done in the past six years, but I'm pretty sure it's over thirty.

Mary and I arrived Saturday afternoon and went to Tuclenuit Lake to test how cold the water really was. I proved conclusively that it was too cold to swim in without a wetsuit by swimming in it in just my bathing suit. Actually, once my arms and legs went numb it wasn't so bad! We also rode part of course to get in a ride and to familiar ourselves with the course.

With our workouts out of the way we got down to the important business - wine tasting! We hit a few wineries and came away with several bottles each. It was the Wine Capital triathlon, it would be bad karma not to sample some.

Race morning we arrived in time for me to do a short ride, run and swim warm up. The race start was crowded and chaotic but things got sorted pretty quickly. As usual, I didn't find anyone to draft off so did most of the swim on my own. On the return portion of the out and back course I started to get my rhythm in the swim and feel like I was going fast. For my next race I think I need much more time warming up for the swim.

Coming out of the swim I was happy with my time - 14:24 is close to my pool TT times and definitely not bad for my first open water swim of the year. It went from happy to confused when I got to my bike rack. It was full. I've never been the first to my bike rack in a tri. Ever.

I headed out of T2 happy that I was ahead and expecting to be passed as fast bikers made it out of the water. On my way to the first turn around I was exited to see Nicole in the lead. As I neared the turn I realized there weren't a lot of women between me and Nicole. Not a position I'm used to in races.

Close to the second turn around I passed Nicole as she was changing a flat. Noo! Her lead was lost. I counted the women coming back from the turn to see how places she had lost and realized I was third. Nicole passed me shortly after the turn and I told her her placing.

I was in fourth place and on my way back to transition. I'd never been close to placing well overall in a race and I started to stress about my transition time. It had never mattered much when I was merely racing against my own times and going for a personal best, but now I really, really wanted to place, at least in my age group, and a poor transition could cost that. I may have to pay more attention in transition workouts this season!

I was beat out of transition by a woman at my rack. I was now fifth. I left T2 with the goal of putting in as much space between me and women behind me as I could, fully expecting to be passed.

Near the halfway mark I saw Nicole was now in second but would have to put in an incredible effort to take first. I had just passed another racer and was in fourth but, shortly after the turn, saw Kristie from my club closing in. I decided to kick it up a notch and make Kristie work for it if she wanted to pass me.

With just under a km to go I yelled back at Kristie that if she wanted fourth she'd have to come and get it. Her friends and family were cheering near the finish and I yelled at her to come on, and then tried to put in a sprint. I managed to beat her by five seconds.

She was psyched when I told her she was fifth overall and at least third in her age group. Not bad for her first triathlon! I've decided I'm going to enjoy this victory over Kristie, which may sound unsportsmanlike as she's a rookie but I have a feeling that she'll soon be very fast and I likely won't be beating her ever again so I'm taking my victory now!

In checking the results I found out that I was first in my age group, and definitely fourth overall. I've never won my age group in a tri and never placed anywhere near that high overall so I was very excited. I'll come back to earth when I do a bigger race, but for now I'm enjoying the moment.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quote for Today

"If you are irritated by every rub,
how will you be polished?"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm no Rocket Surgeon* - My 2011First Half Half Marathon Race Report

Somewhere around the 8 mile mark in today's race I wondered "What was I thinking?" I had decided pre-race that a 1:50 or faster race was doable, and in fact a PR was well within my reach, however 2/3 of the way through the race reality was viciously kicking in.

For your edification, you may not want to aim for a PR half marathon when:
- you did your first full marathon a month ago
- you miscommunicated with your coach, who didn't realize you had the race on your schedule, but still followed your plan and didn't taper or adjust your workouts the week prior in any way
-your longest run in the past three weeks was nowhere near a half marathon time or distance.

Seems somewhat obvious in retrospect, probably not really anything I needed to learn the hard way.

One thing I was experimenting with was running without a fuel belt or water bottle, relying entirely on the on course aid stations. There were four aid stations, one we passed twice, so not a lot of chances to drink on course.

I definitely had issues with fueling, my mile splits got progressively slower up to 6 miles. I had a gel and downed it with water from an aid station then suddenly was able to run my target pace for a mile. After that my pace dropped precipitously, I'm not sure How much of a difference having my own water would have made but the sugar rush and then crash from quickly downing a gel didn't help me much.

My mile splits are telling (I was aiming for 8:23/mile)
1 - 7:57
2 - 8:52
3 - 8:35
4 - 8:50
5 - 8:37
6 - 8:39 (ate a gel)
7 - 9:02
8 - 8:27 (gel kicked in!)
9 - 8:52 (and the gel is gone)
10 - 8:41
11 - 8:56
12 - 9:20
13 - 10:25 (seriously!)

Final time - 1:56:21

* One of the best phrases I found on the interwebs in 2010. I'm also fond of "all intensive purposes."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

Finish photos are here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bahamas Marathon Race Report

It was a pretty basic morning, I walked in circles a fair amount but managed to get everything I needed together in time.  The half marathoners, myself and a couple of support crew headed out for the run.

There turned out to be a number of Canadians in the race and we chatted with them while waiting to start.

The gun went off and we ran through downtown Nassau in the dark, doing our best to avoid potholes and speed bumps.  After that we went over the steep bridge onto Paradise Island, immediately turned right and ran over another steep bridge off the island (seemed totally unnecessary to me). I ran strong over the first bridge and caught a couple of our half runners, John and Kelly, saying hi as I went by.  On the second bridge reason started to show it's head and I tried to let people go and hold a slower pace.

The Bridges of Doom

Off the bridge we ran through a very poor looking neighbourhood.  A number of the residents were up at 6:30 watching us race (some cheering, some bemused) which was cool.

The area seemed to sharply change from poor to hatch sales, then to big banks, then to big, well kept up homes.  Interesting to seem the spread of income as we went.  (And none of the residents of the mansions were out to watch us.)

We did a 180 and headed back through town.  John passed me again and I started catching up with Kelly.

I thought about my predicted time and decided that I felt so good I should definitely go for a 4 hour run.  It was totally possible!

Changing your race plan at mile four in a 26.2 mile race is always a good idea.  Right?

I yelled ahead to Kelly to ask what her pace/goal time was and she told me sub-two.  Uh oh.  I was going way too fast.  I dropped back and tried to let her and John go but had difficulty holding a slower pace.

They eventually disappeared and I caught up with Hank from our group.  He looked like he was having some challenges at that point, I said hi and something encouraging as I passed. 

As I neared the Breezes the half marathon turn around I kept an eye out for returning half marathoners from the group.  First Annie, then Alex then Gustavo went by, all looking strong.

At the hotel Megan, who'd done her first ever running race in the 5km the day before, and some others were out and cheered me on.  Megan took some photos and I told her she needed to get shots of me while I was still smiling.  I wasn't sure I'd be so positive on the return.

Once I was past the half turn around point race narrowed out considerably.  There were about 400 racers in the half and only about 120 in the full.  I lost a my pace bunnies and it was very quiet for the rest of the way, but when I did get to an aid station or group of spectators they were super excited to see a runner.

The weather started to warm up shortly after we split from the half marathoners.  I was worried about overheating wand whenever I was in the shade I took my hat off so my head could stay cool.  I get sunstroke very easily so I kept my hat on in the sun however. And when I saw photographers - didn't want to have hat head!

I also followed Alan's advice for cooling and poured water on my wrists and inner forearms at every opportunity. Some of the volunteers thought I was weird for doing this, but as I never over heated it seemed to have worked.

Aside from the Bridges of Doom at the start and a low bridge about 15 miles in, the course was very flat. It was quite winding and I tried as much as possible to take the shortest cant on every corner as that can considerably cut the overall distance I had to run.

Once we left the resort areas we went past some strip malls then the road hugged the coast and we had a great ocean view. Lots of quiet beauty then every mile an enthusiastic group of volunteers handing out water and Gatorade.

Near the full turn around there started to be traffic on the road and running anywhere other the shoulder of the road became a bit risky.  On the return there were quite a few cars on the road so I shoulder checked any time I got closer to the middle of the road.

Most of the drivers were very considerate and gave me lots of room however I was buzzed by two police cars and a couple of police on motorcycles.  Not only was it rude and frightening, but as it was after 20 miles into the race it was quite dangerous - we were neither steady on our feet nor were we always moving in a predictable direction.

My pace had dropped considerably after I passed the halway mark, I had definitely gone out to fast and I was starting to pay for it.  It was a struggle to keep a 9:20 mile pace, although I'd do the occaissional 9:05 for no particular reason.  As I approached mile 20 I prepared to hit the wall, i was tired and my legs hurt and I was readying for everything to fall apart.  I grabbed a gel from the aid station and downed it so I'd have the energy to push through.  And I kept going on pace and didn't feel much of a change.

I passed the Breezes and saw Deanna, who kindly took my (nasty) Fuel Belt then saw a highly enthusiastic Megan again.  It's always a big lift to see supporters on course!

At about mile 24 I started running out of steam.  My legs hurt and it was an effort to keep running.  I decided that a marathon was a ridiculous distance to run and from now on I'd stick to half marathons.  No way I'd do another full.  "One and done!" I decided.  I may even have said that aloud.

The aid station volunteers were also hitting the wall - the 24 mile crew were mostly napping and the 25 mile crew were a bit out of it. This is NOT a criticism, I think it was awesome that they were out and I know how draining it is to stand around for hours, especially when you have so few runners going by.  It was warm and this part of the course was the most boring, it would have been a long, long day for these guys.

I felt drained and desparately wanted to walk but knew I was very close to the finish so I kept running.  As with the rest of the race, as my energy flagged I told myself "You're in the BAHAMAS!  How could this be anything but good!"  An unweildy but effective mantra.

As I neared the finished I could see half marathoners walking towards me, some cheered me on and even the ones that didn't were heartening as I knew I was so, so close to the finish.

Finally I could see the finish and the yellow shirts of my group.  Wendi and Gustavo yelled and waved and ran with me for most of the last 200m.  This was absolutely phenomenal, I was psyched to be finishing but their support made it so much more special.

After 4 hours, 7 minutes and 22 seconds, I crossed with a smile. Even though I was far off my dream goal of 4 hours, I smashed my goal of finishing happy.

I grabbed some food, said lots of incoherent things to the group members and we jumped on the bus to head back to the Breezes. At the resort we went straight from the bus to the bar for a celebratory glass of champagne and I stood in the ocean sipping it while icing my legs feeling pretty darned good about life.

This would be a great spot to finish the race report but the next day I got an email from my Mum.  She'd checked the results online and informed me I'd finished 22nd overall and had won my age group!  What a way to start my year.  Made a very fun race even better.

Bahamas Marathon - Pre Race Report

Just for Amy and Kathryn I'm working on my race report on my flight home from the race. (Nothing to do with not being able to sleep, nope this is all to keep you happy.  Hope you appreciate my sacrifice!)

Despite being in the travel industry for eight years I've never been on a FAM trip so had little idea of what to expect.  I was nervous about sharing a room with someone I didn't know and in general about the group dynamics.

At the Toronto airport I spied various people who looked like runners.  One of them was handing out shirts so I guessed it would be my group. Right I was. I met a few people, chatted and tried desperately to remember names.

At the resort (Superclubs Breezes) we checked in and I ended up rooming with Wendi, a very nice and very cool agent from Toronto.  She was very experienced both with running and with FAMs so an excellent person to be around.
The view of the Breezes pool 

I was the only person from the group signed up for the full marathon, I was infamous before anyone even met me.  I told people in the group the distance I was racing and they responded "You're the one!"   When people asked what distances we were doing and someone said "She's the full" it sounded remarkably like "She's the fool!"

In the days prior to the race we did a variety of agenty things - site inspections of the Breezes property, the Atlantis resort and the Sandals resort; a Dolphin experience; wandering downtown Nassau.  It was interesting and fun but not necessarily the restful type of things you want to do prior to a marathon (the Atlantis site tour was three hours of walking).

Hanging out with dolphins 

At the aquarium at the Atlantis

View from the Executive Lounge in the Cove tower at the Atlantis resort

Just as difficult as staying off our feet was eating sensibly.  We were faced with tempting buffets for breakfast then uncertain stretches with no food and a couple of seriously unhealthy dinners (but soooo good!).  If you're ever in the Bahamas, go to Twin Brothers at Arawak Cay for the fish fry.  Pretty sure deep fried conch (pronouced "conk") isn't recommended pre-race food but wow it was good. Ooh, and do brunch at the Atlantis and have dinner at the Sandals.  You'll thank me for the recommendations.

Grilled red snapper at Twin Brothers fish fry

So after three days of doing everything wrong we finally came to the marathon.

I picked up a copy of the race program and looked at the race registrants.  There were maybe 120 people signed up for the marathon.  I joked to the other runners and to my parents and coach that I might actually place in this race!

It was good to know in advance that once the half marathoners turned off I'd be pretty much on my own.  Running in a crowd is a very different energy than running alone so it was good to be prepared.

After a pasta dinner at the Breezes buffet, a good portion of which I managed to wear (no pre-race nerves!), we had an early night and tried to have a decent sleep.  We set four alarms and of course I woke up five minutes before any of them went off.