Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An overdue update!

I was going to go to the pool at lunch today, but then I didn't want to. So I'm writing this instead. Yay for offseason!

The road bike has busted out of the garage for fall riding.
So, it's been a while since my last race. I've been thoroughly enjoying just doing whatever, which has still involved some swimming, a lot of cycling, and a little bit of running. And doing a lot of thinking about what comes next. Spoiler alert: still really have no idea. Lots of possibilities kicking around at this point, but it's safe to say that 2017 will probably not be the year I do a full Ironman. For a bunch of different reasons, but most importantly, I just don't want to right now. Which is the best reason of all, really!

stopping to smell the flowers. Actually I don't think these really smell like anything. 

 Right now I'm really leaning towards focusing more on the Olympic distance next year, but nothing has been decided. There are too damn many races to choose from!

Oh hello there new toy.

Da fuck with this mountain thing on Zwift? 30 minutes of climbing?!!

In terms of how my current training is looking, I've reconnected with Zwift, which is a whole hell of a lot of fun on that fancy new Computrainer, and is perfect for me right now since I'm not following any sort of training plan (nor do I want to). Chasing jerseys around the Island and London courses is keeping me in shape, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'll be back on Trainerroad soon enough once I figure out what my target races will be for the summer, and start to get serious again about preparing for them.

outside is alright
Why yes I coordinated my socks with my jersey. Thanks to Amy for the pic!

I've managed to get outside a few times, too, which is always a good thing. Gotta squeeze in as many of those as I can before it gets too cold/snowy/etc.

Foxy made a friend! Big shoutout to Amy for her first ever 100k ride - she was a total trooper and rocked the new distance!

I guess this fall thing is ok.
Swimming is swimming. Going twice a week just to maintain feel for the water and because it's nice to stretch out. Can't complain.

I appreciate how the Muskoka shirt says FINISHER and 70.3 in massive letters to make sure everyone knows I did it. Because if you can't impress random people on the street, what's even the point?
Running. Oh, running. Well, I've been deliberately keeping things slooooooooow the last few weeks, and it's starting to pay off. My last few runs have felt downright good, and the 'slow' pace is getting a little bit faster (man it's nice to see a sub 6 min/km average after a very easy run again!).

I don't totally hate running! Yay!
So I signed up to run the 5k at Road to Hope next weekend. Running no longer feels totally shitty, definitely time to race! SMRT.

#selfies are hard
But seriously there's a reason behind this, which is that I need some sort of pace benchmark before I start Around the Bay training sometime in December. I'm a firm believer in training at my current level, rather than the level I wish I was at, so this will help me set up a training plan. I'd love to take aim at another PB at ATB (2:40?), but that's really going to depend how things shake out over the next month with this slow/steady base building running thing I'm doing. The 5k race will help me figure out where I'm at. I have 0 expectation of anything even close to a PB; I'll be pretty ecstatic if I can keep it close to 25 minutes. Or at least under 26 minutes.

(run confidence: not high right now).

Running is fun! Especially when you muck around for 5 minutes trying to get a decent picture for instagram (which is the most important thing, I think we can all agree).
At any rate, I'm enjoying myself, not putting any pressure on myself (other than a yearly mileage goal that is just within reach - can I hit 10,000 km on the year? I'm at 8430, so as long as I can keep up the trainer miles, it should be doable...), keeping things pretty easy and stopping to take a lot of pictures along the way. 2017 goals will all fall into place eventually, but there's no rush to get there right now.
Leaves seem to be moving past their peak this week. Sad face.

I'm going to miss fall. Enjoying it while it's here!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Race Report: Barrelman half distance triathlon 2016

Last race of the season (or at least the last one I'm currently registered for. It's a long time until Around the Bay in March so there's probably going to be another race or two added to the schedule soon). Gave up on the weekly updates a while ago because ugh, bored of myself, but basically the prep leading up to the race was decent on the swim and bike side, and disappointing and frustrating on the run side of things. Essentially running has just felt pretty shitty ever since Muskoka, so I didn't have high expectations of the run for this race. I knew I could get through 21.1k, but it probably wasn't going to be pretty.

This year we decided against going to Niagara for the weekend - we live close enough to the race site that it's still reasonable to drive in the morning of, and we wanted to save a Niagara trip with the kids for something that doesn't involve them standing around watching mom race for a full day, which is really not the most exciting thing. Plus I kind of want to go to the waterpark myself. Yay waterslides!

So, Saturday Ivanka and I drove over with our bikes to drop them off, pick up our kits, and attend the pre-race briefing, which was basically the same as last year. John Salt did announce that they had decided to pick a random finish spot, and whoever finished in that spot would win a Computrainer, which made the entire room go 'ooooooooh'. I also did the somewhat pointless 'cover your bike with plastic bags' thing, mostly because everyone else was doing it, and I figure if someone did break into T1 overnight and steal a bike, they'd probably bypass the ones attached the racks with garbage bags.

Obligatory tri crap photo. It's been a long season.
Saturday I was up really early to get a ride to the start with my neighbour Natalie, her husband, and Stephen and David, a couple of hilarious and awesome guys from my tri club. I'm not sure I've ever had quite that many laughs on the way to a race before. Especially at 5:30 am. Possibly our inability to find an open gas station seemed more hilarious due to the time of the morning and general lack of sleep!

Sunrise at the swim venue
So yeah we got there a little bit early, but it's not like I was going to sleep past 4 anyway. And I was able to reassure myself that my bike and borrowed race wheels were still there. Really, I was most worried about the wheels, since I'd have hated to have anything happen to them. Big thanks to Laurence for the loan.

Thank god it's all still here.

A photo posted by Sam J (@sammykaye71) on

We remembered to get a picture with Nicole this year! Best volunteer around - not only was she there stupid early to do body marking, she also volunteered at the finish line. That is a longass day. You are the freaking best, Nicole. Love ya. Plus you will get her hear her screaming at me later in this post. It's worth sticking around for, trust me.

Got my stuff organized, almost sent my swim goggles to T2 in my post race bag but realized they were in there just in time (OH MY GOD), and made Irina cry. Um, sorry? Maybe we should have given you the birthday card after the race?

Pre race with Sam and Irina
Checking out Irina's butt. She's making that 'birthday girl' ribbon look damn good!

Chatting with the Canucks before heading for the swim start. Photo via TriChick Jennifer
A lot less nervous this year as I got into the wetsuit and headed for the start. I paddled around a bit, got comfy, was attacked by an enormous patch of seaweed (canalweed?) that was super disgusting, and eventually located Sam & Irina for last minute good luck wishes before our wave headed out.

Pink caps waiting for the start. I'm out somewhere by the yellow buoy. Pic via Jennifer.
Swim: 40:37.2
Overall: 225/554
Gender: 68/200
Age group: 12/29

So the best part about swimming in the canal at the Flatwater Centre is the guide ropes about a metre down that they use to secure the markers for rowing events. If you can stay on top of the line, it's like swimming in a pool and you barely have to sight (to the point that at Welland I was running headfirst into the buoys).

But the guide ropes weren't in the canal. So we'd have to sight old school style, like a bunch of suckers. Damn it! I had been hoping to PB the swim course over my time from Welland, but with no lines to follow I was kind of resigned to being slower.

The swim overall was uneventful. Because I was in the second last wave this year there weren't as many people coming up behind to swim over me, although towards the end I was having to go around quite a few slower swimmers from earlier waves. A couple of times I lifted my head and found I was veering off into the middle of the canal, but mostly I swam pretty straight. It's such a familiar venue now, which is helpful for keeping the nerves calmed down.

And 40 minutes later the volunteer at the exit was hauling me onto my feet and I was running for transition. An entirely satisfactory swim - and even with having to sight, I was only 8 seconds off my Welland time, and 2 minutes faster than Barrelman last year. Really nothing to complain about! When I think about the fact that two years ago I hadn't swum a single lap of a pool, much less anything in open water, being able to crank out a 40 minute 2k swim in a race without giving it a whole lot of thought is pretty awesome.

Why is it always so much harder than it should be to find the damn pull string?

Heading for the stairs! Ahhhhhh there's Nicole! YAY!

I'd look up and smile for the camera but I'm way too worried about falling on my face. Pic via Nicole.
T1: 1:42

I had orders from Coach Zin to improve my transition time. Last year was 2:23, so consider that goal met. No taking my time here, just get changed, shove the wetsuit in the bag, and get the hell out onto the road!

Bike: 2:40:29.6 (avg speed 33.27 km/hr)
Overall: 169/554
Gender: 31/200
Age Group: 6/29

The bike was alright.

Yeah. I kept looking at my average speed, especially over the second half, and giggling maniacally to myself. This was just flat out fun.

It did take a little time to settle in - I was pacing by heart rate and it took about 5k for my heart rate monitor to settle down and stop grabbing my cadence, then another 10 or so to get my heart rate down to the 164ish target. There was a bit of a headwind over the first 20k but it didn't bother me. The worst parts for wind were by Lake Erie, where a few times the crosswinds caught my fancy borrowed wheels and I had to compensate a bit, but I was never worried. And soon enough we were turning towards Niagara and after that I positively felt like I was flying. The effort was bang on target, my speed was great, and my legs felt strong.

Around 56k ish. Looking like you know what you are doing is like 90% of the battle. Photo via Jennifer
I promise that is me. Coming out of the tunnel on Townline. I couldn't resist doing a little joyous yelling while I was in the tunnel...
Could really not have asked for a better ride! A 15 minute improvement over last year!

Now, there's a lot in that, and it's hard to say how much credit to give where. Last year I was on a road bike, this year a tri bike. A whole lot of training hours in between. More favourable wind this year. And of course those sexy wheels, which are a lot lighter than my stock wheels and at the very least provide a psychological advantage because they just look fast. So a big combo of things going into that time.

Altogether, I am thrilled with this ride!

All smiles into T2!
T2: 1:52

I had memorized my rack location on the map, so had no problem finding my spot and dumping out my bag of run gear. Quick change, shoved a gel in my bra for later in the run, and then out onto the run course. I was going to make a needed bathroom stop, but there were a few Iron Canucks there waiting for their relay team bikers and they were cheering and yelling for me and it felt like ducking into a porta potty would be kind of anticlimactic, so I figured I'd wait for the first aid station.


Ugh do I have to?

OK fine. It did end on a high note.

Run: 2:14:35.8
Overall: 181/554
Gender: 45/200
Age Group: 8/29

Yep, that would be my slowest half marathon ever. It didn't feel great right from the start. It was getting pretty hot and the humidity was ridiculus. There were a million clouds in the sky and yet somehow not a single one of them could be bothered to go over the sun, so I felt like I was slowly baking.

I ignored my watch, ignored my pace, tried to ignore all the speedy jerks on their second loops passing me, and just did one foot in front of the other until I got to the next aid station. At each aid station I grabbed water and Heed and walked until I'd gotten down fluids and dumped some over myself to try and cool down. I tried not to think about how many more kilometres were left and tried to zone out and just keep moving forward.

Big thanks to Multisport Canada for the aid stations every 2k. They were so needed on that day!

As I came up the parkway towards the end of the first loop, I saw Sam heading the other direction, which made me really happy because I knew that she must have had a big PB on the bike. And coming in to finish the loop was a big boost because of all the supporters - Zindine was looking sympathetic (OMG do I look that bad??!), and of course all the awesome cheer squad from my tri club, both the lucky ones who had finished their race for the day and those who came out to support. And I managed to catch Nicole's attention as I went past the finish although I can't remember what she yelled at me. Something encouraging!

Heading towards the start of the second loop; pic via Zindine
Three half irons, three high fives from Natalie. If I ever travel for a half I'm going to have to hire her to come with me! Pic via Jennifer.
I felt a little energized heading back out onto the second loop, and even entertained brief thoughts of negative splitting. Ha! Not bloody likely.

And now we run that whole damn loop again? WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? pic via Zindine
I made a brief effort to try and calculate my likely finish time, but halfway through the run of a half iron, the brain no worky so good and I quickly gave up on that and just settled on getting to the next aid station.

The second loop of the run had a very different feel to it. The fast, pushing hard, not walking dead people were gone. Already finished, those jerks. Now I was with my fellow sufferers. There were a lot of other people using a run/walk strategy, and it made me feel a little better that I wasn't the only one clearly not enjoying themselves much.

I'm pretty sure I managed to stick with my 'only walk the aid stations' plan (with the caveat that I counted that entire steep hill after aid station #3 as part of the aid station), which really is a pretty big success given how I felt. And eventually the km ticked off and I found myself at the last aid station with less than 2k to go and I was all 'fuck it let's wrap this bullshit up'. And from somewhere I started picking up the pace, and even passing some people.

At the 20k marker I started running hard, and with about 500m to go my teammate Danielle popped up with some words of encouragement. Then the finish line was in sight and the rest of the team was there yelling and OMG I was almost done.

And that's when things got weird.

Suddenly EVERYONE was yelling. People were screaming at me to go faster and I had no idea what was going on, but I just wanted to finish the damn race already so I went even harder.

I just want this to be over. It hurrrrrrts.
And then I heard Steve Fleck on the mic say something about the next person across the line winning something.

Honestly this all happened so fast that I didn't even process it until I was across the line, except I knew there was no one in front of me and I had no idea if anyone was close behind me, so I went as hard as I could.

(the finish video is best watched with sound so you can hear Nicole totally freaking out)



My 'holy shit I won' face. Also, far more importantly, stopping my watch. 

And then Nicole was grabbing me and yelling 'YOU JUST WON THE $2000 TRAINER OH MY GOD' and John Salt was congratulating me and I think I almost threw up on them.

Total time: 5:39:14.9
Overall: 181/554
Gender: 45/200
Age Group: 8/29

Crazy. I have the damn thing unpacked in my basement and I still can't quite believe it actually happened.

Prize wins aside, I'm happy with the race. It was the best I had in me that day for sure. A ten minute PB for the course overall, thanks to a killer bike leg and faster transitions. Unfortunately, I gave back 10 minutes on the run over last year. If I can get that sorted out...well, that's an exciting potential goal time.

Maybe the best part of the day, though, was a lot of time with friends and teammates. Triathletes are so welcoming and friendly! When I think of all the people I've met over the last year and a half of doing triathlons, it kind of blows my mind.

The birthday girl and my idol Mellen. I'd say thank god I'm out of her age group next year, but I'm aging up to an even more competitive group. DAMN IT.

There's Sam!

Win a prize, get to stand on the podium. I'll take it!
Swag and bling. Love the race hat colour this year.
And that's a wrap on triathlons for this year. Time for some recovery. And then to start planning what comes next!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wasaga Beach Olympic Triathlon 2016

Another race report? Who does back-to-back Olympic tris when they are supposed to be training for a half ironman?

Well, when you win a free entry to the second Olympic, what are you going to do, say no? I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the Recharge With Milk racers of the day for Wasaga Beach this past weekend (hilariously, the other racer of the day was Alasdair, Kyra's husband! So we'd be at the same race again for the second weekend in a row! How cool a coincidence is that?)

In addition to the free race entry, they also sent me a pretty sweet prize pack.

I seriously asked the Puralotor lady if she was sure this was the right box when she brought it out of the back room. It was a lot bigger than I expected.

So much swag - and good quality, too. I've been using the giant cooler as my transition bag since it actually has enough room in it for all my stuff, unlike any of my other bags. Hey, it'll work until I get a real transition bag, anyway. The race belt has come in handy already, and I know I'll make use of the arm sleeves this fall. Plus the hoodie, towels, buff-type-thing, etc. Go enter that contest for Lakeside or Georgina if you haven't already! I'm even wearing Recharge with Milk socks as I write this race report!

So enough free advertising for the milk people already. The race report! I didn't have a plan for this race, really, since I was treating it more as a training day. Or that's what I intended. HA. Best laid plans and all.

Usual stuff.
The Olympic had a late start time (10:30) which made for a nice leisurely morning. I had to drive over from the cottage where we were spending the weekend, which unfortunately was basically the exact same distance I'd have had to drive if I'd come from home, so no time savings there. D'oh. But it was an uneventful drive and the race site has lots of parking, which is always a plus. I arrived way earlier than necessary, got my stuff set up, and then killed time saying hi to a couple of the Tri Chicks, my Iron Canucks teammate Kristin, and Kyra and Alasdair (who I ended up parking right next to. We just can't keep away from each other!).

I wandered along the beach for a bit to check out how it looked (sandy, shockingly enough), and heard them announce there had been a course change for the bike. Since I hadn't bothered to look at the bike course maps at any point, or done any research at all on it, that was fairly meaningless for me. I'd have had no idea if they hadn't said anything! (for those curious, due to a lack of police officers, they turned the bike course into a simple out and back).

Swim exit. Note the lack of waves in the water. YAY!

There was also a lot of talk during the pre-race briefing about exactly how the run would work, with the two loops, but I couldn't make head or tails out of it and just figured it'd all be clear when we actually did it. These things generally make a lot more sense when you do them. And it's not like I'm front of the pack and have to worry about leading people. There's always someone for me to follow.

Possibly during the briefing. Possibly just a random picture of transition. I have no idea.
Then the usual - wetsuit, start walking to the beach, have Kyra point out I'm still wearing my hat, back to transition to ditch the hat, etc. Usual nonsense.

The lake was warm and calm, so I swam a short warm up. Even with the minimal waves, the marker buoys still seemed hard to spot, though. But hey, just a training day, right? I did make sure to look at the buildings around the swim exit to try and find something I could use for sighting on the way back into the beach, Oh, a nice bright big yellow awning, Perfect.

This buiding was behind the swim exit. Looks good for sighting, right? Hmmmmmm.....
Hung around for a bit waiting for my wave to start, since my group would be in the fourth wave. Then it was off for one of the calmer swim starts I've had this year. No one kicked me or groped me or anything! I was almost insulted. What, I'm not good enough to swim over?

I'm 37 people from the left. HA. I dunno, in there somewhere in a purple cap.

Swim: 31:59 
Overall: 125/345
Gender: 41/126
Age group: 8/17

The swim out was uneventful. I had to sight a little more frequently than usual just because I often couldn't find the buoy on the first attempt, but I was right on target. Soon enough I made the turn and did the short part of the swim than runs parallel to shore. No major issues here and I was swimming alongside a fairly large group.

And then we turned back towards shore.

Fuck. The buildings in the distance were an indistinct grey blur. I couldn't at all make out the yellow awnings that marked the one by the swim exit, and forget spotting the exit arch itself (I know it's brown because of the whole chocolate milk sponsorship thing, but it would be so much better if it was a bright orange or yellow!). And I couldn't see the next marker buoy because the sun was in my eyes. OK, just start swimming towards shore, eventually we'll get it sorted out.

I rapidly found myself swimming completely alone. I could see the line of swimmers I had been in veering off to the left, and one lone swimmer pretty far off to my right. I was sighting frequently and thought I'd identified the right building on the shore to aim for, and I was on target, but the fact that there was no one close to me and that big group still heading towards the left made me question myself. At one point I even stopped to tread water for a few seconds until I spotted the marker buoy - and sure enough, I was aiming right for it. So I got back to work and soon found myself closing in on the shore. I think a lot of people swam some extra distance, though! Funnily enough when I stood up in the shallows to run out of the lake, my watch read bang on 1500m.

Overall, nothing to complain about with this swim. My first 'real' Olympic triathlon swim, since Goderich (when they have a swim!) only has a 1000m swim.

No, I did not see the photographer. Clearly. FOCUSED.

T1: 2:21

A 2 minute T1 is what happens when I put my helmet on backwards and the official makes me re-rack my bike before I can fix it.

Bike: 1:11:12
Overall: 86/345
Gender: 17/126
Age group: 3/17

So that whole 'this is just a training day!' thing lasted until I made the first pass on the bike.

Bikes are fun. Passing people on the bike is even MORE fun.

Yeah. I had a good time with this. 40k is kind of my racing sweet spot I think on the bike - long enough to be a challenge, but short enough you get to really push hard. Plus, I made double triple extra sure my rear wheel wasn't rubbing or off centre and it just felt FAST. Very happy with this effort on a mostly flat and straightforward bike course!

(I didn't count how many people I passed, but I did count how many passed me. Big fat zero. BOOM.)

(admittedly all the fast guys were in the first couple of swim waves so were already ahead of me)


This would be way sexier if I was in aero. Damn it.
T2: 1:12

Well at least I managed to get through this without attracting the attention of any officials.

Run: 56:48
Overall: 104/345
Gender: 24/126
Age group: 5*/17

*I was initially listed as third, then fourth, and then suddenly when I sat down to write this I was down to 5th. Kind of ruins the whole symmetry I had going with finishing 4th at all my MSC races this year...

Double loop run. Ew. Not my favourite, especially when it's mostly on a fairly narrow shoulder and you have to deal with passing other runners and the people heading back towards the finish. And the scenery was nothing to write home about, since it was mostly going past some fairly derelict looking cottages and run-down motels. This is not a particularly scenic race, to be honest, other than the swim.

Heading out for the run.

I had low expectations for my run performance in general, since this was supposed to be a training day and I'd done a 10 mile long run the day before. I spent most of the run waiting for my legs to notice what we were doing and decide Oh Hell No We Are Done With This Bullshit.

Starting the second 5k and feeling a little loopy...
But it never happened. It ended up probably one of the best feeling runs I've had all summer! The heat didn't bother me at all (it helps that some cloud cover blew in just in time for me to start running), and I felt downright good. Even pushed the pace a bit towards the end. Kind of makes me wonder if I could have gone under 55 minutes if I hadn't run that 10 miles the day before the race!

Total time: 2:44:07
Overall: 102/345
Gender: 23/126
Age group: 5/17

Finish line smile. Can I have a Crest contract now?
So hot damn. Super happy with that finish time! I hadn't really set any goals for this (training day, ha), but if I had something like 2:55 would probably have been it. Under 2:45? Sweet! I really enjoyed the race overall, and would definitely like to do it again. In fact, I really enjoy the Olympic distance in general. It kind of makes me want to focus on that distance for a season. The swim is long enough to feel like a challenge, the bike is long enough to be fun, and the run isn't so long I hate myself. And the 10k run is way more in my wheelhouse than the longer stuff.

Post race/pre jumping back into the lake with Kristin. 

Next up, Barrelman! I'm really glad I won the entry to this race - I was feeling pretty blah and unenthused about training for and doing Barrelman again, but having a great day at Wasaga has reminded me just how awesome doing a triathlon can feel. I'm excited to wrap up the last big week of training this week and then it'll be taper time.

(And then time to think about what comes next, but that's a whole different kettle of cats and let's not talk about that now. Big decisions to make there.)