Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out with the old, in with the new (year)

So, that's a wrap on 2014. Not a bad year, I have to say:

Run: 2176.3 km
Bike: 2563.0 km
Total: 4739.3 km (!!)

The run number is lower than I'd planned for the year due to injury downtime, but the bike number is about 2,000 km higher than I would have predicted back on January 1st. I fell pretty hard for cycling this year, that's for sure.

I should probably not be allowed to use photo editing apps.
Oh, and there have been a grand total of three (3) visits to lane swim. Including one this morning, just to make sure I went once more December than I did in November. There's a number that will be a lot higher in 2015!

Some good things happened (marathon, cycling, duathlon, some new PBs), some not so good things (hip bursitis I just couldn't seem to fully get resolved), but I'm ending the year feeling good and getting really, really excited about 2015.

(My Strava year in review video seems to mostly only include running stats, and I didn't start tracking with Strava until mid-January, so the numbers aren't quite right. But I'm going to share it anyway)

Why am I so excited for 2015? Because 2015 is going to be all about triathlon. I even joined a local tri club, because if I'm going to do this, might as well do it right. I'm starting an 8 week swim stroke clinic with the club in mid-January, as it's probably better to get advice/help with my swimming now before I learn all sorts of bad habits. Plus, it'll get me in the habit of swimming regularly as I try and figure out how to fit the third discipline into an already crammed full of work, kids, running, and cycling schedule. They say the fourth discipline in triathlon is transition - I say it's really scheduling!

Don't read too much into the 'iron' part of the club name. Iron distance tris are NOT in the immediate future!
Before the triathlon fun starts, there is Around the Bay. While my indoor bike training has been going really well, my run training didn't really get off to the start I'd planned, and I've done a grand total of one of the assigned workouts, so that's a bit of a mess. However things are looking up - my hip finally seems to be cooperating with speedwork, so I'm going to add that in and see what happens. I'll back off again if anything aggravates my hip. I'm still hoping to PB at the race, but won't be too upset if I end up just running it for fun.

And I still have to pick my June triathlon(s), of course. One of these days I'll figure that out.

Happy New Year, and here's to what I hope will be a great year of swimming, cycling, and running!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Paincave

A few weeks ago Paul asked about my paincave set up, and I never got around to replying, so to make up for that here's way more information about the whole thing than anyone really needs.

Ready for a ride. Usually there's a second, larger fan, but it had walked off and since this was going to be an easy one I didn't bother to go find it.
Step one is the bike trainer, which I got at the annual Toronto bike clearance sale back in October. It's a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, which I chose largely because that's what Zindine told me to get for my needs and budget and he hasn't steered me wrong yet (one of these days he's going to start charging for all this free coaching!). It's very solid fluid trainer, reasonably quiet, and it's easy to get the bike on and off of it. I also really like that the difficulty of the ride is changed simply by changing gears on the bike, making it a realistic feeling experience.

Probably should have cropped the laundry out of the picture. It's a paincave/laundry sorting room, though, so it's more honest this way.
Now just sitting on the trainer pedaling is...not very exciting. I'm sure there are people out there who can do that, but I am definitely not one of them. I need a defined workout and someone or something to tell me what to do.

Enter Trainerroad.

The speed/cadence sensors on my bike communicate to my laptop via ANT+ (as does my heartrate monitor), and Trainerroad takes that data, along with my weight and the type of trainer I'm using, and translates it into virtual power numbers. I choose a workout from their huge library, and it tells me what to do and how hard to do it and for how long. It's really very cool. I'm just about finished the Sweet Spot base I plan and I'm looking forward to testing my progress before I repeat the plan again. I've done some really killer workouts using Trainerroad that I would never in a million years be able to do on my own. For $10 a month, it's totally worth it.

Garmin speed and cadence sensors at the top; ant+ stick in my laptop to receive the data at the bottom.
I like to connect my laptop to our big TV via HDMI so the workout is up there larger than life. Easy to see right in front of me that way.

I do also like to watch TV/movies or listen to music while I'm on the trainer. While TR does have a way to show, say, Netflix on the screen at the same time as your workout, I personally prefer to have my entertainment set up on my ipad. Just a personal preference thing, plus that way it's easier for me to listen via headphones, rather than having to crank the TV up really loud to be heard over the fans/bike/trainer noise. And with headphones I can watch stuff that maybe I don't want my kids watching/hearing. Put a show up on the regular TV and they are right there wanting to watch it with me, which limits my options.

TR on the bottom, Dr. Who on the top. It works, but I've decided it's not my preferred setup. Also, #nerd.
Typically I watch TV shows via Netflix for the first 2/3 of the workout, then switch to music. Having the ipad close at hand makes that a bit easier.
My usual setup - workout on the big screen, ipad on the barstool with headphones. The towel over the handlebars is 100% necessary. Trainer rides are disgustingly sweaty.
I use a random spare barstool to hold the ipad (and extra water on longer rides), and a measuring cup from the dollar store hooked over my handlebars for snacks, my phone, and any other random crap I think I might need during a ride.

Measuring cup hooked over my handlebars. Holding headphones, those random candy chew things all the races were giving out this year, and a couple of granola bars.

All in all, I've done almost 20 hours on the trainer since November, and I'm looking forward to many more. I can't wait to see how this all translates to the road in the spring!

Thumbs up to the #paincave

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My year of running (2014)

After two weeks of no exercise, yesterday I got back on the bike and today I cautiously ran 5k. Both went well and my hip feels fine, so my fingers are crossed I've managed to get this thing sorted out. I'll keep things careful for the rest of the week, though, just in case.

Today I'm hooking up with Miss Zippy's year in review, because I want to write a bit about my year and I think the prompts will help me organize my thoughts.

1. Best race experience

Amy and I heading for the finish at Mississauga
For running races, definitely finishing my first marathon. Although the aftermath of that race (months of ongoing hip problems, yay) have soured me a bit on the distance and I'm not planning to repeat it any time soon. But the feeling of crossing that finish line, of successfully running for four damn hours, was pretty awesome.

But there's also the little matter of that duathlon I did. I mean c'mon. I discovered that biking is awesome, I'm surprisingly kind of good at it, and I got a giant shiny medal for an age group place, so that race is pretty damn high on my list for the year. Let's call the marathon 1a and the duathlon 1b, OK?

2. Best run

Any run with this guy. Because our kids are still too little to be left alone, it's rare that we get to run together, so when it does happen it's pretty special.

A close second was finishing my first ever 20 miler. It was a perfect day for running and was a huge confidence boost before the marathon.

3. Best new piece of gear

Is it cheating if my best new piece of gear has nothing to do with running?

Was there any question what my answer would be here? Man I love my bike.

I miss this. I'm enjoying the trainer, but there's nothing like a ride on the roads.
4. Best piece of running advice you received

Cross training can be awesome. Try new things, you might like (or love) them.

5. Most inspirational runner

Honestly, the people who inspire me most are my running friends - the folks who post their workouts on Daily Mile & Strava. I love that when I'm feeling unmotivated all I have to do is check out my online friend's feeds and get totally inspired to see people rocking their workouts. I have fast friends, slow friends, and everything in between, and every single one of them is inspiring.

And there's my #burlingtonskirtbrigade girls, who are always up for a run or a ride, give good advice, commiseration about injuries, and lots and lots of non-running related chat. Love you guys.

And finally my triathlon friends who were pretty instrumental in getting me set up with that whole bike thing, and I owe them many many many thanks for giving good advice and encouragement. I think Irina and Zindine won't rest until everyone has at least tried a tri...

6. If you could sum up your year in just a few words, what would they be?

The year I discovered cycling. And loved it.

So it's been an interesting year - I definitely did a lot of things I was not expecting back at the beginning of the year! Can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November in review

Hi internets! I'm still alive! Here's a quick post lunch hour post on how training is going.

Let's start with the good.

The bike

Things are just peachy keen on the bike. I've settled into a nice three day a week routine with the Trainer Road Sweet Spot base I plan. Three more weeks to go on that. I'm enjoying it immensely, and it's so nice to have a workout option at home now. The workouts are reasonably challenging without being too crazy, as you'd expect from a base building plan, and have focused a lot on cadence. Which is great, because one of my goals on the trainer is to bring my cadence up. It's been really interesting to play with how the same power on the bike can feel very different based on how fast your legs are moving, and I'm starting to get a much better feel for how pedaling faster is not necessarily harder.
It's a painful (and sweaty) sort of fun.

The run

I have been, not lazy exactly, but not particularly motivated to run this month. I ran a grand total of 87 km in November, which includes the 21.1 at Road to Hope, so clearly me and my running shoes are on a bit of a break. Which is fine. This has partially been a mental break, but partially because my bursitis-y right hip keeps getting cranky on me, and ideally I'd like to go into my ATB training plan with that settled down. My physiotherapist worked some magic yesterday that had me instantly feeling about 90% better (trigger point therapy is the shit), and I'm hopeful I'll be good to go when my plan is supposed to start next week - but if I'm not 100% I'll keep taking it easy and revise my plan.

Lift bridge selfie from some random run.
I am surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing, really. No pressure low stress running is nice, and it wouldn't be so bad to continue that for a while longer! At any rate, I'm taking a few days off of everything right now to see if that gets my hip back to 100% (and that includes no biking; complete rest, what a concept), and I'll reevaluate later this week.

The swim

Yeah, that hasn't happened. At all. It's partly because my one trip to lane swim so far really aggravated my hip, so I've been a bit reluctant to go back. And the other factor is I just can't figure out how to get it into my schedule in a way that won't make me lose my mind with exhaustion (8:30 pm swimming? By 8:30 I'm halfway to bed and asleep!). I dunno, I'm kind of letting it go right now because the whole thing was stressing me out, and this stuff is supposed to be my stress relief! My current thought is to tag along to some swims with Sam over the Christmas break (hey Sam, hope you are down with that plan!) and then find some sort of weekly coached swim to join in on in the new year.

Some ducks, because that's the closest I've gotten to getting in the water over the last few weeks!
So that's where I'm at. Crossing my fingers a few days of rest gets my body back on track and the training plan starts next week as planned...but I'm fully prepared to change those plans if necessary. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Planning for Spring 2015

So now what? Now that my fall race season is done, it is time to think about the next thing, which for me is going to be a wild departure from the last few years. It's time to think about spring 2015.
The big one, of course, is that I want to focus on triathlon next year, possibly (POSSIBLY) working up to a late season 70.3 (I'm reluctant to fully commit to that until I have a better idea where my swim is at). This means for the first time over the winter I won't be solely focused on running, but on balancing and optimizing my training across three sports! Add in the whole family, kids, full time job thing and Yikes. Excuse me while I polish up my juggling skills.

Not actually me. Original here.

Although next year is looking like the Year of the Triathlon, I still want a late winter road race to motivate me. And I just have to run Around the Bay, because frankly I have yet to run an Around the Bay where I've been truly happy with my effort/performance. 4th time is the charm?

So my spring goals are:

Goal #1: PB at Around the Bay
Goal #2: Prep for a sprint triathlon (or two) (or three)

Around the Bay training

In order to balance things and work towards both those goals, I have decided to use a completely different training plan than I've used in the past. This is for a couple of reasons:

1) I want to work on my cycling base over the winter, which means I need to incorporate significant cycling into my exercise routine. Since I'd also like to sleep occasionally, and maybe spend some time with my family, that means I need to spend less time running.

2) My fall race season showed that my run times/progress have stagnated and it's time to shake things up and try something different.

I've decided to use the Run Less, Run Faster program to train for Around the Bay. It makes a lot of sense because it's only three days of running per week, but requires a minimum of two days of cross training - with cycling being one of the recommended types. So it's ideally suited for my winter/spring goals. It's not, however, an easy program. The runs are going to be tough, because every run is a quality run. The interval workouts are a bit terrifying, to be honest! But I'm also excited to try something new and different.

Bike & Swim

So that's the running plan. How will I work on cycling and swimming?

I am taking over the family room. Which since we cancelled cable is mostly a laundry staging area anyway, so not a great loss. Although I might have to cover the bike in Christmas lights in December so she'll fit in with the usual festive decor.
RLRF requires minimum 2 days of cross training, but encourages more than that. This week I'm starting a Trainer Road base building plan, with 3 weekly rides. I wouldn't have been able to do this even two years ago, but now that my kids are 9 and 6 they are more than capable of amusing themselves while I ride the trainer, so I don't have to wait for my husband to be home to get in a workout. This is rather novel! Although my hours spent training will likely be higher, being able to do some of them without having to worry about who is watching the kids is a huge change.

Foxy probably won't come off the trainer until spring, so Big Red - my trusty hybrid -  has emerged from the back of the garage for weekend riding, at least until the temps get too cold and it starts to snow.
Swimming is...intimidating. For November and December, I'm committing myself to one swim a week. There's a pool near home with an early morning lane swim, and one near my office with lunch hour adult swim, so I really have no excuse not to go splash around for 30 minutes at least once a week. I'll add a second swim when I'm feeling more comfortable with the whole thing, and I figure out which pool/schedule works best so I can buy a pass instead of paying per session. Once I'm comfortable in the water I'd like to find a local tri coach for some form help, but for now I'm going to settle for  a) not drowning and b) not panicking over the whole idea. I've gone to one swim so far and it went better than I expected, so hopefully by the end of December I'll be feeling confident enough to start swim swimming seriously.

I had to keep reminding myself not to close my eyes! Swimming with goggles is cool.
So, that's where I'm at. So far I've signed up for ATB as my next big goal race. After ATB my husband wants to do the 10k at Mississauga, so that's a spring date night for us. Since I know a lot of my local friends will be doing the Mississauga full or half marathon the next morning, I decided to sign up as a volunteer for those races. One of the volunteer options was bike marshal, so that's what I picked! Seems like it might be fun. We'll see if they accept me and I get to do it.

I also have to choose my triathlons. After a quick look at locations and dates, the most likely possibilities are Woodstock and Welland from the Multisport Canada series (where'd Binbrook go?), or Milton and Guelph Lake I from the Subaru series. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Race report: Road 2 Hope half marathon

Last race of the year, last shot at that sub 1:50 half marathon goal.

Going into this I was not feeling confident, at all. After Oakville I took a full week off running, and then eased back into things. I had enough time between the two races that I could have done a three week mini-build with speedwork and tempos and such, but instead I pretty much half-assed it. I mean my training was decent but not exactly the hardcore type of stuff I probably should have been doing to take a real run at a PB. And my right hip was bothering me off and on, blah blah blah excuse-cakes.

So my head wasn't really into it, but sometimes you just gotta try and maybe you’ll surprise yourself.

Or maybe there will be a headwind. D’oh. Am I giving away the ending?

Annnnnnyway, race expo Friday, picked up the ugliest race shirt of the year (the Sulphur Springs shirt was also hideous, but at least it doesn't have the big ol' makes everyone look pregnant swoosh over the belly), took it easy Saturday, woke up early Sunday well rested and ready to go.

Oh so THAT'S how you do duckface. Seriously, I'm not pregnant. WTF shirt.
The husband type person and I made our way over to Confederation Park and got stuck in the massive traffic jam leading into the park – note to self for next year, leave a bit earlier and take the back way to bypass that nonsense.

Many filters applied to this picture to make us look slightly less zombie-ish.
Still we made it onto a shuttle bus and up to the start with enough time to spare to stand in the porta potta line and then meet up with various running friends. My husband finally got to meet Zindine, who I've been cheerfully blaming for all my bike-related purchases. Sorry to throw you under the bus on that one, Zindine!

Pre-race with the girls, photo via Kim. Nicole, Sam, Patty, Amy, Kim. Me.

Soon enough it was time to go. The usual bottleneck at the start, but I just followed Nicole and we got to pace fairly quickly.

About 1k in I felt someone brush up against my butt and was like WTF? Then I realized it was my husband passing me, on his way to a sub 1:46 (and if his ankle hadn't decided to be an asshole in the last 2k he would have been easily sub 1:45). So happy for him setting a new PB! And that it wasn't some random stranger grabbing my ass!

I’d forgotten how very long the first section of this race feels, because you are looking forward to the downhill on the expressway, but there’s still a solid 5k to do before you get there. I was feeling good, though, and the pace Nicole was setting was coming fairly easily.

(I'm going to be up front here - I'm just too lazy to type in all the splits. Send me a follow request on Strava if you are dying to see them. Otherwise just picture the first 14k as going well, and the rest as slow and painful).

On to the Red Hill, where the downhill made us pick up the pace, but the headwind made it not nearly as easy feeling as I would have liked. As we got towards the bottom Amy let us know she would be dropping back, and I thought how nice it would be to drop back with her, but put the thought out of my mind because my legs were feeling great and there was no reason to back off at that point. I took my usual gel at 8k and everything was ticking along nicely. Patty had decided early on to hang back with Kim, so it was down to just me with Nicole & Sam.

Off the Red Hill, where Nicole dropped back at a water station, caught up, but then dropped off for good (which I didn't realize until we were like a km further along – I was in the ZONE through this section). The stupid brick hill was stupid, as usual, and it was obvious there was going to be a strong headwind when we got down to the beach and started the out portion towards Burlington. I wasn't looking forward to that. I made this bizarre pact with myself that I wasn't going to tell Sam that THIS SUCKS until we were at least to 14k. Like somehow if I didn't say it out loud it wouldn't actually be true.

My husband going up the stupid brick hill on our scouting run a few weeks ago - I swear they make it bigger and steeper on race day.

Sure enough once we turned the wind was like FUCK YOU AND YOUR DREAMS OF A PB! HAHAHAHAHA! I turned to Sam and said ‘this wind fucking sucks’ and whoops, the person running just behind my left shoulder was not so much Sam. He did agree with me, though! So I was running solo and largely by feel, knowing I should be reasonably on pace if I could just hold something around 5:10-5:15/km.

That didn't happen.

Not even CLOSE.

My thumbs say yay, but my eyes say wow do my legs hurt. Check out that nice scenery, though - it is a lovely place to run.
Instead my pace into the wind settled into the 5:30 range, and even that was taking a lot of me. When I reached the turn around and was finally heading into the last 5k towards the finish, I glanced at the ‘overall average pace’ on my watch and tried to do the math, which always goes well late in a race while oxygen deprived. I was pretty sure sub 1:50 was out of reach, but realized if I could push just a little harder I could probably come in at 1:50:xx for a PB.

Oh, I'm having a great time, why do you ask? Sam found this photo for me on facebook. Original source.

So I pushed and sped up. And that lasted for a grand total of one km. Then the legs said nope. Nothing left for the last 4k, with my only motivation to not walk being that the sooner I could get to the finish, the sooner it would be over. Also, it turns out I got two giant blood blisters on my left foot, thanks to some overly enthusiastic callus maintenance last week. Don’t mess with your foot calluses the week before a race, kids! It will not end well!

Chip time: 1:52:07
Overall place: 589/1707
Age group place: 40/143
Gender place: 212/1005

Last year's medal was a lot nicer.
So yep, I blew up. But I’m glad I tried! Also, I’m glad that’s over with and I can spend November just running and cycling whatever and whenever I want, with no training plan. That sounds really, really, REALLY appealing right now. I may have a date with this race again next year, though. I am rather fond of it, ugly t shirts and ugly wind and all.

Hot soup at the finish is the BEST THING EVER. I'm guessing it comes out of a giant can labelled Campbell's, but seriously, BEST. All cold weather races should have soup.

Post race also via Kim, with the addition of Patty's husband (first half! congrats to him!) and that dude who hangs out with me sometimes.
Speaking of next year, there are many plans a foot (the upcoming races list over in the sidebar has some new additions; swimming is in my very near future…), but I’ll post about that separately in a few days. Or a week. Or something. Stay tuned! Next official training plan starts in early December!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

So, Road to Hope... (pre-race)

Yeah, so Road to Hope is this weekend, and I've decided to try for a new PB. Mostly because if I don't try I'll always wonder what might have happened if I had.

Things I have going for me:

1. An awesome group to run with, led by Nicole (who paced at Niagara last weekend and hit her goal within seconds, so I'm in good hands). In theory, I should just be able to shut my brain off, wedge myself into the group, and let them carry me through the race to that sub 1:50 half.

2. I feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been. Better than when I ran the 1:51:19 at the Chilly in March for sure. (and that race I was also paced by Nicole, so clearly that works for me - if we get close to the end on pace I look forward to what sort of motivational yelling she comes up with)

3. So far the forecast looks like the sort of weather that ideally suits me. By which I mean fairly cold. Me and heat don't get along. Me and humidity REALLY don't get along. But cold, cold I like, as should be be obvious from the fact my half marathon PB is from a March race during the polar vortex.

4. My husband is running too, which is always fun (even if he'll likely be way ahead of me).

We scouted out part of the course a few weekends ago. Yes sometimes we get a babysitter so we can run together. This is pretty much our idea of a great date.
5. The course is net downhill. I ran a 1:51:23 last year only two weeks after running flat out at Scotia, so really knocking a minute and a half off that time should be doable.

Things working against me:

1. Despite feeling like I'm in really good shape right now, the speed is just not coming easily to my legs. Runs where I attempt speedwork haven't felt great lately. Maybe race day magic will help.

2. My right leg has been a total asshole for the last week or so. Thank you, sciatica. It seems to be about 95% cleared up now, but if it flares up for Sunday I may have a problem.

3. While the course is a net downhill, there's an out and back section that did a number on my head last year. Running away from the finish is mentally tough for me, so I need to be prepared for that.

4. Speaking of mental stuff, my head isn't in the game. At all. I don't feel like I'm about to make a PB attempt. But hey, maybe being relaxed about the whole thing is just what I need?

So there it is. Last race of the year, and I really have no idea what's going to happen. New PB? Blow up bigtime? Your guess is as good as mine. Only one way to find out - run the damn thing.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Race report: Run for the Toad 2014

I knew after running the relay last year that I wanted to do this race again, but do the 25k because 12.5k just wasn't enough. As soon as I knew that at least one or two other people were willing to join me, I signed up.

Race day I met up with Sam, Kim, and Toad n00b Nicole, who we'd roped into this thing while she was all "Woo! Trails!" after Sulphur Springs, and Nicole drove us to the conservation area in her kick-ass pickup truck.

It was freaking COLD when we got there. Like somehow the temperature had dropped what felt like 5 degrees from when I left the house, and I was really regretting I didn't bring arm warmers. After picking up our kits we huddled in the truck to stay warm.

Opening ceremonies
Soon enough it was time to drag ourselves outside and get ready for the start. After pretty much having a heart attack every time they set off the canon (really, an honest to god canon to start the kid's race and the 50k race), it was our turn to line up and get this thing started.

Pre race with the girls

Start line
There were hills, lots of laughs, a desperate search for a bathroom (you'd think I'd have learned my lesson on THAT after the MEC race. Not so much), pretty scenery, Kim suffering her way through with a nasty cold like a total trooper, Nicole stripping in front of a race photographer, candy at aid stations, and the discovery that a drink of Coke at 18k or so is the GREATEST THING EVER. They need to serve that shit late in marathons, let me tell you.

View: acceptable.

Sam and Nicole taking off down the hill (OK I told them to for the photo op. Clearly we were taking this race very very seriously).

This was the first time up the scary hill. Feeling pretty damn good about things, obviously.

Jazz hands!

What the hell am I laughing at?

Shit, we have to do another loop?
Nicole was thrilled about the second trip up Skeleton Hill.

The 25k went great for me. We walked when we felt like it, ran when we felt like it, and I loved every minute. And the last 5k didn't suck nearly as much as the last 5k at Sulphur Springs, probably because a) we walked more and b) I wasn't 3 weeks out from a marathon.

Post race after we found our warm clothes
After the race, we got our medals (cute!) and our lunches (amazing). A catered (and delicious) full meal, not that half a stale bagel and a banana crap.

Lunch was freakin' delicious.

Cute! Now, could someone PLEASE tell me where the name of this race comes from???
I highly, highly recommend the Toad. The trails are pretty easy, the organization is top notch, and it's just really really fun. Definitely a must do at least once race if you live around these parts. Someday I'd like to race it, but for this year, it was just what I needed after Oakville. A few hours of easy running in the woods with no pressure and lots of laughs.

Next up is squeezing in as much cycling as I can before winter, buying a bike trainer, and oh right, my last race of the year, Road 2 Hope. I still have no idea what I'm going to do there. I'm leaning towards going for the PB, but I might change my mind. For now, though, it's time to enjoy the fall.