Monday, May 18, 2015

MEC Burlington race 2 race report - 5k

Saturday was my final road race for the spring, before my focus switches entirely to triathlon training. Having already set a 10k PB I can use to benchmark my Run Less Run Faster training plan for the summer, I wasn't feeling a lot of pressure to run this race fast. Plus given that I was six days into the crazy 8 Days in California cycling challenge, a PB seemed like a long shot. But then certain people kept encouraging me to go for it (*cough* Sam and Zindine *cough*) and really, what did I have to lose? Other than possibly my breakfast.

My husband didn't think he was in PB shape but decided to come act as my personal pacer, since my PB pace is pretty much his lollygagging super easy I'm not even trying run pace. Someday he's going to get himself a bike and be instantly 150% better than me. Men are annoying, amiright?

Oh thank god I didn't forget my shoes.
We got to the start early, but less insanely so than usual, got our bibs and chips, and did the usual pre race stuff (bathroom, hang around chatting with people, short warm up).

Photo via the MEC Flikr account. That makes two MEC races where the only photos I appear in were taken while I was hanging around talking to Prasheel pre-race, and shot from behind. If it happens again I'm going to start thinking conspiracy. (If you can't spot me, blue socks and black hoodie on the righthand side of the pic).
MEC races are pretty low key affairs. Bare bones, simple. In fact, they only have chip timing at the finish line, not at the start, which means you don't get a chip time, just a gun time. I had forgotten that until we lined up at the start and I realized that although we were fairly close to the front, I was still going to have a 3 second or so differential that wouldn't be reflected in my official time. D'oh.

Lined up at the start. Reid Coolsaet is up at the front somewhere! My husband had no idea who he was! I'm taking away his Canadian distance runner card!
The race started and immediately went around a corner and across a gravel section of the parking lot? Random. Also kind of sucky. It's kind of a weird course in that it loops around the parking lot and the old campground at Confederation Park - I'm not sure why they don't just run it as a straight up out and back along the Waterfront trail. But I'm not a race director, so I'm sure they have their reasons.

5k Route
We settled into my goal pace pretty quickly - or at least my watch told me it was my goal pace. However, I forgot to take into account bad tangents and the fact that my watch almost always measures everything long (even on training runs, my watch is almost always 100+ meters ahead of everyone else's by the end). Maybe that's my super power, because it happened with my old Soleus watch, too, not just my Garmin.

Annnnnnnnnyway the first 3k felt really good. I couldn't believe how good they felt, in fact.

The last 2k did not feel good.

The last 2k I felt every minute of the 6 days of challenging cycling I'd done before the race.

The last 2k I was mentally consulting divorce attorneys as my husband cheerfully encouraged me to run faster. Curse him with his easy running and obviously not feeling like he was about to die. There would have been a lot more swearing if I had been able to get any oxygen.

Finally, after far too damn long, we crossed the finish line (at which point I forgave my husband and remembered he's pretty awesome). I was both happy to see that my gun time was in fact a new PB, but a little disappointed I wasn't close to 24 flat. The paces I'd been seeing on my watch during the race would have put me right around 24, so I was kind of surprised when we reached the finish to see how far over 24 we were. In a 5k every second counts!

Gun time: 24:28
Overall place: 34/148
Gender place: 8/76

So it was a PB (by 4 seconds!), and while not the size of PB I was hoping for, given how very NOT rested I was going into this, I'm pretty pleased with it.

23:56? Oh Strava, you are definitely my favourite.
And Strava seems to think I did go sub 24, and we all know Strava is what REALLY counts, right? Plus even though it felt like I slowed WAY down in the last km, I only slowed a touch, which is also nice to see.

So, three road races this spring, three new PBs! I really can't complain about that. And really, this last one is gravy, especially since I've done pretty minimal running since the end of March and zero speedwork other than running the 10k at Mississauga.

MEC race perk? Take your bib into the store the day of the race and get 10% off your purchase. Time to stock up on gels and NUUN and Ritter Sport, which are obviously a completely necessary nutritional tool. They have 'sport' right in the name!
Big thanks to my husband for the pacing, and being so supportive of my training!

Next up a couple of cycling events, and then (dramatic pause....) TRIATHLON TIME.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trainerroad - 8 Days in California 2015

From the challenge info:

What is 8DC?
8 Days in California (8DC) is an indoor cycling challenge. Participants will have eight days to complete eight successive workouts on TrainerRoad, each within their respective time windows.
When riders finish the entire tour, they’ll receive an 8DC Challenge badge for their career page - bragging rights included.
Not mentioned in that description? That the 8 workouts are tough ones. No easy rides here. Sure, 8 straight days of difficult cycling, that sounds like a fun thing to do! Sign me up! I like badges and bragging rights!

(Technically it doesn't have to be 8 straight days - each stage is available for 50 hours, so you can work a rest day in and still finish on time. Going in that was my plan - take advantage of the timing to get a rest day between days 6 and 7)

Stage 1, Sat May 9th - Sprint Stage (1 hour, 15 minutes)

Overall good. FTP felt like it was set about right, with the sub threshold work through the first hour being pretty easy to hold.

Except there was that lovely 10 minutes or so of psychotic sprinting at the end - 5 seconds all out, 10 seconds 'rest' except the rest was close to threshold so not really rest at all, 10 seconds all out, 10 seconds 'rest', 5 seconds all out, 5 seconds 'rest', etc, etc, etc. Brutal. I set new power PBs for every time up to 10 minutes largely based on that lovely little bit of torture.

This was my face just after I finished the final sprint:

OMG what have I gotten myself into???
Oh yeah, this is going to be a fun week.

Stage 2, Sun May 10th: Sprint stage (1 hour, 20 minutes)

A lot more close to threshold time in this one! For the non cyclists, you can see in the graph there's a thicker horizontal line - that represents my Functional Threshold Power (FTP)- the power/effort I could theoretically hold for a 1 hour max effort. Any time you are riding right around that level (like in this ride), it's going to hurt. Toss in the sprints and you have a recipe for fun. Painful fun. I nailed the power targets in this one, which was super satisfying.

QOM polka dot jersey!

I do most of my indoor rides 'on' Watopia, the current location of the virtual Zwift course. It really helps to have the virtual ride to distract me from the pain - and give me targets to chase during the hard bits! On this ride I held the Queen of the Mountain jersey for almost the whole ride, and it was legit because I know there were other women riding this time, not like the first couple of times I got the QOM by default.

Delirious from exercise endorphins.
And because I'm a glutton for punishment, as soon I finished the ride, I changed into my running shoes and did a 2k brick run. I have lost my damn mind with this triathlon stuff, is what.

Stage 3, Mon May 11th - Climbing stage (1 hour, 30 minutes)

This one was a little trickier, what with that 'work' thing I have to do during the week. And those children we have running around that need supervision in the evenings. In order to fit in a 90 minute ride, I had to plan a fast & easy dinner and get on the bike by 6:15 so that I could be wrapped up in time to get the kids to bed.

I pulled it off! This one felt in some ways easier than stage 2, because there were some decently long breaks in between the three main hard efforts. But oh boy did the fatigue build up by the end! The final 10 second sprint was a total fail (missed the power target by 50 watts because my legs just said OH HELL NO), but I got the rest of it nailed pretty well.

Dead sexy sweat covered forehead. That's with THREE FANS blowing on me, too. You don't even want to know what my hair band felt and smelled like after that ride. 
I like the 'shape' of these rides. Trainerroad workouts are usually more regimented (12 minutes on, 5 minutes off, later rinse repeat, and so forth), and these are a little more unpredictable. Makes it feel a little more like riding outside. Nice change of pace.

Stage 4, Tuesday May 12 - Sprint stage (1 hour, 14 minutes)

Halfway! Another fast dinner, get on the bike early sort of evening.

This one looked easier going in - not as much high level sprinting. Of course, then I actually rode it...

Yeah, not so easy. Combination of feeling the fatigue in my legs and the lack of much in the way of rest breaks during the workout. Plus that long threshold bit in the middle was tiring! But I hit the power targets, so success.

Making use of one of my Mother's Day gifts - shaker cup for the post ride protein shake. Although you can tell by the screen behind that I took this shot after day 3, not day 4. BLOG FAKER.
Stage 4 also featured a key component of the challenge - LAUNDRY. I don't own enough bike shorts to get through an 8 day challenge. I should probably go shopping.

Stage 5, Wednesday May 13 - Climbing stage (1 hour, 20 minutes)

For the first time during the challenge my legs were feeling a touch tired when I woke up in the morning. Nothing major but enough to make me think that stage 5 would not be a walk in the park. So very very spiky looking. Eeep.

But, this one turned out to be relatively easy. Relatively. The first 30 minutes or so every time it went above threshold I wasn't sure I'd make it, but then during the final sprint I realized there was pretty minimal hard stuff left and I cruised through the finish.

The amount of technology needed for these rides is getting a bit out of control.
Stage 6, Wednesday May 14 - Individual time trial (50 minutes)

Short one! But the shape of it looked suspiciously like an FTP test, so I was a bit worried this was going to be super painful. That's a long time to spend over threshold on tired legs!

However, no problem. Even had energy to spare at the end of the threshold work (although I resisted the urge to burn it all off completely). I think I'm going to have to retest my FTP once I've recovered. This indoor training really works if you put in the time and effort - I'm now easily holding power numbers for 20 minutes that I couldn't touch for longer than a minute or two back in January!

I'm totally going to pull this off! YES!
Friday - rest day

Kind of goes against the spirit of the challenge, but it's within the rules and since I had a 5k race Saturday morning where I was going to try for a PB, rest was the best option.

"Ride me....c'mon you know you want to...."
I was a little surprised, though, at how freaking GOOD I felt on Friday. Full of energy. No tiredness in my legs at all. What??? Six days of challenging workouts and I’m feeling amazing??? Not exactly what I was expecting, but I’ll take it!

Stage 7, Saturday May 16 - Climbing stage (Queen stage) (1 hour, 40 minutes)

The big one. Compounded by having run the aforementioned 5k race in the morning (race report coming shortly on that).

1 hour 15 minutes is the moment I cracked. Just couldn't hold the power targets after that. To be honest I'm surprised I got that far - my heart rate was way high during the initial threshold work and I was half expecting to crack a lot earlier! Without the 5k race in the morning I think I could have made it through the whole thing on target. Or maybe even if I'd had more than 2 1/2 hours in between the race and getting on the bike.

Had one of the kids grab my camera and take a picture right after the final sprint to the finish. I was a little gassed...

Stage 8, Sunday May 17 - Sprint Stage (1 hour, 5 minutes)

This one looked awful. One aim of this challenge is to explore your weaknesses, and quick sprints are probably my biggest one. And this one looked to have approximately infinity of those.

SO MUCH SPRINTING. Coach Chad (who designs all the trainerroad workouts) is really mean. They just went on forever. This was painful, but I made it through.

VICTORY! Kinda hard to do that properly with that bit of important basement structure in the way.  Close enough.
So was it worth it? Absolutely. I won't know for sure until I retest my FTP next week (after I've recovered!), but I sure feel like I made some gains over this week. The 'time trial' in stage 6 in particular was illuminating, in terms of me being able to hold a high for me power number for a long time without feeling like it was super difficult.

Would I do it again? Yes. No question. If it fits into my schedule next year I would absolutely do it again. Just the kind of challenge I like - the time commitment isn't unreasonable, it's totally scaled to your personal ability level, and it's surprisingly fun! I haven't really commented on the storyline, but there's a whole story included, where you are a rider who is trying to win the 8DC stage race, and I quite enjoyed following the story along with the workout.

And I got a virtual trophy, and if I've learned anything from being on Strava, it's that I loves me some virtual trophies.

And now a bit of a rest week before official training for my A race starts. And food. So much food.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mississauga marathon weekend - race and volunteer report

So I had quite the weekend! And I've written approximately 1 million words about it because I don't know how to edit, and I'm sure the internet cares about all the tiny details.

When I realized back in the fall that I wouldn't be running the half or full marathon at Mississauga, I was sad. It's a race all my best Daily Mile running buddies usually do, and I didn't want to be the only one stuck at home. So I decided to volunteer (I try and volunteer for at least one race a year), and when I saw that bike marshal was an option on the volunteer form, you know I had to pick that one! I ended up assigned to the 3rd place male in the marathon, and I was pretty excited to be able to see the race from the perspective of the leaders.

But before that, a little road race!

Saturday - 10k race

My husband and I decided to do the 10k on the Saturday evening as a date, because if we are going to ditch the kids with a sitter and spend a bunch of money, we might as well get medals and a bag of swag.

The Mississauga race kits are always stuffed. Love that. However... The shirt is very very very very very very very bright. Two of the things in the kit contain mango (I'm allergic), my husband is allergic to the tuna, I think we still have last year's bottle of Special K drink in the back of the cupboard... But the reusable Starbucks cups are awfully nice!

The race plan: there kind of wasn't one. I was sure I was in shape to PB (my 10k PB heading into the race was 51:56, but was set over 18 months ago, so it was kind of out of date). I wasn't really sure what to aim for, though, because I've pretty much been a slacker runner for the last month while I recovered from ATB and kicked my bike training back up a notch.

I also knew that the time of day would be an issue - evening races are not my favourite, since it's so hard to get the fueling right during the day and not wind up on the start line starving or overstuffed. Strike 1!

And Saturday turned out to be a fairly warm day. After the winter we had, I am NOT acclimated to warm weather running at all. Strike 2!

And the Mississauga 10k course includes a couple of hills and a lot of winding around paths/corners, neither of which are great for holding a pace. Strike 3!

So I was going in with a vague idea of starting at a 5:08/km pace, because I did a few 8k tempo runs at that pace over the winter, and then I figured I'd see what happened after a few km. But that was as far as I planned, and I wasn't entirely sure what time that pace would translate to. Obviously taking things super seriously.

When we got to the race site we had a lot of time to kill because we're dumb and always arrive places stupidly early. Lots of porta potties and a big park where I lay on the grass and sort of zoned out for a while, eavesdropped on conversations (nothing interesting, alas), and counted the number of lululemon skirts I could see (at least 20).

Runners waiting for the race start

And it was then I realized there was yet another strike against this race going well - there's a student relay component where students run the 10k in teams of 4 (tagging off roughly every 2.5km). Experienced runners know that kids are the worst, with their fresh legs and enthusiasm and not being old enough to know how much racing hurts. The relay format meant that the entire race would have a continuous supply of fresh legged youth to sprint past me and be all demoralizing. Also, the younger ones have no clue on race etiquette and think nothing of stopping suddenly or making unexpected random moves sideways when you least expect it.

Had a lot of time to kill, so took a lot of random pictures like this. #classy
(Note: I'm not knocking the relay as an event - I think it's fantastic that they got 150 teams of local kids to participate and hopefully get them on the path to being runners too. Once the race started I found dodging the kids more amusing than anything else, other than the kid who suddenly stopped dead 2 feet in front of me and almost caused a big pile up. It would be nice if they gave them a little more direction in seeding themselves properly in the start corral - but in fairness an awful lot of adults could use more direction there too, yes I'm talking about you walking lady starting at the front)

Finally it was time to warm up and we got strike #...5? 6? This metaphor isn't working anymore. Anyway, I got a massive side stitch about 300m into the warm up. What. The. Fuck. Pushed through for a bit, since typically I need to find the right breathing pattern to get rid of the stitch, did some ABCs to loosen up, and some strides. The stitch seemed to fade, but I wasn't sure it was really gone.

Pre-race selfie
Then we were off to the start line!

A significant proportion of these people are way too close to the start line.
Rod Black (!) did the start line announcements (I'm told he's there every year? Random.) and then we were off. I don't really have that much to say about the race itself - the 5:08 thing was out immediately, as I looked at my watch a few hundred meters in and was running something like 4:48/km. I dialed it back but settled in pretty comfortably in the 5:02 range (maybe - I don't really trust the numbers my watch showed because it ended up measuring short, and I don't think the course was short because it's been certified for approximately forever. So I don't really trust the splits my watch gave me).

I felt great - working hard, but within my abilities - until the sixth km, when I started to slow down. At 7k I stopped at the waterstation to gulp some Gatorade and that really helped. I got back down into the low 5s with ease after the shot of sugar.

At one point a guy in jeans and flip flops went blazing past me like I was standing still. That's a good sign, right? It turned out he was supervising some relay runners, not racing, though, so I guess I can deal with being outsprinted there. Flip flops, sheesh.

The side stitch started showing up again in the last km, but I was able to push hard for the finish line. I yelled something about hating myself when I saw Sam and Nicole just before the finish (I always vow to never race again during the last few km of races), and crossed the line in a new PB by almost 90 seconds!

Chip time: 50:29.3
Gun time: 50:52.8
Overall place: 129/1063
Gender place: 29/571
Age group place (F30-39): 6/193 !!!!! That's insane. Also insane is that 4 people from my age group all finished around the same time - I was only 13 seconds back of 3rd place! This is why running races should really put the age groups on the backs of people's legs like in triathlons.

Post race! Medals! Not yet starving! That happened at 3 am when I was trying to sleep!
So yeah! That exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way. Even with a lot of factors working against me. I think it shows what a great training block I did from January through March. I really can't say enough good things about the combo of Trainerroad and Run Less Run Faster! Of course, I plugged that result into the Run Less Run Faster app and my training paces for the summer just got harder. I'm never quite sure how to feel about that...

Sunset over the finish area

After wrapping up the post rest festivities and getting a ride back to our car with Nicole and Sam (thanks so much for coming out to cheer, guys!), it was time to switch gears (heh) to Sunday's activity - leading the marathon on the bike. I got all my cycling crap organized and tried to get some sleep.

Sunday: Lead cyclist for the Marathon (3rd place male)

So not pro. My socks don't match.
Up early to get to the start line (plus I couldn't sleep anyway) - I was driving one of my Iron Canuck teammates who'd be running her first marathon, and we wanted to make sure she was there in plenty of time, so we left fairly early. Everything went smoothly and soon I was picking up my sign and meeting up with some of the Daily Mile crew for pre-race hellos.

With Amy, Robin, Jana, and Patty

Then back to the start to join the rest of the lead cyclists while we waited for the runners to swarm towards us. An interesting perspective!

Most of the leads do it every year. Nice group who clearly really enjoy this job.

The first few km we all stayed in front of the pack, and then things thinned out enough that those of us assigned to the full could locate the marathoners in among the half marathoners. The top 4 for the marathon were fairly close together through about 12k, but then started to spread out. Once we hit the split from the half at Indian Rd we were up to a few hundred meters between the leaders (and kind of lonely without the half marathoners!), although I could see at least two people behind 3rd who seemed to be closing the gap. There were quite a few lead changes as the early race leader fell back, and some runners who probably paced the early miles more conservatively caught up. Each time the positions changed I reminded myself to follow the place, not the runner.

I successfully followed the course (although I was glad I'd run the 10k the night before and the route through the waterfront trail was fresh in my mind!), did a lot of yelling to clear the trail for my runner when we reached the point where the half and full courses merged, and ate a lot of those nasty spring bugs we get by the lake. The funniest thing was probably how when we'd approach a water station late in the race, all 15+ water station volunteers would be eagerly holding out cups of water and Gatorade to me and my solo runner. It was adorable.

My highlight was around 35k. The guy who was in third was slowing, and 4th closed in and made the pass. Then the new 3rd place realized I was a lead cyclist and yelled 'NO WAY!'. I confirmed he'd moved into third and he said something like 'this is a special day'. I really enjoyed leading him through the last 7k, because although he was clearly hurting, he was also determined and I don't think his pace fell off at all - we're supposed to stay far enough ahead that the runner doesn't get any sort of drafting advantage, and a few times he was definitely moving faster than I thought!

Leading the eventual third place finisher late in the race. Almost felt bad for how much I was enjoying myself, because the runners at this point were suffering hard! Thanks to Kim for the picture!

Overall I had such a good time. Not many people get to see the whole race at the front from start to finish. I would be a lead cyclist again absolutely no question. The only real drawback is that despite riding 42k, it wasn't really a workout - even a fast marathon run pace is pretty leisurely on the bike. But sometimes you just have to do something because you enjoy it (and given that my legs were a tad cranky from the 10k race the night before, the long slow ride probably helped them more than anything else would have).

Next up, an easy few days before I start the 8 Days in California Trainerroad challenge, and then the MEC Burlington 5k. It seems a bit silly to do a trainer challenge when the weather is so nice for outdoor riding right now, but I think it will be beneficial to my bike training in a lot of ways. And there are many many many outdoor ride days ahead! The MEC race is going to fall towards the end of the 8DC challenge, so I think a PB there is really unlikely, but maybe it'll be a good experience in running on tired legs. My next run plan doesn't start until May 25th, so I have a few more weeks of flexible 'run what I feel like' before I have to get back to the pain.