Friday, November 11, 2016

Race report: Road to Hope 5k

It hasn't really been a secret that running hasn't exactly been my friend lately, considering I've been bitching and moaning about it for weeks, if not months. I'd been largely attributing the suckitude to the whole hot & humid summer thing... but then we got into the fall weather and although running started to feel better, my paces were stubbornly sluggish.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, for the first time in at least 6 months, I stepped on our bathroom scale, shrieked, changed the scale battery, and then stared in disbelief at the number that remained stubbornly the same. And significantly higher than I expected.

I think I may have figured out the root cause of my run paces slowing. Well, that and the whole only running like 28k a week. Low mileage + more weight is not really a recipe for running success.

So. Bit of a weight loss project underway over the new few months. Nothing fancy. Fewer simple carbs/junk, lots of veggies and lean proteins and good fats. Less snacking. More water. Hopefully I can retain most of the nice cycling muscles I built up over the summer, while shedding some of what is mostly definitely not muscle in a few other places.

OK, so there's some background. With ATB training approaching fast, I knew I would have to figure out target paces, and with that in mind I signed up for the 5k at Road to Hope. At least a 5k is over quickly, right? I was also hoping to recapture a bit of my love of running by doing a short race.

Worst case scenario, a terrible time and downgrading my expectations for ATB training. Best case scenario, surprise myself and renew my enthusiasm for ATB training.

The race wasn't until 10, so we had a pretty leisurely morning getting both myself and the kids ready to go. Since my husband would be running the full marathon on the Sunday, he of course wanted to come and pick up his race kit at the expo as well. But, being the type of people we are, we still left really early to make sure we'd be able to find parking. Has science isolated the 'chronically arrives too early for everything' gene yet?

Sunrise on the skyway

We got our kits (nice lightweight long sleeved shirts this year in a choice of colour - I went with pink), I chatted with the NUUN rep for a while, the kids enjoyed free hot chocolate from the Tim Hortons truck and played on the playground, and eventually it was time for me to shed all the layers and do a warm up.

Kits! Not much of interest in them; usual magazines and the ubiquitous Clif bar.

Hi finish line, I'll see you soon.

Adding to the water bottle collection.
 I ran an easy 3k to warm up with a few strides, sweet talked one of the medical volunteers into letting me through the fence on the lake side of the start instead of making me walk all the way around to the real entrance, and it was time to go!
Start line selfie. Obviously I had to wear a piece of tri gear. How else will people be impressed that I do OTHER SPORTS TOO.
 You might have noticed the headphones in that selfie - I stopped running with music before ATB last year and haven't missed it, but a 5k seemed like a good time to bring the tunes back. Really, I just figured I could use all the motivation I could get!

We counted down, shuffled forward, and it was time to GO.

5k of suffering hard. All the pain crammed into much less time. Such a terrible race distance.

km 1: 4:50

After starting my watch and dodging around all the slower people over the first couple of hundred meters, I flipped my watch display over to the 'suffer score' screen, which literally just displays a single number, starting with 0 and climbing as the difficulty of the workout increases. I didn't want to know my pace, since I had no idea what to aim for and wanted to run by feel instead.

The first km was over a gravel road, which I had forgotten about from doing the MEC race on (almost) the same course. Also there was a small hill. Which I had also forgotten about. Ugh. I tried to settle on a speed that I felt like I could hold, and resisted the urge to flip my watch back to one of the more informative screens.

As I passed the first km marker, the split came up: 4:50.

Oh Shit.

I was not expecting to see something that fast. OK, just hold on. Maybe we won't totally crash and burn.

km 2-3-4: 5:06 - 5:11 - 5:08

Sure enough, sub 5s were not in the cards. But each split was still a surprise when it popped up, because it really didn't feel like I was going that fast. I just focused on holding on and ignoring my brain suggesting that this was stupid and we should really just stop and lie down for a bit.

There were also a lot more little inclines that I remembered on the Waterfront Trail. Something about running an all out pace makes them seem a lot bigger...

km 4: 5:01

Kind of felt like I was running through molasses for this entire km. Fortunately, my phone shuffled up my current 'makes me want to run right through a damn brick wall' song, and I think that helped.

As I rounded the corner and sprinted (such as it was) towards the finish, the clock time was still at 24! I wasn't going to make under 25, but it felt pretty amazing to get that close. That was the best case scenario I had in mind and I hadn't really believed it would happen.

I think the rainbow socks were probably the key. Picture via Sabrina.
Chiptime: 25:08
Guntime: 25:21
Overall place: 145/1054
Gender place: 30/617
Age group: 6/71 (nice!)

With Russell and Prasheel post race. They are both super fast and pretty much had time to take a shower. nap, etc before I finished. I win the sock game, though. Pic (with embellishments) via Prasheel!
So that's overall a big confidence booster. The run speed is still in there somewhere. Time to get serious with a whole training plan and whatnot and see where that takes me over the next few weeks/months.


Sunday my husband was running the marathon, and in addition to being his race sherpa, I also volunteered as a lead cyclist for the half marathon.

I'm third from the left. Iron Canucks geared up and ready to make sure none of the leaders get lost or cut the course! Pic via Coach Nancy.
Getting to watch Blair Morgan run a blazing 1:05:55 half was quite a cool experience! I didn't have much to do since it was early enough there weren't many people out on the waterfront trail to shoo out of his way, so I mostly just got to marvel at how fast and consistently he was running.  His km splits were like clockwork. Very, very impressive half marathon debut.

Then I got to ride back up to the start to retrieve the car, which meant a super fun climb up the escarpment. All the elevation drop you get in the R2H half and full had to be made up - but instead of being spread over 5k, it was condensed into about 800 metres. Good times. New Mountain Road in Stoney Creek. I may have to revisit that one. It's a little different from most of the other escarpment climbs, in that it was steep the whole damn way - most of the climbs around here you get a steep climb, a break, and then a short final climb. Not this one. No breaks, just suck it up and get your ass up the hill.

view isn't half bad from the top, either.
Then it was back to the finish to see my husband finish his first marathon (yay!) and get him home. Plus the race director stopped me and gave me some race swag for the bike marshals as a thank you. Nice!

#swag I promise there are no more selfies in this post.
So a good weekend and a lot of fun all around. Next up is the Egg Nog Jog (for which the primary goal is create an even cuter Christmas outfit than last year. It's coming together...) and ATB training!

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!