Monday, December 31, 2012

Training Again!

I am back to training again after a little time away. In October I had major surgery (a hysterectomy and other little fixer uppers) so I was on my couch for six weeks, unable to do anything but light walking. Six weeks was the minimum amount of time I was supposed to take off but by then I couldn't stand the inactivity anymore so I started training again. My club's indoor spin season had started already - I coordinate that but I had to watch the workouts for the first week and that was hard! I couldn't wait to get back into it myself! I wanted to get back to running and swimming, too.

The first couple of workouts were awful! Before my surgery, I was in great shape and pulled off some major PBs in my September races. But my first swim post-op felt like I had never swum before and my first run was only 2K! Spinning was better but standing was hard because I just didn't have the strength in my legs. It's amazing how fleeting fitness can be!

It's been about 5 weeks now since my return to training. I have run, swum, and biked twice a week each, just gradually and gently re-building my fitness. I feel OK now. My coach told me just to swim with a pull buoy to get back the feeling of being in the water. I can do 2000m now pretty easily. I have no trouble spinning for 1:40, which has been our longest session to date, although standing for more than 4 minutes or so is still quite difficult. I am up to 6K running and my pace is getting better.

My coach is getting my formal training plan ready for January 1. I'll still have to take it a bit slowly and gradually but I have time and want to take care of myself. My first race is in 5 months - a half iron in Hawaii and my big race is on August 18 - Ironman Mont-Tremblant!

Here's to a new start and a great year of training!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Great Invitation

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to do the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii race with her next June. I was immediately thrilled about such an idea! What an awesome place to race! I have to do a half iron as part of my training for Ironman Mont-Tremblant and what could be better than doing that in Hawaii? The idea of a girls' weekend, with someone whose company I really enjoy, was pretty appealing, too.

I have to teach next spring session and this race is during that time. I wasn't sure I could get away but I went to ask the Dean of my faculty if I dare take off in the middle of term. To my surprise, she was very excited about it and totally supportive!

So, the planets have aligned and my friend and I are registered for the race! Now, I have to try not to be too excited about a race that is 8 months away! But the training will begin again pretty soon....

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lake Stevens Triathlon Race Report

This is race week for me! I did the Vancouver Triathlon 5 days ago and today, September 8, I did the Lake Stevens Olympic Triathlon. My brother lives here in lovely Lake Stevens, a suburb of Seattle, and I came down to do his favourite local race with him.

Yesterday, I felt sort of awful - so sore and tired. I slept a lot and took lots of ibuprofen and went to bed early. I wondered what kind of a race I was going to have today. But, I woke up this morning feeling much better so we headed off to the race in good spirits, looking forward to a good day. This was my second Olympic distance and my first one sucked so, so badly that I can never say out loud what my time was. If you think of a time that sucks and add another 20 minutes, you might still be underestimating how badly I sucked that day. So, today, I knew I could beat that time by a long shot. I figured I could do 3:30 and I really hoped I could do 3:25.

It was a sunny, warm day - about 80 degrees by the time we were running. We arrived at transition at about 7:00 a.m. and got set up. I chatted with a couple of people around me and then with Kim, my sister in law, Cheryl, her mom, and Stephanie, my niece, who raced with us last week in Vancouver and then drove down from there to cheer us on today. I also met a couple of Paul's friends who were racing, too. At 7:45 we went down to the lake for the pre-race meeting and then pulled up our wetsuits to wait for the start. I got into the lake for a warm-up swim. The water was nice and warm - the race director had said that it was 70 degrees.

The swim started in deep water so we jumped in at the end of the dock and treaded water until the gun went off. My wave had about 50 people in it so there was lots of room. I started out a little too quickly and had trouble catching my breath but I just stopped kicking for a minute to get my heart rate down and all was well after that. I got into a nice groove and before I knew it, I was making my way through the second loop. There was about 200m at the end of the loop that was in fairly shallow water so the weeds were very visible and really thick and I really don't like that. I feel like they are reaching up to try to grab me. I just tried to tell myself that it was an underwater garden and I managed to get through that stretch (twice!). Otherwise the water was clean and fine and the swim was good.

Swim (1500m) = 31:11
T1 = 2:31

The bike course heads out through town and out into the country. It follows some beautiful tree-lined roads, passing by streams and horses and lovely houses. It's generally uphill on the way out so coming back is a bit faster. I felt good on this rolling and sometimes hilly course and really enjoyed this ride. When I got back into transition and saw what time it was on my watch, I started to think that I might be able to pull this off in about 3:20. That made me happy.

Bike (25 miles/40K) = 1:30
T2 = 1:13

The run is a two-loop course that goes along the lake, with a good hill to climb just before the turnaround. My legs cooperated from the start so I found a good groove and off I went. My first loop took 31 minutes. Kim and Steph and Paul's friend Darryl were cheering wildly at the turnaround, which was so great. At that point, I started thinking that, even if I slowed down a little on the second loop, I might be looking at 3:15. So, I kept plugging away. I slowed down after starting the second loop but then started to feel stronger at the turnaround point so I picked up the pace a bit. About 500m from the end, it was starting to look like I might be able to do 3:10. So I poured it on. I pulled around the last corner and into the finish area and got 'er done in 3:07. I was pretty pleased!

Run (10K) = 1:02

Total = 3:07:53

I went to look at the official results and discovered that I was first in my age group. More happiness and high fiving ensued. Later, I found out that I was the only one in my age group! Bummer. It would have been nice to have some competition. But, I looked at last year's results to compare: there were six people in my age group in 2011 and the first place person did it in 3:03. My time would have put me in second place if I had raced with those women so I still felt like I did a good job and earned a podium finish.

This has been a good year for me. I finally feel like the real deal!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vancouver Triathlon Race Report

Yesterday, September 3, I did the Vancouver Triathlon - the sprint distance. I did the race with my niece, who lives in Vancouver, and my brother, who drove up from Seattle to do it with us. For me, it was a 14 hour drive to get to Vancouver, which I really enjoyed and which was absolutely worth it for this race! It was an awesome day and a great event!

We did the race together in 2009 as well. That year, I was still doing triathlons with very little training so I was not at all fit for a good race. My time then was 1:59, which is horribly slow for a sprint. So, I figured that with the Ironman training under my belt, I'd probably be able to pull off a better time this year. I estimated that, realistically, I could probably do 1:45 and I secretly thought I'd be pretty thrilled with sub-1:40.

We had perfect conditions for our race. It was sunny and 20 degrees with no wind. The ocean was calm. We arrived in transition at 6:15 a.m. I set up my spot and then pumped up my tires. When I pulled the pump hose off the back tire, I broke the valve stem, which I am always so careful not to do! It held the air but I debated with myself about whether to change the tube and finally I decided to be on the safe side and change it. Once that was done, I found Steph and Paul and we went to put our wetsuits on.

I got into the water for a warm-up swim. It felt warm on my feet but when I put my face in, it was pretty chilly. I floated face down a bit and swam about 100m and then got out and took my spot on the beach. My wave had 110 women in it. The swim went well. There were people all around me but we were well-spaced. I like that feeling of swimming side by side with others in the open water. Turning back toward the beach, the sun was blinding and sighting was impossible. I just trusted that the pack was headed in the right direction and followed them. When the sun went behind the trees, I realized that I was right there at the beach so I stood up and ran out of the water!

Swim (750m) = 16:59
T1 = 2:51 (a little longer than I had wanted but actually shorter than a lot of people who placed near where I did in the results)

The bike course is a hilly and winding loop through Stanley Park, which you do twice. I thought it would be hard to get much speed up on this technical course but I was surprised that I was able to get going pretty quickly in some spots. I am faster this year but also more confident on my bike so I could manage the ride a little better than before. It twists and rolls through the park with one decent climb and an awesome downhill on the other side. The course is magnificently beautiful with huge cedars and ferns and flowers and a view of the ocean most of the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this ride!

Bike (19K) = 41:24
T2 = 1:39 (I dropped my running shoe 3 times before I finally got it on! Again, this was longer than I wanted but about mid-range of what others did)

The run cuts across the park and then loops back around the Lost Lagoon on the way to the finish. It goes gently uphill for most of the first half but then you get a little of the downhill coming back before you run the flat section around the lagoon. I had my watch on and I could see when I left T2 that things were lookin' pretty good. I was surprising myself a little and started to have visions of a better time than I had imagined was possible. The second half was a little easier so I picked up some speed and figured I had better run like I was being watched because, really, with results on the internet, people are watching! I felt good the whole time and enjoyed this run. When I looked at my watch near the end, I poured it on for the last 200m to finish before the clock turned over to the next minute.

Run (5K) = 29:01

Total time = 1:31:51

I was a bit amazed at my time. This is a 28 minute PB on this course. I finished exactly in the middle of the 110 women in the race. I am used to being nearly last in every race, with just a couple of people finishing behind me. I can't believe I am mid-pack now. Training works, go figure!

After the race, we went downtown to have a Japadog, a hot dog with teriyaki mayo, onions, and seaweed. It was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten!

I enjoyed this race so much. I love triathlon. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Next Year's Big Race

This week, it was announced that Ironman Canada, which I had planned to do next year, will not be continuing. Instead the race will be taken over by the Challenge Family and will be known as Challenge Penticton. I felt a great loss when I found out that I will not be able to participate in a race that has become iconic among Canadian triathletes. There will be still an iron distance race in Penticton, the course will not change, some of the same feel will be there, but it will not be an Ironman race anymore. I'm sure that the Challenge people will put on a good race and that the change will suit a lot of people. But for me, the Ironman experience was awesome and I want to experience it again.

I did still struggle a bit with the decision about which race to do next year - Challenge Penticton or another Ironman. Penticton is logistically much easier than any Ironman I would do and I knew that several of my friends would be signing up for Challenge Penticton. Still, I was pulled toward an Ironman race for my second iron distance and I ended up registering for Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Quebec. Mont-Tremblant looks like a spectacularly gorgeous venue and the reviews of the race are stellar.

Mont-Tremblant is a week before the Penticton race so I can still train all year with my friends. And really, that's a very big part of the whole experience. Then we can swap race stories next August.

Let the training begin (again)!

Friday, July 13, 2012

After an Ironman

It feels a little strange to be in the post-Ironman phase. For a year, I anticipated and worked toward this race and now I have these moments when I realize that it's over; it was already two and a half weeks ago! I am very goal oriented and I have felt a little bit aimless. It's hard to do all that training and then just stop. I do have an urge to keep going but every time I do a workout, my legs remind me that they are still not totally happy with me. Since the race, I've done a couple of 60K rides with the group in addition to a couple of shorter rides on my own, done a bike hill climbing workout, swum about 5 times (before I got the tattoo) and run once. The workouts feel OK (not awesome but fine) but it takes longer than usual to recover. In the weeks before the race, I felt so strong and invincible. Now I feel tired and slow. But I think the best cure for that is to keep on training, keep the legs moving, and try to maintain my fitness.

My brother, who lives in Seattle, called me last night to suggest that I do a couple of races with him in his neck of the woods during the first week of September. The idea just sounded perfect to me. That will give me time to build up my training again and will give me a goal that will give my training purpose (beyond the fact that training and being fit just feel good).

This is a shift in gears but the summer is shaping up nicely and I am looking forward to it.

Ironman Tattoo

It was always my plan to get an Ironman tattoo if I finished the race so a few days after I got home from Coeur d'Alene, I went off and did it. I wanted to get the classic M-dot because it's a recognizable symbol of Ironman but I wanted it to be original as well. So, I embellished the M-dot with the tree that the Coeur d'Alene race uses as its symbol and added the mountains to represent the terrain in CdA. I'm happy with it. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Race Report: Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2012 Part 3

The Run
My goal was to be on the run by 5:00 p.m. in case I had to walk the whole thing and I actually got going a few minutes earlier than that. Considering that I couldn't even stand up when I got off my bike, I was quite surprised that I was able to start out running. Turns out I was able to run almost the whole first half of the marathon. It wasn't fast but I did the first loop (13.4 miles) in just under three hours. It was hard to go back out for the second loop because the halfway turnaround is a block away from the finish line and I could hear the announcer congratulating people who were finishing. But I wanted to get there, too, so off I went. Near the beginning of my second loop, a spectator said to me, "You've got over four hours to do a half marathon! You've got this!" I realized at that point that I might actually make it. I couldn't run anymore but I could walk pretty fast so it became my plan to just keep that up. At the aid stations I ate chocolate chip cookies, chips and fruit and I started to drink Coke on the second loop. I felt strong and happy. When I got out to the turnaround point, at about the 32K mark, it was dark and they were handing out glow sticks that we put around our necks. The turnaround point is up and over a big hill and as I was coming back up and over that hill, I saw the 21 mile sign. I realized that I had 5 miles to go and over two hours to do it. I was pretty sure then that I was going to make it. I got choked up. I kept on walking as fast as I could. There were still spectators out on the course, especially back in town, cheering and saying I looked strong and amazing, high fiving everyone as we went by, playing music for us. I thanked them for staying up late for the last of us.

Finally, I made the last turn onto Sherman Ave - six blocks to go! With three blocks to go, I started to run again. The crowds were thick at that point and they were cheering like crazy! I entered the finishing chute. I had it all to myself. Time stood still.  Everyone was screaming. They were thumping on the sides of the chute and reaching out their hands. I reached out my arms to touch every hand I could. I saw Dan and Adam. Mike Reilly said, "Sarah Wall, YOU are an Ironman!" I couldn't contain my happiness. And I crossed that finish line at 16:15:10.

My total run time was 6:20, which pleased me, and I was thrilled with my overall finishing time. I thought I'd be right down to the wire. It was an incredible day. The crowd support was amazing. I felt like a rock star all day! And the volunteers were fantastic. They did anything and everything for you that you needed. The day went well for me and I was so impressed with the event. It was a great first experience and I'm so glad I did it.

Race Report: Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2012 Part 2

The Bike
The bike course is also two loops but it's really two out and back arms, which you do twice. The first goes east through town and then out along the lake. Then you return to town and head south along the western edge of the lake on highway 95. The eastern arm is quite a bit shorter (about 16 miles) and it's got some flat sections, although there is a decent hill at the end that you go up and over and then up and over again after the turnaround. The longer section (40 miles return) on highway 95 is very challenging. There are about 2 miles that are fairly flat but the rest of it is relentless climbing. Some of it is just gradual but there are a couple of long tough hills. The Mika Grade is the major climb, a 6% grade for just over 3 kilometres, which you have the privilege of going up and over four times by the time you do the whole course. There is another climb that is 5% for about a mile. On the way out, we had a pretty significant headwind. It was easier going back toward town because the wind was behind us but the hills didn't let up! I found it hard mentally to head out to highway 95 for the second loop but it was good to know that the harder work would be on the way out and that coming back would be better. A lot of people passed me on the uphills but there were some screaming awesome downhills, too, and I passed everyone on those! I am not afraid of going down and working those hills! I leapfrogged the whole way back to town with a guy named Joe - he'd pass me going up and I'd pass him going down. We kept each other company. As I did the last major climb on the way back, another guy pulled up behind me. He said, "Sarah, you are doing great." (Our names were on our bibs.) I said I was getting worried about the time. He told me that I'd be back in town in 20 minutes and have loads of time for the run. He said that that evening, I'd hear Mike Reilly (the announcer) tell me that I was Ironman. I never saw his face. He pulled out and passed me near the top of the hill but so did a couple of other guys so I don't know which one was him. He was a total godsend, though, just in the right place at the right time with the right thing to say. My bike time was 7:55:44. I thought I might be around 7:40 or 7:45 but I was pretty happy with my time considering the course. My speed has picked up quite a bit since I did my one and only half iron in 2009 on a much easier course so I feel good about that.

I was pretty happy to get back to transition. At the dismount line, the volunteers hold on to your bike and help you off. I couldn't even stand up so they held on to me, too! They take your bike for you so you don't even have to worry about it. I waddled over to get my run gear bag and went into the change tent. I did a full change of clothes so I could start over fresh. Again, a fantastic volunteer helped me with my bra and socks and got me organized when I couldn't think straight anymore. On the way out of the tent, another volunteer handed me a bag of pretzels and off I went for my marathon. T2 time was 5:52.

Continued in Part 3...

Race Report: Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2012 Part 1

Grab a coffee and a snack and maybe a blankie and pillow - this is gonna be a long one! I had to post it in three parts so the blogger software didn't melt down.

Dan, Adam and I arrived in Coeur d'Alene on the Wednesday before the race so I had several days to obsess over the looming race and try to keep myself off the ledge. I did a few swims in the lake, biked one loop of the run course, and did a couple of short runs, which felt good and helped to blow off a little steam. I checked in for the race on Thursday and got my wristband. The pre-race dinner was on Friday. They showed some videos that were very exciting but you could still feel the anxiety and nerves in the room. On Saturday, I dropped my bike off in transition and left my bike and run gear bags in one of the long rows, ready to use the next day.

I did a pretty good job of holding myself together those few days before the race. I just tried to focus on the excitement of being there to do an Ironman! On Saturday night, we went for dinner and then for a little walk by some of the beautiful waterfront houses near our hotel. I became suddenly overwhelmed and started to cry and Dan had to console me. It didn't last long, though, and that was really the only bad moment I had.

I had a pretty good sleep the night before the race. We got up at 4:00 a.m. and I showered and then we had breakfast. We left the hotel around 5:00 and arrived in transition at 5:15. I put my nutrition on my bike and pumped up my bike tires. Several of us chatted while we got set up. There were lots of first timers in my row. It was a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere. I felt like I had lots of time so I went to make sure my transition bags were still there and then I went in the change tent and put on my bathing suit and pulled my wetsuit up halfway.

At 6:15, I left transition and headed toward the beach. There was an incredible sea of green and pink swim caps! They told us we couldn't do a warm-up swim but a few people got in at the edge of the water anyway, so I did, too. I put my face in and let the water fill my wetsuit. The water was cold. It had been all week but it was reportedly a little colder on race morning (57 degrees F). I swam about 20 strokes. It was enough for me to feel that I had fulfilled my ritual and that I'd be OK getting back in. I found a spot on the beach and waited. I listened to the Star Spangled Banner with my hand on my heart so I could feel the moment. At two minutes to seven, I said to myself, "I am here at Ironman and this is incredible." I closed my eyes and listed the names of the people who had supported me and encouraged me and wished me well, many of whom had done this distance. I felt calm and ready.

The Swim
The cannon went off! I had situated myself about 3/4 of the way to the back of the pack, just right of the buoys. When the gun went, I started walking, didn't wait, just got in and started swimming. I knew the mass start with about 2200 people would be amazing and indeed it was! Bodies everywhere! But I just swam and kept looking for the next space to slide myself into and whenever I found some feet to follow, I stuck with them. The course goes counter-clockwise, 900m out, 100m across, 900m back and then you make a short beach run and get back in for a second loop. The first 900m was fine. It was very crowded but I felt strong and not nervous and kept plugging along. It was congested at the first turn but I expected that. At the second turn, I was just about around the buoy when I was suddenly thrown forward about six feet by a huge wave then went over my head. I thought, "Wow! Where did that come from?" I kept swimming then but noticed that it was a little rougher than the way out. Still, I arrived at the beach at the 45 minute mark, faster than I expected to be so I was pretty happy about that. The second loop, however, was an entirely different story! The waves had really picked up. There were still people everywhere and we were all being thrown around quite a bit in the chop. I found that I would have to lift my head high to breathe and then dive back into the next wave. Sometimes I mistimed it and got a mouthful of water so I swallowed quite a lot of the lake! At the turnaround buoys, we were side-on to the waves so we were thrown around a little bit. I actually did not feel nervous or anxious about the situation, though. I just raised my head when I needed to and got around the second turn. It was hard to sight heading back to the beach because of the height of the waves but I finally found something large on the beach to focus on. I did start to think that it would be nice to get out of the lake but I felt strong all the way to the end of the swim and the waves certainly took my mind off the cold! My swim time was 1:40:24. I expected to be around 1:45 so I was pretty pleased with my time, especially considering the conditions.

The swim to bike transition took me 12:13. The wetsuit strippers got me out of my suit and I ran over to get my bag. In the change tent, I got all my biking stuff on with the help of a wonderful volunteer who helped me pull everything on over my wet body. Outside the tent, more volunteers slathered me with sunscreen (although they missed the back of my shoulders, which I did not realize at all, so I have a pretty fabulous sunburn!). I ran toward my bike and another volunteer unracked it, handed it to me, and pointed me in the direction of the bike out arch. Pretty slick. Pretty amazing volunteers.

Continued in Part 2...

Monday, June 18, 2012

A New Way of Looking at It

Tomorrow I leave for Coeur d'Alene. I am actually excited and looking forward to it, despite the fact that I am feeling a little bit nervous as it approaches. For me to be excited about it is a big step. When I signed up for the race, almost a year ago, I burst into tears when the website told me that my registration had been accepted. I was terrified, wondering what on earth I'd gotten myself into. I spent the first few months of my training thinking I had bitten off more than I could chew. I couldn't imagine myself doing such a thing as Ironman and I often joked that I'd be standing on the beach on race day, crying into my goggles, still terrified of what I was about to do.

Maybe I will still cry into my goggles on the beach - it will be a big day and I might feel the magnitude of it in that moment. But I am going into this race with a very different attitude than I ever expected. My change in perspective has a lot to do with what the people around me have taught me over this year of training and the things that they have said to me in the last couple of weeks, as I get closer to race day.

A lot of people have expressed their faith in my ability to do it. They are people who know what this race is like and I know they aren't lying to me. It means a lot to me to hear things like:

"You are so ready for this."
"I have no doubt you can and will finish this race."
"Whatever happens on that day, you are better than that."
"I'm very proud of you and I know you will have a great day."

These statements build my confidence and help me to believe.

As well, beyond learning to believe in myself, I have learned that I don't have to go into this race with a fearful attitude. So many people have told me to have fun out there. I never even would have considered that before. Have fun? Won't I be suffering all day? Well, I'm sure there will be some low points in the day, but I have learned that it's also possible to approach it as something enjoyable! One friend told me that she just stood on the beach before the race and focused on how happy she was to be there, to have the means to participate in such a race, to be healthy and fit, to have the opportunity. Another friend said that the race is a celebration of your training. I love that. Yet another said, "Don't be nervous, just don't be nervous." Wow. I don't have to get worked up and be terrified of it.

Today I am excited that my opportunity to become an Ironman is just a few days away. I am visualizing a good race and thinking of all these amazingly positive things that people have said to me. I have learned, with the help of some amazing people, to talk myself off the ledge and for me that is huge. I know there are no guarantees on the day, but faith and a positive attitude will help me a lot and I will be taking that with me when I head off tomorrow.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Making Peace with Open Water

Last Tuesday, I went out to Hubbles Lake to do my first open water swim of the season. Last year, I did only one open water swim; it was in a race and it didn't go well. So, I wondered how this swim would go. It was a nice evening and the lake was comfortable but that panicky feeling swept over me after about 100 metres of swimming and it was hard to shake. I was with a friend and we just ended up bobbing and talking in the middle of the lake and swimming a bit when I felt I could. I managed about 1200 metres. It was actually really fun to just play in the lake and have a chat but it wasn't exactly a stellar swim. I returned to the lake yesterday (Friday) for another shot at it. Between Tuesday and Friday, I tried to visualize a perfect swim and get my mind focused on having a positive experience. When I got in the water, I spent a few minutes just getting used to the water and sticking my face in. The water was easier to get into than the pool is - it was so warm and the evening was lovely. I set out with two other women. I found a perfect groove right off the bat and just settled in! The three of us just glided peacefully across the lake, side by side. It was magical. About half way back, I turned my head to breathe and found myself almost face to face with a loon. He was just floating there about 4 feet from me. I stopped to look at him - he was so beautiful. Then he slowly swam away and I started off again. The trip across the lake and back is 1800 metres. I felt strong and calm and in the zone the whole way and I could have kept on going. It was a huge psychological boost to have such a great swim!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thoughts From a 7 Hour Bike Ride

This Saturday I did my longest bike ride, which ended up being 7 hours and 39 minutes long (it was supposed to be 7 hrs). That gave me a lot of time to think; my mind has always gone faster than my legs so a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. Here are some of them:
  1. I really like the people in my triathlon club. I spent the first three hours with them, as part of our regular Saturday morning group ride. We had so much fun together and those three hours went quickly.
  2. I am feeling stronger.
  3. I love my bike.
  4. Never unzip your jersey if you're hot on your bike. I did and an insect flew down inside and stung me on my boob.
  5. That Toffee Peanut Buzz Clif Bar tasted like a gourmet meal at the turnaround point.
  6. The wind is my constant companion. I used to hate it but now I take it in stride (although I do have to admit that I did say the f-word at the 7:16:55 mark because I was getting a little tired of the 40 km/hr headwind).
  7. Legs are amazing things.
  8. I was dressed perfectly for the ride.
  9. That hill on Rollyview Road, that everyone on the MS Bike Tour used to freak out about, is no big deal.
  10. There aren't a lot of private places to pee on the Alberta prairies.
  11. I have discovered that a bottle of Starbucks frappuccino tastes like the nectar of the gods when I'm out on the road and I will never go for another long ride without one.
  12. I feel like maybe I can do that Ironman ride.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big Training Days

This past weekend, I had a couple of big days. On Saturday, I ran the Blackfoot baby ultra, a 25K trail race in a nature reserve just outside of the city. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the scenery out there is beautiful. For me, a trail run/race was a totally new thing and it is, indeed, very different from a road race. It was pretty much up and down - the whole race is almost entirely hills! But, I actually felt really good, took it at a steady pace and made it to the finish in 3:28. I had no idea what to expect for time but I kind of thought it would be nice to do it in under 3:30 (a goal that was chosen quite arbitrarily). I finished 75/86 so pretty much a usual kind of standing for me. I'll never be fast but I can get it done and I hope this bodes well for Ironman. Most people at the race agreed that running a hilly 25K on trails is about the same as 30K on the road so this race counted as my longest long run in my training for Ironman.

The next day, I did a six hour bike ride. A friend came with me for half of it and it was very nice to have her company. It was such a windy day, which affected our enthusiasm somewhat, but we both know that rides like that just build strength and character.

This week has been good, training wise. I've had some good runs, one good, long swim so far, and, last night, I went to the hill climbing workout held by my triathlon club. It was so fun and such a nice evening and it was great to see my people. This weekend I will do my longest bike ride - 7 hours. I'll start with the club group ride and do what I can with them before they go back and have coffee while I keep going for another 4 or 5 hours!

Amazingly, I am now doing my longest workouts and looking at the taper coming up in my schedule. I can't believe that June 2012 is upon us and my race is just over 3 weeks away. I still have doubts about it. I still wonder if I can put this all together. But, I am feeling better about it. I feel good and I'm doing what my schedule asks me to do so I will be as prepared as I can be come race day. Then I will just put my head down and do it. It's getting to be time to just do it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycling Heaven

This weekend was a long weekend and I went on a cycling trip with 14 other members of my triathlon club. We went to Drumheller, in southern Alberta, where the terrain is unique and amazing and the sun was shining. We rode about 100 kilometres per day for three days. Each day, the ride gave us something different. The first day, there was a lot of long, smooth, fast highway, a couple of epic climbs, and a ferry ride. Day two brought about 50 km of some serious roller coaster riding, followed by another 50 km of nice fast straightaways home. At the end of that ride, there was a big screaming downhill. I had been leapfrogging with another guy in the last few kilometres and we raced each other down the hill and into town. On day 3, we rode an almost flat route along the river. Ten of us got into a pace line, tucked up close together, taking turns leading. We had perfect rhythm, perfect communication, a perfect pace and it was truly, truly beautiful. We rode like that for 70 km.

My body did its thing this weekend. I felt strong and good. I wasn't too tired and I wasn't stiff or sore at all. It made me marvel at how our bodies can do these amazing things that we ask of them.

I was there with a great group of positive, enthusiastic people and it was such a wonderful time. I was the one who planned the trip and it made me very happy that it went so well and that everyone enjoyed it so much. It was hard to come home and leave the magic behind.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Something Happy to Report

Yesterday evening, I went to the hill climbing workout with my club. I seriously, seriously did not want to go. My feelings of demoralization were epic and the last thing I wanted to face was sucking at hill climbing in front of my group. But, I am happy to report that the evening turned out very well. There were 11 of us there and it was a nice, happy group of people. We climbed 6 different hills for a total of 14 climbs. As we rode from hill to hill, we chatted and laughed. Nobody was riding like an insane maniac with something to prove on the way to the next hill. Sometimes, when we were climbing, I was the last one up but just by a couple of bike lengths and sometimes I wasn't last. My legs felt strong and I really enjoyed myself. It was a lovely evening. I was wearing a nice new outfit. My bike was a pleasure to ride. It restored my spirit a little bit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

One of These Things

I am in a seriously bad space this week and don't quite know how to get over it.

Saturday was so awful that it has sent me right to the brink. Being behind the pack in that group ride was very hard on me. It's not like I just discovered that I'm slow. I pretty much knew that. What's getting to me is that I don't feel like I have what it takes when I look at other people. As they used to say on Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong."

There is no triathlete slower than me. I am not being self-effacing. This is the truth. Other people say they are slow but they are not. I am slow. This limits my participation and enjoyment. It humiliates me. It defines me.

I am not gung-ho to get out there and kill myself all the time. I do my workouts, I do them well and I do them faithfully but I don't have some kind of death-defying "bring it on" kind of craziness about me like some people do. I am afraid of new situations and am easily intimidated.

I am terrified of the race I have signed up for, while others are doing several Ironman races this year.

I know that it isn't good to compare oneself to others. But, seriously, at what point should I wake up and smell the coffee?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Some Stats

Here are my training statistics to date. I officially started my Ironman training in September but really most of the swimming and running and all of the biking have been since November:

Swimming: 152,900 metres
Biking: 2775 km - most of this has been on the trainer at spin classes - some good, hard riding
Running: 682 km

I don't know if this is a lot or not and I guess it kind of depends on the person. I feel pretty good about what I've done. The heavy mileage is coming in the next 6 weeks. Weeeeee!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Time Gone By

It has been a very long time since I wrote about my training. I have been overwhelmingly busy with work. This term, I taught three courses, two of them new for me, so I have been pretty busy keeping the courses going and managing 320 students. The term was officially over for me last Wednesday, when I submitted the final grades and it's been very nice to have a couple days to think about something other than lecture prep. 

So, to try to recap what the last several weeks have held:

February and March were quite good months as far as the training went. I did all of my workouts, missing only a couple of swims in those two months. I could feel myself getting stronger and fitter. Although work and training were pretty much my life, I actually felt happy and balanced and very motivated. I especially enjoyed the spin season with my triathlon club. We did three good, hard workouts a week and it was so satisfying to accomplish them. I really like the group of people who attended the spins. My job, as part of the board of the club, was to coordinate and manage the spins so I got to know everyone who was there and feel like I was part of something really good.

April, though, was a hard month. Suddenly, it seemed, my workload caught up to me and I was working very long hours trying to get the last of the term's work finished up - creating the last few lectures, preparing for the final exams, meeting with panicked students, etc. Somehow I still managed to fit my workouts in, although sometimes I had to defer them to another day. Our spin season ended on April 22 but the weather hasn't been that nice since then so outdoor workouts have been a little miserable. I have found myself in a gloomy place this last week - so tired, depressed by the weather and getting a little more stressed about my looming race.

Today I went on a long group ride with a few members of the tri club. It was actually a lovely day and I was feeling strong but I rode with a few people who are quite a bit faster than me. I am faster than I was last year but rather than feeling good about that, the ride today just made me feel a bit lame. I also get the feeling that my coaches are a little unhappy with me for messing with my schedule. I know how hard I've worked to accomplish everything these past couple of months - to do my job well and to do my workouts faithfully - and yet I am left feeling like I didn't do enough and I am not where I should be.

Now, with only eight weeks to go until the race, I would like to be feeling positive and strong and more and more ready. Maybe this is just how it is. I know there are highs and lows and this will probably turn itself around in the next little while. There is not much I can do but carry on, keep training, focus on what works for me, and take one day at a time. I am also going to focus on accepting myself for what I am and where I'm at. I have time until the race and I'll keep plugging on toward the goal.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sheer Bliss

Yesterday was the usual brutal Wednesday evening spin workout but it was very unusual in the most amazing way.

At about the middle of the session, we were riding along at a time trial effort, just like out on the road. I got my legs going at a good hard pace and settled into my aerobars. I was feeling pretty good. Then I started to feel even better. I closed my eyes. I felt like I was alone in the room. I felt one with my bike. The music drew me in. I just rode like that. It was blissful, magical, transcendent, almost spiritual. I was way beyond "the zone." It was the most amazing experience. I've never felt like that before. I didn't want it to end. It was so perfect.

I am amazed at how wonderful it can feel to train.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Feel Great!

Last Wednesday, I had a little bit of a crash. I was exhausted and needed a break. But even the next day, I felt much better and by the weekend, I was myself again. Now, I'm feeling great!

I met with my coaches on Sunday, just to check in and talk about upcoming weeks in the plan. My main coach, who is giving me all of my workouts, had not seen me since we first met each other at the end of November. Since then, I have lost 20 pounds, changed jobs, and become stronger. When I walked into the coffee shop, she said, "Oh wow - that's it - I'm doing another Ironman! Look how good you look! This is really working for you!" My other coach told me that I looked so much happier and relaxed. It struck me at that moment that things have really come together for me and that I am feeling better than ever.

Yesterday was a great day. I woke up in the morning excited about the day, even though it was just an ordinary Monday. I taught my classes and they went well. Then I went to spin. This was an extra spin workout for me but I wanted to do it because the club has added Monday spin sessions now and I didn't want to miss out! It was a hard workout and I enjoyed it so much. I felt strong and happy - like I was in just the right place. I told the spin instructor afterward and he said he could tell I was working hard and getting stronger and that it seemed like things had clicked for me.

After an awkward start to my training, after four months in a job that was not right for me, after the disruption of Christmas and the cruise, and despite a lot of stress in my teaching position now - it's great work but there's a lot of it! - I am feeling like I've turned a corner in my training. Running feels good now, after a few months of slogging. Spinning is awesome and I can take whatever those mean instructors dish out. Swimming is starting to feel better, too. I am doing more distance and working on speed; the workouts are enjoyable and seem to be having an effect.

My attitude is different, too. I am more confident, more positive, more willing to take on this kind of hard physical challenge. I have been inspired and supported by some amazing athletes in my club and I am so motivated to do this.

I know that every day won't feel like this - the good times and bad times come together - but it sure is nice to have a moment where I can enjoy the changes and progress that I'm seeing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sudden Halt!

Two days ago, I told my husband that I was feeling a little tired but that I intended to keep going as long as I could keep going. Well, today is when it all came to a halt.

My recent workouts have been good. I've really enjoyed them and I've felt strong and fast (for me - it's all relative). Things have been good. I am very happy with how my training is going.

However, last night I barely slept, despite my fatigue. When my alarm clock rang at 5:15 to wake me for my swim, I lay there, thinking about whether I could even move my arms around in the water; I just couldn't imagine doing it. I felt horribly guilty but I turned off my clock and rolled over. Sadly, I didn't even fall asleep but I couldn't have moved if I tried. I cancelled one of the three classes I have to teach today - the one I could afford to get one class behind in - and I plan to go home and sleep instead. Tonight, I should be going to spin class but I can hardly bear the thought of the usual Wednesday night brutal spin workout. If I miss the spin it also means that I have to find someone to cover for me since I am the coordinator of our club's spin season. This compounds my guilt.

I guess I've been wondering how long I could manage the pace of things without it taking its toll. My teaching load is very heavy and my training is increasing and I think it has caught up with me a little. I know I'll be OK if I am kind to myself today. I don't think this means anything monumental. I am just tired. I am still committed to my goal and my training but today is most definitely going to be a day off.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It has now been five months since I started my formal training program for Ironman and I have five more months to go until the race.

My training encountered a few bumps along the way in the first few months but things have been much better since December, when I started working with my "gurus."

I keep a log of my workouts and a running total of what I've done. Here are my totals for the last five months:

Swimming 73,300 metres
Cycling 1275 kilometres
Running 377 kilometres
Weights 43 workouts (each about 45 minutes long)

In the first 3 months of my training, I had almost no cycling in my schedule and swimming was mainly technical instruction rather than distance. Now there is a better balance among the three sports. In the second half of my training program, I will be building even more and I will do much more than these distances in the next five months.

I do get tired sometimes but it's not all because of the training. My working life has been stressful and it's the dead of winter, which, at least for me, is not a high energy period. I am taking care of myself and carrying on.

I feel that things are going well and I am starting to have more confidence that I can do the race. I struggle with confidence so it's nice to feel a glimmer of hope every now and again.

To top it all off, I have lost 18 pounds since I started training and that feels awesome!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holiday Survival

Christmas can be hard on diets and exercise routines but I am very happy with how things went for me this year. I went into the Christmas season with very high motivation to focus on a good diet and keep my training going. I was faithful with my workouts and I even lost a couple of pounds. On Dec 31, I went to spin class and then quickly rushed home so we could head off to the airport. We went with my dad and his wife on a week long cruise in the Caribbean. We saw Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. The Caribbean is lovely, of course, and the ocean is warm and clean and wonderful. I swam in the ocean in Cozumel and could easily imagine myself doing an Ironman there someday...But I am definitely getting ahead of myself with that thought!

Of course there is food everywhere on a cruise but I ate very carefully and I also worked out every day. The fitness centre on the ship was excellent. I did a couple of spin classes and used the treadmill a few times. Try running on a treadmill on a ship that is rocking in rough seas! Now that's a challenge! One second you feel like you're running up a huge hill, the next second you are slammed into the front of the treadmill. Put that together with constant side to side motion. It's definitely a skill to be learned and perfected. I am happy to report that I did not gain any weight on the trip and I managed to keep my training at a respectable level while we were away. I even swam 100 lengths of the very freezing cold 10 metre pool at our Florida hotel, just to get a little swim in.

I am happy to be home and back into the routine of training and teaching, although the weather here is not quite as nice as it was down there!