Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Body Project

These last couple of months have been my off-season and I've been trying to use the time very wisely. We had a long, lovely fall so I was able to ride my bike outside right up until the end of October. I did some long rides and loved every minute of it. I've been running 5 or 6 kilometres a couple of times a week and doing some technical swim training, which has been excellent. However, since my Ironman in August, what I have been most focused on is recovery and setting myself up for a strong 2014 training season.

I nearly broke myself this year. For one thing, I asked a lot of my body this year after having surgery last fall. Also, I neglected to maintain my flexibility and strength the way I should have and by the end of the race season, I was hobbling around, locked up as tight as can be. I decided I needed a "body project," a focused and concerted effort to rebuild and prepare to train again.

My body project involves a three-pronged attack on my locked up legs and hips. I am going to physio once a week for IMS (intramuscular stimulation), having nice hard massages every week, and going to hot yoga two or three times a week. My favourite yoga instructor and my physiotherapist told me that I would see a difference in a couple of months. I can already see small changes - my muscles aren't quite as sore and tight as they were. To support my efforts, I am eating well and drinking more water.

I want to feel good while I train for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June, 2014. It's exciting to be doing this. It makes me feel pumped about being able to take my training to a new level in the coming year.

I am on a mission!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Queen of Hearts

Today my friend and I drove up to Barrhead, a small town about 75 minutes away, to do the Queen of Hearts women's sprint triathlon. She did an ironman a week after mine and we wanted to do one more race while the weather held on. I have really scaled back on my training in the last month so this race was definitely just for fun.

We left the city early in the morning. The drive up was so pretty and peaceful. The sunrise was pink and orange and there was a foggy mist hanging over the fields. We solved a lot of first world problems on that drive, too.

When we got to the Barrhead pool, we checked in, set up our transitions, got dressed for the race, and then went to wait on the pool deck. One of the participants offered to lead us in some stretches so we pulled out some mats and spent about 10 minutes doing yoga. It was really a nice way to pass the time and get ready for the race. 

It took a while until it was our turn to swim but eventually we got in. I haven't done a pool race for 4 years. Sometimes you can get stuck behind other swimmers or there can just be too many of you but for me it worked out well this time. I felt good and was happy I still had 750m left in me at this point. My swim time was 19:25. Slow, but I wasn't there to do anything amazing.

The bike ride was very nice. It was 22 kilometres of fairly flat, smooth highway. There were elevation changes but I wouldn't call them hills. On the way out, I was going 38 km/hr and I thought I was freaking amazing but then I turned around (into the wind) and realized that I'm just pretty ordinary after all. It was a little chilly but the sun was shining and the racers waved at each other and called out encouragements and I thought about how much I love to ride my bike. My bike time was 48:09. The transitions were mostly captured in the bike time, although a little bit of T1 would be in the swim time.

The 5K run went through some neighbourhoods and then out onto a trail. We ran past a creek and out into the fields to the turnaround and then back the way we came. I saw my friend out on the run course. The volunteers were so friendly, as were the other racers, and it was just a fun and happy run. My run time was 31:16 and my total time was 1:38. That put me 38th out of 73. Fine with me.

After we ate our sub sandwiches and some fruit, we showered, packed up, and hit the road. The drive home was lovely. The alfalfa was baled, the barley was golden, the trees were a mix of green and yellow, and the sky was blue. It was simply gorgeous and we remarked about that often. It was such a nice day and a great way to finish the season. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Race Report Ironman Mont-Tremblant August 18, 2013

Here I am on the other side of Ironman again. What an amazing journey it has been this year and what an incredible race experience this was.

Dan and I flew to Montreal on the Wednesday before the race. We rented a car and made the one and a half hour trip up to Mont-Tremblant. There are three parts to Mont-Tremblant: one is the old village, one is a townsite that they call the downtown area (also sometimes called St. Jovite) and the other is the resort village where we stayed. We had a very nice condo in one of the quieter spots in the bustling resort village. Mont-Tremblant is in the Laurentian mountains and it is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. 

On the Thursday before the race, I checked in and got my goody bag and wristband. Then we went to the race expo. We hit the Ironman store first. I wanted to buy a lot of stuff but a) I can't just spend all of my money in the Ironman store and b) I was worried about the race and didn't want to buy a lot of stuff just in case.... I really liked the IMMT cycling jerseys, though, and I bought one so I didn't miss my chance. In the afternoon, we drove the bike course. It was hilly but I didn't feel too overwhelmed except for the short and very cruel little part out to Lac Superior, which had several very steep climbs. Dan said encouraging things to me about the course that day but after the race he told me that he had been thinking, "O.M.G. This is brutal." I'm glad I didn't know that!

On Friday, I went for a short ride just to check my bike. I just did about 10K on the first part of the run course. In the afternoon, I went for a swim. The lake was very choppy so it was a tough swim but I could not believe how beautiful the water was - perfectly clear, no taste, no smell, sandy bottom, no weeds! I didn't want to get out of the water. That evening was the athletes' banquet. The food was very good and the program was impressive. It was a bit too long but the entertainment was very good and really conveyed the local culture. There was an amazing drumming group, some ice sculptors who carved sculptures before our eyes, and a gospel choir, along with the usual videos about Ironman races that always make me cry. After the banquet, we rode the gondola back up the hill to our hotel. At 9:00, we watched a spectacular fireworks show, which was part of the Ironman weekend. 

Saturday. The day before the race. My anxiety level was through the roof. I wanted to lay low and rest as much as possible. I packed my gear bags and delivered my bike and gear to transition. At 5:00, we walked down to St. Bernard Chapel for the athletes' blessing. I was hoping for some solace, I guess. A lot of it was in French so I didn't understand it but it made me cry anyway. It was very nice. We ate supper in our condo and then I took a bath and we hung around listening to classical music while I took deep breaths. 

I had the expected crappy, night-before-the-race sleep but was sleeping when the alarm went off at 4:45. I got up, showered, put on my race clothes, and then sat down and burst into tears. I told Dan that I didn't want to do it. He consoled me and then we left for the race. The race day weather was lovely. Sunny and about 26 degrees by afternoon. I stopped by transition to pump up my tires and put my nutrition on my bike. Then we joined the long line of athletes and supporters who were making the 10 minute walk to the swim start. The beach is divided by a narrow strip of land that goes out into the lake so the swim starts on one side of it and comes out on the other side. So we had to walk down to the far side to start. I waited in the 20 minute potty line-up but while there, I saw some triathletes I knew - some from Edmonton and a couple from California that I had met at a race in Seattle.

While I was putting on my wetsuit, a couple of Canadian Forces fighter jets flew over and then they came back for another pass. Everyone cheered. It was really cool and special. When I was ready, I hugged Dan and said goodbye. Then I hugged him again. And again. And maybe even again and then made my way to the beach. They let us get in for a warm up swim, which was great! It felt so good to get in! I swam out a ways and then came back and then did it again because it felt so good. The water was perfect and the swim calmed me down. I stood in the water and waited for the start.

The Swim
This race featured a wave start. I was in the last wave - #9 - so I waited and watched while the others went off. For each wave, they sent up two flares that looked like white fireworks and then fired the gun. There were a few hundred women in my wave. The beach is narrow so it was crowded at the start but thinned out quickly once we got going. I felt great starting out. Calm and strong. The water was just so beautiful. It's a one loop swim - 1800m out, 200m across, 1800m back. I found some feet to follow and picked off the buoys, one by one. As we got further out, I passed a few people from earlier waves. That felt good. The water got a little choppier as we got farther from shore but it was fairly easy to get into the timing of the waves. Eventually I figured I should be seeing the red turn buoy but all I could see were yellow ones. Then I saw a lot of boats straight ahead and I thought, "They are right in the way!" Of course, then I realized that they were watching us from just beyond the turn buoy! I made the first turn and then the second and headed back toward the beach. The sun was in our eyes on the way back but it was at just the right angle that it didn't completely blind us. I was able to sight pretty easily all the way. At 500m out, I could hear the announcer and then I could see the bottom and then I was there at the beach. I felt good and very happy. My swim time was 1:42:22. This is 1:58 slower than in Coeur d'Alene last year. I thought I might be a couple minutes faster than last year but this difference isn't huge and it didn't concern me. It might have been because the same draft wasn't there this year with the wave starts.

Once out of the water, I went to the wetsuit strippers and then started the run toward transition. It's somewhat long but not terrible - about 400 metres and it's pretty flat and completely carpeted! The gear bags and change rooms were inside the huge tent that had been used for the banquet on Friday. I grabbed my bag, got my bike gear on with the help of one of those amazing transition volunteers, and then ran for my bike, which was another 200m away. Time was 9:23, which I was happy with. That's 3 minutes faster than in CdA, which has a much more compact transition set-up.

The Bike
The bike ride was the reason for most of my pre-race anxiety. Generally, I feel like my fitness is about the same as last year, except for the bike. I don't know why the bike would be weaker now but it is and so I was very worried about this ride. I worried for the whole ride whether I'd make the cut-off. I suspect that everyone who was tracking me online that day was also worried about that! The course is two loops with four sections and a total ascent of 6250 feet. The first section is about 10K on Montee Ryan. It has some flat sections but also three good climbs. Then you ride a 48K out and back stretch on highway 117. This section of highway has some long climbs at about 5-7% but also some good downhills and some flat stretches, too. After 117, you go to downtown Mont-Tremblant and ride down Rue de St. Jovite, which is the main street. Then you rejoin Montee Ryan to head back toward the resort village. Once back at the village, you head east for 9K toward Lac Superior. This stretch of road has about 7 or 8 very steep climbs. According to my Garmin, they ranged from 14-21%. Each of them is only about 100-200m long but they are tough! Standing is a must. A couple of guys riding near me fell over on these hills because they couldn't get going fast enough to stay upright. The nice thing is that coming back is faster, although there are a couple of these uphills on the way back, too.

About 10K into the ride, I thought that perhaps I hadn't put my seat at the right height when I put my bike together. It felt low and I was working against it on the climbs. Then I realized that my seat was actually slowly sinking and by the top of the first big climb on 117, it had sunk as far as it could go. I had made the fateful and, as it happens, very unfortunate decision not to bring my tools so I'd have room in my bento box for nutrition. I mean, seriously, I have ridden 8000 kms on my bike with that tool kit in my bento box and have never used it so I took the chance. I will never do that again! I didn't know what I was going to do to fix the situation. I knew I couldn't do the whole ride like that. At the first aid station, I asked everyone there if they had tools. Nobody did. Then I asked a volunteer who was unloading a truck at the end of the station. He barely spoke English but he knew the word for tool!! He got his tools off of his bike and I pointed to the problem and he set out to fix it. It took us a few minutes to figure it all out and get it right but thanks be to god, he got it! I kissed him on the cheek and said, "Merci beaucoup, merci beaucoup, merci beaucoup." He saved my race. 

So I just rode my bike. Up hills, down hills, through town, back to the resort, up to Lac Superior and then I did it again. The aid station volunteers were awesome. The people in town were cheering and screaming and dancing and doing the wave. When I got back to the resort the second time and had only the Lac Superior section left to do, I saw Dan. I said, "I don't think I can make it." He said, "Yes you can! Go! Go!" So I went. As I went out, one of the course marshalls said, "Remember me. I'll be on the other side of the road when you come back." When I got back, she said, "You came back!" and I said, "And you're here!" We laughed and she cheered me on. At the last aid station, the 20 volunteers stood side by side, 10 on one side and 10 on the other and formed a tight little tunnel for me to ride through, waving their arms and cheering as I passed. It was so energizing! Sometimes it's lonely at the back of the pack, especially when the wave start gives some people a 15-20 minute head start, but there is also something incredible about being one of the last ones out there. There is nothing like the support you get from the volunteers and spectators when you are still out there. It's overwhelming. Truly overwhelming. And a lot of people never get to know what that's like.

Anyway, I made the bike cut-off with 11 minutes to spare. Loads of time. Why was I so stressed? Ride time was 8:27. 

At the bike dismount line, three volunteers descended upon me, helped me off my bike, and then whisked my bike back to its spot on the rack. I walked the 150m to the transition tent. A volunteer was standing there holding my bag and I went into the change area. Another volunteer dumped out my stuff, lined up my socks and running shoes, went through everything in the bag, asking me if I needed this, needed that, and then packed up all my bike gear. The volunteers are so, so amazing. All day I marveled at that. As I left the transition tent, I saw Dan again. I said, "I don't want to run. This is stupid. I can't run fast enough for this." He said, "Yes you can!" He was always there when I needed to see him, offering me encouragement. So off I went. T2 time was 3:56. Totally impressive.

The Run
Alright, Sarah. Seriously. You have 6 and a half hours to do this run. You better make this happen. My run time in CdA was 6:20 so it was within the realm of possibility. 

The 2-loop run course is very nice and takes advantage of the area very well. The first 5K are on the road from the resort village to the old village. That section is hilly. At the 5K mark, the course joins a trail, a decommissioned railway bed that is now a linear park. The surface is firmly packed sandy gravel so the footing is as easy as it is on the pavement but it's a little nicer on the body to run on it. After 11K on the trail, you rejoin the road in the old village and go back 5K to the resort.

I started out walking but then I couldn't stand how slow it was so I started to run. I knew I had to run most of this if I intended to make it. I felt pretty good. Happy. My body was holding up. My legs were moving. I drank Coke and ate pretzels. I had a couple chocolate chip cookies and two cups of chicken broth. I had a lot of company on the first loop. As I finished my first loop, I ran through the resort village with a lot of people who were finishing their race. Just before the 21K mark, the course forks - left to finish, right for a second loop. The crowds were screaming and congratulating all of us, even me, as we ran down the sidewalk toward the finish. Then I got to the fork and I pointed to the right with both hands and I said, "I'm going that way" and everyone standing there just screamed and cheered for me and said, "You go girl! You've got this!" It was so fantastic! 

My second loop was good. It was dark. There were lots of people sitting beside the road still cheering and encouraging the last of us. I loved the run down the trail on the second loop. It was lit along the way but it was dark and cool and peaceful and I just got into a rhythm and plugged away. At the aid stations, 20 volunteers would surround me, asking me if I needed anything. They clapped and cheered and helped and didn't seem any less enthusiastic than they had 3 hours earlier. I calculated my progress constantly, thinking, "If I can just run this fast, I can make it. I will be there at such and such a time..." Over and over and over. I became more and more sure that I would make it. Back on the road with 4K to go, one woman said to me, "You amaze me, girl. YOU amaze me. You." A man said, "You're gonna make it with loads of time to spare. You are awesome." At the 40K aid station, two volunteers met me with water but I asked if they had Coke. They said, "We're gonna run with you to the Coke table and get it for you" and they did. At the 41K mark, I ran a bit faster. I knew the good part was coming. I walked up the last little hill and turned onto the sidewalk through the resort. The crowds were there. They screamed. Everyone, everyone held out their hands to high five me. I touched every one of them that I could as I ran past. I could hear the music. I could hear Mike Reilly. I was 500m away. I was elated, grinning from ear to ear. I took the left fork this time! I saw Dan and grabbed his hand. I ran under that arch (with a run time of 6:16) and jumped up and down and high fived Mike Reilly and soaked up that most amazing feeling in the world. That feeling makes 16 hours and 39 minutes of wondering and hoping and pressing on all worth it. There is NOTHING in the world like that feeling. 

The finish line volunteers swarmed me. They patted my back and smiled and congratulated me. Then one of them came with me into the finishers' tent and gave me water, my t-shirt, my hat, my medal, and helped me get some food and find a place to sit. It was over. Ironman #2 done. Such an important commemoration of all that this year has been. 

Ironman Mont-Tremblant was awesome. This event was world class yet it honored the local area so perfectly. This race was such an incredible way to visit Quebec. The people were amazing. They really love this race and they were very, very good to the athletes. I feel so lucky to have been part of it.

I woke up on Monday morning and smiled at the realization that there is life after an Ironman. We left Mont-Tremblant that morning, had lunch on a patio in St. Jovite, and drove to Montreal to spend some time sightseeing there before flying home on Wednesday. All in all, this was an excellent trip. I seem to have forgotten the pre-race anxiety....

Monday, August 5, 2013

Training for Ironman Mont-Tremblant

Last summer, when I signed up for my second Ironman, Ironman Mont-Tremblant, it hardly seemed like the time would ever come. Now, amazingly, it is just 13 days away.

In the last two weeks, I did my longest workouts. My longest run was 21K, which I did in Lake Stevens, Washington, while I was there to visit my brother who lives there. My longest ride, 176 km in the pouring rain, was last Saturday, and yesterday I did my longest swim - 4000 m in Hubbles Lake. Although these were the longest distances for each discipline, I have been doing pretty long workouts all month.

This year has been entirely different in almost every way from last year when I trained for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. I have to say, I won't be sorry to kick 2013 in the butt when it's on its way out. It has been a very challenging year in some big ways and I am, at this point, completely depleted, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Perhaps I shouldn't have taken on an Ironman this year but when I signed up, I didn't really know what was ahead. In the thick of it all, I decided that I still wanted to carry on with my training because I saw Ironman as something I could do for me, something I could use to channel my energy into something productive.

Anyway, here I am, 13 days from race day. I have been trying to evaluate my readiness. This year, I had a PB in a 10K running race in April and in a 15K running race on July 1. I survived Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, which was a challenging race in difficult conditions! My swim times out at the lake have been good - even slightly faster than last year. But, there has been a lot of variation in how my workouts have felt, particularly on the bike. Some have been great, others really, really awful. The bad workouts mess with my mind and make me wonder if I have what it takes this year.

I have to work some sport psychology on myself! By the time I get on the plane to Quebec, I will have swum 150,000 metres, ridden my bike about 4000 km, and run over 600K. I did all of this training in the last 8 months, starting just six weeks after having very major surgery last fall. So that's not too shabby. I also must say that I have some amazing friends who have put in a lot of these miles with me and I feel very lucky to know them. My taper started today. I am going to stick to it perfectly! This morning, I went for a short run and then had a long massage. Now for a lot of rest, a bit of wine, and a lot of positive self talk! There are moments of excitement that sneak in now. I want to grab hold of those and make this race awesome.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ohio Triathlon

This past week I was in Ohio for work. I flew to Columbus and drove to the small town of Cedarville to attend an academic conference for two days. Ohio is very pretty and green and mostly flat!

As it happens, my cousin, a runner who is interested in triathlon, lives in Columbus. So, when I was planning to go to the conference, I figured I should try to throw in a race with her while I was there. We found a race in Alum Creek State Park not far from her place. She signed up for the duathlon and I registered for the tri.

Last Sunday was race day. It was a perfect day for the race: 20 degrees (68 F), light wind, scattered clouds. Annie and I made the 10 minute drive to the beautiful beach where the race started and were followed shortly by our cheer team, my aunt and uncle and Annie's husband and daughter. We had lots of time to get set up and we were both quite relaxed and looking forward to the race.

Annie started her first run at 7:00. My swim wave was the last one to go at 7:43. I walked down to the other end of the beach to the swim start and watched the rest of the waves go off. The swim was a straight line parallel to the beach for 800m. I did a little warm-up swim before my wave went and then we were off. The water was clean and warm. It was my first wetsuit swim of the year and I felt all choked at first but before long I found my groove. Then it was over before I knew it! 

I was on a rented Trek road bike for the ride (Annie made all the arrangements for the bike!). The course was 28.3 km (17.7 miles) of gently rolling, smooth road through the state park and into the surrounding communities. It was absolutely beautiful! We rode on tree-lined roads, across a long bridge over the lake, and past well-groomed, upscale acreages. At one point, the trees were hanging over the road so closely that it seemed like I was riding through a tunnel of green. I loved that ride!

The 5K run was great, too. It started on a loose gravel path, which made the footing tricky, but the path wound through shady, green woods until we came out onto a paved path alongside the road. That path took us to the dam at the south end of the lake, which we ran across. That was cool. It was high up and you could look over the edge and see the water rushing out the other side. The run continued onto a high stretch of built up land that held the lake back - great views from there! Again the footing was tricky up there because it was rough, grassy ground but it was only for about 1K. After the turnaround, we went back over the dam and through the woods to run the last 300m on the flag-lined path beside the beach to the finish. 

The post-race food was pretzels, twizzlers, tootsie rolls, mini chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookes, and bubble gum. Best ever!

I really enjoyed this race. The conditions were perfect and the course was spectacular. My chip time got messed up a bit and for some reason my swim, T1, and bike time got rolled into one and then it picked me up again when I was in T2. I'm guessing that my swim time was around 19.xx minutes, my T1 time around 3 minutes and something, and my bike time 1:05 ish. T2 was 1:46 and my run was 35 minutes. My legs felt like lead but I didn't care. Having just done the half iron in Hawaii the week before, I knew I wasn't going to have a terrific performance here so I just let myself relax and have fun. My total time was 2:03.

After the race, we spent the afternoon sitting on the patio with a few bottles of wine. My cousin Heidi, Annie's sister, drove down from Cleveland to join us. We debriefed the race and Annie said she really enjoyed herself, too. We had such a good time talking and laughing and catching up on a lot of years. It was a fantastic day.

Annie gave me this awesome wine glass!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Hawaii

Last summer, my friend Kim asked me if I wanted to go with her for a girls’ trip to Hawaii to race the Ironman 70.3 (affectionately known as the Honu Half) on the Big Island. Naturally I said yes to an offer like that! So, after much anticipation, we spent last week in Hawaii and did the race on Saturday, June 1. That race was the hardest thing I have ever done! Ironman was easier. But let me back up a bit…

We arrived in Hawaii in the afternoon on the Wednesday before the race.  As we drove from the airport to our hotel, we were amazed by the incredible landscape. Almost the entire west side of the island is covered with black lava fields. It’s surreal – like being on the surface of the moon – but it has its own strange beauty. Our hotel was located by the ocean in a little oasis of palm trees and flowers. We stayed at the race hotel, which was very posh and lovely. It turned out to be a great choice to stay there because of the access to the expo, race registration, and shuttles to the start, and the convenience of finishing right there.

The time before the race was unexpectedly relaxing. I hardly had any race anxiety. It was just wonderful to be there. We ate our meals at a restaurant beside the ocean with our feet in the sand. We went for a short run and ride. We swam with the tropical fish and the giant sea turtles (honu). Incredible! We built our bikes, went to the expo, prepared for the race and just had a lot of fun.

On Friday, we rode our bikes 12 km up the coast to leave them in transition for the night. We walked down to the beach to see the swim course. It was afternoon and the waves were pretty big and it freaked me out a little, although I knew that it would be calmer in the morning. We took a shuttle back to the hotel and went right away to the pre-race meeting. The meeting began with a weather report that called for high winds and heat. Then a couple of people got up to tell us how hard this race was going to be and how we should remember that we actually chose to do this! They said we’d have to dig deep to make it through this race. That didn’t do much to help me with the race anxiety that was creeping up on me at that point! After the meeting, we went back to the expo and I bought a new tri suit to wear for the race. We spent the evening relaxing. I slept fairly well the night before the race and whenever I woke up, I would say nice things to myself about how capable I was so I could feel confident going into race day.

We got up at 4:45 on race morning, ate breakfast in our room, grabbed our bike gear bags, and headed down to catch the shuttle. In T1, we set up our spots and then walked down to the beach. The water was indeed calmer and it was a beautiful morning. Kim and I ran into Randy, another friend who had traveled with us but was staying at a different hotel. We all hugged and wished each other good luck.

The Swim
After waiting for the pros and the men to start, the women went off at 7:00. There were only about 500 of us so we weren’t too bunched up. There was a lot of room to swim but there wasn’t much of a draft pack. The course is a single rectangle that goes out parallel to the shore, turns to go out a little farther, then runs parallel to the shore again (for a little longer on that backside), then heads back to the beach. The water was pristine and you could see the bottom the whole way – coral, rocks, and colourful fish. The first stretch was calm and lovely and the turns were fine – not too clogged with people. The stretch on the backside was much wavier. I couldn’t catch sight of the next turn buoy. Whenever I tried to sight, I couldn’t see over the waves so I followed the group and trusted that someone knew where they were going! Strangely, the waves were coming from the shore and since I breathe to my left, I got the waves in the face quite a lot and swallowed a bit of the ocean. Still, I felt calm and strong and kept going until I finally saw the turn. The stretch back to the beach seemed to take forever but I swam side by side with another woman the whole way. I just love that when you are perfectly paced with someone else and you just glide through the water together.

My swim time was 1:00:36. What the heck was I doing out there? I thought I’d be under 50 minutes! I wasn’t sure what the reason was that it took so long but I found out afterward that others were out there for a while longer than they expected, too.

The run to T1 was about 500m, across the beach and up a hill. I got ready for the ride and slathered on some sunscreen - not enough as it turned out!  The bike course started out with a short, steep hill so at the mount line, they told us to get on and clip in and then they gave us a running push to get us going. That was great! Time was 7:06.

The Bike
The bike course is an out and back route that heads north up the Queen K highway toward Hawi (pronounced Hahvi). Here’s where we experienced how windy Hawaii can be! The wind speed was 40 km/hr, gusting to 70 km/hr. The wind was from the east/northeast so we had a strong crosswind, which was quite often a headwind. It was work all the way and sometimes it was hard to keep the bike upright. There’s one little stretch, about 1 km long where you head straight west, with all that wind power at your back. On that stretch, I was going 65 km/hr without pedaling! That didn’t last long, though, and we turned north again. About 7 miles from Hawi, we started a long, gradual climb against the wind and this was the only spot on the course where it also rained. That was just brutal but I just told myself that at Hawi I could turn around and enjoy the ride downhill! That short little fast stretch that we had going out was, of course, pretty nasty on the way back and I just kept grinding till I got to turn south again for the last 15 km or so back to T2. I realized that my expected bike time of 3:45 was a dream at that point and I wondered if I was even going to make the bike cut-off!  I told myself that I better make it since I had bought a Hawaii 70.3 bike jersey before the race (which I was thinking might have been a bad idea) and I had to earn it. Thankfully, I made it with just over 10 minutes to spare. My bike time was 4:12:11 – so much slower than I thought I’d be but that was just no ordinary ride. Wow!

Parked my bike. Put on my runners. Had to get my head around the fact that I had made it in time to do the run. Wondered if I could do it in the 3 hours I had left. Didn’t think so but, what the heck, I had to try. T2 time was 4:01.

The Run
Hot, hot, hot! It was in the high 30s out there with the humidity but I knew I had to keep running if I wanted to bring this race home. The run course is almost entirely on a golf course, with a few short out and back loops on road. You feel like a hamster out there, running circles on the grass! I had no sense of where I was at all but the course was well marked and there were a lot of people out there with me so it would have been hard to get lost. I picked off the mileage signs and calculated my time and progress constantly. I felt good, despite the heat. I walked all the short, steep little hills but otherwise I ran. At the aid stations, I drank water and coke but didn’t eat anything other than two pretzels and a couple of orange wedges. The run volunteers were amazing – they showered us with cold water, poured ice down our tops, and kept us supplied with icy sponges, which I squeezed over my head and then put under my hat. I passed a lot of people. I said “I’m good. I’ve got this” to myself. Between the 9 and 11 mile markers, the course went out on a service road into the lava fields and it was so hot and desolate and brutal and for that little stretch I felt all the pain of that run. But when I got back onto the golf course at the 11 mile mark, I knew I was going to make it. I just ran. Near the finish, the path goes over a bridge and curves around by the ocean and then there’s the finish line! I pulled in under the arch with a smile on my face and a run time of 2:53:56. Kim was there waiting for me and she gave me a hug. I said to her that I was never so happy in all of my life to have a sucky time – 8:17:50. I was just so happy to have an official time. She said that that race was the hardest thing she had ever done (and she's done 4 Ironmans) and I agreed!

After finishing, I walked over to the pool and got in. Nice! Then I ate the world’s most delicious cheeseburger, rested a bit, collected my bike, and took all my stuff back to the room.

That evening, we relaxed and talked about the race and how incredibly hard it was and how proud we were of ourselves. Kim figured her time was about an hour slower than normal and I knew my time was not what I could do under better conditions. During the race, I had a moment where I thought I didn’t have what it took but afterward I saw it differently. We earned our medals – and I earned that jersey!

After the race, we had a couple more days of vacation. On Sunday, I had a massage by the ocean. Heaven! In the afternoon, we went into town to shop and then went to a luau. The food was very good and the Polynesian dancing was incredible. On Monday, we had pedicures to pamper our feet, which had served us so well on race day, and we swam again with the fish.

What an incredible week it was. Such a beautiful place. Such a difficult yet satisfying race experience. So cool to be there in Kona, the Mecca of triathlon. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Drumheller Cycling Trip

(That's me, fourth from the right.)

On the May long weekend, a group of 17 of us from my triathlon club went to Drumheller for a weekend of cycling. This is a weekend I look forward to because it's one of the first opportunities we have to do some real riding outside, it's such a boost to my training, and it's a wonderful time with great people. 

We rode for three days. We each take turns driving one of the support vehicles and that cuts into the mileage a little but I still managed to get about 270 km of riding in. We rode in hot sunshine on the first day, pouring rain the second, and a little of everything on the third but it was all still wonderful. 

The first day's route included a spectacular view of Horse Thief Canyon, a ferry ride, and a very long, steep climb. I did hit a somewhat low point at about the halfway mark that day but I eventually clued in that my dark attitude was probably related to a lack of nutrition. Sure enough, I ate something and things improved quite dramatically! Even when I was soaking wet and freezing on the second day, I still felt strangely happy to be on my bike. Later that day, the sun came out, we turned onto a nice smooth highway and flew home with the wind at our backs, finishing with an awesome downhill! And on the third day, we did the whole ride in a pace line, which is just the most beautiful thing. There really is no bad day on a bike.

In the evenings, we ate dinner together and then enjoyed some wine and beer and had some very good laughs. I am so lucky to have these awesome people in my life! 

It was a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A 10K in Seattle

This week I was in Vancouver and Victoria for work so I popped down to Seattle on the weekend to visit my brother and do a 10K with him. Dan, my husband, joined me for the drive to Seattle and he did the half marathon.

Race morning was cool and drizzly but totally pleasant for a run. The race started by a marina and ran along the oceanside, into a park, across a long iron bridge over a river, and then back again. It was a nice, moderately challenging, scenic course. I started out feeling surprisingly good so I was able to keep up a pretty good pace. I chatted with other runners, including Paul's friend Hazel, whom I had met a few times before. At the turnaround, I figured I could bump things up a bit and maybe come out with a decent finishing time. As it happens, I pulled off a personal best with a time of 1:01. (The distance on my Garmin matched up perfectly with the mileage signs along the course and at the end it read 10.2K. If the course was a tiny bit long, that's too bad, but you have to take what you get with races. I'm sure a lot of them aren't perfectly accurate.)

When I went to check my posted time, I saw that I had finished third (out of 26) in my age group, to boot! So I even got to be part of the awards ceremony!

I was pretty pumped about that race and my finish. Paul was second in his age group and Dan got a half marathon PB so it was a great day all around!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This Year's Training

It's been three months since I've posted anything. I've been training all this time but things have been complicated and I haven't known what to say.

I have the same coaches again this year and the training plan they create for me works well for me. It's good, solid training but it doesn't "cook" me, as they say. I have been mainly swimming on my own, although I have a training buddy that I swim with fairly often. I've actually been doing a lot of early morning swim workouts! I am not a morning person but it's not bad at all and it's nice to have the workout done before the day begins. I have also been running alone. I like that. I got an iPod for Christmas and I really enjoy having it with me on my runs. I have never been one to listen to music. I find it quite distracting when I have to concentrate on something else at the same time but for running it works - it helps me keep my pace and pass the time. Through the winter, I've been spinning with my club. I've built some good friendships there. The workouts are hard, though, and that's where I've run into a bit of trouble. I don't recover well and every couple of weeks, the intensity catches up with me and I need to back off. I've learned to listen to my body better and take care of myself so I don't get hurt so badly that I have to stop altogether. There were a couple of dicey weeks there where my legs were hurting a lot but I've got that under control now and am managing it better. All in all, I feel quite fit again and I feel that I am close to being back to where I was before my surgery.

I have been under a great deal of personal stress this winter. It's really something that's been going on for a while but it has intensified lately and has taken a real toll on me. It has affected my motivation and has taken some of the joy out of my training. I have kept up with my workouts but haven't always had my heart with me when I do them. This year's Ironman (Mont-Tremblant, August 18) is especially important to me, though, since my training is something I can control and since the training and race are something I can do for me. The workouts are therapeutic, too, and that's good for my mind and soul as much as for my body.

This is a crazy, time-consuming, life-altering sport and sometimes I wonder why I do it when other things demand my energy, especially right now. But, it's part of who I am now and, ironically, it helps to keep me balanced. I need it and I am going to carry on, one workout at a time, until things fall into place again.