November 11, 2014

Tis the off-season

Tis the season. The off-season, that is. You can almost hear the collective "thunk" of cyclists putting their steeds back on the trainer for the winter. Runners light up grey November afternoons with their splashy shoes and "please don't hit me with your car" reflective toques. Road bikes have given way to cross bikes and finally to cross-country skis in bike shop windows. Last weekend, Scott Tinley threw a snowball at someone in the OTC coach's clinic. Is it that time of year already?

My off-season actually started some time ago. I haven't done much since my last race on the final weekend of August, as I've been saddled with some nagging foot pain. X-ray and ultrasound came back negative. Waiting on the results of a bone scan. Anyone want to take wagers? Stress fracture? Tendinitis, perhaps? Can I get "idiopathic metatarsal pain" for $400, Alex? If you guess right, I'll buy you a drink. And then give you an honorary medical degree.

That's not to say I've been bored. In the absence of pressure on myself to be race-ready, I've done all kinds of stuff just for the sheer enjoyment of it. Last month, I took a couple of friends out for a leisurely bike ride into the country. With a long break in the middle for lunch and a latte.

Right at home on the patio

Sunshine, food, and friends
At the risk of going all nerd-factor-9, I thought I'd share some fall things I enjoy that don't involve swimming, biking, or running.

Baking

Knitting

Trick or treating
Riding -- not a bike
Hope you're finding something to keep you happy and warm as the days get short and cold.



November 08, 2014

Starstruck

OMG.

That's typically an acronym I leave to the kids to throw around. However, this afternoon I had the opportunity to meet one of the legends of our sport. Multiple Ironman world champion, pioneer of triathlon, and as it turns out well-spoken presenter and all-around cool guy, Scott Tinley.

I'll say it again. OMG.

It was a packed house in our little corner of the Carleton Tavern. Having never been, I stumbled into a game of darts and then a staircase that presumably led to the dungeon before finding the right room. As the milling crowd of OTC folks grew, I caught a few glimpses of the guest of honour. I wandered up to the bar for a glass of wine, finding several familiar faces along the way and starting up conversations with "Hi, I'm Kirsten!" as I encountered OTCers I'd never met. All of a sudden I turn around, and there is Scott Tinley. He's looking at me. Say something!

"Hi, I'm Kirsten!"

Not terribly brilliant, but I suppose it'd have to do. "Hi, I'm Scott." -- delivered with a friendly handshake and smile. I wanted to ask, "So did those crazy drop handlebars really fall off your bike the day after you won Kona?" but only managed "Thank you so much for coming!"

We were treated to a terrific, warm chat between Geordie and Scott, who delivered an insightful glimpse into triathlon's early days as well as some personal stories and recollections. As the session wrapped up, Geordie invited those in attendance to come up, say hi, and get an autograph. Damn -- I forgot my OTC cap! What have I got with me? Nothing. Not even a bar coaster. Double damn. Respecting the dignity of my advancing age, I elected not to ask Scott to sign an inappropriate body part. Instead I asked if I could take a picture with him. And here it is.

Ordinarily I wouldn't snuggle up quite so close to a celebrity I'm not stalking, but my selfie arm is only so long

September 02, 2014

Race report -- The Canadian triathlon, super sprint

August 30, 2014
Swim 200m, bike 15km, run 5km
1:07:53 (3/38 OA, 3/9 AG, 13/74 men and women)

Short version: this was a fantastic day. My two little ones did their first event, the weather was great, and we stuck around to volunteer afterward. Now for the long version...

I started right at the front near the buoy, and this swim was the scrappiest I've experienced so far, in terms of body contact. Nobody seemed too fazed by it though, there wasn't any hitting or grabbing... just a lot of people occupying the same space. The clear area ahead of the front row didn't last long, and swimming in a sea of bodies rather than water, I wasn't able to find a rhythm. Looking on the bright side though, look at all these feet to choose from! Eventually the field spread out a little, and somehow I lost all my drafting possibilities. I managed to keep from hyperventilating, just barely, but I didn't feel nearly as strong as I was in Brockville where I had more open water (and frankly, more time in the water leading up to the race). On reaching the beach, I took off at the fastest run I could manage -- knowing I couldn't afford to give up so much as a few seconds anywhere on the course in this strong field. The run to transition at this venue is long, and cruelly uphill.

Swim + T1: 8:53, goal under 10:00
(last year 10:13)

On the bike (you probably would've figured that out without a caption)

Had a reasonable transition, and wasted no time on the run out to the mount line. I knew I would have to go hard on the bike -- I pushed the gearing into the big ring, crouched into aero, and started picking off cyclists. The first part of the course was very crowded. The male super sprinters had started 5 minutes before us, and the back members of that pack were carrying a relatively slow speed. Some were also clearly not used to the "keep right unless passing" protocol. This combination made the first few km a little hair-raising -- this was exacerbated by a course marshal on a motorcycle who put himself in the middle of the melee, on a downhill curve, doing about 25km/h (not fast enough to avoid hindering passing cyclists). At the turnaround, I lost precious seconds clipping back in -- I've developed a habit of unclipping my inside foot on my tri bike at tight turnarounds. I don't feel as maneuverable on it as I do on my road bike, and I also almost dropped it on the last of 4 turnarounds at my first event this season. That spooked me a little. I really need to stop doing this... It totally wrecks my momentum (I had to re-pass 2 people after the turn). Ugh! The return portion of the bike leg is slightly uphill, and was also into the wind on this day. Tough mental game when you know you have to push hard on the bike, and you've also got to run a fast 5k afterward. Kathy greeted and then passed me around the Bronson bridge, asking if I knew how far ahead Lucie was. I had no idea. Careful to dismount before the line, I hustled back to transition... still racing while running with my bike, not wanting to give up any time.

Bike: 31:15, goal 30:00
(last year 31:36)

T2: 1:36, goal under 2:00
(last year 2:05)

I passed Kathy in transition, but it took her less than a km to regain her lead on the run. A fellow   OTCer, Rachel, passed me at about 1.5 km. I saw from the back of her calf that she was in my event, but not my age group. Even so, I was pretty sure only Lucie and Kathy were ahead... So the battle was on for 3rd place overall. I was skeptical that I'd be able to stick with Rachel let alone pass her, but that became my goal. Did she ever make me work for it. She would get 10 feet ahead, 12... Then I'd grit my teeth and pick it up for a few steps to close the gap back up. I wasn't sure I could sustain this, but I knew I'd either do it or spend every last calorie of energy trying. I shadowed her all the way to the stadium entrance, then spent the last of my reserves in a final kick -- succeeding in making the pass only a few steps before the finish line.

Run: 26:10, goal 25:00
(last year 27:54)

Hard-fought finish
So that's it! My second triathlon season is done and in the books. This season saw my first 1/2-Ironman, my first Olympic distance, and speed improvements at the super sprint distance over last year's results. I'm happy with the results I saw from my training, and grateful to finish the season injury-free. What's next? I've made a list...

Now that tri season's over...

  • I can wear high shoes without fretting about potential injury (oh I'll still hurt myself... it just won't impact a race)
  • I'll continue to wear stretchy clothes. Less because I'm working out, and more to accommodate the lag between when my training stops and when I actually start eating less. 
  • I'll go for a bike ride without a single care about how long it takes me to go X km
  • I don't have to worry about nicking my wetsuit if I let my nails grow out longer than a millimetre
  • Less frequent warnings for my kids about getting their digits ripped off in the back wheel of the bike trainer
  • Maybe the swim caps in my closet will stop multiplying 
  • I can take a break from bananas 
  • I'll take one shower a day and call it good


    I won't be able to call this a "post-race recovery meal" again till next year

    August 18, 2014

    Race report -- Thousand Islands Tri, Super Sprint

    August 17, 2014
    200m swim, 21k bike, 5k run
    Breakfast: greek yogurt w/granola, OJ, tea, cantaloupe, toast w/butter and jam

    Finish time: 1:18:23 (2/15 OA, 1/4 AG, 6/26 men and women)

    This pretty much sums it up.

    In my last race, I went out like a crazy person, hyperventilated, and backstroked most of the swim. I also hammered a little too hard on the bike and felt like I hadn't left enough for the run. Through that though, I had a great game of "pass and be passed" with a faster athlete -- who ultimately won. I came second.

    New plan.
    1. Lower the stroke rate and focus on getting maximum power through the whole stroke. 
    2. Go a little easier on the bike to leave more in my legs for the run. 
    3. Use the fresher legs to run faster.

    Excellent. Fast forward to today's race. I want to win. Second overall was great last time, because it was my best result to date, and also because the winner totally ate my lunch on the run... there wasn't much I could do about it, especially having emptied the tank as much as I did on the bike. Time for redemption. The morning dawned cool and calm -- a welcome contrast to the howling wind and crashing whitecaps of the previous evening. I know the weather put off at least one potential super-sprinter... a woman in line with me at race kit pickup switched into the sprint du. At last year's event, I got caught in a long port-a-potty line and found myself with about 30 seconds to get into my wetsuit before my start. This time, I had my wetsuit on in plenty of time, and was the first short-distance swimmer in the water to warm up. The water was clear and the perfect temperature. As I warmed up, I stroked my way just past the first marker to line up the second turn buoy and an associated spot on land. I had plenty of time to chill out and find the spot I wanted right at the front of the start line. When the gun went off, I stuck to my plan. Strong and deliberate toward the first marker. A little traffic at the buoy as expected, then a nice straight course to the second marker. The flat water made sighting easier. I had a couple of slight course corrections from the second marker to the swim exit, as there seemed to be a slight current drawing south toward the end of Block Island. Apparently I had the second-fastest swim split, including T1 (there was one man ahead of me). I should be happy with that, and with how smooth it felt, as I've been trying to solve this short-distance swim puzzle for awhile. However, my split was 8 seconds slower than last year's time even though I felt like I was all over the place last year. Not sure what to make of that.

    Swim split + T1: 8:03

    On the bike, it was a very uncrowded course. Though it was open to traffic, cars were generally a non-issue. We had a short, steep hill at the beginning of the course, and a slight uphill for a few minutes beyond that. This early effort made my legs a little jello-y, at a time when I'm usually spinning in an easy gear after the swim getting the oxygen back into my lower extremities. The course was rolling and a bit breezy. I was conscious of every sensation in my legs, aware that I wanted to spare more than I did last race to tap into on the run. Even so, I was surprised to see my bike split was so slow. I don't have a bike computer, and haven't been using any kind of GPS device on the bike lately. Maybe it's something I should consider... as I was clearly slower than I thought I should have been. A minute slower than last year, which both drives me nuts and led me to substitute post-race vodka for my usual post-race ice cream. I didn't have other cyclists to pick off and pass like I did last year, which might have impacted things from a mental angle. Life's more important elements have cut in on my training, but it's time to do some work. Still, I was the first woman off the bike and onto the run course.

    Bike split: 45:10

    I left T2 knowing that I had work to do to hold off the stronger runners. There are always at least a few -- I joke that I'm the quintessential triathlete, in that I'm mediocre at all 3 disciplines. I don't have a standout strength to fall back on, or a discipline that I dominate consistently. It's been a challenge for me to find a balance, particularly at this shortest distance -- last race, the bike was pretty quick but the run as a result was not. It seemed this time I did the opposite. My run was my personal best 5k time, over 2 minutes faster than last year on the same course, and the closest I've come so far to my 25:00 goal for run + T2 (I don't wear a watch to track the pure run split). But in the end, I still got passed with about 2 km left to go. Unfortunately the eventual winner had the wrong body marking, so I thought she was in the sprint rather than the super sprint. Would I have been able to catch her, had I known? I doubt it. She was the better athlete on the day, and was simply faster. That said, our finish times were only 25 seconds apart. So you start wondering "What if that person at the swim exit hadn't gotten in my way dawdling and high-fiving? What if my wetsuit hadn't gotten hung up on my chip? What if I'd just pushed a little bit harder on the bike?" That last one is the one that's really grating at me. But of course, that could have made my run that much slower or worse.

    Run split + T2: 25:11

    2nd OA, 1st AG
    Looking back at my "new plan" list, I actually executed it all. Smooth, strong swim -- check. Hold back a bit on the bike -- check (though that may not have been a great plan, in hindsight). Run faster -- check. At this point, I don't think any different strategies will get me to the finish line sooner. With the talented athletes in these local fields, I'm simply going to have to improve my speed if I want to be at the top of the heap. It just smarts to be so very, very close... 

    New training plan, perhaps?


    August 17, 2014

    Race report -- National Capital Triathlon, Super Sprint

    August 2, 2014
    200m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
    Breakfast: Bagel with cream cheese, tall 1% chai, water

    Finish time: 1:16:47 (2/27 OA, 2nd in AG, 6/50 men and women)

    My early season this year was packed. With training volume, as well as with racing. This was owing to the fact that Tremblant 70.3, my biggest race of the season as well as my first half-Ironman distance, took place in June. Three weeks later, I did my first Olympic in Toronto... essentially coasting on the fitness I'd amassed before Tremblant. Fast forward another 3 weeks. My training volume has dropped off steeply. I'm spending more time snuggling my kids and making pancakes, and less time pounding the pavement and mashing the pedals. By the time I got to Toronto last month, training was feeling more and more like a chore rather than something I looked forward to. My ankles ached, and regimens of ice and foam rolling to fend off injury were starting to get old. I had purposely not registered for any more races past Toronto, as I wanted to see how my body was holding up and what I felt like doing next.

    I decided on a super sprint, at one of the local races I'd done last year. Nice, civilized start hour (none of this 6:50 a.m. stuff), a course where I could compare my performance to last year's baseline, and a distance where I knew I could back off on my training frequency/volume and still be ok. I really like this distance -- I don't lose so much time on the swim, you can usually avoid multiple laps of the same scenery, and it's over in about an hour. Which means I can get down to the business of eating ice cream and drinking chocolate milk that much sooner. Not to mention, you have the rest of the day free to do other things without feeling like you need a wheelchair (hello 70.3, I'm looking at you).

    On the morning of the race, I arrived in plenty of time to set up my gear, get my wetsuit on, and get a swim warmup in. Yes, I wore a wetsuit for a 200m swim. If nothing else, it acts as a barrier against whatever nastiness is causing the (seemingly perpetual) no-swim advisory at that beach. Best quote of the summer last year came from someone at the same venue. Overheard as I was heading into the water: "I wonder what e.coli tastes like?" My friend, you're about to find out.

    The swim was interesting. The whole season, I'd been focused on slow and steady endurance. On this particular morning, I took off at the sound of the gun -- not bothering to sight or even breathe for several strokes. Bad idea. Before long, I'm hyperventilating... and swimming toward the beach rather than the turn buoy. I got myself straightened out, but couldn't slow my breathing enough to put my face back in the water. OK, backstroke it is. Interestingly, I don't seem to swim much slower on my back than I do on my front -- which probably says something about my freestyle ability or lack thereof. Plus, breathing is good. I glanced to each side every so often to confirm I was swimming the same direction as the rest of the crowd. Then I flipped over and managed a front crawl around the buoy and toward the shore. Normally I'll swim till it's almost ankle-shallow, but not this time. You know that dream where you're trying to run away from something, but your legs feel like lead? And the more desperately you want to go fast, the slower your legs move? Right -- so that's what exiting the swim leg feels like when you stand up too early.

    Wetsuits. They make you float. They shield you from goose poop soup. What's not to like?


    Swim split + T1: 8:27

    On the run to transition, Kathy Bradley (a fellow competitor, and usual winner) passed me. I passed her back with a quick transition, and headed out on the bike course. I hammered hard, trying to hit a goal speed averaging 30 km/h. This is where having three turnarounds and two 90-degree turns is annoying... you have to bleed off so much speed. I stayed ahead of Kathy till the final 100m or so where she passed me -- but I was quicker at the dismount line and beat her into and out of transition.

    Bike split: 40:54

    Kathy is an insanely fast runner... at this point, I just had to see how long I could hold her off. I only made it about 900m before she blew by me like I was standing still. Oh well... that was fun while it lasted. lol I had spent a lot of energy on the bike, and my run did not feel strong. I got a slight side-stitch and ran through the discomfort. The late start, while giving me more time in bed, resulted in a run leg under hot sun in nasty humidity. After the turnaround, it was some time before I saw another super sprint woman -- but I still was driving toward a goal of 25 minutes for the run. I didn't make it... though it's hard to tell how much of my run time was spent in T2, because transition time isn't split out at this event.

    Run split + T2: 27:27

    Overall I was happy with how the race turned out. I came close to, but didn't quite hit, my 30km/h goal on the bike. I'm hoping to be that slight bit faster at my next race, on a course that doesn't have as many turnarounds. I missed the 25 minutes I wanted on the run. But that said, I took several minutes off last year's bike time, 2 minutes off my run, and about half a minute off my swim (even though the run to transition -- included in the swim split -- was about 50m farther this year).

    August 04, 2014

    Lions and tigers and... 5-foot muskies?

    Decided to suit up for a nice, leisurely open water swim this morning on Buckham's Bay before all the holiday boat traffic got going. Buckham's is a narrow, 2-km long bay favoured by anglers in both summer and winter for its fantastic fishing. In a conversation yesterday, a neighbour told me about a fish his friend caught last week.

    "My buddy starts yelling at me from his boat. Said he caught a 5-foot muskie!" he exclaimed.

    Yeah right, I thought.

    "So I thought 'yeah, right!'," my neighbour continued. "I figured it was probably this big." He held out his hands a pretty generous fish-length apart. "Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen him get it into the boat. Unreal. It was seriously 5 feet long." Extending his arms and fingertips for effect, suggesting something roughly as long as I am tall.

    Hmmm.

    Fast forward to this morning. The water is quiet, the public ramp is empty save for one fellow getting ready for an early boat ride with his son (bonus -- someone to help me zip up my wetsuit). I'm excited to try out my new MyFloat -- a nifty buoyant drybag that not only lets you carry your shoes and car keys with you, but also acts as a big yellow buoy so there's less chance of being mowed down by a power boat. You tether it to your waist, and it floats behind you about even with your knees. I pack it up, clip it on, and set out.

    The water is warm, if somewhat murky. OK, really murky. I hit some weeds -- which normally doesn't bother me, but today I head for the middle of the bay to avoid them as much as possible. I thought of my neighbour's fish story. Fish like to stay in the weeds right? So I'm good. Though big fish like deeper water. Not so good.

    Let's be clear -- I generally have no issue with fish. A fairly sizable one (by our local river standards) swam right under me a couple of days ago while I was warming up for a race. It was only around 18" long... while somewhat startling, it was no big deal. I've dived with sharks, but you could see those coming. No such luxury today. I started to consider what a surprise encounter with a 5-foot muskie would be like. Hey, noise scares away fish, right? I start humming underwater. That'll do it. No, wait -- I probably sound like a wounded animal. A mega-muskie breakfast burrito. I stop humming. I decide to chill out for a minute to take in the quiet beauty of the morning. I look up and gaze upon the loveliness that is nature. And that's when my float, which I've all but forgotten about, bumps into my elbow.

    Thankfully the tranquility-piercing scream happens only in my head.

    Beautiful, tranquil Buckham's Bay. Cue "Jaws" theme.
    You might be surprised to hear that the remainder of my swim was actually very relaxing. I love to go out in open water for an hour and cruise at a leisurely pace. Too bad it's timed in triathlon. Feels kind of like wolfing down filet mignon (while getting punched in the face) rather than savouring and enjoying it.

    I was really looking forward to grabbing a to-go latte and breakfast sandwich at the local grill -- which opens at 6:00 a.m. to feed and caffeinate the hordes of summer boaters. I wandered in wearing my swimsuit and towel (It's a small community, and it was a really big towel. Also, I have no shame.) and asked the young girl at the counter for a latte. "What's a latte?" was her reply. I was sure she must have misheard me. "You know, espresso with steamed milk..." Blank stare. Really? The good news in all this was, while the girl's supervisor showed her how to use the coffee machine, I struck up a conversation with a new resident of the Bay who recently moved from Bermuda. Turns out he's an avid swimmer. See? A plus to showing up in your swimsuit! Meeting new neighbours! Wait, that didn't come out the way I intended. Anyway, I filled him in on Ottawa's Bring on the Bay 3k swim, and the upcoming 4k "Escape from Aylmer-traz" interprovincial swim.

    Finally on my way with breakfast in hand, I was grateful I'd waited to eat till after my swim. Because if you're going to enter the domain of the giant muskie, you probably shouldn't season yourself with sausage, egg, and cheese.

    July 19, 2014

    What they don't tell you in the "bike washing tips" videos

    Do not wash your bike if all of the following are true:

    - It's summertime
    - It's late afternoon
    - You are in Canada
    - You just finished a ride and are still wearing your kit 

    Did you know that mosquitoes can bite straight through lycra shorts? It was news to me too. Yeah, and when you're bent over your bike, there's a particular area presented as a large target. No, I will not be providing photographic evidence.

    July 17, 2014

    Race report - Toronto Triathlon Festival, Olympic Tri

    July 13, 2014
    Finish time 3:04:50 (18th place AG)
    Breakfast: instant apple/cinnamon oatmeal, tea, banana with peanut butter, water



    Turlicious, the good-luck turkey

    This was another weekend of firsts. My first Olympic distance triathlon, as well as my first time at the Toronto Triathlon Festival . The morning started with the weather looking threatening, and I had just enough time to get my transition area set up before the skies opened. Anyone not already in their wetsuit grabbed for it -- because all the Body Glide in the world won't make pulling a wetsuit onto wet skin suck less. We got a full-on soaker as we headed down to the swim start, which was delayed. I'd seen lightning, which may have influenced the hesitation to throw that first wave of folks into the lake.

    After a chilly swim the day before -- cold enough to make exposed body parts ache -- I pulled both my swim caps solidly over my ears to keep as much water out as possible. As our wave jumped in, several ladies shrieked at the cold. I didn't find it too uncomfortable, but I heard a number of people ended up being pulled from the water. According to the same report, at least one person got straight back out after entering the water, quitting the race before even starting the swim. As we bobbed around waiting for the start, a fellow dipped some kind of device on a pole into the water between the swimmers and the dock. If this was where they were measuring the temperature, it explains why they got a 17 degree reading in water that felt much colder. Someone probably peed on the thermometer.


    Women's 40-44 swim start

    The start was uneventful, as athletes eased into getting their bodies moving and lungs working. Unfortunately the narrow course converged early at the first turn buoy. I got sandwiched between a couple of folks, and took a blow to the face that cut my cheek and knocked my goggles off. I was glad to have layered the strap between my two swim caps, so they didn't go far. Still took me a moment to empty the water and re-seat everything. Once out in the open channel, it got very choppy. Waves came over the breakwall, and breathing was best done toward the shore side -- especially on the away leg. I got passed a lot, and didn't have much luck finding or keeping feet. On the last half of the return leg, I started to encounter people having worse luck than I was. I passed a few breaststrokers, someone treading water, and another fellow clinging to a kayak. 

    Around the final turn buoy, I made a beeline for the exit ramp -- ignoring the boat transoms and trying not to think about the careless graywater pumpout, spilled fuel, and other harbour staples that go with them.

    This was not a good swim for me. I wasn't able to get into a decent rhythm, and didn't feel like I was making any kind of headway for the effort I was expending. 

    Swim time: 42:48
    T1: 3:02

    Transition was more fiddly than usual, as I had my shoes stuffed in plastic bags to keep them dry. The steep ramp up to the mount line was made a little dodgier due to the rain, but I didn't see anyone wipe out in their cleats. A quick jaunt through the CNE grounds brought us out onto the Gardner Expressway. I soon heard "On your left!" -- but between the narrowed lane and potholes full of water, I didn't have much space to maneuver. Electing not to get run over, I hit a hole and my BTA bottle went flying. As I pulled over to stop, a nice volunteer grabbed my bottle and ran it up to me. I thanked her, and we commented on the minefield of gel wrappers and ejected water bottles that littered the road. I've never been at a race where people tossed so much garbage on the bike course.

    We soon turned north onto the wide, smooth Don Valley Parkway, helped along by a generous tailwind. I had confidence in my bike's ability to handle the wet, and it didn't disappoint. Have you met my bike? Its name is River -- after the Serenity character. Graceful, beautiful, and a little twitchy... but kicks ass and has your back when the chips are down. Good bike, mine is.


    Meet River

    The turnaround at Eglinton came surprisingly quickly. I crouched down in aero and made myself as small as possible in the face of what was now a substantial headwind. The rolling course was more downhill than up on the way back, and before long I was back at the Gardner heading up the on-ramp. I'll spare you the details of my fight to get a waffle package open with my teeth at this juncture, but I will confirm that I failed to get this done before the headwind turned into a crosswind. I tried unsuccessfully to stuff the rest of the waffle into my trisuit pocket, and it seemed like I might be doomed to ride the rest of the way on the basebar with half a waffle in one hand. Finally crammed it into my bento and got back down to business. 

    I was feeling good, and allowed myself to turn it up a notch on this last part of the course. "Left," I called as I moved to pass a couple of guys. Contrary to the stereotypical -- but thankfully rare, in my experience -- male response to getting chicked, the fellow closest to me said encouragingly "Yep, go ahead... go get 'em!!" It's amazing how energizing it is to have a fellow competitor root for you. Off I went. "Time to drop the hammer!" He called out as we crossed paths again on the last Gardner turnaround. The final hairpin turn into the CNE grounds was awkward, and I lost speed clipping out and being a little conservative on the wet pavement. I wound my way back toward the dismount line and shuffled down the ramp on my cleats, satisfied with my bike leg.

    Bike time: 1:23:00
    T2: 2:23

    Thankfully, my running shoes had stayed snug and dry in their plastic bag. I saved some time in transition, electing to skip the visor and sunglasses. I did grab the last of my waffle and gulped it down on my way out. Made for an unflattering photo at the run exit, but what are you going to do. My legs felt good. I told myself I had new legs for the run... my bike legs were left behind. The run course down Lakeshore was great... I watched the waves come over the breakwall into the channel we had just swum in. The running path was scenic, and passersby out for their morning jog or dog walk smiled encouragingly at those of us wearing numbers. 

    I felt great, and just gave it all I had over the 10k distance. I've never raced an open 10k before, nor one in a triathlon for that matter... but I had the first 10k of my half-marathon as a benchmark, and I beat that time by about 4 minutes. Shortly after I finished, the skies opened again. I let the rain wash away the sweat, Lake Ontario water, and Gatorade, then it was over to the tent for a massage -- the perfect way to end a great race.

    Run time: 53:38


    Mmmm, Hero burger!


    Need a goalie mask for the swim next time


    June 30, 2014

    Long and agonizing... check.

    My training over the winter, as well as my early-season racing, was all geared toward one thing -- preparing for the Tremblant 70.3, my first half-Ironman. I incorporated plenty of long and slow work (well... "plenty" is relative with young kids and a job, but let's just leave it there) aiming to improve my endurance and increase my likelihood of finishing this 113 km endeavour without face-planting. During that race, I carefully paced myself for the same reason. "If you feel like you're going pretty easy on the bike -- slow down more" was the common warning, with anecdotal consequences of ignoring it ranging from suffering through the run to cramping or bonking entirely. As someone who's got only one season of super-sprints under my belt, where I was going balls-out the whole way, this took some planning and discipline. Of course it's easier to go slower -- but the fact remains that the slower you go, the longer you'll be out there doing it. Unless you get picked up by the sag wagon and given a free ride back to transition. I wonder if the sag wagon is air conditioned...

    I followed my plan, and finished the race. While my time was embarrassingly slow, I gave it all I had on that day. In hindsight, I needed to take in way more calories on the bike (I relied on a handful of chews to get me through 90 k), and likely more hydration as well. I've got my first Olympic distance race in a couple of weeks. I'm going to try to take some of these lessons learned, apply them, and try to find middle ground at that distance between constant energy conservation and going as hard as possible. Now, to figure out the best way to carry real food on my bike.

    Lovely, but I was thinking less leather and more electrical tape

    June 26, 2014

    Lâche pas la patate - Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant race report

    Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant
    June 22, 2014
    Goal: finish upright, in closer to 7 hrs than 8
    Actual: upright... check. 7:57:27

    Pre-race

    Well, here it was. I'd done my prep, checked off my list -- it was time to execute. Whatever was going to happen now was going to happen. That said, I didn't want to leave anything to chance that I had a shot at controlling. Saturday morning saw me out on the bike for an easy 25 min just to stretch my legs and make sure all was a-ok mechanically and with my tweaked cleat installation. I felt good, if a little antsy, after a week off. Once I was confident all was in working order, I completed my bike check-in. I'm glad I got this done early, as later in the afternoon there was a huge line up.

    My next stop was at the Ironman tent to get a souvenir shirt and towel, and cowbells for the girls. Last-minute items lined the checkout queue... magnets, jewelry, bags, bottles, car emblems... you name it. I joked with the fellow behind me that one could go really crazy in here. He admitted to buying up almost the whole store the year before, for his first 70.3. I had firmly resolved to limit myself to one souvenir. But a commemorative event towel with your name (and those of the other 3000-ish participants) on it?? Come on, I had to. And the cowbells were for the girls so they don't count, I reasoned. The Ironman operation is a well-oiled machine, and the line for the cash went incredibly fast. I was also lucky to just beat the afternoon rush.

    Gathering for the athletes meeting

    Having never been on the Tremblant swim course and wanting to test the waters (so to speak), I went for a late afternoon swim. Did an easy 900 m, and felt great. The water was a little choppy, but nothing that wasn't easily resolved by switching breathing sides and finding a rhythm that matched the movement of the water. Back to the hotel room for a fantastic dinner of spaghetti and salad, prepared by my aunt. Packed up my transition stuff, laid out my morning clothes, figured out my morning plan, and went to bed.

    Heading to transition

    I had an unexpectedly good sleep (the night before, not so much) and woke up alert when my alarm rang at 5:00. Jumped into my clothes, made some instant apple and cinnamon oatmeal, and headed down the hall to the breakfast buffet. Had a 1/2 plain bagel with cream cheese, cup of tea, and small orange juice to round out breakfast. Took my gear to transition, then went back to the hotel to PRP, lube up, and grab my swim gear. I specifically picked the hotel for its proximity to the swim course, which made things less hectic.

    Swim

    Goal: 55:00
    Actual: 49:02

    T1: 6:40

    I arrived at the swim start with lots of time to get into my wetsuit and do a calm, relaxed warmup. The water was 63 degrees, and felt perfect... though I saw some people shivering. As long as I'm in a wetsuit, I find the cooler water invigorating -- I prefer it to the too-hot pool water I raced in earlier this month. The wave corrals were very orderly, and as we moved up toward the start I had ample room to choose my preferred starting spot on the beach: on the right side, midway back. I had a few moments to wait in calm, ready anticipation -- then with a blast of a flare, we were into the water. I'm sure people were cheering, as we had for other waves. But I was solely focused on a deliberate entry, and a steady, clear start to what would be a very long day.

    Most laid-back swim start ever

    The swim turned out to be my favourite leg of the day. The wide beach gave us lots of room at the start, and the course was beautifully marked. Athletes could stay to either side of the "straight line" buoy markers, and only had to stay outside the turn markers at the midway point. This was the most relaxed, enjoyable race swim I've had. Found some feet about halfway up the away leg, but lost them when things got more "active" near the turn marker. On the return segment, the crowd was thicker as faster athletes from later waves caught up.

    There was a good crowd of cheering spectators at the swim exit. Since my wetsuit was comfortable to run in and easy to get out of by myself, I bypassed the wetsuit strippers. This was a good choice... I saw a number of pretty dirty shoulders and tri kits on the bike, on those who looked like they'd laid down someplace less than ideal to get stripped. I had an energizing run to transition, getting high fives from my family as we ran like rock stars on a soft red carpet to T1.

    Excuse me, pardon me, coming through!

    Bike

    Goal: between 3.5 and 4 hrs
    Actual: 3:56:38

    T2: 6:35

    Transition was smooth and deliberate as I got into my cycling gear and out onto the bike course. As it turned out, my wetsuit wasn't the only thing that came off easily. My body marking had disappeared, as had most of my sunscreen. See my next blog post, "the Aftermath."

    Transition

    There were a lot of fast, strong riders out there. I had to remind myself to bike my own race to match my fitness and training. One of my goals for the bike was to be disciplined enough in my pacing that I could run the whole 1/2 marathon afterward. Then there was my other goal...

    I've always been a bit of a nervous descender. More so after a mountain bike crash that left me badly concussed and ultimately led me to leave the sport years ago. A couple of weeks before the race, I had come on a day trip to ride the course. On it is a hill where, the athlete guide enthuses, "you will reach speeds of 80 km/h!" Maybe -- if I have a heart attack, and my dead body continues to pick up speed. On practice day, I rode this hill in the safety lane with transport trucks hurtling by my left shoulder. Terror doesn't adequately describe the feeling. "Now I have to change my bike shorts" would be closer. The experience left me anxious to the point of feeling slightly dizzy descending highway hills at speed -- IN MY CAR. Yeah, I know... it wasn't looking good.

    My goal was to make it to the bottom of that hill on race day without panicking or feeling out of control. When I arrived at this point in the course, with the whole road open for our use and seeing so many capable athletes descending in a calm, relaxed -- and really fast -- way, I just did it. I sailed down the hill with the brakes just brushing the tracks intermittently so I knew they were there if I needed them. For the remainder of the course, I took all the free speed I could get. Did lots of passing on the downhills, though I got re-passed on the climbs. If I tackle another climb-heavy race in the future, I'll be getting a different cassette... at many points I was grinding in my smallest gear while others were spinning. I also freely admit I didn't have enough hill training under my belt.

    Your mind has ample opportunity to wander over the span of almost 8 hrs of racing. About 40 k into the 90 k bike, I realized I really had to pee. At the athletes meeting, we were told anyone "relieving themselves in nature" would receive a yellow card. As the urge struck in the middle of the open highway with nary a port a potty in sight, I started to contemplate the idea of peeing on my bike -- something I had insisted would never happen. The next thoughts were "I wonder if pee is bad for carbon fiber."  "I wonder if it would do bad things to my bottom bracket." "Normally people at least rinse off with water... all I have is Nuun. Would that be better than pee?" I looked down at my brand new white shoes. Oh, no way. I can't pee in my shoes. If I just peed on the saddle (which is a split nose), would it just go straight through the chamois and miss my shoes? But then it would get into the saddle stitching... ew!! As bike after bike passed me, my thoughts jumped to "Wait -- when do they close the bike course?! Is it possible I won't even make the cutoff?!!" I spent some time doing frantic, sloppy math in my brain, and realized that, short of getting off and walking my bike the rest of the way, it wasn't going to be an issue. Bonus -- by the time I was done figuring that out, I didn't have to pee anymore.

    Soon after, I was in St. Jovite. I was also out of Nuun drink in my BTA bottle. Normally I stop and refill it with the bottle from my seat tube, but I didn't want to stop until the final aid station on Chemin Duplessis. I had decided I would use the port a potty there even though the urge had passed.... better safe than sorry. Partway up Montee Ryan, I started to get concerned about dehydration. So I just pulled the bottle off my seat tube and swigged from it on the go. Happily, this didn't cause me to fall down.  Simple skill, I know... but one I had never practiced since all I use normally is the BTA. I had gone right by the rest of the aid stations. My plan had been self-sufficiency, so the aid stations would simply be a backup plan. On the bike this was driven by safety -- having seen videos of pros whipping through grabbing bottles at warp speed, and also having heard horror stories of less agile age grouper mishaps, I didn't want to have to either stop/slow awkwardly or risk disaster.

    Duplessis brought the real climbs, as well as some really fun descents. These were short and merciful, though by this time there were several people walking their bikes up the steeper hills. The last descent provided a great chance to rest the legs, and the short stretch to the t-zone let me spin them out a bit in preparation for the run.

    Run

    Goal: around 2:30
    Actual: 2:58:32

    In transition, I applied more body glide between my toes and on my heels to mitigate any foot issues on the run. I should have also added some under the upper arms -- which wasn't an issue till about the 18 k mark, where there was, coincidentally, a sign saying "chafe now, brag later." I decided to don my compression calf sleeves, which was a good call. I needed all the support (literally and figuratively) I could get. I had picked up a $2 single-use towel moistened with essential oil and smelling salts... I gave my arms, legs, and neck a few swipes, as well as under my nose in the hopes the oils and salts would energize me. What the heck, couldn't hurt. I left T2 feeling good, and was greeted with more family high-fives.

    Leaving T2 and spotting my girls

    Out on the run course, it was smiles and thumbs-up for the camera, spurred on by a crowd of encouraging spectators. I spotted the 1 km sign. I kept running, for what felt like a small eternity. An entire season of Game of Thrones was surely filmed in this time. Yeah, feeling ok! Then I saw the next sign.

    2 km.

    Oh God.

    "Not far now!" said a fellow to my right. "Only 19 more," I agreed, still pretty chipper. At 3 k, I dumped out my flasks -- emptying the nasty sports drink that had sat out in the sun in transition all morning. It was dead weight I didn't want to carry. By the 5 k mark, the initial excitement had worn off. "Ok, so only 3 more of these to go," I thought, doing some kind of punch-drunk math. I took water at almost every aid station, as well as ice which I poured down my suit, into my hat, and held in my palms. At some stations I only took water, at others I grabbed a piece of banana or orange as well. Those looked much more appealing at this juncture than the chews I'd brought.

    I decided to walk the 8 km aid station, so I could get some chocolate waffle, orange slice, and water into me without choking, as well as grabbing the requisite cup of ice at the end of the line. That was the last time I walked on the course. That might be puzzling, if you look at my very slow run split. To say I ran would technically be correct, though I'm using the term "run" very loosely. Let me illustrate.

    How I wanted to look:

    How I actually looked:
    I didn't so much run as lurch along in a steady rhythm. I felt like if I abandoned that rhythm, I was done. Even during my brief walk through the 8 k aid station, I could feel my hamstrings starting to tighten. So on I lurched. For roughly 12 k. I passed the folks who were walking, but I was not making good time. "Lâche pas!" was the rallying cry from the many, many volunteers who manned the aid stations and the intersections. I was getting passed pretty regularly. The thought "what if I come last" crossed my mind (though this would not be the case in the end). At one point I passed a fellow who was doubled over at a park bench. "OK?" I managed. "Yeah," he said. A few minutes later I was met on the path by a medic. "Are you alright? You look ok... are you ok?" I nodded, and told him about the man up the path, who had appeared to be cramping up. The medic thanked me and headed in that direction. I heard a woman a short distance behind relay the same information.

    From 17 k to the end was a lonely stretch. I saw cars of people leaving, bikes on the roof, thumbs up out the window with yells of "You got this! Almost there!" The company of the bike course was gone. In this last stretch, there were no runners coming the opposite direction to break up the monotony. The signs, in reality spaced a kilometer apart, seemed to stretch further and further between. By kilometer 19, I was truly in hell and fighting back tears and snot with every encouraging word the straggling spectators offered up. In what I thought was a somewhat cruel addition to the course, the route meandered up a circular driveway, past the front door what I'm sure was a cool, relaxing hotel, and continued around and out the other side. A short climb followed, and then the final descent through the village. At this point, I made a valiant effort to pick my feet up. For the inevitable finish line photos, as well as the more practical reason of not wanting to trip and fall on my face on the downhill stretch. All I saw on that final 100 m was the empty paving stones between the black fences.

    Painful final stretch toward the finish

    I raised my arms and crossed the finish line, beyond spent and exhausted on more levels than I have yet experienced (except maybe in childbirth). I caught a glimpse of a figure prone on what I thought was a massage table -- awesome, I need some of that! Turned out it was a woman strapped to a gurney, bags of ice packed around her neck. I also saw a fellow in a wheelchair -- who hadn't been in one when he started the race -- waiting for a massage therapist. I finished. I had been hoping for a faster time... but I finished. Upright. With just enough in me to hug my kids tight, limp over to the massage room, and pick up a fantastic free poutine. At this juncture, I can't imagine ever doing this again. But I've learned that never is an awfully long time.

    Worth it

    June 25, 2014

    The Aftermath

    Lessons learned from my first 70.3:

    1. If your body marking came off with your wetsuit, chances are your sunscreen did too.
    2. You can become a better descender on the bike almost instantaneously if properly motivated. Fast downhill = free speed. This becomes pretty compelling during a 90 k ride before a half marathon.
    3. If you're grinding up the hills in your smallest gear while people spin away next to you, you should have gone with a different cassette. 
    4. It doesn't matter how spent you are at the end. It's still worth walking up one more hill to get a free massage. Likewise for standing in line to get poutine. 
    5. I'm happy to watch you do your morning-after "recovery run" while I recover my own way... on a patio with eggs benedict, Advil, and a huge latte. 


    Ow.

    Double ow.


    June 19, 2014

    Installing your cleats so they don't move, a.k.a. "Can I dig through your trash"



    This was the second time I've hit up my friendly neighborhood bike shop for busted tubes. The first time was to make swim bands for myself and my swim class buddies. This time, I was looking for a way to keep my cleats from slipping loose on my cycling shoes. Note to other small folks --12Nm carbon leaf pedals are a pain in the rear. I plan on lobbying Look to make a 8Nm version so I don't have to torque my whole body (and yank my cleats out of whack) to get out of them.

    I got this MacGyver-ism idea from a resourceful Slowtwitch forum poster. The gist of it is to create a rubber gasket between the shoe and the cleat, to help prevent the cleat torquing out of position when it's under load.

    Step 1: Acquire an old tube

    Mountain bike tubes are best, as they're wide enough to cover the whole cleat surface once you open them up. My local shop was happy to give me some from their trash bin.



    Step 2: Prep the tube

    The spray adhesive we're going to use works best if the surfaces are clean. So cut out the section of tube you're using, and wash it with a little dish soap. Dry thoroughly. Put your cleat on top of the tube and trace around it. Cut out the cleat shape as well as holes for the screws.



    Step 3: Glue the rubber to the cleat

    Spray adhesive to both the cleat and your new cleat-shaped piece of tube. Slap em together. Wait for any excess adhesive to dry, or wipe it off, so you don't inadvertently permanently install your cleat to your shoe.



    Step 4: Install the cleat to the shoe 

    Screw the cleat in place as usual.



    Done, done, and done. Crossing my fingers that this is going to work.

    UPDATE: This has worked fantastically well. I haven't had to touch my cleats since installing them this way, which was over a year ago now. Success!

    June 17, 2014

    False starts

    Ever have one of those days? Where you lose your cell phone off your bike and it disappears into the ether? Then you make multiple wrong turns on a 100k ride, because your map was on your cell phone? And over that ride, you get cut off, harassed, and narrowly missed by a truck passing in the safety lane of a divided highway? Wow.

    On the plus side, I didn't crash, didn't bonk, and didn't actually get hit by a car. The blackfly bites acquired while searching for my phone will fade. The "aero neck" (i.e. total inability to flex my head forward) will pass.

    Time to taper and regroup.

    June 04, 2014

    9 things I've learned about recovery and injury prevention


    First, a little backstory. If you're not interested, go ahead and skip down to the list. I got into triathlon a little less than a year ago. It started with a new pair of running shoes. They were so bright and spiffy, it dawned on me that maybe I should... actually go for a run. In my early 20s I had played ultimate and dabbled in mountain biking, but I hadn't "gone for a run" in about 17 years. I had heard of try-a-tri events -- the run distance was 2 km. How far was 2 km, anyway? I had only ever run by time, and that was ages ago. I wondered if I could run that far? A month later, I was up to 5 km -- and trying to get faster at it.

    Then I signed up for Ironman Tremblant 70.3, and the real work began. I read up on running form. Building volume. Building distance. I came upon alarming statistics about the prevalence of running injuries. I started a RunKeeper 1/2-marathon training plan, with the aim of steadily progressing toward that distance while minimizing the chance of injury. I wanted to share some of what I learned, from people with a ton more experience than me, about recovery and injury prevention.

    1. Listen to your body
    Know what discomfort vs. pain feels like for you. If you feel an off sensation somewhere, be mindful of it. Is it getting worse? Does it disappear after warming up? I have often run through discomfort -- but never through real pain. At one point, a niggling weakness and soreness I felt in my knee hadn't resolved with decreased distance and a couple of days off. So I bagged running workouts for a week, electing to keep up with cycling and swimming (which didn't hurt). Thankfully this solved the problem. Nip small issues in the bud and allow yourself to heal... instead of setting yourself up for a bigger injury and longer layoff later on.

    2. Use a trigger point foam roller
    "Are you foam rolling?" was the immediate question from my coach Geordie when another athlete and I mentioned some soreness we were experiencing. I have to admit, I thought this must either be some kind of cultish trend, or perhaps something that "real" athletes do when they're trying to recover from, say, a 50-mile running week. Rolling a piece of foam under your leg? "Oh, it'll hurt. But it's great," Geordie insisted. Seriously -- if you do enough running that you get stiff muscles (which is pretty much anyone who does any running at all), get thee a trigger point foam roller and start using it. It is fantastic.

    3. Don't stretch cold muscles
    You've probably heard by now that stretching before you warm up is a no-no. Make sure those muscles are warm before you stretch. 

    4. Allow time for your body to absorb training and fatigue
    I'll never run out of wise words from Geordie. These stuck with me, on a day that my legs felt trashed from a long run a couple days before. "Fatigue is fitness waiting to be gained." The trick is, you have to allow time to absorb that fatigue and recover in order to realize those fitness gains. Which leads me to this next nugget, which seems almost counterintuitive...

    5. Do most of your training long and easy
    I read something on Slowtwitch (a website and forum for triathletes) that drove home for me exactly what this means. A forum member said "Do lots and lots of running at a pace that you would be embarrassed to be seen doing." He called this a "bag run," owing to the fact that you want to wear a bag over your head so nobody recognizes you. A higher volume of slow, easy work allows you to recover faster -- and therefore train more -- than if you frequently go hard and fast. 

    6. Sleep
    I think most of us (myself certainly included) tend to forget what a really good night's sleep feels like. I attended a talk on recovery techniques given by Lisa Balerna -- a fantastic local duathlete who can probably run backwards as fast as I can run forwards -- who underscored the importance of sleep in helping the recovery process. I experimented with getting a true 8 hours, or 9-10 hours even, of sleep at night. The difference was unbelievable. I woke up without an alarm, and I felt good. Of course it's often not an easy thing to fit in that much sleep (unless you have little ones like me, and just surrender to falling asleep in one of their beds at 8:30 p.m.). And I don't manage it every day. But if you start thinking of sleep as part of your training regimen, it's easier to make the time to do it right.

    7. Be mindful of nutrition
    OK, I'll go ahead and say it. Sometimes I get a hankering for an unspeakable place that rhymes with "McSchmonald's." However, far more often I'll really feel like a big arugula salad with peppers, avocado, sunflower seeds... you get the idea. Life's too short to say "I can't eat this -- ever." But being mindful of what you're fueling yourself with is important. Your body can't repair itself and function optimally without a good balance of nutritious foods (guess we'll file that under "duh"). Keeping healthy, whole foods in the house makes it easier to eat well. There are loads of racing "diets" out there, and I'm not going to get into any of them (mostly because I'm no expert), but you can't go far wrong with the following mantra:

    Eat stuff that IS an ingredient, rather than stuff that HAS ingredients. 

    8. Carefully consider your race schedule
    I love racing. During the season, I treat races as my hard workout for each discipline for that week. Since I train alone, the added push of adrenaline and competition is just the ticket. However, I've recently experienced first-hand the cumulative effects of frequent racing. The past month for me has included a charity bike ride, two triathlons, and a 1/2 marathon. At the last triathlon, a fellow competitor and I talked about how we felt residual fatigue in our legs from the 1/2 marathon the week before. Now, this is fine -- provided it meshes with your goals. In my case, all these early-season events were calculated practice for my A race at Tremblant. But if you're looking to race your absolute best, make sure you allow adequate time to recover between events.

    9. Don't wear high heels
    So last year, I managed to finish the season injury-free -- then tweaked my knee taking a bad step in a pair of (really smashing and awesome) high heeled boots. Safety first! Save the fabulous shoes for after your A race, people!

    Edit: Hey, it's a year later and I've tried some new things for recovery... check it out, if you're interested!

    June 02, 2014

    Race report - Perth Triathlon (double distance)


    June 1, 2014
    1 km swim, 32 km bike, 6 km run 
    Finish time: 2:04:03

    Up at 5:00 a.m. for the drive to Perth. Guess I should get used to it, transition opens for the Ironman at around the same time. Had an instant oatmeal for breakfast, and sipped water in the car. Handy tip: if you put your oatmeal in a mug, you can kind of slurp at it while you’re driving. As the racks started to fill up, I’m not too proud to admit I was a little intimidated. It seems every Ironman athlete within 100 miles of the place showed up to race. Literally every bike on my rack (except mine) sported an Ironman race sticker. Not to mention the athletes themselves – I’ll put it this way, my friend’s wife (who just finished running the Boston marathon) exclaimed “Wow, these people are really fit – I feel lazy!” Yikes.

    The pool water was tropical – thankfully they opened both doors to the pool deck to let some cool air in. My luck with wearing things for the first time on race day ran out – the tri top I chose for the day turned into a sea anchor, filling with water as soon as I got into the pool. Oh well, live and learn! I shared a lane with a very nice older gentleman named Bill. “Great!” I thought, taking note of Bill’s grey hair and slight build, “Maybe I’ll even be able to draft a bit.” Not so much, as it turned out. Bill pulled ahead by the 2nd lap and was gone. My swim was uneventful. Since all of us in the first wave started at the same time (2 per lane, 5 lanes), I felt caught up in the initial sprint and spun out a bit, which left me a little slow and tired for the middle section of the swim. This was the longest distance I’ve raced in the water to date – my last race being half as far at 500 m, and last year’s races being 200 m.
    Swim split, plus T1  26:16

    The bike leg was on a course open to traffic, which was thankfully light. Got into a good rhythm as the course rolled up and down. Into the second lap, I could feel the fatigue still in my legs from the ½ marathon I raced the week before. Note to self… if you’re going to truly race, a week in between is not enough time to fully recover. Nutrition/hydration on the bike was, per usual, a couple of Honey Stinger chews and a Profile HC bottle with a Nuun tablet. Slowed down my drinking toward the end of the bike, as I felt like I needed to pee – this would not make for a fast run, any way that scenario played out. And I really like my bike. I’m not going to pee on it. If you’re reading this and are not well-versed in all things long-distance tri, then I assure you this is not a joke. People pee on themselves. And their bike. I’m serious, go Google it.
    Bike split  1:06:36 (personal best for this distance)

    A spectator offered “At least the hard part is over,” as I hunched over in the T-zone getting my shoes changed for the run. At that point, getting my running shoes on without falling over was the hard part. Left the transition area striding out on my tired legs – quickly realizing that was not going to hold for 6 km. Immediately shortened and quickened my steps, and kept that going as best I could to the finish.
    Run split  31:12 (personal best for this distance)

    All in all, I’m happy with my effort on the day. I got a taste of just how fast some of these more experienced distance triathletes are. And the older gentleman who smoked me in the pool? Turns out he’s a multiple Ironman finisher. My hat’s off to you, Bill! 

    Race report – Ottawa 1/2 Marathon


    Race report – Ottawa ½ Marathon
    May 25, 2014
    Finish time: 2:02:55 
    Breakfast: instant oatmeal, orange juice 
    Hydration: Fuel Belt w/Nuun (1 tablet between 2 flasks) 
    Nutrition: handful of Honey Stinger chews and one orange slice


    Less than a year ago, I wandered into a local discount sports store. They were having a sale on running shoes. I was at a point where I was trying to make some healthy changes in my life, so I decided this was an opportunity to replace my current shoes. The ones that had given me 17 years of faithful, though infrequent, service. “What kind of runner are you?” the helpful store employee inquired. Instead of responding with “The kind who doesn’t – unless they’re being chased by someone. With a weapon.” I looked her in the eye and admitted that I may, or may not, ever actually run in these shoes. Maybe I’ll take a Zumba class. Or something. But if the mood ever struck me to actually, you know, run – that I’d like to be able to do that too.

    Turns out I did do some running in those shoes. I also bought a road bike. And some goggles. I’ll spare you the details for now  fast forward to May 25th. On this particular morning, I found myself getting ready for my first half-marathon, along with over 31,100 like-minded people. I saw small groups of team-gear clad athletes running on Laurier Bridge to warm up. Are you kidding me? We’re about to run over 21 km! Reminiscent of the duathlon I did last fall, I glanced around and took cues for dynamic stretches and warm ups (that didn’t involve actual running) from people who looked like they knew what they were doing. I headed to my corral early, as I wanted to glue myself to the 2:00 hr continuous pace bunny. My plan was to follow him as far as I possibly could. I wasn’t sure if my “break 2  hours, at least by a few seconds” goal was even realistic – my best-laid training plans were interrupted by a brutal flu in April, followed closely by a week off to resolve some knee pain. Plus, my last long slow run took me 2:15 to run 18 km. Was it even possible to cram over 3 more km into a time 15 minutes quicker? What the hell. Figured I might as well go for it, and find out.

    As our start time approached, the crowd got denser. Before long, I was packed in a sea of people (a sea of shoulder blades, really – from my short-statured viewpoint) that extended in every direction. As our group approached the start line, someone accidentally stepped on my shoe and pulled it halfway off. With thousands of people surging behind me, I hopped forward on one leg to get my shoe back on, thinking “Don’t trip. Don’t trip. For the love of God, don’t trip.” 

    The energy at the start line was fantastic. We set off down Elgin Street to cheering crowds and pumped up music. I stuck close to the pace bunny, conscious of the danger of going out too fast. Called out and waved to my Mum and my kids as we moved onto the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. Felt great for the first 10 km, enjoying the enthusiastic spectators with witty signs, and the live music. “Hey, that’s a 10k personal best!” I exclaimed happily to the pace bunny after glancing at my watch. “This is just the warmup,” he smiled. Then the hills started.

    In my training, I kept my cadence and perceived rate of exertion constant – which meant going slightly slower uphill, and faster downhill. Our diligent pace bunny kept his pace, already an aggressive one for me, constant regardless of the terrain. I managed to stay on the bunny’s tail (so to speak) almost to the Museum of Civilization on the Hull side. But he gradually began to slip away, as I started to question the wisdom of signing up for a race where I would have to do this AFTER a 2 km swim and a 90 km bike ride.

    The crowds reappeared as we made our way toward Colonel By Drive. At this point, many people were walking. One girl weaved unsteadily to the side of the road. “Slow down,” my brain suggested. “Walk. Stop. This sucks.” “The faster you run, the faster this will be over,” I insisted. I felt kind of off, like I should either eat or drink something, or I should really NOT eat or drink anything. I swished the remaining mouthfuls of Nuun water from my flasks and swallowed. So far, so good. I spotted my girls (with the awesome sign they made for me) and Mum again at the Pretoria Bridge, and managed to run over and give them a kiss. The final push up Queen E toward the finish was, or at least felt, uphill. Almost there. Almost there. Don’t leave anything in the tank. I raised my arms and crossed the finish line, my race over. Surprisingly, I had the presence of mind to stop my GPS watch within half a minute or so. I was happy to see that I had come in so close to my goal time. Closer than I had hoped for or expected.

    Oh, and I ran this race in a new pair of shoes. Turns out I’m a runner who pronates a little, but I prefer a neutral shoe that is light, cushioned, and has between 8-11 mm of drop. You know, in case anyone asks.