Wednesday, October 28, 2015

3 Reasons To Race Short When Going Long

In my neck of the woods, off season is officially here as evidenced by my first indoor trainer ride last Sunday, boohoo.   Although if the reports are true, we could have a nice mild winter, which may actually mean some outdoor rides if we're lucky!  But we shall see.  For now I've come to terms with the fact that my basement Pain Cave will be put to good use once again this winter.  

This is also the time of year that I start thinking about and planning for 2016 races.  So far I've registered for three races:  The Robbie Burns 8km in late January, The Around the Bay Relay at the beginning of April and my "A" race of 2016, Mont Tremblant 70.3.  I would have registered for more but the 2016 race schedule for my favourite race series isn't out yet.  Just like the last 2 years, I plan on peppering my race schedule with several short course triathlons. 

I know so many triathletes that turn their nose up at short course racing because they don't feel it's beneficial when they're training for a half or full Ironman.  I don't understand that.  Racing is racing.   There are several benefits to adding some short course racing to your racing schedule.  Here are my top 3.

 1. Speed Work

Short course racing is essentially a speed workout.  It's like racing a 5km when you're training for a marathon.  These races are generally done at threshold pace while most of your long course training is done at aerobic pace, so you're utilizing two different systems.  Threshold pace work tends to get neglected when training for distance but if you want to improve at long course, then you should consider adding some short course racing into the mix.  Short course racing teaches you to move quickly, not only out on course but in transition as well.  Fast transitions equal free speed and who doesn't love a bit of free speed?

2.  Brain Training

I know that some people just don't like short course because you race hard and it takes people out of their comfort zones.  That is precisely why I like it.  You get comfortable with being uncomfortable both physically AND more importantly, mentally.  I find in short course racing, I have a laser sharp focus - all I think about is how I'm feeling and how I can keep pushing through.  You develop the mental skills to convince yourself to keep moving forward.  This sort of mental toughness is also important in long course racing.  If you can suffer through a hard 90 minute race, there is no reason you can't make it through a more moderately paced one. 

3.  Recovery Time

Because of the shorter distance of all the legs, the recovery time after a sprint is generally quite short. Most people are actually able to go back to training the next day.  I've had some of my best training days the day after a hard sprint race.  And, if you're looking to light it up on the course, a short two day "taper" (easy workouts) would leave you well rested enough for you to really go hard.

Do you do sprint races?  If so what do you like about them?

Tri Talk Tuesday is back next Tuesday and we're talking about indoor cycling!  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Back in the Saddle - Literally

Another weekend, another Monday.  I'm getting back into a little bit of a routine so that means my weekly recaps are back.  They'll definitely be much shorter than normal given it's the off season!  I still had a pretty action packed weekend though.  It's funny how much you can actually get up to when you're NOT training, ha ha. 

Saturday I resumed my duties as a Mizuno Run Bird at the Toronto Women's 8km.  I had so much fun doing it at the half so I was really looking forward to this.   I was going to be posted at the 8km turnaround point with Michelle.  Her and I tag teamed for the half and we had a blast.  She's so lovely.  I picked her up at 7:30 am on Saturday and we made our way up to Sunnybrook Park.  It was pretty darn chilly and we were both a little under dressed but thankfully Mizuno came through with some warmer gear!  As we were making our way to the check in, I spotted a familiar figure.  As she got closer I said " Well Hello There!"  and it took her a minute then she realized who I was.  It was Sasha Gollish - Pan Am Games Bronze Medalist.  Her and I have been following each other on Social Media for a while and we have a bunch of mutual friends.  This was the first time we met in person and she's just as nice in real life as she is online.  I got a HUGE hug from her and we chatted away for a bit.  She runs for Oiselle now and was wearing their new racing kit.   I wasn't sure if she was racing the 5km or the 8km but I brought my camera out on the course to snap some pics.  Turns out she was racing the 8km and she crushed it.  She ran it in 27 minutes and change.  SO FREAKING AMAZING.  Yes, she won. 

I ran back and forth and cheered ladies on.  I was standing near the turnaround, cheering when I spotted someone that looked familiar.  She called out my name and then I realized who it was.  It was Jaqueline.  I ran with her at the Women's Half and then she emailed me to thank me.  I jumped up and down and gave her a big hug and then ran with her for a couple of km.  She's going to be tackling her first marathon next year and has enlisted my help.  I'm so excited to work with her!  Of course I had to snap this.

I hung around the turnaround for a while, waiting for the last participants to come through.  I was chatting with a volunteer when the last girl went by.  I caught up to her and told her I was going to keep her company.  She was so happy.  Her name was Kike and she was visiting from Nigeria.  She was walking the 8km.  She said when she knew she was coming to Toronto she looked up some events and picked this one.  So her and I walked and chatted, we met up with Robyn and Krysten at the 6km mark.  I had told Kike that she'd finish with a posse and that she did.  We picked up Michelle at the 400m to go mark and we all walked in with Kike, cheering and laughing.  What a great morning. 

Saturday afternoon was fairly low key.  We did some grocery shopping and I had some good couch time.  My back has been bothering me as of late so I spent some time with my feet up and the heating pad on. 

Sunday morning I was up early-ish again as G was doing his first cross race of the season out in Rockton.  We loaded up the car with his fancy new bike and new wheels (that I will get to use at some point - woohoo!) and headed out.  It was a lovely day, albeit it a bit windy and a bit cool but I was dressed for it.  I brought 4 cowbells and ran around the course cheering and taking pictures.  The course was actually fairly flat but there were a lot of twists and turns.  There were a few spots where you could get some good speed.  I think next year I may give this race a go.  I need some more time to get comfortable with my bike handling skills, ha ha.  But it does look like fun.

Sunday afternoon was spent prepping some food and then I made my way down stairs to the Pain Cave.  It's always a sad day when you do that first trainer ride.  I got back on Tom Sawyer.  I need to get my fit tweaked a bit so I thought it was high time I get back in the saddle to see what I want changed. 

I'm not sure this was the best idea given the situation with my back.  I rode for just over an hour and by the time I finished my back was sore and tight.  I'm not sure what is going on but it's been like this for at least a month.  I thought it was just tight muscles but now I'm not so sure.  I'm going to make an appointment to see my chiro this week.  I'm really hoping it's nothing serious. 

My activity this week was fairly limited.  After Scotia my Garmin told me I'd need 68 hours to recover, which is about right.  It usually takes me 2 days after a half marathon before I feel better.  Although I was quite surprised at how good my legs actually felt.  They were a bit sore on Monday but by Tuesday evening, they were totally fine.  I almost wanted to go out and run.  But I didn't.

Monday:  OFF
Tuesday:  OFF
Wednesday:  2150m swim in a.m.  60 minutes of hot yoga in p.m.
Thursday:  45 minute strength workout + massage
Friday:  2100m swim
Saturday 6.5km run
Sunday: 1h 5 minutes on the trainer.

5 hours and 15 minutes of activity.  Not a bad way to ease back into things.   My goal is to keep things easy to moderate and hit between 7-10 hours a week for the next couple of months.  Of course it will all depend on what my back lets me do.

How was your weekend?  Who else is enjoying their off season??

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Five - Things I Love

Happy Friday Folks!

I haven't been too busy this week but for some reason it went by really quickly!  Love it when that happens!

I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta Ladies for a little bit of Friday Five action today.   Today Courtney, Cynthia and Mar are giving us a bit of a free for all with today's Friday Five.  Today's topic is 5 Things I Love.   I had a hard time narrowing it down to just 5 things!  So these are 5 random things I'm loving right now.

1.  This Book.  The lovely Irina gave it to me last year and I took a quick look through it and book marked a few sections for future reference.  I've now gone back to those sections and am working through some of the exercises in here to help balance me out and activate things that haven't been working the way they should.  It's full of so much amazing information and exercises - I suspect it will be something I go back to on a regular basis. 

 2.  This Amazing Machine.  This is the fancy new coffee maker at my work.  It's beautiful, easy to use and makes the best damn lattes.  Suffice to say my latte consumption has quadrupled since we got it.   A good cup of coffee will always make me happy. 

3.  This Picture / Moment.  I posted it in my race recap yesterday but I love it so much I'm sharing it again.  I can't stop laughing every time I look at it.  I've actually saved a copy to my desk top so whenever I'm having a bad day, I can look at that and laugh.  Nerds, the both of us.  But, that's what happens when you run with friends for fun. This will go down as one of the best days of racing I've ever had simply because of the company.

4.  The Social Media community.  Since I've started blogging and instagramming, I've met / interacted with/ been inspired by so many incredible people.  It really is a pretty amazing community.  If I had unlimited funds, I'd travel the world to meet up with all my virtual friends.  Sunday's race definitely reminded me of that.  If I wasn't active in the Social Media world, I would have missed out on this moment below.  Christina is someone I met through Social Media and she entrusted me to coach her for her last 3 marathons, all of which have been outside of Toronto.   This time around she ran here and I got to run her in the last 2km.  It may not have been the greatest day for her but I was happy that I could be there to support her, regardless of the outcome. 

5.  My Momentum Jewelry wrap bracelet.   I've got two of these but this one is my favourite.  The saying sums me up.  I work hard to chase my dreams.  It's just who I am.  I suspect this will have a permanent place on my wrist in 2016. 

HAPPY FRIDAY!!!  Tell me about 5 things you're loving right now!  

 Don't forget to visit the link up and check out some of the other posts!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

That's All She Wrote: #STWM 2015

Normally I would have graced you guys with a weekly recap on Monday but I can sum it up in one word:  TAPER.  It wasn't a very exciting week.   So instead, I'm jumping right into my race recap while it's still fairly fresh in my mind.

As I mentioned last week, this was the first time in ages that I've gone into a race without a time goal.  I hoped to be somewhere in the 1:30's but I didn't have a solid goal.  I figured I'd start with the 1:40 pace bunny and see how I felt.  If I felt good, I'd pick it up.

I had my usual pre race bowl of steel cut oats and hit the road just before 7:00.  I got almost every single green light on the way there.  Woohoo!  I headed down Bay street and hoped there would be space by the bus station.  Sure enough, I grabbed one of the last spots on the street.  SCORE.  I had to meet up with the #BBFFit girls at 7:50 am for a pre-race photo op.  It was COLD (fact, it was snowing at the start- WTF,  it's OCTOBER).  I ran down Chestnut street and ducked into the Doubletree Hilton to use the washroom.  That's the bonus of having run this race multiple times, you know where all the warm washrooms are, ha ha.  There was no line up so I was in and out in no time.  I ran down to Richmond and over to University and found Carmy and Janice right away.  We stood around chatting and waiting for Morgan.  A couple of minutes later, Morgan arrived and it was picture time!

I was supposed to meet my pal David up at a building on University just north of Armoury around 8:00 so I wished the ladies good luck, hopped into a porta potty and then ran up to meet David and his pals.  I waited there for a while and didn't see them so I wandered down to the corner of Dundas and Amoury and waited a bit there.  No luck so I wandered back up.  They were waiting inside the building so they let me in and I got to hang out in the warmth for a while.   One last bathroom stop and we all started to shed some layers.  We had 5 minutes to get to the start corral.  Luckily David and I were in the first one so we didn't have far to go.  They were singing the National Anthem when we got down to the corrals so David and I booked it over to the opening and made our way up towards the middle of the pack.  I spotted the 1:40 pace bunny a ways ahead so we tried to move up a bit but there were too many people so we gave up and waited for the gun to go off.   A few seconds later we were off and running.  

Normally I take off like a shot once the gun goes off but because I was actually running with someone, I didn't.  Instead, I mirrored David's pace.  The first bit of the course is uphill to Bloor so we were working a bit from the start.   That and there was a lot of dodging people.  Speeding up and slowing down etc.  Once we got up to Bloor, we seemed to find a groove.  My plan was to hit every aid station and get either Gatorade or water.  Or both, depending on how I was feeling.  We hit the first aid station and I grabbed a Gatorade and managed to actually get most of it in my mouth.  A-MA-ZING.   There were a ton of spectators along here and U of T actually had a full on cheerleading squad out, pom poms and all.  That was pretty awesome.

We turned onto Bathurst and really started picking up the pace.  We were going downhill so that was easy enough to do.  David was keeping his eyes peeled for the 1:40 pace bunny.  Apparently he wasn't too far ahead of us.  Most of Bathurst was a bit of a blur.  David and I spent most of it yammering away.  I do recall running by the Black Toe Running cheer station and hearing my name called out by a fellow WTP'er.  We closed in on the 1:40 pace bunny as we got to Front Street.  I heard my name again and turned to see Andrew Chak, another social media pal, who was running the marathon.  Shortly thereafter I saw Kristen Bowers, yet another social medial pal and one of the first few athletes that I coached.  I had seen her at the start and she gave me a huge hug.  She's a real sweetheart.  She was chugging along, looking strong and we waved to each other.  There was some pretty awesome crowd support along the Bathurst bridge as we turned onto Fort York.

As we got out onto Lakeshore I noticed a little bit of wind, but nothing too bad.  I still had my gloves on but my hands were boiling so I opted to pull them off.  I stuck them down my shirt until I had gone through the aid station.  I knew that G was going to be at the 12km aid station so my plan was to leave them with him.  We passed the 9km mark and started going over the Gardiner overpass by Dunn.  The little climb winded me and David and I turned to each other and both said that kinda sucked, ha ha.  We were coming up to the 10km mark and I announced that I was tired.  David said he was too.  The next few kms were kind of quiet.  I knew once we got closer to the aid station that there would be a ton of crowd support.  I was surprised to see it start earlier than normal - there were lots of people hanging out in the median by Palais Royale, which was GREAT to see.  The intersection of Lakeshore and Parkside was also packed.

We got to the WTP aid station at 12km and I immediately spotted G so I ran up to him, blew him a kiss and handed him my gloves.  I got some WTP crew love as I ran through the aid station.  David was hoping to shed his vest but never got a chance to get over and toss it.  We were heading to the turn around at Ellis and the crowd support here was phenomenal.  It's always great along here but this year there seemed to be so many more people.  And it was LOUD.  I wasn't running with music so I really noticed the cheers.  We hit the turn around and I could feel the wind slightly at our back which was nice.  David managed to ditch his vest when we passed the WTP aid station on the way back.  My energy was flagging so I took a gel.  My lower back was also really starting to get sore and tighten up.  I started to feel like I was running a little off balance.  I focused on keeping my shoulders back and my chest out.  That helped but I'd still feel the occasional nerve pinch in my glute.  Only 7km to go.

My friend and co-worker Caitlin was running the half as well.  It was her first and I really wanted to see her so David and I stayed close to the middle of the road to see if we could catch a glimpse of her.  I didn't see her but I saw Brie Young, a fellow Mizuno Run Bird, who had spotted me first and called my name - more woohoo-ing ensued.  As we ran towards the Legion, the Steel band that is always there was playing Hot Hot Hot and it reminded me of my Auntie Carol.  I smiled to myself and knew that she was cheering me on from somewhere.  David and I kept scanning the crowd for Caitlin but never saw her.  We crested the hill at the Legion, complained about how that sucked, and continued on. 

We motored along Lakeshore and I could feel myself getting tired again.  We got to 17km and I said to David that I thought the chute might come out over the next few km.  He said no way, we have 4km left, you'll be fine, you can do it.  So, I followed his lead.  At 18km I spotted Danielle holding one of her awesome race signs.  So I ran over and said hi.  There was some woohoo-ing and then I had to pick it up to catch David.  I went through the subsequent aid station and slowed down a bit.  Once again I had to pick it up to catch David.  He was pushing the pace a bit.  We started to climb the Spadina ramp, which is another tough little climb.  Our chatter had died down a fair bit by this point.  I think both of us were tired.  We had planned on doing a silly finishing photo that involved jumping so I hoped my legs would be able to do it.   2km to go.

We came to the marathon / half marathon split and up ahead I could see the 20km archway.  The street was PACKED with spectators.  I saw confetti flying through the air.  The Parkdale Road Runners had set up an EPIC cheer station.  It was deafening running through there and it was just the pick me up I needed.  We turned onto Bay Street and I was grinning.  As soon as we crossed Lakeshore the wind hit us.  My hands were freezing.  David gave me one of his gloves.  We powered up the steep little hill and made our way up Bay Street.  I was really starting to feel it.  I was tired.  My form was slipping.  But I stuck with David.  The crowds got increasingly louder the closer we got to the finish.  People started sprinting by us but we held back and let them go.  We wanted to make sure we had a clear path in the finishing chute.  We rounded the bend and let a few more people pass us.  We could see the finishing chute and as we got closer I turned to David who started counting down.  3-2-1 - JUMP.  At least that's what he did.  Because I'm a spaz, I jumped on one.  So I jumped AGAIN.  By that time David had landed.  What a gong show.  But the pics are hilarious so I bought them. 

At least both of us have our feet off the ground!

We crossed the line in 1:35:09 which wasn't a P.R for either of us but we didn't really care.  It wasn't about a P.R for me.  I knew I wasn't in any shape for that.  It was all about having fun and hanging out with one of my good friends.   David and I have done many of the same races but we've never actually run together in the 3 years we've known each other so I'm really glad we got the opportunity to do so before he gets CRAZY fast again and I won't be able to keep up with him.

When I went back and looked at the stats, I saw a couple of things that surprised me.  1) I was 8th in my AG.  I certainly wasn't expecting to make the top 10 and 2) we ran a negative split.  I can't remember the last time I negative split a race.  I told David he has to pace me from now on.  I think he thought I was kidding.  D, if you're reading this, I was serious. I promise to pay you in chocolate and homemade ginger molasses cookies!  You have it in writing. 

I have to say, I absolutely love this race.  It's no wonder I've done it 6 times.   If I can manage to get and stay 100% healthy for 2016, you know I'll be toeing the line again next October with an actual goal.   For now it's time for me to take some time off my feet and to work on fixing the little niggles that have been hanging around for far too long this year. 

A huge thanks to Burnbrae Farms for sponsoring me into this race and fueling my training.

Bring on the OFF SEASON!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Final Countdown


This is it folks, the end of the week.  The day that everyone looks forward to, ha ha.  I did my last run before Scotia this morning and it didn't feel awesome but it was better than Tuesday's run, which totally sucked.  I suspect that I didn't feel good because I spent all day yesterday running around on concrete floors in leather soled boots.  Not the best idea. But it's done and now I can take it easy for the rest of the day.  

 It feels very strange for me to be heading into a race with no concrete time goal.  I'm so goal oriented that it's almost like my brain can't function without that parameter, ha ha.   I honestly don't know what I'm going to be capable of come Sunday.  I'm still not 100%.  My lower back has been very bothersome over the last week and a bit and I haven't been able to get in to see my osteopath so I'm relying on Robaxacet to try to relax the muscles around it for now.  At least I know after Sunday, I can take as much time as I need off.  

Speaking of Sunday, the forecast currently looks like crap and I don't suspect it will change much.   At least I'm not racing Saturday.   That looks even worse.   On the plus side, the wind doesn't look like it's going to be too bad on Sunday (between 11-15 kph), which is great because it can get really windy along the water.  It's going to be coming out of the north west which means we'll be running into it for the first bit on the course.  Once we hit the turnaround and Windermere, then it should be at our backs.  Running up to the finish will probably be ugly as Bay Street can be a bit of a wind tunnel.  But at that point, you're almost done. 

I'm going to have to work at pacing myself properly here because I don't have the fitness to go out guns a blazin' and hold a crazy pace like I did in 2013.  I'm going to find the 1:40 pace bunny and hang out with them and see how I feel.  If I'm still feeling good by the 12km mark, I'll start to pick up the pace.  If not then I just hang on and finish. 

In other news, I found out this week that I got accepted as a Momentum Jewelry ambassador!  I've been following them on Instagram for a while and have been eyeballing their stuff since day one but could never make up my mind as to what I wanted to get.  Give me one of everything!!!  Anyway, I now have a nice little collection of items from them.  I will be sporting one of their Foot Notes on Sunday (Shut Up Legs in case you were wondering, ha ha) as a reminder to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

After I finish the half on Sunday, I'm going to make my way out to the 40km mark of the marathon to wait for two of my athletes, Britt & Christina.  I told Christina I'd run the last 2km with her so I know that I'm going to have to run at least 23km on Sunday.  Ha, hopefully my legs will be able to handle that.  I suspect that Monday isn't going to be pretty, ha ha.  But, it's off season so it's all good.   I'm also hoping to meet up with the rest of the Burnbrae Farms Ambassador crew this Sunday - Morgan, Carmy and Janice.   We're all running the half and it's going to be Morgan's first so that's a pretty big deal!!  If you follow me on instagram, I apologize in advance for flooding your IG stream! 

Are you racing this weekend or are you in your "off season"?  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Light Bulb Finally Went On: Night Runner 270° Shoe Lights - Review

Disclaimer - I was given these lights in exchange for an honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions are my own.

Those of you that follow me on Instagram probably saw this picture a couple of weeks ago.  Since that post, I've had several people ask me about these lights.

I have two words to describe them.  AWE-SOME.  Ok that's technically one word but it emphasizes just how amazing I think these things are.  I honestly don't know why someone didn't think of this sooner.  Thank goodness for Doug & Renata Storer! 

When the days get shorter and the nights get longer, runners take all sorts of precautions to make themselves as visible as possible.  We don reflective gear, head lamps and flashing lights.  All of these things are great in terms of helping others see you but what about seeing where you're going?  That is the one thing about running in the dark that worries me.  Toronto roads are generally in pretty bad shape in terms of potholes and our older sidewalks are not much better so I'm constantly looking down trying to navigate the road in front of me by illuminating it with my head lamp.  If I'm running on main streets it's not too bad but that's not always possible or desirable for that matter.

Enter the Night Runner 270° .

These lights actually clip on to your shoe laces and illuminate up to 100 feet in front of you with 270 degrees of coverage.  There are three settings for the light.  The first one is what I'd call medium, the second would be high and the third is a flashing option.   The lights are comprised of multiple white LEDs that face forward with a single red one facing backwards so that you can also be seen from behind.  They are incredibly light weight and they easily clip into the laces of your shoes.  They're made to withstand high impact activities and they are also water resistant.   The bracket that the light sits on is also adjustable either up or down, depending on the wearers requirements. 

I was surprised at how light they were, given the size.   I thought for sure I'd notice them on my shoes but I didn't.  They are incredibly light weight and if you secure them properly, they don't move.   I was happy to see that they were powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that you can charge with the mini usb port provided with the lights.  The batteries last between 4 - 8 hours depending on level of usage.

Here are the lights in action! 

I'm not a trail runner but I would suspect that these would be fantastic in an any sort of ultra event.  
I highly recommend these lights.   I don't think I'll ever be able to run at night without these now.   Thank you Renata and Doug! 

If you're interested in purchasing a pair you can do so here.  A single pair retails for $59.95 US and right now they have a deal where you can get two pairs for $109.95 US.  I know it's only October but Christmas will be here before you know it!

Monday, October 12, 2015


Happy Monday.  Today is Canadian Thanksgiving so it's a holiday.  We had our family gathering yesterday at my sister in law's place.  My parents & brother came in from Guelph and Tracy (G's sister) invited one of her co-workers & her husband so it was a pretty packed house, which is just the way it should be.  The weather was beautiful so we spent some time sitting outside.  Dinner itself was short (but oh so tasty) because the Jays game was going to be starting and the Kennedy - Frank household is a baseball household so everyone wanted to watch the game.  After dinner we all piled into the basement.  As I sat there and surveyed the room amid the chatter, I smiled and thought to myself "I'm pretty darn lucky". 

I have been guilty of moving through life without "stopping to smell the roses", especially as of late.  Yesterday made me realize that I have a lot to be thankful for, even when I think that I don't. 

I'm thankful that our families all get along and like to hang out with each other. 

I'm thankful that I live in a country where freedom of expression is ok and actually encouraged.  

I'm thankful for the athletes that have entrusted me to coach them over the last several years. 

I'm thankful for having a wonderful husband who is supportive and encourages all my crazy ideas.

I'm thankful for all of my friends, new and old, near and far.

I'm thankful for my health and my ability to be active. 

And I'm thankful for all of you that continue to read my thoughts and ramblings.  Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Getting The Most Out of Your Gadgets

There's no denying the hold that technology has on us these days.  We can't seem to live without our phones and God forbid we do a run without our Garmin.  I'm just as guilty as the next person.  I can't believe how much things have changed since I started running over 15 years ago.  Running gadgets have evolved just as much as cell phones.  You can even use your cell phone to track your run now.  When I started running I used an old Timex Ironman watch and a pedometer.  My how times have changed.   Running watches these days are basically mini computers that can give you all sorts of feedback on your training, IF you use them to their full potential.

I love the fact that we have so much data at our finger tips.  For a data junkie like me it's amazing.  Since I've started coaching, I've come to realize that many people don't take full advantage of these incredible little machines.  Garmins, Polars and the like are basically very expensive pace keepers because many people only use them for pacing.  They don't bother with the additional features like heart rate.  They either don't wear the strap that the watch came with or they don't buy it as an option.  When I'm training for something,  I always wear my heart rate monitor.  I find it keeps me "honest" in terms of my effort level. Those little digits tell me to either back it off or pick it up. 

I'm not saying that you SHOULD train with heart rate but it is definitely a valuable tool that can help you improve, especially if you're just starting out.   There is a lot to be said for training on perceived effort as well but when I was starting out, heart rate training was THE thing so that's what I'm used to.  Now that I've got 15+ years of running under my belt, I've come to know what various efforts feel like and I can pretty much guess within a few beats per minute what my average heart rate would be for any given workout.  In fact, I wear my heart rate monitor for every run but I don't have the screen set to show heart rate.  It shows time, distance and pace.  I don't generally concern myself with pace unless it's specific to my workout.  Right now I'm training for a half marathon so I'm working with distance.  In the off season, I usually just run based on time.

I've been using Garmin products exclusively for the last 4 years and with the advent of Garmin Connect, I've had a whole slew of feedback available to me in regards to my training, especially wen using my heart rate monitor.  Garmin Connect has a feature called "Training Effect".   According to the Garmin website, training effect "measures the load applied to your body and displays the impact in relation to your current fitness level."   It is calculated based on your user profile, heart rate ranges and the difficulty of an activity.  It is measured on a scale of 1 to 5.
What I love about this is that you can actually SEE your improvements over the course of time.  For example if I've taken some time off of doing speed work and I go out and do a tempo run, I will likely end up in the 5.0 category that first time out.  If I go out the following week, I may end up in the high 4 range.  After a few weeks of regular speed work, I usually end up in the 3.0-3.9 range so then I know it's time to perhaps step it up a notch.  

As much as I find Garmin software to be somewhat frustrating, their devices offer some amazing features.  The 920xt actually has a recovery time indicator (Polar has something similar), which utilizes your heart rate data to give you an estimated recovery time for any given effort.  It will also beep at the start of a workout to tell you whether or not your recovery is "good" or "fair".  Sometimes I see "fair" on my second workout of a high volume weekend.  I've also seen it when I'm coming off being sick, which tells me that I probably should have taken one more day off.  I always check the recovery time after my workout because it can often indicate that I'm potentially more worn out than I feel.  For example, this week I did two run workouts, almost exactly the same distance (6km vs. 6.5km).  One was a progressive tempo and the other was a race pace workout 3x3 minutes at race pace with 90s recovery between each one.  I ran harder in the first 6km workout and my recovery time was 19 hours.  In the 3x3 minute workout, I ran slower but my recovery time was actually 21 hours.  So that tells me that I'm starting to get worn down.  I felt fine but I noticed my breathing felt a bit more laboured on my second run even though I was actually running slower.  Looks like I'm really going to need to focus on rest this next week if I want to be really well rested going into Scotia.

I rarely ever run without my Garmin & heart rate monitor, even in my off season, mostly just out of habit.  When I'm in my off season, I set my Garmin to time and average heart rate, that way I'm not thinking about pace.  I'm just running to run.  Most of the time, I don't even look at my watch, I just let it do it's thing.  

There are a few other great training tools out there that also use your heart rate data to help calculate training load and I will get into those in a future post. 

Do you train with heart rate or by feel / pacing?  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tri Talk Tuesday - OFF SEASON

 Welcome back Tri Talk Tuesday peeps!  We're now back to monthly posts since most of us are heading into our off season.  Which is why Courtney, Cynthia and I thought it would be great to chat about the Off Season.   So, that's what today's theme is!

The off season is different for everyone.  Some people take a few weeks off, some people take a few months off.  The length of time I take off depends on how much I've raced and when my first race of the following year is.  I haven't raced as much as normal this year and I have some things I need to work on before I start ramping things up for 2016 so, I'm going to walk you through my off season plans for this year.

I have one race left on the calendar this year and that is the Scotiabank Half Marathon.  Once that race is done, my off season officially starts.   Normally after a half marathon I'll take a week off running and then gradually ease back into regular running the week after.  This year, I plan on taking 3-4 weeks off running completely.  I had a lot of knee problems and other issues that I've been working through all year so I want to give my body a break from the pounding.

What am I going to do in it's place you may wonder?  This is what I've mapped out.

Week One Post Scotia:

Swimming, yoga, massage.   There will be some running on the Saturday after Scotia as I am a Mizuno Run bird at the Toronto Women's 8km.

Week Two Post Scotia:

Swimming, yoga, strength training & a re-introduction to my basement pain cave & computrainer.

Week Three Post Scotia:

Same as above with a focus on cycling drills.

Week Four Post Scotia:

Same as above with the re-introduction of running.  Short easy runs, focusing on form and drill work.  That will probably be what the majority of my off season looks like.  I'll start to build my volume up again in mid December but for a good two months, I'll be keeping things short, sweet and easy.

The off season is also a great time to reflect on your season and focus on things you would like to improve on for next season.   I have a few things I need to work on.

1) Improve my flexibility and my strength and really get that mind body connection when it comes to certain muscle groups that haven't been working the way they should be.  I've finally recruited my glutes for the most part but my hips still need a bit more stability.  My core is a lot stronger but I need loosen up my t-spine to help with my rotation when I'm swimming and I need to learn to engage my lats more.

2)  Find some more power on the bike.  I was catching glimpses of it this year so I know it's possible.   I think with a focus on some basic form and pedal stroke work, I can find that power.  I also need to tweak my bike fit a bit so that should help.

3) Work on my running form.  I did this at the start of the year and found it helpful.  Everything went sideways when I started training for Eagleman and my form work took a back seat.  This is the time of year to make that part of my routine.

4) Work on my mental game in the water.  I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable in open water.   A lot of it has to do with breathing and some of it has to do with the fact that I'm a bit of a headcase.  I think the two things kind of go hand in hand in terms of trying to fix.  I may actually enlist the help of a sports psychologist to start and go from there.

So that's what my 2015 Off Season looks like.  Head on over to the link up and check out all the other Off Season posts.  Next months topic will be cycling training.  I'll be talking about specific workouts you can do indoors to work building strength so come back for that on November 3rd!

Tell me what your off season looks like!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Changing of the Seasons

Monday again.  Another weekend that absolutely just FLEW by.   We spent it up north at our friend David's place in Huntsville.  The plan was to do a "fall colours" bike ride.  Mother Nature wasn't the most cooperative.  The colours were just starting to change which was nice but holy moly was it ever windy.  We had a tailwind on the way out and a BRUTAL headwind on the way back.  Needless to say that shortened our ride substantially, ha ha.  I had hoped to do about 60-70km but we pulled the pin at 41 minutes out and it took us about 55 minutes to get back!  It was still nice to get out.   We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Huntsville and when we got back we played Settlers of Catan while dinner was simmering away.  I'm normally not a fan of board games but I actually quiet enjoyed that one!

Sunday morning David and I hit the road and some trail to do 20km.  He took me over all the hills in Huntsville, ha ha.  My glutes were killing me by the end of that run.  And my knees were quite sore too.  I haven't felt that in a while.  Hills obviously still cause me problems.  It was a perfect day for a run though, overcast and slightly misty.  This is totally my favourite time of year to run.  The scenery wasn't too shabby either!

Sunday was my last long run before Scotia.  Now it's time to taper.   This will be the first time in a long time I've run this race without a goal.  I'm just going to RUN it.  It's kind of strange but kind of nice at the same time.  It's nice going into a race with no pressure or expectations.  Actually most of my races this year have been like that.  It's been mentally refreshing, ha ha. 

The weather this past week wasn't great and I actually wussed out and opted to skip my tempo run on Tuesday because it was raining.  Slightly.  I ended up doing in on Thursday morning and froze my butt off instead.  It was super windy and quite cold.  But I did it.  I think my legs were still unhappy from last Sunday's monster ride.

I've been gradually scaling back things so this week was a little less insane then last week workout wise:

Monday: 2500m swim
Tuesday:  50 minutes strength work
Wednesday:  2000m swim
Thursday:  16km run with 13km at tempo + 40 minute strength, core & stretching afterwards

Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  44.5km on the bike
Sunday:  20km run.

Total time:  7 hours 43 minutes.

One last parting image.  It's finally fall when I start wearing socks and have my first Pumpkin Spice Latte....Is it just me or has Starbucks been starting this whole #PSL thing WAY earlier than normal???

Don't forget, tomorrow is Tri Talk Tuesday and we're chatting about The OFF SEASON tomorrow so swing on by and join in the link up!

What's your favourite season to run in?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Safer Open Water Swimming with Restube

A while back I got the opportunity to test out something that would be helpful to people like myself that are apprehensive about open water swimming alone.   It's a personal flotation device that you can take with you when you swim in open water, or during any other water activity that you may not be wearing a life jacket for.

I'm sure you're probably wondering how that works.

Enter Restube.

It's portable, inflatable tube that comes in a little pouch that you can wear around your waist.

When I unpacked the box, I was a little skeptical that this would actually work.  But the instructions were very clear on how to insert the CO2 cartridge and how to position the belt on your body for the best results.  I didn't want to waste a CO2 cartridge just testing it out on land so I waited for the opportunity to swim with it.

Restube is very simple to use and size wise it is very small and compact.  It fit perfectly around my waist and sat nicely in the small of my back.  The pouch is roughly 6 inches wide by 3.5 inches high so it's fairly unobtrusive.  

We were in Mont Tremblant for the September long weekend so that was going to be my testing ground.   I fastened the belt around my waist and waded into the water.  I started swimming and didn't notice any sort of additional drag at all.  The belt was noticeable around my waist mainly because I don't normally wear anything like that in the water.  But it didn't bother me at all and after a while I didn't even notice it was there.

I swam out a bit further and pulled the release cord.  It was easily accessible.  The tube deployed and filled up quickly with no loud noises or crazy force.  Before I knew it, I had a fully inflated, bright yellow tube to rest on.  

While I was floating around on this, I noticed that end of the rip cord actually had a little whistle on it. So if you were in distress, you could alternate between yelling and blowing the whistle. GENIUS.  

Inflated, the tube is more than wide enough for a person to rest their torso on.  It's bright yellow so it's clearly visible from a distance.  You could also wave the tube in the air to signal for help.  You can also continue to swim with the buoy inflated if you want to make sure you are visible to boat traffic.  For triathletes, this alleviates the need to convince someone to paddle along side them in a boat while they swim.  And, if you get tired, it's easy enough to roll over and grab the tube and rest on it.  

This video from Innovation Sports shows you how Restube works. 


It's a pretty ingenious little invention.  My only criticism would be that it doesn't have a place to carry things like a key.  Other than that, it's very easy to use and maintain.   It deflated easily and then it folds back up and slips right back into the pouch.   It's small enough that you can take it anywhere.  The C02 cartridges can be a bit problematic when traveling.  In my experience, you're not able to bring them with you but it's worth contacting your airline to see what their requirements are.

You can order your own Restube directly from Innovation Sports.

Would this make you feel safer in open water?  Would you inflate it first and use it for visibility or would you keep it in the pouch around your waist as a safety precaution?

Disclaimer:  I was sent this product to review.  I was not compensated for it any way.  All opinions are my own.