Friday, May 31, 2013

The Season Opener: Woodstock Sprint Triathlon

This race seems like it happened ages ago but it was only on Sunday!  This week is completely flying by.  Last Sunday marked the first race in my triple header.  I've got another race this weekend (The Bread and Honey 15km) and then another race the following weekend (Binbrook Sprint Triathlon).  I think I'm going to be really tired by the middle of June!

The Woodstock Sprint is the season opener in the Multisport Canada Race series. It's a great little venue that's about 90 minutes from Toronto.  When I first did this race back in 2011 it was a 500m swim, 20km bike and 4.5km run.  This time around they made it a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.  The last time I did this race I was second in my AG.   I had hopes of getting back on the podium this time around.  I figured I'd have my work cut out for me since my cycling took a back seat over the course of the winter;  I didn't really get back on the bike until shortly after Boston.   I was also now 2 years deep into the 40-44 year old AG so I had no idea what sort of competition I'd be facing from some of the younger ladies in the group.  All I knew was that I was going to go balls out for the entire thing and see where that got me.

We arrived shortly after 8:00 am which gave us roughly an hour and a bit to get ourselves sorted in transition, pick up our kits, get body marked and do a warm up swim.  I was a little worried about the water temperature.  I had been watching it all week and because the weather had been all over the place, it never really got too warm.  Granted, it could have been a lot colder but thankfully Pittock Lake is fairly small so the temperature got up to about 63 degrees by race day.  A little on the chilly side for me but it could have been worse I suppose.

The Swim

G and I made our way down to the water with about 15 minutes to spare before the start.  I waded in while G was fixing his goggles.  It didn't feel too bad at first but that was only because the water hadn't fully seeped into my wetsuit yet.  The further in I went, the colder it got.  I decided to just jump in.  Wheeeee!  It was brisk.  I put my face in and started swimming.  Hard.  I wanted to get my heart rate up and get the blood pumping.  I could feel my feet getting cold. Surprisingly the rest of me felt alright.   I swam back and forth for a while, practicing sighting and just getting a feel for being in my wetsuit.  This was my first open water swim this year.  Nothing like your first race also being your first open water swim of the season!

I finished my warm up and found G.  His wave was leaving 4 minutes before mine so I wished him luck and watched him take off.   Surprisingly I wasn't terribly nervous.  Normally I'm freaking out before the swim start.  I was actually kind of looking forward to seeing what I was capable of.  I've gotten a whole lot faster in the pool so I figured that *should* translate to something in open water if I could manage to swim fairly straight.  My plan was to situate myself off to the side and close-ish to the front.  I figured that would keep me out of the melee but still somewhat close to the action.

The horn sounded and we were off.  I was good for about the first 50 metres then the panic set in.  I couldn't sort my breathing out and I kept inhaling water every time I turned my head.  That just made my breathing worse so I rolled over onto my back and floated for a bit.  I tried to swim again, swam into a couple of people and made it another 15m or so before I started breast stroking.  I then rolled over on my back, panic setting in.  I stopped and looked around.  There were still a lot of people around me, some of them doing exactly what I was doing.  Get a grip.  You can do this.  I rolled back over and started swimming.  The next thing I knew, I was at the first buoy and making the turn.  I swam into a few more people and slowed up again to get around them.  I found some clear water and got into a good rhythm.  Before I knew it, I hit the second buoy.  Sweet only 250m left.  I had started passing people.  I felt good, finally.  I would pop my head up and sight every so often.   The shoreline didn't seem to be getting any closer so I decided to just keep my head down and swim.  I looked up once more and figured I had another 50m or so until I could stand up so pushed a little harder and make sure I kicked hard before I decided to stand up (that's supposed to help direct blood to your legs).

I stood up and ran ashore.  I glanced at my Garmin as I stepped out of the water:  13:37.  Hands down my fastest 750m swim ever.  I ran up into T1, feeling quite disoriented and slightly dizzy.  I had a hard time getting my wetsuit unzipped.  I finally got it down around my waist just as I ran into T1.


This was a gong show.  I was trying to pull my wetsuit off and put my bike helmet on at the same time.  I got my helmet on and continued to yank at my suit.  I couldn't seem to get it off my feet.  There was lots of stepping and pulling before it finally came off.  I tossed it over the rack, grabbed my little towel and quickly wiped my feet off.  On went my socks, then my shoes, sunglasses and race belt.  I grabbed my bike and ran out of T1.  I can't run fast with my cycling cleats on.  I need to work on that.

The Bike:

I had seen a few bikes already racked when I got out of the water so I figured I'd have some work to do.  I hoped that no one would pass me.  My hopes were dashed about 3km into the bike when this woman blew by me like I was standing still.  I looked at her calf and saw 41.  Crap.  About 3km later, I saw her at the side of the road checking something on her bike.  After that I never saw her again so I'm not sure what happened. It was just as well because I had some serious work to do.  I put my head down and just hammered.  My legs felt incredibly flat but I kept pushing.  I caught a couple of ladies in my AG but I had no idea how many were left.  The bike course is fairly flat which given my lack of climbing strength right now was a good thing.   I rode most of the course in my big chain ring and I figured that my legs would probably pay for it a bit at the start of the run.


I rolled up to the dismount line and shuffled my way back into transition.  The run into T2 is downhill and while I'm generally all for letting loose on the downhills, I prefer to do so in running shoes vs.  cycling shoes.   This transition went much smoother than T1.  I think I can shave a few more seconds off it though.

The Run:

This is obviously my strongest leg and where I hoped to catch some of the leaders in my AG.  My legs actually didn't feel too bad once I started running.  I didn't bother easing into it.  I ran like a madwoman out of transition and proceeded to pick people off.  I saw G coming back in and high fived him as we passed.   I checked the calf of every woman I caught.  40-44?  Nope...NEXT!   I was definitely busting a gut out there.  The temperature was absolutely perfect though.  The sun was shining and there was a bit of a breeze so I never felt like I was overheating.  I really like the run course at this race.  It's part gravel trail and part pavement.  The gravel makes going really fast a bit of a challenge if you're not light on your feet.  I grabbed a mouthful of water just before the turn around and continued to reel people in.  I still hadn't seen anyone in my AG yet.  Weird.  Then, about 400m from the finishing line, I caught a woman.  I looked down at her leg and saw a 44.  Sweet!  I surged by her and rounded the bend towards the finish line.  I hoped that was enough to get me on the podium.
Bookin' it.
 I crossed the line almost neck and neck with an older guy who was determined to not let me pass him.  No matter, it made for some good racing.  I crossed the line and made my way over to see G.  Jason Vurma congratulated me on a great race.  I had no idea what my official finishing time was.   It was the first time I raced with my Garmin and I actually stopped it by accident when I was heading into T2 off the bike.  After that I had no idea what I did so I knew that whatever time it showed would be incorrect.

We made our way over to get our Hero Burger (really my favourite part of the race) and post race chocolate milk and then we flopped down in a patch of sun on the grass.  Of course I wanted to stick around see how I did.   We were also waiting for my friend Barbara who was racing the Swim / Bike.  She had finished before both of us and was off socializing with her teammates from the Toronto Triathlon Club.   She ended up winning the under 39 age category. 

We checked the results and they still hadn't updated them yet so I went into transition and packed everything up.  They said they'd be announcing the awards soon so after I packed up I went back to the results posting and they were literally just being updated.   I scanned through the list and found G's name:  1:20:01:01.  He was at the bottom of the page.  I looked at the top of the next page and much to my surprise, I see my name.  My time:  1:20:01:02.  G beat me by 1/100 of a second.  What are the chances of that??  That is probably the ONLY time I will ever be that close to him in a race again.  I scanned across the line to see where I placed in my AG and to my delight I saw 3/21.

YES!  I had made the podium.  When I checked my splits, I knew there was room for lots of improvement.  Especially in the swim and T1.  Hopefully I've managed to get the cobwebs out.

I think as long as MSC holds this race here, I'll continue to do it.  It's such a great venue.  

The medals this year are much nicer than in years past.   I hope to add a few more to my collection over the course of the summer!   

Photo courtesy of My Sports Shooter

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Triathlon 101: The Run

For me, this is where the race really begins.  This is where I am 100% comfortable.  I think that's probably the case for many first time triathletes as so many of them seem to come from a running background.

This is also the least complicated part of the race.  You don't have to worry about drafting, or wearing a helmet etc.  All you need are your running shoes and a covered up torso and you're ready to go.  You also need to make sure your bib number on visible.  The majority of races in Ontario are held in or around conservation areas so the run course is generally a combination of packed gravel or dirt trail (not anything crazy) and pavement so be prepared to run on a couple of different surfaces.  Normal running shoes are totally fine.  Personally I prefer something that is a bit lighter weight than my normal running shoes.  I wear the Mizuno Wave Riders for my longer training runs and then I'll race short distance stuff in my Saucony Kinvaras. 

My Saucony's with my Lock Laces
 One of the best things you can purchase to make your bike to run transition a whole lot smoother are "race laces", also known as Lock Laces.  I have been using these for years in my triathlon racing shoes.  They allow you to pull your shoes on quickly without having to fiddle worry about tying or untying your shoes.  Pure genius.  I'd say that having these laces in your shoes could probably shave at least 30 seconds off your T2 time.

The bike to run transition usually doesn't require much gear change other than removing your helmet and cycling shoes (if you're wearing them) putting your running shoes on and maybe grabbing a hat or a visor.  I usually wear a visor on the run and I will put that on as I'm on my way out of transition.  It doesn't make sense to stand around and put that on when I could be moving. 

Your legs are going to feel like a sack of hammers when you start running, there's no other way of putting it.  They're going to feel heavy and you're probably going to think why the hell can't I run?  That feeling will go away.  You've just gone from using one set of muscles on the bike to another completely different set of muscles on the run so your legs are going to be confused.   I usually start to feel better at about 3-4 minutes into my run.  Some people can run out of transition full tilt and others take a little while to get going.  It all depends on how much you've practiced running off the bike in your training.  Brick training is key to getting used to the feeling.  The more runs you do off the bike, the quicker your legs will adapt to the change.

Just like on the bike, stay as far to the right as possible so people can pass.  If you are going to pass someone, you don't have to say on your left as most of the time, people can hear you coming but it doesn't hurt to do so either.   There are no penalties for drafting on the run so if it's windy and you can duck behind someone to conserve some energy, by all means do so!  Just be sure to thank them when you pass them.  :) 

Some things you might need for the run:

A hat or a visor:  If it's hot, you'll want the protection.  I use a visor mainly to keep my hair in place but on hot days, I find it much more comfortable than wearing a hat and I don't have to fuss with getting a pony tail through a hole, I just plop it on top of my head, pull it down and I'm good to go.

Sunglasses:  Not an absolute necessity but I like to keep the sun out of my eyes as much as possible so I wear them.

Water and electrolyte beverages are always served on the course so you don't need to bring anything with you, especially if you're racing a short distance.

The most important thing you can bring with you on a the run is a smile.  You're on the last leg of a race and you're that much closer to finishing your first triathlon!  All good reasons to smile!

Next up later on this week:  Transitions!  Tips on how to get out of your wetsuit quickly & how to lay everything out so you're not scrambling.   This post will probably be my first v-log so stay tuned for that!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Triathlon 101: The Bike

Once I get out of the swim, the race really begins for me.  I'm much more comfortable on land than in water so when I get onto the bike, it's go time.   Today I'm going to walk you through what you need for the bike leg of the race as well as take you through a couple of important rules to remember while on the bike.

The biggest question that everyone asks is what kind of bike should you ride?  My answer to that would be you can ride any bike you want as long as it's comfortable enough for you to ride for, 10, 20, 30 km.  I've seen a guy do Ironman on a fixie with a banana seat and streamers.  I kid you not.  It is possible but I can't imagine it being comfortable.  Most people have an old 10 speed or mountain bike that they can use or perhaps borrow for their first triathlon.  If you are going to use a mountain bike, I would recommend you take the knobby tires off and replace them with a pair of road slicks.  This will provide you with a smoother ride and less rolling resistance, which means you'll go faster with less effort.  They can range in price from roughly $20 per tire and up depending on the brand and quality of the tire.
The next thing you absolutely MUST have is a helmet.  You will not be allowed out onto the bike course without a helmet.   It doesn't have to be anything fancy, although if it's a hot summer day, you'll probably want one that has some vents in it so your head doesn't get too hot.  It should be ANSI/SNELL approved as well (basically should pass all appropriate safety standards). You'll want to make sure the helmet doesn't slide around on your head and that it fits snugly under your chin when it's done up.  Not so much that it impedes any movement.  You should be able to slip your fingers under the strap comfortably.  Make sure the straps are lying flat as well.  It's easy for them to twist when you're putting it on.  The helmet shouldn't move too much when it's on and done up.


The footwear you wear will be decided by what kind of pedals you have on your bike.  If you're a relatively inexperienced cyclist, I'd recommend using normal pedals.  If you're using normal pedals, then you can wear your running shoes on the bike (one less thing to worry about doing in your bike to run transition!)  If you're fairly comfortable on the bike, you might want to think about putting cages or toe clips on your pedals.  Having cages on the bike will allow you to pull up on the pedals so you can take advantage of being able to complete full pedal stroke vs. just pushing down on the pedals.  This is very helpful if the course has some hills on it.  The bonus here is that you can still wear your running shoes with this type of system.  If you are an experienced cyclist, then chances are you're riding with clipless pedals and shoes that have cleats to fit into said pedals.  That will mean you will have to change your shoes after the bike portion is done.  If you're interested in finding out more about pedal choices, this article is a good place to start.

As I mentioned in my initial post, fitted clothing is generally a better option for the bike.  But again it's all about what you're comfortable in.  I race in a spandex short that is specifically designed for triathlon.  It has a smaller and thinner pad than a traditional cycling short so you don't feel like you're wearing a diaper.   They take a bit of getting used to when you first start riding in them (i.e you'll suffer through a few rides with a sore crotch until you get used to having something wedged between your legs for hours at a time) BUT they are super comfortable once you get used to them.  I wear mine for pretty much everything from cycling, to running, to yoga.  You don't have to go out and buy all sorts of fancy kit right off the bat.  If you have running gear that you want to wear, then wear that.  Trust me, if you get bitten by the bug, it's a slippery slope of money spending.  

Some other things you might want to have for the ride:

Sunglasses:  I can't ride without them.  My eyes water profusely if I don't have them on. 

Water Bottle:  You should have fluids on the bike, especially if it's hot out.

Rules of the Road:

There are several important rules you must follow when you're heading into the bike leg of a triathlon as breaking either of them could result in either a 4 minute penalty or a disqualification.

Rule #1:  Your helmet MUST be on and done up BEFORE you un-rack your bike.  So as soon as I get my wetsuit off, I put my helmet on and do it up, then I go about doing everything else.  Sure I might look a little silly wearing my helmet while I dry my feet off but I don't care.  I figure I'll do the most important thing first that way it's done.  As soon as I'm done the ride and I've racked my bike, then I take my helmet off.  If you are in possession of your bike and it's not on the rack, you must have a helmet on.  Period.

Rule #2:  No riding your bike in transition.  Once you have unracked your bike, you must run (or walk) with it to the bike mount line which is usually just outside transition.  You will have to do the same thing once you finish the ride.  There will be a bike dismount line (usually the same as the mount line) and you'll get off your bike here, watching for other competitors as it can get pretty hairy sometimes.  Then you'll run or walk it back to your spot on the rack. 

Rule #3:  No drafting.  You must keep at least 5 meters between the front of your wheel and the back of the wheel of the person in front of you.  If you are within this zone, you could get a 4 minute penalty.   Of course if you are going to pass the person, you are allowed in the space, however, you must pass them within 15 seconds.

Rule #4:  No Blocking.  This means that you should always stay to the right of the road.  Don't ride in the middle, or towards the centre line unless you are passing someone.  If you are coming up behind someone to pass them, let them know by saying "on your left" as you come up to them.  Since they are supposed to be on the right hand side of the road, you will be passing them on their left so make them aware of your presence. 

Rule #5:  Do NOT cross the centre (yellow) line on the road.  This will result in an automatic disqualification.  If you're trying to pass someone, wait until you have a clearer opportunity to do so!

Rule #6:  Keep your torso covered.   Women, that means you can't wear a sports bra on the bike or run.  Men, that means you can't go shirtless.  There are plenty of options for tops for both men and women, even for days that it's scorching hot.  

Those are the basics for the bike leg of the race.  I could easily devote an entire post to the pros and cons of different types of bikes but I'll save that for another day. 

Tomorrow I'll talk about my absolute favourite part of a triathlon:  the run!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Triathlon 101: The Swim

I had hoped to get this post out on Saturday but alas insanity took over and devoured my weekend.  As I mentioned in my last post I'll be talking about all the legs of a triathlon over the next week, including transitions and race rules.  I'll also be posting my race report from my first triathlon of the season so stay tuned! 

For many people, the swim is the most daunting part of doing a triathlon, unless of course you come from a swimming background.  The thought of getting into a cold, deep, dark lake can make even the most calm, levelheaded person a bit anxious.  Add a few people into the mix and panic can ensue.  I was (and still am to a certain extent) a perfect example of that.  In a pool, I'm totally fine.  It's clear, I can see the bottom and I'm never worried I'm going to see a dead body lying on the bottom (crazy I know).  I'm chalking that completely irrational fear up to a scene from the original Jaws when Richard Dreyfuss is diving around a sunken boat, discovers a large tooth and pulls it out only to come face to face with the dead body of the boat owner.  Screaming ensues of course.  That scene still gets me to this day.  

You're welcome.

Seriously though, it's not surprising that the swim makes most people anxious.  Water is not our natural element.   Add a bunch of people with flailing arms and legs all swimming in the same direction and it can be more than a little scary.  Even after all my years of doing triathlon, I still get a little freaked out from time to time.  The key is to calm myself down right away before my head gets the better of me and takes me down the panic road.  

These are the things that help me get through the swim leg in one piece.

A warm up.  Personally I think this is extremely important.  Especially if it's your first time wearing a wetsuit.   Even if the swim is only 500m, as soon as I get my wetsuit on, I will get in the water, walk around a bit to get used to the temperature (especially if it's cold like it was on Sunday) and then work my way up to putting my face in.  Once I do that and get over the shock, I'll do some breast stroke and then I'll work my way into freestyle.  I'll probably spend about 10-15 minutes in the water swimming, floating, practicing my sighting and just generally getting used to being in the water.  This is also the time to test your goggles and make sure they are properly secured and don't leak.  If they do, at least you have some time to adjust them.   You should also survey the swim course when you arrive so you know where all the buoys are and where you'll need to turn.  The event website will usually have a map of the swim with an explanation of the course.

Seed yourself accordingly.  Much like a running race, you should seed yourself according to your perceived speed.  If you're a faster swimmer and comfortable swimming in a pack then situate yourself towards the front.  If you're not, then situate yourself in the middle to the back.  However, if you're like me and you're a decent swimmer but you don't like being in a pack, then situate yourself at the back.  I usually let my wave go and then I jump in at the back.  Sometimes it works out well and I manage to catch someones feet and draft other times I get caught up in a slower pack and can't get out.   It's really all about your comfort level.  This year I'm going to try situating myself closer to the front but off to the side so I'm still away from the crowds.

What to do if you panic.    The first thing you need to do if you start to panic is to calm your breathing down.  I find that moving away from the pack, rolling over on to my back and sculling lightly helps me immensely.  I usually have to float for a bit and tell myself that I know how to swim, I'm in a wetsuit so I will float, etc etc.  Once my heart rate gets back to normal, I'm usually good to go.  I know I can swim but sometimes I get so freaked out that I'm convinced that I can't so getting through the swim is sometimes more of a mental challenge for me than a physical one.  If you feel like you are in danger or you really don't think you will be able to complete the swim, take your swim cap off and wave it in the air or make your way over to one of the lifeguards that are usually situated in boats or on paddle boards around the perimeter of the swim course. 

There is something else I do when I feel like I'm going to start to panic.  I start counting my strokes;  one, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe and sight.  That helps me get into a rhythm which can sometimes be tricky in an open water swim.  The other thing I do is concentrate on my form.  Am I reaching enough?  Am I rolling enough?   It's a great distraction technique that usually works wonders for me. 

Some other tips that might come in handy:

If you're wearing a heart rate monitor, tuck it under the sleeve of your wetsuit but leave the edge where the start button is, exposed.  Most monitors have the start button on the right so if you wear your watch on your left arm, that button will be the one that sits just outside the sleeve.  That way when you're pulling the wetsuit off, you can pull it right over the heart rate monitor without accidentally hitting any of the buttons.

Body glide isn't just for running.  I use it on the back of my neck so my wetsuit doesn't chafe.  I also put it under my timing chip strap and around the ankles of my wetsuit for easier removal.

Bring an extra swim cap or get yourself a neoprene bonnet.  Early season races generally have chillier water temps so you might want the extra layer.  A second swim cap worn under the one the race provides you, will give you a little more insulation.

Bring an extra set of goggles just in case something breaks on your first pair. I saw that happen to a woman at Sunday's race just before her wave started. 

Put your goggles on under your swim cap.  That way if you accidentally get hit in the face there is less chance that your goggles will be dislodged.  I find this works best for me if I'm wearing two swim caps.  I can't pull goggles on over my hair as they tend to pull on all the clips I put in my hair to told it down.

Find a pair of feet that are slightly faster than you and draft.  You'll expend a lot less energy.  I've done this a few times and it's amazing how much it helps. 

Don't wait until you're actually in transition to start removing your wetsuit.  I usually unzip mine as soon as I get out of the water and pull it down to my waist as I'm running towards transition.  That way half the work is done before you even get into transition.

Your first few open water swims will probably be a little scary.  But if you make an effort to practice and get used to swimming in open water, that fear will start to subside.  I always find the first race of the season a tough one.  I'm sure by the end of the summer, I'll won't think twice about getting the lake and just going for a swim (with my wetsuit on of course!).

Tomorrow:  The Bike!

Friday, May 24, 2013

So You Want to Try a Tri?

I remember watching the Hawaii Ironman years ago and thinking holy cow, this is amazing, I'm not sure I could ever do something like that.  Fast forward about 8 years and lo and behold I found myself toeing the start line of my first Ironman.  I didn't jump right into Ironman though.  I started short(ish) and worked my way up, much like I did with my running.  When I started running my first thought was not "I'm going to do a marathon".  It was "I'm going to do a 5km".  Then it was an 8km, then 10km and well, the rest is history.  Once I tackled the marathon, my goal was to get to Boston.  When I hit that goal in 2003, I thought ok, what next?

Actually, I knew exactly what was next.  I was going to do a triathlon.  I had been dating G for about 6 months when I went to watch him do his first Ironman in 2002.  I got completely caught up in the emotion of the day and vowed that one day I would do an Ironman.  It took me 4 years to wrap my head around it but eventually I did it.  In those 4 years, I did everything from a sprint distance race to a half Ironman.  I actually didn't jump right into triathlon though.  I started my foray into Multisport by doing a few duathlons first because I didn't feel 100% comfortable with my swimming ability.  A duathlon is a three leg race as well but it's only two sports, running and cycling.  The breakdown is run, bike, run.  It may sound easy but truthfully I think they are way harder than triathlons because your legs take a total beating.  At least with a triathlon, you start with the swim which doesn't tax your legs much.

I did a few duathlons and really enjoyed them so I figured I'd stick with this multisport thing for a while.  I found a Masters group to swim with and really concentrated on working on my swim technique.  Eventually I got the courage to sign up for my first triathlon.  I had been training with a bunch of people that were doing Ironman so my rides and my runs were already quite long.  Many of these folks also swam with my Masters group so my swim workouts gradually became longer and longer.  I knew I had the ability and endurance to do a longer race so in the summer of 2004, I opted to do the Muskoka Long Course which was a 2km swim, 55km bike and a 15km run.  It was a bit insane for me to sign up for a race like that as a first one but I didn't know any better and all of my friends were doing it.   The most daunting part for me was the open water swim.  In retrospect, I probably should have signed up for a sprint race (750m swim, 30km bike and 5 - 7.5km run depending).  However, I never really felt like I was in over my head other than in the swim and I think that was just due to anxiety. 

Luckily most race series now offer shorter distance races for folks that just want to try a triathlon to get a feel for it without perhaps having to put in a ton of time training depending on their athletic background.  The two Ontario series, Subaru and Recharge With Milk (also known as Multisport Canada), offer either Try a Tri (Subaru) or Give it a Tri (Recharge).  The distances are usually a 300-400m swim, 10km bike and 2km run.  Easily doable if you have a decent endurance base.  Easily attainable even if you don't.  Like any endurance event, it will require training.  A 300m swim would be 12 laps in a 25m pool.   A 10km bike ride at 20km an hour would take you half an hour and a 2km run maybe 10-15 minutes depending on how your legs feel.  And then there are your transitions:  swim to bike and bike to run.  These count against your race time so the faster you are in transition, the better.  It's essentially free speed if you're quick at them.  I'll address the "art" of the transition in a separate post.

It's easy to get a bit intimidated by all the fancy gear in triathlon.  If you're just going to try the sport out, I don't think there is any need to invest any serious amount of money into it.   My sister did her first triathlon on G's old mountain bike (we put slicks on it instead of the knobby tires), I lent her my wetsuit and a pair of cycling shorts and my bike helmet and she already had a decent pair of running shoes.   Voila, she was good to go. 

In my opinion, these are the essential basics you'll need to do your first triathlon comfortably.

Wetsuit - If you're the slightest bit apprehensive about open water swimming, I would highly recommend looking into renting one.  There are lots of places that rent them nowadays.  They provide buoyancy which comes in handy if you happen to have a panic attack in the middle of a swim (like I've done) and you feel the need to roll over on your back and float for a bit just to calm down.  They also put your body in the most optimal position for swimming so it generally makes swimming a whole lot easier.   The less energy you expend in the swim, the better you'll feel on the bike.

Goggles - Seems like a no brainer but I've seen people try to swim open water without them.  Not easy.   For open water swimming, I recommend something that is tinted.  There's nothing worse than trying to sight a buoy and being blinded by the sun.

Fitted Attire -  If you're going to be putting a wetsuit on, I'd recommend wearing spandex shorts and for women, a fitted tank top underneath.  You're generally not able to change in transition in the shorter distance races.  Well I suppose you can if you don't mind stripping down in public.  I say fitted clothing because once you get on the bike, you're not really going to want to have shorts and a t-shirt flapping around in the wind.  It can be annoying and somewhat uncomfortable, especially since loose shorts tend to ride up your legs.  But, the important thing is to wear what you are comfortable in.  If it flaps in the wind, so be it. 

Bike Helmet - This is mandatory.  You will not be allowed out on the bike course without one.  Beg, borrow or steal one.  Although if you are riding your bike without one, then SHAME ON YOU.

Spare tire & pump or CO2 cartridge and inflator - If you're riding a mountain bike, you won't need the CO2 cartridge / inflator.  But I'd strongly recommend bringing a spare tire & a pump as well as the tools to change a flat.  If you're riding a road bike, chances are you'll need tire levers to get the tire off and you'll need a CO2 cartridge and inflator to fill the new tire back up. You can watch a how to video here.

Good Running Shoes -   Even though you're only running 2, maybe 3km, I think it's important to run in proper running shoes.   Cross trainers and the like will only give you blisters and / or shin splints and that's not fun.

A Smile - Even if it hurts a bit (which I'm sure it will) smiling generally makes you forget you're hurting and there are always photographers out on the race course!
 Over the next week, I'll talk about each leg of the race along with the various rules of the sport so if you're planning on trying a tri anytime soon, stay tuned! 

Do you have any other questions or things you want to see addressed in the next few posts?  If so, ask away!!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Make It A Double

When I did my first Ironman 7 years ago, I remember being completely daunted by the thought that on some days, I was going to have to do 2 workouts a day.  Somewhere along the way, I must have grown accustomed to doing "doubles" because nowadays, I don't even bat an eyelash at the thought.  It's just something I do.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are my usual double days and it now looks like I'll be adding either Wednesday or Sunday in to the mix as well.  Doubles, for me, usually mean a morning workout and an evening workout.  Sometimes that can also mean a back to back workout, although that's not always what I call it.  A good example of a specific double is a "brick" workout (also known as a transition workout in triathlon circles).  Brick workouts are a staple in triathlon training.  A brick workout is usually a bike workout followed by a run workout, although on occasion I've done swim to bike workouts that have also been referred to as "bricks".  These workouts are key in training your muscles to get used to the transition from biking to running (or swimming to biking).  Last night I did my first brick of the year.  I figured I should probably get at least one in before Sunday's race.  I gotta say, I thought my legs were going to feel a whole lot worse than they did but surprisingly I felt amazing which has me totally jacked for Sunday.

Time in the saddle on the computrainer & booked it on the run in my Kinvaras
Chances are, if you're training for a triathlon, you'll have to fit in a double workout or two into your training routine.  And by doubles I mean either working out twice a day or doing a brick workout.  Sometimes I've had to do BOTH of those things.  For example, I'd have a morning weight workout and then my evening workout would be a ride followed by a short run.  That's a double that includes a brick.  Confused yet?  The longer the race distance the more doubles you'll probably have to do and there is a good chance that a lot of them will look like the one I just listed.  At least that's the way it's been in my experience.  Pretty much all of my Ironman training consisted of daily doubles (morning and evening workouts) at least 5 days a week.  No wonder if felt like a part time job!

Doubles can also be beneficial if you're training for a marathon, especially if you're only running 3-4 times a week and you need to get the mileage in.  The first time I trained for Boston, I had several 18-21km runs scheduled during the week!  Sometimes I'd be able to get the entire run done in one go but sometimes I wouldn't.  On days that I didn't think I'd be able to, I'd split the run up.  I'd do as much as possible in the morning and then try to finish it off in the evening.  Somehow a 5km run always seemed a bit more doable after a long day at work than anything double digit. 

The other good thing about doubles is the calorie burn.  When you exercise in the morning, your body obviously maintains a decent burn rate from the exercise and your daily activities.  If you exercise again in the evening, then you'll be getting the benefit of that calorie burn while you sleep.  I don't know about you, but I'd call that a double bonus, wouldn't you?

Do you incorporate doubles into your workout routine?
Have you thought about doing a triathlon?  If you have, stay tuned because over the next week I'll be doing several posts on how to approach each leg of a triathlon.  I'll cover everything from gear to how to lay your things out in transition to how to deal with the swim start.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

It's been a while since I've done a post like this and given that I've gotten a few new goodies over the last little while, I think it's time.   I have to admit, I am bit of a creature of habit because once I find something that works for me, I tend to stick with it.  That being said, I'm also totally game for trying new things, especially if they're freebies.  So on that note, let's start off my list.

1.  Injinji socks.  I remember when I first saw these and I thought that there was no way I could wear them.  I didn't think I'd like the feeling of my toes being covered and separated.  Boy was I ever wrong.  Thanks to Lisa over at Yo Momma Runs, I won a couple of pairs and I have to say I'm a convert.  Seriously.   I've done 2 long runs in them and I've had NO blisters, nothing.  If they manage to keep my toenails from going black, I may actually have to think about changing my blog name.

2.  Zoot Ultra Tri Shorts.   These are my go to shorts for pretty much everything from working out in the gym, to running, to cycling.  They fit me really well, they're super comfortable, they have 2 handy pockets, the waistband doesn't dig and they don't give me sausage legs like other tri shorts do.  Sausage legs are similar to muffin top in case you were wondering and much like muffin top, it's never really a good look.  However, unlike muffin top, it can't really be camouflaged.  

3.  Garmin 910xt.  I had been eyeing this for a while and after reading DC Rainmakers review on it, I was sold.  I figured I'd probably find a deal on it at the Boston Marathon expo and sure enough I did so of course I bought it.  It has been a slow process to figure it out, probably because I don't have the patience to read an entire manual from start to finish.  Even without reading the manual, I've been able to easily navigate through the various settings and modes.   I've used it running and cycling but have yet to take it in the water.  That will happen this weekend when I do my first tri of the season.  I love the fact that it actually fits on my wrist.  My Forerunner 305 is a monster compared to this one and I can't wear it in the water. 

4.  Pro Compression Marathon socks.  Yet another product I probably wouldn't have bought if 1) I hadn't heard so many good things about them 2) if they didn't have a super awesome deal way back in March (40% off and free shipping!) because really, I own way too many pairs of compression socks...however, I don't own a hot pink argyle pair so I felt I had to fill that void.

 5.  Oiselle Roga Shorts.  Yeah I know I'm a bit late to the Oiselle party.  I actually bought these shorts last summer and loved them back then.  I busted them out recently, thanks to the weather finally warming up and that re-kindled my love affair with them.  If I'm not wearing my zoot shorts, I'm wearing these.  They are amazing.  The fabric is nice and light, the underwear doesn't ride up my butt and the waistband is super comfortable.  And they look good.  I'm planning on adding another couple of pairs to my running wardrobe.

What things are YOU loving right now?  Fill me in!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

DIY Energy Balls

Now that I've started incorporating long rides into my training, I've started using Clif Bars again.  I have to eat solid food on the bike.  For some reason, gels aren't enough for me.  As our rides get longer and longer, that means I'll be consuming more and more Clif Bars.  At $26 + tax for a box of 12, I'll go through them pretty quickly given that I will use between 1 and 3 bars depending on the length of the ride.  I figured I could probably make something cheaper with things I already had in my pantry at home.  So I started scouring the internet for recipes.  I found a few that sounded good but I'm never really one to totally follow a recipe so I opted to make a few changes to suit my tastes.  Most of the recipes I found called for Rice Krispies and brown rice syrup and those were the only two things I didn't have in my pantry so it was off to the bulk food store.   While I was there, I discovered organic puffed quinoa cereal so I bought that instead of Rice Krispies.  I figured it was a better choice nutrient wise than the Rice Krispies.  And I love quinoa so I thought why not....!

The main recipe I was following called for 2.5 cups of dry ingredients + 3 tbsp of ground flax and 1/2 a cup of dried fruit.  I ended up adding 2.75 cups of dried ingredients + 2 tbsp of chia + 1 tbsp of ground flax, 1/2 a cup of dried fruit and then 1/8 of cup of vegan chocolate chips.  I should have adjusted the liquid ratio a bit more but I didn't so when I went to pour the liquid over the dried ingredients it didn't quite seem to be enough.  I spread the mixture out into a greased pan but there were a lot of bits and pieces that weren't totally covered with the liquid mixture so they didn't quite set.


Then I thought I'd be cutting them up into small pieces anyway so I pulled a small handful out and rolled it up.  The chocolate chips had melted somewhat so the mixture was quite messy.  But I think that helped bind the mixture together when I rolled it up.  Rolling the mixture into balls seemed to make a big difference.  They stayed together and I could make them as big or as small as I wanted to.  I am totally crediting Lindsay Cotter and her Healthy Bites for the inspiration (I bought her e-book and these things are AMAZING).  The flavour combo is something I've been thinking about for ages and it turns out that Christina at The Athletarian has exactly the same taste.  When she visited the Clif Bar headquarters a few weeks ago, she got to make her own bar and chose exactly the same flavour combo.  Great minds think alike.

What is this flavour combo you ask?  Chocolate, Cherry and Coconut.  I'm calling it the Triple C.  Yeah, it's nothing short of amazeballs.  So without further ado, here is the result of yesterday's happy accident.

Triple C Energy Balls

1.5 cups of puffed quinoa
3/4 cups of quick cook oats
2 tbsp of chia seeds
1 tbsp of ground flax
1/2 cup of large flake unsweetened coconut (I think smaller flake would work better but this is what I had on hand)
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/8 cup of chocolate chips (I used vegan ones as that's what I had on hand)
1/3 cup of brown rice syrup
1/3 cup of nut butter (smooth is better - I used peanut butter but I think I'll use almond butter next time)
1 tbsp of honey
1 tsp of vanilla

Mix all the dried ingredients together, including fruit and chocolate chips.  Put the brown rice syrup, honey and vanilla in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Add the nut butter and stir until combined.  Be careful not to let it burn. 

Pour mixture over dried ingredients and mix well.   Let it cool slightly before rolling into balls.  Makes roughly 30-34 balls depending on the size.

These haven't been road tested yet, but I will rectify that tomorrow as we're headed out for another long ride (yay for long weekends!!).

What do you think about this flavour combo?  
Is there another combo you'd like to see?  I've got an idea for another one that I may try making tomorrow if I have time. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Impromptu Easy Week

I knew this past week was going to be busy.  I had a lot going on at work as well as socially but I was determined to keep on track with my training.  I had planned and organized everything, including my meals.  I started the week off on a good note with a post work ride.  It was short but it was intense.  After that though, things started to fall apart.   Work was super busy and I honestly didn't feel the motivation to actually get out and DO anything.

When that happens, I know it's time for a break.  When I mentally check out, that's the first signal that perhaps I've been doing a bit too much.  So, instead of Thursday night run group, I went out with the old "Tri-girls" gang and stayed out way past my bedtime.  I figured there was no way I was getting my swim in but I didn't really care.  I had a blast on Thursday.  Sometimes a little break in the routine is just what you need.  I slept in on Friday morning and had a nice leisurely paced morning.  No rushing to the pool.  I thought if I had a chance on Friday I'd nip out at lunch for a run, but that didn't happen.  I didn't sweat it.  I knew that this weekend, I'd get back on track.

Sure enough G and I dragged out buts out the door despite the cold grey weather and met our friend Pat out at King & Keele to go for a ride.  I haven't ridden out there in years.  Probably since the last time I did Ironman, which would be 2008.  I can't believe how much it has changed.  Nicely paved roads and a bike lane along Keele which was awesome.  I was ill prepared clothing wise but I sucked it up and rode anyway.  I figured that once we hit the hills along Weston Road I'd warm up.
Cycling capris, & pink argyle compression socks.  Add to that some neoprene booties and voila..instant style.  Had the fashion people seen me I would have been arrested for sure.
 Sure enough by the time I hit the "warm up hills" on Weston Road I had worked up a pretty good sweat.  I still had to climb Strawberry Hill - a three tiered climb that doesn't really look like much when you get up to it but it somehow manages to kick you in the ass every. single. time.  I was gasping for air by the time I got to the top.   I looked back to see if the guys were coming and I didn't see them.  I thought for sure they'd be right behind me.  I sat there for a little while longer.   And then a little while longer.  I crossed to road and contemplated riding back down to see if they were ok.  I instagrammed stuff and contemplated some more.  I really didn't want to have to ride back up that hill.   I could see a couple of guys coming up the hill but they didn't look familiar.  The first guy sees me and as he is gasping for air he says "oh you're the girl with the pink socks...the guys had a flat".  Ah.  That's what I had figured.  So I sat and waited.  Shortly thereafter G comes huffing and puffing up the hill and we start riding towards the descent.

And this is where I just about crapped my pants.

Keep in mind I have crappy gloves on, improper sunglasses (aviators because I was too disorganized to go upstairs and find my proper cycling glasses) and I had been sitting still for a good 15 - 20 minutes.  This descent is pretty much straight down a very steep hill.  My eyes immediately start watering and I start shivering.  All while trying to maintain control of my bike in the wind.  I pumped the brakes as I went down but my heart was in my throat.  Mainly because I couldn't see a damn thing.  Normally I'd get into a tuck and give 'er but not down this hill.  

My legs were jello from squeezing the living daylights out of my top tube.  Just as my heart rate settled down, it was time to climb again.  So I start grinding up this hill and then I realize that G isn't there anymore.  I turn around as I get to the top and he had slowed down and was looking for Pat, who was nowhere to be found.  So we rode easy for a while and then G said he was going back to find him.  That meant climbing UP that horrible descent.


To say that I almost barfed up a lung on that climb would not be an understatement.  But I had to remind myself that like in running, hills are speed work in disguise.   We found Pat, who had gotten another flat, halfway up Strawberry Hill.  With the flat fixed we opted to start heading back to the car as Pat didn't have any spare tubes left.  The ride back was much nicer.  We managed 50km in 2 hours.  Not terribly speedy but that wasn't really the point.

Sunday I actually skipped my morning swim and decided to head out for a long run.  My first long run since Boston and my first in 10 days.  TEN DAYS!! That NEVER happens!! See, I told you I needed a break!  My plan was to run 15km.  It was super windy which made it a little tougher that I would have liked but it really felt good to be back out.  My left glute was still fairly bothersome but I think the massage I had today has helped sort that out.  We'll see how I feel when I head out on Thursday.  I'm going to give myself a couple of days to recover before I start pounding the pavement again as this was a pretty deep and really somewhat painful massage.   I want my legs to be as close to normal as possible (whatever that may be) before I start to beat them up again.  So here's to a few more easy days before the insanity starts all over again.

Do work easy weeks into your training?  

Do you have certain tell tale signs that you're on the verge of overtraining?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

When Worlds Collide

There's no denying that the advent of social media has made this small world even smaller and introduced the world to a whole new way of interacting.  Through things like Facebook, Instagram and twitter, you can commiserate, congratulate and celebrate with like minded folks all over the world - people that share whatever your passion may be.  If you get to meet them IRL (in real life) then that is an added bonus. 

I was lucky enough to meet a whole bunch of these people last night.  Yeah, it was EPIC (to quote Krysten aka Darwinian Fail).

The oh so amazing Pavement Runner (Brian) was in town to run the Toronto Marathon so Krysten organized a Fit Fluential Carb-Load meet up at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  I am not a Fit Fluential ambassador but I plan on rectifying that at the next available opportunity.  The crew that showed up last night was simply awesome.  I didn't get to chat with everyone but there were a lot of folks that I recognized simply from their blogs or pics that they post on twitter or Instagram.  I recognized Kierston (CandyFit) and Morgan (Life After Bagels) right away.  As well as Brian of course.  Then there were some new folks that I had the pleasure of meeting like Janice - aka FitCheerleader.

I am quite shy when I meet new people for the first time but I have to say, I felt 100% comfortable with everyone the minute I walked in.  Krysten and Brian both came over and chatted with me - I'm going to honest, I was a little bit start struck, ha ha.  They are both absolutely lovely folks.  Krysten had put together goodie bags for everyone filled with Clif Bar products.  SWEET!  I sat myself down at the head of the table since I was a bit late. I fell into easy conversation with Axel (Iron Rogue) and Janice.  Once we started talking about running / racing, it was hard to get us to stop.  A little later on we were joined by Derek, his wife Tammy and their friend Lea, all of whom came in from Waterloo to run the full.  They were SO much fun!  Then the lovely Christina (The Athletarian) showed up.  If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have any pictures, ha ha.  Yeah, I even brought a camera but I was so busy talking I didn't use it! Luckily she said I could steal away so I did (thanks chicka!)

L-R top to bottom:  Krysten & Christina, Moi & Christina, Brian & Danielle, Christina, Jess & Kierston.  See list below for blogs - thank to Christina for the use of the pic!
If you haven't already, you need to go and check out all these folks.  Seriously amazing and inspiring people.  I know there are a couple of folks I missed so I apologize!!

Krysten:  The Misadventures of a Darwinian Fail
Christina:  The Athletarian
Brian:  Pavement Runner
Danielle: Work it Wear it Eat it
Jess: Truly Jess
Kierston:  Candy Fit
Morgan:  Life After Bagels
Janice:  The Fitness Cheerleader
Lisa:  Tea and Giggles
Robyn:  Robyn Baldwin
Axel:  Iron Rogue

Towards the end of the night a girl I thought I recognized came over to introduce herself.  Sure enough it was Alyssa Wodabeck.  We follow each other on twitter and instagram and I always thought her name was familiar.  She's a photographer so I thought that's why I knew her name, just from working in the biz.  I was kind of right.  She actually interned with Nikki Ormerod, one of the photographers I produce for!  Just goes to show you how horrible my memory is!!  Talk about my worlds colliding!  Never did I think I'd run into someone from my "work" life out in my "hobby" life but I guess it was bound to happen at some point.  Further proof that social media is totally shrinking the world we live in!

Even though I didn't race this weekend,  I still got into the race spirit.  I spent Saturday morning helping out at the Running Free booth at the Toronto Marathon Expo and had a total blast doing that.  Saturday morning was my first IRL meet up of a twitter / facebook pal.  I finally met Dave Emilio (Beaches Runner) .  We've raced all the same races this year and I had yet to meet him until he came by and introduced himself. Such a nice guy.  I met some new Team Running Free teammates and Esther, the race director for the Hamilton Marathon as well.  She wants me to come and run it so that might be something I consider.  It's two weeks after Scotia so I suppose if I don't make my sub 1:30 goal there, I can give it another shot in Hamilton.  Apparently it's a super fast course.

This morning after our swim, G and I hopped on our bikes and rode out to the finish line of the Mississauga Marathon.  A friend of mine that I coached was racing as was my friend Paul who was also at the Fit Fluential meet up last night.  It was fun to cheer folks on as they were heading towards the finish line.  I really wanted to be running but I think I made the right choice by taking it easy.  Instead, I got some extra time in the saddle which is never a bad thing, especially since Woodstock is 3 weeks away.

Did you race this weekend?  Have you met any bloggers / online friends in real life?

Friday, May 3, 2013

To Race or not To Race, That is the Question

Those of you that have been reading this blog for the last couple of years, know very well that I have a bit a problem.  I am addicted to racing.  There.  I said it.

The first step to dealing with the problem is to acknowledge it.  Right?

Sometimes I get so focused on the love of competition that I let it cloud my judgement in regards to other the condition of my legs.   Which, in case you were wondering, is probably not really where it should be if I want to race a half well.

I was all excited to run a half 3 weeks after Boston.  That was the plan.  I figured I executed a similar plan perfectly last year, why couldn't I do it again?  I took it much easier this year post race.  I gave myself ample time to recover and I didn't do any hard workouts until this week.  Pace wise things were ok.  But my legs still don't feel 100%.  There is still some residual tightness and nerve issues in my left leg.  I had a good A.R.T session on Wednesday and he said I seemed a whole lot better.  And I am but I still don't feel 100%.   Maybe 95%.  I'm afraid that if I go and race a half, that will just set me back.  I'll need a week to recover and who knows what it will do to the nerve in my leg.  As G said the race this weekend really serves no purpose.  It's not an A race.  It's just a race. 

Of course I struggled with this decision.  I even said I'd leave it to the last minute to register.  But, I need to listen to my body.  I don't want to jeopardize my triathlon season by over doing it too early.  I don't really have anything to gain from doing this race other than a potential age group placing and some points towards my Team Running Free passport.  But I'll be getting lots of those by helping out at the Toronto Marathon Expo. 

So instead of toeing the line on a gorgeous sunny Sunday morning, I will be at the pool sucking in chlorine and then I'll head out for a run and hopefully, if I have the energy, I'll get myself to hot yoga and start working on my flexibility.  Because right now, this is pretty much what things are like for me. 

If I want to continue to run and race at my current level, I really need to take care of myself.    The positive side to this?  The money I saved on a last minute race entry fee will cover at least 8 yoga classes!  Now that's the kind of up side that I like.

Are you racing this weekend?