Monday, October 27, 2014

WTP Invades Niagara Falls & A Weekly Recap!

Wow.  Just.  Wow.  What a weekend.  I don't know if I could have jammed anything else into it if I tried.  After a long-ish morning bike ride on Saturday morning, G and I headed out to Niagara Falls with our run club for the Niagara Falls International Marathon festivities.  There were over 30 of us that went with about 20 of us running in either the 5, 10, half or full.   Our goal was to make sure we were there by 4:00 pm at the latest so we could participate in the #PhatAssChallenge.  That, my friends, will be a post on it's own.  I will say one thing:  Take the Amazing Race and add costumes.  Kind of.

But like I said, it deserves it's own post.  Complete with pictures of course.

Time to get on with the festivities of the week.  I'm having good days and bad days when it comes to my knees.  I haven't stopped running completely, right now it's only once, maybe twice a week and it's short.   I'm ok with that.  I don't want to push things.  It's still early days in the rehab process so I know that some days will be better than others and I can't let the "bad" ones get to me.  This week was probably about 50/50 and was saved from being even worse by my PT and the application of "Miracle Tape" on Thursday, which I kept on my knees until last night. 
My short tan is finally gone. 
Monday:  2550m swim.
Tuesday:  4km run on the treadmill, 70 minutes strength & mobility in the a.m., 24km on the computrainer in the p.m.
Wednesday:  2500m swim.  I actually felt really good today!
Thursday:  90 minutes strength & mobility.  Physio in p.m.
Friday:  Slept in
Saturday:  58km bike ride.  I could have ridden all day, it was awesome out.  It was probably one of the last rides we'll get to do outside in all the fall colours.  And it might have been the last ride I get to do with my friend Heather before she moves to B.C.  *Sad face* I shouldn't be allowed to take group selfies as I clearly don't know how to get everyone in the frame.  #SelfieFail

Sunday:  Niagara 5km.

Total: 7h 56 minutes. Pretty darn good.

I did spend a large part of the morning yesterday jumping up and down at the finish line of the Niagara Half.  It was so much fun cheering on the folks from my run group. There were a few PR's in the group, but the one that made me the happiest was my friend Bob, whom I've coached for the last 3 months.  He's been trying to break 1:44 and yesterday he came in at 1:42:27 and he finished strong.  He ran a smart race, paced himself well and had enough in his legs to pick it up the last 5km.  That was the highlight of my weekend for sure.  I saw him with about 500m to go, knew that he was going to do it and just about lost my mind.  

I also met up with two Facebook / Instagram pals in real life (Hi Shelley & Nicole!), which was a pleasure to say the least.  Speaking of Social Media, I had the funniest thing happen yesterday while we were spectating.  G and I were standing about 500m from the finish line cheering people on when this guy ran by, looked at me, pointed and said "Instagram!"  I just about died.  G couldn't stop laughing.  Oh the magic of the Interwebz once again.  Ian, if you're reading this, it was a pleasure to "meet" you and congrats on a fantastic race. 

Everybody had a blast this weekend and we're already thinking about 2015 and how we can make it bigger and better.

Anyone else race this weekend?  


Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Five: Reasons To Run a 5km

TGIF Gang!!! 

Once again I'm linking up with the Friday Five ladies, Courtney, Cynthia & Mar.  This week's theme is Five Reasons to Race.  It could be racing in general, or racing a specific distance or event.  I was going to post about 5 reasons to race but then figured since I'm racing a 5km this weekend, I'd chat about that.  One reason per kilometer.  Clever, right?

Should I be racing?  Well, that's probably another post altogether.  I haven't been told NOT to run, I've chosen NOT to run.  I just know that when I run, my left knee hurts when I start, then it feels fine.  The problem comes after.  My knees hurt when I go up and down stairs and sometimes when I walk.  My PT has said it's patella femoral syndrome.  So, I'm judging myself accordingly and only running when I feel ok.  And even then, I'm not running for very long.  I've been given a whole lot of "homework" (i.e physio exercises) to do which I will get into in a future post if that interests anyone.

Anyway.  On to the fun part!

1 Less chance of injury.

If anyone should know this, it's me.  This is one of the reasons I decided to focus on short distance racing next year.  Less mileage = less wear and tear on your body.  Fact.   Hopefully that will mean I won't burn through all my extended healthcare coverage by the end of the summer.

2.   Hello Free Time!

Imagine a weekend that you didn't have to go out and do some kind of long run.  What would you do with your free time?  You could sleep in and start your run later.  Or, you could get up at your normal time but be done training to grab brunch with your friends.  The bonus part, you'd still have the energy to do something else if you wanted to. 

3. More Bang for Your Buck

So many people think that training for a marathon is going to help them lose weight and become disappointed when their body doesn't change the way they had hoped.  I'll let you in on a little secret.  If you want to slim down or maintain your weight, short distance interval training is where it's at.  Short bursts of high intensity work are going to give you way more bang for your buck in terms of time on your feet.  I experienced this first hand when I started doing regular track work.  It was pretty incredible.

4.  Pain Free Shower

Those of you that have run a marathon know what it's like to pull of your shoes and socks or get in the shower after a race.  Both are done with a bit of fear and trepidation.  No matter how much body glide you apply, there's always one little spot you somehow missed, that you find when you get in the shower.  With a 5km you're not out long enough to do any kind of damage to any body part.

5.  The Quickie Factor

The shorter the distance the faster it's over and while it may really hurt, the hurt will be over before you know it.  You'll be showered and refueled before your long distance counterparts are even at the half way mark, which leaves you plenty of time to get that post race latte and make your way to the finish line.

What's your favourite distance to run?

Make sure you check out the link up.  There are some great themes today!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Setting New Goals

Normally this time of year, I'm in full on planning / race registering mode for next season.  But, given my current state of affairs in regards to my knees, none of that is actually happening and it's really beginning to wear on me.  I'm tired of hurting.  I'm tired of not being able to do what I love to do.  It's been a real struggle for me mentally.   To go from performing at a high level to barely being able to run 4km without hurting really really sucks.  It's very upsetting.  I was moaning away about it all last night, once again on the verge of tears.   I know I'm driving G a bit crazy because he just turned to me and said "You need to change your mindset".   I love him to bits but when it comes to this sort of thing, sympathy isn't one of his strong points.   This is where he and I differ.  He's a factual, just get on with it kinda guy and I'm an emotional, wallow in my self pity for a bit kind of gal.  Eventually I will kick myself in the ass and get out of this funk but right now I think it's probably a bit necessary. 

Another thing he said to me last night was that I needed to set new goals.  I thought about that a lot this morning in the pool.  He's right.  I can't think about races I want to run next year or times I want to beat.  To be honest, those things are not even remotely on my radar.  I just want to be able to run and move PAIN FREE.  Plain and simple.  That doesn't seem like a lot to ask, right?  I can't even do my regular strength training workout because of my left knee.  So no only am I not able to run, I'm not able to really push myself in the gym which is what I generally do in my off season.  It's killing me.  When I think about the mountain of things that are functionally wrong with me and how long it may take to fix them, I feel so overwhelmed it's discouraging.  I'm not the most patient person so being faced with a potentially long rehab process sucks. 

As usual, G really hit the nail on the head.  I need to set new goal and, like any goal, I have to put in the work and the work has to be done regularly.  I guess it's just like training for a marathon really.  You don't just go out and run 26.2 miles.  You have to put in the work and train for it.  You can't rush it and you can't think about all the things you're up against.  It may not be as exciting as chasing a finish line but unfortunately it's my new reality. 

 I do know that things could be much worse and I'm grateful that they're not.  It's not like I'm not able to do anything.  I can still swim.  Kicking bothers me sometimes so I have to wear a patella strap on my left knee.  I can still ride my bike, for the most part.  I am on my road bike these days so I can take the load off my quads.  There are days where maybe I've done too much so even riding isn't comfortable.  Those are days where I either take it easy or not do anything at all.  I can do pilates.  I still go to the gym, I'm just not doing leg heavy work.  I'm focusing more on balance & core work as well as doing my phsyio exercises. 

I have to look at this as a rebuilding phase.  Yes, I'm losing speed and endurance.  But all those things come back eventually.  I can't worry about any of that now.  None of those things really matter if I'm not running efficiently and pain free.  I have to concentrate on building a better, stronger, healthier me.  In a way that's kind of exciting.  If I can get my body to do all the things that it wasn't doing before, I can only imagine what it will be capable of when it's firing on all cylinders.

Look out may take me a while, but I'm going to be back with a vengeance.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Work In Progress, A Race & A Recap

So remember when I said I was done racing for the season?  Yeah....about that.  Well, this weekend my awesome run group is headed to Niagara Falls to run in either the half marathon or full marathon events.  Since I'm not really up to either of those distances at my current fitness level, I signed up for the 5km.   I figure I can tough that out.  I'll tape my knee up and give 'er. 

I know, I know.  I have a problem.  But it could be worse right?

Speaking of knees, I've been on one heck of a roller coaster ride these days.  I feel fine for a while and then I do something stupid, like 2 back to back hilly rides, followed by a run and then they bug me again.  I have an appointment to see Dr. Schofield at Pivot but I was so incredibly frustrated this past week (like to the point of tears frustration) that I decided to make an appointment with a physiotherapist.  So, back to Pivot I went to see Mary Ellen.  After much poking, prodding and testing, she determined that my left knee is fixable (YAY!) and that my deep core doesn't seem to work, along with my glutes.  Actually my glutes work but only on one side.  My hip flexors also like to take on a fair bit of work so I have to learn to shut them off.  She's given me 3 exercises to do every day.  One of them is so subtle it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything.  She also told me to continue with Pilates.   I have a feeling this is going to be a slow going process.  But I shouldn't be surprised really.  I'm sure it took me a long time to get this way so I suspect it will take me a long time to fix it. 

Despite the roller coaster ride this week, I still managed a pretty good week of activity. 

Monday:  55km ride (burned off my turkey and pumpkin pie)
Tuesday:  80 minutes strength & mobility, followed by a 5.66km run that sucked horribly.
Wednesday: 2650m swim in a.m., pilates in p.m.
Thursday:  75 minutes of strength & mobility in a.m, followed by 30 minutes on the computrainer in p.m.
Friday:  2100m swim - all stroke work.  FUN!
Saturday:  OFF - but spent a couple of hours walking around the Annual Fall Bike sale.  Finally got myself some decent warm cycling gloves as well as a nice warm jacket.
Sunday:  20km bike ride along the Scotiabank race course to cheer people on + 25 minutes of core & physio work.

Total:  9h 50 minutes

I had a blast cheering people on yesterday.  I knew so many people racing.  It was a little bitter sweet for me to not be doing the race this year.  It's usually my fall "A" race and this was the first time in 3 years that I didn't race it.  But my vocal chords and arms got a good workout yesterday - I had 3 cowbells and wasn't afraid to use them.  I love seeing the smile on people's faces when they hear their name called out.   My run club worked the Power Gel aid station so I hung out there for a bit and then walked over to the other side of the loop to cheer people on.   It was a perfect day for racing, nice and cool.  There was a headwind on the way back in though but there almost always is on this course.  Several of my friends had PR's which is fabulous.  Christina, being one of them.  I got a few shots of her flying by me.  One of my athletes, Kristen, also had a 4 minute PR even after suffering some knee issues in training.  My friend Heather also had a massive PR yesterday.  She took almost 10 minutes off her time from last year!!  I am SO happy for these guys.  Hard work definitely pays off. 

The lead ladies in a pace line.
Canadian speedster Lanni Marchant hanging with the boys.

Christina a.k.a The Athletarian on her way to a PR

How was your weekend?  Did you race?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Five: Fitness Tunes

It's been a long while since I posted about music on here.  Probably because I haven't been running so I haven't added much to my playlist.  However,  I managed to get out last week so in anticipation of that glorious excursion, I did add a few new songs to my playlist.   I do have a few songs that will ALWAYS remain on my playlist simply because they help me push through tough moments during a run or just because they have a beat that I really enjoy running or working out to. Those of you that followed my Playlist Thursday posts know that I have somewhat eclectic taste in music.  The list below is no exception.

So, what brought this music talk on?  I'm linking up with Cynthia, Mar & Courtney for their Friday Five link up.   This weeks theme?  Fitness Tunes!  I love any opportunity to talk music.  It's one of my favourite things (other than running, triathlon and beer).  I listen to it in the car and all day at work.   These are my top 5 faves on my current playlist.

1.  Lord Huron:  Time to Run.  I just recently discovered this band and I can't get enough of them.   There isn't one bad song on their debut album. 

2.  The Arkells:  Come to Light.   I'm totally loving this song by this Hamilton based band.  Yet another example of kick ass Canadian music.

3.  Rush:  Driven.   This song will probably never leave my playlist.  Something about the driving bass line really gets me moving.   I have a LOT of Rush on my playlist because, well, they just plain ROCK.

4. Reel 2 Reel:  I Like to Move It.   Tell me where else would you see Rush and Reel 2 Reel on the same playlist???  I make no apologies for this one, what can I say, I freaking love running to this song.  It's got the right beat and it totally pumps me up.  I have no idea what this dude is saying but I'm down with it. 

5.  Franz Ferdinand:  Right Action.  These guys are also peppered throughout my playlist.  Another band that I absolutely love.  I can pretty much guarantee that any time their tunes come on, there's a little bit of hand dancing that happens while I'm running.  I'm sure I look stupid but whateves.  I'm enjoying myself and that's all that matters.

What songs really get you moving?   Head on over to the link up hosts to check out other Friday Five playlists! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Getting my Gobble On & A Weekly Re-cap

I finally feel like everything is starting to get back to normal.  I'm slowly building my training volume back up, working on my mobility and I'm starting to feel strong again .  The best part?  I reintroduced running back into my life.  As much as I want to go nuts and run #allthemiles, I know better.  I'll gradually go back to running 3 times a week but for now they'll only be short runs.  I'm ok with that.  Some running is better than NO running, right?

I diced things up a bit this week with my first pilates session and some hot yoga.  One thing I've learned...Moksha Flow and my knee don't get along.  So, if I'm going to do any more yoga, it's going to be at a much slower pace, until my knee issues get completely sorted out. 

We've had some fabulous fall weather this past weekend so of course we opted to get out on our bikes, twice.  Gotta earn and burn that turkey and pumpkin pie!  Speaking of which, we had a huge family gathering at my parents place yesterday.  16 people and so. much.  food.   My cousin, her hubby and her son came as well.  It was so nice to hang out with her and catch up.

One of the two tables, set and partially loaded up...
My mom & my cousin
The real reason I rode twice this weekend.  Once for each piece of dessert.

Thankfully neither of these made it into a doggie bag for us to take home.  Not for lack of trying though.  Holy smokes.   I did end up with some leftover ham which will make for some tasty lunch tomorrow.  Anyway, enough about the food, here's what I got up to this past week.

Monday:  OFF - neck was still sore.

Tuesday:  90 minutes strength and mobility

Wednesday:  750m swim (neck was still really sore) 55 minutes of pilates in p.m.

Thursday:   Slept in and skipped the gym in a.m.  60 minutes of yoga in the p.m.

Friday:  2100m swim + 6.3km run

Saturday:  55km ride

Sunday:  3050m swim + 30 minutes core & mobility work

Total time:  8h 56 minutes

I definitely think I earned my turkey and pumpkin pie!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

An Attitudue of Gratitude

Thanksgiving has got to be one of my favourite times of the year.   It's a relatively chilled out holiday in comparison to Christmas.  You still get all the food and family time, you just don't get the presents and all the insane running around to get said presents.  I'm ok with that.  I actually think that lack of distraction really makes me appreciate all that I have to be grateful for. After these last few weeks of feeling not quite like myself, things finally seem to be turning the corner.  These last couple of days have made me realize just how important physical activity is in my life, not only for my body but for my mind.  

I laced up my shoes on Friday and went out for my first run in 19 days.  I swear I smiled the entire time.  During that run, and yesterday's ride I kept thinking about how awesome it was to be outside and moving.  As usual, my mind started to wander and I thought about all the wonderful little things that I'm grateful for:   

Running.  Family.  The wind in my hair.  Hard earned sweat.  Fall Colours.  Sunshine.  Fresh pavement.  2 Wheels.  Friends, both near and far. 

 My health.  Potential.  Legs that allow me to climb this, even after some time off:

Sure it wasn't pretty but there's nothing quite like the feel of burning lungs & screaming legs to remind you of what it feels like to work hard. 

There's always something to be grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.  You just have to maintain an attitude of gratitude. 

What are you thankful for?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recruit the Glutes, Part Three: PILATES!

As part of learning to Recruit My Glutes, in addition to my mobility exercises, I figured it would be a good idea for me to try some pilates.  So this past Wednesday, I went to my first one on one pilates session with my lovely friend Elyse.  She reads my ramblings so she had a good idea as to what my issues were.  She asked me to re-cap all my issues (crossover arm swing, trendelenberg gait a.ka. hip drop, foot crossover) and then she asked me what gets tired when I run.  I immediately answered my "shoulders, traps, then my legs".  Legs are somewhat understandable.  But the fact that my shoulders and traps get tired, means that they're doing work that they shouldn't be doing.  So it would seem that not only are my glutes and issue but so are my shoulder / back muscles.  I'm beginning to think my entire back side is the issue, not just my glutes.

I've never done pilates before but I've been on a reformer once during a physio session.  My lack of knowledge didn't matter as Elyse explained the machine and it's various pieces.  Before she got me on to the reformer, she chatted with me about what my main complaints were.  She then did a little assessment with me (totally proving the fact that my right leg is SO much weaker than my left) followed by some mat work.  To start, she had me do some shoulder and core mobility work on a foam roller of all things!  It was challenging.  I'm so used to moving on auto pilot that I really had to think about what I was doing.  She then had me get on this squishy balance disc, which I totally want.  I did some glute bridges and we talked about where I was feeling things.  For the first few, my hamstrings definitely wanted to do the work but then all of sudden, I started to feel it in my glutes.   YAY!

After I was sufficiently warmed up she had me get on the reformer.  I was kneeling on the slide board with my hands in the pulleys and all I did was pull back with both arms.  Holy smokes was that ever hard.  I really had to work to try to engage my shoulder muscles.  Once again it took me a while to get things firing.  I think my mid back is pretty lazy.    She had me change my hand position and do it again.  I could definitely feel it.  I think I need to get some more pulley work in my life.  Good thing we just added this to our "Pain Cave" in the basement.   Lots of pulley action on this baby!

Next we moved on to working core and glutes.  She had me try a variety of foot positions while pushing up on the glide board.  Some were more challenging than others.  What I noticed the most was the tightness of my ankles.  Which, I'm sure is also a contributing factor to much of my problems.   There were some foot positions where I could feel my glutes engage but my quads definitely wanted to do the work.  I really had to think about NOT using them.  When I was lying on the glide board and doing the work, it didn't seem too hard but once I stood up, I could feel all the muscles I had just used.  It was crazy. 

The core work involved pulleys.  Thankfully I was lying down because if I had to do any of that stuff standing up, I would have wiped out.  Graceful is not a word I'd use to describe myself, ha ha.  I did a series of leg extensions then she had me do circles with my legs.  Clockwise and counter clockwise.  Holy smokes those were hard.  But I actually felt all the smaller muscles working. 

After the session I felt great.  My neck pain had actually subsided and my range of motion increased!  My shoulders and chest felt much more open.  I definitely felt like I worked my hips and glutes and I figured I'd be sore but Elyse said I probably wouldn't be.  She said I'd more than likely feel more "supported" which is exactly how I'd describe it.  I walked around yesterday entirely pain free.  My legs felt strong and I felt like my stride was different.  Like all my muscles were working as I walked.  I can't wait to go back next Wednesday for another session.

I feel so good, I may actually lace up my shoes and go for a short run this weekend.  We shall see. 

Have you ever tried pilates?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

If It's Not One Thing

It's another.

I think the universe is trying, in a not so subtle way, to tell me that perhaps I need to re-think this whole "being active" thing.    In yesterday's post, I mentioned doing something to my neck.   I went to see Peter at Pivot yesterday afternoon and it turns out I've strained a ligament.  Yes, I strained a freaking ligament in my neck by combing my hair in the shower.  WTF.   Of course my Saturday bike ride was NOT a good idea as it aggravated it even more.  So, now I've been told NOT to ride my bike.  I basically can't do anything that will strain my neck.  No sit ups, no overhead anything at the gym.  

Peter did some ART work on my shoulders and neck and did a small adjustment on my mid back.  I was sore afterwards so I went home, sat with the heating pad on my shoulders, then had a hot bath, took two Robaxacet and went to bed.  I felt a lot better when I got up so I went to the gym and did my mobility work, legs and biceps.  Now I'm sitting at my desk with the heating pad on my neck.  There is a good chance I may fall asleep.  He did tell me I needed to keep moving and that sitting at a desk all day was not the best thing for me.  Guess that means I'll be wandering around the studio for a large part of the day. 

One step forward two steps back.

At least he said I could try swimming.  Obviously if it hurts, I will stop.  He did say that I won't be out for too long with this so at least that's a positive.  I'm crossing my fingers I'll be good to go this weekend.  I'm going to need to be able to ride off my turkey and pumpkin pie! 

Have you ever had a "stupid" injury?   What did you do?   This is almost as bad as the last time I did something to my neck....that time I was sitting on the toilet reaching for the toilet paper.   Fun times.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not That I'm Counting or Anything....

But it's been just over two weeks since I've run.  Do I miss it?  Kind of.  But I have to admit, I'm enjoying the free time.  In all honestly, I'm feeling a little bit of fear in regards to running.  Could I go out and run right now?  Absolutely, my legs feel like a million bucks.  Would it be pain free?  I don't know.  I'd like to think so but I'm not 100% sure.  If it's not, I know I'll be really upset.  Not to mention frustrated and worried.  That's what's keeping me from stepping out.  Oh and the fact that I promised myself I'd take more than a couple of weeks off.  I don't like to break promises, even if they are ones I've made to myself, ha ha.

On the plus side, the over use symptoms have gone.  I don't have any soreness or tightness in my knees any more.  Going and up and down stairs is a breeze.  For the most part.  I'm still having that weird sharp-ish pain upon extension.  I never know when it's going to happen, it just does.  So, just because my legs feel great, doesn't mean it's time for me to lace up my shoes just yet.  There's still some work to be done, starting with my first pilates session this coming Wednesday!

I had a 90 minute massage / ART session last Thursday that actually left me a bit sore BUT, feeling much more limber.  Until I went and slept funny on Thursday night, woke up Friday feeling a bit tight through my shoulders then somehow managed to pinch a nerve in my neck while combing my hair in the shower.   It wouldn't be the first time that sort of thing has happened to me.  Friday was tough as I couldn't turn my head to the left and certain movements really hurt.  I stretched and put heat on it Friday night and changed my pillow to something more supportive.  I got up at 4:00 am and took a Robaxacet.  That seemed to help.  So, I went out for a 60km bike ride.  That did NOT help.  I felt ok after the ride but by the end of the day on Saturday my right side was in a lot of pain.  I had hoped to swim or do something on Sunday but it was spent lying around in my pj's with the heating pad on my neck.  I did some moderate stretching, had a hot bath, took another Robaxacet and then proceeded to scour the Ironman website for a 70.3 to do next year.

Clearly I have a problem.

But we all know that...that's why this blog is subtitled: Adventures of a Racing Junkie.  

Anyway, now that things have gotten back to some semblance of normal at work, I've eased back into my regular routine.   Here's how last week went down:

Monday:  2400m swim - first one in 10 days and I didn't drown!
Tuesday:  90 minutes strength & mobility.
Wednesday:  1950m swim.  I died. 
Thursday:  90 minutes strength & mobility
Friday:  was going to swim but opted to sleep in.
Saturday:  60km bike ride.  Beautiful day for a ride but wow, did it ever hurt.  That's what happens when you take 3 weeks off!
Sunday:  OFF

Total time:  7h 8 minutes.  Not bad!  I usually aim for 8-10 hours of physical activity a week so I'm not too far off.   If we have more weekends like this past one, I'll be spending some quality time with my bike.

The all important coffee stop!

Perfect day for a ride!
How was your week of workouts? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Real Deal Showdown: Barrelman Half Iron Race Report

When Ming approached me about this in August, I didn't have a September half marathon on my radar but, I had been ramping up my mileage to get ready for perhaps a fall half marathon, IF my knees behaved themselves (ideally Niagara in October).  And, things were looking pretty good, until I went and over did it at the gym in early September.   Which pretty much did me in.  I questioned my sanity in deciding to do this event.  I didn't want to let my team down by running "a slow for me" half.  I didn't run at all in the week leading up to the race in the hopes that my knees would actually behave and NOT hurt.  I also went for a massage a week before the race and asked David to do some deep tissue work, which he promptly told me was probably not a good idea since I was racing in a week (thanks D!).  Instead he just worked out the kinks and flushed out my legs which seemed to help a fair bit.   Still, I went into this race feeling incredibly ill prepared.  I knew it wasn't going to be pretty.  It was going to hurt and I was wondering how long I'd last before the inevitable implosion happened.  But before I get into the gory details of my leg of the race, let me fill you in on the race itself.

Barrelman is a point to point race, which is unusual for a triathlon.   Because it's a point to point race, that means there are TWO transition areas.  One for the swim to bike and then another for the bike to run.  T1 was in Welland as the swim took place in the Welland Canal.  T2 was in Niagara Falls as the bike course went from Welland to Niagara and the run went through the town of Niagara Falls and right by the Falls themselves.  Twice in fact.  Multisport Canada offered plenty of shuttle services for folks from Niagara to Welland.  They were encouraging people to park in Niagara Falls and take the shuttle in to Welland, which, if you were racing it on your own, made the most sense.  Racing it as a relay required a fair bit of logistics, especially given that none of us picked up our kits or attended the pre-race briefing the day before.  So we ALL had to meet in Welland.  The swimmer and cyclist had to be there anyway but I could have just driven straight to Niagara Falls.  If you're the runner, it makes for a very long day.  BUT, it was either take the time out of your Saturday afternoon and do the drive twice OR get up early on the Sunday and do the drive once.  I opted to get up early on the Sunday.  I also brought our swimmer, Colin Campbell, with me.  We flew out to Welland in the pouring rain.   We got our kits and then went on a coffee run while waiting for our cyclist to arrive.  After several texts, we eventually found each other as well as the other Real Deal Team.  We hung out in the door of the arena and listened to the pre-race briefing because it was still pouring rain.  And really really windy.  The rain was supposed to stop and the forecast said it was going to be cloudy for the remainder of the day.  I was totally ok with that, especially since it was windy and muggy out.   Sunshine would have made things much more difficult.  And I don't say that often!

I went down to the water with Leanna and Colin.  Leanna was ready to go so she got in and did her warm up.  I zipped Colin up and off he went to do a warm up.  They were in the first wave behind the pros, which was really nice.  Normally relays are in the last wave!  My plan was to stick around for the swim and cheer folks on.  Colin and Leanna had to do a ride after so they were planning on riding to Niagara Falls to meet up with the rest of us at the finish line.  I watched the pros go, then Colin & Leanna were off.  Ming had figured that Leanna would have a 2 minute lead on Colin in the swim so I wasn't surprised to see her come out of the water first.  She was right behind Lionel Sanders!  I checked my watch and waited.  And waited some more.  30 minutes and no Colin.  32 minutes and no Colin.  Then all of a sudden I see this flash of white, yellow and blue and I see it's Colin tearing his way through the crowd with NO WETSUIT.  WTH?  I followed him back into T1 where the rest of the crew was hanging out.  Mike had gotten on the bike already and Larbi had just left transition.  Real Deal Two had a 5 minute lead.  Colin had a panic attack in the swim because his wetsuit was too tight and couldn't calm himself down so he ended up pulling his wetsuit off during the swim and tossed into one of the boats!  And he still managed to swim 33 minutes.  Crazy.

A blurry shot of Leanna coming out of the swim.
 So Real Deal One was down by 5 minutes.  Ming figured Larbi could easily make that up on the bike.  It was SUPER windy out there so both Mike & Larbi were going to have their work cut out for them.  We left T1 and made our way back to our cars.  Leanna & Colin got ready for their ride and Ming and I got ready to head out.  Ming was going to take Larbi's car to Niagara.  I had the GPS so he was going to follow me.  We crawled out of the parking lot and waited for an opportunity to get out on to the road.  We had parked to the left of T1 and that happened to be right along the bike route.  D'uh.   We made it out and wound our way through country side roads until we saw signs of civilization.   I saw a long row of orange pylons creating a path and figured that was part of the run course so we were probably pretty close to T2.  Sure enough a few minutes later we found it. The parking lot was MASSIVE.  I wasn't sure where the best place to park was because I wasn't actually sure where transition was.  I drove into one of the middle lots and figured that was good.  Ming and I got ourselves sorted and started walking.  He checked his phone and pointed the way.  We started walking through the lot and came out to a main road that was also lined with pylons.  At that point we knew we were on the race course.  There was a woman with a cute little dog who was also trying to find transition so she followed us.  We yammered away about our summer, Ming's dissertation and his potential job out in Victoria with the Canadian Sport Institute.   We had been walking for quite some time when we realized that we still hadn't come across transition.  We turned to each other and said WTF?  I checked my phone and realized it was 11 am and that we had been walking for almost half an hour.  Oh crap.  We looked at the map again and realized that transition was actually the other way.  OMG.  Our cyclists were due back in between 11:30-11:45 so we figured we better book it.  We started running back in the direction we came from.  Of course that was UP hill.  The sun also started to poke it's head out from behind the clouds which jacked up the temperature a good 10 - 15 degrees.  By the time we got to the top of the hill, I was sweating buckets.  Needless to say I didn't need to do a warm up any more!  We crossed a road and could make out the shapes of big orange tents so we figured we were heading in the right direction.  We made it into T2 by 11:20, which gave us a bit of time to get ourselves ready to go.  Ming and I chatted with a few other relay folks as we patiently awaited the arrival of our cyclists.

We watched the pros come in - Lionel Sanders had a commanding lead.  He was followed by Nigel Gray.  It was then that I realized that I was going to be out on the course pretty much all by myself, unless Ming and I left at the same time.  I also realized that I was going to be the first woman out on the course.  Unless one of the pro women came in before my cyclist did but I didn't think that was going to happen.  Normally in a triathlon I have people to follow so I don't really have to think too much about where I'm going.  I still make sure I look at a map of the course just to be sure. But sometimes the race stupids get the better of you (like they did at Toronto Island).

Ming and I spotted the black and white skin suit of a Real Deal athlete whizzing along the road but we couldn't figure out if it was Mike or Larbi.  A couple of minutes later, we were both shocked to see Mike come into T2.  Crap.  Seconds later, Ming was off on the run.  Mike was completely spent.  He couldn't even formulate a full sentence.  He left it all on the course.  I watched another pro come in.  I was starting to worry that something happened to Larbi.   A couple of minutes later I spotted a black and white clad figure flying along the road.   I readied myself to grab the timing chip.  Larbi rolled into T2, racked his bike and handed me the chip.  I slapped it around my ankle and took off.  My hamstrings were tight and my legs did not feel great.  On the positive side, my knee didn't hurt!

I ran out of T2 and into the blazing hot sun.  Yes, those clouds had been blown away by the wind that was still blowing pretty hard.  I ran out of the park and onto the main road and was cheered on by the few spectators that were starting to make their way into the park.  People got really excited when they saw me as they thought I was the lead female.  I kept saying, nope, RELAY!  but that didn't seem to matter.   The stretch of road leading out of the park was like a wind tunnel.  I was literally getting blown around through there.  I can't remember the last time I raced in wind like that.  I don't think I have, actually.  It was BRUTAL.  Add some heat and humidity to the mix and things were going to get ugly.  These are some of the thoughts that went through my head over the next 21.1km.

Kilometers 1-5

My hamstrings hurt.  Geez it's hot.  Where did this damn sun come from?  Nothing like running at noon after standing around for 5 hours.  OMG, that wind.  I'm dying.  I hope it's not like this through the entire course.  At least this should be at my back on the way back in.   Wow, I really am all alone.  There's NOBODY in front of me.  I wonder when I'll get caught?  Oh yay, a downhill!  And no wind!  Oh look it's Lionel Sanders.  Geez he's moving SO. FREAKING.  FAST.  "Go Lionel!"  More downhill.  I hear footsteps.  Coming fast.  And there goes Kristen Marchant.  God she's quick.  And she's so little.  Why are all the fast women so little?  Maybe I can keep her in my sights so I don't get lost.  Yeah, who am I kidding, that's not going to happen.  Running back up this hill is going to suck.  I think the little out and back is coming up.  Oh yes, here we go.  PEOPLE!  Hiiiii!  Smile and wave to the photographer.  "You're the only person that smiled at me!"  "We'll see if I'm still smiling on the second loop, ha ha".   Around the pylon.   Still not sure where I'm going and I've already lost Kristen.  Great.  Volunteer points me up a hill.  I have to run up this?  Awesome.  Power up the hill PK.  You're doing great.  Aid station - YES!  Water & Heed please.    Holy crap it's hot.  More damn wind.  Honestly?!?!? Oh there's Kristen up ahead.  Keep her in your sights, PK.  Another turn.  What the hell?  A bit of off road?  Ok then!  Another aid station...water please.  OMG, uphill again.  Say thanks to the kind officers that are cheering you on and don't think about the fact that you're going to have to do this all over again.

Kilometers 6-10

And a turn.  WHOA, now THAT'S a downhill.  Don't go too hard.  Turn here?  Oh no, that's a parking garage.  That wouldn't be good.  Keep going.   Thanks for coming out folks!  You guys are awesome!  It's really freaking hot.  I'm going to die on this next loop.  Onto the grass again.  Another aid station.  Two waters.  One for my head.  Oh that feels SO GOOD.  Oh look, the Falls!  I can feel the mist!  So cool!  And the climbing begins.  How did it get so damn hot all of a sudden?!?  I'm going to spontaneously combust.  I hope they have sponges at the next aid station.  I think that's 7km - the sign has blown over.  Only 14 km left.  Ugh.  I think it's almost time for a gel.  There should be an aid station soon.  God the pavement is radiating heat.  I thought it was supposed to be cloudy today??  Keep your shoulders back, you're slouching.  Here comes the aid station.  Water!  Heed!  No sponges??  WTH???  FAIL.  More water dumped on my head.  This is one long effing hill.  I hate hills. Oh look PEOPLE!!!!  Look for relay bibs.  None yet.  Almost at the top of this damn hill.  Back into the wind tunnel.   It's at my back.  Sort of.  Still better than the way out.  Should be coming up to the 10km mark soon.  I spy Ming - GO MING!  Marshall points the way in.  I'm tired.  Shoot me now, somebody!!  I don't know if I can do another loop.  People are coming at me.  Hmmm...this doesn't seem right.  Someone is yelling -Go onto the path!  What?  I'm confused.  What path?  I hear Steve Fleck say I'm supposed to be by the water.  What?  Ok, then.  Get onto the grass and get over.  This doesn't seem right.  I don't see anyone.  Or any pylons.  I'm tired.  Run back over.   Ok now what?  Where do I go?  Run back over again.  I feel like a squirrel dodging traffic.  Zigging and zagging all over the grass.  I'm still confused.  I run back and ask a volunteer where I'm supposed to go.  She stares at me blankly.  I see my friends cheering and ask them.  They yell go around Go around what?  Then I see some pylons nearby so I go around those and start running back out for my second loop. 

Kilometers 10-15

My foot hurts.  I hope it isn't as windy this time.  Where's the 10km marker?  It must have blown over.  I wonder why there's no timing mat for the halfway poi..... oh SHIT.  Now I see where I was supposed to run.   How did I miss that????  IDIOT.  Idiot, idiot, idiot.  Why isn't there a marshal there too?   Uuughhhh.  It's even windier now.  There goes my pacing.  I can't push through this.  I have to survive the next 10km.  Do what you can.  Down the hill, make up some time.  Into the out and back.  Smile at the photographer again, even though you want to die.  Shuffle around the pylon.  There's a blister on my foot, I can feel it.  Why does this always happen when I race?  I don't understand.  Please don't pop.  Please don't pop.  OMG this hill is so much harder the second time around.  Don't walk until you get to the aid station at the top.  I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.  Water!  Heed!  Water!  I'm just going to stand here for a second.  More water dumped on my head.  Finally.  People around me.  How is it windy through here now?  WTF.  Onto grass again.  Oh god that hurts my foot.  That blister must be HUGE.  I'm stopping at this aid station because my legs hate me right now.  Water.  Heed.  Another Roctane.  Let me catch my breath.  Only 6km to go.  Half an hour max, maybe more if I blow up.  I don't want to think about that right now.  Just keep moving and tell your legs to shut up.

Kilometers 16-20

Oh god, this is hard.  I want to sit down.  This course is HARD.   My legs hurt.  What the hell is that bus doing?  REALLY buddy?  Did you not see that runner there???  Some people are jerks.  Poor cop.  He needs an extra set of hands with him.   Where did that wind come from?  Seriously this is the windiest day ever.   Only 5km left.  Here comes the downhill.   Oh.  Ouch.  My quads.  Ouch, my foot.  Oh man, this hurts.  I thought downhill was supposed to be easy.  Why does my entire body hurt?  Relax your shoulders.  Stop holding your damn breath.   I need water.   The mist from the falls feels AWESOME.  What a great idea to run by here.  4km left.  20 minutes maybe?   I'm D-Y-I-N-G.  The wheels have fallen off the wagon.  I'm going to walk at the next aid station, I don't care about my time, I just want to be done.  This is my implosion, happening right now.  18km sign blown over due to wind.  I hate the wind.  Get it together and get up the damn hill PK.  You have 3 stinking km's left.  So. much. pain.  I am not going to want to take my shoes off.   I'm so going to hurt tomorrow.   Ahhhh, the wind is at my back!  Yes!  You're almost done.  Less than 2km left.  Ohh watch the rocks.  Tripping hazard and they hurt my feet.  So many spectators now.  Thank the volunteers.  Finally someone directing people down the path!  And an arrow sign.  That wasn't there before!  Down the path I go.  I see the 10km sign on it's side.  Damn wind.

The last 1.1km 

Almost there, almost there, almost there.  My feet.  My legs.  Oh my GOD.  I hurt.  You'll be able to sit down soon.  I can hear Steve Fleck.  There's my team!  Pick it up!

Done!  1:35:30.  

And just like that, my 2014 season is over. 

John Salt put together a fabulous race.  The Niagara region is a great place for a triathlon and a point to point race was really the only way to do it as swimming in the Niagara river probably isn't the best idea.  A September triathlon in Ontario is always a bit risky temperature wise but Niagara generally gets some warmer temps this time of year and race day was no exception.  The Welland Canal is a great place to swim and the Welland to Niagara bike course is quite flat.  Which for some makes for an easier ride.  There had to be some challenging element to the race and John nailed it with that run.  It was hilly.  A lot hillier than I expected Niagara to be.  If you pushed outside your limits even a bit on the bike, that run would make you pay.

And the results of the Real Deal Showdown?  Real Deal Two beat Real Deal One by almost 7 minutes (4:24:57 vs 4:31:46) which is not bad considering the issues we had (Colin shedding his wetsuit mid-swim, Larbi getting a flat at 70km on the bike and me messing up the run).  Here's hoping we can rally the troops again next year and add another team.  The hurt becomes a distant memory, much like the massive blister on my foot, and we can't wait to do it all over again.  If the Real Deal crew wanted to do it again next year, I'd be in again for sure.

A huge thanks to my Real Deal Teammates & Coaches as well as all of our sponsors:  Gears, WASPcam, Fieldgate Homes, Iler Silva Law Offices, Toronto Sport and Social Club, Morning Glory Cycling Club, Champion System , Powerbar, Balance Physiotherapy, RMP Total Fitness, Spin Kicks, Kenzington Burger Bar and Barnstormer Brewing