Friday, September 29, 2017

When Life Gives You Lemons

I've been really enjoying my down time but I had planned on getting back into the swing of things this weekend.  That was until my body had other plans.  

Last Friday I emailed my chiro / ART guy to fill him in on how Lake Placid went and to say Thank You.  I said something like "Since I won't need to come in and see you any time soon...." yada yada yada.   The following Monday, I was back in his office.  Yup.  I totally jinxed myself.  

What did I do?  Well preliminary results say that I have ischiogluteal bursitis.  What the heck is that?  

A bursa is a fluid filled sac that is situated between the tendon and the bone and it helps to reduce friction between the two.  When a bursa is subjected to repeated stress it will swell and get inflamed.   Ischiogluteal means that this bursa is in my glute situated near the ischial tuberosity, which are essentially your sit bones.  Your hamstring muscles originate at the ischial tuberosity.  This is where I tore my hamstring last year.  Not fun.  The hamstring tendon, also originates at the ischial tuberosity.  The bursa in question is located in between the tendon, my pelvic bone and three small muscles in my glute:  the piriformis, the obturator interns and the gemellus superior.

As you can see, there are a lot of things around this bursa that when they get overworked, can cause the bursa to become inflamed.   Truthfully I'm not surprised this happened.  I've put a lot of stress on my glutes recently, especially with the addition of teaching a lower body conditioning class.   It was getting ready for that class that actually brought me back into my Chiro's office.  It was a very simple move, I was bent forward with my legs split, like I was getting ready to do a split squat and I was trying to find comfortable footing for a standing bent over row.  I found it and then pushed off to stand up again and that's when I felt my glute spasm.  It hurt so much I couldn't put any pressure on it.  I could walk but it was awkward.  I definitely couldn't go up stairs.  So that afternoon I found myself back at Pivot.  I was instructed to not do anything, except to get an ultrasound, ice, rest and take some anti inflammatories,  until we had a better idea of what was going on.  

So, what to do with all my non workout spare time?  Well let's see:

*  SLEEP IN!  

*  Stay up later than normal reading because I don't have to get up at stupid O'clock.  I managed to finally finish "How Bad Do You Want It" which is amazing considering I started it a month ago.  Lately it's taken me almost 6 months to read one book!  I've now started this.

*  Spend my mornings cooking.  Well, I did that one morning.  I made sweet potato breakfast cookies AND french toast.  

*  Go out with girlfriends you haven't seen in ages and have ice cream

*  Focus on my mobility work.

*  Spend more time focusing on building my business and working on my blog.

*  Be grateful that this happened AFTER my last race of the season.  

I was originally told I'd need to take 2-3 weeks off everything except swimming and pool running.  I took most of the week off with the exception of swimming this morning .  I'm seeing my Chiro again today at lunch and we'll figure out a game plan for my rehab.  At least I know by the time I get back to regular activity, I will definitely be very well rested! 

Life may have just handed me a lemon, but I'm making some pretty awesome lemonade.

Happy Friday!

~ Coach PK 

Friday, September 22, 2017

What's Next?

I am officially in "off season".  Or as badass coach Jen Rulon calls it: "the Season of Improvement".  I think that's a better way to look at the down time between the last race of your season and the time you start to build for the following season.  Off season kind of implies that you're taking time off.  That being said, I suppose you could say you're taking time off from structured training i.e focusing on hitting certain paces or power numbers.  This is the season to re-charge mentally and physically and not put a bunch of pressure on yourself to tick all the green boxes in your Training Peaks account.  In fact, ideally there are LESS boxes in your Training Peaks account.  This is not the time to be concerned about volume.  You want to do enough to maintain a good base of fitness.

This is the perfect time to focus on your limiters.  The things that need improvement.  If it's your swim, then maybe you drop a run workout and replace it with an extra swim workout that is technique focused.  This is also the time to bring strength training back into your life.  You don't have the heavy training load, you don't need to worry about DOMS affecting your ability to hit certain paces or numbers.  There couldn't be a better time to start working on your strength.

This is also an excellent time to go out and do things that you may not have tried during race season.  I'd say that's part and parcel of re-charging mentally.  It's nice to take the focus away from structured training and just do things for fun without worrying about hurting yourself or if the whatever it is you're doing will affect your training.

I've got a few plans for my "Season of Improvement".  Firstly, I'm planning on adding one day of swimming a week that is purely a drill and technique based swim.  It won't be too long, maybe half an hour to 40 minutes max.  I really need to work on the entry and catch phase of my stroke.  When my hands go in the water, they just sort of hang out until they get to my waist and then I feel them pulling the water.  So, I foresee a whole lot of sculling in my future.  Time for me to figure out how to use the drill function on my 920xt.

Next on my list of "things to work on" is my run form.  There are a few small tweaks that I'd like to make.  My cadence is good (anywhere between 176-192 depending on how fast I'm running) but I'm not driving my knees up enough so I feel like I'm missing out on some of the gait cycle.  I also need to work on keeping my shoulders back and up.  I'm still rotating a fair bit at my shoulders and that needs to stop.   I believe that these things are muscle and mobility related so before I can tackle new movement patterns, I need to work on my mobility to allow those movement patterns to happen.  This is something I've started to work on daily.   A few minutes a day of dedicated mobility work with a yoga strap, some bands and a lacrosse ball, usually when I'm watching TV.  Hopefully it pays off when I start to build my mileage again for 2018.

While I'm not a huge fan of riding in the cooler fall temps (which don't seem to be happening right now - YAY!), I do love touring around country roads on two wheels and checking out the foliage.  So there will be a lot of that this fall.  There will also be some time spent working on my skills.  Just because triathletes race generally bikes in straight lines, doesn't mean you can't benefit from bettering your bike handling skills.  It will make you a more confident rider when you're around other people and in traffic.  Bettering your skills means riding outside.  My bike handling skills have improved immensely since riding with Morning Glory but I do think there is some room for improvement.  So, I've bought myself an entry level cyclocross bike and  I'm planning on going to the Midweek Cycling Club Tuesday night races starting in October.  Nothing like learning how to handle a bike on GRASS and dirt.  I'm a little scared, but this year has been all about doing things that scare me.

Speaking of things that scare me, I will be bringing strength training back into my life in the form of TEACHING classes.  Yup.  Scaredy cat me is leading a lower body conditioning class at Pur Energy Wellness Lofts on Thursday mornings at 10:30am.  I will be leading other classes as well once the strength studio opens up.  So, not only am I getting a workout in, but I get to work out with other people AND get paid for it.  I taught my first class yesterday and it was SO AWESOME.  I was super pumped after.  I am pretty sore today.  My Garmin told me it was going to take me 21 hours to recover from that workout so yeah, I kicked my own ass for sure.

My first day greeting! 
I love this time of year because you have usually just finished your triathlon race season and can take the time to reflect on what went well, what you might change and what you need to work on while all of it is still fresh in your mind.  I think reflection is important in your growth as an athlete and this is the best time to do it.  It's also a great time to start thinking about your 2018 goals and looking for someone to help you get there.  As a coach, I've noticed in the last 2 years that October and November have been busy months for me.  I have some athletes wrapping up their racing season with fall races and other athletes (usually triathletes) that want to start working on their base fitness for a build to a big summer race.  If you're looking for either run or triathlon coaching, I will have limited spaces opening up at the beginning of November.  Hit me up if you want details or you can go to my coaching website.

G and I have been taking full advantage of our down time.  I've started volunteering with the Morning Glory Grass Tracks program on Wednesday evenings and we've been out pretty much every night this week at various social gatherings.  We've really dialled our workouts back.  I swam on Wednesday and it was probably one of the best swims I've had in a while.  So the bit of time off we've taken has helped us recover so we perform better.   Come the beginning of October, we'll get back into something a bit more structured.  For now I'm enjoying doing what I want, when I want.

Is your season done or do you have fall races planned?  What do you want to work on in your season of improvement?

TGIF Gang, enjoy your weekend!

~ Coach PK

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Season Finale: Perpetual Forward Motion: Lake Placid 70.3 Run

I booked it out of T2.  Well I guess booking it was relative.  My legs felt like tree trunks, which was not surprising.  I figured they'd probably feel like that for the first few km.  At least that's what I hoped.  I started trucking along, trying to focus on keeping my shoulders back, my head up and my turn over high.   I was passing a lot of guys as I went along.  I only passed one woman.  Judging by the number of bikes in transition, there wasn't a ton of people on the course.   I didn't want to get ahead of myself, I knew this run course was tough.  I remember thinking that I was glad I wasn't going to have to run this twice, ha ha.

I motored along, down the first big down hill out of town.  When I did Ironman they dubbed that hill the Degree of Difficulty hill, as Degree deodorant was one of the race sponsors and well, that hill is a BITCH to get climb on the way back.  I chugged along past the DJ who was cranking out some tunes, past the first aid station and up a small climb.  past the horse stables and down the big hill that I had ridden down earlier.   Instead of turning right, you turn left onto River Road.  It's absolutely lovely along here.  There are some horse farms and some nice homes as well as a beautiful river.  Thus the name River Road.   That first bit is really the only flat part of the course.  The rest of it is false flats or hills.

I ran along at a comfortable pace.  My heart rate didn't feel that high.  I was really trying to measure my effort because I knew coming back was going to be the tough part.  I was averaging 4:40/km comfortably.  I knew I'd lose some time on the two big hills on the way back but figured if I could manage to average 4:50's for the entire race, that would be good.  My legs started to feel a bit better around the 5km mark.  Shortly there after I took a gel.   I wanted to get some fuel in earlier rather than later.

I could hear foot steps behind me and a dude with long flowing hair came blowing by me.  I said "nice pace" as he went by and he said "thanks, I'm on a relay team".  I said "aha, that explains why you look so fresh".  He laughed as he pulled away from me.  Shortly there after we got into the first bit of rollers.  I spotted a race photographer so I made some lame hand gesture and smiled.  I have this exact same picture from the last time I raced on this course in 2006, ha ha.  I posted that on Instagram the other day.

These first few rollers didn't feel horrible but they didn't feel easy either.  I took my first gel just past the 6km mark.  I had skipped the first aid station but made a point of grabbing something at the next few.  I was really looking for flat coke but figured I probably wouldn't get that until the later aid stations so I was taking water and Gatorade Endurance.

I saw the first place woman on her way back and she looked STRONG.  I yelled out GO GIRL as she went by.  She had a solid lead on the group.  Once I saw her, I started counting the number of women.  I didn't see another one for a while.  After I saw the second place woman, I started to see more and more ladies.  I got to 10 and then I started seeing people that I knew so I completely forgot to keep counting, ha ha.  But, I knew I wasn't that far away from the turnaround.  I saw my friend Zin who said that G wasn't that far ahead of me, maybe 300m or so.  I wanted to try and catch him but my legs didn't seem to want to go much faster.  I ran through another aid station that was filled with  volunteers in costume.  They were AWESOME.  Such high energy.

I knew I was getting close to the turnaround point.  I was still managing to hold on to 4:40-4:45/kms but I was definitely starting to feel rough.  My hamstrings and glutes in particular.  I wasn't experiencing that same pain I had in Tremblant but I felt like my hamstrings were super tight and I just didn't have that normal range of motion I would normally have.  My left foot was also starting to hurt.  I'm chalking that up to my left big toe.  I've had issues with it since mid-August on my longer runs.  The joint has started to get stiffer and stiffer so it's causing all sorts of issues on longer runs.  Toe yoga is in my off season list of things to do!


I was starting to hurt.  I saw G about 5 minutes before I got to the turnaround.  He was farther than 300m ahead of me.  We high fived each other and both commented on how shitty we felt on the bike. I pushed it a little to the turnaround and had thoughts that maybe, just maybe I might be able to catch him.  I hit the turnaround and started making my way back.  I noticed the increase in gradient right away.  I knew the run back was going to be tough. Tougher than I had thought.  I kept bargaining with myself.  Ok, just try to hang on to 4:50/km.  Ok, just try to hang on to 4:55/km.  Ok, just try to hang on to 5:00/km.  By the time I hit the 12km mark, I was no longer averaging sub 5:00/km.  To be fair, the course had really started climbing.  I thought if I could manage 5:00/5:05/km through the rollers on the way back, I'd still be ok.  I knew we had two massive climbs on the way back that were probably going to slow me down a lot.  My goal was to NOT WALK on either of them.

By the time I hit the 14km mark, which was the start of the first big climb, I was fully entrenched in the hurt locker.  I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  Yes I was hurting, but I was still moving fairly well.   I was actually passing people on this climb.   I got to the top and thought well that wasn't too bad.  I hit the aid station by the horse jumping grounds and grabbed some flat coke.  I had been drinking that along with water just past the turnaround.  It gave me just the boost I needed.  I was just past the 16km mark and I started playing the "you can do anything for x amount of time" game.  I was foolishly hoping I could average 5:00/kms from that point until the finish line.  I had moments where I felt good and then they were quickly followed by a whole lotta hurt.  I was in a world of hurt when I looked up to see my friend Irina wearing this awesome cat shirt.  She was just heading out on the run and her excited cheering and that fantastic shirt put a huge smile on my face.  Thank you lady, you always brighten up my day!

Earlier on, at about the 13km mark, I was passed by a female in the 35-39 AG.  She blew by me like I was standing still.  Other than that, I wasn't passed by another woman.  I hadn't passed any either but I was closing in on someone who had  4-something on her calf.  As I got closer I saw that it was a 44.     It took all my focus to reel her in.  I passed her just as we were heading towards the last big climb.  There was a DJ at the start of the climb and he was spinning some great tunes.  I can't remember the song as I ran through but it was definitely a good one and as I ran by we made eye contact and I pointed at him and he pointed back at me and there was a whole pointing finger exchange to the beat of the music.


There was a bit of a moment and it was just what I needed to get me started up the Degree of Difficulty hill.  I started that climb grinning from ear to ear and I started thinking back to the last time I ran up it, which got me suddenly very emotional.   I choked back some unexpected tears as I ran up the hill.  It's been quite the journey since I last raced in Lake Placid and that first race was incredibly special.

I plodded up that hill and caught another woman about half way up.  We exchanged some words of encouragement and I focused on the the road in front of me.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Get to the top.  I got to the top of the first part.  The hill is two stages.  There is a super steep part at the beginning that takes you up to Main Street, then you hang a left onto Main Street and start a long, somewhat less steep climb to Mirror Lake Drive, where you turn right and continue climbing for a bit and then the road flattens out.   I shuffled up that hill.  I remember huffing and puffing as I passed a guy and I said "I fucking hate that hill" as I went by and I heard him laugh.   I was almost at the 18km mark.  Only 3km left.  17 minutes or so at the rate I was going.  I could see G ahead of me getting ready to turn onto Mirror Lake Drive.  I still hadn't made up much ground on him.  At least it didn't seem like it.

I made the turn onto Mirror Lake Drive and could feel my legs starting to cramp up.  I had complete tunnel vision going through here.  When I start to hurt,  I don't notice much going on a around me.  It's like my brain shuts down and I go on auto pilot.  I remember running through an aid station and grabbing a flat coke that a little guy was holding out for me.  I said thanks buddy as I went by.  No matter how much I was suffering, I made sure I thanked the volunteers.  They were all so amazing.  They MADE that race.

I could see another woman running with a guy just ahead of me.  I couldn't see what was on her calf but I was spurred on to dig a little deeper to try and pass her.  I caught the two of them just past the aid station.   She had a 36 on her calf.   At this point the course was flat but it didn't matter, I was still really struggling.  I had slowed down a lot.  My entire body hurt.  I was starting to run really sloppy.  My form had gone to complete shit. I could barely hold myself upright I was so tired.  The out and back along Mirror Lake Drive is only about 2km but it seems to take FOREVER.   I could see the signs for the turn around coming up and was thinking I'd see G any minute.  I rounded the bend and saw the turnaround but no G.  I remember saying out loud, "Where the heck did he go?"  I ran around the cone and about 20 seconds later I see G coming towards me on his way to the turnaround.  I asked him what happened and all he said was porta potty.

I had passed him and now I just had to keep him behind me.  I didn't really much in the way of an extra gear and I was seriously hurting by this point.  Everything was falling apart.  The expression on my face says it all.  Nice background though!  😃

I could hear the finish line announcer and people cheering.  Every step I took hurt.  I just wanted to be finished.  I willed my legs to turn over faster.  Thankfully the road back to the finish line is downhill so I had momentum to carry me towards the Olympic Oval.  I made the turn back onto Main Street and then into the chute that funnelled you onto the Olympic Oval.  It was lined with people cheering. I remember hearing my friend Liz yell GO PK as I went running along the top of the oval.  I could see the finishing chute.

As I turned the corner, I started smiling and I raised my arms in the air.   What a bloody hard day.  I was tested much more than I thought I'd be.  So much so that I had thrown my original goal of getting on the podium right out the window.

As I came in towards the line, I heard the announcer call my name.  I glanced up at the clock and saw 5:40 something.  Which didn't really mean anything to me because I didn't know when I started.

So happy to be finished! 
As soon as I crossed the line, there was a volunteer that came up to me and asked me if I was ok.  My hamstrings were screaming at me but other than that I was fine.  She walked with me to get my medal and hat and then I got some water and she continued to walk with me to make sure I was ok.  I told her I was fine and then stood off to the side to wait for G.  I figured he wasn't going to be too far behind me and he wasn't.  I went up to him and collected a hug and a kiss.  On our way out we saw a photographer so we had to stop for a pic.  We did the same thing 11 years ago.

My final time:  5:30:14  G's final time:  5:30:44   There was exactly 30 seconds between us.  My run was 1:45 on the nose.  G's multiple porta potty stops on the bike and run slowed him down.  See, peeing in the grass in T2 worked out in my favour!

We saw my friend Liz on our way out of the finishing chute and we hugged and congratulated each other on our races.  She came in at 5:28 and change.  She went off to cheer on some more TTC people and G and I were both feeling a bit hungry so went went off to get some food.  We spent a long time chit chatting with a bunch of other guys that had raced, all of whom rode with Morning Glory, as well as Tara and Liz who joined us shortly after we had sat down.  Finally we were able to go into transition to go and get our things so G and I hobbled over to the entrance.

On our way over, I saw my athlete Keith, who was grinning from ear to ear.  I gave him a big hug and asked him how it went.  We had seen each other on the run course and he was looking really strong when I saw him.  I thought for sure he'd catch me.  He said that was the hardest thing he'd ever done. He raced fairly conservatively for his ability but now that he's gotten one under his belt and he knows what to expect, I suspect he'll push himself harder on the next one.  He was waiting for his girlfriend Grace to finish so he went off to the finish line and G and I went into transition.

I started collecting everything and tossing things into my bag.  I was curious to see where I ended up in my AG so I pulled my phone out and saw 4 texts from my friend Sue, one of which was a pic.   It was a screen grab of my finish time and preliminary ranking.  I saw 3rd out of 174.  Say what??  I couldn't believe it.  I got all choked up and almost started crying.  My goal after Tremblant was to get on the podium in Lake Placid.  With the way my race went, I didn't think that was going to happen but it looks like everyone suffered in the weather.  I may have been slower than I had anticipated,  but so was everyone else.  I ended up 3rd place female in my AG and 17th female overall.  First fastest bike split in my AG and the 4th fastest run.  My how things have changed!  😃

I couldn't have asked for a better end to my season, especially after last year.  I am beyond grateful that I GET to do this crazy sport and that I get to do it with G.  I am truly lucky.

Now it's time to unwind, sleep in a bit more and just move for the enjoyment of moving.

A massive thanks to everyone that has been reading along this year.  I know my writing has been sporadic and I am going to work on improving that over the next few months.

Happy Sunday!

~  Coach PK xo

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Season Finale: Out of the Ice Bath and Into the Freezer: LP 70.3 Bike

The Lake Placid bike course starts with a very steep but short downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom.  In previous years, there used to be a big bump half way down the road but that has been fixed.  The one year G and I volunteered we were stationed at the bump and had to warn people to slow down.  This year there was no worry about launching a bottle or anything else off your bike in the first few hundred meters.  You still had to be careful at the turn.  I didn't see any hay bales lining the corner this time around.  Probably because it wasn't wet out.

As soon as I clipped in, I went whipping down that hill.  I was immediately grateful for my last minute decision to put on my rain jacket.  Sure it wasn't going to be the most aero thing but I wanted to stay warm.  My legs and toes on the other hand, were FREEZING.  I could not feel my feet.  I held my effort in check for the first few kilometres.  I took a gel, and settled into my aerobars.  Once I got out of town, I started to push the pace.  There were a lot of people on the course.   I was feeling pretty good, other than my legs were really cold.  According to my Garmin, it was 3.9 degrees when I started the bike.  Had I been going out for a training ride, I would have covered my legs.

Having ridden the bike course more times than I can remember, I was very familiar with most of it.  They changed the course slightly in the last few years.  There used to be one out and back section in Wilmington, which was beautiful.  That has been taken out and has been replaced by TWO out and backs.  The first of which came at about 6km into the bike after the big downhill by the ski jumps.  I flew down that hill and used the momentum to push up the climb that followed.  I could hear someone coming up behind me, so I moved closer to the shoulder to let them pass.  All I heard was "Nice butt" and I turned to see G go flying by me up the hill.  I was a little surprised to see him as I figured he would have been out of the water before me.  I watched him motor up the climb.  I was spinning my legs, trying to measure my effort.  I eventually caught up to a huge group of people so I went around them and started pushing.  I stayed out and just kept passing people.  I couldn't believe the amount of people on the course.  It was just as bad as Tremblant if not worse.  I could see G just up ahead of me.  I kept motoring up the hill.  I crested the top and then made the descent towards the first out and back.

I made the turn onto a road I've ridden by so many times.  It was the road into the bobsled track.  It had been recently paved so riding through here was awesome.  I stayed in aero as much as possible.  Again, it was super crowded in here so I was dodging a lot of people.   The course took us right up to the entrance of the bobsled track where we turned around and went back out.  I could still see G.  He was probably only about 600m or so in front of me.  After we exited the out and back, we started climbing again.  Once again, I got caught in a large group of people.  Once again, I pulled out and pushed up the climb.  I was closing in on G.  Eventually I caught him and passed him.  And, it got caught on camera, ha ha.

Sorry honey, you're getting chicked 
That didn't last for too long.  He caught me and passed me about 5 minutes later.  I realized I hadn't heard my Garmin buzz so I glanced down at it and noticed that all too familiar screen.  The screen that meant that I was in transition.  CRAP.  So I hit lap and glanced down again only to see the run leg come up.  DAMMMMITTTTTT.  I had done it again.  I had managed to screw up my race stats.  I don't remember hitting lap three times before I got on the bike but apparently I did.  Luckily it was only about 8km into the bike.  So I stopped the activity and saved it and then started all over again.  All of this while I was climbing.  The descent into Keene was coming up and I wanted to make sure I was recording the bike segment because I wanted to see how fast I could get going down that descent (Strava told me my max speed was 73.4 kph!).

THAT is a serious downhill.

My eyes started watering as we headed down the descent and once again I was incredibly grateful I had pulled on my rain jacket at the last minute.  Not really being able to see while going down this descent is scary as fuck.  I kept blinking hard to clear the water from my eyes, all while sitting in my aerobars.  I gotta say, I have come a LONG way.  A couple of years ago I wouldn't have even attempted this in my aerobars.   Now I was fully in aero position, tucked as far in as possible, pedalling as much as possible.  Downhills are free speed, if you coast, you're not taking FULL advantage.  I had been yo-yoing back and forth with a woman and I really wanted to drop her.  I figured this would be my chance.  So I hammered the descent.   I sat up for a bit through the wide s-turns but immediately got back into my aerobars.  She was right behind me.  As we came down to the bottom, there's a wide right hand turn.  That turn managed to get fairly congested.  Someone tried to pass me on the inside, which is totally legal but I had no where to move over to so he had to stay behind me until we got out of the turn.

Heading in Jay, I knew this next section was going to be flat and fast and it did not disappoint.  It was also so incredibly congested, it was almost impossible to maintain 6 bike lengths from anyone.  There was a lot of surging to get by people but I always seemed to end up around the same group of people. That girl was in there and I watched her draft off a few guys.  Annoying.  The draft packs along here were ridiculous.  There were also several guys who were completely fucking clueless.  They were riding all over the road, blocking and weaving in and out of people.  Yet they just didn't seem to really get anywhere.  I tried hard to get away from them but I just couldn't.   Once in a while I'd find these little gaps so I'd try to take advantage of them.

Cruising along by the river
The second out and back on the course came along this section.  On the old course, you'd get through Jay and Upper Jay and then hang a left and start climbing into Wilmington.  Now, you continued past the turn and rode out about 9km before you turned around and rode back.  This section was also fairly flat.  Well, it was a false flat so it was easy on the way out and a bit harder on the way back.  By the time I got to the turn around, I had to pee so bad, it was uncomfortable for me to be in aero.  So I was in and out of my aero bars through here.  My legs were also starting to feel it.  I was having trouble holding my power.  My feet had finally warmed up but my legs were still cold and I think that's why I couldn't hit my power numbers.

My legs may have been cold but all the layers I had on on top were starting to feel really hot.  I took my gloves off and shoved them down my vest.  I knew once I started climbing I'd have to remove something.  As I got closer to the turn to start the climb into Wilmington, the sun came out in full force.  I started the climb and was totally dying so I stopped just past the aid station to remove my rain jacket and my disposable arm warmers.  I tossed those and packed up my vest and shoved it into my vest pocket.  That felt much better.  Now I was ready to roll.  People were strung out all along this climb.  I pulled into the road and just started passing everyone.  This climb is a long grinder, which is exactly the type of climb that I love.  I motored up it no problem.  I had forgotten about the rollers on this part of the course.  There was a fun descent and then a nice flat spot, followed by some more climbing.  I got a little chilly on the descent but it wasn't too bad.  I flew along through here.  I glanced down at my bike computer to see where I was at distance wise (thankfully I had that as back up for distance and time).  I had just under 20km left to go.  Knowing what was ahead, I started doing the math.  I figured I'd be lucky if I squeaked in under 3 hours on the bike.  Not what I had hoped for going into this race.

I made the turn onto Highway 86 to start the climb back into Lake Placid.  The first part of this climb is horrible.  It's a false flat that really is a grinder and there is ALWAYS a headwind here.  Always.  Today was no exception.  It wasn't horrible but it was enough to affect your forward momentum.  I still really had to pee and that urge had reached critical.  I wasn't going to stop by the side of the road as I'd get a penalty if I got caught.  So, I peed on the bike.  The minute I felt it on my leg I got so grossed out, I stopped peeing.  It was only a little bit but it was enough to relieve the pressure I was feeling.  I figured it was enough to get me to transition.

I got back into my aerobars and spun my legs up the false flat.  I was still passing people so that was good.  The course then starts to climb in earnest.  I was starting to get cold as the road was in the shade and with the headwind, my hands were starting to freeze again.  So I pulled out my gloves and put them on.  I saw Tara P along here and we commiserated about the cold.  With my hands covered I felt better.  My legs were still feeling cold and I was riding more in my small chain ring than my big chain ring, which is not normal for me.  My power was dwindling.  I caught the girl I had been yo-yoing with earlier.  I don't actually remember her passing me but obviously she did.  I think everyone was suffering from the ill effects of the cold.  After some more climbing, the course flattens out for a bit and you can get some good speed along this section by the High Peaks Gorge.   But, you are in the mountains so the flat doesn't last for long.  We started climbing again and I knew the 3 Bears were coming up.  I had ridden them multiple times and the only kind of tough one is Papa Bear, the last one.  I flew up the first two climbs in the big ring and flipped to the small ring for Papa Bear.  Again, not normal but my legs did not feel good.  After the climb, you turn right and are faced with another short really steep climb about 1km in.  That is by far the worst climb because it comes at the worst possible time.  After that, the course is mostly downhill and flat to the finish.  All I could think about was getting off my bike.  I flew along Mirror Lake Drive, took the turn onto the back road really quickly, powered up the hill by the post office and made the wide sweeping turn onto Main Street.  There were a TON of spectators out cheering which was awesome.

I made the final turn off Main street and made my way around the back of the school in up to the dismount line.  I was watching my Garmin the entire time.  I was hoping I'd come in at 2:55 but no, it was 2:56 and change when I crossed the timing mat.  I was SO happy to get off my bike.  I hobbled into T2 and found my rack.  I looked around and only saw ONE other bike on the 3 racks around me. SWEET.

Official Bike:  2:56:53.  Fastest bike in my AG and the 10th fastest bike split overall.  Guess I didn't suck as bad as I thought I did!

I racked my bike, took off my helmet and debated about going into a porta potty.  I knew trying to get my tri suit off would be time consuming and difficult so, I plopped myself down on the grass and peed while I pulled off my vest and cycling shoes and put on my running shoes.  It was like Niagara Falls.  I sat there for much longer than I should have but I wanted to make sure I didn't have to go again on the run.  I grabbed my wet towel that I had used to dry off after the swim and gave myself a quick wipe down.  The girl that I had yo-yoed with on the bike was now in T2.  She had a whole lot of clothing to get off.  I think she was in my AG as she was racked fairly close to me.  I grabbed my hat, stood up and started running.  I felt better but my legs didn't feel awesome.  Here goes nothing, I thought.

T2:  2:48.

I was in the home stretch.  I hoped that I could hold on for a strong finish.

Stay tuned for the run.....

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Season Finale: Lake Placid 70.3 Pre-Amble & Swim

Late season racing in the Northern Hemisphere is almost always gamble in terms of weather.  I find a lot of it depends on the type of summer that it's been.  This particular summer saw below average temperatures and lot of rain.  We had a lovely last week of August in Toronto so I was hopeful we'd have another last ditch run of summer.   Stalking the Lake Placid weather forecast the week leading up to the race told another story.  There was a lot of rain in the days leading up to the race, which isn't totally abnormal for Lake Placid.  It's in the mountains so rain comes and goes.  But the temperatures were dropping by the day.  Having been to Lake Placid before, I knew that you had to be prepared for any kind of weather.  So I made sure I packed accordingly.   The race day forecast was saying that it was going to be 4 degrees celsius race morning and 6 degrees by the time we were going to be on the bike.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was a little worried about how the cold was going to affect me.  I just made sure I had all the layers, from my leg warmers to my rain jacket and full fingered gloves.   The bases were all covered.

We left Toronto at 5:30 am to start the drive.  It's always nice to be on the road that early.  There isn't a lot of traffic and you get to watch the sun come up.  

We hit a few patches of traffic but nothing too bad and we were making really good time until we got to Cornwall.  The highway was closed for construction and the traffic was being diverted to Highway 2.  This ended up adding an hour to our travel time so we didn't roll into Lake Placid until 12:30.  We drove straight to the townhouse we had rented, unloaded the car and then drove into town to pick up our race kits.  It was chilly and windy out and I was quickly becoming disinterested in the swim I had planned.  

We checked in and picked up our kits fairly quickly.   I ran into Irina and got the best hug as per usual.  Registration seemed a little chaotic but I think it's because it had just opened.  We took our bags back to the car and then went off to the expo.  I had been messaging with Keith, one of my athletes who was racing and we had planned to meet up at the 3:00 pm race briefing.  We knew a bunch of people racing and as we walked towards the athletes village, we ran into half of them.  It was the Toronto Triathlon Crew.  We chatted with them for a bit and then I spied Keith and his wife Grace.  I ran over to them and hugged them both and then we went into the chaos that is the Ironman apparel tent.  My goal was to get another pair of Roka goggles, clear ones for the pool so that's what I did first.  I got the only clear pair left.  We then navigated our way through the crowds and checked out the gear.  There wasn't really anything I liked except for a black hoodie with the race logo on the front and the participants names on the back.  Except that they WEREN'T the participants of THIS particular race.  OOPS.  I still bought the hoodie because the price was actually really good compared to the same hoodie with just the Ironman branding on it.  I don't really care if my name is on the item or not.

After our shopping trip we grabbed a bite to eat and went to the pre-race briefing where we met up with Keith and Grace again.  Post briefing we chatted a bit about how they were feeling and I went over race prep with Keith.  The weather was going to be cold.  Period.  So I wanted to make sure he was prepared.   They went off to meet up with their family and G and I went grocery shopping which ended up causing me to miss out on the TTC group pic but about 10 minutes.  Gah.

We unloaded the groceries, unpacked our bags and got settled.  The place we rented was HUGE.  it had 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  We could have easily had another two couples stay with us.  The place was spacious and comfortable and the hostess left us a beautiful gift basket with pasta, marinara sauce from the local Italian place, 2 packages of pancake mix, maple syrup, olive oil, a couple of nice chocolate covered cookies, tea and some microwave popcorn along with a handwritten card.  It was lovely.  She also stopped by on the Saturday evening to say hello which I thought was a nice touch.  If we go back to Lake Placid, we'll definitely try to stay here again.

Saturday morning it was cool and drizzly so we lounged around inside for a few hours before venturing out on our bikes.  We did a little spin down the run course and up the 3 Bears.  We both got soaked and our bikes got covered in sand and small bits of gravel so we cleaned them off before we went out for a short run.  I felt awesome, other than the cold.   We got ourselves ready, packed up our bikes and walked them up to transition to the bike check in.  After we had done that, we wandered around town, checking out some of the newer shops, grabbing a coffee and then wandering back.  I realized I had forgotten to put my aero bottle on my bike so the plan was to go back and get that and then do a swim.  Then it started raining.  Neither one of us had brought an umbrella so we got totally soaked on the way back to the townhouse.

Lake Placid Transition
At that point, I decided that I wasn't interested in doing a swim and set about packing my bags for the next morning.  Once the rain let up, G drove me up to transition, I ran in and put my bottle on my bike and then he drove me back to the townhouse.  We were staying inside for the rest of the afternoon.  I finished packing my bags and kept stalking various forecasts to see what it was supposed to be like race morning.  Everything I saw wasn't awesome.  But at least it was going to be sunny.

Pasta dinner consumed, I went to bed at around 9:30 pm.  Just like Tremblant, I slept like a log until 1:00 am.  Then I was awake.  G was quasi snoring and someone was blaring Elton John's "Daniel" (seriously?!?!) followed by a series of equally sad songs.  I left the master bedroom and went into one of the other rooms and tried to fall asleep.  I think I dozed off for about 20 minutes.  I woke up again, got out of bed and did some stretching.  Sometimes I find that relaxes me.  I went back into the master bedroom and crawled back into bed.  I could still hear the music but didn't want to fuss with shutting the window so I put a spare pillow over my head.  I started to doze off when G got up to go to the bathroom.  He shut the window on his way back in.  Shortly after that I fell asleep.  I think it was about 2:30 in the morning.  I woke up again shortly before my alarm went off.  I was starting to fall back asleep when the alarm started buzzing and I jumped out of bed.  I was wide awake, despite my less than ideal sleep.  The first thing I did was check the temperature.

Good lord.  I looked outside and saw a dense low laying fog.  Awesome.  NOT.  We wanted to leave the house by 5:25 so we could get body marked, get sorted in transition and get down to the water.   I was feeling surprisingly more nervous than usual, probably because I knew it was going to be a somewhat unpleasant morning, ha ha.  We downed our breakfast and coffee, bundled up and headed out.  I was pretty much power walking to transition I was so nervous.  We were told we had to get body marked first before we could go into transition.  The body marking spot was total chaos.   We eventually found a couple of free volunteers.  The woman who was doing my body marking was a school teacher and she had THE BEST handwriting.  My numbers were SO neat.  I thanked her, found G and we made our way into transition.

My bike was still wet from the day before but I didn't really care.  I realized when I got to my bike that there were two other women in my AG that hadn't shown up because there were two empty spots between myself and the next competitor.  SCORE.  So I had more than a postage stamp size piece of real estate available.   I felt a bit discombobulated for some reason so it took me a bit longer than normal to get myself sorted.  I quickly realized that I should have brought flip flops or something else to put on my feet to wear to the swim.  I thought they'd have a carpet like they did in Ironman but they did not so I was going to have to walk barefoot on the cold pavement and ratty make shift carpet they had laid out, over to the swim start.  Awesome.   It was really cold out but I figured my vest, arm warmers, socks, toe covers and full fingered gloves would be enough.  I finished laying everything out, pulled off my running shoes and started getting my wetsuit on.  2 minutes after standing on the grass my feet hurt they were so cold.  The walk to the swim was going to suck.  I found G and he had two plastic bags over his feet and and old pair of socks on.  He's such a smart man.  Being the gentleman that he is, he gave me the plastic bags and I put them on my feet.  I was surprised at how much they helped.  We walked over to the swim start.  G was starting to shake from the cold.  I was chilly but not too bad.  I figured once I got in the water and then got back out, it would be brutal.

The swim start was a gong show.  This is the one issue I have with rolling starts.  Actually let's make it two issues.  The first being that nobody goes where they are supposed to.  The second is that a rolling start allows the race to have more people in it.  Which ends up making the bike portion absolutely brutal in terms of draft packs.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.   They had the corrals all along mirror road and they funnelled you into the swim start.  The warm up spot was off the right of the swim start.  The only way to get to that was to go all the way around to the bottom of the corral and walk through the park RAMMED with spectators.  And even then, you couldn't get over to the beach to walk in, you had to slide in on the rocky side of the lake.  I smacked my foot into a rock.  I slipped on another rock and then my foot sank into the grossest mud ever.  I started swimming out just to get out of the mess.  G and I swam around for a while and it really was quite beautiful with the sun coming up and the mist over the water.  I could see G near the shore and he was shaking violently.  I went up beside him and put my arms around him as they played the National Anthem.  He wasn't sure he'd actually be able to start swimming.  I told him once he got in the water he'd be ok.  We climbed out onto the beach and had to fight our way back through the crowds only to find that we couldn't get into the corral.  The race had started and swimmers were heading into the water.  We saw athletes climbing over the fencing in their wetsuits.  One guy beside me, offered to boost me up so I got on his hands and he helped me up, I stood on top of the fencing and jumped down onto the pavement in my bare feet.  Not awesome but at least I was in the corral and G was right behind me.  We ran into Irina and Zin and wished them luck and then we made our way over to the entrance.   G kissed me, told me he loved me and wished me luck.  The next thing I knew I was walking into the water.

I waded in and then started my watch, knowing I'd be a few seconds off my official time.  This swim start was much more congested than Tremblant for some reason.  I think they were letting 4 people in at a time vs. 3 like they did in Tremblant.  Those first few hundred meters were not fun.  There were limbs everywhere and I just wanted to get out of the crowd and swim my own swim.  By about 400m in things seemed to spread out a bit more.  My breathing was fine but I felt slow.  I did not feel fluid like I did in Tremblant.  I'm chalking it up to the water temperature, which I heard afterwards was a balmy 16 degrees celsius.  The sunrise was blinding me every time I turned to my right which was unfortunate because turning to my left caused my right shoulder to hurt slightly when I pulled down.  This has happened a couple of times when I'm in my wetsuit so there's something going on in terms of restriction.  So I tried my best to alternate between the two.  The low lying fog also did nothing to help my sighting.  I could not see a damn thing.  I could have avoided having to sight at all if I stuck by the underwater wire but, that's where everyone else was as well so I wanted no part of it.  I was swimming quite wide just to be safe.

My Garmin buzzed which meant that I had hit 500m.  It seemed to take forever.  I kept plugging away, my hands feeling quite cold.  That swim out seems so darn long.  I sighted and finally saw the red turn buoy.   I had to swim in at an angle to get there.  I made my way around with minimal contact and swam over to the next buoy.  I really didn't feel smooth at all.  I got around the next buoy and started the swim back to shore.   Once again, I had a hard time sighting.  The sun was almost up but still fairly low in the sky and the low lying fog made it impossible to see anything.  So I just swam and hoped that I was swimming fairly straight.  Obviously I wasn't because I ended up on the wire for a little while.  I stayed there for a bit, as I managed to find some open space.  I quickly caught some people and had flashbacks to my Ironman where I got stuck in a pack of people going slower than me.  I tried to get out but there were people all around me.  So I put my head back down and kept swimming by the line.  I got caught up in a group and ended up getting kicked in the mouth. That made me stop and try to get out of the group again.  I found an opening and swam around the pack.  I put my head back down and kept swimming.  A few minutes later I had weird feeling so I glanced up and saw a kayak right in front of me.  She looked down at me and I said oh hey, she started laughing and I swam around the back of her kayak and swam back towards the pack.

My watch buzzed again and I figured it had to be 1500m.  I had missed the second buzz.  I was wishing I was done.  My arms were tired.  I felt like I was struggling and my right calf was just starting to get that crampy feeling like it did in Tremblant.  So I stopped kicking with that leg and just pulled for a bit which tired my arms out even more.  So I went back to kicking.  I could see familiar buildings coming into view on my right so I knew I was getting close to shore.  All of a sudden I could see the bottom, the next thing I knew, my hands were scraping the bottom.  I kicked hard and stood up and just as I took that first step, both of my calfs cramped.  I hobbled out of the water and glanced down at my Garmin:

36:47.  Actual time:  36:51.   I wasn't surprised.  I knew about 500m in that it wasn't going to be a pretty swim.

The face you make when your calves are cramping

I pulled my zipper down and started to get out of the top part of my wetsuit as I ran down the makeshift carpet into transition.  I wasn't going to bother with a stripper.  I wanted to stay in my wetsuit as long as possible.  I ran into T1 and quickly found my bike.  There were a few other women getting ready to get out on the bike and we all started chatting about how cold it was as we stood there putting on all the layers.  My hands were frozen so I was having a bit of a tough time getting things on.  I had put on my vest and arm warmers and at the last minute opted to put my rain jacket on over everything.  I was cold and I knew I'd freeze as soon as I started riding.  I grabbed my bike and ran out out of transition to start the bike.

T1:  8:42.  That included the run up along with putting on all the layers.  One of my Strava pals asked me if I was having a coffee in transition.  I wish!  I would have been warmer!

I'll be back tomorrow with the bike and the run!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reflections on my growth as an Athlete

As I get ready to toe the line at my last big race of the season, I can't help but reflect on my journey over the last several years.  I'm currently reading Matt Fitzgerald's "How Bad Do You Want It" and there are so many amazing stories and nuggets of wisdom that have really stuck with me.  Which is probably what triggered this self reflection.

I used to put so much pressure on myself to do well that pre-race nerves were magnified ten fold.  The anxiety I’d feel before a race was almost crushing.  The swim in particular would cause me a lot of stress.  But once I got out onto the race course, all was good.  Being nervous before a race is normal.   I’ve always thought that it means you care.  You’ve invested blood, sweat and probably a few tears to train for it so it’s understandable that you’re nervous.  It’s when those nerves consume you that it becomes unhealthy and counter productive.   I’ve always said the day I stop being nervous before a race is the day I find another hobby.

I also used to stress about everything before a race.  The weather, what I was going to wear, you name it.  Now I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really stress about anything, I just make sure I prepare for it.  There is no point in stressing about things you can’t control, all you can do is do your best to prepare for them.  It is what it is.  Don't waste your energy worrying about things you have no control over.  Save that energy for race day.

 Last year when I got injured, I was taken out of the race scene.   When I came back, my anxiety had been replaced by a newfound sense of gratitude.  Yes, I still had pre-race nerves but the anxiety wasn’t there.  The pressure to perform wasn’t there.   I just wanted to go out and see what I was capable of.  I think that’s why Tremblant was such a successful race for me.  I was racing without expectation.   I can definitely say that my injury last year changed my mindset.  It was like a big re-set button.   Now every start line I get to is a small victory.   Every race is a celebration of the hard work I've done, regardless of how it goes.

Once again, I have no expectations for tomorrow.  People have asked me if I have a goal time and to be honest, I haven't given it much thought.  Ideally I'd like to be somewhere around the same overall time frame as Tremblant as the course is similar in terms of climbing and I feel that my cycling has gotten better over the summer.  It is going to be really cold on the bike (7 degrees celsius is the current forecast) so I suspect that will definitely affect me.   The descent into Keene will be chilly that's for sure.  But I know I'll warm up once I start the climb into Wilmington.  I am going to have to put on layers for the bike so that will take extra time in transition.  Taking the layers off will also make for a bit of a longer T2 but whatever.  I'd rather be warm and finish the bike vs. freezing and potentially not finishing the bike.  The sun will be out so the temperature will warm up a fair bit over the course of the bike.   The cool starting temperature is really the only concern I have.  I have clothing to prepare for it but I suspect it will be a lot different when I'm soaking wet.  The water is cool but I prefer that for a longer swim.  It's not far off what the temperature was in Tremblant.  The run course is hilly but so was the course in Tremblant.  So I'm ready for that.  I'm ready for all of it.  Nothing left for me to do except Be Awesome.   Catch you on the flip side gang!