Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Woodstock Triathlon - May 27th, 2012

Everyone was watching the weather for this race. In the days leading up, we had near-record heat and humidity, and thunder showers were in the predictions for Sunday around noon. It was looking hot, sticky and possibly wet...none of them in that fun way, either.

That's not the camera - I'm blurry due to not being awake yet.

Morning broke with a bit of rain at 17c as I dragged myself out of bed. I'd discovered the night before that the race was a 9am start rather than 8am as I'd thought, but I'd pretty much failed at getting good sleep during the taper and still had to roll out of bed by 05:30 in order to be at the race site by 7am. Why so early? Because I have friends who will be there, and I have a tendency to run out of preparation time while I yap with people. One nice, though slightly odd thing: there was pretty much zero pre-race anxiety going on. I'm usually at least a bit jittery, but I suppose having convinced myself that I was just racing for fun as a season opener tune-up finally worked. This may have led to me being a little too laid back, though, as you'll see.

Slowtwitch member Kentiger did the GT12.9 on this spectacularly oldschool setup.

We arrived on schedule thanks to the 401 not being closed this time (it was shut down the Sunday morning of the inaugural Woodstock race weekend in 2010) and found Slowtwitch member CeeCee at the registration desk. A hug and a chat later, I had my race number, then went to pick up my swim cap (flaming pink again) and bag-o-swag. Entering transition, I was the first one at my rack, so got the coveted end spot! Another reason it's good to show up early.

My wetsuit repair looks like a Superman emblem, and I'm ok with that. Worked perfectly!

I laid out all my gear and visited the portajohns to *ahem* make race weight, then ran into Kentiger and Slowtwitch member M~, with whom I have a season-long wager on the swim leg; whoever has the slowest swim time at the end of the season gets stuck with the pool noodle of shame. He was supposed to race against me at Woodstock, but has come down with a nasty infection that his cute little boy brought home from daycare and the doc said no go. Yes Mark, you do still get points for showing up anyway, but you'll have to forgive us if noone shakes your hand. I did, however, offer a handshake and good luck wishes to BeginnerTriathlete member 2paz, who was racing the duathlon that day.

Less than an hour to race time, I make sure everything is ready to go in my transition area. My shoes are on my little mat beside my bike, smeared with BodyGlide to ensure easy entry, and my hat is sitting on top of my running shoes. My AeroDrink bottle is full of water and I have a flask with 4 shots of EFS Liquid Shot Kona Mocha (which tastes just like Häagen-Dazs' coffee flavour, my all-time favourite ice cream) in my Dark Speed Works Speedpack on the top tube. My aerohelmet stis upside down on the aerobars (bike is racked by the front of the saddle) with my race belt and sunglasses laid out in the helmet. I decide to hit the portajohns by the swim exit and apply chamois creme, then figure it's time to move my transition pack out of the TZ. Setting it down by the outside of the fence, I think once more if I have everything I'll need out of the bag...hmm, well this wetsuit thing might come in handy. Too bad I forgot the little 3-legged folding stool I usually use to put it on back at the house! I've since added this to my pack list - no idea how I'd managed to forget it. It was raining fairly steadily at this point, which made me a little nervous given that my rear tire was quite worn. I hoped it would clear up before I got to the bike.

My sherpa and I on the beach.

With just over 30mins to race time now, I figure I'd better start wrestling my way into my suit. Without the stool I get to do an awesome little balancing act while still only three-quarters awake - hope anyone watching enjoyed the show, which was probably like some lame one-man version of a Three Stooges sketch. Got it onto my legs and pulled partway up before realising I was missing one more rather key element; I hadn't picked up my bloody timing chip yet! With my wetsuit crotch at my knees and cap & goggles in hand, I waddled over to where Tanker, Kent and Mark were chatting at the edge of transition to ask Tank if he'd mind going and grabbing my chip for me. See what I mean about a little too laid back? At least I figured it out before the race start, and my sherpa saved me a few minutes that I could use to work the neoprene into position before he returned with my chip and zipped me up.

Ready to go!

I said goodbye to Kent and Mark and headed down for the water, knowing I didn't have much time for a warmup, so I jogged a little bit through transition on my way down to the beach. There were a lot of athletes already swimming as I waded in and was almost immediately asked by a girl "um, do you have a blog?". I said I did, and she said she'd seen it and quite enjoyed it; thanks for your kind words, reader! Rinsing my goggles, I wished her luck and set out for a warmup. Fortunately, the rain had just been a passing shower, and the sun shone through the clouds as I began to stroke through the wonderfully warm water. I'm always astonished by how pleasant Pittock Lake is this early in the year!

Someone built a sandcastle on the beach.

I swam out about level with the first orange buoy - maybe 100m. Was feeling sluggish, but had to get things moving. I tried to pick up the pace a bit on the way back, but it's impossible to tell in the murky water how fast I'm moving, and I had to sight more often than usual to avoid other swimmers coming the other way. The last thing I needed was some skull-on-skull action! Giving Tanker one last kiss, I wandered down to watch the first two waves set off, then lined myself up over to the left of the starting area; I'd been pulling to the right quite a bit during a non-wetsuit open water swim on Saturday afternoon, and there's a bit of a current in Pittock Lake (which is actually a dammed portion of the Thames River) running from left to right as I looked at the swim course.

Somewhere around 09:08 the air horn sounded and I dove into the water to begin the 2012 tri season. While there weren't many in my wave (maybe 35 all told?), I seemed to keep coming into contact with people. I started off easy rather than getting sucked into the trap of trying to sprint off the line and wearing myself out early, just trying to focus on good stroke mechanics and a steady turnover. Someone tried to swim over me almost immediately, but ended up going around - I tried to catch on to some feet, but bodies seemed to be moving in all kinds of strange directions. Taking a moment to sight, I was heading to the inside of the orange sighting buoy so corrected a bit to the left and enjoyed a bit of open water. I wasn't feeling great, but I wasn't in bad shape, either - I wished I'd had more than one quick swim in my wetsuit prior to the race to get used to it, but then I realised that this was the best practice I could possibly ask for to get me ready for the rest of the races this season.

That's me in the bottom right-hand corner.
The milk carton buoys are neat, but near invisible when looking from the water.

I made the first turn buoy without too much difficulty, but reached it at exactly the same time as two other girls in my wave, and we ended up somewhat stuck together for the next leg. I tried to use this to my advantage; knowing that I was tending to drift to the right a bit, I was perfectly happy to stroke along with a girl just off my right side. I could see she was sighting every 5 or 6 strokes, so as long as I was just to her left, I should be perfectly on track. This worked great until we'd almost reached the second turn buoy (which happens quickly with the current's assistance), but then I seemed to pull away from her. The glimpse I caught while making the turn showed me that I was actually in the front third of my wave, and had overtaken one or two of the people in the wave ahead of mine. Good deal!

Unfortunately, as I turned toward the shore it rapidly became apparent that my goggles had fogged too badly to see the swim exit. I couldn't see enough people around me to keep me on course without sighting, and after a couple of attempts to make sure it wasn't just brain fog I still couldn't see where I was going. I paused, pulled my goggles away from my face to rinse them, then had to empty and re-position them as best I could. Fortunately, it worked perfectly - the optics of my Sable MT101s were back to their usual crispness, and I was still solidly course. Back to work!

Current runs from the 1st turn buoy to the 2nd.

Now, of course, I found myself surrounded by swimmers after losing the time while sorting out my goggles. I calmly started stroking again, leaving most of them behind as I headed for shore. I was feeling pretty good about my swim time, as I'd seemed to get along pretty well, but I wouldn't have a clue of what sort of time I'd managed until after the race - I removed my watch and handed it to Tanker before the start, and was racing "naked" with nothing but feel to guide me.

750m Swim: 17:01 @ 2:17/100m. 3/11 in W30-34, 122/179 O/A.

For some reason I always look really haggard coming into T1.

Emerging from the water, I was a bit shaky getting to my feet on the soft, silty bottom but somehow managed to get my legs pumping and shifted to a run. Unzip suit, pull out arms, cap off, goggles off, start pushing the suit down to my hips as I run into transition. Umm, where's my bike? I hadn't remembered that there was another rack between the entrance and my row, but I kept moving and found it without too much trouble. I'd like to say that I sagely sized up the number of other bikes there to get an idea of my position after the swim, but I really do turn into a gibbering moron as soon as the horn goes, so I just got down to business trying to get out on the bike as quickly as I could.


One problem: it feels like I'm moving in slow motion. The tree above my bike has crapped maple keys, twigs and leaves into my helmet, I'm doing some kind of weird pee-pee dance trying to strip off the legs of my wetsuit, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to fall on my head trying to put on my bike shoes. Sunglasses, race belt and helmet go on first; you can be disqualified for doing anything with your bike without a helmet on, and I'd hate to find out that grabbing onto it to keep yourself from collapsing into a heap is included in that rule, so I always get my bucket on ASAP. Probably not a bad idea anyway; if I do fall over, I'll be less likely to hurt myself!

Admiring my bike, apparently.

Against all odds and working with an IQ roughly equal to my shoe size, I eventually get everything sorted out and head out to the mount line.

T1: 1:17, a 3 second PR!

Outta here!

Bad news: you have to run up a little grassy hill in order to get to the mount line, and my legs don't want to work. At all. They hadn't felt too hot during my 15min shake-out bike or 20min run the day before, and now they're practically on strike. I finally make it up to the mount line with 2 other girls right around me, manage to hop on the bike and get clipped in, then start slogging up the big stinkin' hill out of the conservation area.

Sure, I'm smiling, but I'm internally screaming "WORK YOU STUPID LEGS!"

Cresting the hill, I finally think to turn on my cycle computer. I am consistently awful at remembering to do this during races, so no big shock. Spinning up to speed with a bit of a tailwind to start I run smack into the first of a whole series of rolling hills. Big ring? Nope, not right now. On the bright side (pun not intended), the sun was shining brightly by now and the roads were almost completely dry.

Jeebly, getting to the mount line is taking forever!

Just to make things extra special, though, the wind was from the East-Southeast - after climbing to the intersection and making the turn onto Oxford Road 33 we were riding into a headwind. I did manage to get it into the big ring though, and took a shot of gel as I cruised downhill near the 5k marker. My cycle computer showed 10:08 for the first 5k, so a little slower than 30kph after the hill out of the park. Not too shabby for me.

The whole of the first 2.5km are climbing.
Riding out through the farmland, I was having trouble getting comfortable in the saddle; my hips didn't want to roll forward into my comfy position, and I was getting some chafing action. Not fun, but nothing terribly new - I've had issues with this for as long as I've been riding in aero. Try to ignore it and get the legs firing, because there's more climbing to come.

As I rode, my lack of training on my tri bike this year took its toll; my shoulders and neck weren't very happy, I was still having trouble settling into my position, and I definitely wasn't putting out earth-shattering wattage. On the bright side, I think only about a dozen people passed me - I only saw one girl in my age group get by me, though apparently another slipped past without me noticing. I wouldn't have been able to give chase anyway; just didn't have the legs! I passed the 10k mark at 20:04, having made up a couple of seconds with the downhills.

Not pictured: some very agricultural aromas.

After a long climb that had me down in the mid-teens for speed and thanking my lucky stars that we'd had a semi-tailwind for the longest stretch of the course, I finally reached the turn-around at 15k, just about bang on 30mins from the time I'd started my cycle computer. I failed to gear down enough and ended up out of the saddle for a couple of moments to spin back up to speed, then cruised downhill and took another gel.

I didn't intend to take more than a couple of sips of the on-course HEED on the run, but knew I'd be out long enough to need some calories, so the best place to get them was on the bike. I know I can tolerate 1oz of EFS Liquid Shot every 20min (240cal per hour), so I figured I'd take a shot at 5k, 15k and 25k, so I'd have a little more than 10mins (including T2) for the last gel to settle before heading out on the run. 

Hauling downhill into the park.

The last half of the ride was fairly uneventful. I made up a little more time, coming through the 20k mark at 39:52, but ran out of water just after taking my last gel at the 25k mark at around 49:44 - guess a little more splashed out on the run to the mount line than I'd expected, or I was just drinking more than usual since a bottle usually lasts me an hour. In any case, it meant I had nothing left in my bottle when I had to climb that final kick-in-the-teeth hill around 27k, so I think I'll stow a bottle in the seat tube cage next time. I managed to pass a few people who were apparently fading, but was only passed (I think) twice - after dropping back 10m to stay well out of the draft zone, I managed to hang pretty well with the last person (the lady who took 2nd in the W45-49 age group) who got by me with around 2km left to go.

Tootling up to the dismount line.

This kind of bit me in the rear, as I was behind her and another, slower-moving girl (presumably from the wave before mine) as I hit the no passing zone on the hill down into the conservation area. Neither of the two ahead of me seemed to have any confidence descending, or at least didn't go about it with my level of reckless abandon, so I was forced to slow considerably in order not to run them over. Lost a few free seconds there, but it's the nature of the course; I could always have made the effort to pass them before I reached the point where it was no longer possible.

30km Bike: 1:02:42 @ 28.7kph. 5/11 in W30-34, 135/179 O/A.

Not much of a run.

Smoothly unclipping and swinging my leg over before the dismount line, both ladies stopped dead in front of me with no room to get through, so I had to step down a few feet before the actual line and run it in. Once more, my stupid legs decided to go on strike; they were pretty sure that signing up for this was some kind of mistake that I'd realise sooner or later and let them rest.

Negotiating the bike between the wooden posts.
Apparently one of the elites did poorly with this.

As I trundled along to T2, I feared the worst for my run split - I could barely get my stupid legs to work for me even on the downhill! I hoped that the bit of a pause while I changed shoes would be enough rest to get myself sorted out. That is, of course, if you can consider trying not to fall over while changing from my bike shoes to my tri loafers "rest". The reverse of T1, I keep my helmet on as long as possible so I can still grab the bike to keep from falling on my head. Of course, I'm pretty sure that some of the blows I've taken to the head are the whole reason I sign up for this stuff in the first place, but that's beside the point - more brain damage isn't going to help any.

T2: 1:10

Stony double track in tri loafers. Sub-optimal.

I eventually made it out of transition and onto the double track trail up to the dam, thinking I'd happily cut off my left foot if someone would just pass me a cup of water, but knowing that MultiSport Canada races are awesome for providing aid stations really frequently on the run course. I whipped myself up into something resembling a trot, hit the double track, and promptly rolled an ankle stepping on an uneven section. Perhaps the Ultra Speeds weren't my best choice for this! Fortunately it hadn't gone over much and wasn't painful, so I kept on moving.

Not pictured: lots of little rocks and a couple of short but nasty hills.

The elites were just finishing up the run by the time I made it a couple of hundred yards out, and it was amazing to see how quickly they run - I'm pretty sure I could hang with their pace for about 100 metres, maybe less. Death whistling had begun on my part, and I tried my best to calm my breathing down as I headed for the dam. People were passing me from both the tri and the duathlon, but as soon as the death whistle starts I try to push the pace at my peril; I've blown myself up on a couple of training runs doing that. A fellow running back to the finish gave me a nice "good work, Mistress K!", so I replied with something similar - it turns out he's a BeginnerTriathlete member who'd recognized me. Nice to meet you Charlie, and great race!

Crossing the dam, I finally hit an aid station and got the cup of water for which I'd been yearning. While there was a bit of cloud cover now it was still very warm, so after a few sips I dumped the rest of the cup down my back for some cooling. Reaching the one road section, I saw Team SmackTalk member Adam directing runners to the fitness trail. Always the joker, he told me to go the wrong way, but not in any serious  fashion - next thing I knew, I was on the stonedust fitness trail that forms the loop of the run course.

Yes, my belly button is enormous!

I passed the second aid station at ~2.5k as the trail split, taking the right fork. It was some lovely running, on a well-groomed trail festooned with wild purple and white phlox and queen anne's lace. The only problem I had was that there was very little air circulation, and the scent of the flowers (while beautiful) got a bit oppressive. Passing the 3k marker wheezing away, I wondered why in the heck I do this kind of thing, but the stunning scenery and the thrill of racing brought me back to the moment. 

Grabbing a cup of HEED from the aid station at the halfway point, I just focused on trying to keep my stride fairly light and control my breathing. The last part of the trail loop includes a couple of really beautiful footbridges over wet areas with gorgeous wrought iron railings and arches - I'd love to take Tanker walking through there sometime to take some photos, but as there were no runners coming the other way due to the layout it did get a bit lonely out there. Fortunately, I do most of my training alone, so I'm used to running with only my own thoughts for company, but I do enjoy the camaraderie of racing. Closing the loop and passing another aid station just past 5k, I grabbed one last cup of water to sip and dump on myself.

Approaching the ultimate goal and apparently doing the funky chicken.

Off the trail and back on the little road section, Adam offered me vodka or beer, but I didn't even have the breath or brain for any retort but a wheezy chuckle. A short downhill after leaving the road, and then the nastiest part of the run - the hill up to the dam is only about 100 yards long, but it gets steeper as you climb and I was already gasping! Somehow I made it up there, declined taking anything from the last aid station, and made my way across the dam. To tell you how addled I was by this point, I'd been telling myself "less than a kilometer to go" since I passed the 6k mark. It's a 7.5k course. Stupid girl.

I managed to figure out my mistake a few minutes later, on the last little rise of land before hitting the 7k mark. Wondering if I'd have a kick, and if so, when to start it, I finally spotted the turn to the finish line with Tanker dead ahead of me and my legs took off of their own accord. Making the corner, I gave it everything I had for the last little downhill to the line.

7.5km Run: 42:04 @ 5:37/km. 7/11 in W30-34, 145/179 O/A.

Oh, sweet relief!

I got my handshake from John Salt, had my chip removed, then walked around to find Tanker. I'd definitely left it all out on the course; it took me at least 5 minutes to catch my breath! Not used to this fast, short course stuff anymore - my legs were killing me and I wanted to lay down and die. However, I'd also managed to set a 3min PR at this distance compared to the flat, fast course of the same distance in Welland, which I'd raced in 2010

Official results:
Total time: 2:04:11.5 - 5/11 in W30-34, 25/48 women, 137/179 O/A.

We had lucked out greatly, too - not long after I'd finished and got my post-race food, a thunderstorm rolled in during the award ceremony and Tanker and I went scuttling off to the car! While the oppressive heat on the run course made things tough for me, the storm would have been worse.

Post-race glow.

With a couple of days' perspective since the race now, I can honestly say that I'm quite pleased with how it went. My swim has historically improved through the summer as I've got more time in my wetsuit, and I know my bike split will benefit from more sheer mileage on Dolph; I've only really been seriously training on him for the last 2 weeks. As my bike fitness improves, my ability to run off the bike should come up as well, so I'm not fading quite as badly on the run.

Recovery courtesy of Compressport Canada.

When all is said and done, this was a great way to pinpoint the things on which I need to work as the year progresses, and a 3 minute PR is a fantastic way to open my season!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Crash taper!

With the first tri of the season on deck for this Sunday, it probably wasn't the best idea to put in 10.5hrs of training over the Victoria Day long weekend, but it was a lot of fun!

Puslinch Tract on Saturday

Rode to the market on Saturday, had brunch, then headed over to the Puslinch Tract for an afternoon of mountain biking. It was my first time on "real" trail with clipless pedals, and I actually did ok; fell over once while stopped (yes, you read that right) and scraped up my right forearm a bit, but otherwise didn't come off the bike. I'm getting much better at negotiating obstacles, but I still suck at riding up sharp hills! Puslinch Tract is an amazing spot, though - something for every skill level, lots of different types of terrain, and stunningly beautiful.

Note: not indicative of most of the trails, but a shot I couldn't resist taking.

Tanker dropped me off at the pool with my mountain bike afterward, so I cranked out a swim and then took the Mill Run trail home, pausing in Riverside Park to get a photo of some of the cute little goslings.

Little fuzzy footballs!

Then off for a lovely sunset 6km run on the newly-renamed Bob McMullen Linear Trail. It being May 24, we spent part of the evening shooting off fireworks with neighbours on our street. An amazing day!

Sunday dawned with a pool swim, a bunch of errands, a little over 10 sweltering kilometers of running on the Grand Trunk and Devil's Creek trails, then a cruising 35km ride on my tri bike just before sunset to test how it felt in my race suit and aero helmet. This day really got away on me! Before we knew it, it was dark again and the fireworks display on our street resumed, with a neighbour who used to help out her (now passed on, RIP Betty!) mother with professional displays pulling out some pieces that definitely hadn't been bought at a roadside stand!

Back from my Sunday ride, in full-on dork mode.

Monday morning we hauled ourselves out of bed early and rode up to north Waterloo to check out the action at Victoria's Duathlon; the first multisport race of the season in Southern Ontario. While it was a tough, hilly ride to get up there, we had a blast spectating and cheering on the competitors on the bike and run courses, and even got shot by the event photographers while we were out there!

Tanker's grumpy because he hasn't had a coffee yet.

After the race was over and we'd congratulated the people we knew who were competing (oddly enough, out of three people I knew in the race, all of them were doing it as a relay), we rode home via Coffee Culture on King Street in Kitchener and had a couple of freddoccinos to cool us off. The whole weekend was hot and sunny - typical May 24!

I might have to order a copy of this one!

With our legs thoroughly whipped, we hopped on our motorcycles after a quick brunch and went for a good rip. The breeze was just the thing to cool us down before hitting up Puslinch Tract again and struggling into my wetsuit for the first open water swim of the year!

Stuffing sausages.

Of course I ended up putting a nail nick in my suit (first time ever!), so I'll be off to Swim & Sports this afternoon to pick up some wetsuit repair cement to fix it before Woodstock on Sunday. Otherwise, the swim went well! I felt ok in the water, my wetsuit still fits, and the water was absolutely lovely. I'm glad I found this spot; I'd done some open water swimming in Puslinch Lake previously, but it's horribly weedy, and everywhere else close by is at a conservation area that charges an entrance fee. While I fully support the pay-per-use nature of the GRCA and understand that the fees pay for conservancy programs and staff, it hurts a bit to pay $11 for a 20min dip (since I refuse to swim in open water alone, and always bring Tanker as a spotter/safety person). Puslinch Tract is free, and since the pond (a former quarry) is quite small and shallow, it warms up quickly in spring. Perfection!

I approve this swim venue!

Whipping my suit off and drying off, we noticed some ugly looking clouds rolling in, so hopped back on our motorcycles and headed for home. As the wind began to gust and rain seemed inevitable, I squeaked in a quick 5k run around the neighbourhood before calling it a weekend for training. Three runs for about 21.5km, three swims for 4,500m (the open water was only about 700m), and almost 6.5hrs of cycling. Got to ride all 4 of my bikes, including my motorcycle! More fireworks Monday evening, then back to work on Tuesday.

The suit!

Having torched myself pretty well on the weekend, I've been taking it quite easy this week - under 15k of running (5.7k Tuesday, 5.2k brick run Wednesday and a wee 3.7k trot last night), a half-hour on the tri bike to make sure everything is perfectly set up on Wednesday evening, and two short swims (1,000m on Tuesday and 1,100m last night). I'm feeling pretty good, and have busted out the pie filling and basmati rice for some carbo-loading. Today is, as always, a day off - I'll do a quick little run, bike and swim tomorrow just to stay loose, then it's off to Pittock Conservation Area Sunday morning.

If you see this, you should be moving faster.

As the first tri of the season, I'm not necessarily looking to tear up the course, but I am definitely looking forward to some good, sweaty fun! My bike feels good, I've managed to sort out an error in my swim stroke, and I'm coming off a recent 10k PR on the run - just hoping the weather cooperates for a great day! There's also the small matter of a wager over a pool noodle to be settled..

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dug myself a hole

After putting in 8 hours of training in 4 days, I'm buried. My shoulders and neck are complaining about having spent 2.5hrs in aero since Sunday evening, compared to maybe 60mins prior to that in 2012. My legs are positively wrecked from heavy lifting Tuesday morning followed by a 9k hilly run that evening, then 32km of hills and wind on Wednesday's ride. Every time I glance downward, my quads look a little bigger, but man do they ever complain when I try to get them to do something! I've also been sleepwalking through my work week as I haven't been getting nearly enough time in bed (so what else is new?), and have missed a couple of naps. I was tempted beyond measure to bag off training last night, but managed to crank out a decent 5.75km run and 2,300m in the pool. Even sorted out the reason my right shoulder has been acting up while swimming; I was letting my shoulder blades elevate during the pull phase and pushing down at the front of the stroke, putting strain on my teres major. It's sore, but should be fine in a day or two now that I'm no longer doing damage.

2012 bike position. Comfort and power.

I pushed myself fairly hard this week, but today is time to rest and regenerate. Friday is always a day off, which allows me to bury myself with hard training from Monday to Thursday both physically and psychologically; rest on the horizon makes it a little easier to go to the pool Thursday night instead of just collapsing into bed. I foam rolled my whole lower body this morning and we'll do some light walking this evening when we go into Toronto to have dinner with a friend of Tanker's visiting from Edmonton. That's it, unless we go for a quick stroll when we get home as well. Will be sure to get some good sleep tonight, then the long weekend will provide a great opportunity to dig another hole before a crash taper for Woodstock! Looking forward to some mountain biking and hopefully some paddling and an open water swim.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Powerful and connected

That's how I felt on my tri bike on Sunday evening. It was the first time I've taken it for an outdoor ride this year (probably since last September), and it was magic!

I'd had a horrible swim Sunday morning, hosted Mothers' Day brunch for my mum and dad, run for an hour and fifteen minutes on a local trail after eating almost half of the fruit plate I made for the brunch (I don't recommend this), then started some short ribs braising on the stove. I was bound and determined to get a ride in on Dolph (my 2009 Cervelo P1) before dark, so at quarter past 7pm with tired legs I set out to get it done.

Delicious but dangerous.

I started off easy, just spinning in the small ring into a very light headwind on my way out to do my standard 20k time trial route. I told myself I could take it as easy as I wanted; the whole point was just to get a feel for the bike and my position, which had felt great on the trainer on Wednesday. With the Woodstock Triathlon only 2 weeks away, I needed to be sure that I could be comfortable down in the aerobars!

As my legs warmed up I was moving further and further down the cassette, so I shifted up to the big ring and let the pistons work a little. The back of my shoulders were feeling a bit of strain, but everything else was comfortable, my head was tucked nicely and my upper body was quiet. I could feel myself ducking under the wind, and reveled in the silence of my well-tuned ride.

Dolph and I at the Welland Half Iron last year

Turning out of the wind, I clipped along happily through a stand of trees, spotting two Canada geese with their goslings all resplendent in their pre-pubescent fuzz. My shadow chased alongside me, legs astir as we cut through the evening air. A dicey moment here making a turn in the aerobars at a gravel-strewn corner, a burst of speed there to make it through an intersection, and a few quick pumps of the legs to climb a small hill under an overpass. Glutes fire, cadence dips; up and over.

A sprint, now, to make a light, then rolling downwind toward the finish. Right turn, down the sweeping turn toward home, I laughed to see I was exceeding the speed limit with no special effort. Dolph and I wound our way into our little crescent, then 'round the final curve and into the driveway. 8pm on the nose; exactly the time I said I wanted to be done all my workouts for the day.

I'm delighted with the way bike and I performed together; the exhilaration was almost like my first ride on him, back in May 2009. As a matter of fact today is exactly 3 years since I got Dolph, though his baptismal ride wasn't until May 17th (after assembly by a local bike shop). I've put almost 5,000km on him since then, but few have been so satisfying as last night's ride - that feeling of connection with the bike, coming together to form something greater than the sum of our parts. Totally stoked for tri season now; I hear the battle approach and stand with my weapon at the ready!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sick and broken, but mending both

Yeah, I caught another stinkin' cold. Pretty sure I should have either put on a hoodie (I had 2 of them with me) or at least stayed out of the shade after the Mudpuppy Chase 10k last Sunday, but hindsight doesn't stop the sniffles. Fortunately, after a stuffed up Monday and absolutely miserable head-throbbing Tuesday and Wednesday, the massive quantities of goo in my cranium thickened up yesterday and I'm actually feeling a bit better today. Between copious amounts of tea with honey and lemon, regular dosings of echinacea and an absolutely staggering consumption of water, I hope to have this thing licked by tomorrow! I figure one really good sleep ought to do it.

It's been a pretty chill week of training, partly due to my gooeyness, and partly due to having flat-out shattered my legs on Sunday. I'd forgotten how sore a short race could make you! It wasn't the same as the pain from any of the 20+km races I've done, but my hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves (and for some reason my left bicep - figure that one out!) were all hurting through Monday and Tuesday. I used The Stick on everything because I couldn't quite muster the courage to hit the foam roller, but the tightness in my calves is being a bit stubborn. It's been all easy running this week, anyway - can't push the intensity when I'm recovering and can hardly breathe!

Dolph on the trainer

I did hit one session that made me really happy, though - because of the stupid running injury I sustained back in January and doing Paris to Ancaster last month, I'd spent most of this year riding my cyclocross bike instead of my tri bike (which has given me some chafing issues in the past, not allowing me to put in the day-in-day-out work on the trainer that sustained me through the injury). I'd put maybe 100km on Dolph (my 2009 Cervelo P1) this year out of 1,600+ kilometers of cycling since January 1st. I'd even rode the CX bike for the indoor tri back in February! While it's all still good training and one bike isn't that much different than another, the Woodstock Triathlon is less than 3 weeks away and I had no idea about my ability to ride in aero!

I hopped on Dolph on the trainer on Wednesday night after a short, easy 5.5km run under sketchy skies while a cold wind blew - I'd been considering going for a 30k hill ride on the 'cross bike, but with being sick and it threatening rain I figured indoor was a safer bet. I clipped in, started to spin, and my Cateye V2c cycle computer showed...nothing. I figured the sensor had just moved a bit, so without leaving the saddle, I tried to push it toward the rear wheel a bit. With the wheel still spinning. I'm smart like that.

Needless to say, the sensor ended up getting clipped by a spoke (it was apparently pretty loose), and the whole speed/cadence unit hit the floor as the mount gave way. I immediately commenced screaming obscenities, jumped off the bike and surveyed the damage: the sensor seemed fine, but a tiny chunk of the circular plastic piece on the right side of the mount had broken off. Would I be able to get just the mount replaced, or would I have to buy the whole (quite expensive) thing again? Could I fix it? Let's try fixing it!

Taking a photo of the actual damage was the furthest thing from my mind

Off to the kitchen with poor Tanker wondering what the hell all the fuss was about, I searched for salvation in a tiny tube. Tank finally managed to locate the Krazy Glue in the bottom of the fridge, and I ran back downstairs to see if I could reverse my own stupidity. With a bit of luck and only minimal glue on one index finger (seriously, the piece that snapped off was only about 3mm x 2mm, and needed glue in 2 places), I managed to bung it all back together. I'll check it again before I venture outside, but it seems to be holding just fine - phew! To my pleasant surprise, it also appears that replacement parts are available, so I'm not totally screwed even if the repair proves non-durable.

Drama now complete, I managed to get the sensor positioned properly to pick up the magnets, then hopped on the bike. Down into aero, I actually felt pretty good - I went through a 15min warmup, spinning different gears at different cadences, and the familiar old chafing was notable for its absence. I'd moved my saddle back just a tad the last time I'd been on the trainer, and it seemed to have done the trick! I moved on to the meat of the workout: 3 x 10min intervals with 5min recoveries, which I know is a bit weeny, but I'm sick damnit! Through the first interval, the back of my shoulders started to get a bit sore from holding the aero tuck, so I sat up through the recovery. I had none of the discomfort I usually get when going back down into the aerobars, and cranked out the second interval quite happily, sitting up for the second recovery just to check a message on my phone. Back down for the third intervals, and still no pain or chafing! I can't remember the last time I felt that comfortable and connected on my tri bike. An added benefit; I'd been feeling a little crampy and nauseous, and the aero tuck was close enough to the fetal position that it actually seemed to feel better than sitting up.

Also helping: the new aerobar pads Tanker got me for Christmas

The best part? Not only was I comfortable, I was putting out excellent power! While not pushing to my maximum due to the gooeyness, I still pulled out the best 3 x 10min average speed for tempo intervals I've managed this year (no records exist prior to January, when I developed my power calculation spreadsheet based on the known resistance curve of my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine)! I felt quite strong down in the aerobars, which I believe I can attribute to my biggest cycling volume spring yet, plus coming up on the third anniversary of owning my tri bike. Years' worth of adaptation is paying off!

Having joyfully discovered that Dolph and I get along better than ever, I decided that last night I had better try a brief run last night in my tri loafers (the Zoot Ultra Speeds in which I'll be racing almost exclusively for this tri season) since I hadn't run in them since last summer. The run went great, the shoes felt wonderful, my legs are starting to come back, and I even got in a decent 2,300m swim afterward. Not bad for a sick girl!

Now all I really need to do is change out the rear tire on Dolph so I can ride him outside a few times (his current rear is dangerously worn, but I have a replacement on hand) and get the danged lakes to warm up so I can get in an open water swim! I'm starting to get really stoked for tri season now - bring on Woodstock!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mudpuppy Chase 10k - May 6th, 2012

After a last, short run on Saturday with a few little pickups and a 30min swim, Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny for the race. I'd been watching the forecast change daily for the prior week, hoping it wouldn't be too warm, but at only 8c it was certainly making a chilly start of things!

Over 1,500 runners taking over Kitchener City Hall

Pre-race prep went pretty much exactly to plan; I'd had my chicken fried rice for dinner and got about 7.5hrs of sleep, chugged my first meal replacement shake about 3 hours before gun time, had a second 2 hours before the start, and got my Tim Hortons cafe mocha for the ride up to Kitchener. We arrived just before 8:30am and the 10k didn't start until 10am - lots of time to hit the washroom, get in a warmup, and be ready to go.

And lots of time for dorkery

I was actually pretty surprised when I went inside to relieve myself - I was able to stroll right in with no lineup! Definitely a pleasant change from the usual race morning experience.

"Dorkamania's running wild"

We watched the 3k run go off at 9am as I sipped on a bottle with a scoop of eLoad, and the first finishers cross the line just over 10mins later. Gawd DAMN there are some fast kids in the area! I did some dynamic stretches to start getting things moving, opening up my hips and trying to ignore the tightness in a psoas muscle on the right side. I'd managed not to damage myself by being an idiot and going to a punk show on Thursday night, but it seems that getting a bit chilly riding my motorcycle on Saturday afternoon (which makes me unconsciously start pulling my legs up, trying to get into the fetal position while in the saddle to conserve warmth) had tweaked my lower back and abs. I hoped it would go away as I warmed up..

Battle ready!

I ran into local speedster Paul, coach for the KW Track & Field Association and stud duathlete, and exchanged some friendly words - he was there running the 5k and pacing in some of his young athletes. At about 9:30, I finally took off for a couple of kilometers through nearby Victoria Park, reveling in the gorgeous sunshine and beauty of the space. I did some accelerations over the bridges, watched Canada geese squabbling in the water, saw 3 male Mallard ducks all sleeping in a row on the rocks at the water's edge, and then headed back toward city hall with one final push up a hill before dropping to an easy jog, then a walk. Had to get the junk miles out of the system before I hit the line!

Meanwhile, Tanker was hanging out with Kitchener Rangers mascot Tex.
One more washroom stop before heading to the start corral, and of course now there was a lineup, when it was just 15mins to gun time. Fortunately, the line moved quite quickly, and I was found by a friendly face - latestarter (Anne) from the BeginnerTriathlete forums! We chatted a bit about the race, Anne telling me she'd switched from the 10k to the 5k as she'd had a hard time recovering from her Around the Bay experience. I made it out of the bathroom with less than 10mins before the start, and wandered out to find Tanker.

Start line dorkery.

I gave my wonderful crew one last kiss, tossed him my near-empty bottle, then did some skips on the way down to the corral to try to keep some bounce in my legs. Standing around, I did a few standing high knees and butt kicks to try to keep muscles loose. The sun had already heated things up quite a bit - it was 16 degrees or so at the start, which was going to be a tad on the warm side for me with virtually no shade on course. There was a bit of a wind blowing from the East, which should provide some cooling on the trip down Weber and (hopefully) a push coming uphill toward the finish on King.

Final 2012 route.

I met Anne's husband Ken in the start corral, and it turns out we'd actually competed together in the Cambridge Criterium last June - small world! I had lost Anne when washroom stalls came open for us, but mentally wished her well as I bade good race to Ken. The national anthem was played, and just seconds later the horn sounded to start the race!

746 runners ready to go - 574 in the 5k, 172 in the 10k

Not having done a 10k for almost 3 years, I was at a bit of a loss for how to pace it. I wanted to run fairly hard as I hoped to come in around 54:00 (predicted by the McMillan Running Calculator based on a 26:00 5k time, which I figured was reasonable based on the hugely hilly 26:18 5k I ran at the indoor tri in February), but didn't want to torch myself too early. I freakin' hate 10k races!

Setting out, tossing the horns to Tanker.

Through the first couple of turns and on to the first long straightaway, I aimed to keep my breathing heavy but not laboured and looked for places to pass people. I had seen that there were a couple of mild climbs on Weber, but that it was mostly downhill - coming face-to-face with what looked like a fairly large hill immediately was a bit of a smack in the face. My mouth was already getting dry by the time I passed the first aid station near the 1 mile mark, but I'd told myself that I didn't need any fluids for a 10k - had even left my 10oz hand bottle at home. I did a mental inventory of my stride; it seemed fairly light and sound, so I focused on keeping my upper body relaxed and just flowed with it.

Around the 2k mark I had a silver-haired lady turn up at my elbow and tell me that I was going to be her pacer, since I was running at exactly the right speed. We chatted a bit and I found out her name was Marlene, and she'd originally signed up for the 10k but had switched to the 5k due to a stress fracture in her foot - she didn't want to give up racing entirely since she'd come in from Port Elgin with her daughter, who was also running. She asked me what time I had in mind, and I mentioned that 54 minutes was the goal - she took a look at her Garmin 305 and said that since we were at 11mins right then, I was probably well on pace for that!

And then the 10k runners do it again..

Conversation was getting more difficult as we made the turn onto Onward Ave, but I enjoyed the shade of the trees and the little downhill to the out-and-back section, which turned out to be around a little boulevard in the middle of a tiny street and marked 3km. There was another aid station there, but I bypassed it despite the horrible dryness of my throat - Marlene paused to grab some water, but was right back with me moments later! She said she had hoped to go under 56mins for the 10k, but would be very happy with a 27min 5k. I said I'd do my best to bring her in, and she told me that she'd cheer for me once she finished!

Turning back onto King Street, the wind at our backs meant we lost its cooling effect without any real perceptible push as we started to climb back toward City Hall. I was starting to death whistle as I pounded up the hill, trying to focus on my arm swing and ignore the growing burning sensation in my legs. I finally saw the 4k marker - gawd, this course is worse than Around the Bay for the illusion of being close to the finish - and still had another half of the hill to go! I hadn't heard anything from Marlene for a bit, so I glanced sideways at a windowed storefront as we got into the last few hundred metres and gasped out "come on Marlene, you've got this!", as I didn't see her behind me in the reflection. I hope she heard me!

Hoping my fast shoes would save my butt.

Coming at last to the top of the long climb, I could see that the road dipped a bit, then kicked back up again just before the finish. I had to do another loop of this? Was I stupid, or merely insane? Could I just drop out after 5k? That thought was silenced immediately: not only am I not a quitter, but I'd managed to raise $155 for KidsAbility by promising to run a 10k - anything less was unacceptable.

I came through the end of the first loop seeing 26:13 on the clock - what? I figured it had taken me about 15sec to get across the start line once the horn went off, so that put my 5k split at just under 26 minutes. My 5k PR is 25:41, set on a completely flat course. Oh momma, I was going to blow myself up! Gasping away, I made the turn onto Water and started furiously doing mental math: if I wanted to make 54mins, I could afford to lose 12sec per kilometer off my current pace through the second half. Of course, that was wrong (I could actually lose 24sec/km), but that's probably why I don't do accounting work at 90% of my max heart rate.

Heading out for the second loop, doing my best t-rex impression.

Back up the hill that starts the trip down Weber, I contemplated how nice it would be to drop to a walk, then quashed that with an angry internal yell - "There's no walking in a 10k! You just ran a bloody 30k race without walking! SUCK IT UP!". I tried just shortening my stride a bit to try to catch my breath, but it was oddly difficult to try to slow down, so I just concentrated on trying to stay light on my feet. One of the reasons I really hate 10k races is because it's hard to keep the intensity up for so long; both mind and body fatigue and lose focus. So much for breathing not being laboured!

I was really suffering in the heat and sun, too, and my throat felt so parched I thought it might crack. I couldn't pass up the offer of water just after the 1 mile marker this time; I managed to grab a cup without incident and toss back a couple of small sips, just enough to wet my mouth. Feeling better but still hurting, I tried to let the legs loose as we wound downhill past the cemetery and finally spotted the turn onto Onward.

WRPS mounted officers on the course.

Dry again already and gasping for air, I grabbed another cup of water from the aid station at the 8k turnaround point, having another 2 sips and speeding away to the best of my ability. It was about this time that I finally figured out my error in math, but there was precious little I could do; I was undoubtedly fading, and facing the long climb up King.

Trying to will some lightness into my legs, I noticed a hotspot on the ball of my right foot - great, just one more thing to hurt! All the more reason to get it over with. The 9k mark was forever in appearing, as I wheezed and shuffled my way toward the distant finish line. Like a mirage it seemed to hover before me, ever receding into the distance as I pushed toward it. Where to start a kick? Would I have a kick? How badly had I faded?

Approaching the finish.

I could see the chute, but I couldn't see the clock. I heard Marlene cheering for me, and it was just the lift I needed - I tried to see if there was anything more in my legs, and lengthened out my stride just a tad. It wasn't much of a kick, but I was giving it all I had!

Almost there..

I saw Tanker off to my right, then suddenly I was upon the finish line, seeing 52:40 on the clock as I crossed. WHAT? By my reckoning, that put my chip time somewhere around 52:25 - over two and a half minutes faster than my PR, set the day before I turned 30!

Chip time: 52:12 @ 5:13/km - a 2'48" PR

I walked back along the route after collecting my finisher's prize (a neato LED flashlight) and a cup of water, found Tanker, and then found Marlene. She was delighted by having finished under 27 minutes, and congratulated me on my new PR - I found out later that she actually came in at 25:58 and took 2nd in her age group, so huge congrats to you Marlene! I met up with Anne again after the race as well, and congratulated her on a new 5k PR - turns out she actually took 3rd in her age group as well, so congrats on your podium! Was nice to finally meet you, too!

67/156 Overall - 28/79 Women - 6/16 in W30-34

The bad: looking at my chip time and the difference between chip and gun time, it appears I did the first 5k in about 25:45 - about a 5:09/km pace. That puts the second half at 26:27, or a 5:17/km pace, meaning I really did go out too fast and fade rather badly (however, the pace to which I faded would still have put me at 52:50 for the 10k). My intensity level varied through the second half; I'd like to see more focus when the going gets tough. I'm a bit disappointed that I needed water as well, though with as warm as it got and not having run much in the heat this year I suppose it's understandable. Hate that my Compressport Pro Racing socks gave me a hotspot/blister, too - they've never done that before!

The good: I always wonder, after racing long distance for a couple of years, if I still have the ability to push myself to redline - I'd say I answered that question pretty well out there, and I'm very happy with the effort I put in overall (even if there were a couple of spots where I slacked a bit from full throttle). I improved from 11th to 6th out of 16 in my age group, 54th to 27th of female competitors and from 142nd to 67th overall when compared to 2009.  The PR is obviously nice, too - 02:48 over my fastest prior 10k (which was flat), and 05:27 over my 2009 Mudpuppy Chase time (the course for which was, however, probably a bit more challenging). I'm also pleased that my running form seems to have improved - my rearward leg extension is much better than it was early last year.

Left: Re-fridgee-eighter 8 mile finish in Feb/11
Right: Mudpuppy Chase 10k finish in May/12
My butt isn't as fat, either.

We hung out for most of the post-race festivities and were delighted to hear that overall more than $51,000 had been raised for KidsAbility through both private and corporate sponsorship - a huge thank you to all of you who sponsored me for helping to make this happen! You've supported a great cause, as the many smiling faces of the special needs kids who ran the 3km mini-Mudpuppy can attest.

Gluten free whoopie pie the size of a dessert plate!

Home we went for a bit of post-race gluttony (including my first ever whoopie pie, made special for me by Jen Gralec of Tiny Cakes), then out to enjoy the beautiful day with a nice, easy bike ride with my sweetheart, winding up on the patio of a local pub.

Tanker enjoying a pint of Argyle Dark.