Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lazy days of summer

Coming back from Muskoka I felt a little drained. Not only because I spent most of my weekend on two feet, but also because of a heatwave that we've been "blessed" with for the past two weeks. Only today I felt that my brain wasn't ready to melt as soon as I stepped out of the door.

I don't do so well with racing in heat anymore. Not that it bothers me on the spot, but after such an effort I need to go down for a long nap. I did not have this opportunity on Sunday after the race, and to make matters worse, the heatwave got really out of control Mon-Wed, to the point that I completely gave up all ideas of exercising. I have to pat myself on the back for even leaving the house and going to work.
Yay for more water!
On Thursday I finally came out of this lazy stupor and went to Professor's Lake for our club's open water swim. A storm was looming on the horizon, but it did not affect our time in the water. I did 2 loops for a total of 1500m then decided to go on a 3km run loop around the lake. To be honest, after all the heat, the idea of running in the rain was rather inviting. About 1km in, this is what the storm looked like from the distance (and I still had to make it across the pond).
Unsurprisingly, I got soaked in the last km, but it felt absolutely wonderful. Once I finished the loop I waited for Mellen and hubbs who were running a little behind, then headed home for dinner. All of a sudden, I was full of energy again!

The next day, when Mellen asked if I wanted to go with her on a bike ride, I could not say no. As I had other errands to run and a wedding reception to go to in the evening, I took the day off and chose to enjoy it to the maximum.

We chose to rode from my house to Erin and back. To be honest, I was very apprehensive because Mellen is so much stronger than me on the bike, but without knowing it, she had already planned to tire herself up before showing up. As a matter of fact, she rode 70km to start the day, then met with me for another 75km. I had one of my best rides of the year, but finished with another Strava extreme suffer score because of a 170bpm average over 2h50. I am THAT out of shape, OK? Mellen's HR... 140bpm. Alright then, glad that she did not fall asleep.
Still dry before the deluge
I should probably thank the rain for keeping us on the edge of our seats, literally. We got soaked (again!) on our way back from Erin. It was still a lot of fun, especially flying down Mississauga road with cross winds and all the speed! Despite the copious amount of sugar that I eat, I am also glad to report that I did not melt.

However, I was afraid to melt under the sun once I came back home, so I settled on a lazy chair in a shady spot with a cold beverage. It was glorious. I may or may not have fallen asleep in the process.
Apparently epic suffer scores require epic rest days, so Saturday I had to take the day off. Again. And while I was resting I did the unimaginable. I downloaded Pokemon Go!! And what does one do when they have a new toy? They go Pokemon hunting. With their cat. Like a certifiable crazy cat lady.
I caught a Pokemon. His name is Picchu and he is very athletic. Special powers are Killer Purr and Vertical Jump.
Then this happened. It was one of the first goals that day. I ended with over 15k steps, over 3 times more than a regular working day, 5 times more than a weekend on the couch.
Since then I went hunting every day. I now take the "long road" while going to the nearby coffee shop, just so that I walk by all 4 Pokestops within a 2km radius. I saw dozens of teenagers and grown up people outside enjoying the game. If someone puts a lure on one of these pokestops, it's pandemonium. Teens and adults come over on bikes, skateboards, cars or just by walking. It definitely took the neighbours out of their homes and it's really awesome to see.

My sons got on their bikes again. We compare Pokedexes and combat levels. We are bonding again around a silly game. Say what you want, but I do enjoy their company again. After 5 days I reached level 13 and caught/evolved 47 different Pokemons out of 150. This makes me happy.
Just look at the Pokemon effect on my activity level from the last 3 days.
Look at me (Pokemon) GO!
The craziness has also taken over my office. We have 2 gyms and 4 Pokestops on the campus and I find myself walking around the office a lot more, working from the cafe where people put lures regularly, and going outside to visit the pond. It almost makes the office bearable, almost. Can you argue with this?
View from the Pokestop
Where is my Pokeball when I need it? Did the game freeze on me? Oh wait... 
Comfortable sandals are mandatory for Pokemon hunting
But don't get fooled by the idyllic conditions, the inside is still a zoo and my head is still up in the trees. Probably a good introduction to what I'll be doing in 2 months from now: I am going back to school and will abandon the IT world for good. I had 16 good years going from computer engineer to Sr. Manager of a team of 30, climbing the ladder as high as I felt comfortable, but now it's time for a change. I have decided to become an Arborist (wiki link here) and signed up for the Urban Arboriculture program at Humber College. I guess I'll be climbing even higher now, ha! Classes start September 26 and I could not be more excited about it. The program lasts 2 semesters and if all goes well, next spring I will be working outside, taking care of trees as a "tree surgeon" with my new best friend, the chainsaw. I honestly feel that I fit right in. Not only the people that I met in the industry are so friendly and down to earth, they welcomed me with open arms and I think that I will feel much better in this environment, doing something good that makes a difference for nature and the habitat. And who knows where this path takes me. A new adventure for sure, with a lot of hard, physical work, learning and growing challenges, pretty much from the bottom up.
Trees, you've got a friend in me
Alright, now back to working out before my work becomes a work out. On Monday and Tuesday of this week I also went back to Taekwondo after a 10 day break. I think I needed this break after the emotional roller-coaster that took so much energy out of me. On both days we started the class with a jog/sprints combo and I survived both days without any pain. I suffered while stretching though, but that was to be expected. I worked on my patterns until my brain gave up and I was no longer able to coordinate my left with my right. That must be sign of a good workout, or I'm just getting old, as usual.

Today I took another day off from exercising, but I plan on swimming/running tomorrow, TKD class on Friday and/or Saturday, then triathlon simulation day on Sunday. Keeping the fun alive, one day at a time. Cheers!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

IM Muskoka 70.3 Relay Race Report

A couple of weeks ago, most specifically the day after I completed the epic 107km hilly ride with Sam, a friend from Huntsville contacted me on Facebook and asked if I wanted to participate in the race as part of a relay, since their original cyclist got the shingles (ouch, I hope he's ok). I was flattered and a little apprehensive at first, but after asking if they were competitive and was told that they didn't have any podium plans, I accepted. After all, I had done two hilly rides this year over 90km and a total of 6 rides over 50km. Ha! This was going to be a gongshow. I had never "attacked" a race so undertrained, but I could not resist the calling of "The Beast" and riding the Muskoka rollercoaster roads alongside hubbs, my friends Sam, Emma, Mellen, and a few other friends from out tri club.

On the other hand, I had also promised to volunteer at the finish line, but I was reassured that I'd have enough time to recover and take on my duties for a couple of hours afterwards. After all, our relay swimmer was also the finish line volunteer captain and she understood that I may come with "limitations".
Beat every sunrise
We woke up early on Saturday to drive to Huntsville, with the plan to ride our bikes for 45min and give our legs a spin before the race. I was welcoming the thought since my last ride was with the girls on Canada Day, more than a week before. Alas one hour later, we hit this:


Lovely, just lovely. And so our plans went through the window. We hoped that the rain would stop eventually, but it never did. Since we arrived in town way early to be able to check in, we crashed in a friend's hotel room and watched Le Tour until noon when we went to Deerhurst to pick up our race kits. I met my relay team mates then we all went to Farmer's Daughter for lunch.
The Froome-bullet tearing it down the mountain
Carb loading done right
After lunch we went to the hotel to check in, relaxed for a bit (Zin took a nap), then we went to Walmart to buy large garbage bags and electrical tape. It was clear by then that the bikes were going to spend the night drenched and we wanted to avoid seeing all the greasy parts washed dry. We made it to transition right before it closed and I said goodbye to Trinity after covering her the best I could.
It was still pouring and after a quick stop by Tim Hortons, we went back to the hotel to change into dry clothes, then headed out for dinner at Boston Pizza with our friends Louis and Mellen (who sure knows how to fuel on veggies).
I had some shrimp tacos that didn't impress me much and my only hope was that they would not upset my stomach, Thankfully they were inoffensive. I also stayed away from dessert and booze, which was a first.

Back at the hotel, I organized my transition bag (easy peasy), then watched American Ninja Warrior and took a shower. We turned the lights off around 10:15pm and the next thing I remember is the alarm going off. This was by far, the best sleep I've ever had before a race. I had absolutely no clue that the power went out during the night and that my hubby woke up several times. I don't even think that I moved a limb that night.
We woke up at 5am and 1/2 an hour later we were out the door, meeting with Sam in the lobby. We all went to Tim Hortons for breakfast, where I had a cinnamon raisin bagel and a butter tart that I had bought the day before at Farmer's Daughter. I wasn't that hungry, but a little worried about the lack of protein. Oh well. I was going to eat enough bugs on the bike and I still had a banana and peanut butter for later on.

After making sure that we were caffeinated enough, we drove to the airstrip to park the car, then took the shuttle to transition where we arrived shortly after 6am. I got body marked and headed to the relay racks. Zin came over to inflate my tires, and I could tell that he was already "in the zone". I had to keep the chatting short and sweet because the time was flying by. Kari, our swimmer, was already in transition and thankfully we were a lot more relaxed for being in the last swim wave. We chatted for a bit, took a few pictures and managed to keep the anxiety at bay. See, all smiles!!
When the transition closed at 6:45am, we all went down to the swim start. The lake was calm, beautiful and very inviting. I really wanted to jump in, at least for a few minutes. It'll have to wait for another time...
Serenity now...
The third member of our team, Brent, joined us and we all watched Kari putting her fish skin on. Zin walked by, I gave him a kiss, he gave me his wedding ring in return. I wasn't sure if he just divorced me or wanted me to keep it safe. Hmmm. Pretty much everyone went with option 1.
I also saw Sam and Mellen and snapped another pic to capture their smiles. Gotta catch them all like Pokem..
Ooops, sorry.
Someone got the joke.
Soon enough it was time to part ways and I went down to the beach to watch one or two waves start their day. Look at them go!!


I took in some inspiration and energy from these brave athletes and headed back to T1 for another potty break. Kari said that she was hoping to finish the swim in about 35 minutes and that's when I started to freak out. Brent was planning to run in less than 1:45 and... and... I was nowhere near this kind of times. At the very best I was hoping for a 3h35-3:45 time, but I had already forgotten than my best time in Muskoka was a 3h41, 3 years ago, when I was training seriously and was 15 pounds lighter. Ignorance is bliss they say. But at no time I felt pressured to perform better, so I figured that doing my very best that day was probably going to be good enough. Hey Brent, let's take a pic while I am still smiling.
Kari finished her swim just as she predicted in 35 minutes and now it was my turn to meet my promise. Pressure's on!! I trotted my bike out of transition and started powering on. Did I mention that for the first time ever I was also riding with a power meter? I swore not to check it during the ride though because I was sure that it was going to make me depressed. I had no clue what all the numbers meant anyway since I had not done an FTP test with it yet. It was all about the data porn (and a reference for the future). As a matter of fact, I decided not to check any numbers because they really didn't mean anything given my lack of fitness. The only thing that mattered in my mind was to make it in 3h45.

I rode this course about 5 times in total and while it got better at some point in the past, I knew that I was going to be in for a world of hurt. I tried to stay positive and did not care about all the people who were passing me up on the hills. You gotta work hard to push 148lb up, but at least I knew that I had an advantage going down. Wheeeeee! Watch me zooming by. It's all about gravity, and the junk in the trunk, folks! And maybe a bit of race wheels. The first water station took me by surprise. It really didn't seem that far, but I believe that's where I saw Sue Sitki the photographer and she took the picture below.
I don't think I have seen so many lost bottles, entire hydration systems, bottle holders and even cadence sensors in the middle of the road. It was quite disheartening and I kept wondering how these people were going to manage the course with less nutrition than what they had planned for.

The first challenge that I was apprehending was Dwight Beach Rd, which I missed riding back in May. However, once I made the turn, I didn't find it that bad at all. No gravel, but a few bumps and cracks, just like I remembered them from 2013. I stayed on the left, passed a lot of people who were descending way more carefully than me and enjoyed the scenery. That is a pretty stretch after all, if you can ignore the incline and how hard you are panting (and swearing) at times.

Once I reached the highway I started taking in some calories and playing leapfrog with a few people. Some of them didn't seem to have gotten the memo that it was a non drafting race and were blatantly playing the wheel sucking game. Thankfully not with me because I would have told them to bugger off. And speaking of following too closely, I almost got in an accident when a guy hit my back wheel and made me scream in terror. The guy then manages to pass me and says "sorry, I was looking at my bike". I was pretty furious, but told him politely to look at the road instead. This was probably the closest I got to hitting the ground in a race.

Aside from my heart rate going through the roof during this incident, this part of the course was rather uneventful. I descended as fast as I could, trying to use the momentum to get me over the hills. Repeat ad nauseatum. Reached Dorset and said no to the water and Gatorade, again. For nutrition I had with me a Picky Bar, 2 Fruit3 bars and 2 Gu gels, as well as 2 bottles of Scratch and 1 bottle of water. I was nowhere near to needing a drink, but I made a mental note to drink more. At that point I had only eaten a Fruit bar and 1/2 of my Picky Bar, 1/2 of my water and 1/4 of my Scratch mix.

The second challenge of this route for me was the hill out of Dorset, just before the highway 117. There were lots of people cheering at the top of the hill and I jokingly asked for another gear or two as I had run out of cogs. Alas nobody had a spare to get me out of my misery. I was riding a 28 cog in the back, but I wish I had a 32. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger... oh, shut up. It was super hard and I was already having thoughts of giving up. I was looking forward to the halfway mark, then the turn on Brunel, then the one on South Portage and then the one on North Portage, and finally the one on Deerhurst Rd. Somebody get me a teleporter if cogs is too much to ask for!!

Anyway... keep riding on. And just like that, the hunger stroke. By the time I got to Baysville I had eaten every solid food I had and finished my water bottle. Not much progress on the Scratch, but I was feeling a little gassy and didn't feel like drinking electrolytes. At this point, after 60km I still had not peed. I was wondering if I was drinking enough, once again. So at the aid station there I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and 2 Clif bars. The right hip/IT band/knee/adductor went on vacation and said to my left side "sorry mate, you're on your own - good luck!". I replied with a few expletives and told them that there was going to be no negotiation. We still had 34km ahead and not the easiest either.

Somewhere on Brunel at the top of a hill I saw a photographer. Despite feeling slow as a slug, seeing him there gave me reassurance that it was not too late for him to pack his camera and go home. I gave him a pair of horns and smiled. He said "I got this!" and my next wish became to make it back in one piece to see the photo (I am buying these).
By then I was in survival mode. It was quite hard to push with the right side of my body MIA and I was scared of injuring myself again. But if there is something that I've learned over the past few years is that what I am dealing with is not really an injury, but tightness due to my hips not working properly, from a mechanical standpoint. This requires daily maintenance which I don't do, hence powering through imbalances, depending on which hip decides to take a day off. So anyway, back to my pity party on two wheels.

Back in May when I rode this course, you may remember that I (also) missed the turn on South Portage and continued on Brunel until I reached Huntsville. I rode that day in 3h53, but I was not "racing". About halfway I was still on time to make it back to Deerhurst in 3h45, if I were to maintain a 25kph average that is. Well, once I made the turn on South Portage and I got a painful reminder that a LOT more hills were going to slow me down, my time goal went out the window. I was now hoping to make back it in less than 4h, with a stretch goal of less than 3h53. I hate to think this way, but if it had not been for my relay team, I may have abandoned. I kept telling myself that I could not let them down. They offered me this opportunity, the least I could do was to finish the ride so that Brent can run and we can all get a shiny medal.

It was hard, a lot harder than I thought. But of course, it's been 3 years since I rode the full course! Senility must have kicked in because I could not remember this kind of pain. Nope, I am not going to read that race report again, for sure it will bring me down. So young, so fit, so light!! Aaaargh. Just keep riding, just keep riding... And do NOT, don't you DARE, walk up those hills. Nope, not doing that. Between us, I was also scared to fall off my bike in the process, so it was better to avoid it altogether. As a matter of fact, I saw two guys falling just in front of me while trying to get back on their bikes, on one of the last hills of North Portage. I really hope their day got better afterwards.

With a bit of delay, I made it back to T2. I ended riding the course in 3h50, thus meeting my stretch goal of beating my training time, on a harder course. All this without a mechanical, falling off, passing out from dehydration or worse, dying. You may think that I am over dramatic, but it's always a possibility when you go as fast as you can down the hills and you could hit a bump, a deer or a squirrel that's going to make you fly off your bike head down into the pavement. Every time I say goodbye to Zin before a race I ask him not to die. I am glad that none of us did, even though he had a mechanical (again!) and ended with his worst personal time on this course.

So anyway, back in transition Brent took the chip off my ankle and he started the run. I pretty much collapsed under a tree and stared at the sky for about 15 minutes. I was feeling extremely hot and thirsty and made it a personal mission to find some ice cream. I went inside the Deerhurst building to the gift shop and found a fudgesicle. I could have eaten 5, but I decided to buy one and really savour it. I changed into my capris and flip flops, took off my bike jersey and walked over to the finish line, in a sports bra. At that point I could care less, I knew that I'd get a volunteer tshirt and although I was feeling a bit self-conscious, being among sweaty and tired triathletes walking around like zombies removed the inhibition.

For the next couple of hours I worked mostly under a tent opening water bottles and giving those to finishers. I cannot thank Kari enough for assigning me to this job. Even though I got blisters from opening hundreds of bottles, having my hands in cold water and doing a minimum amount of walking was just perfect after the effort put on the bike.
80yr young and going to the 70.3 Worlds Championships
Tracy receiving her medal and a heartfelt hug from her proud dad
The finish line waiting for the last athlete
My own finish!
I stayed until all finishers crossed the line, with an official time or not. Everyone got a medal. All my friends got a squeeshy hug. I poured water on Emma's back while holding her, I cried with Sam, I lifted Mellen up, wondering how many pounds she lost while putting on a killer effort (8th out of 81 in her age group!), I gave Zin another kiss (that was salty!). I melted when I saw Tracy's dad putting the medal around her neck. I watched in awe the 80yr old finisher sprinting down the chute. Made sure that all my friends finished and were well taken care of. James, Narinder from the FMCT club, Steve and Tammy from our open water swims (Tammy won her age group!). All the Iron Canucks that I knew. Virgil the goofball. Brent, our speedy runner who finished in 1h43, putting us in the 22nd place out of 50 teams with a total time of 6h14. Saw them all crossing the line and once again reinforced my belief that the finish line is the best place to be.
Last bike standing
Many thanks to Kari and Dorothy for being the most awesome team captains and for their warm, non judgmental welcome into the relay team "Help Wanted". I sure had a lot of fun despite pushing through the pain and I hope that I can continue to attend this event year after year for as long as it will bring athletes to the beautiful and challenging Muskoka. Can't wait to see what the rest of the season and next year will bring as we train for Ironman Mt Tremblant 70.3. Yup, I signed up and I will cross the finish line either on two feet, two hands or all fours.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fighting with my brain, a summer cold and unexpected pains

Coming back from the race weekend, I wasn't feeling eager to go back to training at all. It doesn't help that work is draining me emotionally as well so by the evening I am a huge mess. Case in point, on Monday I went to my Taekwondo class and right off the bat my instructor asked me why I didn't come to the belt grading. Not giving me a chance to answer, I spent the rest of the class with tears in my eyes, as the negative thoughts took over. I was convinced that he thought I was a coward and knowing this wasn't true, I could not shake off the feeling of having been misunderstood. We went through all our patterns and I had a very hard time concentrating and I kept making mistakes. At the end of the class I burst in tears and I had to talk about it with the instructor. Of course, it was all in my head, as usual - but anxiety had reached its peak and I had to fight a panic attack and the shame of losing my shit in front of a bunch of kids. Not pretty.

In the following two days it went from bad to worse. On Tuesday I fell sick with a cold and my tooth ache came back. On Wednesday I started two more medications and the cocktail made me dizzy and nauseous. I also got my period and in my infinite wisdom, I decided to go back to Taekwondo. We started the class with conditioning (insert sprints, lunges, frog leaps etc), followed by a gazillion side piercing kicks. Let's say that I did my best, but by the end of the class I was surprised that I had not passed out.

On Thursday I went swimming with the tri club at Professor's Lake and fought the chop for 2 loops then called it a night. I didn't want to make my cold worse since Friday morning I was going to meet with a bunch of friends for a Canada Day bike ride. Since sleeping hadn't been that great the entire week, I was definitely feeling tired and the weekend had not even started. I was not looking forward to the 5:30am alarm clock, and as a matter of fact, I even procrastinated getting out of bed and ended being late.

I met with Emma, Sam, Kim and Ivanka in Burlington after a 40 minutes drive for which I was ill prepared. I had to find my helmet, shoes, gloves, bottles, shades and put everything in the car along with the bike. Thankfully Zin had inflated my tires. Alas there was no coffee and I ran out of time to pick one from Tim Hortons. Once again, I started the day in a state of panic.

To add insult to injury, 15 minutes within the group ride it started pouring. And it pretty much did not stop for most of the ride. We were soon soaked to the bone, but tried keeping the spirits high.
About 30km in the ride Sam got a flat and I wiped out in slo-mo because my shoe refused to unclip while trying to stop. With a bloody knee and achy wrist, I helped Sam change the tube because she was shivering so hard, poor cookie. I even inflated my first tube ever because I never got a flat myself in 5 years and this was my first application in the field. ;-) I don't remember how many f-bombs I let out during the operation, but I think I broke a personal record.
For the next 25km all I could think of was a hot Mocha at the Starbucks where we parked our cars and a warm change of clothes. I am glad to report that both were a success. All in all, despite the super soaker and bruised bum, it was a lot of fun.

The next morning, another early alarm going off, but this time for a swim with Sam at the quarry. She'd never come to Caledon for a swim there and I promised to go with her the weekend before. Summer cold and achy limbs don't care, the premise of a breakfast with this girl was a good enough reason to jump in the water at 7am. The air was cold, but the water was super warm, so the swim was rather awesome. I did two loops for a distance of 2.2km in just about 50 minutes, then drove down the road to the Red Onion where Zin joined us for brekkie.

I spent the rest of the day/weekend on the couch, nursing my stubborn cold and praying for my tooth ache to leave me in peace until Tuesday when I'll have the tooth extracted. The cat was the best and kept me company. I hope I didn't give him my cold, because we snuggled pretty long and hard.
What else is left to say? On Sunday evening I was really craving a run, so I went out for a 5km around the block in my Hokas. No knee pain, but geez - that felt hard! I tried running "easy" but the heart wouldn't have it any other way but in Z4-Z5. Oh well, I have to keep reminding myself how badly out of shape I am. And I'm still sick, which most likely plays a role as well. Let's see what the next week will bring. I think I'll need a lot of exercise to chase all demons away, if not I may just end up punching someone in the office and that's not going to end up well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Welland Sprint Triathlon Race Report

How do you write one of these race reports again? Well, screw that. There are no rules. But I should talk about race day at least... and mine started early. Like really, really, really early. Something like 2am.. That's about right. It's around the time that I stopped sleeping. I pet the cat. I checked my phone multiple times. I watched my hubby sleeping. I listened to the sounds of the house. I wondered if the boys had gone to sleep. I brought the cat a little closer, asked him to purr some sleep into me. Didn't work. I was super nervous, but not as much about the race as I was about a last minute decision to drive back in town right after the race and attend my Taekwondo's school belt grading. And it didn't help that I had not talked to my instructor about this and I sent him an email just before going to sleep and I was expecting him to say not to bother, but instead he said it was my call. Doesn't he know I suck at last moment decisions?? Aaaaargh. Keep calm and try to sleep. One, two, three sheep.

I had no choice but to get out of bed once the alarm clock went off... It was 5am. I hopped in the shower, then had breakfast with hubbs. A slice of bread with prosciutto and a chocolate croissant. We stopped by Tim Hortons for coffee, then started the 1.5h drive to Welland. Made it there with 1h to spare and I was the one to be cool as a cucumber while Zin was the Energizer bunny. Dude, chill... it's just a sprint distance. It'll be over before you digest your toast.
We lined up with Emma for registration, then we grabbed our paperwork and hardware, aka bib and chip. I don't know about the others, but I also got a semi-permanent tattoo on my calf, judging by the fact that 3 days later I still have a big fat 42 sharpied on. In transition I found myself a little spot on a rack in the middle of everything, just to get confused enough to see my synapses firing early in the morning.
I went to a portapotty to put on my tri bottom and take care of a last minute business, then put on my wetsuit. Given that I don't fit in my TRS tri top, I decided to swim in a sports bra under my wetsuit, then wear my bike jersey on the bike and run, which will be the modus operandi for the rest of the season. That's what happens when you get fat(ter) and Coeur decides to change the fabric and make the tops smaller.

Fast forward to the swim start, this was going to be a time trial with each athlete starting 5 sec apart. I was number 167, so I had some time to warm up and chat with a few friends from our FMCT tri club. Oh, look, it's Bob Hatcher the photographer! Let's take a picture in our rubber suits. Zin, take your hand off my boob!! What is it now, "touch a boob" for good luck? (Jeez, I can't take him anywhere.) Bob captured the moment just a second later.
Aren't we cute in our matchy-matchy caps and goggles though? Too bad that I don't fit in my ROKA wetsuit either. *Sigh* We would have been perfect for advertising. Anyway... swimming on... 3.. 2..1.. GO! I went straight for the first green buoy, found the sighting line, hugged the line, turned at second green buoy, then third green buoy, found the sighting line again, hugged the line, made a last turn towards the exit. The End. Most uneventful swim evah. I stayed in the zone, swam happy and made it around the pond in 14:39 with zero contact. I think the course was a little short, or maybe was for those who knew how to swim straight. I don't remember coming close to anyone in the race... I often wondered if they knew about the line and why they were swimming way over there when they could have swum way over here where the buoys and the line were.
I was a little confused coming out of the water because I thought we were going to turn right and take the stairs up to transition like at Barrelman, but instead I was instructed to go on the grass, around the building and through the above passage that made for some crappy pictures and longer swim times.

In transition I had a hard time closing my bike jersey and it seemed like it took forever. Lesson learned, over the head it goes next time. I went sockless in my bike shoes as usual, but another surprise was the run out. So freaking long, all the way to the road, which is another difference with Barrelman, where we took the path along the water instead. This also skewed our averages but thankfully someone created a Strava segment for the road portion only and we can all hang onto our pride for a little longer.

Despite my lack of training, I managed to push enough watts for a 31km/h average. I'll take it. I remember having a lot of fun trying to bring my heart rate down, but to no avail. Average 177bpm, yikes! Is that called riding the red line or I'm making things up? I'm the queen of false idioms, so what the hell do I know. Someone will tell me that my English sucks eventually. But I do look good on the bike, so there.
I remember passing a bunch of people, none in my AG though, then being passed by the fast dudes who made me feel that I was standing still. I ate a gel at km 10, drank some water. It was freaking hot out there, but somewhat enjoyable thanks to the headwind on the way back to T2. It took me 38min to ride the 20km and overall I had a lot of fun. However I knew that once I'd start running my joy would disappear in a heartbeat, pun intended.

And just like I thought, after changing into my running shoes, it hit me. This was going to be my first brick of the year!! Happy happy joy joy! NOT. Are we done yet?? Wait, is this a HILL on this path? (it was just a bump, but it felt like a mountain) And where is the first kilometer marker dammit!? My watch was in multisport mode and it was not showing my pace. I had no idea how fast I was going, just that it felt dreadful. I decided to hit lap at each km marker to see my average. First km, 5:58, but effort level was feeling like a 4:58. I decided not to look at my heart rate and go by feel. By death feel that is. I kept pushing and started the mind games and inner monologues. At TKD I ran 5:15 for 6km, this is freaking slow. I can do this. Yeah, I know that my HR had been in Z5 for 45 min, but it should only take 20 more minutes. I won't die in 20min, I promise. Look, I can almost see the 2km marker. I even saw the top athletes coming back, so I am not THAT slow. I will pass out before I die and there are enough people on the path, one of them must know CPR. I can do this. Look, someone calls my name. Oh, right - I am wearing my bib.

Here comes the turn around, but wait... why are these people running on this parallel road? So this isn't the turn around after all. Fuck. I take a bit of water at each station, mostly on my head and down my back. I am SO glad this is just a 5km race. I cry for hubbs and our friends who are going to do the long course the next day. I finally reach the turnaround and think about the rest of the people on my way back. I did not see anyone in my AG passing me. This is encouraging. I can't be in front because I'm a slow swimmer, but where are the other athletes? Behind me I hope. Just STAY there. I can do this. I started feeling sick. Stitches left and right: one from the stomach, one from the ribs, one from the spleen, most likely another one because it can. I must stay under 6min/km. I MUST. One more km. I should pick it up now so I look good running down the chute. Boom chakalaka!
These people behind me look impressed. Or maybe I farted really loud, I don't remember.
Two steps later... OH THE AGONY
And FINALLY...
Happy to see Bob and the finish line. No matter what, he'll make me loo good. 
Dramatic, eh? Just wait.
I shake John's hand, I take three steps towards the girl who removes the ankle chips. She takes it off, then I say... I GOTTA PUKE. I lean above the gate and leave it ALL on the gravel. It felt like never ending, so the folks from the medical come over and ask me if I was ok. They bring me water. I drink 4-5 cups, I don't remember, then I make my way towards the exit. Now that's how you end a race, although I don't wish it to anyone else. Gives a literal meaning to leaving it all on the course I guess.

I finished the run in 29:57, mission accomplished to stay under 6min/km, but with a HR average of 180! The overall time was 1:27:21, which is 4 minutes slower than my PR on this distance, but for a first race and no training it's quite the accomplishment I'd say. From the beginning until the end I was 9th/16 in my AG, so that explains why it felt like I was racing alone.

I met with Emma and Zin, we took a pic, then I lied down because I was not feeling right.
Is it hot as balls or is it just me?? Why aren't there more naked people in the picture??
Yup, this hurts. And no, I am not giving birth. And don't ask me while my knees are blue, I have no freaking clue.
I took a few minutes to collect my pains, then noticed Zin and Emma had jumped in the water. Now, that's a brilliant idea. I took off my jersey and dove in as well. What a glorious, glorious feeling. I must have spent a good 10 minutes in there, doing the starfish and feeling the aches leaving my body miraculously. I may or may not have peed as well. Then we all went back to the transition and asked someone for a "fresh" picture. What a difference a cold swim makes!!
Let's do it again!!
By that time it was already 11am and too late to drive back to Brampton for my Taekwondo grading. Besides I was starving and dizzy and I hadn't even started packing. The grading plans went flying out of the window and I told myself "what the hell was I thinking??" I could not imagine a single minute driving back and spending another 5h in the dojang. One more lesson learned. I'll have to wait two more months. I already waited 12 years, who is still counting?

I went to grab some food while these two started packing. We found out that Zin had placed second in his age group, so we decided to hang around for the podium and the prizes. He won a Timex watch too, yay! I think we finally left the race site around 1pm and went to Swiss Chalet for lunch, then to the residence to check in for the weekend, since these two were going to do it all again the next day. Crazies. And this is where my first race report of the year ends. Hope you had fun watching my descent into agony and rising from the ashes, hahaha. It's all good, triathlon is fun!! Over and out.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A semblance of normality

Another week in the books and no boo boo to spoil the party. Now that's how you start a blog post! Where's my muscle emoji when I need it?

I went to Taekwondo on Tuesday and we did a 6.2km run at the beginning. I tried to stay on top of the leaderboard as the fastest of the group, but the instructor's son put on his 6'5" long legs and left me in his dust, after I beat him the week before. I ran like a maniac though, finishing the run in 34min 40sec, a 45 sec improvement over the previous run, but with the HR in the red, average 181. I pretty much do a speed workout every night I run there, reason why I try to limit the runs to 2 a week so I don't kill my legs, especially since I had little choice over the days I went training and they ended being back to back. Not good.

The next day I ran again, but thankfully only 4.5km. Then we worked on some sparring techniques - lots of high kicks. Not sure what was easier for the ribs - the power kicks we did the day before or the combination kicks during sparring training.  But I managed just fine, despite training with the black belts as they prepare for the ITF Taekwondo World Championships. Speaking of which... this is what ITF Taekwondo looks like.


And this is our school Miller's Taekwondo:


I still take painkillers at night because sleeping on the injured side is hard and I don't get my beauty sleep that helps me function like a human. Hopeful that by the end of the month the bruised ribs will be just a distant memory.

Thursday was OWS night at Professor's Like. A beauty of a swim... so different from the Sunday before. The lake was like glass, although on the chilly side. I helped a new member swim two loops, so it was full of zen. Bubbles bubbles breathe... Look, a pretty cloud and the sky is so blue! Where is that buoy again? I just got lost in my thoughts... as usual. I love open water swimming! Too bad I didn't give any of this love to the pool over the winter, but that's ok. I am not going to break any records this season anyway.

The week went by very fast and with the arrival of the weekend, the apprehension of the longest ride of the year, on the hottest day so far. My friend Sam from "Breaking my Runners In" is training for Muskoka 70.3 and she wanted to do a hilly 100km workout. Crazy as I am, I said yes to joining in the fun pain. Emma made us a route starting from Burlington, complete with a donut stop, 1000m of elevation and only 39 turns. I had to wonder if Emma was PMSing or something, because it delivered! I didn't count all the hills, but the motto quickly became "it ain't over till it's over". The meanest one was strategically placed at km 85, and the last one was just 500m before the finish. Thanks Emma!! What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?
Don't be fooled by our smiles, this was after 45km ONLY.
TRS Team photo! (suck the belly in)
I think we climbed that thing in the back
The route was really beautiful though and it had a few awesome downhills too, good enough for some Strava PRs. I drank 4 bottles of water, 2 of Gatorade, had 2 gels and a fruit bar, plus a butter tart. I managed my nutrition pretty well for the conditions, just like in the good ol' days when workouts like these were the routine. The only thing missing were the salty balls, haha.
Oh wait... here they are.

Sorry, not sorry. 
We met with them boys just before the donut/butter tarts stop. Hubby is on the left. These guys were out for 170km in preparation for Ironman Mt Tremblant. They still had 100km left when we met them, and again... don't get fooled by the smiles. The sweaty and delirious ones at the end of the ride are just below.
I went back home and prepared lunch for the boys, then waited for hubbs to arrive from his own epic adventure. We barely had 1h to rest, then went out to one of TFC's soccer matches since we have a few season tickets. For once TFC won, against LA Galaxy nonetheless.
If we look a little pooped, it's totally normal. It was only after we got a cold drink in the shade that we perked up a little. We even compared tan lines. I definitely win.

He may have a nice caramel color, but I am a real cyclist.
The next morning I slept in. Oh, what a glorious sleep. Our cat didn't even bother me, but of course... Zin woke up early again, this time to run 28km (and it distracted the cat away from the bedroom). It sucks to be Ironman in training sometimes.

Another scorcher of a day, but I spent most of it inside, until I went out for another open water swim that is. This time, direction the Quarry where our friend Mellen joined us for some quality "mermaiding". Aren't we pretty?
Another season first, and a 2200m swim that woke up my ribs by the end. Little by little I am getting there... Not ready to do long triathlons any time soon, but I can do some long swims and bike rides, and survive short, fast runs.

Little did I know, the ride I did yesterday was a blessing. Just today I was asked to replace someone at Muskoka 70.3 for the bike segment of a relay and I said yes!! I was really bummed last year when I didn't get to play on that course, but this year I am taking every opportunity as a chance to remind myself that I am not completely broken and I can still do things. I may only ride my bike every 3 weeks, but at this point I know that I can survive the Muskoka hills. It won't be my fastest time on that course since I lost a lot of fitness (and packed on 10 pounds), but I plan on having as much fun as I can while keeping the #rubbersidedown. Since hubby is doing the race as well, I am going to have triple the fun: racing, catching people and cheering my friends across the finish line. Now that's going to be awesome. Stay tuned... first race of the season is next Saturday!