Sunday, May 27, 2012

Neo is The One

But first, an apology to all the people arriving to this blog thinking they will be reading about The Matrix. I wouldn't be surprised if after all these years there is still interest. It's a classic movie for sure and one of my favourites, hence the title of this post that is directly related to the main character of the Matrix trilogy, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves. However, Neo in my real world is my Cervelo One bike that I just bought a week ago, so the Matrix related stuff ends here. If you want, I will help you leave this blog with a link to one of the best fighting scenes from the first Matrix movie in which everyone gets a hint that Neo may be The One. There you go, click here for the exit, and enjoy!

For those who stayed, I introduce you to Neo:

I bought Neo thanks to a private ad on Kijiji, a transaction that was not devoid of a good amount of drama and back and forth with both seller and Endurosport representative as you notice that the description of the bike in the ad is highly inaccurate (bike was described as an all-carbon Cervelo P2 2009, but the reality is that this bike is an aluminium Cervelo One 2002 as described here). I am still not convinced that the seller acted in bad faith, but somewhere in the past 10 years someone described this bike inaccurately and one or more people got fooled, including me. After talking to my friends experts in bikes and the shop where I had it fitted for me, the conclusion was that this was still a reasonable deal, so I didn't raise too much of a stink. With no paperwork for the bike, either concealed by the seller, or the previous seller, or who knows who, there isn't much that can be done. All I hoped for in the end is a word of apology from the seller after proving her that her that the ad description was totally misleading. Oh well, you cannot expect everyone to recognize their errors, either intentional or not.

Moving on, Neo (The One as in Cervelo One, get it?) is now mine and I intend to cherish our relationship for many years to come through training rides in the countryside, up and down the hills and in triathlons for as far as I'll feel comfortable riding him (ok, now that sounds dirty), be it 25, 50 or 112 miles. I am sharing a few more pictures below to give you a view from all angles.

For the tech inclined, the specs are below:
Frame Construction : TIG-welded
Frame Tubing Material : Aluminum
Fork Brand & Model : Cervelo Chord
Fork Material : Carbon fiber composite w/aluminum steerer, aero crown

Component Group : Shimano Ultegra
Brakeset : Cervelo dual pivot brakes, Dia-Compe 188 TRI levers
Shift Levers : Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end
Front Derailleur : Shimano Ultegra, braze-on
Rear Derailleur : Shimano Ultegra SS
Crankset : Shimano Ultegra, 39/53 teeth

Pedals : Shimano XC
Bottom Bracket : Shimano BB-6500, 109.5mm spindle
BB Shell Width : 68mm English
Rear Cogs : 9-speed, 11 - 23 teeth
Chain : Shimano CN-HG72, 1/2 x 3/32"

Seatpost : Aluminum, 27.2mm diameter
Saddle : Fizik Arione
Handlebar : Cervelo base bar
Handlebar Extensions : Syntace Streamliner
Handlebar Stem : Ritchey Logic Pro
Headset : 1 1/8" integrated

Hubs : Spinergy XAero Lite
Rims : Spinergy XAero Lite, 24mm light semi-aero, Clincher Only
Tires : 650 x 23c, Continental GP Triathlon Vectran
Spoke Brand : PBO

After getting fitted on the bike by a specialist and purchasing my first pair of biking shoes, I was ready to take him outside. We had two rides together this past week, a negative split of 1h on Thursday and a longer workout with 5/1 intervals for 2h10 on Saturday.

Neo rides beautifully although I think we still need more time to get ourselves acquainted. For the first workout I spent most of the time in aero position trying to get comfortable without reaching for the brakes all the time and it was rather interesting I should say. Equilibrium seems to be a notion that needs revisiting, especially when getting passed by aggressive drivers and dealing with cross winds. That, and the new clipping/unclipping action that allowed me to test the hardness of the asphalt when I tried to stop and press the traffic light button in order to cross the road at a large intersection. Thank goodness it only happened once because the scrapes and bruises I got from this fall should be enough to remind me to unclip properly for a quite a while.

It looks like it was a good lesson learned. For the second ride, I managed not to fall off the bike and to keep a good pace in all conditions, safely alternating between upright and aero positions in what is my longest ride to date, 55km (those 100km in a day I did in my teens don't count, I was a bit crazy back then). 

Feeling really good about my future with Neo. Our first official challenge together will be next week's Ride for Heart 50km, then the Toronto Triathlon Festival in July for 40km. Until then, I leave you with my first photo with him, just before my second bike workout. Ciao!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oh le boo!

Chrissie Wellington's book signing event at GEARS Toronto has been cancelled as I just read on her blog that she had a Muppet moment and lost her passport before she got to the airport.

I was just about ready to leave the office and beat traffic in driving across the city when I thought I'd check my RSS feeds one last time. This sucks, but I truly hope she'll be back soon to meet with her fans. I was even wearing a Muppet t-shirt. Wait, maybe I had something to do with her "Muppet" moment after all... I shall burn this damn t-shirt.

I appreciate Chrissie letting us know about her not coming, this shows how much she cares though. Oh well, to the next time...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Caballo Blanco and Friends

I think I mentioned a few times on this blog how much influence Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run" had on me and how the stories and characters I took from that book really stayed with me and helped me push farther and farther. It was with great sadness that I heard bout Micah True aka "Caballo Blanco" passing a few months ago as I was hoping to meet him one day. The New York Times published yesterday the most epic recollection of Caballo's life moments and events that led to the discovery of his body in the Mexican desert where his heart gave up in a last 12 mile run, entitled "Caballo Blanco's Last Run". I highly suggest reading this article as it's considered a very accurate depiction of the man, the legend that will always be Micah True .

While perusing the web, reading his friends' memories from the times they spent together, I also came across this video featuring Scott Jurek, Micah True, Christopher McDougall and of course, the Tarahumara runners. Although short and centered around Scott Jurek, one of the best ultrarunners of all times, it gives a short glimpse into Micah True's life and character. RIP, Micah.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It feels like triathlon training around here

It's not often that I feel like emptying a jug of Gatorade, but today's been one of these days when I felt that I left all my sweat out there. The day started with a 1.5h bike ride, followed by a few walks to Tim Hortons, first for coffee, second for an iced cappucino, with milk please, then it ended it with a 10km run with hubbs. This week truly felt like the beginning of triathlon training.

Swimming on Monday and Friday, biking on Wednesday and Saturday, running on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, plus all the walks in between and I ended up accumulating 70 miles in 11h of training. It may not sound that much, but it's a little frightening when you know that I'll have to put in the double in training for the Ironman. How many jugs of Gatorade will I drink then??

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Life Without Limits

I am currently reading Chrissie Wellington's book "A Life Without Limits" that magically downloaded to my iPad this week as it became available to the public. I had bought it earlier this year and I just couldn't wait to start breathing the inspiration out of her story. Without alluding that I could ever measure myself to her greatness, it is quite amazing how much I can retrieve myself in her words though.
"Mentally it is hard coping with the weight of expectation I put on myself. Mentally it is hard trying to be the best the whole time. And I don’t know who I’m trying to prove myself to. There is something inside me—not a voice exactly, but a deep-seated compulsion—that strives for perfection. But it’s my own version of perfection, not to be perfect per se but just to be the best that I can be." - Chrissie Wellington, 4 times Ironman World Champion
Thankfully I didn't go to such extremes as bulimia or getting straight As, but I can relate to the fact that I always need to be in control, especially of myself, at all possible times. Just like Chrissie didn't drink until she reached 20, it took me 30 years to allow myself to even get tipsy. It was my 30th birthday when I finally had a few too many Bellinis to feel the buzz. Starting to work with a coach hasn't been devoid of doubt and resistance to change. I feel bad for thinking that "I know better" but the urge to listen to my body instead of another person's advice has been both a blessing and a curse.

For example, I didn't listen when coach said before running the Paris marathon: "Run for 30K and walk the rest", I ran the whole thing once I decided I would do so, sometime between 2:00am and 2:30am when I couldn't sleep. I didn't listen when he said to take it easy for 45min on my bike ride on Sunday and instead I pushed relentlessly for 1h against wind and hills because I felt I could do so. But I did listen when he said that I should run a second marathon in three weeks because he knew I would regret not doing so. See a pattern here? It's always pushing a bit farther because my body says "go for it". 

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no fool and I know when to stop. I can sense in advance when something's about to break, just like last year when I refused to participate in "team building activities" on my only day of rest 3 weeks before the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon. I was told I had no choice and 5 minutes later I pulled a tendon in my calf that put a stop to my running for over a month.

On May 25th I will be meeting Chrissie Wellington in Toronto where she will stop for an evening of book signing and for this purpose I just ordered a physical copy of her book as well. I cannot wait to meet the legend, the humble, astonishing, hurricane who took Ironman by storm just 5 years ago and hasn't stopped awing everyone since. As she is taking a break from breaking world records to spread her passion for this sport, I am getting ready to follow her example and reach for my own limits.

Thank you Chrissie for the inspiration. Read Chrissie's blog. Buy her book. Be amazed too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mississauga Marathon Photos

Zoomphoto did a great job this year capturing people's efforts in completing personal challenges at the Mississauga Marathon. I was surprised to see that they took over 60 photos of me which I bought as a digital download since I liked them very much, for once. Here are a few of them, I suggest to click on the first and walk through them as a slideshow.

You can see the rest of the photos here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Recovery week

Little by little, the excitement dies... But that's a good thing, training should also follow its circadian rhythm. I definitely need to rest for a little while, all this marathon training has been taking a large place in my daily focus and now it's time to shift this focus towards other goals. The next challenge is the Ride for Heart 50K on June 3rd, followed by my first olympic triathlon on July 22nd, then the marathon training returns for Scotiabank Toronto Marathon on October 14. So in the next 2-3 months I plan to increase my swimming and biking activities while keeping an active running base. Coach will sure know how to steer my training towards these new challenges and I can't wait!

This week I have been in recovery mode, lots of walks, a short 20 min run yesterday and a 1.5km swim on Friday. Swimming went really well, I am not sure how my technique held, but it seemed that I put on the turbo. I managed to do my first km in 28:56, the fastest time so far with 750m in pull. Then I did another 500m, with the last 250m without a pull buoy. I need to do something about the sinking bum, but I suspect that my fitness should improve the more I swim, so hopefully I won't feel so exhausted when I increase my kicking soon.

Yesterday's recovery run started pretty slow, legs were heavy, but after the first km them too remembered how to move faster. I run with my hubbs and ended at Tim Hortons for coffee, that was really great because it was pretty hot and I was dripping sweat from my ears. Summer is definitely pointing its nose around here.

Today was also a gorgeous day and I just couldn't wait to go out for a bike ride. Coach said to go for 45min easy, but once I started spinning those wheels, it was hard to slow them down and went all out for 1h of sustained effort up and down the country side of my hood, which felt more like a double up because of the strong head wind on my way back down. I managed to squeeze in 25km during which my 25yr old granny hybrid bike and my marathon legs passed 3 cyclists on their fancy carbon roadies and cleats. I do wonder how my ride will change once I join the club of thin tires and hard soles. I need to make a decision real soon, but it's the spending money part that keeps me from doing it.

Well, after all the trisport reports, it's time to end this blog post. I will leave you with a food triptych from this past week = homemade lasagna for recovery, salmon and broccoli for the lean dinners, egg whites and cheese to boost up the mornings. I am hungry all of a sudden.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A last look at the Marathon de Paris

I watched this video today and it brought back so many great memories! I even teared up a little. If you read my Paris Marathon Race Report or listened to the Step Ahead Podcast, you will sure find this video familiar. I may do this again someday... Farewell, Paris, farewell.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's all in your head: Mississauga Marathon Race Report

Wait... whaaat? Another one? Um... yeah. In case you didn't follow, I have been training for this marathon since the beginning of the year and the Paris Marathon was just an accident, albeit a happy one. So happy that I knew I had fulfilled my mission of becoming a marathoner and finishing the Mississauga Marathon, well, it would have been just icing on the cake. That didn't prevent me from stressing about it, of course, especially with that pesky counter on my Runkeeper page that was reminding me of the minutes, hours and days that were passing head-spinning fast towards the moment where I'd be meeting my fate for the second time in a 3 weeks interval.

But you know what, life is short enough not to take risks. Of course, I don't recommend to run marathons back-to-back like this on a regular basis, but if your body and mind feel capable of doing it, why not, go for it! That's what I did, I had my doubts too, but coach said I shouldn't be afraid of trying if I'm feeling recovered and so a week after running Paris I set my mind on the goal of finishing Mississauga as well.

I didn't sleep much in the night leading to the marathon, preoccupied with what I was going to wear and other details that could have turned my world upside down during the 42.2km. First, the weather gods had predicted sunny and 10 degrees Celsius at the start of the day, raising to 15 degrees by noon. The perfect day, right? Not so perfect in my mind. I chose to pin my bib on a short sleeves t-shirt and to wear my Nike capris, with the socks still being an unknown. At the runners' expo I won a pair of double layer socks from the Running Room and I already had a few of those and I knew they were giving me blisters on a 10km run, what I didn't know was how much bigger those blisters would have been over 40km. FOUR times bigger? On the other hand, I had my super-technical Falke thin socks that I wore in Paris that also gave me blisters, but the size and placement of those would have been no surprise. Last but not least, I had my Nike compression socks that never gave me blisters on 10km runs, but were throwing out of whack my capris-short sleeve combination. What if I was going to be too HOT in those? To also avoid a fashion faux pas, was I going to need long pants or tights? Oh, the questions that went round and round in my head the whole night... In the end I must have slept 2-3h and totally threw out of the window all the options that tortured me during the night and went for a 2 bucks pair of thin running socks from Wal-Mart. I stuck with the same t-shirt and capris and it was the perfect choice... not as much for the bra that went underneath, but I'll leave that one for a separate post dedicated to the "scary" aftermaths. Chaffing is no fun, that is all.

I don't think he worried about socks. At all.

Hubbs drove me to the race with only 15 min to spare because of an emergency potty break that I had to take at a Tim Hortons nearby, just to avoid the uncertainty of neverending portapotty lines at the start. The plan was for him and the boys to wait for me around km 30 and give me a love boost towards the finish line. Little I knew, there were going to be lots more to be thankful for... But let's move on, literally. The race started right on time, 7:30am and was rather uneventful for the first 10k or so (aren't they all?). I had one problem though : pacing. I was so good telling everyone else how to pace themselves and start slow, but there I was not being able to do so myself. Started with a 5:45 min/km pace, about 30sec faster than in Paris and it felt just impossible to bring it so much lower. I settled on a 6min/km eventually and told myself "que sera sera". However, when I reached the 15km mark where I split from the half-marathoners, I was already tired of it and all I wanted was to keep going straight for the 21.1 and NOT so much-whatever-longer.

Leaving the town centre
Heading for the hills
One of the problems in this marathon was that there was NO solid food. I think I was really spoiled in Paris with the regular spreads of bananas, oranges, raisins and sugar cubes and for reading this infographic about the costs of the Goodlife Toronto Marathon happening at the other end of the city, I was really hopeful that we'd get at least bananas. But by the 15km mark, even though I met water and Gatorade stations every 2km, the food was nowhere in sight, so I KNEW I was going to have a problem as my GU Chomps were only going to last me 2h. They were giving out gels after 22k, which I cannot stomach, so of course, I started to panic. Thankfully, there was Carol, right after the 15km split and I felt that I was going to cry, such a happy surprise that was. It was exactly what I needed, a friend to push me through this battle as I was ready to be done with it. And indeed, a battle that was, lots of rolling hills, long and boring industrial splits leading up to the 25km mark and back and more rolling hills until we reached the waterfront at Port Credit. At km 20 I get a text from hubbs to tell me that he'll meet me at km 30 and all I said was BRING BANANA. I was starving!!

At km 31, happy to see Carol.
The kilometres leading to this point and on were really tough. I drank my little bottle of brine between km 25 and 30 as I felt I needed the extra electrolytes. Did I mention I was really hot and sweating like crazy too? Every other 2km water station I was drinking one cup and pouring one on my back. If this was running in 15 degrees Celsius, I wonder how people finish marathons in 25-30 degrees! Ok, enough complaining, back to the banana. Oh yes, THE BANANA. Waiting for me at km 30, just before another one of those long and lonely hills, along with my 3 loves, hubbs and my boys. Secretly I was wishing they'd bring me an iced cappucino at km 35, but I didn't ask for it, I wasn't going to push the marathon rules too far after all. Gave all of them a hug and off I went with my little one running along me up the hill, then continuing the race against  myself, most than anything.

Where did the marathoners go?

It was a lonely one as only 842 participants (347 women) took the start and the majority of them were ahead of me, judging by the masses that I crossed paths with between km 23 and 28. Many times only a person or two would be in front of me or we'd take turns passing each other, then slowing down. This was a race of the brains, of the will to push through when nobody is cheering for you, aside from the kids that volunteered to clap unenthusiastically for hours on end.

My salvation came from Carol at km 27, 31, 36, 41 and my boys at km 30 and 40. I HAD to run for them. I didn't always know when I'd meet them, but just in case, I tried to keep my walking to a minimum. I think I walked 5-6 times maybe in the last 10k, I was just extremely tired... I don't think I hit the wall because I could still run without pain, but I kept telling myself that I had an occasion to enjoy the race and I should just leave my pride on the curb and accept that it was not the day for a PR. So when I reached the parks along the waterfront, I tried to take all the beauty of the day in, to breathe the warm air, to look at the beautiful and calm lake Ontario and just go on with the day, good or bad, I was going to finish this marathon and it was time to relax my mind. I even had this idea sprouting in my brain that I was going to take my ice bath in the lake and shocking everyone nearby, so the reward of that thought kept me refreshed until the end.

I can see the lake!! Can't I just go straight?
I think the banana and the brine kicked in around km 38 when I got a second wind and picked up some speed. I stopped seeing the km markers after km 40, it was rather a blur in my head, but with the end in sight, I accelerated and finished strong and not crawling as I feared. It was a GREAT day and my final time was 4:43:12, placing 74th out of 101 in my age category, 664th overall.

At km 40, happy to see hubbs.

For the full GPS experience, see Runkeeper here.

I didn't end up in the lake as I had hoped, there were lots of police officers around and a big sign about increased bacteria after the rainfall that we had this week, so I changed my mind. But I didn't miss the ice bath in my own bathtub later in the day after a pizza with gooey cheese and an ice cream. Well deserved, me thinks! Next challenge, the Ride for Heart on June 3rd, 50km bike ride on the Toronto highways for a good cause. Speaking of which, I need your help!! I have pledged to raise $500 to fight heart disease, but I received no donations so far. If you can spare 10-20 bucks, it goes a long way, plus you get a tax receipt.

Here is the link where you can contribute to this campaign.

Thank you and see you next time!

PS: The legs in the first picture belong to Alan, barefoot runner from Mississauga who I met for the first time last year during the Mississauga Half Marathon when he zoomed by me between km 14 and 15. You should go read his blog, he's such an inspiration. I never knew he had a blog until today when I looked him up thanks to a comment by Nicole. Here are more pictures of Alan running this year's half, that he finished in 1:58:35. Congrats Alan and I hope you don't mind I posted your legs here. I hope others will take notice and follow in his footsteps, literally.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

One step ahead of the other

I am running out of ideas to occupy my anxious mind, so maybe listening to the last episode of the Step Ahead podcast and reminding me that marathons can go well despite of everything else happening around in the universe isn't a bad idea... If only I wouldn't cringe every time I hear my voice. Here you have it, in which I talk about falling from the sky in the middle of the Marathon de Paris and setting a new PR at Toronto Yonge St. 10K. I also talk about... what again? Gosh my mind is fuzzy, I should ask Carol, my friend and host of Step Ahead. Pickle juice, or rather drinking brine to avoid hitting the wall (I have my bottle ready for tomorrow!), see-through t-shirts, the lack of portapotties in Paris and other nonsense. But it's a lot of fun when done under a good dose of endorphins that just won't go away. If you listen all the way until the end, you'll get a glimpse into the effects of marathon induced euphoria. Happy listening!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Two days! ONLY two days before the Mississauga Marathon, yikes! Since I've decided to run this marathon as well, of course, I've been freaking out. For the Paris Marathon I didn't have time to think, I fell in it from the sky, literally. But fact is, I've been feeling pretty good, no major aches and pains other than the occasional dull pain travelling up and down my calves and the burning patch that's been plaguing my shoulder for the past two weeks, pretty much out of the blue, the day after my last massage therapy. I decided to book another massage therapy appointment today in a last attempt to make my pains go away, so we'll see how that goes. Then I will go pick up my race kit and chillax for the rest of the day. Did I mention that I took 2 vacation days, today and Monday because I expect a much larger impact on my poor legs after loading them with over 100km in a month.

Today I will also do a quick 30min run, just like last night, it will be my last before the marathon. Even when I was running last night I was watching every single one of my steps to make sure that I don't twist an ankle or smash my teeth in a pothole. Anything can happen and for sure I'd prefer to be in a padded room today with a cold beer and lots of pillows. Fingers and eyes and arms and toes crossed. Two days!!

[fast forward a few hours]

Had the massage therapy this morning, it did not heal the pains, but it sure felt good. Then I went and had sushi and chicken teriyaki for lunch and went to pick up the race kit.

Below is the t-shirt and bib number I got. 71!! Holy macaroni, double digit number, what in hell, am I supposed to be running with the speedies? Ok, I'll just ignore it and move on. Hope it will bring me luck, but the pressure is on :-)