Thursday, August 30, 2012

Time for a recap: Biking

Just like swimming, biking is currently in the "cross training" category with running still being the main focus. Nevertheless, I had quite a few hard sessions on the bike that culminated with my longest ride so far, 75km in 3h19min this past weekend. My glutes and I are not best friends these days.

For once, the weather was nice though. We met up on Saturday at 8am and the seven of us went for a tour of Caledon, in places I can't wait to go back to. Peaceful, beautiful and with little road kill.

Hilly group ride - I could have done 50k more!
I don't have more pictures as it was a group ride and I had few photo opportunities, but overall it moved at an acceptable pace (a bit slow for my taste) - but for a first ride out of my comfort zone, I suppose it was a good choice. It definitely met the Training Peaks "ride of the day requirements": HILLS.

Hills have been on the menu for most of my bike rides (swims and runs too!) lately (I suspect that my coach secretly loves to torture me). Just see for yourself, those hills intervals were intense... but also a lot of fun, especially downhill!

Hill repeats x 9 - because we all love to hate them.
I am becoming an adrenaline junkie, is there a 12-step (or 12-hill) program?

As for the middle of the week bike workouts (as part of a brick) I spent those doing hard Z2/4 intervals. Just because hills weren't enough, I also needed to test my cardiac arrest threshold I guess.

And now, for the bucolic ending, my lovely friends, the moo-moos.

There isn't much else I can say - the rides with Neo are not very surprising in general, aside from the here-and-there squeak and skip. Neo has now a new cog (12-27) and a new chain, so it rides nice and smooth. No flats, no major concerns, but it could use a tune-up. I will make sure to do this before the next triathlon season. Until then, fingers crossed, it won't throw me in a ditch (or vice versa).

Be happy, ride hills!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time for a recap : Swimming

You know you're overdue for a recap when you find pictures in your camera taken two weeks before and you hardly remember the circumstances. And since a full recap may be quite long, I am going to take the "divide and conquer" approach and start with a quick swimming update  - just because I've nauseated you enough with this topic and we could put it to sleep for a while.

I am currently swimming twice a week: Tuesday in the pool and Thursday at Professor's Lake with the Fletcher's Meadow Cross Trainers (FMCT) tri club. I am constantly trying to improve my stroke and efficiency with the goal of swimming constantly under 2min/100m. During my last open water swim it seems that something clicked and was able to swim 2.3km in 47-48min, which is a huge improvement from a week before. The quest continues...

It is not easy to think about doing all this at once though:
-"take your hand out of the pocket"
-"1...2...reach! 1...2... reach!"
-"split screen - keep that goggle under water"
-"bubbles, bubbles, bubblllbslssbsblblbes"
-"you are a meat stick"
-"brush your thumb against the hip"
-"is my head relaxed?"
-"where is my bow wave, dammit?"
-"keep the elbow bent under water"
-"reach over the barrel, keep pushing water backwards"
-"look at your fingertips"
-"let's try a little kick"

I am usually too shy to ask someone else to take pictures of me in my wetsuit, but I have a few that I took of the group - too bad this week is the last open water swim session of the season, I am going to miss it...

Most club members were gone to IMMT and it was pouring rain... 
This must have been a "recovery swim" for a few...
Swim done - a little time for reflection...
The morning after.
Isn't it pretty? But damn, I should not have read about that piranha... Anyway, that's it for the pictures.
Next, bike update.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Looks legit?

Let's get something straight - I only wear a swimsuit with a skirt in the pool because I have nothing else to put on. But now, I have another suit, thanks to Bikini Bay. It's pretty comfortable and my boobs stay put.

I even have tinted goggles and a watch that counts laps (not very well, alas) and a coordinated silicon cap from GO Sport (which I had for the past 15 years). Don't you dare to say that I'm an amateur (even if I am  - dammit, did I say that out loud?). 

But just watch this space - I just shed 8 (eight!!) minutes off my time at Professor's Lake last night, swimming 2.3km in 47 minutes. Just watch, I'm growing skin between my toes and scales on my back.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A whale in skirt

It's been a long time since I posted videos of my attempts at swimming. Maybe not long enough for some of you, but this time you get to see an unusual pool attire for someone who calls themselves an "athlete" - a skirt! So, um... enjoy? See, the problem with swimsuits is that chlorine turns them in parachutes and the fastest you get in the mindset that your bum looks like it's wearing a skirt (when it's not), the better you will be prepared for the day it actually happens. That, and the fact that apparently I have a "long torso" and big enough boobs to spill out of my "professional" looking Speedo that I bought earlier in the season. So, I am keeping the Speedo for the open water swims because nobody looks under my wetsuit. Anyway, since the footage was made, I managed to find a more "athletic" looking swimsuit in a store called "Bikini Bay" - go figure. They did have "long torso" models, as opposed to the pro swim store, so I should be looking legit now. But let's start the show:

The first one is with a pull buoy so you can see how straight I follow the black squares at the bottom of the pool.

Second is from the side, no pull buoy - shows pretty much how far I can go before getting tired. No assisted flotation = no endurance. That's why I am in love with the pull buoy.

Working on it, but until then, long live the wetsuit. So far, as a reference, best time in the wetsuit was 35min for 1.5km during the Toronto Triathlon Festival.

In my quest for the ultimate wisdom, I did submit those 2 videos to the Swim smooth forum (where I was identified as a "Swinger in the making") and to Fitocracy where I received a ton of constructive criticism.

Here are some of the comments, feel free to tell me whether you agree or disagree:

avataRJ (Fitocracy)
From the strength side, it would be beneficial to train core stability. Part of this may be in connection with breathing in water, so doing breathing drills may help, too. During your catch, you seem to be paddling water downwards and while the height of your head is nice, you would likely benefit from turning the angle a bit down (forehead a bit lower - admitted, in a crowded pool this is difficult as it may lead to collisions). Your whole back won't need to be on the surface but try to keep your back closer to the surface, straightening and stiffening your body by using your core muscles (on the abs' side). If possible, try swimming with your mouth open. If it's downwards, there will be an air pocket preventing (much) water getting into your mouth, but it'll help your neural system to relax a bit (human reflex when you have stuff in front of your face is to try to push yourself up, which would fit the other observations I presented).
 bbeitz (Fitocracy)
It looks like your hands may be entering the water over the center line of your body and then moving into the correct position, which wastes some energy and creates some resistance. Your hands should be entering as though you were holding your arm straight up from your shoulder. That is the also area you have the most power underwater. I also notice your holding your thumbs out on one hand, bring that thumb in as close as comfortable to your index finger.
It looks like your bending at the waist a little bit. That also creates more drag. Your body should be basically straight in the water. You may want to do some laps kicking with a kick board. Kicking on your back with your arms streamlined might even help more as your angle in the water will be more noticeable to you.
Your technique shouldn't matter for what/where you swim. If you have good technique then you should be efficient in the water. The real difference in open water and a pool is you are dealing with a lot of current in open water. Not to mention alot of other swimmers causing current.Drafting off of someone (basically swimming behind them or right off of one of their back sides) can be helpful. You should also make sure that your reaching deeper into the water as the water a little deeper is not moving as much as the water on the surface. Not a huge difference, especially if you have shorter arms. Just make sure your hands (even when your elbows are bent) stay on basically the same line from where they enter until at least 60% of each stroke.
 kattles (Fitocracy)
I've never coached but I taught kids to swim for years, I agree with Bbeitz, that your hand entry is a bit off. When your hands enter in line with your head, it means youre pulling into that entry position, and the rest of your body tries to assist. Which is why I think you have the wriggly mid section.
Hand entry, I myself aim for a little less than shoulder width. If you hold your arms out and stick out your thumbs so they are touching, about that distance is a good starter. Your head positioning is quite good, and I can see you correcting it down after each breath. Major props to bi lateral breathing by the way!!
wraith87 (Fitocracy)
It looks like your left hand is letting the elbow drop below your hands. That'll be a problem eventually. When your hands go into the water, keep them level or start pulling them at an approx. 90 degree angle (which is the strongest pull you can make). Second, it looks like as you get a little tired (toward the end of the video) you aren't pulling all the way through. Full pulls going all the way from top to bottom will be much easier in the long run and will help you keep going for longer.
Dean (Swim Smooth Forum)
I think by looking at your clips, the reason why you can swim easier with a pull buoy or wetsuit is that you seem to lift your head when breathing, also you may be pressing down with your hands during your initial catch. This will cause your legs to sink creating drag. The buoy and wetsuit due to the added buoyancy would help to keep your legs from sinking.
I believe that you could be pressing down as your arm entry seems to be very shallow, and I can see that your elbows are dropping as you catch.
There is also crossover present.
Swimming on side and all variations of 6/1/6 drills would definitely help sort these problems out. Also focus on keeping one goggle under the water when breathing. This will prevent you from lifting your head to much.
Your stroke rate is good and 35min for 1500m aint bad for someone that's just started out. For this reason I am struggling to class you as a Bambino.
Bambino/'Swinger in the Making' is my best guess ! Check out Hannah McKerchar's stroke in the video clips. I think this could suit you.
 Links that were provided to me as reference/help:

She's totally hot.


And for confusing everything above, the latest blog entry from Swim Smooth.

Alright, time to go back to the pool to dream about those good looking people and developing gills.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Training in the rain

Oh, look! Marathon training is back! With hills and speed sessions and long easy runs... and more rain than we could have ever asked for. We complained about not being able to make a fire while we were camping because of a total fire ban in the region, but with all the water that got dumped on us since we came back, we could have called all our training sessions "aqua-runs" or "aqua-rides", and I'm not even mentioning the leisure "aqua-walks", not even necessary. Bottom line, training in the rain has been the norm lately and we have the pictures to prove it. ;-)

But first, a bit of running updates. As I mentioned earlier, I started training for the upcoming Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my first attempt at the distance on this course, a do-over from last year's injury/surgery/death in the family all-in-a-month combo. This may as well be my last marathon for a while since I'll be focussing on triathlons in the next two years, so better make it a good one. Hell, I'm even going to call it my "A" race for this year. With two marathons under my belt, I think I know what to do/change/improve although if I want to go for a PB, it's going to be a whole new territory. One thing I am pretty sure I won't change is putting one foot ahead of the other. But this time, they may be landing a bit differently too.

So far, running has been pretty uneventful, but fun, well... sort of. I ran to the movies (yum, I saw Magic Mike), I ran while being sick and coughing my lungs out (yuck), I ran in heat and humidity worse than a steam room (yikes), I ran in the rain (whee!) and after the bike (ouch), I ran suicidal hills (crazy drivers coming at me!) and recently on the balls of my feet (tough, but I finally found my calf muscles). Last but not least, I ran all these with my hubbs, because he's on his journey to becoming Superman and he runs faster than me and he's pushing the pace when I'm not too cranky. I can't wait to see how my body responds to this marathon training after the swim/bike/run regimen I put it through in the past few months.

By the way, bigger and meaner triathlons will be coming right after the marathon, so my coach is still having me doing swims and bike rides twice a week, plus a brick and strength training. This shall be interesting.

Now, for the bike workouts, as I said before, they've been wet for most of the times. Let's start the picture show. Nobody should complain about wet t-shirts, right?

The picture above was taken during our first ride after coming back from vacation. We'd been completely blindsided by Mother Nature as this pretty cloud moved in towards the end of the ride on our way back and we hadn't seen it coming. 30 seconds after I put away my camera, we were soaked. Hail was coming down furiously and when you are riding as fast as you can away from being turned into a crispy meat stick, it HURTS. For about a minute I thought about ringing a door bell on one of the solitary houses along the road, but decided to HTFU and keep on going, our own house was only 10 minutes away. No incident as you guessed, I lived to tell the tale.

This ride may have been a relaxed one, but with hills occupying a good chunk of my new schedule, the following ride was completely opposite, minus the rain that came to spoil drench the party, as usual.

Armed with a new cog (12-27), I promised I'd return to Horseshoe Hill to test my legs. What better way of doing this other than riding the hill not once, but 5 times in a row? No horse flies in sight this time, I bet they don't like to get wet. We drove closer to the hill and parked our bikes near the Caledon Trailway, then went for a 25min warmup before starting our ascent. For the actual hill repeats, we needed a half a mile long hill, so we chose the top. The rest is history tracked in a chart with lumps of all shapes and sizes, enjoy!

As for the rain, it started shyly during our last repeat, then unleashed in full force to the point that it got us wet enough to skip the shower for the day. Here are some pictures taken at the end of the workout, sorry that they are not more revealing.

Not wet enough
Is this thing on?
We really enjoyed the hillfest so we'll be going back for more! Pray for more rain so that the flies stay away.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our summer fitness adventures

After the triathlon, we went camping, thus I was disconnected from the interwebs to be able to blog. We only made an hour stop by our home so I can shower and change clothes, then we drove straight up to Algonquin where we made a new attempt at living in the wilderness, that is living in a tent for 10 days. Some people told us that was rather hardcore, but we found that the time passed by rather quickly and the return to work was actually more violent. I won't go into details as how the days went by, but I will try to recap our fitness opportunities since that's the theme around here.

Hwy 60 - are we there yet?
I'm surprised that we remembered how to set up this tent
Bed head, coffee, compression socks and sandals.
But when you're in vacation, these are a bit more subtle as I am going to explain. 

When you're in a large campground, your first exercise is walking - everywere, but especially to the washrooms. To sum it up, our tent was located 200m away from the washrooms and we counted an average of 5 bathroom trips a day, that's 2km/day... times 10, you do the math. Hurray for pee pee and poo poo to keep us in shape.

Next, trips to the beach, located at 500m from our tent, it provided us with a nice opportunity to bank a km each time we became beach bums. Over 10 days, I estimate those trips to 8.

Walks to the store - we were lucky to have one about 500m away and because we had regular needs for drinking water, ice, bread and ice cream, those trips became quite usual by the second day. Estimated 8 of them as well.
Total walking distance (just around camp) - 36km, two of them were barefoot, just because.

Hiking was our second source of fitness, combined with geocaching, because you have to put some extra motivation in those hikes, you know, dangling a carrot in front of a donkey, that works pretty well. Suited up with backpack, GPS, a good dose of deet, sandwiches and at times, not enough water, we went into the following adventures:

Sitting on top of the world
Jungle gym

Total hiking distance - 19.1km

Even since I knew we were going to stay at the Lake of Two Rivers Campground, I gave myself the challenge of finding the geocache placed on a little island in the middle of the lake and what best way of getting to it other than commando, aka swimming. Since I am not such a strong swimmer and the great outdoors still overwhelm me, I chose to do the swim in my wetsuit. People looked at me strange every time I put it on, but hey, I rather be comfortable and relax than drown in front of their eyes.

Commando geocaching
Finding the cache was no problem, quickly signed the log and put back in place. Happy to see an ammo box  as well, that was like the cherry on the cake. Here's me with cache GC82F0. We spent the rest of the day on the island, diving in the lake and fishing, that was an all around awesome day. Since I was still sick though, I decided to go back to the beach in the canoe with hubbs and the boys and postpone the longer swims for later in the week.

Speaking of which, the day before the last, I suited up once again and went for a swim around the island, happy and relaxed. Here is the Runkeeper activity for this epic loop.

Total swim distance: 2.2km

We didn't bring our bikes with us, not only because we wanted to rest, but because they are both road bikes and we were mostly interested in doing the Old Railway Bike Trail, which required mountain bikes. So one day we rented mountain bikes for all of us and we went on this adventure without quite knowing what to expect. What we feared the most was BEAR. And we found bear poop right in the middle of the trail, which was as close as we got to meeting a bear. It made the bike ride even more challenging, in which we were all secretly running away from an invisible predator, without saying it out loud for fear of inducing panic in each other. The bike ride was a 12km out and back to the camp along the Lake of Two Rivers and Whitefish Lake. Just at the end of Whitefish Lake there was this bridge from which people were jumping in the lake. We were not prepared for this, but the chance was too good to pass on, so without taking our clothes off, we jumped in as well. Below is a picture of me, soaked wet and proud. The bridge was so hot it was burning my feet, the smile only lasted for a second :-)

Wet and wild
Total biking: 24km

The second day after we arrived, I was still pumped up after the tri and went on a short 30min trail run with hubbs. Alas we didn't repeat the feat as my cough got worse and worse and it was physically impossible to keep a running pace without coughing my lungs out. I even threw up once because of coughing too hard. Not fun at all. That was a reckon mission on the Old Railway Trail, before our bike ride. Looking back, after finding the bear poo, I am glad that we didn't run again on the same trail, yikes!

Total running: 5km

Before leaving the camp, we had one last mission, that was to rent kayaks for the boys so they can get in some paddling action of their own. That day the current on the lake was a bit too strong though and my youngest son decided that he had enough after crossing to the island. While he spent the rest of the day diving, I took over the kayak and went in a bit of exploring with my older son and later, hubbs.

This is what my first rowing activity on Runkeeper looked like.

Below are more totals:

Wildlife sightings : moose 2, snake 1, frog 2, turtle 2, bear poo 1
Ice cream: regular scoops 3, soft serve 1
Alcohol consumed: beer 1
Fish caught: 0
Jumps from bridge in water, fully clothed: 2
Hours spent in hospital: 1
Campfires: 0
Marshmallows eaten: 4
Geocaches found: 14
Mosquito bites: 2

This has been by far the best vacation we spent as a family. So much fun, such beautiful scenery that we discovered, breathed, tasted, and touched. The only downside was my illness (which is now officially bronchitis) and the impromptu trip to the hospital that I had to make one night with an UTI. Not sure how we can top it off, we wanted to make another family trip at the end of the year to mark our 15th anniversary but all of a sudden, it feels a bit superfluous.

Until then, there will be work, work and work and another marathon for which the training started... oh wait, yesterday!

How was your vacation, if you had any? What are your autumn goals?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Toronto Triathlon Festival Race Report

I know that it's been 10 days since the event and I am fashionably late with a race report, but if you just want to know whether I finished or not, I can make it really easy for you : I am now officially a triathlete for having crossed the finish line of the inaugural Toronto Triathlon Festival in 3:12:14. Below are the official results.
Are we good? Okay, I can blog my brain away now, yay! (grab a coffee, this is kinda long)

A year ago, if you asked me what a triathlon was, I would have babbled something about 3 sports, not quite sure which ones and in which order, bet it was a cousin with the pentathlon and the decathlon... that was all I knew about triathlons, until I came across Steve in a Speedo's blog while googling some random running  stuff. And then I started reading more and not only I got hooked on reading his hilarious stories and race reports full of TMIs, but also discovered a whole other world out there that looked like a lot of fun, going from water to 2 wheels and then onto your two legs without changing clothes, or very little of them. That looked intriguing and totally in reach, but back then, triathlon still didn't seem like something that I would  want to try.

The months went on and I continued training for my first marathon, had my share of ups and downs in the process and in September I started working with coach Dave who felt like a perfect fit for me for being a crazy nut himself, fresh of becoming an Ironman at Coeur d'Alene a few months prior. I told myself, he must understand me, know what it is to train for endurance, so he should definitely be able to help me shed a few pounds and cross that marathon finish line as well. After watching the Ironman championships in Kona a month later though, a seed was being planted in my brain. All those people like you and me who wanted it bad enough, they conquered the hardest of all, the Ironman. So maybe an overweight, slow poke, injury prone, mom of two like me may be able to finish a sprint or an olympic triathlon one day... and why not?

Fast forward a few months, I finish not only one, but two marathons and all of a sudden, EVERYTHING seems possible. Signed up for my first triathlon and here I am now, craving for more. This is just the start, but how well did it go?

I had been counting the days up to this event for sure, but because each individual distance was relatively short compared to how far I went in my training, it didn't feel as scary as the marathon. This was also the reason why I didn't sign up for the sprint distance, it just wasn't challenging enough for me. I don't want to sound pompous or over confident, but to keep moving forward, I need challenges that I know would make me suffer in the process (ok, now I sound totally masochistic, but anyway, what I mean is... gosh, forget it). Training for a sprint would have felt too easy and I was scared that my fitness level would actually decrease and I would have to start all over if I wanted to do another marathon (which I am actually signed up for, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14). Coach Dave sure knew to keep the bar high for me though and at times it did feel like I was training for an Ironman, so on Sunday morning when my alarm went off, I knew I was ready. But was I going to hurt?

It didn't help that on Friday I got sick with a nasty summer cold that just went downhill from there. I tried to retaliate immediately by doubling my Vitamin C intake and by starting an All-in-One Benylin regimen right away, but on Saturday when I went to pick up my race kit downtown Toronto I was still feeling feverish, nauseous, dizzy and overall pretty weak. My cough was in full crescendo and I knew that I would not be able to participate without a good dose of cough medicine in me.

But there was no way I was going to back up because of this cold. As long as I was able to breathe and stand vertical, I was a go. So I set a few alarm clocks all around 4:30am and after a sleep that felt quite mediocre, I got up, showered, had an oatmeal frittata and banana for breakfast, woke up hubbs at 5:30 and off we went to Ontario Place where the starting line was. Hubbs dropped me off with a tire check and a kiss, then I made my way to transition where I set up my little piece of real estate and racked my bike for the first time ever, just steps away from Canada's Olympians - Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay (man, those people are fit). I couldn't have asked for a better spot, the organizers must have given them by age groups, I swear, the oldest closest to the exit ramp, just in case Alzheimer kicked in.

I was in the last swim wave, all females 35 years old and up, plus the parathlete(s). Waited 18 minutes until the gun went off, but before that we got about 5 minutes in the water for warm up thanks to a moment of confusion during which the organizers contemplated starting the last 2 waves together, then changed their mind. The swim was rather uneventful, not much contact as the wave was thin and there was plenty of space for all of us in the canal, the water was the perfect temperature and I got in the groove rather quickly, my mind being distracted by the vegetation at the bottom of the canal, along with pieces of concrete and a few scared fish. All this resulted in a 35:55 time, the fastest for me so far.

In my first transition ever, I could not find my right biking shoe. It was there though, like THERE, under my eyes, but I just couldn't see it. Brain fart. I started panicking and turning every item on my towel over until it magically appeared to me. Not sure how much time it cost me, but compared to the other women in my AG, it felt like forever. Anyway, I regained my composure and after a T1 of 3:06, I was finally on the bike.

However, the panic never left me. Coach said to start the bike for 10min in Z2, but heart was in the 170bpm, which is Z4 and it never went down as much as I tried to relax. I got passed a few times on the bike, but some of these people were mashing hard while I was doing my spin uphill. I passed a few of them back on my way down, but also fought a headwind for the entire second half, which made me a little cranky. I wasn't sure how fast I was going, I had ran out of water in my aero bottle and I was too focussed on staying upright on the bike and eating my chomps so I don't pass out. Did I mention that it was HOT? Eventually I made it back to transition without incident and zoomed through it in 1:13, leaving with a banana in hand.

The run felt much longer than expected and the damn heart rate was still up in the 170s. It definitely decided that I wouldn't get a break. I kept on drinking every other water station and pouring water on my head, back and chest to keep cool. At the turn around I still had my banana unopened in my hand and one of the volunteers shouted - time to eat the banana! - so I opened it and managed to eat about half of it over the next 2km. Stomach wasn't feeling so great, but I knew that was going to be my only fuel for the run, so I kept on taking little bites until I felt full enough. Because of my heart rate being so high for the entire time, I never tried to pick up the pace, but rather tried to keep a constant forward motion and make sure I don't go into cardiac arrest. I felt like dragging my feet at times, but in the end I was pretty satisfied with the 1:03:13, very close to my goal of 1h.

For the last 2km a cramp also installed itself under my ribcage on the right and it became really hard to breathe. From that moment on I knew I was counting the steps to the finish line. Thankfully I saw hubbs and my boys and put on my best run in the last hundred meters for them.

Overall this has been an amazing experience, I loved being in the race, I loved the challenge and the fact that my training felt worthwhile. I am not sure why I couldn't relax or my heart rate never went down to a manageable zone, it may have been the cough medicine I took or the double dose of Vitamin C - bottom line is that the illness made this race harder than it should have been and I can't wait to sign up for another one where I can enjoy myself more.

Runkeeper Linkage: