Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life is good

It's Sunday, I finished my 2h long run, had an ice bath, then pizza for lunch. I even had a haircut. Life is good.

Yesterday, I did a killer bike ride on my trainer, 3 intervals of 20 min each, called Eclipse. Nothing to do with Twilight. I switched on my TV for the first time in 2 months, watched Ellen, then Argo. Life is good.

On Friday, my work demo setup worked and I shipped it, and we had celebratory beer at the office. It totally turned the week's mood around, so I celebrated some more with a run outside in the snow. Life is good.

Thursday, I met with a local coach from my tri club. I am going to see him at least twice a week and he's going to cook a brand new training plan for me to finish Ironman Muskoka 70.3 later this year. Life is good.

Wednesday I did another bike workout on my trainer, called Ericsson. Nothing to do with the phones. I found my sweet spot. Workout data got botched in the upload, but I managed to fix it after upgrading to the latest software version. Life is good.

Tuesday I was alive and kicking, despite the lack of energy. Life is good.

Monday I accepted a DietBet challenge to lose 5.6lb in 4 weeks. I put in $30. If I succeed, I share $20,000 and some change with as many other winners out of 683 (as of today), so at worst, I lose $30, at best, I win them back and some more. Life is good.

I found on eBay the same set of Gap scarf and hat that I had since 2003, but lost sometime in the last month. Life is awesome!

There is good in everything, you just have to look for it. It's called positive thinking. Train at it everyday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Enter The Pain Cave

I need some pick-me-up self-talk. The last post was filled with so much self-pity, I am not even sure I recognize myself - this isn't who I am 99% of the time. But once in a blue moon the 1% of crazy comes to pick up at my brain. I need to flush it all out, then move on, otherwise those thoughts keep on spinning inside my noggin and I get dizzy and start banging my head against the walls. Not pretty.

So here's me moving on. Moving onto the bike subject that is, because running's been taken care of for now. FYI, 16km this morning on the treadmill and just as prescribed by coach. It's so much easier to manage running in the right zones indoors where there is no wind factor, or inclines that shoot your heartbeat through the roof. 1h40 with Christian Bale and his Batman alter-ego, it felt like a breeze, so that took care of my confidence in sticking with a plan. Next!

Now, biking has been pretty fun too. I bought an indoor trainer and installed it in the basement, The Pain Cave as seasoned triathletes call it. I'm going to be spending quite some quality time with Neo and Kurtie from now on down there... ahem. Thank goodness it's not called the Red Room of Pain. I'd like my workouts to stay vanilla, thankyouverymuch. ;-)

Do you like my raiser block? I bought a real one since.

I also signed up with Trainer Road, a website recommended by DC Rainmaker, that provides cycling workouts and an application that you run on the PC and that is able to calculate the power you produce while biking thanks to the ANT+ compatible cadence/speed sensor. The folks at Trainer Road partnered with Kurt Kinetic and created a very accurate power profile for the trainer that I bought, so I know that I can trust the data. So far I did 4 workouts (they all have fancy names: Gayley, Baxter, Obelisk, etc.) and coach said that I should use the Base Intermediate 2 program for the next 6 weeks and see how it goes.

The night I hooked everything up I also did their 20 minute test to get my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) measured. Alas the program wasn't calibrated properly because I had not entered the correct wheel size and it brought another meltdown upon me after giving me an average power level of 106 watts, which was one of the lowest, if not THE lowest among the users on the website. I really felt like a complete noob. 

This is how exhausted I was at the end of the test. Hard to describe when you are swimming in your own sweat. However, the test did give me pretty much the same lactate threshold that I had found on my own last year, 164. 

For the second workout, Gayley, I corrected the wheel size and decided to push again as hard as I could in order to recalculate my FTP. And miracle, it went up by 60 watts thanks to the proper calibration. I got reassured and proudly jumped my number to 160. I felt like belonging to the brood again.

This is what the aforementioned workout looked like after I was done:

The yellow trace is my power output, the red trace is the heart rate. I chose to go incrementally hard so I don't die in the middle, and make sure that by the last interval I reach the same heart rate level as in the FTP test. I averaged the last 2 intervals to get my new FTP. Normally you have to follow the level of the blue blocks, but since I wanted to test myself again, I only used those intervals as a baseline. Here's for example what it looks like when you do it "right". This was the first bike workout of the two that I did yesterday (I may or may not be a bit of a perfectionist freak).

Bottom line, I am IN LOVE with Trainer Road. The two workouts I did with the new FTP were spot on. I also love my trainer, the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, it's quiet and smooth and carries a life warranty. It will most likely outlive me anyway, but I promise to make it suffer for as long as I can. Who's your mommy now, eh?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Riri vs Treadmill

I have been thinking a lot about this post and how to phrase it, literally. This year, working on the treadmill has been very depressing for me and not only because I'm claustrophobic and I feel that I cannot breathe indoors without a fan blowing air in my face, but also because it made me discover my limits and as a result it feel like a huge failure. I know that I should not be so hard on myself, but what can I do, I am very competitive, especially with myself and I want to see results and I want to see them now, dammit!

My coach has been trying to make me work harder and faster, so I can improve my running speed. Maybe the method is not good for me, or the numbers are not appropriate to my current fitness level, or I am just a big wimp, but every time I've been trying to do these interval workouts on the treadmill I have been crashing hard, especially inside my head. I even cried like a baby a few times. Exhibit A, the last Tempo intervals workout geekery:

I was supposed to do the following: 5 min @ 6mph, 5 min @ 8mph, 5 min @ 5mph, 5 min @ 8mph, 5 min @ 5mph, 5 min @ 8mph, 5 min @ 5mph cooldown.

As usual, I could not complete all 3 "hard" intervals at 8mph, I could only run for 3 minutes in the last one. If you look at my heart rate, it is always close to max (192bpm) during those intervals and my cadence ends up above 200 strides per minute. I am way up there in Zone "Off the charts", when I should probably be in high Zone 4. I think I should not even run for more than a minute or two in that zone anyway. Yes, no?

By the way, here are my heart zones:

Note that my max HR is 194. When I run at 6.5mph, my heart rate is already in Zone 5. See last night's "relaxed" run on the treadmill again, Exhibit B:

Here I did 6 min @ 6mph, 25 min @ 6.5mph and 5 min cooldown at 6mph again. For almost the entire interval at 6.5mph, I was above 170bpm, with a cadence of 186. When I run "slowly" at 5mph, I usually run at a cadence of 180 strides per minute, so unlike other people who are training hard to reach this number, I am already there out of habit (and forefoot strike, methinks). Or short legs. Did I mention that I am 5'3"? But then, Mirinda Carfrae is also 5'3" and she runs a 2h53 marathon. Or Nicole, she kicks my ass with an average of 5:52min/km pace in training and is shorter by what... 3 inches? Seriously girl, how do you do it??

And since I'm comparing myself to everyone else (can't help it, sorry), here's the same type of workout, done by hubbs, with an average page of 4:30min/km, nonetheless. Because he can.

For crying out loud, he's making these look way too easy!!

So, back to my so called failures, am I pushing too hard, too soon? Am I killing myself with these intervals? I feel defeated, that's for sure. I don't know where to go from here, I know that I hit a limit, but should I push through and HTFU or accept it and dial down a bit? Coach is going to make me start hill repeats next, but my inquiring mind still wants to understand what is the limiting factor for me here, or rather what I should improve to go over this hump. I think that I should lengthen my stride so I don't go as high as 200 strides per minute (and once I get there, the heart should also slow down and magically I will be able to hold that pace... wishful thinking is a powerful thing). All this looks like madness to me right now. I wonder how the pros do it. Rinny, where are you when I need you? Bottom line: I am scared and I wish someone would tell me "you're going to be ok". Maybe this IS what it takes to get faster afterall...


(Going back to crawling in a fetal position and cuddling with my heating blankie)

UPDATE: I came across this excellent post on Training Peaks Blog: How to Get Faster with Interval Training. I found it very informative and it answered most of my questions on the subject. An excerpt is below:
The timing of your efforts is very important. If the efforts are too long, lactic acid will accumulate, VO2 max is stressed too much and you will be forced to slow down or not be able to complete the workout as planned due to undue fatigue. If they are too short, the total time at the optimal intensity is condensed and gains are reduced. Keep in mind that the goal is not to go as fast as possible for the work portion but rather to accumulate time at the desired pace. By completing these efforts at the correct intensity, namely 80-95% of VO2max, you will begin to notice significant performance improvement.
I think I know where to go from here: dial down the top speed and work on bringing the cadence down. Sounds like a plan.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Virtual Half Goofy Challenge Report

Hello Internet. Meet Cori. She is seriously kick-ass. She works, writes and raises two beautiful twin girls, and did I mention that she runs marathons, half marathons and 5Ks all in a weekend's breath too? Yep, she does. Just a few weeks ago she traveled to Disney World and ran the famous Goofy (and some more - that's a lot of km, believe me) with Team in Training. Are you inspired yet? You should read her posts here, here and here. Respect.

So you may remember that hubbs and I joined Cori in her brilliant fundraising challenge, that was to run a Half-Goofy, sometime between November and the end of January. The requirements were that we run a 10K and a half marathon over 2 consecutive days and send her the proof. Not only we'd help the cause, but we'd even receive a hand crafted medal made by Cori, a set of bibs and a training plan. How awesome was that!

The time went by fast, then Zin got injured and we had to postpone, postpone and postpone again... I even thought of doing the Half-Goofy by myself while we were vacationing at Disney World, but quickly realized that without the road closures of the real event, there was just no way (no sidewalks at the resort). Oh, and definitely no time.

Ohmigosh ohmigosh, it's almost Half-Goofy time!!
So better late than never, the last weekend of January, even though it was -15C outside, we put on our 12 layers and went out to have... fun (?). Just a week before, it had snowed for the first time this winter. And we hit record cold temperatures too (-26C mid-week). Needless to say, we were in for a treat, the Great Ass Freezing was in full effect with no signs of getting warmer. This was it. No other chances of running the Half Goofy.

Oh well, HTFU. Saturday, we warmed up with breakfast and a coffee and we hit the road. 10K, that wasn't going to be that bad we said. And indeed, it was a gorgeous day with bright blue sky (don't ever trust the bright blue sky in winter) and the hour went by in no time. We went on our favorite route to Heart Lake and back, nice and steady. Below are some pictures and the Runkeeper trace.
A Goofy Journey begins
Heart Lake Road
This is Countryside
Home stretch

The next day I got an invitation to run with a group of friends who were doing 16K with the Running Room downtown Brampton. Since a meetup was long overdue, we decided to join them and add a 5K loop at the end. It was a great decision because hubbs got the opportunity to run with other folks at a faster pace, while I got to catch up with my running buddy Orville, with whom I ran most of the 16K and talked about a year's worth of life and stuff. I also met Gary, another Runkeeper friend who kept me company for a little while, before joining the faster group as well. It was really treat to share this time with them.

We didn't even took our cameras out, it was too cold anyway and batteries needed to be spared. A run was being recorded with the phone, this was serious! I think I did the 16K in a bit less than 1h45, hubbs finished 8 minutes ahead of me. We quickly said goodbye to our friends and ran on... Went straight south on Main St to the Police Academy building (that's how I call it since I ran around it a few years ago when I was trying to become a cop), did the same loop around the building and back. We circled the Running Room plaza some more to make it 21.1K, then ... we were done!!! Wow, not even tired. Hahah. Yeah, right. We were tired of course, starving and thirsty. I only ate half a pouch of Honey Stinger chews (shared it with Orville) and half a bottle of water because for over 10K I wrestled with it, trying to suck the water out. It was frozen and of course it wasn't coming out. I ended up tucking the bottle inside my sweater for a while and eventually smartened up and completely removed the cap to drink. Too little, too late... but it got me through it.

The trace looks like a Christmas Tree - don't ask, I only followed the directions. The run was quite hilly too, but I didn't seem to notice - so much easier with company! We took the car and went straight back home where.... wait for it... we took an ICED BATH.
I added a few more layers on top and removed as many as I could on the bottom and after hopping in, I asked hubbs to take a picture of me before I turned blue. I have no idea how cold the water was, but the idea of adding ice cubes seemed totally superfluous. Instant freeze. Legs burned for about 5 minutes, then everything went numb and I started feeling pretty darn good. Call me a masochist, I know. The day went on with the weekend chores... groceries, cooking, folding laundry, all the good stuff outside of running and virtual racing.

And just like that, the Half Goofy was behind us. It was a great adventure and I am so happy and proud to have been part of Cori's virtual team. She had the best idea ever, but what would you expect, she's a smart cookie. Someone said COOKIE?! Nom nom nom.

Darn, I'm hungry. Thank you Cori for the medals and the cute little card and all the dedication that you put into this event. You are the best!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Escape from The Venetian

Hey hey, whazzup! Took longer than expected to write this post, work and workouts oblige, so I am back to the regular weekend blogging pattern because I just can't find a better time. It's time to take you to Vegas, baby!

As you may remember, at the end of the year we went on a driving adventure to Philly and Disney World, but what you don't know is that the week right after I had to fly to Las Vegas for work. Since I could not find a ticket for Monday, I had no choice but fly on Sunday, so on our way back home from Disney, hubbs dropped me in Pittsburgh and I took a plane from there.

It was really stressful right off the bat because I grabbed my son's passport by mistake and hubbs drove off with mine. Major PANIC, I was shaking, calling, texting, calling, texting and hoping that he'd get my messages before reaching the border. That would have been such a major FAIL, I could already imagine my husband asking for a divorce. Thankfully 45 minutes later, he came back, we exchanged passports and my heart rate calmed down. I must have burned quite a few calories in this panic attack and very likely, as many neurons.

Waited a long, long time in Pittsburgh and somehow my luggage made it to Vegas 3h ahead of me. You can see where this is going, right? Once I got there, my luggage was nowhere to be found and the US Airways agents were all dumbfounded. At the same time, I got a phone call from some limo company saying that one of their guests brought a piece of luggage to Planet Hollywood Hotel and that I would have to go pick it up from there if I needed it. Did I mention it was 11pm and that I was exhausted, cranky and all I wanted was to get into my bed and sleep? When I finally arrived in the room, which was also the suite at The Venetian where my company was exhibiting our products, I had to make one more phone call, to a technician to come and change a light switch that would not turn off. I wanted to SLEEP, dammit!

At least I had an awesome bed!
Next morning I woke up, set up all product demos, had more technicians come by and replace the router because that, too, was busted, and like this my week started, or rather marathon number two, with jetlag as a bonus. The whole week I was trapped into the suite as we had plenty of guests to demonstrate our products to and I needed to run those demos perfectly.

Like in a glass tower, I was stuck on the 36th floor, waiting for Elvis to come rescue me, or any of the other characters that were entertaining the tourists for a buck or two on the strip. By the third day I was going completely cuckoo. See, this was my first trip to Las Vegas and not only I was feeling really lonely, but going "out there" where the lights were shining bright and tons of people with beer in hand and a cigarette in the mouth were going from party to party, or casino to strip club and back, and where so many escort girls were taking  you by the hand, it seemed a bit frightening. I saw The Hangover, ok? I didn't want to end up with a tattoo across my butt and a Mike Tyson lookalike in my jacuzzi tub.

Thankfully my colleagues took me out for a few minutes during the day (to buy water bottles, how glamorous) and I could get acquainted with the craziness of this place. I even brought back a nice stash of cards for all kinds of "services" with QR codes, nonetheless.

But one night, I put on my running clothes and ESCAPED. I decided that I would run for as long as there were lights and back, target 60 minutes. Once I realized that the entire strip was only 5km long, I decided to run it all. Total 10.3km, 1h11, one of the most challenging workouts that I've ever done. Not only because of the people, there were many indeed, and I had to dodge them constantly, but because of the stairs. So many of them, not even funny. To cross any intersection, you had to go up and over the street, then down to the opposite sidewalk. Up and down, up and down... I didn't take any of the escalators, but man, my legs were spent by the end of the run.
In the middle you can see the photo I took at The Bellagio, the water show was on. It was really beautiful, but I only stopped for 10 seconds so I can't even remember what song was on. Sounded more like opera than hip-hop anyway.

That was the only workout that I managed to sneak in during my week in Las Vegas. I was there for work afterall and all day long I was in the suite, talking to people in person or remotely. The last day, after CES was done and over with, I managed to take my camera and go on a walk along the strip again (I still haven't downloaded the pics from my flash card, dang!). I picked up some geocaches as well, discovering more places and people along the way. The rest is in the huge pile of pictures below... that's the best way I can remember it.

Ceiling at The Venetian. The Sistin chapel, or almost.
Walking out of the Venetian
Little Venice
You live in a casino because everything is a casino
Surrender Nightclub, with DJ Steve Aoki and George Clooney in the house
Beautiful Wynn
The wishing fountain at the Palazzo
Caesar's Palace
Another hotel room, last night spent at the Mirage
The strip in magic light
Golden children of Las Vegas
Flamingos at the Flamingo, roasting under a heat lamp
This is not Paris
Le Cirque - amazing restaurant!
Sparkly Horse at The Bellagio
And a huge sparkly cupcake at Sugar
The Flamingo
Chinese New Year at The Bellagio
The fake streets of Little Paris
New York, New York... with a rollercoaster on top.
So in case you didn't get it, Las Vegas is just another amusement park, just like Disney but with prostitutes instead of princesses. Everything is a casino. To take the elevator to your room, you have to walk through the casino. You sleep, eat and do business atop of a casino. The gym/pool is only open 3h a day because you should be gambling instead. There are slot machines on the street, in the airport, at McDonald's. At least the food is decent, when you don't eat at McDonald's, that is. Shopping is extravagant, as everywhere where people with money go. If you can leave your dollars at a Blackjack table, you can certainly leave some at Calvin Klein and Dior.

I think it's fun to go there if you have 3 days to spare, but to stay 6 days like I did, it's torture. It was eye candy, but just like a forbidden fruit, too sweet not to gag on it. I didn't gamble, I didn't drink, I didn't bring back a new husband. Phew. Not sure I want to go back any time soon, not unless I have my hubby with me so we can go together explore the surroundings, and not just this money pit.

I am really happy that I ran the strip though because I am not even interested in doing a race there anymore (unless there happens to be one during a business trips, story of my life). I saw most of it, from both sides of the boulevard, with the lights on, water fountains and all. Bucket list item, done!

At the end of the trip I counted 18 days straight spent in hotels. No, you should not envy me. I was so glad to be back home and see my family again. Back to normalcy, to a routine, to carpooling with my funny colleagues and swimming, biking and running with hubbs, to kissing my boys goodnight and feeding my fish Calypso. I survived Disney and Vegas, now I can look forward to surviving the Ironman.