Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring has sprung!

Finally, no more snow on the ground and warm enough temperatures that I could go out and do my long run in capris! I has so happy by the end of it, I could barely contain it (thanks to Zin for the fantastic pic, as usual, he's got the fast click).

Things have now returned to normal, the 30k Around the Bay race is now a week behind us, and it already feels like history. I spent most of the week in recovery mode, slow this, easy that, massage therapy on Tuesday, stretching and foam rolling almost daily to work all the knots out. I am ready for what's coming next in my inbox as coach is cooking a new monthly plan for me.

I threw him a bit of a curveball next week as I'll be travelling over the weekend to Philly to see my friend Laura and relax from the office madness a little, but a break in the routine shouldn't be a bad thing. Time to get creative! I think I won't escape a run or two, but overall it should be a low key weekend during which I will most likely flex my finger muscles taking photos instead of running from the bike to around the house and into the pool.

Last but not least, I don't think I had a chance to tell you that both hubbs and I are now signed up for the Toronto Triathlon Festival, the second Olympic distance for me, the first for him. Still trying to decide if I'll sign up for anything else, the Hamilton Marathon is really tempting me in the fall, but I will be a good girl and stay put until the Kona Lottery results are out. You never know how my luck turns out. Until then, you can take a peek at the race schedule on the right, this is what I have in mind so far. Not going to race my pants out, but ideally I'd like to participate in an event once a month, be it racing or volunteering.

This is going to be exciting!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 Around the Bay 30K Race Report

It is here!! It is here!! Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for... the first race of the year for Riri & Zin! Tadaaaaa.... (spoiler alert)

Not so fast, my friends!
First, a bit of recap. This was the third time that I was making the trip to Hamilton for the "Oldest Race in North America", in its 119th anniversary this year, and still "older than Boston". By the way, this ain't gonna change any time soon, so deal with it. The two previous times I run it I was part of a two-person relay and covered the full distance, but never at once. This year, I trained hard and went there hungry for a PR. Since I had never run in a 30K race before, my only  reference times were my 30k splits at the marathons completed last year, so the time to beat was 3h13 from Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

After struggling with different paces in my head, I met with my new coach earlier in the week and we discussed strategy. He told me that he wasn't comfortable with me racing it all out because it's not my A race and I could get injured and jeopardize my training for Ironman Muskoka 70.3, but after agreeing on the fact that a 3h10 time would make me happy and that most likely it would not kill me, we decided that I was going to run it as following (all by feel, no peeking at the watch!) :
  • First 5k easy
  • Next 10k fast (race pace)
  • Last 15k easy
I figured that my 10k race pace was going to be somewhere around 5:30min/km, but the easy pace, anywhere in the 6-7min/km range. I went to sleep with the peace of mind that I was going to follow a plan and not do whatever was going to cross my adrenaline-fueled brain. That's a first!

So, on Saturday we went to the Expo to pick up our race kits, and oh, the miracle, we didn't buy anything! We got there early enough to win a flashy orange tech cap from Running Room, but other than that, there was nothing there that we really needed. I took a picture of the empty Copps Coliseum though because it was free.
Went back home and spent the rest of the day driving around, to downtown Toronto to pick up some prints and to Value Village where I bought throw away clothes for the following morning. In the evening we carb loaded with our traditional homemade lasagna. I may or may not have had some ice cream too.

The next day, alarm clock went off at 6am. After a quick shower and a breakfast, we managed to leave the house at 7am. We felt confident that we'd get to Hamilton early enough to find parking, unlike last year when we circled the downtown area for an hour before finding a spot. And just as expected, we quickly found free street parking, just half a mile from Copps Coliseum.

We went to Tim's for coffee and a pee break, then to the Coliseum where we had planned to meet with Nicole, Sam and the rest of the online gang. I did recognize a few faces, but was a bit too shy to talk to everyone. Shook a few hands and forgot most of the names (sorry, small brain), but felt right at home among them happy people in bright shirts and running tights.

By the way, I know that people say that it's bad juju to wear the race t-shirt, but I've never done otherwise, so I was glowing in the hot pink one that hey gave to the women racers this year. For bottoms I was wearing my long Sugoi tights, and those too were a no brainer given the near-zero temperatures advertised by my weather app. I also chose to go with my buff instead of a hat, and no gloves.

With 15 minutes to the start time, we made our move towards the grey corral, for those without qualifying times. That's when we saw Lou and Paul from the Barefoot and Minimalist Runners Facebook Group and I admired both the fashion statement and Lou's perfectly shaved legs.

We looked around us, a sea of people ahead, a sea of people behind. 
And us two goofs in the middle, with sun in our eyes and a mean!
I don't think we even heard the countdown because all of a sudden we started moving and eventually I saw the starting mat. I ditched my sweater and dug my phone out to start Runkeeper, then off we went. Here, try to spot us, we crossed the starting line about 7 minutes in.
Zin said he was going to "warm up" with me for about 2km, then go on his own, but he only lasted for about 2 minutes beside me, then... he was gone! I am really glad he did because I wasn't going all that fast and he really wanted to go after a 2h30 PR.

I decided to run my own race, not even mingle with the massive groups of people following the pacers. I had a plan to follow after all. Soon enough Nicole and her friends passed me and we both vowed to never listen to the weather reports again as she was peeling off her jacket and I was wishing I didn't wear a wool layer under my top. The first 5k went by really fast and then came my time to speed up and complete my tempo workout of the day. Just before reaching the train "situation" I passed Nicole again and zoomed my way ahead dodging people one by one. I knew they were all going to pass me back again, so I didn't have any hard feelings ahead of time, I was on a mission and that was the most important, not to die before the 15k mat.

The bridge could not come soon enough, because a fast 10k split is still a lot of energy to leave on the pavement. I took in Clif shot blocks at 4k and 10k, mixed in with some water and Endura by Metagenics (as a sports drink, I couldn't recommend it enough, there is only good stuff in it).

There it is, the 15k relay exchange point which also meant that I was done...with the fast feet, because the race was only starting.
We are over the hump, I heard some people say, but the humps were actually yet to come! Notorious for its hilly second half, including the infamous Valley Inn road, Around the Bay is not the race where you can bank time. You'd better conserve your energy, otherwise the hills are going to eat you alive. Thankfully I knew I had trained for them and they were not going to last forever. My goal was now to get over each and every ones of them with a smile, and onto the last downhill stretch to the Finish line. Slow and steady...
Nicole and the gang passed me again, they were just ahead of the 2:55 pacer, and they looked like they were going for it!! This little energizer bunny knew to have fun out there! I took notice and it definitely motivated me to keep up the pace and enjoy myself. There seemed to be one hill per km, so I tried to take advantage as much as I could of the downhills and get back to my relaxed state in between. Still no Zin in sight, so I started thinking that he may have already finished, which was probably true, and that was also giving me wings. So proud of my hubbs for going strong!

Eventually I approached Heartbreak Hill, and I started hearing Queen's "We will rock you" blasting off someone's boom box. I can't remember if it was an official ATB tent or a kind Hamiltonian's setup, but it  MADE MY DAY (thank you!!!). It was right at the top of the hill before Valley Inn road, yep, just before it goes down hard to only go back up again. I started singing and yelling at people, "this is it, guys", let's do this!" We will, we will, ROCK YOU!! I felt like a boulder rolling down the hill, then powering up and passing those who decided to walk it, telling them, it's only 400m, folks! Keep going!! (for my American friends, that's a quarter of a mile). I was a talking boulder, alriiight (cuckoo!).

Anyway, made it up and then... breathe... almost done! Last 3k. Longest 3k ever... I really wanted it to be over, I had enough fun for the day. I was hoping to see the grim reaper so I can laugh in his face and then sprint to the finish line. I finally saw him and took out my camera, then snapped the picture below. I realized there was an official ATB photog right there if you wanted a more professional "near death" experience, but I decided to skip.
Unfortunately I was also dealing with a side stitch, so there was no way I could have smiled for the camera. I walked for about 30 seconds, hoping it would go away, but then the pain started traveling around my entire lower abdomen and I said, to hell with it!! This too shall pass... I saw a Toronto Triathlon Festival t-shirt passing me and it brought back my smile. Later I realized these two were Alex Flint and Marvelous Martha. I passed them again and onto the final km, I was waiting for the photo op before launching myself down the ramp into Copps Coliseum. I wanted to give the guy a mean double devil horns sign, but in the end my hands decided to do something completely alien. Triple horns. Oh well, I'm such a noob. Can't control legs and fingers at the same time.
Passed a few more people and sprinted my way across the finish mat with a huge sigh of relief. I was done, and DONE!! Legs seized up, I could barely walk, I wanted food and my medal and as coach suggested, to "get out of there before I catch a bug". Walked my way up to meet Zin, had a bite and waited for my legs to cooperate again, then I drove us back home where I had an ice bath, then cuddled with my heating blankie and caught up with the rest of the universe via my favorite social networks.

My first 30k is in the books!! 3h05 chip time, a 8min PR over my fastest 30k marathon split. I am really, really happy with the result, and even happier that I managed to execute this race exactly as planned. Zin also beat his fastest of the fastest times and finished the race in 2h31, earning himself the name of SuperZin. I am impressed! If he continues like this he may end up in Boston before we finish an Ironman (the pressure's on!).

Last but not least, here's the techie view for those who like numbers and pretty graphs.
Alright, next!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Can't fight this feeling

The musical references continue because I feel like singing these days. It's all the endorphins working in overdrive I bet. So I have to, I just have to write this post and say that I've had a smashing splashing swim on Sunday! It was my choice of workout, so given that I wasted a bit of time socializing with a girl from Romania with whom I had been sharing the line for a few weeks, I decided to "go long" and just swim. And I really swam with abandon, not worrying about time or having a perfect technique, just letting the muscle memory do the work.

In my subconscient, I must have been pissed off because of all the voices that keep telling me that I'm not good enough because something happened, for the first time ever I felt like I was gliding, floating, pushing through water, instead of fighting it. I was such a great feeling, not being in a constant battle. I don't think I went much faster than usual, but it felt almost easy and breathing on my "bad side" was really not much different than on the good side. Almost there, I should say.

Now, of course, I am a nervous and terrified to go back to the group swim where coach is going to watch my every single move and read all my imperfections again, but at least I have these swims where I am alone with my thoughts to bring my confidence back afloat.

That is all, thanks for listening ;-)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Push it, push it real good!

It is time for a bike update, before I turn on the Around the Bay excitement. HINT: It's ONE WEEK from now!! Ok, enough with the caps or I'll lose my voice before the race. Biking, or rather trainer rides, have been going really well and I don't hate burying myself in the basement, just yet. Kurtie, Neo and I are still in our threesome honeymoon, how cute. We do it 4 times a week:

Monday: 1h easy spin
Wednesday: 1h-1h30 hard workout
Saturday: Long aerobic ride (currently at 2h30)
Sunday: 30 min ez spin after the long run

I just finished the last workout about half an hour ago, and I'm happy once more to have completed them all as requested. Last week I thought I didn't push hard enough over the weekend, but given how difficult Wednesday's group spin with the coach was, I must have looked for an excuse to do the minimum, if that means something. One could argue that spending 2h on the bike isn't minimum effort, but for sure it made me feel like a lazy bum. 2h at 50% FTP is nothing to be really proud of in my books, unless you count patience as a virtue.

This week though, I decided to draw a clean slate and push myself a little more. For the hard ride, coach said I should do "Mist" on Trainer Road, which contained a series of hard intervals. To give you an idea of the effort level, it feels like you are pushing hard up a hill, then you run out of breath half way, but try not to pass out and finish the interval while maintaining the same power, no fading. Repeat 6 times, all the same. I must have gained some power since I first started working on my trainer because I didn't feel like death and even better, I smashed 9 of them records with this ride.
Look at them pretties!

The last two power peaks are there because I felt like it, I was getting bored, not because they were required by any means. Show off! But I was actually curious to see how high/hard I could go for a few seconds at a time. To put these results in perspective, the highest peak is not even the half of what my hubbs can do, but he's a guy and he likes to show off too.

Anyway, I felt really proud of myself after this ride, like I was ready to conquer the world.

For the Saturday long ride, I chose another Trainer Road workout, this time called "Goodale". What I like about those long aerobic rides from Trainer Road is that they aren't boring. If it was just a flat line I would shoot myself trying to hold a somewhat challenging pace, but with those, you have to keep paying attention because the power level changes every 3-4 minutes. I put on a movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild", but it was totally underwhelming and pretty boring too. I think I'll stick with Nick Cage or Christian Bale from now on. Last week I watched "Drive Angry" and that was much more fitting.

During the 2.5h I ate one homemade energy bar (recipe here, wink wink) and drank a bottle of Gatorade and one of water. I was a bit hungry by the end, but I knew that I only had to do a 15min run off the bike, then have lunch, so there was no need for more. 
Two more records down with this one as well. I think I am getting decent at biking on the spot. Not sure I even want to get back on the road for now, where all the crazy drivers and potholes are. Given how Mother Nature is teasing us with another snow storm next week, we may have at least another month or two to feel warm enough to go "out there" where the "wild things are". Oops, another boring movie reference. I better end this post before I start talking about "Life of Pi" too.

Otherwise, I promise not to talk about my bike for at least another week, unless something super crazy happens, like a shredded tyre or a broken shoe. After Mother Nature, I am tempting the Devil ... heh heh. Too many movies in my head. Time for bed.

Gratuitous Salt 'n' Pepa reference link here. Get your mind out of the gutter!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Winter Running


I am starting to lose my patience here. Don't get me wrong, I do love winter and snow, but when it messes up with my training and my longing for the outdoors, I am going cuckoo. We had enough of this already!

So far I've only been able to go outdoors for my long runs and while they have not been too miserable per se, I just wish I could spend more time breathing the fresh air. The treadmill is nice and predictable, convenient too, I can hop on it without wasting too much time at lunch, but constantly staring at the outside while I do my runs, it wears off my little fuzzy brain faster than my soles.

Ok, I know, I know, I am full of it, I COULD go outside if I REALLY wanted to. Coach has been giving me some specific workouts such as hill repeats and tempo runs, but finding the right places outside my office to do those looked pretty impossible to me, and I just didn't want to leave them for the evenings, it's dark and cold and all that meh.

The trail outside my office was in this shape until very recently, I guess, so without YakTrax it's useless. The time I went out for a walk and took the pictures below I almost broke my neck thrice.
However, it did the job and brought back my sanity, at least for a little while. I have the smile to prove it:
I tried though, now look at this messy sidewalk. This particular run was constant jumping over slushy puddles and tip toeing on ice patches, as well as on and off the road because the sidewalk itself had 5 inches of frozen snow on it, harder than a block of concrete (I don't have proof, but you gotta believe me, I almost sent a letter to the city).

We had nicer ones too, thank goodness, but far too few. And the sidewalks were FINALLY cleaned. See the difference with the one below and look at my hubbs go up the hill!
There is hope though, it seems to be thawing little by little and soon there will be no more. Right, RIGHT?? Some people even took their toys outside, for good juju. Look how the snow melted all around it. I think it's getting the message, slowly but surely.

As for me, I am trying to keep a positive attitude, what else can I do? Have you seen this bright sunshine? At least it's not always grey and gloomy. I even got to wear a sweater instead of my fleece and replaced my wool hat with a buff. Can I say hip hip hooray?

Last  but not least, the snow seems to have its advantages too. Instant ice bath, half the soaking! I swear I laid there motionless for about 10 minutes and I could not get enough of it. It's only when my butt froze completely and I could no longer feel my belly button that I decided to go inside and stretch.
The morale of this story? Some days, winter is great, some days, it's a real bitch, but in the end, it shall all pass. When it comes to biking, I am still in the honeymoon phase with my trainer, when I run I am thankful for at least being able to look outside, the pool is warm, most of the times, so triathloning in winter is doable. It's only the times when you want to break the monotony that get to you.

So, Mother Nature, please, please, with a cherry on top, hurry the fuck already and put on your bikini and stop all the crying before I lose it again.

Enough with this, even if it's pretty:

And definitely no more of this!
Mmmkay? Peace out!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Easy recipes: Energy Bar

Earlier this week I went to the group spin class and coach shared with us a homemade energy bar, which for my taste, was really divine. Of course, I had to ask for the recipe and later that day, he emailed it to me (as below). The next day I also found this recipe on the Internet (here) and didn't feel like I was holding onto a secret anymore, so by popular demand, I decided to share it with you as well. It took me no longer than 15 minutes to make those bars, one came in handy today since I was starving at the end of my long 2h aerobic ride.

2/3 cup organic tahini spread
1/2  cup brown sugar (packed)
2/3 cup raw organic honey (or molasses) I use the solid kind of honey and pack it down into the measuring cup.
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (shelled)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (shelled)
1 cup dried organic cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
Optional:  add in some chia seeds

In a large mixing bowl combine all dried ingredients (cereal, seeds and fruit) and set aside. In a skillet, mix the other ingredients and heat on medium until bubbling. Add the vanilla as the mixture starts to bubble. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Remove from heat.
Mix the hot sauce with the dry mixture until all the mixture is coated, then pour into a greased (oiled) 9 x 13 baking pan. Flatten out the combined mixture in the pan and cut into bars. Cover and put in fridge for an hour or so.
Remove from fridge, cut into bars again and place in freezer bags for storage.

Approx calories =  273 with 11.5 gms healthy fat, 7 gm protein and 41 gm carbohydrates. This depends on how many bars you cut the mixture into. The calories are based on 12 bars.

This makes a very nutritious snack, pre or post exercise nutrition bar. Obviously, you don’t want to eat several at a time or you’ll be getting too many calories. Feel free to alter the ingredients as you desire.


Other recipes that I published on this blog:
Riri's Famous Banana Bread
Egg Whites Omelet

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One week down, many more to go

This is going to be a happy post, I promise. No more pity party for now. Umm, not for today, anyway. In other news, I am not dead!! First week on the new program, 12h of workouts, and don't get me wrong, I do feel tired... and a bit scared about tomorrow's group ride and Cross Fit combo, but at least I am full of energy and happy to be moving forward.

I wrote my last post on my rest day, but since then, lots have happened. Long bike on Saturday, that turned into a brick, then on Sunday, triple treat: long 20k run, followed by a 30min spin, and soaked for a good measure in 1h of pool. Yesterday, legs were not happy to see the bike again for more spin, it took them more than 20min to "wake up". But today, surprisingly enough, they kept on going, for a nice round of hill repeats, and another hour in the pool. Now THAT was news worth mentioning. I woke up before the alarm clock at 5:45am and at 6:15am I was starting my swim. Un-Riri-believable!

See how warm and welcoming this pool shack is. Come to me, baby, get wet, let's sweat! Oh and the water was indeed very warm, that was a nice surprise. I swam until the sun rose, one hour of pure bliss in the fast lane all by myself. That was the best!

I have two more swims this week, which most likely will go down from here, so I'm enjoying the feeling while it lasts. Time to go to bed now, tomorrow is going to be tough!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The good, the bad and the ugly

While there are good moments in life, there are also the bad and the ugly ones that keep on raising up to the surface like stubborn zits. How's that for a visual. Ugh, I hate zits. Not even sure Windex could cure those. But, fact is, days have been tough around here. Work induced stress has been hitting new highs and the only escape have been my workouts. I really feel blessed to have started working with a local coach, a wonderful human being who I can look in the eye and know that he understands. He created for me a new program, and while challenging, it pushes my body and mind to places where I need to get in order to feel good about myself, to know that I CAN. I also get to see my coach twice a week, and that is very rewarding, there is something about him that makes me calm and focused.

So, going forward, I will be swimming a bit more, riding a bit harder, running a little longer to a total of 12h of training a week. This week for example, I have already been in the pool twice and did a group spin with the tri club, followed by 20 minutes of Cross Fit that left me on my knees, literally. I also did a hill repeats workout and a tempo run. The weekend will have one more swim session, as well as a 2h aerobic ride and a 20km run.

But back to the Cross Fit session. What on earth are those and since when they've become so popular? On tired legs, it was pretty brutal. Here's what we did:

3 rounds of 1 min per station, max reps, 20 sec in between stations.
  • Medicine ball squat to press (launching ball against the wall)
  • Dumbbell squat overhead swing
  • Dumbbell plank row (tricky to balance on the dumbbells) - did those on my knees
  • Skipping rope
  • Burpees
Followed by stretches, thankyouverymuch! Last but not least, I had to haul my bike and very heavy trainer across the parking lot in 3 inches of slush. Even with the curveball thrown by the weather, I'm glad that I made it out to attend this class. Hamstrings and glutes are a bit sore, but it's the good kind of pain. Today is rest day and it's so very WELCOME!

Now for the ugly, yesterday's swim session turned into a total meltdown. I started crying halfway through the main set after swallowing water with each breath and soon I felt my goggles filling up with tears. Drowning inside and out. I could not shake the feelings of frustration and disappointment felt in the office, even if midday I'd managed to escape for an hour and do 9km of tempo run on the treadmill. It was just too much to bear, the emotional toll finally hit me like a ton of bricks. Today my son is sick with the flu and while I am a bit scared that I won't be spared, I don't despair. That's some fine poetry right there, folks. 

In better news, it looks like the weight loss is going well, I have 2.5 more pounds to lose to meet the DietBet goal, and 2.5 weeks to go. This is going to happen, with 12h of training and no indulging, I'm pretty confident that I'll get my money back and some more.

In the end, there are some strong forces that keep on trying to put me down, but so far so good, with help from coach, my kids and my husband, I've managed to get back up. Don't ever neglect your support system, it's a life saver in more ways than you know.