Sunday, May 25, 2014

IMMT Training Weeks 17 and 18: Everything is possible

I remember the last time that I said that I had 2 brutal weeks. It was just one month ago. I could probably say the same about the last two, but the difference is that they didn't feel so brutal anymore, despite the workout volume going up significantly. It must be due to the "easy" week that I had before, most likely it recharged my batteries well. I cannot guarantee that I will feel the same in 2 weeks, but I am enjoying riding this wave for now. Here are my last 2 weeks at a glance.
Truth to be told, they were filled with enough excitement and that made a big difference in how I approached them.


I had all kinds of swims on the schedule. Starting with my longest swim to date (3300m), to masters swim with the tri club, to time trial in the pool, to simulation swim, to swims that could have been... but ended in a bare minimum.
Simulation swim to start the day
For my longest swim, I did this on a Tuesday morning when I was feeling motivated:

300 swim 20 sri
2x200 kick with fins :30 sri
4x100 @ 2:30
2x500 pull 30 sri
3x100 @ 2:20
2x400 pull 30 sri
100 cool down

However, two days later with the tri group, it was more intense (a lot more!) because that's how we roll.

400m done as : 200m swim, 100m drills (50m SAD, 50m 6-3-6), 100m swim
4x100m kick with fins (50m front kick, 50m dolphin kick on the back)
300m pull + paddles negative split
100m alt stroke
14x50m ([1 ez + 1 fast], [1ez + 2 fast], [1ez + 3 fast], [1ez + 4 fast]) all fast ones with 5 sri, all ez ones on 1:20
150m ez swim

All this work must have helped because on Thursday of this week, I had my second time trial in the pool since I swim with these folks and I was really happy to see some progress compared to year before.

May 23, 2013: 750m in 18:37 (2:28min/100m)
May 22, 2014: 800m in 17:45 (2:13min/100m)

So basically, I am swimming 15sec/100m faster than last year. I am still in the slow lane, but I'm getting faster!! Not sure how and if this translates in open water, but I'll take it!


I LOVE MY BIKE! That is all.

Ok, ok... I'll let you in this love affair while we're still in the honeymoon phase.

On Mondays I had "recovery" 2h bike rides. I went outside, on my own and didn't die. I even enjoyed them, despite the hills and and wind. Recovery, sorta. I beat my PR on Strava with the fastest bike split on one of my most frequented segments. Could I be getting faster on the bike too? Maybe, maybe not.

Because now I haz racewheelz.
And these are my best times on this stretch of the road, windy conditions or not.
Verdict? It was windy, alright, but so were all these rides below in the 34-35kph range. I went over 40kph this time. These wheels work. They do, it's magic. And they "only" cost $800 (compared to $2500 for Zipp), shared between my hubby and I  and they are made custom in Canada. Good investment me thinks! Thank you 3Sixty5 Cycling!

Armed with this new kind of fast, I did most of my rides outside. I can't stop this feeling!! I'm such an adrenalin junkie... 2h here, 3h there... and I ended doing 5h this Saturday and biked over 132km in one setting. I even woke up at 5am and was on the road by 6:30, like a good and dedicated Ironman in training (thanks to Michelle Simmons for the reality check). After all these hours I had no pain, no chaffing, no crotch numbness and no muscle soreness. I could have done a century or more. I felt so amazing afterwards, I am still pinching myself to make sure I still have nerve endings. Maybe I don't know what's going to hit me, but anyway... let's not go tempting the devil now.
Here's me going all around and up and down Caledon, literally.
Caledon is hilly, alright.
My shadow and I, the only souls on the road
Farms, farms everywhere.
This one is super!
No man's land, cyclists' heaven
The houses here have tree fences
All rides are better with friends! 3h with the tri group

Good news is that my ankle has not hurt since I went to see my massage therapist. He's also magic. The runs off the bike are becoming more the norm, and we started hill repeats and speed workouts on the track.

The most memorable run was two weeks ago on the track and I had to shorten it because I got caught by a thunderstorm of epic proportions. It all started innocently enough with a few drops...
 Then it got more menacing and quite interesting for photos...
But then I took this panorama and realized that I was about to get swallowed by a monster and I wasn't sure that I was going to make it back home in time...
The sky was changing above me while I was watching and taking pictures mesmerized, stopped in the middle of my 4th speed interval.
And then it started pouring. HARD. I took shelter under the wooden stairs of a portable building, hoping it would be a quick one...
Yikes!! It's getting WET!
But then buckets of water started dumping all around me, including on my head, so I decided to find better shelter because mine was getting useless.
I ended running back home... another fast interval. Soaked to the bone, but glad I got it done, at least partially.
My face must have gotten stuck in that weird grin
Thankfully no other wet runs after this one - but they are fun sometimes!!

So much more fun than the treadmill, even though I chose the latter earlier this week for hill repeats. Yes, it was raining again, but I had to squeeze this run between work and masters swim and there was no time for hesitation. You gotta do what you gotta do: 4x3 min @ 6% incline with 15min cooldown and warmup in a stinky, stinky gym that makes my stomach turn.

But don't you worry, I got my revenge today at the Woodstock Duathlon (race report to follow) where I ran my shorts off and then some more!
It's the tale of my multi-sport debut this year with some tan sleeves as accessory... It will be worth the wait!

In a nutshell

So much happened lately, and my smile has returned. I realized that I have to keep trusting my training and nip the panic in the bud. There is no reason to believe that I am going to break any time soon. Life is good, the wheels keep turning, and I move along with them. There is a always a solution to problems, you just have to look for it hard enough. Most of the time, it's all in the smile and in your attitude towards life. Two words and a hashtag: #heartandcourage

Saturday, May 17, 2014

2014 Mississauga Half Marathon Race Report

Oh right... I was there that day. Did I race it? I was on the list for sure, I had a chip on my shoe and a bib on my belt. Did I go fast though or tried to get a new PB? Not so much. Not at all, actually.

I was there for fun. I had a long 21k run on my schedule and I had promised my coach that I was going to take it easy, like he suggested demanded. So from a mental perspective, this race was absolutely stress free.
I woke up early because I knew that I had a bit of a drive ahead of me and I was going to meet with Daily Mile friends at 6:45am. This race was going to start at 7:30am, and although I like when I finish my workouts early, the early morning start also made for cooler than usual temperatures. Not much to complain about, I was sporting a skirt after all and I didn't think it was butt freezing cold. Some brave souls were even wearing tank tops, like Emma and Amy. I like being on the warmer side, so I had a long sleeve tshirt and another one on top. Black and grey was the combo of the day (with a throwaway sweater on top). I also settled on the On Cloudsurfer shoes because I love their bounce.

Look at our Daily Mile group! Damn, we have the best legs in town. #burlingtonskirtbrigade represent! (sorry, I'm from the other B-town, but I pretend that I belong)
Alright, so after taking the above photo, we all went to the starting line and moments later we were on our way. I didn't hear the 93yr old Mayor Hazel McCallion say anything, all I remember was music, but I saw her waving as I ran by. I guess the race had started!

I had to make sure that I wasn't running too fast, but given the 4.5h that I had spent on the bike the day before, the chances were slim anyway. I settled into a comfortable pace and decided that I was not going to look at my Garmin at all that day. And I didn't!! I ran everything by feel, looking at the pretty houses, giving high fives, chatting with other runners, admiring the skirts passing me by (wink wink). I had a blast. I smiled all the time, I never counted the minutes until the end.

And just like that, in 2h04, I was done. One of my slowest half marathons, but I don't care. It was still one speedy training run, which I will blame the net downhill for. Mission accomplished for staying in Z2 all the time. Quite the difference from my first ever half marathon, on the same route 3 years ago. It's still one of my favorite races that I've done.
Sorry for not making this a more detailed race report, but when you've already run a race before and you're not there to actually care about pace, it's less of a sensory overload and more of a run with the head in the clouds, with the occasional peek towards the ground to make sure you don't step into a pothole and break a leg.

Speaking of which, my ankle/post tib flared as usual at 8km, but then the pain miraculously disappeared 2-3km later and never came back. Maybe it's all in my head? No, it cannot be. If you poke it, it definitely hurts, but this tendon seems to have a mind of its own. I'll just try to ignore it as much as I can and hopefully it'll leave me alone. The massage therapy seems to have helped though.

After the race I waited with Sam on the rest of the #burlingtonskirtbrigade to finish the full marathon and we cheered on each of them sexy legs as they ran by. They suffered a lot more than us half marathoners because of the horrible wind that ended being their nemesis that day, but overall they all a rewarding day. Who doesn't like to finish a marathon? Endorphins overload!!
Congrats to all!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

IMMT Training Week 16: Restful rest and time with friends

You know that a week promises you rest when it actually starts with a rest day. That was a good change of pace, thank you coach. It made a whole lot of difference as it allowed me to make a mental pause and reflect on the previous week's meltdown. In reality, maybe this was all I needed because on Tuesday, I was itching to start working out again. I wonder if I should change my rest day to Monday from now on... I am going to give the upcoming 3 week block another try, then reevaluate.


Two swims this week, one on Tuesday on my own and the masters swim on Thursday as usual. Both times I could see intervals times going down. Fast 25s, fast 50s, fast 100s. All better than the month before despite feeling sluggish sometimes. There are only 2 weeks left until the end of the group swim and for once, I don't feel burned out or willing to kill my coach. Seeing progress keeps me in a good mood I guess. I don't expect these times to necessarily translate into torpedo speed in the open water, but I am looking forward to finding my bubble of bliss again in the middle of Professor's Lake a month from now. It puts me at peace with the world and myself, and I need those zen moments during the triathlon season as they remind me why I love this sport so much. Plus, putting on my wetsuit makes me feel invincible, just like a superhero suit.


I took it easy for the first workout on Wednesday, but on Saturday, brace yourselves, I unleashed the BEAST! Don't get too excited now, I didn't FLY my bike, but I went OUTSIDE!! Yeah, baby!! Wind in my hair, coasting downhill, pushing hard up on Mt. Wolfe, fighting the wind - oh how I missed the elements that make biking outside so damn awesome. I was leading a group of folks from the tri club and this was a "no cyclist left behind" type of ride, so we took a few breaks, even had coffee after 50k, but in the end I rode 70km in 3h and that was truly memorable. I came back home with a high that lasted long enough to make me enjoy another hour and a half on my trainer afterwards, for a total of 4h30 and 105km for the day, longest time spent on the saddle this year. I know, I know... these times only go up from here... and I already sound like a broken record.

I WANT MORE!! I'm sure that I'll be crying after the 5h30 ride that I can already see on my schedule at the end of the month, but I'll leave that for The Meltdown 2.0.


Running has been kind of "meh" despite all the time spent outside. Ankle/post tib is still achy after 8km and I chose not to push it, thus I did not run farther than 10km this week. I really need to know what's making it tick and more important, how to fix it, so I'm going to speak with my massage therapist on Wednesday and maybe go back to physio for a bit. Calves in general have been super tight and they may have a lot to do with my tendons acting out.

But back to the recap, after the Mississauga half I waited until Thursday to run again and I did 10km of fartleks (only for the first half, then I took it easy). On Saturday I ran a 3k as a brick after the 3h ride, then today I went on the Etobicoke Trail because it was good for the soul. My friend Orville joined me and we ran 9km, half of what I had on the schedule. But as I previously said, it may be time that I stop pushing through the pain and deal with it.

In a nutshell

Less than 10h of workouts this week and all of them were rather enjoyable. Spent time with friends (Carol came home to ride and run with us on Saturday), saw a bunch of lovely folks from the FMCT tri club, then Orville surprised me by joining me on the trail run. Friends make everything better. Next week is back to the grind, and while I am still worried about my ankle/calves/tendons, I have a much positive outlook on the next building block than I had a few weeks ago. I am aware that there will always be ups and downs, but at least racing season is starting and I'll be using some of the endorphin high to keep the tears at bay. Plus I'll get to chase more of this girl, so all is good in the world.

Monday, May 5, 2014

IMMT Training Weeks 14 and 15: The meltdown

The rollercoaster ride continues. Two more weeks that taught me new ways of rising and falling, with a huge meltdown in the process. It took a good cocktail of adrenalin and endorphins to get over it, but below is the tale of how it all went down, literally.


The last two weeks have seen some decent swims, whenever I did not skip them. Yes, it did happen twice for various "reasons". I actually had some valid excuses for once, so I won't get much into the "why". Just trust me on this one. The 4 swims that I did had everything I could wish for. Fast intervals, long intervals, bands, pull, paddles, flip turns and non stop bouncing between walls. One even had an underwater camera since I had to test it for our tri club's swim stroke analysis. No, I didn't analyse myself, but I certainly noticed the boob drag and the revealing view all the way down to my navel that I get with my vintage swim suits. Time for a complete wardrobe replacement!!
One of my favorite swims was this one, which I did last weekend after the 5K race/11k run:
200m free
300m pull
Main set:
8x50m (25 fast, 25 ez) on 1:15
100m breast stroke
2x300m pull 30sri
2x200m (150m free, 50m breaststroke) 20sri
4x50m (25 fast, 25 ez)
100m breaststroke
The next Tuesday I did another long, uninterrupted swim, the longest so far with 2500m straight pull, concentrating on THE "perfect stroke". Scored the perfect goggle marks too.
I recently came across this excellent blog post by Mama Simmons (thank you!!) and something "clicked" in my head. The key words were "lead with your wrist". I've always paid attention to have a high elbow and finish my pull with the hand near my thigh, but never really thought about the angle that my arm had under water. And I realized that my elbow was indeed leading, not my wrist. Since I've been paying attention to this, I noticed an increase in speed and overall more water resistance against my arm, which means that my "feel for the water" is now better and my stroke more powerful. I could definitely feel my lats engaging, and that, my friends, is quite an epiphany. One that needs more muscles in these places, alas. It makes for a HARD workout!!

You can definitely see me leading with the elbow in the video below, dating from last October (mostly because I drop it too low).

Now all I need is a new stroke analysis video and hopefully we can see the difference ;-).
Here's before and after the eureka moment. It seems that I managed to save 1 stroke/length and 4sec/100m. Hey, I may not be the fastest swimmer, but progress is progress!

Ahhh, the bike.... Or rather, AAARGH!!! the bike. Whose idea to increase my FTP was anyway? That's how you progress, I know, but damn... I did not get a break at all! I was so looking forward to my "recovery" week and what do I get? more sweet spot and MVO2 intervals!! I had to send my coach an email begging for less intensity during my recovery weeks, at least to have some rest to look forward to. These last 2 weeks broke me. The good news is that I managed to last 10 minutes more than the week before at sweet spot (before crashing and burning again) and that I nailed the MVO2s.
But trying to do a double 20min threshold ride after 7 days of workouts and no rest was a lousy idea. Given my increased tiredness and stress at work which led to having to take a full day off from work for physical (and mental) exhaustion, I obviously failed miserably, even though I managed to break 4 more personal records in the process.
In retrospective, maybe I should just stop saying that I failed, because all these ups and downs are part of the journey, but I can't help it being hard on myself and getting more and more discouraged when it happens week after week. Just like this past weekend. On Thursday I tried kickstarting my strength training (again!) with a few squats and lunges and my legs and glutes were so sore afterwards, despite having the Friday off completely, that I spent most of the Saturday long bike ride on the trainer crying my eyeballs off. I had to step off after 2h15, only to return later in the day to finish the 3h45 workout. Every single pedal stroke was a battle of the guts and pushing through the physical pain was downright infuriating. I knew that it was only muscle soreness, and that sometimes all you need is a good dose of HTFU, but I just didn't have it in me that day. More emails to coach followed, interrupted by endless crying spells. I must have spent as many hours crying on Saturday as I spent on my bike. In the end I was ordered 2 full days of rest and a good dose of protein and carbs after EACH workout. Coach is worried that I do not recover properly afterwards, given how I usually go straight to bed after my workouts and neglect fuelling those aching muscles. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I will see the light sometime in the next few weeks. If it were easy everyone would do it.


I had some challenges in this department also, but hopefully they are not as alarming as they feel. I started getting some post tibial tendon pain, like shin splints above my ankle, on the inside of my leg. They would come after 1km, 8km or not come at all. So random. I tried changing shoes, but the results were not consistent. I even saw a podiatrist who said that it's nothing serious that a bag of frozen peas won't solve. So I've been icing, stretching, massaging and staring at my leg, imploring it to stop bothering me. Not sure whether it heard me, but thankfully it allowed me to do all my long runs, including the Mississauga Half Marathon on Sunday (race report to follow) with little to no pain at all.

Another notable mention goes to the first run of the year in the rain. Hubbs and I went to the track for some speed intervals and surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it.
The proof is in the smiles!!

In a nutshell

Mentally, I've hit rock bottom. I am scared because it's still early in the training cycle and there has to be enough room for crashing even harder. I know I will. Fuelling appropriately and recovery/muscle soreness may be related, and living with the feeling that I already eat a lot, too much maybe, is a constant challenge. I may not be fuelling at the appropriate times or the right stuff. I know little about recovery science and about the foods that I put in my mouth beyond them being healthy or not. I need to make some changes, but they are not guaranteed to work. Maybe I should just believe myself, in the process, in being able to turn my mojo around and enjoy training despite the (occasional) pain (in the ass).

I think it's time for some swimsuit shopping and signing for a race or two. It should help, right?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

2014 Run4Hope 5K Race Report

I ran this race for the first time last year and it became one of my favourites. The course is beautiful, around Professor's Lake in Brampton, a mere 5min driving distance from my house. I run there all the time, especially in the summer after swimming in the lake with the local FMCT tri club (which I now lead with a few other lovely folks). Speaking of which, come join us if you want to train with other people passionate about triathlons, running and fitness. We have lots of activities in store for our members this year!

The race has been organized by FMCT club members for 10 years now and obviously I know a lot about it for being a member myself. I think it's a great initiative that has brought to our city people from all over the Toronto area and gives an opportunity to many Peel schools to measure themselves against each other. Its proceeds go towards a great charity called "Sky's the Limit", which provides laptops to children in need. My boys both raced it last year, but only my youngest decided to come back this year. Must have had something to do with the fact that there were finisher medals for everyone for its 10th anniversary. ;-)

Given that I raced my heart out at Yonge St. 10K a few weeks ago, I decided to go into this race with no expectations whatsoever and pace my son instead of going for a PR. This was also going to give Zin the opportunity to go for his own 5k record, since he'd never officially raced this distance before. We woke up leisurely at 7am and had a nice breakfast, then drove the short distance to Professor's Lake. I was on a schedule: do the race, then drive back home and run 11km more as coach's plan called for 16km that day, with 8km in the middle at 1/2 marathon pace.
We got there with plenty of time to spare for selfies and to cheer on our other friends who were racing in the 10k distance.
Shortly after 9am the gun went off and we, too, started our little loop around the lake. The first 1.5k are mostly downhill and I think that I started my son a bit too quickly. Talk about pacing #fail. He needed to run at 6min/km, but my Garmin kept on jumping between 5:30 and 6:30 and I assumed that we were averaging 6min/km, when in fact we were actually closer to 5:30min/km. I kept on asking my son how he was doing though and he said just fine, so I didn't worry that much. Only that after 2km, when we hit the first uphill, he got a side stitch and we had to start walking...The next 1-2km were a bit of a struggle to make the pain go away - I shared all the tips I knew - change breathing pattern, hit ground with opposite foot on exhaling, push on the area with the fingers and eventually, walk and practice deep breathing. Eventually, around km 4, the stitch went away and we started picking up the pace again.
It was really such a beautiful day, that hurrying up to finish was almost a pity. Despite the temporary pain, we were definitely enjoying ourselves. Once we got on the final stretch along the lake, we started preparing ourselves for THE photo. Seeing Sue Sitki and her camera just as we go around the last corner before the Finish chute is always a treat. Not only she is a great race photographer (and cake maker!!), but as a photographer myself, I knew that the weather conditions were going to make for beautiful pics. Plus, this year, she made them all free! Here they are:
Zin was pushing hard in the last 100m, while my son and I were changing gears towards the finish. All schuss from there! We finished a bit over 33min, while Zin's time was 20min and change. He finished second in his age group, while I finished third, despite running my slowest 5k race, ever. Now that was a surprise. Where were all 35-39 year old women that day? I dunno, but I'll take it.
And that's it, folks! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Took my son back home as planned while Zin stayed to collect his medal. Then I went out to run the remaining 11k with my friend Wendy who came to keep me company. It was such a wonderful day, I wish it stayed like that forever. 

One thing for sure, we'll run this race again next year!