Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Welland Sprint Triathlon Race Report

How do you write one of these race reports again? Well, screw that. There are no rules. But I should talk about race day at least... and mine started early. Like really, really, really early. Something like 2am.. That's about right. It's around the time that I stopped sleeping. I pet the cat. I checked my phone multiple times. I watched my hubby sleeping. I listened to the sounds of the house. I wondered if the boys had gone to sleep. I brought the cat a little closer, asked him to purr some sleep into me. Didn't work. I was super nervous, but not as much about the race as I was about a last minute decision to drive back in town right after the race and attend my Taekwondo's school belt grading. And it didn't help that I had not talked to my instructor about this and I sent him an email just before going to sleep and I was expecting him to say not to bother, but instead he said it was my call. Doesn't he know I suck at last moment decisions?? Aaaaargh. Keep calm and try to sleep. One, two, three sheep.

I had no choice but to get out of bed once the alarm clock went off... It was 5am. I hopped in the shower, then had breakfast with hubbs. A slice of bread with prosciutto and a chocolate croissant. We stopped by Tim Hortons for coffee, then started the 1.5h drive to Welland. Made it there with 1h to spare and I was the one to be cool as a cucumber while Zin was the Energizer bunny. Dude, chill... it's just a sprint distance. It'll be over before you digest your toast.
We lined up with Emma for registration, then we grabbed our paperwork and hardware, aka bib and chip. I don't know about the others, but I also got a semi-permanent tattoo on my calf, judging by the fact that 3 days later I still have a big fat 42 sharpied on. In transition I found myself a little spot on a rack in the middle of everything, just to get confused enough to see my synapses firing early in the morning.
I went to a portapotty to put on my tri bottom and take care of a last minute business, then put on my wetsuit. Given that I don't fit in my TRS tri top, I decided to swim in a sports bra under my wetsuit, then wear my bike jersey on the bike and run, which will be the modus operandi for the rest of the season. That's what happens when you get fat(ter) and Coeur decides to change the fabric and make the tops smaller.

Fast forward to the swim start, this was going to be a time trial with each athlete starting 5 sec apart. I was number 167, so I had some time to warm up and chat with a few friends from our FMCT tri club. Oh, look, it's Bob Hatcher the photographer! Let's take a picture in our rubber suits. Zin, take your hand off my boob!! What is it now, "touch a boob" for good luck? (Jeez, I can't take him anywhere.) Bob captured the moment just a second later.
Aren't we cute in our matchy-matchy caps and goggles though? Too bad that I don't fit in my ROKA wetsuit either. *Sigh* We would have been perfect for advertising. Anyway... swimming on... 3.. 2..1.. GO! I went straight for the first green buoy, found the sighting line, hugged the line, turned at second green buoy, then third green buoy, found the sighting line again, hugged the line, made a last turn towards the exit. The End. Most uneventful swim evah. I stayed in the zone, swam happy and made it around the pond in 14:39 with zero contact. I think the course was a little short, or maybe was for those who knew how to swim straight. I don't remember coming close to anyone in the race... I often wondered if they knew about the line and why they were swimming way over there when they could have swum way over here where the buoys and the line were.
I was a little confused coming out of the water because I thought we were going to turn right and take the stairs up to transition like at Barrelman, but instead I was instructed to go on the grass, around the building and through the above passage that made for some crappy pictures and longer swim times.

In transition I had a hard time closing my bike jersey and it seemed like it took forever. Lesson learned, over the head it goes next time. I went sockless in my bike shoes as usual, but another surprise was the run out. So freaking long, all the way to the road, which is another difference with Barrelman, where we took the path along the water instead. This also skewed our averages but thankfully someone created a Strava segment for the road portion only and we can all hang onto our pride for a little longer.

Despite my lack of training, I managed to push enough watts for a 31km/h average. I'll take it. I remember having a lot of fun trying to bring my heart rate down, but to no avail. Average 177bpm, yikes! Is that called riding the red line or I'm making things up? I'm the queen of false idioms, so what the hell do I know. Someone will tell me that my English sucks eventually. But I do look good on the bike, so there.
I remember passing a bunch of people, none in my AG though, then being passed by the fast dudes who made me feel that I was standing still. I ate a gel at km 10, drank some water. It was freaking hot out there, but somewhat enjoyable thanks to the headwind on the way back to T2. It took me 38min to ride the 20km and overall I had a lot of fun. However I knew that once I'd start running my joy would disappear in a heartbeat, pun intended.

And just like I thought, after changing into my running shoes, it hit me. This was going to be my first brick of the year!! Happy happy joy joy! NOT. Are we done yet?? Wait, is this a HILL on this path? (it was just a bump, but it felt like a mountain) And where is the first kilometer marker dammit!? My watch was in multisport mode and it was not showing my pace. I had no idea how fast I was going, just that it felt dreadful. I decided to hit lap at each km marker to see my average. First km, 5:58, but effort level was feeling like a 4:58. I decided not to look at my heart rate and go by feel. By death feel that is. I kept pushing and started the mind games and inner monologues. At TKD I ran 5:15 for 6km, this is freaking slow. I can do this. Yeah, I know that my HR had been in Z5 for 45 min, but it should only take 20 more minutes. I won't die in 20min, I promise. Look, I can almost see the 2km marker. I even saw the top athletes coming back, so I am not THAT slow. I will pass out before I die and there are enough people on the path, one of them must know CPR. I can do this. Look, someone calls my name. Oh, right - I am wearing my bib.

Here comes the turn around, but wait... why are these people running on this parallel road? So this isn't the turn around after all. Fuck. I take a bit of water at each station, mostly on my head and down my back. I am SO glad this is just a 5km race. I cry for hubbs and our friends who are going to do the long course the next day. I finally reach the turnaround and think about the rest of the people on my way back. I did not see anyone in my AG passing me. This is encouraging. I can't be in front because I'm a slow swimmer, but where are the other athletes? Behind me I hope. Just STAY there. I can do this. I started feeling sick. Stitches left and right: one from the stomach, one from the ribs, one from the spleen, most likely another one because it can. I must stay under 6min/km. I MUST. One more km. I should pick it up now so I look good running down the chute. Boom chakalaka!
These people behind me look impressed. Or maybe I farted really loud, I don't remember.
Two steps later... OH THE AGONY
Happy to see Bob and the finish line. No matter what, he'll make me loo good. 
Dramatic, eh? Just wait.
I shake John's hand, I take three steps towards the girl who removes the ankle chips. She takes it off, then I say... I GOTTA PUKE. I lean above the gate and leave it ALL on the gravel. It felt like never ending, so the folks from the medical come over and ask me if I was ok. They bring me water. I drink 4-5 cups, I don't remember, then I make my way towards the exit. Now that's how you end a race, although I don't wish it to anyone else. Gives a literal meaning to leaving it all on the course I guess.

I finished the run in 29:57, mission accomplished to stay under 6min/km, but with a HR average of 180! The overall time was 1:27:21, which is 4 minutes slower than my PR on this distance, but for a first race and no training it's quite the accomplishment I'd say. From the beginning until the end I was 9th/16 in my AG, so that explains why it felt like I was racing alone.

I met with Emma and Zin, we took a pic, then I lied down because I was not feeling right.
Is it hot as balls or is it just me?? Why aren't there more naked people in the picture??
Yup, this hurts. And no, I am not giving birth. And don't ask me while my knees are blue, I have no freaking clue.
I took a few minutes to collect my pains, then noticed Zin and Emma had jumped in the water. Now, that's a brilliant idea. I took off my jersey and dove in as well. What a glorious, glorious feeling. I must have spent a good 10 minutes in there, doing the starfish and feeling the aches leaving my body miraculously. I may or may not have peed as well. Then we all went back to the transition and asked someone for a "fresh" picture. What a difference a cold swim makes!!
Let's do it again!!
By that time it was already 11am and too late to drive back to Brampton for my Taekwondo grading. Besides I was starving and dizzy and I hadn't even started packing. The grading plans went flying out of the window and I told myself "what the hell was I thinking??" I could not imagine a single minute driving back and spending another 5h in the dojang. One more lesson learned. I'll have to wait two more months. I already waited 12 years, who is still counting?

I went to grab some food while these two started packing. We found out that Zin had placed second in his age group, so we decided to hang around for the podium and the prizes. He won a Timex watch too, yay! I think we finally left the race site around 1pm and went to Swiss Chalet for lunch, then to the residence to check in for the weekend, since these two were going to do it all again the next day. Crazies. And this is where my first race report of the year ends. Hope you had fun watching my descent into agony and rising from the ashes, hahaha. It's all good, triathlon is fun!! Over and out.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A semblance of normality

Another week in the books and no boo boo to spoil the party. Now that's how you start a blog post! Where's my muscle emoji when I need it?

I went to Taekwondo on Tuesday and we did a 6.2km run at the beginning. I tried to stay on top of the leaderboard as the fastest of the group, but the instructor's son put on his 6'5" long legs and left me in his dust, after I beat him the week before. I ran like a maniac though, finishing the run in 34min 40sec, a 45 sec improvement over the previous run, but with the HR in the red, average 181. I pretty much do a speed workout every night I run there, reason why I try to limit the runs to 2 a week so I don't kill my legs, especially since I had little choice over the days I went training and they ended being back to back. Not good.

The next day I ran again, but thankfully only 4.5km. Then we worked on some sparring techniques - lots of high kicks. Not sure what was easier for the ribs - the power kicks we did the day before or the combination kicks during sparring training.  But I managed just fine, despite training with the black belts as they prepare for the ITF Taekwondo World Championships. Speaking of which... this is what ITF Taekwondo looks like.

And this is our school Miller's Taekwondo:

I still take painkillers at night because sleeping on the injured side is hard and I don't get my beauty sleep that helps me function like a human. Hopeful that by the end of the month the bruised ribs will be just a distant memory.

Thursday was OWS night at Professor's Like. A beauty of a swim... so different from the Sunday before. The lake was like glass, although on the chilly side. I helped a new member swim two loops, so it was full of zen. Bubbles bubbles breathe... Look, a pretty cloud and the sky is so blue! Where is that buoy again? I just got lost in my thoughts... as usual. I love open water swimming! Too bad I didn't give any of this love to the pool over the winter, but that's ok. I am not going to break any records this season anyway.

The week went by very fast and with the arrival of the weekend, the apprehension of the longest ride of the year, on the hottest day so far. My friend Sam from "Breaking my Runners In" is training for Muskoka 70.3 and she wanted to do a hilly 100km workout. Crazy as I am, I said yes to joining in the fun pain. Emma made us a route starting from Burlington, complete with a donut stop, 1000m of elevation and only 39 turns. I had to wonder if Emma was PMSing or something, because it delivered! I didn't count all the hills, but the motto quickly became "it ain't over till it's over". The meanest one was strategically placed at km 85, and the last one was just 500m before the finish. Thanks Emma!! What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?
Don't be fooled by our smiles, this was after 45km ONLY.
TRS Team photo! (suck the belly in)
I think we climbed that thing in the back
The route was really beautiful though and it had a few awesome downhills too, good enough for some Strava PRs. I drank 4 bottles of water, 2 of Gatorade, had 2 gels and a fruit bar, plus a butter tart. I managed my nutrition pretty well for the conditions, just like in the good ol' days when workouts like these were the routine. The only thing missing were the salty balls, haha.
Oh wait... here they are.

Sorry, not sorry. 
We met with them boys just before the donut/butter tarts stop. Hubby is on the left. These guys were out for 170km in preparation for Ironman Mt Tremblant. They still had 100km left when we met them, and again... don't get fooled by the smiles. The sweaty and delirious ones at the end of the ride are just below.
I went back home and prepared lunch for the boys, then waited for hubbs to arrive from his own epic adventure. We barely had 1h to rest, then went out to one of TFC's soccer matches since we have a few season tickets. For once TFC won, against LA Galaxy nonetheless.
If we look a little pooped, it's totally normal. It was only after we got a cold drink in the shade that we perked up a little. We even compared tan lines. I definitely win.

He may have a nice caramel color, but I am a real cyclist.
The next morning I slept in. Oh, what a glorious sleep. Our cat didn't even bother me, but of course... Zin woke up early again, this time to run 28km (and it distracted the cat away from the bedroom). It sucks to be Ironman in training sometimes.

Another scorcher of a day, but I spent most of it inside, until I went out for another open water swim that is. This time, direction the Quarry where our friend Mellen joined us for some quality "mermaiding". Aren't we pretty?
Another season first, and a 2200m swim that woke up my ribs by the end. Little by little I am getting there... Not ready to do long triathlons any time soon, but I can do some long swims and bike rides, and survive short, fast runs.

Little did I know, the ride I did yesterday was a blessing. Just today I was asked to replace someone at Muskoka 70.3 for the bike segment of a relay and I said yes!! I was really bummed last year when I didn't get to play on that course, but this year I am taking every opportunity as a chance to remind myself that I am not completely broken and I can still do things. I may only ride my bike every 3 weeks, but at this point I know that I can survive the Muskoka hills. It won't be my fastest time on that course since I lost a lot of fitness (and packed on 10 pounds), but I plan on having as much fun as I can while keeping the #rubbersidedown. Since hubby is doing the race as well, I am going to have triple the fun: racing, catching people and cheering my friends across the finish line. Now that's going to be awesome. Stay tuned... first race of the season is next Saturday!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Back at it

So the ribs situation, while annoying because I cannot sleep very well, is not a deal breaker. Last week I went back to Taekwondo and we had to run 6km (like every class from now on). I was apprehensive to have my insides hit my ribs while in motion, but in the end it was not too bad. It felt like I had a stubborn side stitch and the next day the pain was a lot milder. Go figure. Only a dull, constant pain remained. No more sharp shooting pain, so... yay? The next day we had to run another 6km. That too went well, although I had some pain in the knee that kept coming and going, just to mess with my mojo. Stupid knee, I bet next time it's going to be the other one to bother me. I guess I am still not ready to run two days in a row. By the end of the week I could even do some kicks and add some power into them, so things are moving into the right direction. Still not much core power to help me with balance, but that too shall come back one day.

Alright, enough with the complaints for today. After the crazy training sessions during the week, I took it up a notch on Saturday. How masochistic I am, you must be wondering.

In the middle of a career change (more on this later), I had signed up to attend an event put together by the Women in Arboriculture Canada group, my new adoptive family. I woke up early (for a Saturday, but not for a triathlete!) and drove to St Thomas, about 15km south of London, ON. Arrived there right on time to grab a tshirt, a few promotional materials, a buff and a catalogue for Universal Field Supplies, the Arborist reference store in the Peel region. Rope, carabiners, pulleys, harnesses - OH MY. After getting introduced people left and right, whose names I mostly forgot, we watched a demo for Single Rope Technique done with both fancy, and not as fancy gear, then got released into the wild to climb (designated) trees in the park.
Our playground for the day
Arborists in the wild
Tree climbing champions - learning from the best!
I want this setup
Girls know how to have fun
Excuse my butt hanging out of my pants - but I am climbing a tree!!
I am not in there, but not far. About 5 girls up ahead.
I had my own challenges during the day because I went completely unprepared, resulting in some painful blisters on my hands. The only piece of equipment that I could use was my hard hat which I had to wear while under the canopy. The rest of the equipment was graciously lent by other ladies who didn't even flinch at the idea of sharing with a complete n00b that they met an hour before. I learned lots, met awesome people and had a good upper body workout to prove that I belonged in this "industrial athletes" group.

The next day I had to wake up early again, boo. This time, for an open water swim, the second of the season with the FMCT tri club at Professor's Lake. It was super windy and the lake had a nice chop, therefore I chose to spare my ribs (see what I did here?) and swim only one 750m loop. It was more than enough. I returned home so tired, that I jumped back in bed and slept until noon.
And this completed my epic week of crazy, adventurous workouts. Let's see how this one goes.

Monday, June 6, 2016

My finest video editing moment yet

In absence of motivation to go swimming, I attended our club's last indoor swimming practice last week on Tuesday. I am sharing this because I got to play with our rarely used GoPro and had a lot of fun following people up and down the pool during their workout, mentally analyzing everyone's technique because you gotta put your NCCP certification at work sometimes, even if it's for nothing. Nobody is paying me to give them feedback and I do that for free anyway because I have this tendency to give unsolicited advice left and right, especially when I'm drunk. But I digress.

Lo and behold, the fruit of my first video editing attempt, playing with Windows Movie Maker. This was also a first. In the past I used some fancier software because I needed color correction and flipping images and whatnot. Now I treat videos more radically. Yellow tint? Cut, cut, cut! Man, I can't hold on the thought train today. Back to the subject, once again: my personal greatness in filmmaking. Tadaaaaa. You will need to play it with sound, because it took me only 2h to find the right soundrack, free of copyright, so that Youtube doesn't choke on it. And I'm damn proud of it. Please tell me that I don't suck. My ego really needs some stroking on this dreadful Monday.

I know you liked it. But please don't judge my peeps, or I'll break your ribs.

Oh yeah, on that note, my ribs are still giving me a lot of grief. I spent last week heavily medicated, had to work from home two days and went to my ART specialist to see what exactly was out of whack because no other doctor would touch my ribs. The doctors would look at them, say... yep, you're broken. Stop this. Go back to taking pictures or something. Stop hitting people. You're too old for this shit. No, seriously.

I heard that before, about 10 years ago when I fractured a leg hitting my heavy bag. But I ain't giving up, so stop telling me what's good for me. Alas I was also unable to exercise because any movement of my trunk would send me screaming and hyperventilating.

On Saturday I had to take my car to the mechanic to replace a broken muffler and decided to come back home by bike. My first time back on the saddle since the Muskoka long weekend, and it didn't suck. I could breathe through it quite nicely, but I also had the wind at my back and no hills to power up to. I was optimistic that I could return to exercising and I stopped all painkillers. Today I also went back to ART for another torture session. I feel so good after these sessions, they're crack, pun intended. I am not a masochist, but I can move a lot better afterwards and I am no longer in huge amounts of pain, at least for 6h or so. Hopefully it will last longer this time... At least until after my evening Taekwondo class. I did not go at all last week because I'm not THAT stupid.

I don't know what I'll be able to do, running is still out of question because all the bouncing inside my belly is very painful. Maybe I'll work on my patterns and my sine wave, Or I could just listen to my teacher and stop being such a pussy. Not verbatim, of course, he'd get some weird looks if he said that. But sometimes he means it, alright. Will let you know how it goes... Upward and onward! And if you are not confused enough, my first triathlon race is two and a half weeks from now!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Alive and kicking

Hey hey hey, what's up dudes? You thought I disappeared without saying goodbye? Not so fast. Truth is, I've hit a really hard patch at the end of last year, which continued into this year to the point that I had to seek professional help. Very thankful for the medical professionals, my family and my friends, I am now back to some kind of normal. I went back on anti-depressant medication and it's probably the best decision that I could have made. I still have the occasional freak out, but at least I don't feel like throwing myself under a bus every month.
Found myself a new passion
Looking at my sad mug in the last post was also making things worse, so I decided to make my blog private for a while. I pretty much hated myself and the situation I was in and the post was rather triggering. I could not bear the thought of more bad news, fighting with my health, my injuries, my willpower. As a matter of fact, at the end of December I completely threw the towel on my triathlon training and went back to Taekwondo. I think it was fate that made me stop in a traffic jam on a route that I never take, just to notice an ITF Taekwondo school, about 15 min from my house. I decided to check it out and I loved it instantly.
First day back in the dojang
I figured that all the leg training and stretching could only do me good. It took a while to feel flexible enough to do leg kicks that felt almost impossible with achy and stiff hips. It's a small school, people are nice there and classes are pretty hard on a regular basis. Exactly the type of challenge that I needed. Last time I did Taekwondo was in 2005 and I thought I would never get back to it. I even gave away most of my uniforms, belts etc. Thankfully I had kept one uniform and my latest belt (blue)  and I could get back into it without much delay. I have been working pretty hard since December, going to classes at least 2-3 times a week. It didn't help that I broke one of my toes in January and it slowed down my progress.
My first competition in 12 years
But since then I re-learned all the patterns and managed to catch up with my belt level to the point that I could attend my first competition in 12 years, just this past Saturday. Thanks to my instructor, who is a perfectionist freak (love him!), I took gold in patterns (technique), beating 2 other ladies of higher belt ranks than me. In sparring I faced an older lady wearing a black stripe (see third place below) and we put on a show, according to the spectators. We tied at first, then had to spar again, and she beat me. Because we were only 3 in sparring, a draw made such that she sparred again, with a yellow stripe, and I was given bronze. No big deal at all, that's how it goes when there aren't many competitors in a category.
Winner winner chicken dinner (and a few bruised ribs)
Since then I have been feeling the effects of a hard fought sparring match and as a matter of fact, I have a few bruised ribs that I'll have checked out this afternoon. Something doesn't feel right. Not only the strongest painkillers don't help at all, but I also feel clicking, popping and rubbing on the side of my ribs when I bend my torso. It should be interesting to know what's going on. But I'm not complaining. Sure it will take a few weeks to heal, but it's the risk of the sport. What do you expect when you are kicked and punched repeatedly. My fault for not defending myself better. I will definitely work on it for the next time.

Now, back to the subject of triathlon and everything that goes with it, I am slowly making progress. I signed up for a few sprint races this summer (Welland, Kingston, the Georgina Women's Triathlon) and will go back to Barrelman for the half iron swim-bike. Nothing too crazy, given that my focus will continue being my Taekwondo classes and getting stronger glutes, hips and core, while also fulfilling my sherpa duties for hubbs, as he's ramping up for Ironman Mt Tremblant. But as I was saying, I did notice that my running has been improving. Not only we run on a regular basis at the beginning of each Taekwondo class, but I also did a few longer runs on my own, and I managed to go all the way to 6km without pain. Now, another thing worth mentioning, is that I went back to my natural running form and I am not forcing myself to land on my forefoot anymore. Maybe that is part of the solution, and only time will tell.

And that's it for the newest news. It will be hard to recap 9 months of hiatus, but as in Riri fashion, will share a few photos to bring you all up to speed.

At the end of the season I put on my cow onesie and rang my cowbell hard and loud for friends at the annual Egg Nog Jog. It was supposed to be my last race of the year, another DNS. I had fun supporting my friends, even if deep down it hurt.

The rest of the month was rather uneventful. I did a lot of couch surfing, procrastinating and giving the finger to my bike and swim classes.
The new year started with a long awaited vacation to Mexico, our first ever to the Carribean and the blue ocean and turtles and colorful fishes. We only had to wait 20 years, but we finally made it!!
Pretty much everything went downhill from there, mental health wise, but eventually I turned things around after going to France and reconnecting with my best friend.
Visiting Claude Monet's gardens
Recently I was able to attend the Muskoka Triathlon Training camp that our club organizes every year and I am proud to report that I managed to complete the Muskoka 70.3 bike loop and some more, plus running, plus swimming, all over the course of 3 magnificent sunny days. All without training. Ha! And I did not destroy my legs. Not until I got them badly bruised at the Taekwondo tournament, but that was to be expected, d'uh.
Said Hi to the lonely bear on the side of Brunel Rd, just like last year
Shared the cottage and adventures with these awesome peeps
Found a pretty bridge, took a picture for my TRS team
First OWS of the year, safety first thanks to DC Rainmaker
I hope this comeback post will settle all rumors concerning my absence. Not that I need TMZ to look into my life, but my three blog readers may enjoy getting back in touch without sending in the paparazzi. It's been a rocky ride, but I'm hanging in there and more important, I try to keep moving. Mens sana in corpore sano. And last but not least, BELIEVE.