Thursday, March 29, 2012

The photo

This is the only photo I could find from the race. There were over 50,000 photos taken, so I'm not going to browse them all, but I'm a bit sad that there aren't any from the finish line. This was actually taken just before I entered Copps Coliseum, so it's 100m from the finish line. I guess they didn't find me or my husband very photogenic. Oh well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Around the Bay 30K Road Race Report

Better late than never, right? Well, it's been 2 days only, but they felt more like a week. Let's get this report started!

Sunday morning alarm clock went off at 6:45am and something had been telling me that it would be too late as Hamiliton is about a 65km/45min drive away. We had some apple pie and banana bread with Nutella for breakfast (we love our homemade baked goods, shut up) then drove to the nearest Tim Hortons for coffee on our way to Hamilton. Without surprise, once we got there, all parking lots were full. We were just 30min away from the race start and I was getting increasingly panicked because I had nowhere to park the car. I thought about leaving it at a bank or a coffee shop, but overzealous vigilantes were roaming around, ready to jump on any opportunity to see cars towed. So much fun, right! Anyway, I told hubbs (name is Zin) to walk to the starting line, it was more important for him to get there on time than for me, only that I needed to get in the bus that would take me to the half point and the deadline to catch one of those was 9:15am, 15 min before the start! I let him go then I went circling once more and wheeee, found one last spot in a school's parking lot. I managed to run down close to the starting line and jump in the last bus, good luck sign for was yet to come.

The gun went off while our bus was on its way to the mid-point and from that moment on I started following hubbs with Runkeeper Live, which was way too cool for anyone around me. At the half point I tried my best to stay relaxed and warm while keeping on eye on Runkeeper Live and taking bathroom breaks. I saw Reid Coolsaet, one of our two Canadian marathoners competing at the Olympic Games this summer, and Kibet, the guy who was ahead of him at that point, zooming by, and snapped of photo of each. Here they are:

Go, Reid, go!

Reid ended up winning the race in 1h33, pretty much twice faster than us mortals. Read his race report here. I didn't see Kibet anywhere in the standings.

As to hubbs, he started with a pace of 5:04min/km and I was afraid that'd be a bit too fast for him, but he ended by staying strong on this pace for over 10km, then slightly slowing down to finish his 15km split in 1h27 and an overall pace of 5:47min/km (including the transition time). The chip transition must have taken us about a minute to a minute and a half, then off I went, a bit apprehensive to run on the lift bridge, but thankfully preoccupied with my fuel belt that had detached, my earbuds' cord tangled around me and the Runkeeper app that refused to start for about 1km in the run. I managed to get everything back in working order and eventually started concentrating on the run. Another km down and my Runkeeper tells me that I'm doing a 5:45 pace and I went whaaaa?? Runkeeper must have bonked again. Waited for another km and the pace didn't change. Damn!! I must be really going that fast then, but how is it possible, I am not breathing harder and my legs are flying. Alright... keep doing what you're doing and stop thinking.

(I'm not the only one to find this course scenic, the girl in front just took a photo as well)

Then the rolling hills started up and down, up and down, hands in the air, smile for the camera!! Lots of people on the roads to cheer us on, beautiful weather, this run was already awesome from the start, if only I could keep the awesome strong until the end despite all the elevation's ups and downs.  Like a rollercoaster ride, this one was a lot of fun until I reached "heartbreak hill". Again, I didn't think twice, I attacked the beast and told myself - you shall not stop, you can do this, it's just 400m, this will be over in a blink. And indeed, without much pain, but with 30m of altitude gain, I made it to the top then worked on my breathing for a little while so I didn't have to think too much again.

Here's the Valley Inn Road, aka "heartbreak hill", the climb starts on the right and ends at the top left where the train tracks are. There was one man collapsed on the bridge just ahead of us, I hope he's ok.

Met the "reaper" (a guy in costume, he must be famous by now) on my way back to the city, but didn't stop for a photo because it would have been tempting the devil too much. I stayed focused, then on the last 3k I picked up the pace and with a grin from ear to ear, arrived at Copps Coliseum and let a scream out as I was crossing the finish line in 1:26:54, my best time ever by 18 minutes since last year's run on the same course!! Our total time was 2:54:40, under 3h!! Woooo hoooooo!!

I don't have a photo of me finishing, but here's one from the chute while making my way towards the "food and medals" area.

After meeting with hubbs, we had someone snap this picture of us then we drove back home and relaxed for the rest of the day. We even sneaked in a long walk for coffee in the afternoon because it seems to be working well for when you're hungry and you don't necessarily want to eat a cow. What a great day this was!! I hope to share this experience again with my Zin. All I know for sure, is that I married a runner!! Who knew? To the infinity and beyooooond!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A runner's return

This coming Sunday is a big day. For the first time ever hubbs will be participating to a running event with me, the Around the Bay 30K Road Race. We've climbed the CN Tower a few times together for the WWF and the United Way, but we never ran. Hell, in 15 years of marriage, I've never seen him running other than back and forth on a soccer field. But I've seen proof in pictures, my hubbs was a track runner in his teens and a pretty good one from what I've heard. Needless to say, I was absolutely psyched when I saw him finishing a 12km training run last week with a big smile on his face, faster than I ever did. There goes my hope of ever running alongside him, the challenge is now "catch me if you can". Did I mention that this was only his second run since the beginning of the year? I am scared of how quickly he went from couch to Speedy Gonzales. So I can't wait to see how Sunday unfolds. We will be running in relay: he'll be doing the first leg, I'll be doing the second over "the" Hamilton hill. I am so damn excited, I can't wait!!
To make the point of this post, I am featuring below a picture from my photographer friend Ralph Nardell from Philly. My hubbs' running journey has started and I wish it to last for many miles to come. Good luck, love!

(photo courtesy of Ralph Nardell)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Legendary Weekend

So I'm not quite sure who really initiated this, but I suspect it's part of Lance's come back to triathlon. A 3 day training weekend for 50 lucky (read very rich) people who can afford spending $25000 to swim, bike and run along (or far behind) Lance Armstrong, Craig Alexander, Chrissie Wellington, Greg Welch, Dave Scott and Jimmy Riccitello. This sounds like a journey in Olympus among Greek Gods.

Want to be part of it? Break the bank here. But you'll also have to submit a "brief expression of interest form" which may or may not qualify you, despite your $$$. Sounds like a dream vacation? Yeah, well, in another life, for me anyway. Have fun!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stay calm and cool down

It's been a low key week, I can barely remember how the days went, all I know is that I managed to do all my workouts and a few more, which kept me in good mood despite de craziness in the office. Weather has been also extremely good with insanely warm temperatures (May-June), so I can't complain one bit. Actually, I'm going to complain just for a second because today I went on an hour long run and overdressed, which made me really cranky, reason why my subconscient must have decided to go for a negative split instead of a "steady and constant pace". If I had worn a swimsuit instead of a fleece I would have probably enjoyed it ten times more. Oh well, got back home and decided that such a warm day called for an ice bath too. See, I am just one week away from the Around the Bay Road Race and my right calf is still bugging me with pain in my arch (go figure, but grab an anatomy manual while you're at it, that's where I learned the trick) and despite my constant stretching and icing, it hasn't gotten better over the weeks. So I figured I'd give it some shock therapy. The water was really cold since we're barely out of winter, but after 5 minutes everything was numb anyway. Stayed in the tub for 20 minutes and of course my Raynaud's acted up all the time I was in there and for 30 more minutes after I got dressed. Freakin' blood vessels, can't they just understand that ice bath or not, it's almost summer outside?! Get on with the program, for chrissakes! For those who don't know what Raynaud's does, well, it cuts the blood flow in the fingers (and sometimes toes) because the blood vessels spasm when I'm cold or anxious. It's usually not all fingers at once, they each turn white, then blue, then red in sequence. In the picture below, the color show started with the middle finger, then went to the surrounding fingers, then it cycled back to middle finger and so on. No thumbs are usually affected in this process.

Each spasm lasts for about 10-20min, depending on how quickly the recovery is. In the ice bath, not so quick. Oh well, I knew this was gonna happen, but ice baths are too good to be abandoned because of fingers putting on a freak show.

Moving on... next week I'll be tapering since it's race day on Sunday. Hope to be able to go back to the pool and improve my swimming because this week I went for a long session on Wednesday and I just could not relax. I worked on my breathing, alternating 3-5-7-3 breaths (apparently it's a good exercise to improve your lung capacity) because I ended up being too frustrated with my technique or lack thereof. There are days with and days without swimming mojo, that is.

Well, that's about it for the news this week. I'm going back outside, the sunshine better turn this mood around.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Today's meals were too yummy not to share.

French crepes for breakfast (no photo, they were eaten too fast)
Pizza for lunch
Ice cream sherbet for dessert
Egg whites with turkey and spinach omelet and home potatoes for dinner

Too bad those are only reserved for after 2h long runs.

A beautiful day

I don't want this day to end, it's one of these days when the good keeps on coming. It started early for a Sunday, but long run oblige, I had the opportunity of running with a buddy, so I was not going to miss out on that. Alas, because of the Daylight Savings Time that happened last night, I wanted to make sure that my phone would ring on time, so I took it out of its dock, set a manual alarm for 6:45am and went to bed. It didn't ring. Fortunately I had another alarm set up for 7:30am that coincided with the time I was going to meet with my running friend, so I jumped out of bed, sent an apologetic SMS and prayed that he was going to wait. Nice guy as he is, he said not to worry, so I put on my running clothes, water in my bottles, grabbed a protein bar and a banana, a Gatorade and off I drove to our meeting point. 20min on the clock since I came out of bed, I was on the trail. For someone like me who isn't a morning person, that was rather unfreakinbelievable. We run for 2h on the Etobicoke Trail and averaged 6:37min/km for a total of 18.3km, which was to be the second miracle of the day. Last year I run the same trail at 8min/km, so this proves how much faster I've gotten. I was really happy with this run, I even threw in a 200m sprint at the end. Below is a picture from my favourite part of the trail, even though it was hilly like hell.

After the run I came home and went out for a walk to get coffee and "flush" my legs. A short 1.5km to the nearby Tim Hortons, no big deal. But by the time I cam back, I was STARVING. We decided to go to Pizza Hut since last time we went there was 1 year ago!! I just couldn't get the gooey oozy cheesy crust out of my mind. Thank goodness that the cheesy crust was also thin, so we figured that in 3 small slices there would be around 680cal, half the number of calories I burned on my run. The chicken lover's on a cheesy crust was a go! I devoured those 3 slices. Soooo good.

We made one more stop on our way back home, by Baskin and Robbins for ice cream. I only had one scoop of Rainbow Sherbet, pretty satisfying stuff.

Later on, the day warmed up so much, it was too beautiful to spend it inside. Hubbs prepared our bikes and with the excuse of going to pick up passport photos from Shoppers Drugmart, we went out for another tour of Brampton. 1h, almost 20k, we thoroughly enjoyed this one. Legs are still a-ok, hope they will not complain too much tomorrow when I'm going to throw a brick at them. Well, sort of, I'll have to do 30min bike, followed immediately by 30min of running - this is called a "brick" in triathlon jargon.

I'll leave you with this link to my 2h run and this one to the 19.4k ride. I hope you enjoyed your day as much as we did!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Swimming technique baseline

This week was a bit hectic and I didn't get a chance to go swimming until today. The only place with a pool that I could use early in the day was one of the Goodlife gyms where I have a corporate membership, but unfortunately it has a tiny 10m pool where you get to do a hundred of laps to bank in a 1km workout. Better than nothing, especially since it was empty, all for ME, ME, ME! I could go in zig zags and circles if I wanted to, so that was on the upside. My coach gave me a few drills to work the Total Immersion technique, all with funky names like skate, under-skate, zipper-skate - well, I did a few hundreds of those, then 500m freestyle and at the end I asked my hubbs to take a video of me so that my coach can critique me. Feel free to let me know what I do wrong as well, I am here to learn. This was only the third time that I was trying this technique, so I know I need much improvement.

What I think I need to improve is the following:
-more relaxed and smaller arm movements. This is hard because I was taught to use my hands vigorously while swimming before and this is counter intuitive for my brain
-flipping my body on the side when I breathe. I think I rotate my body too much, but because of all the skating drills where you get to breathe pretty much on your back, it's not easy to find the sweet spot.
-continue working on the bilateral breathing
-more relaxed head position in the water. I know that I still lift my head up to breathe sometimes, so I need to become less stressed about not breathing long enough, efficient enough or swallowing water.

That's about it for today. I hope to be able to go and work all this in a "real" pool next time. At least 25m wouldn't be too much to ask, right? If only time permits, because the 25m pool only has the 9-10pm window open for adult swim. Quite a shame, we need more pools!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Riding for the Heart

One last for the road... or a first one on the road, I should say! A few days ago I did it again, I signed up for another race, the Ride for Heart (50km) on June 3, 2012. I had been thinking to do a biking road race for a few years now, but this week I finally made the decision after talking about it with hubbs during one of our walks. I told him that this would be fun to do together or as a family and I am honestly totally looking forward to it. There is no competition in this race, it's mostly a personal challenge and a way of fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and raising the awareness about the number killer in Canada, heart disease. For those who are not familiar with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, below is their mission:

The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through:
  • the advancement of research and its application.
  • the promotion of healthy living.
  • advocacy.
I now have a page where I can collect pledges for this campaign and although I only need to raise $100, I have set up my goal to be $500. You can click on the image at the right of the blog under my profile or by following this link. Any donation would be appreciated and if you live in Canada, you will also get a tax receipt. On behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, thank you!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why do you run?

Inspiration for a cold winter day:

And for those who want to see the longer version of that Ironman 1997 crawl to the finish line by Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham, here it is:

Last but not least, here is an analysis of some of the most dramatic finishes in long endurance competitions: The Science of Sport: Marathon Survivorship.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Basking in the runner's high

Long run today with chilly temperatures, but motivation was high, let me tell you why. I woke up this morning and ate 2 small homemade cherry cheese danishes (I can never say "no" to those) and a glass of butter milk for breakfast, then went to do the grocery shopping with hubbs. By the time I decided to go out for my run, my breakfast was pretty much gone, so I made sure I take a pouch of GU Chomps with me and enough water to keep me fuelled and hydrated. Somewhere along the road though, the Chomps jumped out of my pocket and by the time I hit the 5K mark and decided to eat some, they were nowhere to be found. I panicked for a minute there, but then I reminded myself how I only learned about eating during the long runs a month before my second half marathon. So if I could do it then, I should be able to do it now too! I chose to suck it up and keep on going, I still had about 10K ahead of me. I tried to stay relaxed and keep my pace on target which was easier said than done, come the last 5K where a nasty head wind was waiting for me.
My Raynaud's attacks didn't spare me, especially in those last few miles when I started to feel cold and cranky. I was afraid I would run out of mental and muscular juice, but my body was feeling great and no pain in sight other than my fingers that were crying inside my gloves. Thank goodness for no toes attacks today because I was upset enough for running with wet feet, thanks to the endless number of puddles that I jumped in, when jumping over was too much of a deal.

Surprisingly enough, today my feet didn't hurt like in the last few runs, where pain would install itself in the arches of my feet after a mile or two. My coach said that I should check the mileage on my regular Adidas adiSTAR shoes, which I did today and guess what? I run 519 miles in them so, um... it was time. I gave my newer, still nice and clean Adidas Glide2, a loving look before taking them in those puddles and hallelujah, the pain didn't creep in this time. What a difference a new pair of shoes make!! I am glad that I bought 2 more pairs just like those on eBay today, I should have enough pairs to destroy until next year. I was really surprised with how little those adiSTAR shoes lasted though, these were the most expensive pair I've ever owned. I remember using the old New Balance for over a year until they self-disintegrated and I could still run pain free in them. Even those Glide2 came out 1 year before the adiSTAR, so I guess they are making them such that they last less and less... That's such a shame. I'm glad I could snatch 2 more pairs of those Glide2 before they disappear from the radar. So far I run about 50-60 miles in them and not a single blister or pain, so these are GOLDEN!

So, shoes aside, where was I? Right, in the last 5K of my run. Wind, cold and all, I made it back home in 1h40 and beat my 15K PB from a year ago by 7 minutes!! I am so damn happy, I am still basking in the runner's high, even 6h after it ended. Now if I can only repeat this performance during my next race, the Around the Bay 15K relay on March 25. I will be running it with hubbs, as my running buddy, Carol, is unfortunately injured. New for this year is the hill in the second leg of the race which I will have to climb for the first time. Hope those hill repeats will come in handy then. Until the next time!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

There is no going back now

I did it!! I signed up for my first triathlon this summer, the Toronto Triathlon Festival and chose the Olympic distance because the opportunity of riding up and down one of our very scenic highways, the 404, was too good to give up.

As one of my friends said:
"Most people I know start with the Try-a-Tri. But no, you go balls out, of course."
This sounds just like me,  taking the bull by the horns. With all the running I've been doing in the last 2 years for the marathons and the cross training on the bike, a Sprint or a Try-a-Tri just don't seem scary enough to me. What is more scary is the cut-off time of 30 min on a 750m swim. For some reason, those 10 extra minutes on the Olympic distance feel more comforting. Since I am able to do a km in about 33 min in the pool, I think I can make it in time, if only I don't freak out and drown.

Now I need to find myself a wetsuit since they are mandatory for that time of the year and, ideally, a better bike, because I don't know if I want to risk taking my 21yr old hybrid on this ride.

But boy, I am excited!!