Sunday, June 30, 2013

Muskoka Weekend Redux

With Ironman Muskoka 70.3 fast approaching on September 8, I could call this the "Muskoka Year". Not only we love everything about Muskoka and Algonquin, but being just 2.5h away, we can drive up there during the weekends for a few hours of training and fun, like we did at the end of May with the triathlon club. If you missed it, you can read all about it here. This weekend, we went again, but with our friend Carol who is also signed up for the same race and who has never done the bike course before. Perfect opportunity for us as well, I truly believe that the more you get acquainted with a difficult course, the less you fear it on race day.

On Friday, we loaded the car with everything we needed to bike, run and swim, plus food and our pajamas and after a quick bite at Tim's, we started driving north. It took us 3.5h to reach Huntsville due to Canada Day long weekend traffic and eventually we checked in our hotel and unloaded our gear.
After switching rooms due to a clogged sink, we managed to get to sleep, only to wake up an hour later because of a group of noisy neighbours who decided to party just outside our room (they could not smoke inside, oh the injustice!). They were pretty drunk, so arguing with them was pointless. I told them that we'd like to sleep and at 1am they finally stopped their racket. We woke up at 6:30am, with the goal to be on our bikes no later than 8:30am.

Another quick breakfast at Tim's (no kidding, they should sponsor us), and we were on our way to Deerhurst Resort, a 10min drive from the hotel.
Got our stuff ready, then visited the bathroom a few times because there was no plan to pee on the bike that day. And especially not on the Cobb test saddle from Endurosport which you can see in the picture above. I will reassure you, the one I'll buy won't be bright green. This one was special.

Zin, who is a much faster rider than us girls, was going to do his thing and wait for us at the end. My workout for the day was to survive the course, but also do 1h at race pace. Since Carol and I ride mostly at the same speed, this wasn't going to be too difficult because she catches me up the hills anyway. So, no guilt for surging ahead, we had a good plan. And so we started the day...
I would follow... (B A N A N A!!!)
Or ride ahead, then stop to take a picture of Carol...
The first 40km went by really fast. I managed to push some big gears down the hills, I was really having a blast. It rained on us, but we didn't care, it was not a downpour, just a bit annoying at times. I had to remove my sunglasses because I couldn't see very well, but Carol didn't have that luxury because she couldn't see without them at all.
We stopped in Dorset for a pee break and I was so excited, I forgot to refill my water bottle. Oh well, it wasn't that hot and I wasn't drinking like crazy anyway. I took a little time to admire the artwork on sale... It was everywhere, even in the bathroom!

The next stretch on Hwy 117 was rather uneventful. Not very technical, just a bit boring, so I decided to do my hour at race pace then. I also tried to stay above 90rpms as often as possible, when I wasn't climbing, of course. Everything was going great. I was eating every 45min and alternating drinking water and Endura. It kept raining here and there, but nothing would change my mood. I was in heaven. Did I mention that I was excited too?
Then we hit Baysville and turned on Brunel Rd, then on South Portage Rd, which brought back the mother effing nasty hills and not-so-great pavement. I told Carol that soon she was going to start hating people and things, including me. It was only a matter of time.
Surprisingly enough, for my second time riding this course, it no longer seemed that horrible. I could remember the suffering I'd been in 4 weeks before, but I wasn't feeling like that anymore. Aside from some discomfort in my sit bones, everything was just peachy, even though I was eager to see the end by km 80.
I knew that the last 10k were going to be brutal with some major climbing action required on very tired legs. We stopped for a minute just before the last stretch as Carol was feeling a bit nauseous and needed more food in her. 
Enjoy the last break, girl!
I took a last sip of Endura and off we went! The home stretch. Downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill, repeat a few good times. I remembered the last one, the one that felt the worst. Powered my way up then waited for Carol at the top. Not even 30 sec later, there she was, victorious!!
Last 2k, downhill(ish) from there, but there was no more pain, only contentment. Personally, I beat my previous time by 12 minutes, for the same average heart rate. I call this progress! Besides, I felt no real pain at the end and I could go right on the run.
I did 15 min out and back and I could still enjoy the scenery and myself.
Coming back to the resort, I managed to get an asthma attack and a coughing fit, alas. Just as I was feeling like puking, a lady walked by and she said, I'm a doctor, where is your puffer? Can I get it for you? Then I felt stupid and I went to grab it from the car (I should have had it on myself the whole time!) and two puffs later, my cough subsided, then stopped. Phew, that was a close one.

We stretched for a bit, we ate bananas, granola and pretzels, then started to look for a place to get some meat in us. We were all craving burgers, but certainly not the Mc Donald's kind. We ended up at "Muskoka On The Rocks" on Hwy 60. The food was just perfect. I had the Swiss burger with sweet potato fries and a Lake of Bays beer. It was every bite as delicious as it looks, but I decided to eat only half in order to leave some room for a scoop of Kawartha's ice cream. I was feeling more than full anyway.
But to fully deserve the ice cream, we had to make one more stop - a swim in Mary's Lake in Port Sydney - it was on our way home anyway. Once we got there we found the beach right away. We freaked out for a moment looking at the seadoo's zooming across the lake and other speed boats going back and forth. There didn't seem to be much of a safe zone for us tiny yellow caps. In the time that took us to get changed and put on our wetsuits, things calmed down a little. We decided to swim together not far from the shore and it is exactly what we did. 800m out and back in a straight line - 20min looking at the stuff dumped at the bottom of the lake and fighting with the current and the waves. It was short but fun, and we survived the "traffic".
Got changed again, then went to Uncle Larry's Store for that long awaited scoop. Little did we know, we ran into other type of scoop involving a certain mayor's brother. Not for public consumption though, so if you're curious, ask me more around a coffee.
Anyway, my Muskoka Mocha in a waffle cone was the best way to end the day. It sealed another memorable weekend filled with sweat, cheer and ... a bit of rain. This summer is the awesomest yet!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guelph Lake I Olympic Triathlon Race Report

If you read my previous post, you should know by now how the day before this race went. I spent the day in Guelph supporting my friends, taking pictures and getting myself familiar with the venue as well as the race's logistics and mechanics.
I was a bit sunburnt and definitely tired for having been on my legs a large part of the day, but given how I had not done ANY workouts during the week due to my coughing problem, I knew that a good night sleep would be the answer to all my problems.

BUT, in my infinite wisdom I decided to say yes when hubbs suggested that we could eat Indian take out for dinner. Butter chicken and naan? Yum! I jumped up and down with joy, then we went to pick up our spicy treat. You can guess where this is going... I went to bed feeling like a science experiment gone wrong, with a volcano preparing for eruption inside my stomach. Cramps, gas, and stuff moving through places that I didn't know I had intestines in. First eruption came at 10:35, then another one at 11:29pm, 12:34am, 1:15am and finally 2:20am (I remember the times because I was walking by the alarm clock on my way to the bathroom). The sleep finally came after the purge ended. Indian food before a race? NEVER AGAIN.

Alarm clock went off at 5:15am and fueled by adrenaline, I jumped out of bed and after a quick shower, I put on my new pink tri top and my old trusted Sugoi tri shorts. I also put on a pair of socks to make sure I don't forget them for the run. Watch, RoadID, SpiBelt with safety pins, heart rate monitor, all good. Woke up hubbs at 6am and said, let's go. Had an oatmeal frittata for breakfast and a glass of orange juice. At 6:30am we were on our way and an hour later, through pouring rain, we stopped for a pee break and grabbed two bagels and coffee. So much water was coming down, it didn't look like it was going to stop any time soon. Here's what hell breaking loose looked like that day.

Crazy, right? Once I arrived on site, I was pretty sad. My first race this year and I was freaking out. I couldn't remember when was the last time that I had spent 1.5h biking in the rain. Handling my bike in unknown territory through puddles and oil patches didn't seem like ideal conditions to start the season and I heard about way too many bike crashes already this year.
Anyway, I told myself "it is what it is" and went to the registration tent where I got my bib, chip, bag of goodies and body markings in less than 5 minutes, then went to transition where I joined 3 other wet souls under a big umbrella. We tried to keep our spirits high with silly jokes and mutual encouragements, then we agreed that the best course of action was to get into our wetsuits, at least to keep warm since dry was now out of question. I wrestled with my wetsuit for about 10 minutes, then made sure that all my transition items were properly arranged INSIDE my bag (good move, not that it mattered much). My muddy shoes were left outside though, under the bag. It was too late to try saving those.
At the beach, I went in the water to warm up for my swim. Water temperature was just perfect. I did a bit of splashing around, then saw Zin who came to wish me good luck. Of course I asked for a picture, I was feeling great, finally!
Not even 3 minutes later we were asked to go to the end of the beach to start the swim. I was in the second wave, so I left about 2-3 minutes after the first. I placed myself towards the middle, it didn't seem too crowded and besides, I was sure that the speedies were already at the front. There was definitely enough space for everyone. As a matter of fact, for the entire swim I didn't come in close contact with anyone. Only at some point, a guy tried to pass me and bumped into me, but that was all. I swam for about 300m beside another lady, then we got separated because of our own sighting decisions. On my right, there was a guy going Tarzan style, he didn't seem able to put his face in the water. I passed someone doing the backstroke and another person doing breast stroke, I was afraid she'd kick me in the stomach with those legs going sideways. The Tarzan guy kept going strong and every time I would breathe to the right I would see him. Good for him!

I finished the swim in 33 minutes, which is a new PR for me. I was ecstatic!! You won't see this in the official results though because after the swim we still had to run up a hill to get to transition where the mats were. Oh well, even after the run, my time was still better than last year's Oly, so I'll take it!
Notice the mud, before and after the mat. There was mud everywhere. About 15 seconds after this picture was taken, I made a sharp turn into transition and fell in it, I bet it was quite the show. Someone asked me if I was alright and I had nothing bad to report. Keep calm and transition on. I decided to skip the socks this time, put on my bike shoes, helmet and bib, didn't care about sunglasses or sunscreen. I saw people leaving the transition with the bike on their shoulders to avoid the mud pits, but I decided to push mine through, at least I had something to lean on if I was going to lose my balance again.

Started my bike leg without further incidents and at this point I could care less about the rain that kept on pouring on. I was in my element. So much humidity, I could breathe better too.

The course was well marked and had police and/or course marshals at all turns, I didn't worry about getting lost. Lots of people to follow as well, there was a long line of cyclists ahead of me that I could see on forever. I passed a bunch of people, I was passed many times too, but I kept on powering up and down the hills and doing my best. I ate a gel after 20 minutes and drank mostly Gatorade out of my aero bottle. The rain was coming down harder and harder and sometimes it was tricky because of the cars that were sharing the road with us. For the most part, drivers were being good though, keeping their distance and remaining patient while we were passing each other.

Just before the turn around point I started to feel the need to pee. It took me less than a second to make the decision not to stop. I looked behind, nobody was close. I was going to slow down for the turn anyway, so I lifted my bum off the saddle and I did it. Like a boss!! By that time the rain was in full force so why even bother, I was going to get washed instantly. Feel free to go "eew" now, but I have no shame. I learned from the best, if you read Chrissie Wellington's book you should know how entirely natural this is in the triathletes' world. Which is why I'll never mention it again. But for a first, I just had to.

I finished the bike in 1:26:54, another PR for me. Given the endless hills and tough conditions, I am super proud of it.

Back in transition, I racked my bike, replaced the muddy bike shoes with my cold and wet running shoes and put back on my socks too. Made sure I had my Clif Blocks with me, then left on the run. The hills started right away and my legs were feeling tired. My goal was to stay under 6min/km overall and although hard, I found a pace which I thought I could manage until the end.
After 4k, I got not one, but two stitches, but I could run through them. I was chasing a girl in my AG that had passed me in the first 2k and I didn't want to lose her. Around 6-7k, she started struggling on the uphills and slow down. I realized that I may have a chance to pass her. I was certainly not going to be in the top 10, but why not go after a small victory? At the next water station, she stopped and I didn't, so I passed her and from that moment on, I pushed the pace and did not look back. I finished strong and still smiling even though my heart rate was through the roof. A 5min PR on a hilly run, after a night spent in the washrooms and 3h of sleep. An overall PR of 8 minutes since my last Olympic Tri, the Toronto Triathlon Festival in 2012. You can see my official results here and Runkeeper geekery here.
What started like a disaster waiting to happen turned into a blessing. My cough remained under control, it was warm enough for a rainy day, I didn't need tons of water or fuel, I just had to stick my tongue out to get a drink. I absolutely LOVED IT. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spectating at Guelph Lake I Triathlon Weekend

Guess where I've been since my last post? In the office!! I started a new job on June 10 and all of a sudden my blogging time dissolved into thin air. I don't even have an excuse and say "but I was working out like crazy", because I totally took the week off. I needed to heal and stop the cough that was keeping me up all night. I only went swimming at Professor's Lake with the tri club on Thursday and commuted to work by bike on Friday for a total of 1.5h of exercise. I never took taper so seriously, you bet! My first triathlon of the year was on Sunday, but you will have to wait one more blog post for the race recap.

This one is dedicated to my friends from FMCT who raced on Saturday in the Try-a-Tri and Sprint races: Lauren, Rebecca and Anya. I was there with my camera and my pair of red pom-poms. My vocal chords were on duty as well, but I tried to keep the screaming to a minimum and not tempt the asthma devil. Don't worry, I managed to put in stupid by other means... more on that later.

The Try-a-Tri was going to start at 10am and the Sprint at 1pm. After one hour drive to Guelph, I made it there around 9:30am and right away I started looking for Lauren who was going to do the Try-a-Tri, her first triathlon ever. I quickly looked inside the transition area, but I couldn't see her, so I headed to the beach where most of the athletes were preparing for the race either swimming, chatting with family and friends, battling with their wetsuit or looking in the distance, lost in their meditative thoughts.
Getting ready
The second part of the swim: the HILL
Beach party
I found Lauren in the water (64F that morning) and she didn't look scared. Look at that smile!! She is really a great swimmer, so I had no doubts that she was going to kill it. I took a picture, then went to talk to her family and Lorene (sorry if this gets confusing), one of our FMCT coaches who also came to spectate. You're lucky that Lorraine, another friend from the club wasn't there as well, or you would have needed brain CPR from all the confusion around their names.
Lauren looking confident
Lauren was going to be in the first wave after the elites, so it all went pretty fast once the time arrived to jump in the water. Waves were separated by 2 minutes, so I got to watch the show more than once. It was really awesome, my first time witnessing the beach mass start - very Ironman like, just like on TV!
And they're off!
This was going to be a very short swim and 5 minutes later the first elite man was already coming out of the water. The guy in the picture below was for sure in the top 5 and he looked just like Simon Whitfield.
Simon's brother from another mother
Alas I was messing up with the settings on my camera and all of a sudden there was Lauren, and she zoomed passed me and up the hill towards transition. I didn't manage to take a pic, but I went to the exit of the transition where she was going to start the bike course and I caught her there.
Lauren leaving on a bike ride
There was no point going anywhere for 20min, so I positioned myself a bit higher up the road where there was a speed bump that was going to make the athletes slow down, perfect for pictures. Most seasoned athletes were coming in fast anyway and showcasing their perfect dismount techniques. It was rather impressive to watch.
Dismount like a winner
Here was Ian MacKinnon, the 16yr old who went on winning the race after the short run that followed. 
There were also funny moments, it is a try-a-tri after all. The race marshall was doing a great job telling everyone to slow down and dismount before the line. However I witnessed quite a few misses and people had to come back on foot and cross the lane again. 

This dog was not amused. 
But this one was definitely impressed.

Thankfully all went well for Lauren. There she is finishing the bike leg.
I then ran to the transition exit where I got to see her leaving onto the run.
Tadaaaa! Isn't she looking strong? Next photo op in 2.5k!
Last photo is from the run towards the chute, powering those legs like a champ! Lauren finished shortly after and I am so so proud of her!! I really hope that she enjoyed the experience, weather wise, it was definitely the best day she could have asked for. The venue was nice and the cheering squad was loud, if only we remembered to put sunscreen on. The sun was hitting hard as we were approaching noon time and I had to buy  a cap for fear of getting a heat stroke just before the race. I know how to mess my chances up, believe me.
The Finish Line
Medals for those who placed on the podium
For lunch I had a homemade energy bar and water. I even refused to buy a hotdog because that didn't sound like a good idea. Spent some time at the race expo and bought myself a Subaru Triathlon Series bike jersey ($50), a 2XU pink tri top ($20) which I decided to wear the next day in the race, a pair of Sugoi rainbow compression socks ($20) and a tri kit for hubbs ($40). As I was wandering with no particular aim, I noticed that athletes for the Sprint triathlon were now lining up at the registration tents. And just I was walking back, I saw Anya, getting her sharpie on.
Body marking for Anya
We chatted for a few minutes, told her that Lauren and I were going to hang around until the end of the Sprint and she'd better smile for the camera :-) So far so good!
I returned to my car to empty my bag and refill my water bottle, then once again, went to the beach to watch the athletes jump in like fish. I found Rebecca who was all cheery too.
Soon thereafter waves of red, baby blue, purple, pink and dark blue caps took over the lake.The wait was a bit longer, but worthwhile. Look at this brave man. No leg, no problem! 
Willing is winning
As soon as Rebecca made it back, I followed her to transition and pretty much relived the morning excitement, with twice as many people. It was quite the mayhem at times, the bike exit didn't seem to be large enough for all the people in the middle of the pack. My head was spinning, my finger kept clicking. Took a bunch of pictures, my first time spectating and I was on fire! I blame the sun too, by then it was at its highest and meanest. I did not feel its teeth. I should have thought of it...
Bike out for Rebecca
Bike out for Anya
Rebecca's back!
So many bikes!
Hello again, Mister! Respect!
Rebecca sees the finish!
A VERY excited Anya!
Everyone finished with a smile! After more hugs and congrats, I packed my camera and my tired legs and headed back home. I was spent. Who knew that spectating two triathlons in a day was a workout in itself? I am really glad to have been able to attend and see my friends having fun out there. It was also a perfect way for me to get acquainted with the venue and conquer some of the anxiety that was slowly creeping in.

As to my sunburn, the picture below should sum it well. 
Roasted marshmallow
To see all pictures that I took that day, you can go to my Flickr stream by clicking HERE. Enjoy and don't forget to come back later for my race report!