Friday, January 31, 2014

Robbie Burns 8K Race Report

First race of the year, and thankfully it was only 8k. It was also my first time that I was running this distance officially, so I was going to get a new PR regardless, wheee!

I went to bed undecided whether I would run it or not. The only piece of clothing that I had taken out from the bottom of a storage box was my plaid skirt that I hadn't worn since I was 20. I knew that everything else was in the drawer with my running clothes because I barely used any of them this winter. Just like my legs. The longest run before this race was a 6k on the treadmill, while listening for warning signs from everything waist down. If I was going to race it, my goal was to "finish in one piece", aka no more injuries.

I did not discuss all these fears with Zin who I also signed up a few months prior, but I know that he read them in my blog. Alarm clock got set up for 6am anyway. Once I woke up, I had to make a decision. Temperatures were going to be around -25C with the windchill. Never in my life I ran outside in these conditions. See, I can put on my YakTrax and run on snow, maybe even on a few ice patches here and there in -10C, but when it's this cold, I start coughing the minute I walk outside. It's been happening every single day just going from my car to the office building and back. This winter has been brutal for my asthma and I could not imagine what the extreme temperatures would do to me. But after 10 minutes of mental wrestling, I decided to HTFU and go for it, as long as I'd be able to wear a balaclava and breathe through it. It was going to be the only way and to hell with the race pictures.

The race was in Burlington, about 40min drive from our house. We planned to leave around 7 and to make it there early enough to pick up our race bibs. We arrived at destination just before 8am and scored a parking spot just outside the school where the race start and finish were going to be. Sweeeeet! The registration and packet pick up went very smoothly and within 5 minutes we were in possession of our bib (which included the timing chip).
This race is very popular for whatever reason, and only 1000 runners get the chance to run it. We were the 999th and the 1000th to sign up by the way. While I was sitting there, waiting for friends to arrive, I kept asking myself if I had made the right decision. I had about 4 layers of clothes top and bottom, wool socks, 2 hats, gloves and mittens and of course, the balaclava to complete the bandit look. Or Scottish Ninja, whatever you wanna call it. Verdict?
Add two more layers for the final look
One hour and a half is a long time when you have self doubts. I was lucky to meet with a few folks and talk about random stuff to keep my mind from wandering towards the North Pole. Pulling faces with my significant other is also a distraction worth mentioning.
In which you get to see how short I really am. Why so serious, honey?
That's more like it!
I wandered around quite a bit looking for Patty and Nic, I went to the washrooms twice and listened to the Halton Police playing the bagpipes in the gymnasium. Hey, do you want to listen too? Here, a little present from me to you. Look at the lady in the middle, she does some neat tricks.

Alright, enough with the entertainment. It's time to run!

The bagpipes accompanied us outside just before 9:30am and when Zin and I went to line up with everyone else, I finally found Patty and Nic. We exchanged hugs and wished each other good luck, then the horn went off and we all started our own race. I never had the intention to put any kind of "hard" effort into it, coach's orders (and a good dose of common sense). So I just ran at a comfortable pace, trying not to freeze in place. However, by km 3, I could no longer feel my bum. Feet, hands, face were doing ok though.

I don't remember much else. It felt like running around the block, but with police at all intersections and a bunch of other people passing me left and right, no offense taken. I was there to have "fun", but in the end it was rather uneventful. One foot in front of the other, keep moving forward, and that was about it. 

Right after km 5, I saw Emma - cowbell in one hand, camera in another. I knew that she wouldn't recognize me, so I yelled her name, and she took this photo in return. Thank you!!
My right calf was getting tighter by the minute and I wanted the race to be over with, I have no shame in admitting it. I was coughing a little and I could feel my heart rate going up. I started the countdown... 3, 2, 1 more kilometer to go. Oh, here's a photographer! And another one! Do I need to smile for the camera? I realized that it was in vain, nobody could see it anyway. At last it seemed to warm me up a little.
If you think that all pictures look the same, you are absolutely right. You must be so bored with my lack of facial expression by now.

Soon afterwards I was on the home stretch. I could see the school in the distance and I assumed that we'd finish where we started. I picked up the pace a little in the last hundred meters and crossed the finish line in 48:52. That was a wrap!! I ran a very comfortable pace, a full minute per km slower than my 5k pace but I could not be bothered. 
After crossing the finish line I was surprised to see that we were given little Robbie Burns medals. I was not expecting one, but from what I've heard, this was a special occasion due to its 35th anniversary. I met with hubbs and my friends, and we all went inside for some grub. I took my phone out of my pocket and I could only snap this shot before it turned off by itself in revolt.

I wanted to see how much ice I had around my face since blinking was making my eyelashes stick. In retrospective I am rather disappointed when I look at this pic (I must be too hot for this sh*t). Anyhoo, as I said, phone shut down instantly; I bet it didn't like the instant freeze. Inside the school, we had a bite with Nic, then we decided to go back home because we were starting to shiver. 

Another 40 min drive and we made it back home where we asked my younger son to take a picture before we took off our clothes.
Speaking of which, I'm glad that they gave us plaid pajama pants instead of thirts. I couldn't wait to get into them and spend the rest of the day in bed... but it didn't happen. We showered, ate lunch, then went swimming. And only then we got to rest a little.

And that's how my day/race/long-ish run went. Not sure that I should call it a race, if it weren't for the medal and the bib. Hubbs ran a speedy 35min, but I felt slow and heavy and ... just blah. Can't wait for this winter to find another place to bring hell to, like Florida. Until next time, but without the snow, the polar vortex and the frost quakes, please. Over and out.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

IMMT Training Week 1: This Is The Beginning

I have yet to write a line and I hate these recaps already. Whose idea was it anyway? I have no patience for repetitive stuff and I'm rather lazy when it comes to crunching numbers. So what the hell am I gonna write? If there is something worthy to say, I will, if not... sorry dudes. I can't make shit up. 
Now, if you really, really want to see workout details, I log all my workouts in Runkeeper. No secrets. Knock yourselves out! I am also on Daily Mile, Trainer Road, Garmin Connect, Strava and Training Peaks, so there is more than enough information about my workouts if you're curious.

Also, with regards to publishing, I have time to blog roughly once or twice a week and if I wait for Monday, I may as well forget about it. Some weeks I will post recaps on Saturday, other weeks I will post on Sunday. I may skip some weeks because I don't feel like it. It's my blog and I can do whatever I want with it. Got it? Ok, so where were we? Let's try this.

Despite the fact that I'm still waiting for the "official" schedule from coach starting on February 1st, I got some feedback about the intensity of my current workouts. I was told that all my swims should be "hard" because I'm taking it easy in the other 2 sports. So on Tuesday I was told to go to the pool for a set of 10x200m pretty much all out (on 4:45). No pull buoy! Say whaaaat?
The graph was so pretty, I had to share. The times are nothing out of extraordinary, I am still a slow poke, but it's funny to see my descent into Hell. By the end of the workout, my arms were feeling like noodles ready to fall off.

To top it off, on Thursday I went to the masters swim (with the tri club) and this is what I had to do:
100m free + 200m drills + 200m pull/paddles
Main set:
2x50m fast on 1:10
100m pull/paddles
4x50m fast on 1:15
100m pull/paddles
6x50m fast on 1:20
100m free
14x25 (1 fast, 1 easy, 2 fast, 1 easy, 3 fast, 1 easy, 4 fast, 1 easy)
100m any stroke
It was BRUTAL!
I may go for another swim tomorrow, or I may not. My limbs are still deciding.

The highlight of the week was my return to Trainer Road workouts.

Giraud on Thursday
Nice and easy with a few intervals to get the heart going. I tried to keep a good cadence and not fall asleep.

Mont Gosford on Saturday
This one was a sweatfest. Four long tempo intervals. Thankfully I was watching the movie "This Is The End" and I was going WTF !!!??!?!!?? way too often to notice my own struggle or lack thereof, surprisingly to say the least. I did not change my FTP since last year and it seems that I didn't lose much fitness since, which is rather encouraging. I don't feel that I'm ready to take it to the next level though... I am being careful, especially with the muscle pain that I feel in my glutes right now.

So far this week, only one treadmill run, but longer than last week. I ran for 35min on Tuesday and did a little "ladder" because 5x7min in the spur of the moment seemed the right thing to do. Plus, the guy beside me was running at 5.5mph, so I felt that a little lesson was in order, just in case... you never know when you get to race and beat a VP.
7min @ 5.6mph
7min @ 5.8mph
7min @ 6mph
7min @ 5.8mph
7min @5.6mph
All with 1% incline
I have no idea who he was, by the way. But I kicked his butt.

Tomorrow will be my first race of the year and I'm still on the fence about running it. It's my first time running an 8k distance so it'll be an automatic PR, but given the low temperatures (-24C with the windchill OMG), I may end up being very miserable out there. My asthma has been awful this winter and I already had to use my inhaler 3 times a day just from walking from the house to the car and into the office. My colleagues tell me that I have an old smoker's cough. Yikes! And have I mentioned my Raynaud's? How many layers will I need to wear? I can't let the cold get to me or I'll turn pasty white from inside out. So anyway, I guess I'll swing it. If I run it I'll most likely sport a balaclava over my face to save me from coughing to near death. I can't wait to see the race pictures, haha.

In a nutshell
This week will be almost identical in volume as the last, but I bumped the intensity a notch with longer and harder workouts, and possibly a race. I am being careful about my hips, hamstrings and IT bands. I did my physio strength workouts twice this week (I should have done them every day!) and also started some planks (3x1min on Fri). I tried to roll, stretch, ice as often as I remembered and hopefully it'll be enough to keep me from relapsing into injury. Tomorrow's race, if I decide to participate, will be slow and I don't expect to break any records. Overall, I've been feeling good and I don't want to spoil the progress. I won't call it a comeback yet... but I'm getting darn close.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The countdown has begun

Today is January 18 and in exactly 30 weeks (and a sleepless night) I will be shivering with anxiety at the swim start of Ironman Mont Tremblant. It is time to start the countdown. 30 weeks of training and a life altering experience to complete it. This week I continued the re-building of my fitness and even though my coach and I agreed that I won't get the official IM training plan until I'm able to train 10h/week again, I am slowly but surely ramping up and adding minutes, miles and strokes to each of my workouts.

I also added more flip turns (to my swims, that is)! Which led to this.
On Monday, I decided to run. My first run this year, so I took advantage of my gym membership at work and I hit the treadmill. I also had a physio session in the evening where I had to do countless butt squeezes, bridges and clam shells, and by 9pm I was craving an ice bath. But not that cold because I'm a wimp these days.

When hubbs told me that the pool was colder than usual that day I knew that I had to go. If I kept moving, I was most certainly not going to feel it in my bones. And so I went. I did 2x100m to warm up, then put on the pull buoy and continued bouncing between the walls. I was doing every length with a flip turn and after a while all that tumbling made me forget completely where I was in my set. I had planned to do 500m, but I was feeling "in the zone" and told myself that I should try and see how long I can keep doing the flip turns. My watch counts the laps and eventually, while I was coming out for air after one of the flips, I looked at it. I had swum 800m non stop and I said, why not go for 1000m and strike one more goal off my "40 steps to 40" list? After all, I never mentioned NOT using a pull buoy. When I don't kick when I swim in a wetsuit, it's still called swimming. Everyone does it. So there, this IS legit swimming, dammit. Plus, I go faster without a kick, so most likely I'll be doing the same "in the field".

Here is the data geekery (the last 100m are buggy because Garmin lost me. Time is correct, but not the length). You can clearly see the 1000m block, the warmup and the cooldown. You'll just have to trust me that I did every single length of this workout with a flip turn. Because I did and I am stupid proud of it!! I promise to provide video evidence of my flipping prowess before the judges change their mind.
Since Monday I also did 2 bike workouts and I even threw in some intervals, more and more intense to remind myself that I can sweat. I managed to get to 1h on the bike with 2 blocks of 20 min spinfest at 95rpm. These felt like the kind of workouts I was doing last year, so not all fitness is lost, phew. 

And today I ran again. Two in a week, wheee! I went to the indoor track for the first time ever since I promised Meg Menzies that I'd run for her. She's no longer among us, but all the #megsmiles logged today will remain in many people's memory, including her family's. We just can't help it, we are family too. She was one of us. What else can we do?
I ran with abandon. I got lost in my thoughts, I did not feel pain, but my heart was aching in more than one way. That I gave it all is an understatement. I did not go to the track to race, but somehow I ran faster than I imagined. I didn't feel tired, so I have no idea where this energy came from. Sometimes there are things that you cannot explain. 
About half way I could still not understand if the numbers I was seeing were real. I started hitting the lap button because I wanted to make sense of what was happening, if not during the run, but maybe after. Now that I know the distance of each lap, exactly 120m, I counted that I must have run 49 laps in 30 minutes. Here are the last 28 of them.
What will happen tomorrow, next week... we'll see. I hope my coach won't read this blog post or he'll lock me in my Pain Cave until I can control my enthusiasm. Until then, I'm enjoying the free benefits of my drug of choice: beautiful, blissful endorphins. Oh how I missed you!!

Anyway, Week 30 starts tomorrow!! Oh wait... do I count up or down? What would you do to keep track of this madness?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Training to train

Like all resolutionists, I started the year fast and furious spitting out 3 blog posts in three days, then I left you hanging for 10 days. But I had a good reason. I caught THE flu. I thought I had the flu before, but no, this one was IT. I could barely keep my eyes open and my head up without passing out. Seriously, last Saturday I was two glasses of orange juice away from a ride in an ambulance (thank you Montana's manager for offering those to me when I scared you by turning cadaveric white and lost my feeling in my hands and feet). Yup, I had to lie down in one of their booths at lunch time. Anyway, the next day I ended in the doctor's office and I was put on Tamiflu which did the trick. I could return to the office three days later without the feeling of carrying a ton of bricks inside my head. Seriously, don't get the flu. Wash your hands often and stay away from the crowds. It's not fun.

But I also knew that you needed those 10 days to really appreciate the awesomeness of my recap posts (1, 2 and 3). What, you don't want to read them again? Okay, okay, you're excused if you already read them at least twice.

Now, what happened since? Not much because 1. I was in symbiosis with my couch 2. I was busy watching the first season of Orange is the New Black. Yes, there is lesbian sex in it. Get over it. It's really a good show.

Once I started feeling human again, I went to a new therapist and she got me doing some interesting strength training (I'll sure get buns of steel after this) and stretches that made me curse my body with new and colourful words. I also got my IT bands taped to show them who's the boss.
With renewed hope, I returned slowly to riding my bike and swimming. This week I managed to work out for 3h so far, including one hour at masters swim with my tri club. And you know what? I could keep up! It made me super happy about how little pool fitness I lost over the past 2 months. Alas, I also know that I won't finish the IM with swimming only and I still need to start putting in some serious biking and running workouts. So I did more spinning this week: 30 min, then 10k, then 45min. Next stop, 1h!! This may just end up as a date with hubbs and Trainer Road in our Pain Cave on Monday.

I also plan on running 30min on the treadmill tomorrow morning and see how my IT bands and hip hold up. So far, with the biking and swimming, no real negative impact, but I am still cautious. Not going crazy with enthusiasm or I'll pay the price. Learned that lesson once.
Bottom line, things have started looking up and I try to stay positive and take it one day at a time, celebrating every little ounce of progress. The IM is now 7 months away, exactly 31 weeks from now. Time to start the count down!

In the meantime, I leave you with some hypnotic footage of my swim analysis which I had done along with 3 private lessons with Sean Bechtel back in November.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Recap (3/3) : A year in pictures

Finally, my favorite post. This is where you get "the scoop" on my life, outside workouts and races. It's also a bit of challenge for me because the days/months/years always seem to go by too fast and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast. But the photos should be good visual aids, so let's try this (again).


Our little family goes on a trip to Disney World, with a stop in Philly to visit my friend Laura. I run the Rocky steps and feel like I'm on top of the world. I even get to meet Rocky, the statuesque kind. Then my husband goes all romantic on me because it's our 15th anniversary.
In Florida, I try to relax in between countless rides and lineups. Not for the faint of heart, this trip leaves me drained. Let's not do this again any time soon, okay?
Alas I don't get any downtime and I fly to Las Vegas for CES (work) without even coming back home. In total I end up sleeping in hotel beds for 20 days straight.
Once I get back home though, things return to normal. I enjoy cold baths because they keep my legs happy after running long.

At the beginning of the month we get our first snow storm of the winter and the kids go nuts. I spend one of the most frightening nights in a hospital with my older son, complete with ambulance rides, x-rays, CT scan and MRI.
I find myself trying to cope with a new sort of stress - caring for a hurt child. But thankfully running allows me to sweat it all out and ride the high of endorphins.
I buy my first bike trainer and start working out with Trainer Road. The Pain Cave is born.
I find on eBay a hat and scarf that I had bought in 2003 and lost the year before. Wearing them makes everything better.
The snow goes away as quickly as it came, and all of a sudden I don't need a hat and scarf anymore.

I lose my job and I get a lot of spare time to do whatever I want with in between sending out resumes. I get to travel to Philly again, this time to attend my friend's photo exhibit and spend some quality time with my camera and the trails.
I discover Blue Mountain coffee.
And Farro.
 And when I come back home, I taste my first ever AG placement medal.
Spring has sprung! There are flowers everywhere and I even take my camera out for a walk on the Etobicoke Trail to photograph the Sakura.
I run in shorty shorts for the first time ever. I am not convinced they are for me yet. Most likely, I need to lose some thigh fat for them not to ride up.
I try to stay away from sweets, so I sniff them instead. 
I also seem to like smelling the grass.
I travel to Muskoka to ride the 70.3 bike course and I treat myself with Kawartha's ice cream because it's THE Best Thing Ever and I deserve it, dammit.

We go to soccer games because we enjoy watching our favorite team lose. No, seriously, it's not like we have a choice. TFC sucks, we've never seen them win a game this year.
We also flaunt our tan lines.
And our wetsuits.
I ride my bike in the rain and learn to pee on it. Seriously, folks, it's a skill. 
I find a new job, very close to home, that takes me into a new direction. I discover the ups and downs of working in a big IT company. My free time gets reduced to weekends, and not even all of them, but I don't complain.

I bike the Muskoka course once more, this time with my friend Carol. In the rain, because it's so much fun.

More bike rides with friends, like this 100km one with Orville through the Hockley Valley and the Forks of the Credit, complete with suicide mission on the Hwy 10.
Miraculously we survive to tell the tale.

Another day, while biking through Caledon, I meet a beautiful horse on a walk with his owner.
Then I drive my boys to camp and I meet the cutest dog in the world.
Cuteness overload!!

I do a race simulation day with the coach and a bunch of folks from the tri club and I curse every minute of it. Heat, wind and way too many hills. Oh yes, I remember asking for it.
We travel to Mt. Tremblant to volunteer at the Ironman and we ride the official bike course (one 90km loop).
I like it so much that this happens. I sign up for the Ironman too!
My hubby buys me a new bike because there is no going back now.

We race our first Ironman 70.3 and we have the best day ever.
But soon enough I start missing my favorite lake and my bubble of bliss.
And things go downhill from there. I declare that I officially hate pool swimming.

We travel to Sandbanks with the boys for the weekend and we enjoy a long walk on the beach. Too cold for a swim, alas.
While training for the marathon, I do some trail running to mix things up, with personal support on two wheels. Despite his best efforts to cheer me up, that day remains pure torture. I had enough of running, biking and racing in the rain by then.

The racing season reaches an end with the Hamilton Marathon. I get to meet the #burlingtonskirtbrigade in their nude leg glory in minus temperatures. But they all warm my heart with their kind souls and laughs.
We take the boys away for another weekend and I get to recover from the marathon by climbing walls and wobbly structures. 
 And slowly cooking in the sauna.
On "mandatory fun day" with the office folks, I score a turkey, but I also bust my hip. I wake up the next morning with a bad cramp in my glutes.

A few days later, the pain in my butt turns into a full blown injury. I have to stop exercising, but after a week of intense physio therapy, at least I can walk. We go away for the weekend again, this time to attend my husband's office party. 
I visit the largest Toonie in the world, which unfortunately does not increase my fortune magically.
A few days later, as I start my holiday staycation, the ice storm of the century hits Ontario and destroys everything with branches that isn't bendy enough. Even walking outside becomes a dangerous workout.
I take my time and relax, and relax... waiting for things to turn around. 
Hello there 2014!! You're going to be good to me, right?