Sunday, April 20, 2014

IMMT Training Week 13: Lucky legs

The last two weeks have been pretty brutal. So brutal that I have this feeling that my arms and legs are barely connected to the rest of my body and my mind is in a semi-permanent zombie-like state. I know, I know... I still have 17 weeks to go and I better get used to it, but do I dare to say, where is my recovery week, dammit?! Must be coming soon, it better be!! Even with a shortened bike and a run missed this week, I still banked in over 12h of workouts. Does it mean that I should have reached 14h? Jeebus! Here's a visual recap for those who are curious to peek into my Training Peaks.
This was meant to put the current week in perspective because I'm not going to go back to the previous one. I will just direct you to my 10K race which I did on Sunday and where I smashed my PR because my legs decided to. It affected how I felt at the beginning of the week, so you'll understand better why I skipped workouts.


Nothing new on this front. Got all my workouts in, more or less the particular ones that were on the schedule. Because of Easter weekend, the pool was closed today, so I did my swim yesterday instead. Right after a 4h bike + 3km run brick. Like, literally, 10min later. And I had no legs left, which made me go with the pull only option (with flip turns for entertainment). One of my butt cheeks cramped after 45min from squeezing the pull buoy between my legs. I cannot win. But I got 2200m in, which was better than skipping it.

I should give a special mention to the group swim on Thursday though, because it was "bands-special". How cute. I didn't puke. It must have helped that I had the lane to myself and nobody to keep the pace with. But I did not cheat the wall clock!


Oh the bike... Grrrrrr the bike. Argghhhhhh the bike. It's all about sweet spot and threshold these days. And long hours on the trainer watching TV.

On Monday I was supposed to do 1h15 of sweet spot and given that I just upped my FTP the week before, I was still going to flirt with the threshold. However, on Monday my legs were so toast that I could barely stand up. Below, my friends, is the definition of #fail. A lesson in giving up. Take notice, but do not try this at home.
I managed to last 22 minutes at sweet spot. Look ma, no Viagra!

Thankfully the feeling of being totally damaged after the race did not last. I took a break from running the next day and did a swim instead. Best decision ever. By Wednesday, all engines were A-OK! This time, it was threshold madness, 3 glorious 15min intervals in Z4.
Beat another 15min record. I love it when the numbers go up! Indeed, coach, there is a reason to this madness.
By Saturday I was feeling a bit apprehensive contemplating my longest trainer ride to date. 4h. I don't know any movies that last 4h. How was I going to kill the time? But with a marathon of The Killing, of course. I lost track how many episodes I watched, but if my math is correct, about 4 or 5. And I did not stop pedaling, not even for a second. I think I am ready for a flat 70.3.
I present you Vogelsang.
Yeah, I'm pretty proud of this one, even if I didn't break any records. It did not break me, and it's the most important.

Tuesday, skipped. Thursday I returned to the treadmill for 10k of fartleks. Saturday was a 3k brick run and today, Sunday - 19k to Etobicoke Trail and back. The bad news is that tomorrow isn't rest day. But it is another day... In other news, I signed up for the Mississauga Half Marathon to do my long 20km+ run in. Because it's more fun with the adrenalin rush and I don't want to miss giving Nicole a hug on her BQ attempt.
In a nutshell

A great week of training following another great week of training AND racing! I think we're finally done with the snow and freezing rains and the sun is doing a decent job at keeping us warm. I may be able to go outside more and more for my runs and maybe, just maybe, for a bike ride as well.

Strength wise, zero time spent lifting, pushing or holding planks. Bad, bad Irina.

As for nutrition, I finally made the famous salty balls. Can I say AMAZEBALLS? Seriously, folks, I could not shove these in my mouth fast enough (the hits to this blog are going to get interesting). I ate 6 of them during my 4h bike ride and along with a bottle of Endura, they lasted long enough for a run and a swim as well. I need to make them a little smaller next time, but I could not recommend them enough. I made mine with rolled oats, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla protein powder, but I'd like to try the chocolate protein powder next time. I also sprinkled mine with Kosher salt. Yum.

I also joined another "community" thanks to the app TwoGrand. You post all your meals and workouts as photographs. It doesn't actually count calories, but it gives you a visual and so far I've been in good company. Got a few ideas, kept myself accountable to others and took my food pictures outside of Instagram. There is an app for everything! Join me if you want to share. I go by Ririnette. ;-)

Over and out.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 Toronto Yonge St. 10K Race Report

Since I started training for the Ironman, my desire of running road races had to be curbed. After all, I am coming off a hip injury and I have to be careful. I have heard this from my coach countless times. When this race finally showed up in my calendar, he said that I can run it, but not race it. But... but... HOW am I going to put on the brakes on Yonge St.? With a few bumps here and there, it is a net downhill. Trust me, I've set my previous PR there 2 years ago. And, what about my "40 steps to 40" goals? I wanted to improve my 10K and 5K times this year. Will I even be able to run again after the Ironman? I may just DIE there!! Anyway, you can imagine all the scenarios playing in my head over and over again.

However, one thing for sure, I was calm. I went to pick up my race kit on Saturday and spent a total of 3 min at the expo since we were late for spectating a soccer game. I literally ran through the venue and didn't think too much about next day. When I went to bed that night I had yet to decide what to do. Woke up at 6am, and surprise surprise, I still had no clue. Seriously, the only strategy I had was to "put a foot in front of the other, don't step in a pothole or roll your ankle on the tram tracks, breathe, drink if you're thirsty, enjoy the sunshine and most important, stay alive". Also, not looking at the damn Garmin. That could only bring headaches with all the GPS bounce around.

The other "problem" was that I had to do 17km since it was a long run day, and no race was supposed to interfere with the schedule. I decided to run 3km before the race as a warm up and 4km after, then hop on the subway and go back to my car, then drive home.

I parked my car near the starting line, then went on a mission to find my friend Carol and the washrooms. It was still early, so I got to the port-a-potties first. No lineup, yay! No paper either, so I had to switch stalls because I needed to do both 1&2. Thankfully I noticed soon enough. Found Carol too, then we started our little run. Went back to the car and dropped my hoodie, took a sip of Gatorade and off I went on my own to continue warming up the legs, tired after the 3h30 trainer ride that I had done the day before. Of course legs felt like crap. By the time the warmup ended, I was convinced that I was going to suffer during the race and I should just take it easy. Rejoined Carol at the starting line, just behind the 50min pacer.
We must have stayed there about 10 minutes, then the gun went off and I lost Carol instantly. She wanted to finish under 50min, which meant running ahead of the 50min pacer. I was left to my own devices once more. And so I started running rather conservatively, but letting the gravity do its thing, carefully keeping my exertion levels in check. No puffing, no huffing. Stay relaxed. No peeking at the watch!! Then, I don't know what happened, but I noticed that I was catching up with the 50min pacer. I was telling myself that he knew how to put the brakes on the hills, and I was failing miserably at it. But I was feeling good, so why not? It was all part of the plan, to let the legs do their thing.

Then I saw a guy with a pink sign that said "Forget calm, run like hell". And it must have planted a little seed of doubt in my abilities to really stay calm. Shortly thereafter I ended passing the 50min pacer and my competitive spirit kicked in. I also noticed Carol about 100m in front of me. I had no plans to catch her at that moment, I was still a bit puzzled by the situation with the pacer. Should I stay or should I go? I wondered if I could stay ahead of him for a while... But then I noticed that I was also catching up with Carol. Uh oh. Was she slowing down? I told her she's not allowed to! With 2.5km to go I managed to get close enough to her to give her a slap on the butt and I said "told you not to let me catch you!" And she sped away from me. Attagirl!! I continued chasing her ponytail and before I knew it, I was over the Bathurst bridge and on the last stretch towards the finish line.

I wanted to finish strong, and of course, ahead of the 50min pacer. I did not let him catch me either and crossed the finish line in 49:03. I could not be happier that I beat both my 10K and 5K PRs, just as I wanted. Based on the official time set on this same course 2 years ago, I improved my 10K PR by 4min 47sec, and I even did a negative split. My fastest 5K is now 24:10. Two more items crossed off the list!! Wooohooo!
At the finish area I grabbed a banana, my medal, said goodbye to Carol and off I went again. I still had 4km to run, which I did along the Lakeshore and back to Yonge St. Hopped in the subway, but not before a little old lady asked me if I won the race and I had to explain to her how I did this "just for fun" and that there were people much faster than me out there.

I'm pretty sure that my legs didn't agree with my definition of "fun" for that day, but eventually they stopped pouting and I could go back to my regular training schedule, all without a single Advil.

For not "racing" that day, I definitely blew it. But sometimes, you just have to follow your heart. I ran completely by feel, did not look once at my watch and I ended being pleasantly surprised. Of course, this would be quite irresponsible to do on longer distances, but since I've met all my time goals for this year, it should be much easier to keep myself in check from now on. That's all, folks!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Instacards from NYC

I mentioned in my previous blog post that I went to New York City and man, did I have a good time!! I bought a plane ticket 10 minutes after receiving an email from my best friend from France, whose 40th birthday was the following weekend. Initially she wanted to go to the Bahamas, but eventually settled on NYC and Naples. I could only spare one vacation day to join her, so I booked my flight from Friday to the following Monday, with the plan of going straight to work after landing back in town. I had 5 days to prepare and work on containing my excitement. It had been over a year since I'd seen my friend and these times are always so precious, it's hard to plan around the hours that we spend just being there for each other. Nothing else is as important. So I told myself, I go there with no plan, I will just follow along with my camera and enjoy the moment. My only mission was to run in Central Park and that I accomplished. I know that my friend understands my crazy, she was with me in Paris for my first marathon as well... so I didn't feel too bad taking off for 2h on my own.

Here's how we spent most of our time that weekend, with Instagrams for posterity.
All that Jazz!
I left Toronto in this itty bitty airplane. It wasn't the smallest that I took in my life, but close. You know that is small enough when your carry on bag does not fit in the overhead bin.

We spent the first day exploring an abandoned place called 5 Pointz, which used to be the Mecca of Graffiti in NYC, but alas got painted white all over sometime at the end of last year, then fenced up. See here for all the awesome work that artists had painted and is now gone. What a shame.
Rooftops are awesome
The next day, we embarked on a more touristy exploration and took the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty up close, then visit Ellis island and look for family members on the immigrants wall.
Found mine in L
Freedom, Liberty.
It was a chilly and windy day, but the sky cleared as we were touring the Liberty Island and the sun showed its face to warm us up.
In the evening, we all went for a nice dinner to celebrate my friend's birthday, but not before taking a stroll on The High Line, in the heart of Manhattan. It was quite the photo explosion.
Brick, glass and grass
And a sculpture on train tracks.
Magic Hour Reflections
On Sunday, I ran in the morning, and took more pictures, as you saw in the previous post. Then we went on another adventure, around Ground Zero and over the Brooklyn Bridge.
One web
Two webs
Yeah, that blue sky followed us everywhere!! I can't believe it either. It was a beautiful weekend spent mostly outside, breathing the fresh air (at least I hope it's fresh - shhh, don't tell me), discovering new sights, which I had really never seen before. Sharing meals with best friends. Catching up on life stories and everyone in and around them. It was long overdue. I miss these moments already.
Before I knew it, it was time to pack again and head home, to work, family, workouts, business, stress. And now starts a new wait... Happy Birthday, my dear Fred.

PS. For more photos from NYC, follow me on Instagram or visit my Flickr stream.

Friday, April 11, 2014

IMMT Training Weeks 10 & 11 (and half of 12) : A breath of fresh air

It's been how many weeks already?? Ok, ok, but I had a good excuse. For realz! The days are going by way too fast. No, this isn't my excuse, even if it's true. But it's also a matter of perspective. Too many things happening, too little time, so I had to prioritize.


The highlight of these past weeks have been my long pull workouts, all with flipturns so I don't fall asleep. The longest so far has been 55 minutes and I have been working hard at keeping a good form throughout. I tried swimming with an MP3 player and that made the set a little more entertaining, but overall I love the peace these swims bring to me among the chaos of all the other technical workouts, so I don't feel that having extra noise in my ears is absolutely necessary.
From Garmin's perspective, this is what my longest swim looked like:
I have to ask the question: WHY is it that the first 50m are always the easiest and fastest? Why I cannot keep doing what I'm doing in the first 50m for the entire workout? It's so unfair. If I rest for a few minutes between shorter sets, I am able to repeat this performance, but if I don't stop, it only goes downhill from there. I'm like a broken toy or something.


The bike workouts have been going really great, despite their increased difficulty. I am now working a lot at sweet spot or threshold and my longer rides are 3-4h long, with a "recovery" week's long ride still being a 2h effort. Thanks to a few records broken recently, I decided to bump my FTP by 10 points to 180. A new level of suffering is about to start.
You can see my career page on Trainer Road for all the rides I've done since the last update. I am going to highlight just the ones that made me rethink my FTP.
First, three 12min intervals, at threshold or just under. Since my heart rate stayed put, I felt that I could have pushed harder... And I know that I should not have ground so much, but some days my legs respond better to high rpms than others.
Then 1h10 at sweet spot non stop.
This one scared the sh*t out of me, but it didn't feel too bad in the end. We'll see what happens now with a higher limit to chase.


Running felt like a rollercoaster ride though. I had ups so high and lows so low, that I cursed everything from the wind to the hills, from my belly fat to the treadmill. I finally made peace with my legs, thanks to a weekend spent in New York City where I went running in Central Park. Aaaaaaah, bliss.
Oh look, a dirt trail!
Chasing ponytails
2 seconds before my phone shut off
There was also a race ongoing in Central Park and I ended up mingling with the back of the pack runners/walkers who had these "Senior Care" ambulances trudging along them. It was quite the procession. Thankfully they didn't seem too busy with emergencies.
And rest assured, I didn't take any water from the stations. However, it took me 10k to find a water fountain on my own. The weather was absolutely beautiful, on the chilly side though (37F/3C). Look at that blue sky!! Now that's light therapy.

So I came back home with new brain cells and spring in my legs, a heart full of happiness and contentment to last me for a little while. And I didn't even mention the cookies that I bought at Levain Bakery yet!! Yeah, about those... YUM. That is all.

In a nutshell

Treadmills lie. Those speeds that I saw, the kilometers that I banked, they were worthless outside. There was one run in particular that brought me to tears. I can say with certainty that I am no PR material for now. The 10k race waiting for me on Sunday? I'm not even allowed to race it. And I don't even think that I'd have legs left after tomorrow's 3h30 trainer ride. Speaking of which, bike trainers don't seem to lie, but the pavement will still have to wait until I put my wheels on it. Asthma is still bad in cold weather, which of course becomes even worse with wind blowing in my face. One day at a time... Will be back with some Insta-Postcards from NYC.