Friday, October 24, 2014

Living the Canadian Fall

After two blog posts without any photos, I am unleashing ALL THE FALL COLOURS with this one. Maybe I didn't pay much attention before, or maybe this year is indeed special, but I have been enjoying the show that Mother Nature has been putting on. Every time I step outside, it's like I'm seeing life through a kaleidoscope. And it's not just because of my sunglasses, I swear! See by yourselves.
So this was taken just this past weekend at Heart Lake conservation area where we went treetop trekking. Want to see more? Ok, don't go anywhere.
While hanging from tree to tree and zip-lining across Heart Lake is something you do maybe once or twice a year (I highly suggest the fall though!), biking has been on the menu pretty much every weekend as long as the weather permitted.

Did I already mention our ride through the Forks of the Credit "the hard way"? It was on October 4, but my legs are still crying and my heart still beating out of my chest when I remember how a police car sneaked behind me while I was taking some of these pictures (on my bike that is).
A week later we hit the road again, but this time we spent 2 good hours cleaning our club's adopted slice of Mississauga Road, since it's oh so pretty and it would be a shame to leave it "unattended" so to speak. We even pulled a full McDonald's trash can out of the ditch. Seriously, who put it there??
And because walking up and down Mississauga St. for 2h wasn't enough, we returned in the afternoon on our bikes. By 4pm it got a lot colder and windier, but the colors were still there to get immortalized.
This ride was both so painful and exhilarating, I beat a ton of Strava records and thought that I was going to be unable to walk for a week. If it had not been for that Ironman jersey and for Zin who offered to shelter me from the wind after having climbed enough hills to start bawling my eyes out, I would have abandoned after 2km and asked for a divorce. But thankfully we managed to get in time to a beautiful art gallery in Alton where we also found free coffee and enough mind blowing sculptures and paintings to reevaluate the effort that took us to get there and appreciate the 15 minutes spent inside away from the cold. My husband's kind of date, apparently. And did I mention yet another initiative by Brian from Erin Forks that we came across? #TubeItForward - how awesome is that?
Now for another kind of date, it wouldn't be a real fall blog post if it didn't include biking in the rain... but as long as we had good company (#theburlingtonskirtbrigade turned into #themiltonbikingbrigade), there was no reason to complain.
I won't go into much detail, but the picture above should speak for itself. We had a blast and I could not thank Nicole enough for organizing this get special together and allow us to share a meal on Thanksgiving day. So thankful for these gals!! Who said that blogging and Daily Mile doesn't lead to real life friendships? From left to right Nicole, Patty, Kim, yours truly, Emma and Sam.

The rest of the time spent outdoors this month was on the Caledon Trailway, on sherpa duty for Zin who is training for the Hamilton Half Marathon...

... and at work. On the days I was ready to lose it, I managed to take a walk by our pond with lots of ducks and a million of fish trapped inside until another winter comes along to turn them into meatcicles.
Inspired to go out for a walk before it is too late? Unless you live on the opposite side of the Earth, you definitely should! In retrospective, this foliage show-off has been ongoing for a while and with November around the corner, we're almost running out of time. Aren't we even changing hours this coming weekend? If you are stuck in an office, you won't even see daylight by the time you go back home. So here, put on an extra layer, a pair of warm shoes and maybe even a hat and gloves, but GO OUTSIDE! And if you really still don't see the colors, you may just be color blind and in this case... I feel sorry for you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ask Me Anything : My Answers

You asked, I answered...

What next?

More short triathlons and a few 70.3 because I like the distance a lot. Another Ironman distance? Most likely in 2016 (Coeur d'Alene, Whistler or Penticton). But only after the pain in my knees goes away. But don't count 2015 out for an IM if I feel really, really good after Muskoka 70.3. We shall see.

Will you get an Ironman tattoo?

So many people asked me the question and the answer is... I don't think so. Not yet anyway. I don't have any tattoos, and for my first, I'd rather have tattooed the initials of my boys or something that makes me think of my family than the logo of a corporation that has started to act rather questionably recently.

You reached the top of the mountain. The natural tendency is to look up and wonder what to conquer next -- and to feel lost when you see nothing. Have you stopped to admire the view? Have you looked back at the path you took to get where you are? Can you still see where you were, all those many months ago, before that first run? What about the prep for that first 50k on the bike? Did you take the time to recognize that?

The answer is YES, yes, a thousand times YES. I could not be more grateful for even finishing this race, given the challenges that were thrown my way. I did reflect after each hard workout, each building block completed (more or less successfully) and thanked my body for not failing me. However, and here is where I may upset some people, I did not think of this Ironman as something really extraordinary. From outside looking in, it is certainly remarkable, but for me,  as I marched towards this goal, it never felt out of reach. I always considered it like my longest training day, with some memorable perks along the way. And once I did reach the end of that day, I didn't feel an epiphany or anything transcendental. It was over and that was it. The fact that I didn't have another goal to look forward to is what hurt the most. And it doesn't have to be an Ironman - even a 5K race would keep me happy. Something, anything to look forward to that involves my body moving. I spent 5 years now patting myself on the back for getting out of depression and climbing mountain after mountain to reach impressive goals. But there comes a moment when you have to let go of the past and start living IN the moment. You have to make each day count. Sure I do deserve to spend a month on the couch with my feet up, but I can't give up the fire that gets me OFF that couch, it's too much of a risk taking for my own health.

What has been your FAVOURITE part about no longer being in Ironman training?

Hands down, being able to spend more time with my family and friends in the weekends. Now I can say YES to a movie night or a brunch and it makes my day. I just went treetop trekking with the boys on Sunday (after going to work at 5am)!!

What's your favourite long ride? It's Saturday, and you have 4 hours to spend, so where would you go?

I really love going to Erin or Schomberg for coffee and treats (80-100km). The ride is not too exhausting, there are some rolling hills and fast descents, and good people to say hi to, like Brian Travis from Erin Forks Bicycle shop.

What's your religious affiliation, and how does it affect you motivation?

I have no religious affiliation and it doesn't bother me at all. It's probably the last thing in the world that would affect my motivation. I'm with Darwin though, so if I get to blame someone for a missed workout it's only myself and my human limitations, like the need for sleep, or the hormones. I also blame my negative "ape index" for not being fast enough in the water.

What movies are you most likely to pick if you are going to put on something you have already seen?

I currently really want to see "Across the Universe" (2007) again (it would be the 3rd time). I love a movie with interesting visuals and that puts me in a good mood. But the following are always a staple in our household: "The Fifth Element" (1997) (too many to count), "Taxi" (1998) (the French version, maybe 10 times), "Dirty Dancing" (1987) (must have seen at least 35 times since I was a teen) or "Lost Highway" (1997) (because I still haven't figured it out after seeing it half a dozen times). What's up with the years ending in 7??

Can you write a bit about balancing work/family/kids etc with Ironman training? Did you ever feel guilty about things like long rides?

No doubt that it is hard, but you must let go of the guilt, or you're going to stress yourself too much, which leads to burnout and injuries. You have to think of this "journey" as something you do for yourself, but that your family members can get inspired to follow in their own lives - and it's not about racing an Ironman or any long distance in particular - but the dedication, the  consistency, the drive to success and overcoming challenges that are life lessons for anyone willing to be by your side and help you achieve your dreams. A very good piece of advice that I read once in a book (I think it was Be IronFit) is to sit down with your family members and make this decision together. You will have to explain what it will entail and get a buy in from everyone, but especially your significant other. It will be a family "sacrifice" so to speak, but if you balance it well enough, you can still have 1 weekend/month where you can squeeze in some family time. We tried to make some of our racing weekends interesting for the kids and stay overnight in a hotel and visit the surroundings as well, like going to Niagara Falls when we raced Welland. We also made our trip to Mt Tremblant the yearly family vacation, so that everyone gets something out of it. As to work? Meh. I thought I would be more fatigued, but somehow my body adjusted and I didn't feel much impact during the day. If you eat well and rest appropriately, you will recover fast enough to be ready for more. Last but not least, balance is the key. I truly believe that you do not need to train more than 15h/week at your peak for a 70.3, with an average between 10-12h, especially when you have a family and a full time job. Quality over quantity and don't forget to take a full rest day (no workouts of any kind, not even yoga). You can also use this day to make dinner, fold the laundry or play a board game with the kids.

Personally I am not a morning person and I did most of my workouts in the evening, with the biggest volume in the weekends. And yes, I felt guilty at times, but knowing that there would be some quality time spent with my family once a month always helped to let go. And truth to be told, I could not have done it without Zin. He made dinner every night and took care of most of house chores - it's a family commitment, al right.

How do your family members support and keep up with your IM ambitions?

See previous answer. They do not ask too much from me, which makes me a very lucky person. My boys are teenagers and don't need constant attention, and I have NO clue whether I could have done this with younger children. Looking back, I was in a much worse mental and physical state when I was a new mom to even exercise. Maybe if I had taken up triathlon back then it would have helped, but I'll never know, unless I get pregnant again, yikes!! (not gonna happen)

So, the answer is - they are mature enough to understand. I want to believe that they are proud of me and this new "lifestyle" encourages them to live a healthy and active life... but nothing is a given and only time will tell. They are helping me by not getting in trouble, staying in school, getting good grades and showing me that they don't need me to look over their shoulder in order to succeed (even though Zin and I still do a minimum to keep them "on track" so to speak). In my opinion, it teaches them to be adventurous, independent and resilient.

And if they join me in a race or workouts, they know that I am always looking forward to it.

THANK YOU all for your questions!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life after the Ironman / Ask Me Anything

It will be soon 2 months post IMMT and I still haven't written any of those navel gazing posts about my life "as an Ironman". But here it is, you cannot escape it now. I've been asking myself what to write because this whole time felt like a 12 step recovery process that took me through all kinds and ups and downs. But I must be at least at step 5 or 7 right now and thankfully I haven't yet signed up for another Ironman, which makes this post as objective as it could be, or so I hope.

The week after the Ironman - all happy, all the time. In retrospective, I blame the endorphins for it. Not only I didn't feel much pain and I even thought that my knees were healed thanks to this race, but I was also ready to climb mountains and swim across oceans and bike across Canada and the US. I actually continued not to feel any pain for about a month, which allowed me to hike up Mt Tremblant, walk 10km a day for 4 days in NYC, and even sign up and complete another (sprint) triathlon.

After coming back to work at the beginning of September, I was convinced that I had to sign for another Ironman race and I found myself hitting several registration pages and abandoning the process while flipping the card to grab the numbers on the back. Every single day, I could not keep myself from thinking about racing again. The fact that I had kept my bracelet and made the silly promise to myself and everyone around that I would only remove it when I would sign up for another one, was like pouring gasoline on the fire.

I was also crying, a lot. For no reason, and I was coming back home every day, feeling lost without a goal, without that shiny carrot that helps me moving forward. At the same time, the aches returned to into my joints and muscles - back, knees, hips, neck - the usual suspects - but all at once for good measure. And of course, I had maxed up all my RMT, ART, PT, Acupuncturist and Chiropractor allowances. No more TLC from medical professionals  - just me and my foam roller (ugh). I was constantly wallowing in self pity and it was rather pathetic to watch.

After volunteering at Muskoka 70.3, and once my birthday came along, I finally made peace with signing up for another 140.6 "right now". I decided that I would do at least Muskoka 70.3 next year (and will probably sign up early to take advantage of the early bird price) and continue to work towards a healthier, stronger ME in the meantime. It's going to be my gift to myself - a more able body to take me through more Ironmans - but only when I feel ready physically to tackle another one. I am 40, for crying out loud, and I only started "playing triathlon" 3 years ago, because it looked like a lot of fun. I was not born or built like an elite athlete, so for me, it's all about enjoying life and the process of tackling new challenges - not qualifying for Kona or finishing on a podium - the kind of discipline that those feats demand sounds absolutely terrifying. I choose to believe that I am not defined by my performance or my physical appearance, but rather what I have in my heart... and if it takes me to pushing new limits, so be it, but if not... No biggie.

Not working out in 3 different sports like before left the space to boredom, and after a few weeks of sitting on my ass and not doing anything - nada - I could feel the mojo leaving me and even thinking "what if" triathlon was not the answer to my happiness after all. I got in a sort of funk. The less I was moving, the less I wanted to get moving. I just didn't feel like doing anything, but at the same time I was hating myself for it.

Once I finished the Lakeside Tri and the pain returned with full force in my legs, I made the decision to start working with a personal trainer. I know that it will be a long process, but I am finally ready to let go of my current fitness and focus on the things that I can improve, such as imbalances and weak glutes. I am looking forward to starting with fresh legs. I have not run since Lakeside, exactly a month ago and I plan not to run until my knees and ITBs give me exactly zero signs of distress, even if it takes them three more months. I will continue biking, ellipticalling and swimming, and of course, strength training - all in moderation - but not running.

So now I am back to training, but I am not following a specific program. I am just trying to stay active and keep the blood and the endorphins flowing. I talked to a coach once and I ended feeling pretty shitty about myself when I admitted not being able to train without external accountability and/or a coach. I cried for 2 days afterwards and I was ready to unfriend half of my contacts on Facebook, but eventually I got over it. Not everyone IS a coach or has her innate drive and dedication. Some of us live with this thing called dependability and don't get me wrong - I know that it's a crutch and a handicap at once, but I am now dedicated to reducing some of this dependability and stand on my own a little more... baby steps, yes, even at 40.

Okay, so that's 7 mental steps to recovering from the Ironman. Are there MORE? I am looking for feedback from those who made the trip down this rabbit hole and came back alive. Do I need to hire a shrink? Or do I need to sign up for another one to put an end to my misery? Here's that dependability again... Oy vey.

But enough with the questions. For the next post, I decided to answer yours. Ask Me Anything - for real, and sorry that I don't have Reddit. Nothing is taboo around here.

(I did not include any photos on purpose. Are you sad?)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

40 steps to 40: Eleven months update

Did you know that I turned 40? Yep. It happened. Quietly and uneventfully. I didn't have a party or invited guests, but my colleagues bought me a cake and sang Happy Birthday to me in three languages.
Hubbs also made me cake (twice!), a non-dairy Far aux Pruneaux (which I devoured with orgasmic pleasure) and bought me a gift which I had been coveting for years (an iPad Mini). So, maybe there wasn't so much Bang! about this birthday, but I lived to tell the tale. I consider Goal #40 complete! Remember, I make them rules. Just like I decided to continue with those goals until the end of the year, because.

To recap, I have the newly completed goals below:

1. Finish Ironman Mt. Tremblant
DONE! You can read the whole saga about the swim, bike and run by following the links.

2. Clean up my diet
To further update you on this, I had an official allergy test done and I AM allergic to milk after all. All types of milk, but my body gets more or less rebellious whether it's cow, goat or sheep. I was told to avoid them all. I am now supposed to carry an EpiPen with me at all times. Yikes. Not fun. My oldest son is also allergic, so misery keeps company... at least I have one more reason to stay put and not go YOLO on my body whenever I feel like it. I have to be a perfect example of discipline. Truth is, whenever I have dairy, it feels like my insides are about to explode and I am super miserable and regret putting myself through this punishment. I am still a work in progress from this point of view, but man, it's hard... there is milk EVERYWHERE.
12. Go skinny dipping
Vacation, cottage, private access to lake, warm water, need to say more? DONE!

15. Bike the Caledon Trailway
DONE! Initially the plan was to ride about 80km on it, but I didn't get the chance until Zin asked me to ride beside him and carry his nutrition for the longest run before his next half marathon. I rode 24km at 13kph. A glorious fall day with ALL THE COLORS on the trailway - I say it counts!!
16. Climb a mountain
DONE! Mt. Tremblant, on the Thursday following the race. I may write a separate post for it because I have too many pictures to share. It was amazeballs. Quick look at Strava:
17. Volunteer at a race
DONE! (again) I volunteered at Ironman Muskoka 70.3 (again) and I had a blast putting medals around the finishers' necks, which deserves a separate post as well. These are piling up already... just like my Ironman bracelets (I did end up removing those on my birthday).
26. Go on a date night x 4
1 done, 3 to go!! We saw "Gone Girl" and I had absolutely NO clue what the movie was about and I think it was even better this way. I loved it, really well done!

24. Spend a whole day at the movies
Yeah, speaking of movies... I am too old for this shit. Two max, and I'm done. I will replace this goal with another one that is more adequate for my age.

27. Make something with my cork collection
DONE! I saw this at the cottage that we rented in Mt. Tremblant. Here, on the mantel... it looks artsy, right? (you may have to squint to see it)
And this is my version:
I tried getting drunk, but it didn't work. We need more wine.

30. Try paddle boarding
I said I would try this, but then another opportunity arose... and I decided to scratch this goal for... Riding a horse!
And that's it for the goals on the list. However, I am going to add to it a few more "fun" things that I managed to fit in and that I could not have anticipated when I made the list. 

I went to see a hockey game live (my first ever!) with hubbs and the boys. It was a great game that finished with shoot-outs and, cherry on the cake, the Leafs won!!
I went to New York with my mom for her birthday and we saw A LOT of tennis! Federer, Tsonga, Bouchard, Dimitrov, Sharapova, Robredo, Lisiki, Kyrgios and many more. Spent three days at the US Open and walking around Manhattan and ... more in another blog post (am I shooting myself in the foot here??)
I also saw (and took a picture with) Naked Cowboy. Because New York, yo!
Last but not least, my boobies got a squeeshy hug today from a machine that takes pictures and makes funny whirring sounds. Yep, once you're 40, you get to have Mammograms. Have you booked yours yet?
And that's enough fun for this post. It's making me depressed knowing that I only have 3 days left of vacation before the end of the year. Who's got more cake? I'm all out!