Saturday, June 27, 2015

Things are clicking left and right. Clickety clack!

Hola! How are you?? Still here? Yay!!

Me too!! It's been again 2 weeks since I last blogged, but it seems to be my current cruising speed. In other words, I've been lazy. But that's ok, it's not that I've had any Earth shattering news to share with you. Same old same old... until this week. This week has been pretty great workouts wise. I decided to get back in the saddle regularly and put some work into the program that I started on Trainer Road 3 months ago. You know, the one that I was very motivated to follow, but I failed miserably after 2 weeks and just gave up, because. Too much stress, too little fitness, and mostly because I shifted my focus towards physio.

But two months later and a few good weekly outdoor rides, I decided to pick up right where I left off. And to my surprise, it was with great success. Most notably, it looks like my fitness has significantly improved since April and this time I didn't feel like passing out before the end of the workout. I finished it without difficulty, and with an average heart rate lower by 20bpm in the hard intervals. Now that was a huge surprise. See below, the failed workout in April, where my HR was in the high 180s, and now, where it did not go above 169.

Ericsson in April - gave up in the 3rd interval, could not follow the instructions. Too hard, despite having lowered my FTP by 10pts. 
Ericsson in June - followed all instructions, could hold all cadences, heart rate stayed in the 160s. I even did the single leg drills. Yay me!
(Ignore the heart rate anomalies in the second workout... the Scosche strap got too wet and I had to tighten it for it to return to reading the HR properly. After I adjusted it, it came back within the normal range.)

Needless to say, this workout gave me a huge moral boost. Finally, proof that everything I've done in the last few months was not for nothing and that my fitness is coming back. And to confirm that this was no fluke, I did one more workout 2 days later and finished it again without difficulty.

I even got off the saddle as per the instructions. This workout was focused on leg power and although I am not used to grinding my gears, I did just as it required, alternating intervals between 75rpm and 85rpm. I can't wait for the next workout now. Luckily the weather will be crap tomorrow, which means that I'll have to do my ride indoors. Back on Watopia (the new Zwift island) and Trainer Road!

Last time on Zwift I managed to get the polka dot jersey (fastest climb) and hold it for most of the ride. Must have been a slow day... here I was during one of the recovery intervals, spinning my legs at 75 watts, haha.
What else is new? Not only the bike clicked this week, but the swim did too! Despite going to the pool only once or twice a week, I tried to keep my focus on finishing my strokes properly and increasing my turnover. And it's been working! 

On Tuesday I went to the pool and I was glad to have another friend from the club with me as a challenge. I tried keeping up with her, doing 300m sets alternating between swimming with paddles and without. And by the 3rd interval I was flying!! Definitely my fastest swim this year and possibly... ever!!! Followed by 3 loops at Professor's Lake this morning, where I also challenged myself to keep a high turnover and it paid off. I can't believe how good all these workouts felt.

The run was a bit on the back burner this week after having a great few workouts last week. For the first time this year I ran twice 5k without pain, and even completed my first serious speed workout of the year (10x400s).

This week I returned to physio and I was told that focus needs to turn towards my abdominals as I hurt my back last time I went. The PT told me that I have a strong back, but the front, not so much. So we need to fix that before we move on with the leg and hip strength because I tend to arch my lower back too much and I am not able to engage my glutes properly. So there is that. I feel that I've already started to neglect my physio workouts, and I have to get back on the bandwagon asap. The good news is that my IT bands and hip strength are really improving and that showed in my running. But as usual... patience. 

I still don't have any races in my calendar longer than 10K this year and it will probably stay like that. I would love to do a 1/2 marathon later in the fall, but Zin thinks it's better to wait until next year so I'm willing to listen to him for now. I don't want to rush things and I still don't have the confidence that my legs are strong enough for that kind of distance. I am not defined by a distance, am I right? I just want to stay happy and healthy. Fingers crossed this won't be another roller-coaster ride. 

What else can I tell you guys? Maybe share a few photos to see what I've been up to? Why not! :-)
I've led quite a few rides for the FMCT club and they've been so much fun!
Bought a new pair of kicks: Hokas Stinson ATR and they are pretty awesome
Saw a big snapping turtle on my run.
Bought a wonderful scarf from Coeur Sports and I fell in love with it instantly
Sherpa duties at Rose City / Welland Half Iron triathlon where hubby kicked serious ass.
Alright, that's enough for today. The ZZzzzzZZZZzzzzzs are calling me. But first, Channing Tatum and Jimmy Fallon are saying dirty jokes on TV and excuse me...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015 Woodstock Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Holy macaroni, is this a real race report?! Yes it is!! It's not a volunteering, cheering or spectating report. It is true, I completed a triathlon last weekend and I cannot wait to tell you all about it. Sharing pictures though, that's something else. I was truly apprehensive to see myself in race pictures and they did not disappoint. The 10lb that I packed on since last year scream at me from the whole mid section. But now that's out of the way, let's get on with this report. Nothing I can do about the pictures and my stupid weight.

There was little mental preparation going into this race as I had no doubt that I could go the distance, but the big unknown was going to be the run. Before the race, the longest I had run without knee pain was about 4km at the simulation day. However, going even that far after a 40km bike gave me hope that if I stick with my physio program and continue believing that I WILL get better, maybe that would become true eventually. I had zero expectations with regards to finishing times, no podium goals, not even a PR. I did zero speed or hill work this year, and the number of bricks completed can be counted on 3 fingers. I barely maintained my fitness through my emotional ups and downs and truly the biggest challenge has been to keep my head above water.

The morning of the race I woke up at 5:30am with the plan of leaving the house before 7am. I showered, had a big breakfast (as usual) and made sure I packed a banana with me because that's the only pre-race ritual that can mess up with my mojo big time. I also took a gel to eat on the bike and some Gu Chomps in case I needed them on the run.

Zin drove me to Pittock Conservation Area and as soon as I got on site I ran into Ken, Dana and Phaedra. We all lined up to pick up our race kits and managed to keep the nerves at bay by sharing last minute tips and posing for pics. Here are a few of them that Zin turned into a GIF. I like this version much better than the individual ones. Did you spot the chocolate milk ad placement? Haha!!

Then before I knew it, I had to go in transition and set up my stuff. Phaedra found me a spot just beside her and I felt special racking beside a champion.
I also ran into Dave Jenkin, my old coach who moved to Woodstock and started the Woodstock Triathlon Club there. It was great to see him again. I thought it would be cool to take a picture together just like we did last year. We gotta keep the tradition going!
Soon enough it was time to go. I went in the water for a short warm up and I was pleasantly surprised by its temperature. Just perfect, although a little choppy for my liking. I also think the water was slightly warmer than the air temperature, and I was still on the fence about racing in my tri top or add a cycling jersey on top.

I left in the second wave, the yellow caps. I got into a groove pretty quickly and despite being swum over a few times, I only swallowed a minimal amount of water. Yay me, because given the amount of goose poop I walked in along the shore, I was a little worried. Not very surprising, I had the slowest swim ever. I came out of the water in 17min and change, but the disappointment only lasted a second. I was a little too dizzy coming back into transition to worry about paces.

The long run out made things even worse as it elevated my heart rate through the roof and left me wondering how in hell I was going to bring it down so I can breathe normally again. To add insult to the injury, the bike out was up a hill, then I had to face a head wind for a third of the ride at least.
I didn't have to say a lot of "on your left" this time around, as I kept being passed over and over again. I only remember 2 girls in particular because we started and finished the ride very close to each other. The first one was in my AG and she passed me within the first 100m of the run and the second one was a 17yr old, whom I kept passing on the downhills, and she would pass me back on the uphills. She also took off on the run and I never saw her again.

I ate a gel about half way on the ride and drank a little from my water bottle. For once I was glad that I didn't have to pee on my bike as I was working hard to keep up the pace. No distractions allowed! Overall, it felt like a lot of work and not much fun. You really don't have time to smell the roses in a sprint triathlon.

Compared with last year, it took me exactly 3 extra minutes to complete the bike for a total of 43:30min. The HR was exactly the same, an average of 170bpm. It definitely showed how much power I lost on the bike, but I am not going to mourn it forever... it will come back if I put the work into it. Anyway, I consider myself lucky for having had a perfect ride once more, without physical or technical issues of any kind.

Coming back in transition, I put on my socks and running shoes, grabbed my gels and off I went again. The way out of transition is along a wooden path on grass/dirt, then it changes to gravel, then concrete over the dam, then dirt again. Quite the mix of surfaces I should say. Here is what it looks like within the first 200m.
I am posting this picture because I'll have to come back to it in a few minutes. But until then... let's keep running. Again, I felt pretty slow and sluggish, but I remained concentrated on the job at hand.. er, feet. Looks intense, doesn't it. That Imraan guy sure doesn't like it that he's getting chicked.
I did my best not to blow up, but I still ended with a stitch after 3km. I didn't want to stop, so I pushed through, mentally tricking myself into believing that a downhill was going to magically appear and take away the pain. But more realistically, the trick of hitting the ground with the opposite leg on an exhale was going to yield better results, so I tried to concentrate on doing just that.

Maybe the stitch went away in the last 300m, or maybe I don't remember that pain, but soon thereafter I remember falling on my face on that lovely wooden path that I shared with you earlier. Just before turning into the finish chute, I tripped on a root and flew a few feet ahead in a very dramatic display of grace and agility akin to that of an elephant on skates.
I picked myself right up, dusted off and kept running. I knew that I was going to have a nice rash on my left arm and leg, but those were going to be my only battle scars that day.
I'll take a rash over knee pain any day!! Alas the photographer did not get a picture of me with my arms up in victory, but the sentiment was there. I finished my first triathlon of the year, and despite being the slowest ever, it was a huge WIN for me. No pain in my legs, and this, my friends, is the sweetest gift at all. The gift of running with a smile on my face and achieving a goal that I didn't think I'd be able to reach again. Not much else is left to say. I will just sit here inside my little bubble of bliss and allow myself to hope that a pain free racing season may be possible after all.
I'll leave you with a photograph of Phaedra and I while we were waiting for the awards. This amazing lady took the win (again!) and because she's such a great friend, I stayed around to add my cheers to those of the crowd. Any time I can share a race with her, I feel completely spoiled.

And that's a wrap! Next race, IM Muskoka 70.3 where I'll be racing as part of a relay team (I changed my registration because it was not a good idea to do it all by myself and undertrained). Look us up as team "Beets and Pickles". I'll be swimming, Ken (first picture) will be biking, and Robin will be running. This is going to be FUN!! By the way, Ken finished his first ever triathlon in Woodstock (and he kicked ass!!) and Robin will take part in her first ever triathlon in Muskoka, after completing a 100 miles (!!!) trail race last month. Go read her blog, you'll be inspired.