Sunday, August 23, 2015

A training update full of goodness

I can't believe that I haven't written a training update since the end of June, but it's the truth. I've been a lot of fun at the races, but I didn't take any time to blog about the behind the scenes. But it's time to change that because I have a few milestones lined up and I can't wait to share them with you.

First and foremost, I have just finished my biggest training week this year, just shy of 10h. And it was full of sweaty goodness, but it may help if I put it within context. Last week we traveled to Mt. Tremblant to volunteer at IMMT.
We spent Saturday on the road, Sunday on the job (bike catchers) and Monday back on the road. By the way, if you want to see what it looks like to be a bike catcher, here is a video from our team captain (you can see me in action at 00:54):

And in the following video is the less fun part where I had to stop people who DNF'd from going over the mat with their chip (Zin caught the bike):

It was hands down the hardest volunteer job that I've done. Over the span of a 5h shift, I walked/run more than10km and it was no joke. I had my Garmin on for about 4h and you can see all the trips around the transition area that I made with the bikes. You could be either at the finish line to catch the bike, then hand it over to a "runner" who would put it back in its place, or the aforementioned bike runner. We rotated between those 2 jobs every hour or so, but both were rather intense. You can see my Strava workout here. The FlyBys are rather hilarious - see all the people that didn't turn off their bike computers and remained in transition for hours, lol.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on my feet during this trip. And I didn't even mention the run I did right after we arrived at the hotel. We stayed in Ste. Agathe des Monts, a small and charming little city about 30 min out from Tremblant. Zin told me that there was this Strava segment that didn't have a QOM. It was a 1.5km loop around a small peninsula and I said sure, mission accepted. From hotel and back it was going to be a 7km run. What I didn't know about this place was this:
Someone said hills? This place had ALL THE HILLS. And the biggest one was right at the begining of the segment (after the 2km mark). FML. Did I mention it was hot as Satan's balls too? Yeah well... to have suffered on this run is an understatement. It was pretty though...
I did get the QOM, but I finished a drenched, tired and hungry mess.
The trip to Mt. Tremblant was a nice break from work and our routine, but once I made it home, I really needed to stretch my legs. Stretch, spin, move... it led to a trainer workout. Nothing better than a few easy loops on Zwift Island, where I could not help it, but try to break a few PRs up the mountain and in sprints. I was also eager to try my bike after the Retul fit that I had on Friday before our trip. It had become apparent that my previous fit was still hurting my hips/legs, so I had no choice but book another fit, this time with a Retul specialist - and trust the process. The verdict was to bring the saddle back up 3/4 inch and move forward 1.5 inch, and move the handlebars up 1/4 inch. It may not look like much, but it was actually a big deal.

I won't bore you with all the details, but here is my position before and after. Basically, you can see the position of my knee relative to my toes and the angle in my forearms and you will understand that I was too far back and I was not engaging the right muscles in my legs.
Now I feel that I am using my quads more and I am situated on top of my pedals instead of behind them (to an extent, it's like riding a spin bike vs a recumbent bike). I am also more relaxed on the aero bars and I should expect less back and hip pain, for having my hips open more. In the process it also happens that I found a few more watts that were hiding in my engine, so coming back from Tremblant, I was eager to see if they translated in my own setup. I did not have any major revelations during my quick spin that night, but I did break my climbing PR and overall it felt a little easier than before.

On Tuesday morning, Zin and I went to the quarry for a swim. He woke me up at 5:30am, and for not being a morning person, I don't think that I really woke up until half way through my swim. Secretly I was hoping that the quarry would be closed and I could return to bed, but no such luck. I did 2 loops and I felt like eating my arms by the end of it. We stopped for breakfast at Coffee Bean and we had a glorious meal. 3 eggs with Canadian bacon, toast and potatoes, but thankfully I did not finish it all because it was just obscene to eat so much food. Then back home, shower and work - and I could barely function that day - I still wanted my damn nap.
In the evening I did my physio routine because I missed it in the morning. I worked those hips and glutes like a champ, and I could barely walk afterwards. Finally a good sleep, and the next day I was back on the sweat train. Slowly but surely I have been making my way through the Sweet Spot Base Training program from Trainer Road and I had reached the dreaded Palisade workout. 1.5h of over/unders and could barely contain my enthusiasm. However I put on my big girl panties, aka my bike shorts and hopped on the trainer, hoping for the best. It was not easy. I wasn't expecting 30 watts to show up on my graph magically, but it was manageable without me wanting to scream at my screen.
And with that, the hard work in this training program is done. I only have 3 easy workouts left, then I can test my FTP again. After the bike workout I even went out for a run. A quick 20 minute brick, and it was glorious. I have to run more. My next race is an Olympic distance triathlon and the 10K run at the end won't run by itself.

The next day it was swimming again. This time we went to Professor's Lake and I did 3 loops there. At each loop I tried kicking for the 250m between the middle buoys. It was not easy to find a rhythm that helped my stroke. I am too high in the water for kicking without too much drag. The swim wasn't bad in the end, but I am still not convinced that kicking in open water would help my cause. Not even a tiny bit, especially seeing how much energy it sucks out of me. I think I'd rather concentrate on gaining more upper body strength so I can complete each stroke with an increased cadence instead.

On Friday I rested, but on Saturday I was at it again. I took my bike for another 45min spin outdoors, then completed my longest run this year. A full 8km in the scorching heat, carrying my water bottle like in the good ol' days. No pain. Just a little tightness to remind me that I need to be vigilant. That I cannot dream big just yet. My husband may have signed up for an Ironman, but I still have to wait. Another year, maybe. Nobody knows when all this will be just a nightmare of the past, if ever. I have become accustomed to being patient and grateful that I can still move, even if it's not for hours on end.
Sunday was another beautiful day. I started it with a group ride with my tri club, a hilly and windy 60km, but just about perfect from all other aspects. Again, I wasn't sure if my bike fit would deliver enough comfort on rides over 2h, but in the end I came back home with a huge smile on my face and no pain anywhere. Can I have a yay? Make that a yippee ki yay, mother f*er!! (please don't get offended if you don't get the reference). Then in the afternoon, I even went back to the quarry for 2 more loops. I did one loop relaxed, concentrating on my stroke and the second one like a motorboat, high cadence and shit. In the end, the first one was slightly faster, so the proof is still in the pudding. I need to prevent my stroke from falling apart that is.

And this my friends, is an update that I've been waiting to write for long time. Finally, legs are coming around, both in cycling and running. I am making slow but steady progress. I am finally feeling better inside my head too. I did not feel the need to draw semi colons in a while. I am smiling again. I haven't had a bad, terrifying thought in a few weeks, call it months even. I am making new friends. I am giving back as much as I can. I went back on my nutrition program and I lost 6lb in 3 weeks. I feel that things are moving into the right direction, that I am staying positive and I don't worry that much. Maybe this is the right wave, and I'm riding the hell out of it.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015 Bracebridge Sprint Triathlon Race Report

If you haven't noticed by now, I like going back to the same races year after year, especially the ones that I enjoyed a lot. This race seems to fit well in my schedule since we've been sending the boys to camp in Muskoka. Last year it was my first ever sprint distance and an automatic PR, so it was only natural to see if I progressed in any of the disciplines. I wasn't necessarily planning on beating my PR, but I was hoping to see at least a better swim time since it's been the trend lately. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and see how it went, shall we?
Because of the 2h drive to the venue, this race had me waking up before the crack of dawn. Alarm clock went off at 4:30am, and we left just shortly after 5am. It was too early to have breakfast at home, so the plan was to stop by a Tim Horton's Drive Thru and eat on the go. And it's exactly what we did. I ate 2 boiled eggs that I brought from home, a raisin bagel and an orange juice. Saved a banana for transition, just before the start because it's tradition. We arrived on site at 7am and I quickly grabbed the race bib, chip and got body marked. The transition area seemed fairly empty and due to lots of people being late (they got a spanking from John Salt), the start had to be pushed back by 15 minutes.
This gave me plenty of time to set up, chat my anxiety out, go for another portapotty break and finally wrestle with my wetsuit. I even got time to strike a pose to showcase the awesomeness of my shredded armpits. Time for a new wetsuit, you think?
This one is obviously dead and the ROKA I have in the closet doesn't fit me anymore. I am however waiting to receive another cheap one from XTerra to replace this one. Thankfully I managed to buy it during one of their Flashback Friday sales. Can't beat $119 US bucks. I got 3 good years out of this one, so it's not bad for a wetsuit under $200, right? Anyway, I don't think the rips slow me down that much, but the suit is certainly uncomfortable for being too tight.

Rubber bits and all, I went to the river to warm up. Took a few strokes out and back, then went to give a kiss to hubbs. We chatted for a few more minutes, then it was my time to line up in the time trial start. One person leaving every 5 seconds. 2... 1... Go. I felt fast for a bit and then not so much. Unlike last year, I didn't have to zig zag to pass people, but once I reached the turn around buoy, it was like a hit a wall. Could have been in my head, or just the current... But I felt tired. I pushed as hard as I could and it felt like forever to reach the transition mat. I looked at my watch coming out of the water and saw 15:45. Decent result, but I knew in the moment that I didn't beat my previous time in Bracebridge. Oh well, no biggie. Moving on...
I struggled to take off my wetsuit, as usual. However I knew that I had a very shitty transition time last year, so my next goal was to beat that. I moved as quickly as I could with the heart beating out of my chest and eventually got to the mount line, then on the road where I had a sudden brain fart. Do I have to go left or right?? I am glad that cars were blocking the road on the right, because it helped with the split decision to go left and not embarrass myself asking the volunteer which way to go.

Legs were feeling fine but not great. Particularly my right piriformis was giving me grief and I could feel it with each pedal stroke. I definitely need to go for another bike fit, as Zin thinks I am still doing weird things with my hips, especially in aero. I chose to ride "conservatively hard", knowing that this route had its share of hills. No gasping for air this time, but settle the heart rate and ease into it. The first big hill came at 4km in, and I spun up in my lowest gear. I felt bad for another athlete whose rear derailleur broke half way up and was waiting for someone to pick her up.
Then the rain came. I like biking in the rain, but not as much when it involves the Muskoka hills. Another reason to slow down a bit, but ... just a tiny bit. I could not wait for the turn around - I don't know why but my anxiety kicked in. I was still trying to go as fast as I could and pass people, but any race with a time trial start is a rather lonely one. There may be some people in your AG around, but overall it's hard to know where you are in reference to them. I don't remember any girl in my AG passing me, but I imagined a good number of them being ahead of me. I saw Phaedra around km 8 flying downhill in the opposite direction. For sure I wasn't going to get the top spot that day, hahaha.

On my way back I tried going a little faster and I think I succeeded, at least according to the Strava flybys. See how my effort compares with that of last year. Coming off the bike, I was convinced that I beat last year's time, but Strava does not lie. On the road segment, I was slower by 17 seconds. Hey, every second counts (which should have been the title of this race report).
Back in transition, I remembered my goal of going as fast as I could through them. Decided to go sockless again, only the second time in a run since Lakeside Tri. It was just a 5km run after all and my feet were not in bad shape to start with. As usual at this race, the way out of transition and onto the road is UP. A 200m hill which takes your breath away and feels like death. Surprisingly enough I recovered ok after that and kept pushing through. I didn't wear my heart rate monitor during this race, so I was going completely by feel. 5Ks are supposed to be hard, and once more, I chose to keep an eye on the pace and take it from there. I was targeting a pace between 5-5:30/km, but I only peeked at it once I got to the turn around. I was feeling strong and the legs were having the best day ever. So I tried to push a little harder and found another gear. Now that was a surprise.

Here is how it compared with last year. Definitely a faster run (and a longer course by 200m! - does not include the first 100m uphill out of transition because it took that long to switch sports on my Gamin watch).
2015 run
2014 run
The last km was hard though. I could not wait to reach the finish line, especially as I could hear Steve Fleck announcing the finishers from across the river. So close yet so far... Despite being all downhill, the last 200m were not easy - the grass was wet and I was very careful where I was placing my feet. I didn't want to roll down the chute, but run through it, you know. I was so damn happy when I saw the finish mat, I raised my arms up high and celebrated with every ounce of energy left in my body.
It took a little time for the Sportstats results to upload and I had no idea what my finish time was, but eventually Zin told me "you go it!" and gave me my new PR time : 1:28:52 - best time by 8 seconds!! In the end I had a slower swim and bike (by mere seconds each time), but faster run and transitions. Given that the run course was shorter last year, it makes the difference even more significant. I am stoked with my result, especially since I wasn't hoping so much.

Little by little, the legs are coming back!! Next tri, the Wasaga Olympic distance at the end of the month. But for now, a little bit of rest for my hips and glutes to feel 100% again.