Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dreaming of 2010

Finally! I've started to daydream about Ironman. As mentioned in my last post, I've stopped stressing about how much I've enjoyed the off season so far. I'm not training, I'm barely staying in shape and my focus has been on anything but triathlon. But recently, I've started to get small little glimpses into the year ahead, and I start to get the tingle. The butterflies of excitement when dreaming of what lies ahead. With Christmas inching closer, 2010 is right around the corner. If I think about everything that's coming at me fast and furiously in the next year, I run the risk of getting overwhelmed.. so I have to break it down into digestible chunks.

December: I've started to swim once a week and get my water wings back into working order. It feels great to be back in the pool. I was sort of dreading the nights where I walk 20 min in the dark and cold just to get into a cold pool, work hard and freeze during the even longer, colder and darker walk home afterwards. Fortunately, it's been anything but dreaded. Swimming is such a release. It's a great workout, it's a great way to quiet your mind and actually quite relaxing. As for the walk to and from... well - now I have a car.. so it's much less painful :)

December also marks the beginning of outdoor winter sports for me. Today, I'm heading up to Cypress for some skate skiing with the girls. It's a rare bluebird sky day in Vancouver, so we're taking full advantage.

Come January the whirl wind will begin. Because of the Olympics, I won't be able to plan ahead much more than week by week. I'm still hoping to get in some indoor rock climbing to keep things interesting, but since the LETC (my Tri Club) workouts start the first weekend in January, I'm not too sure I"ll be able to fit it all in. I'll have to keep reminding myself to start SLOW. The key words this year for me are FUN, SAFE and SMART. No overtraining for me this year. Slow and steady.

February and March are a write off. I will exists on a day to day basis :)

April I'm hoping to get in some much desired travelling. I have my eyes set on Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia etc. I hope to be gone for 4-6 weeks.

May - what?!?! It's May already... holy crap.. only 4 months to Ironman. I'd better get training.

June, July, August.... training, training, training...

So, as you can see. Before I know it, it will be August and I'll find myself somewhere out on the 180km bike course saying "what the heck just happened?"

Well - seeing as it's a beautiful day out there, I"m not wasting anymore time in here. I'm off for a quick 20min run around the park, then to grab a coffee, some groceries, then up to the mountain for some winter fun!

S.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Living in the moment

I suppose that the off season is sort of like race recovery, or even workout recovery for that matter. Some races take longer than others to recover from even some tough workouts take longer to recover from than others. The key is to take the time to fully recover so that you’re able to re-focus and continue to train hard and face your next challenge with strength and determination.

I’ve been quite enjoying my time off since the end of my season in August (Calgary 70.3). I’ve been spending time with friends, expanding my horizons in different ways to stay fit, enjoying the freedom of choosing to stay home and not put in a serious workout, but more than anything – working. The Games are getting closer everyday and things are really starting to get exciting now. I’m busier than ever, putting in crazy long hours and loving every day of it. On one hand I’m sort of feeling guilty for not getting in the exercise that I hoped I’d be getting (for some kind of continued fitness), but on the other hand, this Olympic experience is so incredible and something I may not ever get to be a part of again that I’m really taking in the whole ride.

There have been many of days lately that I haven’t felt quite myself. I’ve been achy, bloated, heavy and just all ‘round yucky.. and after quickly dismissing my self diagnosis of H1N1, I realize that all the grossness that I’m feeling can be attributed to my lack of exercise the last couple of months. And further to that – so can the extra 7 pounds on the scale! YIKES!

One thing that I’ve always been pretty good at is listening to my body. Especially when it needs rest. Ever had one of those days where you felt totally run down and when you lie down ‘just for a second’ after a long day at work and you end up sleeping all the way through the night? Yup – me too. Heck, I’ve even passed out in my work clothes when I got home, just to wake up the next morning to undress, get in the shower and head back to the office. Those days are few and far between, but when they happen, I’m perfectly happy going with the flow and giving my body the rest it needs. If you give in to the fatigue and give yourself the rest/sleep/recovery that it so obviously needs, I can almost guarantee that you will come back feeling 100%.

So – why all the chat about recovery when I’m not even training? Well, recovery isn’t just for the body, it’s for the mind as well. I’ve been slightly concerned with how much I’ve been enjoying my time off these days. I haven’t thought about Triathlon in a few months, haven’t been anywhere near a pool, and generally call it a day if my workouts creep over 1 hour long. What’s happening to me? Have I given up on triathlon? Have I given up on my Ironman dream? Have I quit? Am I giving in? Moving on? Saying Uncle????? No no no… I have to tell myself “Sarah, don’t be silly. Like everything else, you’re just in recovery. Just like so many other examples that you learned from this year, everyone’s recovery time is different. Some people take a day to recover from a race, others take a week” I leaned this year to pay deep attention to my body and know that everybody really is different in what works for them.

There are people in my club that are still training hard as hell in their preparation for Ironman next year. They are running personal best in marathons this fall and their training plans are ongoing through the winter right into August 2010. This obviously isn’t going to be my plan. I have a few other things happening between now and Ironman that I want just as much to be a part of. Like say… the Olympics. I learned first hand this weekend that the event we are staging here in February is going to be a once in a life-time event. This weekend was the start of the Torch Relay in Victoria and I went over to witness it. As promised, this was an event that embodied the Olympic spirit, embraced a nation and united the community. Seeing the Olympic flame light the cauldron, then ignite the torch and see it passed from proud Canadian to proud Canadian truly was a remarkable experience. It was the beginning of Canada’s winter games here in Vancouver next year and gave everyone a sense of what we will see and feel when the Games begin. Wow.

Not only have I got to experience some of these events first hand, but I”ve also found myself in a very unique position with the Games where I (somehow) have been lucky enough to score a job that will allow me access to every event happening both here and in Whistler. I will get to experience so many different facets of the Games in a truly unique way.

While I often think that I should be getting my lazy butt into gear and start thinking about my training plan for Ironman 2010, it’s not long before I realize that I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games and I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy every minute of it. When the Games are over, I will have plenty of time (seeing as I’ll be unemployed) to re-dedicate myself to my Ironman dreams.

So – long story short – I’m going to continue with my base level fitness, my short runs, late night spins on my trainer in my living room and twice weekly visits to the gym and be content with my efforts. My focus now and thru March 2010 will be to enjoy and embrace every moment of the Olympic movement.

As life will have it, I’ll focus on one life changing experience at a time.




S.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What a summer...

Just as I expected, it's been tricky keeping the blog updated now that I'm not training. Life certainly is different now than it was a few months back. Now that the summer is officially over, the days are cooler and the darkness comes early, I am finally winding down from the busiest summer/year I've had in sometime. As I take a night to finally sit in, and for the first time in 6 weeks not have somewhere to run off too for the weekend, I am taking a few moments to reflect on what an amazing (and jam packed) 9 months it's been:


First work out with LETC (Leading Edge Tri Club)
CPR Course/Certification
Baby Shower for Kierstie!
Personal Training Practical Exam - got certified!
Volunteer: Cypress Mountain - Freestyle Ski World Cup
Volunteer: Whistler Sliding Center - Bobsleigh World Cup
Started Book Club!
Volunteer: Whistler Olympic Park - IPC Biathlon/Cross Country World Cup
Volunteer: Whistler Olympic Park - IBU Biathlon World Cup
Volunteer: Canadian Blind Sports - Guide Runner
Trip back to Toronto for Easter long weekend
Sun Run - 10K
Training Camp to California - Wildflower!
Shawnigan Lake Triathlon - Olympic
Scotiabank Half Marathon
Training Camp in Penticton
Osoyoos Half Ironman
Sarah's Baby Shower - trip to Victoria!
Ironman 70.3 - Calgary
Volunteer: World Police & Fire Games
Friends form Toronto come to visit!
Kelowna Triathlon
Volunteer: Ironman Canada
More friends from Toronto come to visit!
Baby Jefferies is born! Trip to the island...

Whew, no wonder I'm pooped! How did I fit that in with 10+ hours of training a week?

I'm glad that things are winding down a bit now, I'm really enjoying having the extra energy back. I really notice the difference that it's made, especially at work. Things are getting ramped up there and I'm glad to have 100% of my focus and energy there. It's a strange adjustment though - not having to get form one workout to another. I feel a sense of guilt not working out hard everyday and not having been for long runs or long bike rides in a while.. but I keep reminding myself that I put in a great 8 months and I deserve the break.

A couple things that I'm looking forward to over the winter; indoor rock climbing, yoga (oh how I miss yoga), bootcamp classes at Steve Nash (I'm really curious and looking to mix up a bit)

For now, I'll soak up the rest a little bit longer, then get back into some regular exercise. I'm sure I'll find something to fill my calendar with in no time.. I'm not too good at this 'just hangin' around thing. Makes me wonder what the heck I'm going to do next year when I'm unemployed!!!!

S.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ironman 2010

Well, it's official - I'm registered for Ironman 2010.



Being at Ironman last weekend was incredible. I had so much fun, was amazed and inspired. I had my doubts about registering, but I thought about how long I've wanted to do this and how badly I wanted to complete the Ironman and just took the leap and registered. It feels SO GOOD!

I can't beleive I'm going to be an Ironman!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

What motivates you??

I'm here in Kelowna this weekend for the Apple Triathlon National Championships, not racing, but supporting my good friend Tash and a group of other athletes from my club. I'm still really enjoying my time off, and today after a day surrounded by motivated, fit, geared up, race-ready athletes, while I thought I might feel the itch to race, I'm still quite happy to not be racing, and enjoying the down time.

In fact, this past week I've struggled with how much I'm actually enjoying my time off. I'm starting to question if it's normal to feel this releived that I'm through with Triathlon (for the season). I've really been embracing all the things I've been able to do with my free time including having all this extra energy to divvy up into my work and into my social life. This is something I knew was a challenge when I was in full training, but I guess I didn't really realize how true it really is until you get that time and energy back.

I've started to question myself, and my goals for triathlon. Specifically, I've started to question my commitment to Ironman 2010. For the past 8 months, I've completely dedicated myself to triathlon. I've focused, persevered, sacrificed and dedicated day after day for something that I truly believed in. I've had an incredible year and I'm so proud of everything that I've accomplished and learned, but in doing this, it's now become very clear the sheer magnitude of the goals that I've set for myself and exactly what achieving those goals will mean for my personal life, my professional life, my family and all other aspects of my life that otherwise function unaffected by my training efforts and commitments. I question myself now: am I willing to continue to make those sacrifices?

I read an article today in Triathlon Magazine that asks the question "What Motivates You?" It spoke about the rational and irrational motivators that we use to achieve our goals. It summed up the differences as rational reasons for competing in Triathlon being the "respectable and easy to explain to your friends" reasons. The irrational reasons are more complicated, personal and deep. The irrational motivations can be embarrassing and difficult to identify with. They are emotional and can illuminate our deepest fears and desires. It got me thinking about my motivations, and it couldn't have come at a better time given my recent streak of question and doubt.

So today, while laying quietly in the summer sun, I asked myself: "What do I do this for?"

I've always believed that the Ironman is not a race of the body, but of the mind. It's not something anyone participates in to brag about their time, or what place they finished, it's about achieving something that at the beginning seems so unachievable, it's about finding out what you're made of and finishing what you start. What makes this race so beautiful is that it's not something anyone wakes up one day and decides they will do, it's typically something that is on a "to do before I die" type of list, or it's something dreamed of for many years before, and at the very least (as registration is done a year in advance) for the past year, this race has changed lives. Lives not only of each Ironman participant, but of their families who sacrifice time away from their spouses/moms/dads etc and still support them through their training and encourage them through their doubt. It's about the friends and acquaintances that have been inspired and moved by their commitment to achieve. Of course, it's about the journey. The long, long road that, from the finish line, stretches so much further back than the 42km run, back further than the 180km bike or thru the waters 3.8km. It's the journey of hundreds of miles, countless laps in the pool, emotional, physical and psychological triumphs and failures.

Obsessed with this race since my first encounter with an Ironman in 2006, I made it my 5 year goal to complete an Ironman. Starting with a couple if Try-a-Tri's in 2006, I learned enough to move into Sprint distance races for 2007. In 2008 I learned a little more, and falling a little more in love with the sport, I completed my first Olympic distance race. This year, I've trained harder and put in more to Triathlon than I ever have before and out of it I completed the hardest Half-Iron distance race in North America. In the same year, I completed a second half ironman and my first Ironman 70.3 series race. In 2010 I plan to reach my ultimate goal and complete the Ironman. Talk about journey's....

So what's my irrational motivation? The journey. The lessoned learned in those long lonely miles. The sense of pride in finishing something you know, without a doubt, that you deserve. There are times in our lives where we all take free rides. We cut corners, get praise for things we didn't necessarily earn, and sometimes reap the benefits of simply being in the right place at the right time. There's nothing wrong with that, I'm not saying that I'm taking a free ride anywhere, I'm just saying that in triathlon, and specifically with the Ironman, there isn't anyone that will get you to that finish line besides yourself. When you do, it's all yours. To celebrate. To consume. To soak in and know - you did it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I get so much more out of this sport than what's on the surface. This passion runs deep for me and I hope that everyone has the opportunity to find something they can be passionate about.

S.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I 'heart' summer

So it's going to be tough to keep blogging the next few weeks. Now that I've completed my last race of the season, I am making the absolute most of the summer. I've been on more patios, drank more beer and stayed up later in the last two weeks than I have in all of 2009 so far. It's been awesome.

Last week I played beach volleyball on a Tuesday night for a friend that was down a player and we went out for beer on a patio afterwards. Friday night I went out for drinks with a friend that was in town from Toronto and we stayed up waayyy to late. Saturday I was up in Whistler watching a mountain bike competition and was not shy with the beer and pizza (again) while enjoying a summertime patio.

I still managed to get in at least an hour long workout every day either in the gym, in the pool, a run and a nice 2 hr bike ride this morning (all that beer and pizza comes at a price you know), but it's been really nice doing it all for the exercise and not for the "training".

Next weekend Tash is off to Kelowna to race and I'll be joining her as the official team TriHard cheerleader. It should be alot of fun. The weekend after that is IRONMAN CANADA!!! I"m still pretty excited to be volunteering. It'll be a great way to close off the summer.

S.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Calgary Ironman 70.3

Last weekend I was in Calgary and completed the Ironman 70.3. What an awesome race and an awesome weekend. It seems like ages ago now - its been a very crazy week since I've been back. I flew home Monday morning (early) and went straight from the airport to the beach where I helped set up for the World Police & Fire Games beach volleyball which I was volunteering for all week.

The race in Calgary was great, and not just for the race, but for the whole weekend. Mostly because I got to spend it with my Mom and share with her a little bit of my passion. She's so supportive and it was just incredible to have her there cheering me on.

I'm having a hard time getting a blog out this week, partially because I'm a bit tired from a crazy busy week of long days at the beach followed by late nights out "experiencing" the Games. :)

I think the real reason for lagging behind in the review and break down of my race, something I typically really enjoy looking back on and re-living via the blogging experience, is that despite my AMAZING season this year, and how much fun I had..... I'm sort of relieved it's over.

Yes, I'm kind of glad to see my race season come to an end for now. I've been training hard, been completely dedicated and focused on training and being completely involved in Triathlon for the last 8 months, that I'm really looking forward to just enjoying what remains of the summer.

I love Triathlon and everything it gives too me... but like everything - you get out what you put in, and I've put in alot. I'm enjoying the relief from training schedules and commitments. I'm really enjoying my time off and I think I will take it pretty easy for the next while.

S.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I 'heart' Vancouver

I'm having the best summer. It's been absolutely beautiful here in Vancouver so I really have nothing to complain about. This weeks been awesome - I had a great week of hard workouts, I'm back feeling totally 'with-it' at work, I went to a BC Lions Game last night and today started with a 3 hour bike ride with Tash where we rode to, then up Cypress Mountain and then stopped to enjoy the view on the way down. This afternoon was spent napping/relaxing on the beach in the 30 degree heat of Vancouver's untouchable summer so far. Tonight, I'm hangin' in listening to the rain as it cools down the city.

After a scorcher of a day, welcomed thunder storms rolled in around 5:30. Here's a few pics and a video from my apartment balcony.



video

Tomorrow morning I'm up early to swim, then my last long run before Calgary next weekend. I'm flying in on Friday, get to spend the weekend with my MOM!!!! Race Sunday, and come home Monday to prepare for a weeks holiday volunteering with the World Police & Fire Games. I'm the Team Lead for Beach Volleyball which is down at Kitslano Beach. A week watching Officers and Firefighters sweating it out playing beach volleyball..... yeah... another tough week for Sarah.....

Happy Training!

S.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The A Race

I can’t believe how nervous I was on race morning. I didn’t think I was, I had driven down from Penticton alone in the car, quiet, enjoying my coffee and the calm of early mornings. I had done some visualization, a preparation strategy used by many and something I have learned to incorporate into every race. I was confident and really excited. I set up transition exactly as I had pictured it, I hadn’t forgotten anything and I had everything systematically laid out just as I needed it. It wasn’t until 10 min before the race that I started to feel the nerves - I was only slightly behind schedule thanks to the predictably long lines at the port-o-potties and I struggled to put on my wetsuit as I had already started to sweat in the heat of the 630am sun. It was going to be a hot day. After a short warm up, I was on the beach with a few other team members who were there to support and to race – each of whom brought some calm through cracking the usual jokes and offering the reassurance that I was prepared and going to have a great day. I'm not sure exactly what was going through my head at this point, to be honest it was a bit of a blur, but I do remember feeling sick and actually shaking with anticipation. I think this was the first time that the distance of the Half Ironman actually dawned on me. Up until this point, I looked at each of the three legs as individual units – today – I was going to string them together in one long, demanding test of endurance that will challenge my physical readiness and my will to complete one of the hardest courses in Canada.

Swim: Mass starts can be daunting. Should to shoulder, pressed back to front standing on the beach, the gun goes off and 111 women race into the water. Luckily, and I’m not sure why, but I am not bothered by the washing machine experience of these types of starts. It’s a turbulent mess of arms and legs. People ramming into you from either side, white water splashing and the unfortunate, but inevitable case of someone swimming right over top of you. Some how, I’ve managed to stay calm and just seem to keep going until the field spreads out and the chaos subsides. It usually only takes 2-300 meters. By then I’ve found a good set of feet to draft off and I’ve settled into a mantra that keeps me evenly paced and clear headed through the 2000M swim. Left arm, right arm, left arm, right arm, left arm, right arm….. Simple. Effective. Before I knew it, I was coming out of the water from my first lap, running around the beach buoy and diving back into the water for lap two on pace and feeling good. I swam pretty well and looking back I think I could have gone a bit quicker – I amped it up for the last 500M bringing it in strong. I wanted to swim in 40min or less – I ended up doing a 41:29. A lesson in pacing mostly, I really could have done a sub 40.

Something fun about this swim – they had wetsuit strippers! If you’ve read any of my past post-race blogs, you might remember that I have a particularly difficult time getting out of my wetsuit after the swim. This is because I have a serious case of noodle legs and between the adrenaline and the seasickness (yes – swimming in choppy water where I’m raising up and down with the waves actually makes me seasick) getting out of a skin tight rubber suit can prove to be a challenge all on its own. Not this time. I see the guy just outside transition waving me in like an air traffic controller directing a 747. With two hands rhythmically pointing to me then to the ground in front of him, I (ever so gracefully I’m sure) come in, lie down on my back, legs out and SWOOSH! With one rip he flings my wetsuit off and I’m back on my feet running into transition. Su-weet!

Bike: As I’m running out of transition, fumbling with my bike computer (something I should have done pre-race) I encounter another race ‘perk’ – sunscreen applicators! A few ladies standing on the directional turf out to the bike course shout as I approach “do you want sunscreen?” of course, my answer is “yes!” and in an instant, there are three women (6 hands!) rubbing my arms, back and legs with 30SPF. Nice! And just like that, I was out on the bike course.

Super stoked on my swim and my ‘catered to’ experience in T1 (first transition) I was smiling and feeling good about the being on the bike. Coincidentally I ran into Stan, one of the experienced members of our Tri-Club who was out riding the course as a bandit (he wasn’t registered in the race but out riding the course – is this technically illegal? – no… but not exactly something that’s encouraged). All smiles, and full of support Stan rode behind me all the way up Richter Pass. The climb up came and went with ease, something I feel like I owe to my training rides the week earlier. The rollers on the backside also came and went without much effort. I was riding well, felt great and on pace. It was just before the half way aid station that I caught up to and started to pass a few people, a confidence builder for sure. Despite having just caught a few, I stuck with my race plan and at the aid station stopped to refuel, pit stop (use the port-o-potty) and eat once I got back on the bike. In doing so, I felt 100% turning around, and catching a welcomed tailwind heading back on the only flat portion of the course.

Of course, knowing that this is not an easy course by any means, my ride wasn’t all smooth sailing. I climbed up and over the rollers heading back, each one starting to get a little harder than the last, and although I had caught up to a few people and passed them, I was also pulling a small pack of four or five. This is not a draft legal race, and while they probably weren’t close enough to be getting any huge physical advantage from my draft they were close enough to gain a mental edge. When you’re in front of the pack, you feel a little like a rabbit being chased. You’re not quite sure who’s behind you, how close they are, how they look (if they’re strong or struggling) it’s a bit of a guessing game that can distract you from your race. When your behind, it’s easier to relax, focus on the pace the leader is setting and stay cool. You can see if they are getting tired, watch where they are fading and use the fact that you’ve caught them as motivation to over take them. When that happens, not only does it boost your confidence, it deflates the person that you’ve passed. So, as the final roller approached, and it’s a big one, it took it’s toll on me and I really struggled up it. I lost my rhythm and got passed by 3 on the climb. It was a bit of a downer and it’s where I started to hurt a little. At this point too, my back was really starting to hurt and I knew that the tough part of the racing was starting.

I had been racing for over three hours, two and a half of them on the bike in the 35 degree desert heat. I had just been passed by three on a tough climb and another one was gaining ground closely behind. Up ahead – I still had to climb the back side of Richter Pass. I tried to stay relaxed, but the straining pain in my back made it almost impossible to do. More pain = more tension = less energy = slowing down = getting passed by one more person = another blow to the confidence. At the bottom of Richter Pass, I could see all the way to the top, and half way there already was the pack of 4 I had pulled through the last 20km’s. It was a long and lonely climb watching them get further and further away. By the time I reached the top, they were long gone, however, so was my “Debbie Downer” mood (thanks to a shot of sugar/electrolytes) and I celebrated another successful win in the “Sarah vs Richter Pass” climbing series. I had a huge smile on my face and decided that it was about time I got off this damn bike. Maxing out at 71km/h I raced down Richter and caught two of my ungrateful-clinger-ons. I was in great spirits as I finished up my ride in 3:38h.

Run: Once in transition, the first thing I did was take a 2 Litre jug of water that I had prepared and poured it over my head and down my back. The heat is a serious factor in the desert and the dousing in water was a tip handed to me by someone who raced last year. On the bike, your core temperature can rise without much notice since the wind (especially after just flying down the pass) can keep your surface temp slightly cooler. However, about 1km into the run, the still, scorching heat can hit you like a truck and by then, it’s too late and your reliant on aid stations. Definitely glad I took the advice, as I left to start my half marathon in good spirits and in pretty decent shape physically. Because of the heat, the run was definitely a matter of running aid station to aid station, I used my heart rate monitor to stay on pace, but I don’t think it would have mattered – I had only one speed this day and going too fast was not going to be an issue.

Soaked sponges, salt tablets, crushed ice, water, water and more water I ran through the first 15km’s comfortable and happy. I was with a few people I rode the bike with and even caught a few others. Because it was a two loop course, I saw lots of smiling familiar faces coming and going on various parts of the course. Lots of support and lots of encouragement.

With about 6km to go – the real race began. The body does strange, strange things when you push your limits. I first knew things were starting to go downhill when stopping to walk through the aid stations hurt worse then continuing to run. The change in muscle requirements starts to become painfully obvious. You start to have limited ability in what your body will offer and you have to choose – will it be the constant motion of running (looking straight ahead, arms systematically swinging back and forth, and the unchanging rhythm of your legs) or will it be the new muscles called on to walk, the energy required in saying "water" to aid station volunteers, grabbing food, chew ice etc. because it’s getting harder and harder to do both. Knowing that passing up water/sponges at aid stations is not an option, I go from “hero to zero” pretty damn quick. I’m 6km to finish and the tank is no longer running on fumes – it’s empty, and no amount of crushed ice is going to refuel it. I ran with a girl (that I passed coming down Richter) until about 3km to the end. Then my race was over – I was cross eyed, my ears were ringing, I had stopped sweating (bad news) and I knew that getting across that finish line was the only important thing. Slowly, the girl I had competed against, practically shoulder to shoulder for the last 2:20h drifted ahead and around the corner. Finishing was now my only goal.

Finally, after a 2:26h half marathon, I crossed the finish line at the Osoyoos Desert Half Iron. I finished in 6:52h and in 11th place in my age group. That girl that drifted away from me at just shy of 2km from the finish was the 10th place girl in my category and took the final spot for the World Championships. While I thought I would have been devastated at not qualifying, turns out that I’m not upset at all. I gave it everything I had, left nothing on the course and have no regrets.

I remain loving this sport and have a whole new respect for the demands it makes. I’m proud of myself for finishing, and look forward to racing again soon. 2 weeks to be exact. I’m heading to Calgary to race the Ironman 70.3 (Half Iron) August 2. I’m excited to see what that race will hold for me now that I have one of the hardest races in Canada under my belt and a little experience to learn from.



Thanks to all for the calls and support! Here's a pic of me trying to put on my game face at the swim start - totally faking it - I was freaking out! S.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"The hay is already in the barn"

Last week I had an epic week out in Penticton training on my own in preparation for my big race this Sunday. I was so glad that I went, I got in some huge rides, saw the bike course, ran the run course, slept, ate and relaxed.

Thanks to my friend Adrienne, I had a place to crash right in Pentiction that was steps away from the Ironman Canada start (287 steps I think). Adrienne wasn't even around that week, but a few new friends from Calgary were and her place turned out to be a hub of Triathletes from all over that were there all doing the same thing I was.... training.

I left casually on Monday afternoon, it was a beautiful day to do the 4.5 hour drive into the interior. I decided to do the Hwy 3 route instead of the Coquihalla Hwy as someone tipped me off that it was a much prettier drive - and HOLY SMOKES was it ever! It's a twisty, windy route through the mountains with some of the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen. Again, I've done a fair number of road trips and travelling throughout North America and this drive had me pulling over at rest stops to take it all in and (quite literally) giggle to myself that I actually live in this place.

Because this week was more about mental preparation than anything else, the workouts weren't killer - tough - but not killer. In the end, it was 6050M of swimming, 160km's of riding, and 32km's of running, but the quality of these miles far outweighed the quantity.

Tuesday morning I eased into the week with one hour of continuous open water swim.
Conveniently, Penticton has a nice 1900m buoy line that stretches from one end of the beach to the other. This also happens to be serious Triathlete territory so by 6am there's a pretty steady stream of swimmers heading into the water for their morning workout. The waters are calm, clear and free of sea monsters (ie: shadowy figures darting past you or underneath you that you typically encounter when swimming in the ocean or other water where you can't see the bottom - très freaky). Of course - this is my vacation, so I don't head down for my morning workout without first enjoying my morning coffee on the beach.
After a bite to eat and some daytime TV back at the house, I was out for my second workout - a ride up to Apex Mountain. Again, incredible scenery, quiet roads and PERFECT weather. A balmy 29 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

Thanks to my new Blackberry Curve -not only did I always have a phone on me in case I got stranded out on the bike, I was able to take pictures all week while out on my adventures and upload them to Facebook right away! I love technology :)


The best part about training weeks like this - is that your only purpose is to train and recover. Which means alot of eating and sleeping. So after my ride - back to the house to eat lunch, then off to the beach for a nap! Woo Hoo!

Wednesday morning started with a 2000m time trial in the water. I was really excited to see what kind of pace I would need to have for the race next weekend, and what kind of time I could expect to see in the swim. This morning I was going to swim hard like I was racing and see what the result was. Unfortunately, when I got down to the water, the calm smooth glass like water from the day before was no more. It was super choppy, white caps even! Great. So regardless of the unwelcoming swells, I get in the water and give a good effort to complete the workout I wanted. It was a tough, tough swim but in the end I did 1900m in 40min. Which I think can be translated into a decent sub 40min/2000m swim in calmer water. I was happy. Waterlogged from all the water I choked on, but happy.

I headed back to the house (just a few steps away remember) and changed into running gear and immediately headed out for an easy 35min run. My legs were still sore from the Half Marathon that I ran on the previous Sunday, and from an IT band that apparently had strained during that race. I was taking it easy and trying to work it out. By the end it had loosened up. After some lunch, more daytime TV and a quick nap - it was off to Osoyoos (about an hours drive away) to ride the infamous Richter Pass which is the first part of my bike course, and a well known force of destruction on the Ironman Canada course. My plan was to ride up it twice just so that I knew I could handle it on race day

In case you didn't know, Osoyoos is Canada's only desert. It's hot, dry and, oh yeah - HOT. By 1pm when I got down there, the mercury had risen to a comfortable (read with sarcasm) 33 degrees Celsius and not a stick of shade to be found anywhere. I parked in the Husky gas station parking lot, doused myself in sunscreen, loaded up on liquids and headed out. The climb is about 13km up the side of the mountain - with a few flat parts to break it up - I did it very easily in 50 minutes. I stopped to take a picture of the backside when I got to the top, then turned around, whipped down in just shy of 25min, re-applied my sunscreen and headed back for another climb to the top. Again, the climb taking 50min and doing it easily. I was stoked on it being not as big of an obstacle as people had made it out to be.

After my two satisfying climbs, I headed back to Penticton for a nap and some good recovery time on the beach.. ahhhh.. I love vacation.

Thursday I found the water in the same condition as the morning before - choppy, cold and unwelcoming for my planned speed workout. Oh well - it was great training. I did a great interval workout and was joined by Sean, a friend of Adrienne's who was also staying at the house and training for this years Ironman Canada in August.

In the afternoon, I headed back to Osoyoos to do 1 loop of the 2 loop race run course. I mentioned before that it was HOT in Osoyoos and I meant it - it was another blue skied, 33 degrees with no sign of a little cloud cover to break up the scorch of the mid day sun. I was just doing an easy 11km, slow - just looking to get a feel for the course, not to do it in record time. I was well hydrated, rested and fueled and headed out. By the time I had gotten back to where I started, I had taken 3 walk breaks, was seeing stars, had a small incident with a little vomit and was having trouble breathing the thick desert air. Ok - so the heat is intense. Duly noted. It was a darn good thing I had taken the opportunity to acclimatize before the race - these are lessons much better learned before race day. Luckily I could dip in the lake, cool down quickly and relax under the shade of a tree before driving back to Penticton.
Friday morning I did a nice easy ride out to Naramata. Penticton is wine country and Naramata is it's capital. Nothing but vineyards and rolling hills with the backdrop of the lake and the mountains. Not a bad way to welcome the day if you ask me. The afternoon had in store an easy 45 min run, but after the beating I took in the heat the day before, I had a hard time completing the run and pulled up after 30min. Recovery is key. To the beach I go.

Saturday was my big ride. I was heading to Osoyoos to ride the bike course in it's entirety. Fueling up and heading out from the would-be transition area, I started my 90km journey well prepared for the heat and the challenges this course had in store. Richter Pass was over and done-with in 45min this time as I was well versed in it's every nook and cranny and I chugged up with little effort and happy to have done the climb 2x a few days earlier. This time though, I would not be turning around at the top, but rather descending down the backside of Richter and heading out into the unknown of Hwy 3.

I heard about the "Rolling 9" on the backside and that they can be just as, if not more daunting than the climb up Richter to begin with. When I came across, one, and then another, then another... and so on through 9 big descends, followed by 9 big climbs. Each one getting a bit tougher to climb out of as you get more and more fatigued as you go. The trick??? Don't stop spinning your legs! The faster you go down, the less you have to pedal up! I made it through with some energy on reserve - good thing too, because the course is an out-and-back so everything I just did, I'll do again heading home.

At the half way point, I stopped at a little corner store to refuel (eat) and reload (water). The coolest thing about riding out here is the people you run into. People at every turn that are out there (mostly) training for Ironman Canada. I have so much respect for those people and what they are taking on. I haven't yet run into anyone who doesn't take a few minutes to chat with you to talk about their ride, what's coming up, and give you a bit of advice if you ask for it. Triathletes are such wicked people - must be the fraternity of pain we all belong to - an understanding between those that are suckers for punishment.

The way back proved to be more challenging than the way out (usually is). I was getting tired, hot and knew that the climb back over Richter Pass was looming and would be a tough go that I was going to have to dig deep for. After the 5th, 6th, 7th.... 8th..........9th.... climb out of the rolling hills, I saw the inevitable. There she was. Urgh, that damned hill looked big even from 7km's away. I made my way up it, slowly but surely. I got some encouraging honks likely from other Triathletes passing by in cars heading one way or the other. When I got to the top - I turned around and celebrated at what a huge success I had just had. It's that feeling there that gets me through so many workouts, climbs, races, obstacles, whatever - it's that feeling of accomplishment that can't be beat and can't be duplicated. It's awesome.

Hyped up on my "Me vs Richter Pass" win, I started my descend down the other side with a huge grin on my face and my mind on my prize. About half way through the ride home I decided that I wanted one of those Rocket ice pop things - you know the ones.. the red, white and blue things that you buy from the ice cream truck. Hell ya - I wanted one SOOO badly. I think it was part of my motivation to get to the top. I stopped at the Husky at the bottom of the pass and sat right there on the curb sucking down the frozen, sugary goodness and very much satisfied with my ride.

Sunday was my last day. I packed up from Adrienne's and headed back to Osoyoos to do one more loop of the run course. I didn't want to leave having such a tortuous experience with the run. It was a good decision in the end as I ran a decent pace, felt really comfortable with the course and finished feeling strong and not as sick as I had a few days prior. Feeling good, I took a dip in the lake to cool down, stretched on the beach and hit the road for Vancouver by 2pm.

What an amazing week it was. Training aside - I was relaxed, I slept, I ate, I read my book. It really was an awesome vacation. BC is so incredible and I feel like I've only just started to explore what it has to offer.

This week I've taken it really easy. I got in a run workout last night with the club, but as Coach Drew told me - "the hay is already in the barn" (another eye rolling classic line from Drew)- meaning, the training is done. Now, all I have to do is prepare myself mentally, keep hydrated, get well rested and enjoy the race on the weekend.

So, I'm off now for a quick spin on my bike before I pack up and head back to the interior. Wish me luck... only a 2km swim, a 90km bike and a 21km run stand between me and the possibility of the Long Course Triathlon World Championships next year.

S.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Personal Best

Yesterday I ran the Scotiabank Half Marathon here in Vancouver. It was a perfect day, a beautiful course and I ran a personal best finishing in 2:00:14. My goal was to finish sub 2 hours, and I was shy of that by just 14 seconds, but being that it was still a PB - I'm not to upset about it.

Today I am packing up and heading out to Osoyoos for the week where I'll be training my butt off for the next 6 days. Coach Allen put together a crazy program for me which includes about 8300M of swimming, 10 hours of biking and 4.5 hours of running. I'll be riding the infamous Richter Pass in Penticton which is well known for being the gruesome climb on the Ironman Canada course, running the half marathon run loop and swimming a 2000M time trial - all in preparation for my big race - the Desert Half Iron July 12.

The other important part of this week is the heat. Interior BC is a desert and the mercury rises to about 40 degrees during the day with very little humidity. It's plain old hot. This week will help me acclimatize and get used to the smoldering temps.

This may not be everyone's ideal vacation - but I am stoked on this week. I'm feeling stronger than ever, and with a personal best behind me, I'm feeling like this week will make me all that much stronger for my quickly approaching race in just 2 weeks.

I plan to post updates this week. So stay tuned and send all your extra energy my way.

S.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Centenial bike ride and good company

So I've been slacking off on the ol' blog posting lately, but what can I say? Life gets a little busy sometimes. Rather than try to cover all that's been going on lately, I'll just pick right up with this week.

I've finally completely recovered from my burn out. A little break from the training grind, a mix up with my workouts and of course, great friends to help distract me from my woes was all it took. I'm back and feeling 100%.

Yesterday, Jeff (a friend and training buddy from my club) and I packed up our bikes early and headed up to Whistler to get a little change in scenery for our 4 hour ride. The plan was to park at Whistler Creekside, ride up to the Olympic Nordic Center in the Callaghan Valley, and make up the remaining time down the highway until turning around and heading back to Creekside for lunch on the patio at Dusty's. Unfortunately things didn't go exactly as planned, but good thing for us, we're adaptable people and when the highway was closed because of down power lines south of Whistler, we improvised and drove up the the Nordic Center to start our ride from the bottom of the Ski Jumps.

En route to the top we came across a little friend on the side of the road. A bear! He was just chillin out in the grass eating berries and doing whatever bears do on Saturday mornings.. Jeff had never seen a bear before so we quietly pulled over and took a picture. Just as we snapped this shot, someone coming up the road behind us laid on their horn and swerved onto the gravel shoulder doing what could only be interpreted as their best effort to scare the bear away! Both Jeff and I were a little confused at why anyone would scare the poor thing, he was just hanging out. But it only took a second for us to clue in why it wouldn't be a good idea for bears to become accustom to loitering along the side of the road... maybe it had something to do with the fact that in just a few minutes, we would be riding past that every spot on our bikes (without the comfort and protection of the car between us and the wild bear). So that worried us a bit. Oh well... we carried on.

By the time we reached the top of the Callaghan Valley, the weather (as it will in the mountains) did a 180 on us and we found ourselves in the freezing cold and pouring rain with only thin layers of barely water proof clothing on. Between the Winnie the Pooh sighting and the down pour, we were starting to think our day was doomed. BUT - we decided that we would only be embarrassing ourselves if anyone found out that we drove all that way and a little rain deterred us form our Saturday ride. We could tough it out. We decided not to think about the bear.

That was the best decision we could have made. We headed south once we got to the highway (safe and free of any more bear encounters..) and we ended up riding all the way to Squamish. The rain had stopped only a few minutes down the mountain and the rest of the ride was perfect. We turned around in Squamish and headed back putting in a sold 4:36 hours and 103km's on the bike. It was awesome.

We went for lunch on a patio on the river in Squamish, and a bowl of yam fries and 4 diet cokes later, we were headed home feeling pretty darn good about ourselves and our epic ride.

This morning was a really challenging swim in the ocean. The water was choppy and tough to swim in, but it made for a good skill building session. Sighting, drafting, all that good stuff. Now I'm just waiting for my friend Jess to give me a call so we can go for a run. Next weekend is the Scotiabank Half Marathon. This will be Jess' first half, so I'm going to run parts of the course with her today.

Only three weeks left to the Osoyoos Half Iron. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm working on my race plan this weekend. I'll be going through that whole race in my head and getting a preliminary 'runsheet' of what that day is going to look like and feel like. It will include things like when am I going to leave Vancouver for Osoyoos? What will I do the day before race day? What time will I go to bed? And also the beginnings of race day details - what time do I get up? What do I eat for breakfast? When do I head down to the race? What do I do pre-race? etc etc etc.

Coach Allen has suggested this will help reduce my anxiety on race day. Anything that will help.

That's all for now.

Happy Fathers Day Dad! I hope you had a great day. I miss you and wish you were here!

S.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Burn Out

Last week I experienced a little thing called burn out. 6 months of hard training has caught up to me and manifested itself as a total meltdown at last weeks track workout. The 4 x 1 mile repeat workout turned into a "me-against-the-track" showdown... in the end, the track won. I couldn't get 100m into the mile before the little voice in my head started telling me how slow I was running. How I should be running waaaay faster at this point in my training. How everyone else seems to be improving leaps and bounds and yet I'm still struggling along.... slowly. It was torture. Eventually it ended in my total caving into the doubt. Breaking down and giving in. I wasn't about to start negotiating with myself all the things that could have formulated a bad workout and try to convince myself that I was just having a bad day. Nope. I was so mentally beaten up, I was just going to take my sorry self home, cry, and try to deal with it in a few days. It was time for a break.

They say that "recovery" is the fourth discipline of Triathlon. Clearly the discipline I need the most work on. When training, you spend a significant amount of time in the pool, on your bike and in your runners. You plan appropriately by re-working your schedule around pool times, go to bed early so you can fit those 4 hours on the bike in Saturday morning, and make sure to get in that nap and big dinner so that your charged for Sunday's workout. We watch what we eat and when we eat. Make sure we've got gels, powerbars and plenty of water when we leave the house. All of this so that we get the most quality out of our workouts. But often we don't pay nearly enough attention to the most important part - recovering.

I've been learning, that there is alot more to recovering then I thought. When up until now I thought that on my day off, as long as I wasn't training, I was recovering. I guess in the same way I thought that running consists only of putting on a pair of shoes, or that swimming was simply going back and forth in the pool. Well, after a few years, I know there is much more to it than that.

Recovery is managing stress, replacing your calories, sleep, hydration, and taking the mental break too. All these elements of training that, if not tended to in recovery, will hinder your performance in the upcoming week (and/or weeks). Who knew that recovery was so much work???

So how do you know when your not recovering properly? Well... if your like me, you miss all the signs and it shows up all at once in the form of complete implosion and a hot mess of sobs and snot. OR you can pay attention to the signs of fatigue:
  • trouble falling asleep
  • dizziness when your get out of bed in the morning
  • loss of appetite
  • low grade fever
  • sore throat or cough
  • stomach pains / nausea
  • painful lymph nodes in neck
  • generalized weakness
  • skeletal discomfort
  • prolonged fatigue
  • generalized headaches
  • various neuropsychological symptoms (sensitivity to light, forgetfulness, irritability, confusion, difficulty thinking, inability to concentrate, depression)

Leading up to my burn out, and for a few days afterwards, at least 9 of those symptoms were present in some way or another.

The best thing I could do for myself was take a little break. I changed up my workouts so that they were fun - on Wednesday instead of riding with the club, I hiked up the Grouse Grind (nature's stair climber straight up Grouse Mountain here in Vancouver). Thursday night Tash and I decided to forgo the club run and do our own down at Jericho Beach and topped it off with dinner on a patio.

It wasn't a big change, but the mental break I got from removing the pressures of "training", even if no physical break happened, made all the difference in the world. That was the much needed recovery that I had been missing. By Saturday, I got my mojo back and got in a good 3:45h on the bike and Sunday felt great in a 1:30h open water swim, followed by a 1:45h easy run.

Coach Allen gave me some really helpful insights and tactics to focus on in the next few weeks. I'm going to change up my mental strategy and hone in on my fatigue symptoms so that I recover properly and pay attention to what my body is telling me. Most importantly (for me), I'm going to try and incorporate mental recovery periods into every week. Things like spending time with non-triathlon friends. Do non-triathlon related activities. Find a distraction that's non-triathlon related so that I'm not constantly thinking about Triathlon!

I'm glad I got over this bump in the road, but I have to say - this one was a big one. Some days, it all just seems impossible. But the good thing about bad days, is that even they will pass, and then - their gone.

S.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Not to shabby

So the first race of the season is over - and not a bad start to the summer either.

Saturday morning my Tri friend Jeff and I left early to catch the ferry to Victoria. Vancouver has been lucking out with the weather the last week or so - it's been clear blue skies all week and perfect temps day in and day out. It made the ferry ride and our drive up island perfect for road trippin'.

Jeff scored us accommodation at the Camp right next door to the race. Shawnigan Lake isn't exactly close to anything, especially an abundance of overnighting options. Rather than spend $100 for a night in a hotel, which would be a 45 min drive away, and still require us to have to take the shuttle into the race, we stayed at the $20 a night cabins right next door. True, this was barebones, no electricity, no heat, but we had full shower facilities, the place to our selves and the camp people even fed us breakfast in the morning. We still can't figure out why the place wasn't packed to capacity. We totally scored! Nice job Jeff.

So when we arrived Saturday afternoon, we got ourselves settled and I took my bike out for a spin around the bike course. Jeff was nursing a pulled hamstring so he opted to stay back at camp. The bike was an easy 20km loop which I would do twice on race day. Nice rolling hills, nothing to tricky. The only thing keeping this from being a really fast course, was the twists and turns and the crazy huge potholes! If you weren't watching and rode into one, it would swallow you and you bike up hole and no one would ever see you again. Believe me, they were big.

Okay race day.

Everything ran smoothly in the morning. Thanks to our stellar accommodation, we were up at 5:45, ate breakfast, changed and over at the race start by 6:30. The Half Iron race was starting at 7am and my Olympic distance race didn't start until 8am. I had plenty of time to warm up, relax, get comfortable and think about my race.

Swim: I had a few goals in the swim. First, I wanted to swim with a pack the whole distance. I wanted to conserve energy, but also improve my open water skill by being strategic in the water. My plan was to find a draft and staying with it. Second, I wanted to stay positive. I wanted to swim a race where I kept my mind positive the entire distance. I reminded myself that this was a learning experience and that in this swim, I was going to use the hours of training and coaching that I've received to improve as an open water swimmer. I wanted to swim smart. Thrid, if I accomplish my first too goals, the idea was that in doing so, I would swim a decent time of at least 35 min which would have been a personal best for me.

Well - I swam smart and swam fast! I stayed with a pack for the first of the two loops, stayed on a good draft right up into the second loop. At one of the buoys about 1/4 into the loop, my whole pack took to tight of a turn and headed off course! I was the only one that sighted properly and saw where the next buoy was. Yey for me... but this meant that I swam the rest of the course pretty much on my own. I still swam smart, paced myself well and got out of the water in less than 31 min! A HUGE personal best! I was so happy - if my race had ended there, I wouldn't have cared.

Bike: The swim to bike transition always makes me laugh. It's so awkward - your legs are noodles, your really light headed and your trying to move really fast peeling yourself out of a wetsuit. Luckily, no mishaps this time. In and out no problem and hit the road. Overall, nothing exciting happened on the bike. I wanted to pace properly and that was my focus - to do the second loop faster than the first. I stayed fairly easy in the first loop, concentrating on pace, cadence, hydration and nutrition. Almost right way on course however, I grabbed my water bottle for a drink and in doing that hit one of those stupid potholes. It jarred me enough that my water bottle went flying through the air out of my hands. Being so early in the course, I had to stop and get it. No biggy, took less than 30 sec to get back on track. I was just glad it didn't cause a flat tire. That would have sucked. In the end, I don't think I went as fast as I could have, but I was happy with the ride.

Run: Heading out on the run my belly was full of gels. Bloated and belly slooshing, I hit the trails thinking again about pacing and being strategic. Unfortunately because of said gels and slooshing, most of my concentration just went towards trying not to puke. BUT - by the 5K turn around I had absorbed everything and felt 100%. Heading back, I was fooled by the mile markers on the course and when I saw marker 8km I hit the gas, got into a stellar pace, feeling fantastic I powered my way through to kilometer 10. Unfortunately when I got there, I was totally spent and wondering where the hell was the finish????? Turns out that the mile markers were in place for the Half Iron course (which was on the same trail). So when I thought that I was running full out KM 8-10, I was actually running hard KM 6-8. So tired and confused I had just over 2km's left in my race. ARGH! I kept running not knowing exactly how much further to go, if I was off course, or if I was crazy... but eventually I made it to the finish line with a 58min 10km run.

Final time: 3:07
Final place: 6th in my age group (of 13)

Final thoughts: Overall - great race. The run could have obviously been better, but lesson learned. I was so stoked on the swim, I'm not too upset about the rest. It was a great way to start the season.

Now - back to training. Only 7 weeks until the big race in Osoyoos (July 12th). Time to focus and get in the quality workouts.

Happy Training!

Sarah

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Best Place On Earth

After this weekend, if I wasn't already, I am completely convinced that I live in the best place on earth. This week was back to training as normal and I got a few wicked workouts in. Saturday, I took full advantage of this beautiful place I live in and went on a bit of a biking excursion. I took off early Saturday morning and rode my bike right onto the ferry out of Horseshoe Bay over to Langsdale on the Sunshine Coast. From there, I rode through Gibsons, Seachelt and followed Hwy 101 right up to Halfmoon Bay. It was amazing. I took my time checking out the sites and scenery. Enjoying the day and taking in the views. Big rolling hills, low traffic and roads made for riding made this 100km round trip a perfect way to spend the day. Here's a map so you have an idea. This is a little longer than I did, I turned around at Halfmoon Bay.



It was a great ride, and the longest that I've ever done. I think I will do this one again sometime.




Sunday I was in the pool as per usual. An hour and a half swim followed by an easy 1:45h run in the trails. I love the long easy workouts, it gives you a chance to chat with your fellow club members and it's a great time to learn from the more experienced athletes and even use them as sound board for some of the issues that your facing. Recently I'm finding myself struggling with the work/training/life balance stuff. I have two major influences in my life that I am very passionate about. My job and my training. They are both things that require a huge amount of focus and dedication and it's difficult to be 100% in both places. I certainly give 110% in effort in each, but it's just impossible to perform 100% - there is only so much energy to go around.


At work I'm finding it hard to concentrate. I find my mind gets exhausted by the end of the day, while I'm not physically tired in that I'm cranky, easily irritated or similar physical signs of fatigue. It's more like my brain is functioning like its sunk in mud. Slow. I can't think on my feet, think two steps ahead or 'outside the box' so to speak. I'm very task oriented and seem to only be able to complete the task that's been handed to me.


When I'm training, I'm more focused and seem to be more present than when I'm at work. But still, training requires alot of effort. Silly statement? Not in the sense you think. I mean that if I learned anything at training camp, it's the value in all things outside of the training field. I'm talking about fuel, psychological state and rest. I no longer can just show up with my running shoes/bike/swim suit, I have to be prepared with the right amount of sleep the night before, the proper nutrition throughout the day, the appropriate pre workout fuel (and timing of), and the right head space (ie; letting go of any daytime stress and focus on the training). This all takes organization, preparation and constantly thinking 24 hours ahead of what your doing. Too lazy one night to make lunch the night before? Well, there's very little time to do it in the morning, and chances of being able to buy an appropriate meal at the cafeteria at work isn't likely. So just because I slacked off on the prep the night before, I'm not only forfeiting a day of good nutrition, but I'm also wasting a workout because I won't have the energy to make the most of it. Seems like a simple thing, but I'm finding that I'm living in a constant state of routine and process.


So between balancing my energy with work and training, where is there time for anything else? When do I do anything not related to one or the other of those things? The simple answer? Never. Every now and then I have a full day off (like this long weekend for example) and it's then that I have the chance to take a step back , look around and realize how long it's been since I went to the movies, saw friends outside of a training group, went out for a restaurant dinner, or did ANYTHING outside of my day-to-day, week-to-week routine.


I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. The truth is, that there isn't anything that I'd rather be doing than riding 100km's on my bike and doing a 2hour run on the weekends. It's my passion and I'm lucky to have something in my life that I am so passionate about. I guess I just want my cake and to eat it too. I want to train full time, be the best at my job, have relationships that don't require more than a once a week 'check in' and a social calendar that makes Paris Hilton jealous. But, reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day and between 9 hours of sleep, 9 hours at work and at least two hours of training, that leaves 4 hours for things like eating, resting, socializing, errands and all that other 'life' stuff. I'm not superwoman and am not going to pretend that I can fit it all in.


For now, I'll focus on the things I think are most important and the things that matter most.


This week will be a little easier. Not only is it a recovery week in our training calendar (we always build hard for 3 weeks, then take 1 week easy). But next weekend is my first race of the year! I'm heading to Shawnigan Lake on the island for the Olympic distance.


Wish me luck!


S.









Monday, May 11, 2009

Helllllllo Wildflower!

A successful trip down to Lake San Antonio for a week of amazing training with great friends, great weather and a whole lotta fun! I'll waste no time giving you the low-down:

Day One: I left EARLY Sunday morning (4:15am early) to drive down to Seattle to catch my 9:30am flight. It was my first time driving to Seattle so I was sure I would get lost or something, but to my surprise - the drive was completely uneventful and I rolled into the Park'n'Jet in time to seamlessly catch the shuttle to head to Sea-Tac in perfect time to catch my flight. I got to San Fransisco easy breezy in less than two hours, my bags showed up and I was right on schedule. What's the catch you ask?? You must know me well to question why things are running so smoothly.

Coach (Drew) was supposed to pick me up at 12:00 noon and at 11:45 I text him to let him no I had arrived. At 12:15 I called and left a message telling him where I was. At 12:40 I started calling every 5 minutes. At 1:00pm black mini van with BC plates and a neon t-shirt wearing, white sun glass donning, frantically waving man hanging out the passenger window comes ripping through the terminal honking and yelling "We're HEEERRRRE!". Ah. My chariot awaits.



Turns out that Drew left his phone on the roof of his car at the last pit stop and now his I-phone is a part of the I-5.

Four and a half hours later, after a few pits stops for groceries, gas, cheap US drug store flip flops and a few other random road trip items, we arrived at Lake San Antonio camp site and home sweet home for the next 7 days. Since we were pretty much alone on site most of the week there wasn't much to check out when we finally settled.

Andrew and Adrienne had been in the car for 17 hours or so, so they were eager to head out for a quick spin on the bikes to loosen up their legs. I on the other hand had gotten up at 4am and had a much more eventful day. But - "when in Rome...." So we went for a quick 1hour easy spin through the park. WOW! It was incredible. So beautiful, I could barely believe it. There were nothing but big hills and more big hills. There are no flats, you're either going uphill, or downhill. I knew I was in for a good (read: hella hard) week of training.

Day Two: We all arrived safely and got settled Sunday evening. We started off Monday as we would every morning this week. With a big cup of coffee, a big healthy breakfast sitting in the sun of the morning. No rush to get going - we're on vacation!! Deal was that we could get up whenever we wanted, as long as we had time to eat a big breakfast and be on our bikes by 10am. For those of you that are not morning people, that may sound early, but for those of us that are cursed/blessed with the 6:30am natural alarm clock - not having to be ready until 10am was a perfect casual start to any day.

Training for the day? Easy 48km out and back on the Olympic race course. Like I said, there are no flats here. Either uphill, or downhill. But the best part? We're out in the middle of nowhere! No cars. New pavement. No potholes. When you're going downhill - your flyin' downhill! Tuck into your aerobars and enjoy the ride!


Back to camp in just a little over two hours and started to make lunch. Ate to our hearts content, relaxed for a bit and headed down to the beach for the first open water swim of the season. Felt great to be out of the pool and into the lake. Despite the (what'd you call them Drew.. "lake dust bunnies??") whatever they were.. it was gross.




At the end of the day - we ate a great big dinner, had a hot shower (thank god) and did our 30 min of yoga out in the open field while the sun set. Really? Not a bad way to start the week.

Day Three: Big ride today. We fueled up in the morning with a big breakfast as usual and headed out to ride the half iron bike course. This is not only the longest ride I've done, but by far was the hardest BUT was also the most beautiful. It couldn't have been a better day, the sun was shinning, blue sky and warm temps. We rolled up and down hills, rode through long stretches of wine vineyards, country roadsides, mountains and lakesides. It was awesome.

About 3hours into the ride we met what I had been forewarned about and thankfully well prepared for (mentally that is). Nasty Grade. A climb straight up 5 miles / 1,000 feet, 41 miles into the ride. Let me tell you, it's rightfully named and it's reputation is well earned. This climb is seriously tough.

I made it, it wasn't pretty - but I made it. And the best part of that climb? The view at the top is to die for, the ride along the ridge as you turn to head back to camp is spectacular, but it's the long winding descend down the other side that makes Nasty Grade worth climbing. On brand new pavement, with no cars in sight.. its pretty fun racing down at 70km/hr on 14lbs of carbon fiber! WOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!

90km was a good ride, but don't think that was the end of our day. This IS a training camp. So, as soon as I pulled into camp, quick transition into my runners and I headed out for a 45min trail run. Low heart rate, easy run. Crazy? Nope, crazy would have been stopping. After that long and hard of a ride, I had to keep moving to keep my legs form cramping up. The run felt sooo good. A nice change up for my muscles. Once I got back form my run, it took about 10-15min of pacing around camp before I could stop moving. When I stood still - ouch! Hamstrings cramping.. gotta walk it off.

So what keeps you motivated at hour 4:50 of a workout? Food. You start to think about everything that your going to eat when you get home. And eat we did.

Day Four: Another tough workout today. Run/Bike intervals. We do a 10km bike loop then a 1 mile run. We do this combination 4 times each one getting faster than the one before. It's tough. Because of the workout the day before, this was probably the hardest workout. I loved it. I descended (went faster) with each loop and my last mile run was 37 seconds faster than the first. I love having days when everything comes together in the workout. You feel so strong in the end.

And then we eat. Oh how I love lunch.

After lunch we held to the beach. Swim time. This wasn't an easy swim either. Two medium length intervals, a long interval and finished up with 2 x 200m sprints. How does Coach keep you motivated to sprint fast in the water after two hard workouts like we just did in the morning? A little game called Scared Rabbit.
You line up single file slowest swimmer to the fastest and race out to your buoy with 5 seconds in between. The slower swimmers have to swim pretty damn hard otherwise everyone behind you catch up and (purposely for simulating race scenarios) swim right over top of you, knocking and jarring you the whole way. Sounds fun doesn't it? Well - guess who's one of the slowest swimmer in the group??? Yup. Yours truly. I made it to the buoy first in the first sprint. The second sprint I wasn't so lucky. Thanks Coach for the "learning experience". Some people call that abuse, but I guess you can get off with calling it "tough love".

Best part of training? I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Food. Following our swim, we all went out for Ice Cream!!! Yum!

Day Five: So the two hardest days are behind us. Phew. Today, a 3 hour bike ride out the Olympic bike course and beyond. An easy spin. Marie, Michelle and I took advantage of riding without the Coach there and stopped for a few key photo ops. Chatting with the girls makes 60km just fly by.

To celebrate the week starting to wind down (for those that were racing) we all met up at the nearest store which was a little 'hill-billy' place called the Bee Rock about 6 miles from camp. Nothing like pizza and beer in the sun to make the perfect end to the perfect training day. Nice helmet hair Clay.


I was excited to get back to camp that afternoon - things had started to pick up around the site and the race Expo was starting to open! Starting Thursday afternoon, people started to steadily arrive and set up camp around us. The energy was starting to build!

Day Six: Today was an off day for those that were racing so we had planned a trip out to the coast to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and check out the views.

I got in a 35min easy run just to stay fresh, then we were off just after lunch time. The drive was beautiful.
We took the route through the Military camp which made for a pretty interesting drive. Super steep, windy roads that while incredibly scenic, didn't agree with our friend Stan. He almost lost that lunch that he worked so hard for.

The main attraction on the coast, besides the breathtaking views, is an Elephant Seal sanctuary right on the highway. Thousands of seals sitting right there on the beach mere feet from where your standing. Amazing creatures, but pretty smelly if you ask me...




We took a different route back inland and meet up with the rest of the crew in Paso Robles, the nearest town, for a nice dinner in a restaurant. If it hadn't have been for the a$$holes that slashed two tires on two of our cars back at camp which for obvious reasons caused some undue stress on Stan and Michelle it would have been a nice evening. Instead, Stan had to have a few 'extra' beer just to dull the pain of situation. In the end, all is well. Clayton was a hero in driving everyone around to get new tires, and changing 4 flats in just a few hours before dusk. All I have to say is Karma is a real thing and whoever it was that decided to take out their frustrations on some Canadians is going to get what's coming to them. Karma.

Day Seven: Race Day (Half Iron). Adrienne was racing today. Marie, Drew and I went to the top of one of the first BIG climbs out on the bike course and cheered on the men coming out of the water and heading out to do that nasty ride I had done just a few days before. Some of them looked prepared, others had no idea what they were in for. The atmosphere was fantastic and the smiles told us they were thankful for the support at that particular part of the hill. Adrienne had a great race and finished 2nd in her age group (that's pretty stellar considering there are thousands of racers).

Because the roads were closed for the race I couldn't get out for a ride. Instead I went out for a 1:10 run along the bike route and supported while getting in my workout. The camp site is clearly in full swing now as about 30,000 people have shown up for the weekend. It's a much different camp site now. A little busier if you can imagine.

Saturday night was pretty average. Dinner, stretching, hanging out reading a book, streakers. Oh yeah, the annual Wildflower Naked Mile.
Wildflower is a big event for the Collegiate racers. What do college kids like to do best? Run around naked of course. They came out of nowhere, although you could definitely hear them before you could see them. At least the wave of noise gives you plenty of time to grab your camera. God bless college kids.


Day Eight: Last day. It started early with Brenda and I out on the Olympic bike course before the day's races started. Its' funny how physiological biking can be. After doing the Olympic bike course four times that week, it wasn't a long hilly, tough ride anymore, by being familiar with each twist, turn, climb and downhill, the 40km ended up being a real quick out and back and didn't seem like much of a work out at all. It was a nice simple way to start the day.

We watched Coach Drew, Stan, Clayton, Teresa and Brownwyn kick butt in the race. Teresa won her age group! Seriously, she kicked ass. After I saw all the guys on the run course, I headed down to the expo to do some last minute shopping before packing it up and heading back to San Fran to catch my flight home.

What an incredible week. I can't believe how much I learned and how valuable it was to my training. Really - the information I gathered through friends and training partners at this camp would have taken years to come by in any other situation. I'm so lucky to have had them and this experience. I can't wait for next year.

Life is back to normal (sort of) and race season is upon us. My first race of the year is coming up next week.

All the pictures can be found on Facebook here (you don't need to be on fb to view this):
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=254642&id=641950343&l=87d37a443b