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!


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!


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):