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.


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!


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.