The First 100

There are some milestones and moments you remember forever as an endurance athlete: your first race at any distance, those magical PBs you bust your ass to achieve, the struggle bus races and training sessions, the first time you pull out of a race, and the list goes on. I’m still relatively new to triathlon, so I have yet to experience many milestones in the sport.

While I will always remember moments like finishing my first triathlon, I wanted to tell you about another important milestone that I hit last month at training camp: my first 100 km ride!

It happened a few days into our trip and was not something I had on my radar before we arrived. As I was deciding whether or not to sign up for the training camp, I studied the tentative itinerary, which early on had ranges of distances to be covered; for example, 40-60 km hilly ride. Then I did that thing that we know we’re not supposed to do and that we tell each other not to do: I completely lowballed myself. I assumed that I was physically capable of completing only the bare minimum on the itinerary, and didn’t set any bigger goals for myself, other than to make it through camp in one piece. So, when I saw one of the rides would be 80-120 km, I immediately thought, “Okay, I will be able to ride 80 km if it’s on a flat route and I’m with a group.” The thought of riding 100 km never crossed my mind, to be honest. Why did I make that assumption? Anyone’s guess.

Anyhoo, I digress.

On the Tuesday morning of camp, we did a quick open water swim and then drove up to the Van Fleet Trail. If you ever find yourself with an opportunity to bike this trail, do not pass it up. It is a long, flat trail that connects to other local bikeways and is mostly straight. It runs through a park and is completely separated from vehicular traffic. SIGN. ME. UP. Once we got out of the van and got ourselves sorted, we started chatting with some fellow cyclists in the parking lot who, it turns out, were also from Ontario?! They very kindly took a photo of our group and then we were off.

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Photo: Phaedra (courtesy of our parking lot friends)

Like most of the week, the weather was great, if not a bit crisp at the start. I started the ride with a tank top and arm warmers, shorts and compression socks, and a light jacket on top. I took off my jacket on our first stop because the sun was out and I was already heating up. Someday I’ll learn how to dress myself properly for outdoor cycling.

First stop: gator family! Despite being exceptionally paranoid about encountering gators and other wildlife while training in Florida, Phaedra assured me that on this particular trail I could see some gators (even babies!) safely from a distance. I was especially excited about this, and they did not disappoint! I took a pretty cool video of Mama Gator slithering through the water too, although I spoiled it by humming the Jaws theme in the background. Here’s a photo instead.

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After some goofing around for photos and taking in some fuel, we got moving again. The first part of the ride was mostly on shaded trail in the wildlife park. There were a few cyclists around. We mostly had the trail to ourselves, which was great. We rode out of the shaded area of the park and to the end, stopping on the odd occasion to fuel and stretch. We saw some tortoises on the trail, which were super cute, and even some sandhill cranes!

We turned around at about 42-43 km and started the journey back towards the parking lot. I knew the others were planning to continue on 7-8 km beyond the parking lot and back to round out to 100 km. I expressed interest in wanting to go the full distance, yet I was unsure of how that would actually play out for me.

Around the 65 km mark, the novelty of being on the trail started to fade and I just got tired. I knew without question I would make it back to the parking lot because, duh, how else was I getting back other than riding there? However, I had serious doubts about whether I could push on to make it to 100 km.

I felt like I had been adequately fuelling, averaging about a bottle of liquid per hour and a gel/fruit bar every 30-45 minutes, so I think the fatigue I felt was just from being out there for so long. Regardless of fuelling, everyone tires at some point. That was clearly my point. My only focus became getting back to the parking lot. 86 km would still be one hell of a long ride, and I was more than ready for it to be over so I could bask in my new distance record.

I can’t say at exactly what point my thoughts shifted and I became fixated on making it the full 100 km. My mind felt garbled and even though I was tired, I knew I would be filled with regret if I didn’t push myself the full distance. What other opportunity would I have to ride on traffic-free, flat roads?

I weighed both of my options and before I knew it, we were riding past the parking lot. I can best describe that feeling as the one I get when running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the half course separates from the full. There is that brief moment when you have to decide whether to throw in the towel and run up Bay Street with the half marathoners, or continue on to finish what you started.

I decided that day, I would ride on. Sure, I was tired. I had just ridden 86 km. Of course I was tired. What I didn’t want to be was tired and full of regret, so I committed.

I was hanging back a bit from my fellow campers. Eric and Phaedra traded off riding at the back of the pack with me throughout the ride, and both ended up riding with me for the last 10-ish kilometres. To fill the awkward silence (ha), they kept me entertained. When they tired of telling me stories, they resorted to singing. Just when I had forgotten this gem from childhood, it got resurrected in a big way during training camp. Seriously, it may have been the anthem for the week. 🙂

The last half hour of the ride or so truly was a blur. I remember being hungry and just so focused on finishing the ride. It was a definite case of tunnel vision. I called out every km from 90 onwards. That must have been a real treat every 2-3 minutes. As we got closer to the parking lot, it felt more like I was finishing a race than a training ride. I was so happy to see everyone at the end. A few of us conquered the 100km distance for the first time that day, so there were celebratory high fives all around. We stuck around for a bit to regroup and take a few photos. I somehow mustered the energy to take the customary bike-over-my-head shot to mark the momentous occasion. 

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Here are a few numbers for those interested:

Distance: 100.3 km

Time: 4:09:24

Average Speed: 24.1 km/h

Average Heart Rate: 132 bpm

Calories Burned: 1,511 (replaced with a protein shake, pizza, and cheesy bread. #noregrets)

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I can say with some level of certainty that I would not have pushed myself that far on my own, so consider this another endorsement for taking on big, scary things in groups of like-minded, supportive people. I’m super thankful that my coach was there to support me through it. It was just icing on the cake that it was also Ryan’s first 100 km ride and we got to experience it together, even if he was ahead of me. 😉   

So, that’s the (thankfully uneventful) tale of my first 100 km ride! The ride was, hands down, one of my favourite workouts of the week. It also gave me hope that some of my long-term triathlon goals aren’t completely out of reach. I still default to underestimating my abilities, which I’ll need to do some work on before the outdoor riding and racing season starts.

I’ve got big goals this year, and I can’t let me, hold me back.

 

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This one time at triathlon camp…

OHMYGOSH. I’m not even sure where to start in telling you about camp. I’m clearly going to have to write several posts to capture everything I want to say. Some of the experiences I had were so amazing, that I simply could not do them justice by mentioning them in the body of a longer camp recap. I will use this post to share some general things, and then I will have some more in-depth posts to write about things like travelling with my bike, my first 100km bike ride, and my first DNF (yep, cue the sad trombone.).

I guess the first thing that I want you to know is that even though I expected this camp to be a ton of fun, it went above and beyond my expectations by approximately a million percent. Despite being such a small group, I met several new people and we all meshed very well from day one. Perhaps most importantly, I learned SO MANY THINGS about myself as an athlete.

Before I dive into some of the specifics, I thought I’d share the workouts we did for the week.

Saturday: Arrival/bike reassembly/check-in

Sunday: Ride to Winter Garden – 67.6km//3:02:10 (22.3 km/h) NB: This was a distance record for me at the time.

Monday: Brick repeats at Lake Louisa Park – 3 repeats of 5km riding, 1km off the bike (+ an extra 5km ride for good measure. Ha.)

Tuesday: Open water swim/drills in the morning – 507m//12:37 (2:29/100m) + Flat ride on the Van Fleet Trail in the afternoon – 100km//4:09:24 (24.1 km/h)

Wednesday: Clay trail run in the morning – 5.03km//32:33 (6:28/km) + Ride to Buckhill – 36.5km//1:42:48 (21.3 km/h)

Thursday: Cherry Lake ride in the morning – 28.1km//1:15:54 (22.2 km/h) + Run off the bike – 5.02km//32:24 (6:28/km) + Open water swim (drills and turning) – 390m//11:55 (3:03/100m)

Friday: NTC Day! Track workout! ~6km (Planned: 400m repeats; reality: 100m repeats, 200m recovery) + Strength and stretching – 1:00 + Pool swim – 1750m//42:25 (2:26/100m)

Saturday: Pre-race ride w/ race pace effort – 24.2km//1:02:09 (23.2 km/h) + Run off the bike – 1.48km//10:01 (6:46/km)

Sunday: Race day! Planned: Aquabike – 1.5km swim + 40km ride; reality: 471m//18:17 (more to come on this one!)

Total:

Swim: 3,117m//1:25

Bike: 268km//12:07

Run: 20.6km//2:21

Strength/Stretch: 100

Overall total: 301km//16:51:00

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This was by far my largest volume of training in a single week. Ever. It’s kind of mindblowing to look back on, actually. I can’t believe I did that much physical activity in one week!

Obviously, the biggest shocker here for me was the volume of riding I did in a week (and that I enjoyed most of it!). I would say that this camp was definitely a game-changer for my cycling. I now love riding my bike outside. I know, I know. Who am I anymore? I experienced many ups and downs (both figuratively and literally) during the rides. The happiest, most frustrating, most exhilarating, and scariest times of the week happened for me while we were out on two wheels. I felt confident, brave, scared, amazed, frustrated, surprised, and proud. Sometimes all during the same ride. That’s quite a range of emotions, friends.

Anyhoo, my week at camp sort of gave me a taste of what it might be like to train for a longer race, and it absolutely gave me a motivational kick in the ass. I’m eager to fully recover (from the camp and my injury) so I can throw myself 100% into training this summer.

Now that I’ve outlined what we did for the week, you might be wondering some other things. NB: I know you’re likely not wondering anything. You should all know by now that I’m going to tell you these things anyway. I’ll use an FAQ format to perpetuate my hope that you might actually be asking yourself some of these things.

Wait a minute – you’ve been injured since forever. How did you prepare your body for a training camp?

Truth. It’s been a hot second (who am I kidding – a hot few months) since my *entire* body has felt 100%. One of the many benefits of doing a camp with my coach was that, in addition to preparing beforehand, we were able to check in after each workout and make adjustments throughout the week, if required. We were able to do something of a build before camp. I had already been swimming regularly and once I had my bike fit, we were able to get a wee bit of volume in before camp, including a few short bricks. The running is what it is right now, and we agreed that I would just run to the extent that my body tolerated it. I would say, on the whole, the running went pretty well.

How did you get your bike there?

Good question. Long story short: we used a local bike box rental service. We rented the boxes, disassembled our bikes (I KNOW, I KNOW! I can’t believe I did this, either!), and checked them as oversize luggage. For me, it was the most stressful thing before the trip. I can safely say that it was significantly easier than I thought it would be. It was relatively inexpensive and I would recommend it. During the process (and the week, in general), I learned *so much* about my bike and how it works. I’m really grateful for that. There are a number of options to consider when shipping one’s bike, so I’ll write a separate post about this.

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Where did you stay?

Um, only in the funnest house in Florida with the funnest people from Toronto! Not kidding here. We rented a big house that had everything we needed! Lots of beds, ample bathrooms, a kitchen, as well as a pool and hot tub (didn’t see a ton of action, oddly enough). It had some serious Golden Girls vibes going on. I liked it. I frequently referred to the outside area as the lanai, even though I don’t think it technically was a legit lanai.

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What did you eat?

I think the better question is what didn’t we eat. Of course, a house full of hungry triathletes had a kitchen full of great food and once the workouts picked up, we were eating pretty much non-stop. Although there were some treats in there, we mostly ate sensibly. The wonderful Eric got breakfast going for us in the mornings, we were on our own for lunches, and we each took turns cooking dinner for the group every night. I loved this approach because it meant that we really only had to worry about dinner for one night, which made things super easy. There were a number of trips to Publix (almost daily), and I would say that grocery shopping was our fourth discipline that week.

How was the weather?

Oh. My. God. (Janice from Friends, anyone?) Even though I couldn’t control it, I worried about the weather before we left. A lot. I am most definitely a fairweather cyclist. The thought of riding/racing in the rain is still scary for me. I know I’ll have to get over it sometime. However, we had sun for the entire week! It got hotter as the week went on and we finished up camp with temperatures in the high 20s. Perfection. What I will say is that the mornings were pretty cold. Like, 4-5C cold. When the sun came up, though, it got hot pretty quickly. The temperatures provided an escape from the tough winter we have had. I managed to get some really weird tan lines too.

Will you do it again?

110% YES! Heading back to Clermont next year is already a priority in my vacation planning. The riding was so much fun, and this camp was a really great fit for me, particularly as a first-time triathlon camper and beginner triathlete. I had read about camps before, and wondered if I would ever be able to participate in one. I’m so glad I decided to go. Having an entire week to devote to nothing but my training was the best use of a vacation for me. Despite the fact that it was incredibly physically demanding, I found being at camp with like-minded people quite relaxing. It made me appreciate my sport that much more, and I came back feeling mentally refreshed and motivated to set some challenging goals for the coming season.

So, that’s about it for the general part of my camp experience. I’ll be writing a little bit more in depth about some of the things I discussed above. If there is anything else specific you’d like to know more about, let me know!

Have you ever gone to a triathlon camp? Any tips for first-timers or specific camps/locations you would recommend?

I’m Going to Camp!

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She lives! Well, she’s been living the whole time, to be fair. I’ve got lots and lots to tell you since I last checked in. Perhaps the most important thing is that WE’RE GOING ON VACATION! And by vacation, I mean to a triathlon training camp to beat my body up for a week and do a race jumpstart my season with some outdoor training in sunny Florida. At least, I hope it will be sunny.

Back story here: by the time Christmas rolled around and my injury seemed to just be digging in further, it became clear that I was not going to be in any shape to run a spring marathon. We tried a few times to adjust my training plan and even toyed with running one of the local Toronto marathons to make it happen. Alas, it was not meant to be. My slow recovery has been a confirmation that we made the right call on this one. I was hella disappointed, and at a loss as to how I would keep myself occupied over the winter months. After a long chat with PK, I decided to sign up for a camp she and another coach were organizing. Ryan was already signed up, and it seemed like the most logical choice to give me something to look forward to over the winter.

Au revoir, Paris; Hello, Clermont!

Now that camp week approacheth, I wanted to check in and give you an idea of what I’ll be up to south of the border!

  • LOTS of cycling!

I know. I’m as surprised as you are that cycling outside is at the top of the list of things I’m most looking forward to in Florida. I’ve gotten a long overdue tune-up on Waltzing Matilda and I even had a bike fit! It was an odd process, and not all like I thought it would be. As expected, there has been a bit of an adjustment period with my new components. I was worried for a while that I would not be able to adapt to the new riding position. However, I’ve had a few rides on the trainer and am slowly getting my cycling legs back. The riding in Clermont is supposed to be amazing, and I can’t wait to log some miles outside to set myself up for a great summer of riding once I’m back in Toronto! Famous last words.

  • Open water swimming.

Naturally. Winnie is getting all packed up for some OWS adventures in the lakes of central Florida. To be honest, training in nature with wildlife kinda freaks me out. I don’t like running in the woods and isolated areas for fear of bears and coyotes (I know, I’m a wimp. That’s not the discussion we’re here to have, though, so let’s move on, shall we?), so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about alligators in the lake. It wouldn’t be a check-in from Courtney without a healthy dose of melodrama here now, would it? Right. We will also be swimming in a massive outdoor swimming pool. How cool is that?

  • Running on a clay trail.

Who’s excited about running again? MEMEME! I’ll tell you more about this when the time is right, of course. Things on the running front have been progressing. While not nearly as quickly or as linearly (is that a word? Let’s go with yes!) as I would have, we all know the old bod is in control of such things. It’s like I always say: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned an injured runner. Anyway, I’m grateful for every single pain-free minute of running these days and I’m eager to give my body a little break by running on some softer surfaces.

Oh, yes. When I was signing up for camp, we weren’t sure what state I would be in to race (there is no sprint at this event; only an Olympic). My logic at the time was to sign up anyway, keep at my running rehab, and drop back to the aquabike if I wasn’t convinced that Queen Crankle wouldn’t kick up a fuss. I’m still waffling a little bit and a final decision is coming in the next day or two. Either way, I fully expect to be toeing the line on March 18 in some capacity. Considering I’ve missed out on a number of my favourite winter road races this year, I am chomping at the bit for this! (By the way, congratulations to everyone who raced Chilly on the weekend!)

The details of the daily workouts are a little more complex, of course. We’ve been given a tentative itinerary that scares the bejesus out of me. However, Coach PK thinks it’s doable and what isn’t, can be adjusted, so on with the show. I’d also like to interject here and say how very fortunate I am to be getting a week of face-to-face time with my coach. I know a lot of people don’t get that, so I’ll be taking full advantage! 🙂

The logistics of getting ready for camp have been interesting so far. I had many, many questions, the most pressing of which was what I would do about my bike. Should I ship it? Should I rent one? PK was pretty insistent that I bring my own bike, since that’s what I’ll be riding for the rest of the season. Makes sense. A bit of digging around also confirmed that’s the route taken by most people travelling to training camp. We decided to rent hard cases to transport our bikes and then it dawned on me: I’m going to have to take apart my bike to fit it in the box. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha. It will be a very interesting evening Chez Duffigan when that goes down. Stay tuned.

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As you can see, I’ve made a master packing list. I am a planner who thrives on to-do lists, so this is helping me feel a bit better prepared. Ryan is the polar opposite, and is not a planner at all. Surprisingly enough, we travel very well together. Go figure. I am still waiting on the final word on what I should bring and what I can skip (items with a question mark, obviously). My first impression? That’s a lot of shit to bring.

Seeing all of the things to pack, picking up the bike boxes tomorrow, and the thought of taking apart my bike are all making me nervous. The good kind of nervous, though. I’ll be sharing a house in Florida with people I don’t know (with the exception of Ryan), so I’m a little nervous about that. Everything will be fine, of course, just the typical nerves before a new experience unfolds. All very exciting!

Even though social media has been draining the heck out of me lately and I’ll probably take a break from it real soon, I plan to be active-ish while I’m down there. With lots of downtime to stay fresh for the following day’s workouts, I am also hoping to do a little writing. If you don’t hear from me during the week while I’m away, though, you can expect a monster post once I’m back and settled. I know I’ll have a ton to say about my very first training camp experience!

Have you ever been to a triathlon training camp? How was your experience? Have I gone off the deep end with the packing list? Have you ever flown with your bike?

You are what you eat

Howdy! I wanted to check in and talk about a topic that is usually pretty touchy with most people: nutrition and weight loss.

Before I dive into what’s been going on with my own nutrition situation, I want to point out that I have no expertise in nutrition; I am simply writing about my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Nothing I write should be interpreted as advice and if you need guidance with nutrition, you should seek help from a qualified professional. I also do not believe that there is a single approach to nutrition that works for everyone. I respect each person’s right to decide what they put in their bodies and I expect the same in return.

Several times, I’ve written about how I’m unhappy with my gradual weight gain over the last 1-2 years and how I know that my less-than-stellar nutrition is playing a huge role in my athletic performance. I have been needing help getting back on track, and have been quite vocal about it.

For a few months leading up to the holidays, I was mentally ready to start committing to better nutrition, yet something had not fully clicked. I was motivated to eat well and feel better, yet still found myself having dessert or reaching for an extra glass of wine more often than was good for me. The bridge from thought to action was a slow build.

For better or for worse, I have been here before. I’ve already lost a ton of weight in a healthy way, so I know I can do it. Losing weight a second time is considerably harder than the first time, and infinitely more frustrating. I know what I have to do, yet I just can’t seem to get it together in executing it. Having already been through it, losing weight should be seemingly easy, which makes it even more frustrating when it turns out to be much harder. Does that make any sense?

I’m also harbouring some counterproductive, yet perfectly normal, feelings of anger toward myself for letting my weight gain progress as far as it has. I’m trying to feel those feelings and move on, recognizing that they will not help me achieve my goal of feeling better. Thankfully, I am making some progress with this.

To help things along and to keep me accountable, I’m working with a nutritionist for the next few months. I’ve already met with her a couple of times. I will admit that the holidays were pretty relaxed on the eating and drinking front, and it’s been a gradual transition to healthier eating.

Seeking professional help for my nutrition goals is scary. I’m working really hard not to feel ashamed and embarrassed by it. It’s okay to ask for help when you’re struggling and I know this and, in fact, tell my friends this all the time. I just need to practice what I preach. Why are we always so hesitant to take our own advice?

When I was losing weight the first time around, I kept a food diary religiously. As liberating as it was to not have to do that once I hit a goal-ish weight (read: when I felt great), I recognize that I may always need to track my food in some form as a method of accountability, and that is a-okay.  

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I bought a new journal. Isn’t it pretty? Right now, we have decided that my food journal is best kept in a notebook, as opposed to an online platform, like My Fitness Pal. Online trackers are heavily focused on calorie counts, and might instill some unhealthy habits in me from the start (Keeping in mind that nutrition and its tracking are completely personal and never one-size-fits-all, I’m moving ahead with what I think will work best for me. To be clear, I’m not slamming online tracking platforms and people who use them.). I’m undecided about whether or not I will weigh myself daily, as that has been a triggering behaviour for me in the past. So far, I have not been weighing myself. I’m getting kind of curious about my progress several weeks in, though, so I may do that soon.

As for how I’m feeling, I can feel such a huge difference, particularly in the last couple of weeks. I’m sure I will be sharing bits and pieces of my experience over the next few months. Don’t expect a weekly weigh-in post, though, and probably not even before-and-after photos. When I’m ready to transition out of weight loss mode, trust me, you’ll know. 🙂 Similarly, if there’s a particular aspect of my experience that you want to know more about, let me know. If there is an interest in reading more, I would be happy to write about it!

I’m not a great cook and my photo skills and creativity are limited to iPhone snaps and filters, so I had not planned on sharing many of my meals on here. I will occasionally post something on Instagram if it has been extra tasty, or I worked particularly hard on it. While I can follow a (simple) recipe with the best of them, a food blogger I am not. If you’re interested in me posting or writing about an occasional snapshot of what I’m eating, let me know and I can throw in an occasional photo or a day of eats.

So, that’s about it right now. More to come!

I Resolve…

Ah, 2017. You started off so bright and promising. I had big plans for you. As the year went on, though, you became more like my friend Emily aptly described you: a scooter to the ankle.

This isn’t entirely fair, as there were many high points over the year, too. It was a very up and down year. The good things were really good, and the bad things were, well, really bad. I dealt with a lot of unexpected stuff in 2017. Some of it threw a real wrench in my training, while other things helped my training. Think about it: you read a lot of ramblings from me about weight gain, struggles with running, (now) an injury, an unexpected and heartbreaking move, and maybe a little more if I take out the microscope. There is nothing to be gained from that, though, so let’s leave it there.

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Despite a near constant feeling of putting out one dumpster fire after another last year, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve definitely had worse years. While I can’t say I’m sad to see 2017 go, it has given me *a lot* of things for which I’m eternally grateful, so let’s focus on those, shall we?

In the grand scheme of things, the rest of the stuff in between shouldn’t matter too much, should it? Especially looking at that list, I should be trying to think of everything else as the small stuff, and try not to sweat it too much.

So, with all of that being said, I’m heading into 2018 with a single resolution: be kind to my body. It will be a huge undertaking that will affect many, if not all, areas of my life. As endurance athletes, some say that we ask a little too much of our bodies all the time. Our bodies do some truly amazing things for us, and we often reward it with negative self-talk and underappreciation, bordering on downright disrespect at times.

Being kind to my body sounds like a simple, straightforward resolution. It will be the opposite for me. If you think about it, there is a lot involved in honouring that resolution. I will have to be mindful of when to push my body a little further for long-term benefit and to reach my goals, and knowing when to pull back and listen to it when it begs for rest. I have to commit to giving it the fuel it needs to perform at a level that I demand of it (probably my biggest challenge), and I have to commit to giving it the rest it needs (never been a problem, ha!).

If I am ever feeling overwhelmed in 2018 (and I know those times will come), I hope that I can ground myself by coming back to my ‘simple’ five-word resolution.

I have a lot more to say about the baby steps I’ll be taking to keep my resolution, because that’s the key. In retrospect, I’m thankful that 2017 was definitely not a year of instant gratification with respect to my goals. Nothing worth having comes easily, and the obstacles along the way are teaching me a ton about myself.

Words to guide me in 2018: Eat the elephant, one bite at a time.

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I hope to be writing a bit more on here, as opposed to spending time on social media, which I found particularly draining close to the holidays. I’m sitting on drafts for a few posts already that I just couldn’t seem to get over the hump on in November and December. It’s been some time since I’ve felt that I have something meaningful to share that didn’t sound complain-y, and that’s about to change with 2018 plans taking shape.

Thanks for taking the time to read my scattered thoughts, friends. Here’s to an exciting year ahead!

Something Shiny and New

Sadly, I did not buy something shiny and new, like a new bike (FTR, I really like this one), as my title deceptively suggests, so my apologies for that. On with the show!

The quickest of updates: I’m still not able to run. I should say, I have not attempted to run, on the advice of my physiotherapist and coach, and also on account of my ankle still not being pain-free. However, I am able to swim (with modifications), bike with no noticeable side effects, and strength train. There’s been quite a bit of the latter happening lately, so let’s talk a little bit about that, shall we?

To give you a little context, I used to lovelovelove strength training and lifting weights. In 2010, I worked with a personal trainer to kickstart my weight loss, and it helped so very much. I found it both enjoyable and effective, and I continued to lose weight as I supplemented my weights workouts with cardio and eating well. When I moved to Toronto in 2010, I fell in love with BodyPump and that love affair went on for about 5 years. I attended classes religiously twice a week (three times in my off-season), and was stronger than I had ever been.

Various injuries, life events, and house moves threw my strength routine for a loop and it has not been a priority at all for some time. I’m not here to make excuses, though. There are none – I simply did not make it a priority, and I accept responsibility for my lost fitness on that front.

Last year, my coach reintroduced strength training to my plan and it made me nervous. I struggled to hold planks, do push-ups and execute good lunges, etc. Having been through a few rough patches with fitness, I knew (and still know) that the first little while of getting back to anything just plain sucks. If you accept that, then the rebuilding phase will be a lot less of a struggle than it needs to be.

Now that my marathon build is being put on hold briefly (fingers crossed!), it’s the perfect time to focus on rebuilding that lost strength. Historically, I know I run my best and stay injury-free when I’m doing some form of strength/weights training to supplement my running, so this really is for the greater good. That should be the end of the story and enough to keep me motivated. We all occasionally run out of steam on the motivation train, though, and I’m no exception to this.

I digress.

So, what exactly does this new strength routine look like? Well, it’s a significant departure from what I’m used to and incorporates a different approach. Most importantly, it’s a welcome distraction from not being able to run!

NB: I have been doing body weight exercises semi-consistently for the last while. I’m not being thrown into a lifting program with no base.

Since I am, in fact, a child at heart, the easiest way to stop me from throwing a tantrum about something (not being able to run) is to distract me with something else temporarily, something shiny and new. At this point in time, that something shiny and new is a completely fresh and new-to-me base lifting program.

SIGN ME UP!

I couldn’t help but do a little head tilt when I saw my new program. I’m lifting four (FOUR!) days a week, and each session is SHORT. The sessions alternate upper body and core one day, and lower body the other day. I’m doing each session twice per week. This is a real change for me, since I previously focused on total body exercises in circuits and supersets. I’m eager to see how I like a more targeted approach.

So far, I’ve done each session once, and reeeeeeeeeeally enjoyed each one. The only snag I’ve run into thus far is that the lunges in my lower body workout irritated my ankle quite a bit, so we’ll be making adjustments for that. Note to self: not ready for lunges yet.

It could be the novelty of having something new to focus on, and perhaps it is too soon to be writing about it. Perhaps not, though. Getting reacquainted with lifting at the gym has me feeling a little nostalgic, and a bit like my old self. I have to remember to take some measurements and photos to document my progress, as I believe this phase will last about 8 weeks.

In the meantime, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t getting a little bit uneasy about my upcoming training cycle. The marathon is a little less than 21 weeks away, and I’m still unable to run. I’m not sure at what point I will have to scrap the idea of running my goal race, although I suspect I still have some time to go before that becomes a topic of discussion.

For the time being, I’ll just keep doing my rehab exercises and putting in whatever workouts I can safely do to build my strength. There are no shortcuts to be taken. Beyond that, I will just have to let the rest take care of itself. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: A change is as good as a rest. Or something like that. 🙂

Next Stop on the Pain Train: Inflammation Station

If you stop reading right now based on what is perhaps the cheesiest post title in history, I wouldn’t blame you at all.

Still with me? Okay.

When I last wrote, there was some annoying kinda-maybe-sorta injury stuff going on. Here’s what has been happening since.

I woke up last Monday morning with a moderate amount of soreness and stiffness in my right foot, across the top and opposite the side that had been giving me trouble when I attempted my long run the day before. Going down stairs was aggravating it a tiny bit. I was still able to walk without limping, etc., although I was definitely aware that something wasn’t right. My coach and I agreed after my painful run last Sunday that it was time to have it checked out and taken care of as soon as possible.

As many of my Torontonian friends are aware, last Monday was the day after the marathon. Have you ever tried to make an appointment with a physiotherapist for a new issue the day after a marathon? Ha. Godspeed to you. My coach recommended someone to me and after seeing no availability with her until November 9, I called my previous physiotherapist. Coincidentally, his first availability was also November 9. After leaving a message with my coach’s recommendation, she called back later in the day with an opening for me just two days later. Hallelujah!

I won’t go into too many details, although I will say that I’m feeling quite a bit better. There are a couple of things going on in my foot, both of which seem to amount to inflammation right now, which is relatively minor, thankfully. I had my first ever round of acupuncture, I’ve been doing some work with a theraband to work on getting my ankle joints moving correctly and already seeing some relief, although I am not completely out of the woods yet. Lauren recommended a couple of weeks off running and any activity that irritates my ankle, so this means running, swimming with fins, and some of my strength exercises are off the table at the moment. As annoying as it is to not be able to train without restriction, I can’t say I miss burpees. 😉

I was in some level of pain off and on for most of the week last week, and feeling a bit sad about not exercising. In particular, I have been really eager to begin building my run mileage. My parents and niece arrived for a short weekend visit on Friday night. While I normally do not feel any guilt about relaxing my training schedule a bit or completely when I’m fortunate enough to get some time with my family (they live in Newfoundland), I found myself yearning to start my day with a little run pretty much every day for the last week and a bit.

I’m in this odd state of logically knowing that I have to take things easy until the inflammation completely subsides, yet being so mentally ready to fully dive into marathon training. I wrote to my coach that I get a little envious every time I pass a runner or whenever I walk by a track, I get a near uncontrollable urge to go out on it and run really fast. The last one is extra tough, as I have to pass a beautiful outdoor track on my walk to work from the subway every day.

If you’re prone to injury like me, though, you know the drill – you just have to wait it out and do the rehab work. I notoriously lose momentum with rehab work after a couple of days. This time around, I’ve been keeping up on all of it. I’m more determined than ever to get these aches and pains sorted out so I can start my marathon build in a 100% healthy state.

Although there is nothing groundbreaking on this list, here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Keeping up on my exercises and stretching. This should almost go without saying. If you’re like me, you pretty much need someone on you multiple times a day to get this done. So far, self-motivation alone has been enough to keep this rolling along. Woo hoo!
  • Foam rolling. Like a boss. I hate it so much and it hurts like hell. It’s a necessary evil, though, and I saw a lot of improvement in my running this past winter when I dedicated some time to the dreaded torture device.
  • Putting things in perspective. Yes, it sucks to be on the verge of injury. Like most unpleasant things, this, too, shall pass. I’m sure I’ll be back at full strength before I know it.
  • Focusing on my upcoming goals. Another one on the no-brainer list, I suppose. Knowing that I’ve already registered for my spring goal race is keeping me motivated to nip this in the bud.
  • Concentrating on what I can do. I’m not usually such an optimistic person, to be honest, so this one came as a surprise to me. If this slight setback had happened to me a few years ago, I would have been taking the opposite approach. I would have wallowed in self-pity because I couldn’t run, and fixated on the negative. Maybe that’s because running used to be my main sport. Now, though, I have two other disciplines to turn my attention towards, plus all the strength work that I need to prioritize in the off-season. I can still bike comfortably, as well as swim and do strength work, although the last two need some modification for the time being.
  • Not allowing myself a pity party. This is not a full-blown injury. I’m not weeks away from a goal race that I had painstakingly prepared for. I can still exercise. I can move without pain. There are way more positives than negatives about this situation. I should clarify that I did not go through the pity party phase at all with this setback, and there is no need for it yet, which has helped me stay positive.

I’m hoping to be able to attempt a short run next week, and that all of the stretching and mobility work I’ve been doing will mean that it will be a pain-free run. There are just under 22 weeks until the marathon (not that I’ve been counting or anything), so I keep telling myself that I have lots of time, and no reason to panic.

Onwards and upwards!

What was your worst injury? How long did it take to heal?

 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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Hi there! Me again!

First of all, a *huge* congratulations to all of my friends who raced at the Scotiabank 5k, half marathon, and marathon yesterday! That race will always have a very special place in my heart. It was my first half marathon and my first full marathon. I’ve said it a million times – I always race my best at home. As fun as it is to travel around and see new places while running, Toronto will always be home and there’s something extra special about marathon weekend.

Last week, I was finally starting to build some momentum with this training thing. I was having a pretty solid week up until Sunday (more on this below), and it was nice to get myself into something of a groove, however short-lived it is going to be.

To save you the theatrics and drama, I am kinda, maybe, a little bit injured. Ish. Maybe.

Monday

2500m swim: Swim group this morning focused on a lot of drills. Many of the drills required a lot of kicking, so our coach had me wear fins so I could concentrate on form during the drills.

50 minute interval ride (28.3km): An evening interval ride that went pretty well. 

Tuesday

35 minute Z2 run (5.6km): I felt fairly sluggish for part of this run. I picked it up near the end because my HR was actually too low.

40 minutes strength: Immediately after my run, I did my strength workout. I was at home this time, and I didn’t make any modifications. After just a few strength workouts, I’m feeling stronger and I know I’ll be publicly burpee-ing before you know it. 🙂

Wednesday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day. 

Thursday

52 minute interval ride (29.9km): Some Z4 intervals to keep my legs turning over quickly. I did this before work.

42 minutes strength: Not much to report here.

Friday

2800m swim: A super challenging workout! It involved a few sets of 300m steady and 100 recovery, with the middle part of that working up 100, 200, 300 hard. Oof. It felt good to get this done.

35 minute Z2 run (5.7km): Here’s where all the trouble started. About 20 minutes into my evening run, I felt some pain on the inside of my right leg. Just above my ankle, and it radiated upwards a bit. It was dull, although not intense enough to alter my gait.

Saturday

1:10 ride (42.4km): A long trainer ride. It would have been a beautiful day to ride outside. Someday, when I’m braver riding outside, I’ll be able to take off outside the city on my own. 🙂

Sunday

42 minute run (6.4km): Long run, aborted. The pain in my ankle returned and I implemented a three strike policy. I stopped, stretched, and restarted three times before I pulled the plug. It was supposed to be 55 minutes.

1372m swim: I thought it would be okay to go ahead and do my swim, since it’s a no-impact activity. I did my swim without issue. There wasn’t a lot of kicking in the workout, so that helped.

 

Swim: 6672m/2:38

Bike: 98.9km/2:53

Run: 17.7km/1:52

Strength: 1:24

Total Time: 8:47

So, there it is. An overall excellent week of training, with the exception of a potential injury looming. I’m really pleased with my swimming and biking volume for the week, and that I committed to both strength workouts. I fit in all my workouts and looked forward to most of them. This might have been my highest volume week for swimming ever!

I am seeing a physiotherapist about my ankle issue on Wednesday, and I hope I won’t be out of the game too long. I was just starting to get excited about my marathon build, and am trying to remain positive.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about this next week once I have a rehab plan. In the meantime, I hope those of you who raced this weekend are putting your feet up and enjoying some treats and downtime.

Have a great week, everyone!

New Rest Day, Who Dis?

 

Twice in one week?! That’s right, friends. Your eyes do not deceive you.

In my latest weekly training recap, I reported that my rest day last week was Wednesday. That is true this week, as well, and will be for the foreseeable weeks going forward. Say what?!

For as long as I have been working out consistently (closing in on 8 years now), Friday has always been my rest day. I can’t remember if it was by accident or by design. It worked out pretty well in practice. It was a nice way to end my week by not having to rush off to the gym after work, and to truly decompress.

When I first moved to the city in the fall of 2010, I was working at a place where there was a real after-work-hangout culture (which I loved), and I also had a large, fairly tightly-knit group of friends that I had come by through my cousin. At that point in my life, I was definitely not a morning exerciser and I always worked out solo, so having Friday completely free for the weekly tradition of post-work dinner and drinks was as sacred as Sunday brunch is to some.

In 2011, I started training for my first half-marathon. I became more focused on distance running and was able to maintain the Friday rest day. Fast forward a few years and I’m at a completely different workplace and most of our friends from that core group don’t even live here anymore! The latter is a bit mind-blowing. I digress.

I have since gone through four marathon training cycles, each of varying intensity and commitment level. Friday rest day remained. I started training for triathlon more consistently last year. Friday rest day remained.

However, when I went to sign up for my swim group’s full year offering this September, I saw that I would be swimming on Friday mornings. Heh. I never realized just how attached I actually was to my Friday rest day until the time came to give it up. I worried that on Fridays, I would be tempted to hit the snooze button or head straight home after work to tuck into a glass of wine and some takeout. The temptation was definitely there for the first couple of weeks, although I think it had more to do with habit than any actual physical or mental exhaustion. Y’all know what a Type A creature of habit I am, so that should come as a surprise to no one.

So, what have I noticed over the last few weeks with changing my rest day? All good things, actually! Once I had gotten past the urge to head straight home and crash at the end of the work week, things have been good, although I think I’ll still experience some of that until I get used to this new routine.

When I was training for Around the Bay last season, I recall that I frequently felt wiped between Tuesday and Thursday, which occasionally compromised my workouts and performance. Friday could never come fast enough.

In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to get through my midweek workouts with a *bit* more energy. I’m usually darting off to work out in some form after my work day finishes, so being able to have a free evening in the middle of the week has left me feeling  mentally recharged. I’m already accustomed to having workouts scheduled both days on the weekend, so a Wednesday rest day is a nice way to break up my work week without sacrificing any me time or training time.  

If I’m having a particularly rough week trying to fit in both work commitments and training, I tell myself that I only have to make it through Tuesday. Then I get a rest day. By the time I return to training, it’s already Thursday, which is practically the weekend. 😉

Switching things up with my training schedule has left me with a new appreciation for the work I’m putting in, and giving my body the rest it needs to recover. I’m less likely to reach for a glass of wine or two and a treat meal on Wednesday versus Friday, so it is helping a little so far with my associations of what constitutes true rest and recovery. That’s not to say that I will never have a treat on my rest day. I’m sure I will, although it might look a little different than it has in the past.

I’m eager to see how this might play into my training and performance this time around. As soon as training ramps up a little more (remember, I’m still technically in the offseason before my marathon build), I’ll go back to writing a training journal to keep a close eye on things like this.

All of this to say that change is often good. If you’re feeling burnt out either mentally or physically, I strongly encourage taking a look at your most deeply ingrained training habits and experimenting with them, where appropriate. As my mother says, a change is as good as a rest. 🙂

Have you ever made a change to your training structure? Was it a good change?   

Wednesday is the new Friday

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Hello, hello! I hope everyone has been enjoying the summer-like weather. I am full-on Team Summer, so I’ve been enjoying the extended sunshine and warm temperatures. I could do without the humidity, although I refuse to complain. It has been a strange season for running and, even though I’m loving the shorts-and-tank-in-October weather, I’m ready for some (slightly) cooler temperatures and being able to breathe properly on the run.

After a pre-Thanksgiving bout of the stomach flu, I was more than ready to get back to a more consistent training schedule. I achieved that last week, for the most part. Here’s what I was up to last week…

Monday

50 minute interval ride (29.9km): There was so swimming this morning because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Before you ask, yes, the fact that my ride ended at 29.9km did eat away at me a little. I had pre-programmed my ride on Zwift, so I couldn’t even keep going to hit the 30km mark. If these are my greatest training problems at the moment, I’ll gladly take it.

Tuesday

30 minute Z2 run (4.73km): My HR immediately took off on this run. I did manage to bring it down to the very high end of my Z2, though. I’m paying extra close attention to my HR while running these days, as I know my running fitness needs to rebound and my HR zones need to be updated. I’m trying really hard not to completely exhaust myself on the run, especially in Z2. 🙂

40 minutes strength: Yay! Back to strength training. I can usually talk myself out of strength pretty easily, so I did it right away post-run.

Wednesday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day. Say what?! 

Thursday

30 minute Z2 run (4.7km): Thursday was a very busy day. I had two after-work commitments, and two workouts. In order to make it work, I had to go immediately to the gym, do my run on the treadmill to cut out time for lights, etc., and then get right to my strength workout.  

32 minutes strength: I admittedly rushed through this a bit more than I should have. I normally take my time with each exercise and focus on feeling the burn and nailing good form. I was also at a gym unfamiliar to me in the downtown core, and I did something during my strength workout that I haven’t done in a very long time and that I’m not particularly proud of: I modified my workout because I was self-conscious of how I looked doing burpees and worried that others around me were judging me. There, I said it. I’m not proud of it. I am really kicking myself for worrying about my jiggly parts and lack of grace while burpee-ing. Not every day is a cake walk, and I’m committing to developing some confidence with my strength training.

Friday

457m swim: After two workouts and two evening events, I came home around midnight and knew that a 4:45 wake-up call to swim wasn’t happening. I brought my clothes to work and hit the 25 yard pool after work. I had *just* hit my stride and felt my legs loosening up when I got booted out for swimming lessons. I hadn’t been expecting that, so was caught off-guard and a little annoyed. Oh, well. 500 yards is better than no yards.

Saturday

50 minute run (8km): I had a super fun weekend that started with Lululemon and Strava’s virtual race, #TheGhostRace (there’s still time to get in on this, I think!). I met up with my crew at Tribe Fitness and we ran the 8km course together along the Martin Goodman Trail. In the interest of sticking to my guns when it comes to HR training, I stayed firmly in Z2, even though I was definitely tempted to run a little faster. After the run, we went back to the Tribe Fitness headquarters and enjoyed a great spread of post-run eats, thanks to Lululemon!

 

After that, I had a busy day of hitting up the bike show (didn’t buy anything! Victory for my wallet!), a hair appointment, and the best date night (we ate dinner at Planta, and it was *divine.* Toronto friends, I would recommend checking this one out, even if you are not eating a plant-based diet. So good!) that ended with Ryan and I having drinks at a bar full of hockey fans while we streamed the last nail-biting miles of the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Ha! I could write a whole other post about this. I’m so freaking proud of Lionel Sanders and his performance at Kona.

Sunday

1:10 ride (42.4km): Sunday was originally long run day. We swapped my ride and run so I could do The Ghost Race, and I’m so glad. The weather was really terrible on Sunday, and I escaped running in a monsoon. I was nice and toasty on my trainer with an endurance ride that I felt very strong during, thanks to a solid week of training and the inspiration from Kona the day before.

 

Swim: 457m/0:11

Bike: 72.3km/2:01

Run: 17.4km/1:54

Strength: 1:13

Total Time: 5:19

So, that’s it! A solid week of training that left me feeling pretty good is always a win. Aside from feeling unsettled about my discomfort around strength training in public, I think I had a good week. As I’ve talked about before, the real focus right now is consistency and getting into the habit of moving my body regularly. Once those good habits are back in place, fitting things in will be one less obstacle I have to overcome when the time comes to start really putting in the work. 🙂

P.S. Good luck to all my friends racing Scotiabank this weekend!