Around the Bay Recap

Wowza. In what seems like the blink of an eye, my “A” goal race for the winter has come and gone. In lieu of a summary of last week’s training, I offer you  my race recap. This one is going to be long, and I don’t have any fancy photos to break things up, just a whole lot of words and thoughts about yesterday’s race.

I began training for Around the Bay way back in November when I started working with my coach. When asked to identify my race goals, I divided up the year and knew that I wanted 2017 to be mostly triathlon-focused. However, living in Canada, that meant I had a long winter to make it through before I would be racing outside. What would I do in the meantime? 

I thought about viable running goals to keep me motivated, and ultimately (perhaps arbitrarily, in retrospect) set my sights on cracking the 3 hour mark at Around the Bay in March. More than once over the winter, I asked myself why. It was far enough away to feel doable, I had come close to 3:00 the first and only time I ran it (3:02 and change back in 2015), I was finally feeling mentally and physically ready to start building my distance again (yet not quite ready to return to the marathon), so I thought, why not?

Other than a missed workout here and there (it happens to all of us!), my build for Around the Bay was without incident. I struggled on my peak long run *big time*, but I usually have at least one disastrous long run per cycle, so it wasn’t a big deal. In the last couple of weeks before the race, I was feeling relaxed and totally in the zone, especially after a confidence-boosting practice race at the Chilly Half.

Race week was something else. I was tired all. the. damn. time. My legs felt like lead and running was a challenge. Initially, I was worried, but as the week progressed, I remembered that this was normal for the taper. It had been so long since I had properly trained for a race long enough to feel the effects of the taper. I took my fatigue as a good sign. My last run before the race incorporated some strides that didn’t feel like death, so I felt more at ease heading into the weekend.

On Saturday, after sleeping for 8 glorious hours and then napping for two more, I hopped on the GO bus to Hamilton to pick up my kit. I didn’t dawdle at the expo, as I wanted to get home and grab some groceries before settling in for the evening. For those interested, I reverted to the pre-race/long run dinner I ate every week in my 2014 marathon training cycle: cheese tortellini. I did my foam rolling and stretching, crawled into bed by 10:15, and was asleep within minutes.

Race Day

The alarm sounded bright and early Sunday. I slept very well, and woke up ready to race. I toasted an English muffin, spread some peanut butter on it, and packed it to go with a banana. We got to Hamilton with an hour and a half to spare before the start. There were plenty of washrooms inside the stadium where the race ended (the start line was just outside), and I didn’t have to wait. Our crew took a photo and then I headed outside to make sure I got a warm-up in this time.

I jogged around the block on the way to the corral and managed to run just over a kilometre. I did some walking lunges and leg swings, and seeded myself in the corral just ahead of the 3:00 pacer. I always find the first kilometre or so of a race the most challenging, weaving in and out of people as I try to hit my stride. I felt like I was plodding along and my first kilometre beeped at 5:44. Oops. A solid 12 seconds faster than my goal pace.

After several kilometres more of trying to reel myself in, I didn’t want to waste any more mental energy on slowing down. I was making a conscious effort to slow down, but it wasn’t translating. I suspect I was trying to compensate for the hills, and pushing too hard for fear of falling behind. I was still feeling pretty good, so I tried to stay positive and hang in there. I figured that if I couldn’t dial it back, I would have some time in the bank in case I had to slow down on the hills in the final 10 kilometres. And I believed it. LOL. Note to self (and everyone else): This. Does. Not. Work. Ever.

I started to feel the effects of running too fast at around 12k, and things went downhill (har!) pretty quickly from there. Almost immediately after, I blew up internally and rode the struggle bus all the way to the finish. By some miracle, I survived most of the North Shore rollers, but I was running on fumes by the time I got to Lasalle Park, with 9k still to go.

At this point, I was so grateful to have run parts of the course a couple of times in training, and broke things up mentally so I could take it a little bit at a time. Once we climbed out of North Shore and onto Plains, I knew it was all flat and downhill until Valley Inn, and I tried to coast until then.  I kept myself distracted and tried not have too many thoughts, as I’m prone to slip into a dark place pretty quickly when the going gets tough.

Valley Inn Road was bittersweet for me. I had conquered it in training, but I had to walk most of it yesterday. Once I crested the top, I did some quick mental math and knew that my 3:00 time goal would be a stretch (I had lost the 3:00 pacer just after North Shore, but I could still see them way ahead.), but a PB was still within reach if I really pushed hard. I picked it up as best I could, but my legs were completely spent. For the first time that I can recall while racing, both my quads and hamstrings were screaming at me with every stride.

I passed the Grim Reaper and started to focus on the finish. As my PB slipped away, I refused to give up. I thought about walking to the finish, and I thought even harder about quitting altogether. I ultimately decided that the faster I ran, the faster it would be over. I went on auto-pilot and tried not to think about the pain in my legs. I saw a runner friend from social media, and we commiserated about the wind. She urged me to go, so I started to book it. I use the term ‘book it’ loosely at this point. I passed the Tribe cheer station in the last kilometre, and gave it everything I had left. I didn’t think it was much, but I pushed a 5:02/km crossing the finish line.

My official time was 3:05:31, over 5 minutes slower than I had hoped to run. As I stated on my social media post, I am proud of how I carried myself yesterday. Would I change anything? Well, sure, I would not have gone out so fast, but that’s how things shook out. I wanted to truly race Around the Bay, and I did. There will be many more opportunities to break the 3:00 mark in the 30k distance, and yesterday just wasn’t my day to do it.

I have other goals to turn my attention towards, and once my body rebounds, I’ll be tackling my spring and summer triathlon goals with full force. As always, it takes a village to get an athlete’s best self to the start line. I’m so very fortunate to have a supportive boyfriend, the best coach, an amazing run crew, and an army of friends and family who truly believe in me.

Thank you to everyone who encouraged me from the moment I committed to this goal. Your support means the world to me.

xo

 

Training Recap Week 8

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This week was the last full week of training before Around the Bay this coming Sunday. With no other races or special workouts on the schedule, I focused on consistency and eating well. I would say I stuck pretty closely to those goals, with the exception of one run that was cut short. Here’s what I was up to this week:

 

Monday

1600m swim: I did a little more volume than usual at practice today. We focused on 300m sets today and I was fairly consistent.

Tuesday

25km ride: The weather was pretty terrible outside, and I didn’t want to take my chances with the sidewalks, so we moved things around a bit, and I did my ride on Tuesday. Since I’ve been riding with Zwift again and focusing on my power output, I did a portion of the ride into Zone 3, and building into Zone 4.

40 minutes strength: I did my usual strength training routine after my ride. I was slightly more energetic than I usually am when I do my strength training post-run.

Wednesday

2000m swim: Whoa! For the first time in swim practice, I hit 2000m! I was swimming right until the bitter end, but it felt good. Today’s practice was focused on 500s.

4km run: This was supposed to be an 8km easy run. I went to a local Running Room to get some more information about a Ragnar Relay that I’m running in May with some friends, and I joined the local run group. It was either a short, easy run or hill repeats. You can guess which one I chose. 😉

Thursday

8km interval run: For today’s interval run, I went to the track near our house. For as long as I’ve been running, I’ve had a mental block towards the track. Since I’ve been gaining confidence on the run lately, I decided to see if I could overcome my fear of track running. I did 10 intervals in Z4, and they were all within range! It felt good to tackle them, and I finished strong.    

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Saturday

1875m swim: When I first saw what was expected of me for my endurance swim, I questioned my ability to complete it. I had 10 sets of 100s, each descending. These types of workouts occasionally cause me anxiety. Although there’s not usually as much riding on these workouts as I think, I have an intense fear of failure with speed-based workouts. I build it up in my mind, which can negatively impact my efforts. I tried to push that aside today, and told myself I would just do what I could do. I picked the 100s off, one by one, each just a hair faster than the one before, and left the pool feeling pretty darn proud of myself. Peacock moment of the week, for sure. Bonus: I did not forget my post-swim snack. Winning.

37km ride: Building on the momentum from my swim, I did my long ride once I got home, which included some longer blocks of work building through my power zones. It was a sneaky burn.

Sunday

18km long run: Ah, the last long run before Around the Bay next weekend. I dragged my feet on this a little bit, and the first few kilometres were not kind to me. Luckily, Ryan ran with me for the first 5km and helped me get in the zone. We chatted about our upcoming races, the beautiful weather we were having that day, and before I knew it, he was turning around to head home and I was feeling much better heading into the rest of my run. I had one last run up Mount Pleasant, across Eglinton, and down the rollers on Bathurst. My pace was pretty solid for a week out from the race, and I was able to turn it up a little for the last bit.

40 minutes strength: Although my run left me feeling race-ready and confident, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was my strength workout. I was fatigued big time, and felt like I was just going through the motions.

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Swim: 5475m/2:15

Bike: 62km/2:21

Run: 30km/3:08

Strength: 1:14

Total Time: 9:19

I don’t really have a whole lot to say, except that I’m feeling ready to race. I had a phone call with my coach this week, and we started to talk a bit about my race plan. I’ve laid out my A, B, and C goals. Right now, I’m concentrating on visualizing myself powering up those hills. The race is 6 days away, and my typical race week behaviours are surfacing.

I fully recognize that I cannot control the weather on race day, but that doesn’t stop me from looking obsessively at the forecast to prepare myself mentally (and to choose the right race day clothes, of course). I’ve started thinking about which pre-race meals and breakfast options have served me best over this training cycle. I’m trying to get lots of sleep this week, with the most focus on Friday night’s sleep. I was not careful with my nutrition today, but I will be keeping myself in check for the rest of the week to make sure I’m properly fuelled for the race.

At this point, there is nothing I can do to improve my fitness. I’ve put in a lot of quality work this winter. Training has not been perfect, but it almost never is. I can honestly say that I fully committed to this goal, and I’m ready for whatever happens on Sunday. I’m feeling optimistic, but still a little scared and nervous about reaching my goal. I hope I’m writing my recap next week with good news of a shiny new PB.

Have a great week, friends!

Anyone else running Around the Bay this weekend? 

Chilly Half Marathon Recap

Last Sunday, I ran the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington. It was my first time running the half marathon there. Despite having registered for it last year, I was injured and had to drop down to the 5k. The day before the race, it was looking like I would once again meet the same fate, but I woke up Sunday itching to get out there and test my pace for Around the Bay.

I didn’t make the journey out to Burlington to pick up my race kit, so I can’t comment on the expo and packet pickup situation. Instead, I had a friend grab it for me and I got it from her on Saturday before the race. If it was anything like last year, it was not crowded and had a decent number of vendors/sponsors on hand for a smaller race.

If you’re here for my thoughts on the event itself and the course, here they are:

The course itself was flat, with a small incline near the end. If you like quieter courses and can do without a ton of crowd support, then I would recommend this either as a winter goal race or a tune-up event. A lot of runners (myself included) use the Chilly Half as a dress rehearsal for the Around the Bay 30k, which is just a few weeks after. It’s a good opportunity to test out pacing, nutrition/hydration, and leaves just enough time to make any final modifications before ATB.

It was an exceptionally well-organized event, and well worth the entry fee. Having access to a large building with lots of washrooms pre- and post-race is a welcome perk, as the late winter weather is often unpredictable. Short massages were available from one of the local massage college program students before and after the race. I didn’t take advantage of that this year, but I did last year and it was great. It appeared that they had more students on hand this year, in fact.

If you’re here for the recap of how I personally fared, here it is:

Originally, there was a swim on my schedule for Saturday. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I spent most of the day sleeping and otherwise relaxing. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, I had a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and spent all my waking hours trying to hydrate. I was in bed by 10:00 and despite napping for nearly four hours that day (!!), I had no trouble falling asleep. Point taken, body.

The race did not start until 10:00 on Sunday, but we got up super early to pick up a car and drive out to Burlington. Traffic can be a total unknown, even on a Sunday morning, but we arrived with plenty of time to spare.  

It was cold. For real. Stop rolling your eyes. We’ve been spoiled this winter with some occasional warm temperatures and not much by way of snowfall, so to have a cold, windy day for the race felt like a bit of a kick in the gut. They don’t call it the Chilly Half for nothing. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that on Sunday (me included), I could probably register for next year’s race with the proceeds. 😉

I knew a number of people running (in both the 5k and the half marathon), so the hour we had to kill before the race passed by fairly quickly. I ate my banana and sipped my Nuun water. The bathroom lines were not kind to me and instead of warming up for 2k before the race, I had to settle for a scrambled jog to my corral and some dynamic stretches. Not ideal.  

Nevertheless, I started. To be honest, it felt a little surreal to be running a half marathon, to be at a start line for the first time in over a year with a meaningful goal. Most of all, I was both relieved and thankful to be at the start line injury-free. My prescribed plan was to start slightly slower than goal pace for Around the Bay, and settle in at around 3k for the remainder of the race.

Despite a shaky start (which I blame myself for after not having properly warmed up), things evened out at the 3k mark. I felt great in the early kilometres, but knew that wasn’t necessarily indicative of what might come.

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Heel striking like a MF boss. Photo credit: Mark Gardner, Tribe Fitness

I saw both Ryan and Mark (separately) within the first 5k, and then headed out for the long out-and-back. Once upon a time, I disliked out-and-back courses. If I was having a particularly bad race, an out-and-back filled me with dread, and I often suffered in the final kilometres as a result. That all seems to have changed. I now spend most of the out portion looking across the course to look for runners I know. It’s a welcome distraction, and then I get to focus my energy on the back portion, where I often need it most.

I spent a lot of time looking at my watch during the race. I wanted to make sure I was staying on pace, and I was. As I ran through the quiet residential streets, I was pleased to see that I was staying eerily in my pace zone. The only 2 kilometres that were slower, were the ones where I walked as I took in gels, at 8k and 16k, and was able to make up the extra 20-30s per stop easily. I relied on the water stations on course without issue. Well, save a little layer of ice forming on top of the cups. 🙂

Luckily, the suck that I anticipated never really came. Don’t get me wrong: the last 5 or so kilometres were still challenging. The half marathon distance is no joke, and I had to put in a lot of work to stay on top of things in the last part of the race. By the time I got to the 19-20k mark, I still felt relatively well. Time to see what I had left and completely empty the tank.

As I came within the last few hundred metres, I really grit my teeth and dug in. I saw Ryan, Mark, and Heather cheering near the corner before the finish line and I used that energy for my final push. Sorry for not waving or smiling then, y’all, but I was in my zone. I saw my 21st kilometre tick at 5:31, and then I took off for the finish with whatever I had left. Garmin Connect later told me I was able to get just under 5:00/km for that last push, which I was very pleased with at the end of a half marathon.

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Epic Suffer Score, you say? Sounds about right.

I crossed the finish line in 2:05:26 (unofficial), with an average pace of 5:56/km. That was bang on for my ATB pace, and I executed the race plan perfectly (minus the warm-up, oops!). It has been quite some time since I have been able to say that. Many times along the course, I gave myself mini pep talks and all I came back to was how I thought I was never going to be able to run long distances again, and there I was. For once in my life, I was patient and it paid off. Ha.  

While it was not a PB for me, it was my second to fastest half marathon, and it certainly felt like a PB in many ways. It confirmed the progress that I’ve made over the last few months. Some days leading up to the race, it was hard to see the forest for the trees, but I’m so glad I trusted the work I put in and laid it all out there.

I think that another part of what made this race so special for me is that, after close to a year and a half of unpredictable training and racing due to my injury, I finally started to feel like my old running self again. I’ve talked about how I experienced this during a few of my training runs, but it was nice to have the old feelings come back as I raced. The race gave me hope that there’s still some life in this old body, and that I can still make progress. I wonder if there’s another marathon PB left in these legs down the road. But, first: I tri.  

Although I struggled to see how I could run another 9km at that pace on a more challenging course in just a few weeks, my coach quickly talked me down from that. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be putting in my last bits of work pre-ATB and letting my training do the talking. I’ve put in the work, and I’m ready to see what I can do on March 26.

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Did anybody else race the Chilly Half or Frosty 5k? If you’re training for Around the Bay, how are you feeling in the last couple of weeks before the race?

 

Training Recap Week 7

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WOW. I find myself saying this in every recap, but last week was quite a week for me. No, seriously this time. 😉 Coming down from last week’s Chilly Half (my recap is ready! I’ll probably post it tomorrow or Wednesday.), I had my very first FTP test to look forward to, as well as my peak run before Around the Bay. Like most weeks, there were some ups and downs, but never a dull moment.

 

Monday

1509m swim: OUCH. I woke up the day after the race with a major case of the DOMS. I hobbled out of bed and got right back in just as quickly. No swim practice for me. I decided to pack my things in case I was feeling semi-human at lunch and could make it to the pool. I made it to the pool, but I’m not sure I felt human at any point. My body quickly revolted, and my swim turned into a mix of pull and fin sets, with some work on my drills as prescribed by my swim coach. It was not pleasant, but moving my body even a little helped. Maybe.

16km ride: After work, I did a super easy ride. There was no structure, just get on the bike and spin the pedals for 45 minutes. No more pleasant than my swim. I expected to be sore after the race, and it was the best feeling, if that makes sense. Happy to take a couple of easy workouts today.

Tuesday

7km run: Thanks to my success at the Chilly Half, I got myself a brand new set of HR training zones! Woo hoo! Along with it, I got some torrential rain, wind, and persisting soreness. Boo! Turns out my legs still worked and I didn’t die, but the run was a tough one.

40 minutes strength: Getting in my strength work after that run was a challenge, for sure. Not much to report.

Wednesday

1350m swim: Back to early swim practice, and still a bit exhausted. Part of me started to worry because my FTP test was scheduled for the next day, and everyone kept advising me that I should be well-rested for the test. After work, I went out for dinner with friends and got a good night of sleep.

Thursday

FTP Test: My very first FTP test! I ended up being the only one at The Lab for my test. I was initially a bit nervous and intimidated, but all that went out the window. Michael, the Head Coach at X3 and owner of The Lab, put me completely at ease and explained everything that was happening at various stages. With this being my first crack at the test, I faced no pressure to put up big numbers and because I was on my own, no worry of having to compare myself to others. For someone who is clueless about cycling, I have a lot of thoughts on my first FTP test and will be writing about it separately.

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Saturday

28km long run: I had a pretty rough run this weekend. I headed out to Hamilton once more with Ryan and a few others from my run group to get in one last long run on parts of the ATB course. My run *sucked* big time. I felt like garbage on many of the hills, especially the rollers. In addition, the weather was cold and terrible. I had a complete meltdown and even cried towards the end, wondering how I was going to be able to pull this off in two weeks. However, because I was running on my own for a while, I paid close attention to where I was on the course, as I know that will come into play big time as I come up with my race day plan. We also (literally) ran into my childhood friend and university room mate from Newfoundland who now lives in St. Catharines. She was out for her peak long run too, and it was the first time I had seen her in years. Yay, reunion!

Sunday

30km ride: I switched things up today, and did my ride using Zwift. I’m going to be experimenting with riding in my power zones now that I have some relevant data, so I did an easy ride with a few blocks of work in various power zones.

40 minutes strength: My normal post-run strength routine got moved to Sunday to accommodate my FTP test.

 

Swim: 2859m/1:07

Bike: 71.5km/3:01

Run: 35km/3:37

Strength: 1:15

Total Time: 9:00

Lots of ups and downs this week, as usual. I started the week on a high from the Chilly Half, despite being tired post-race. My FTP test took a lot out of me, both mentally and physically, so it should have come as no surprise that my run on Saturday went less than smoothly. My long run was also only my second run with my newly adjusted heart rate zones, so my pace was a little quicker than usual. I’m up for the challenge and although it is nice to see my long run pace dropping closer to where it once was, I need to keep myself in check before heading immediately into meltdown mode. HR training has proven an effective approach for me, and I need to be patient just a while longer.

My focus over the next couple of weeks is to get my workouts in, focus on recovery/sleep and eating mostly good food before Around the Bay. I still have some work to do in finalizing my race prep, like (maybe) selecting a B goal and a little more mental work in visualizing the course on race day. I think I’ve got this in hand, and now that I’ve had a test run at Chilly, I’m eager to see how Around the Bay will unfold. Stay tuned!

 

 

Training Recap Week 6

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What a week! So many things to be happy about in this week’s training: I pulled off some amazing PBs in swimming, had a really positive experience with running intervals (it usually gives me a ton of anxiety), AND I had a great race today! Here’s what I got up to over the last week:

 

Monday

1325m swim: Today, I got my individual feedback from last week’s filming. As I suspected, there are a few key points in my swim stroke that need work. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, my coach is going to have me work on one or two things at a time, starting with the timing of my stroke (I’m windmilling at the moment), and body rotation.

Tuesday

10km run with intervals: My first set of intervals in nearly a year! I was curious to see how HR training would factor into interval training – would I run intervals by pace or HR zone? It was the latter, and running intervals by HR actually took all the pressure off, and I was able to run all my intervals without issue and I wasn’t too far off last year’s paces, actually.

40 minutes strength: Post-run strength training tonight went better than it has in a while. I’m starting to hit my stride with this particular routine.

Wednesday

1050m swim: Time trial day again! We did our 400m and 50m time trials today. Holy crap, what an improvement! I got PBs in both my distances: my 400m went from 10:44 to 10:11, and my 50m went from 63s to 59s. My 100m CSS dropped from 2:46 to 2:37. I’m thrilled with these improvements in just one month!

34km bike: A long, low cadence ride with big blocks of low cadence work. Really got my sweat on with this one!

Thursday

9km run: An easy Zone 2 run on the schedule in advance of Sunday’s race. I was attending a nutrition seminar through the triathlon club, so I did my run, and finished at the seminar. It was c-o-l-d outside tonight.

40 minutes strength: After the seminar, I had to do my strength once I got home. I must confess, I was not feeling this workout at all. I was cranky and tired, and took more shortcuts than I care to admit, but there’s no point in dwelling on it.

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Saturday

1500m swimI had a bit of a health scare this morning, so my swim got cancelled. I had a suuuuuuuper long nap and a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner to get some extra iron. I was fully prepared to scrap Sunday’s half marathon if I wasn’t feeling 100% when I woke up on Sunday. Health > races. Always.

Sunday

21.1km run: Chilly Half Marathon! I woke up this morning feeling much better than I thought I would. I had a decent night of sleep on Saturday night, paired with the big nap and meaty meal, and I was ready to at least attempt the race. This was meant to be a dress rehearsal for Around the Bay in just 3 weeks, and I was able to execute it almost perfectly. It is certainly is deserving of a post of its own, and I’ll write all about it very soon.

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Swim: 2375m/0:57

Bike: 34km/1:30

Run: 40.5km/4:09

Strength: 1:13

Total Time: 7:49


How was your week of training? Did anybody else race the Chilly Half Marathon?

My Two Cents on Two Wheels

Check out that title, eh? I was pretty pleased with myself, too.

I digress.

Like many topics of discussion in the world of triathlon, I have a lot to learn about cycling. In fact, at present time, I would say that the bike is the discipline that I know the least about. It remains to be seen whether it is my weakest discipline per se, but it’s certainly the one I’ve spent the least amount of time and mental energy on. I suspect it is because I’ve been focusing so much on improving my swim, while also training for longer running races. Indeed, my coach has dialled back my cycling for the next few weeks as I build towards my goal race at the end of March.

Current State of Affairs

As I mentioned, I’m blissfully ignorant when it comes to cycling. I don’t have a fancy power meter, and I am just learning about cadence. I’ve often had to get clarification on my posted workouts. Some actual questions asked include, “So, dropping a gear means to make it harder?” and “What’s a single leg drill?”

My bike handling skills are rudimentary at best, I struggle with changing tires, fussing with my gears is a challenge, and I am also too afraid to ride clipped in. Eating and drinking while riding? Ha. The fast track to flipping over the handlebars, you mean. Group ride? Not on your life. That should give you some idea of what my coach is working with here, bless her heart.

I fully recognize that the bike is the longest leg of the triathlon and it will eventually make up the bulk of my training hours. I squeaked by on the bike portion of my first triathlon doing nothing other than getting on my bike and pedalling. I don’t recall changing gears once, and I certainly did not take in any nutrition (see above about flipping over the handlebars). I quite literally just coasted for the entire ride without a thought, except, “Don’t die.”

I signed up for Zwift, thinking that I would use it for all my longer rides. I used it for a while and created a few custom workouts in there, which has been great, but for the most part, I’ve been programming my workouts using Garmin Connect and using my trainer time to binge watch Game of Thrones. My watch beeps when I need to take on a new block of my workout and chirps at me when I’m out of a specified speed, cadence, or HR range. It’s a pretty decent system for now. I have both a cadence and speed sensor, as well as a heart rate monitor, but I am finding that Zwift overestimates my distance and speed, so I’ve been sticking with Garmin Connect for the time being. It’s nice to get a rough idea of the power I am generating that comes with Zwift, although without a power meter, I suppose it’s anyone’s guess. When I’m fully caught up with GoT and my rides get longer, I’ll likely revisit Zwift.

The Plan Going Forward

So, what’s next for Waltzing Matilda and I?

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Waltzing Matilda after a glorious ride last summer.

NB: Waltzing Matilda is my bike. I strongly believe that naming certain major pieces of training equipment is a fun way to appreciate them. Winnie the Wetsuit should need no further introduction. She will reappear in the spring.

Once Around the Bay is over, I suspect my cycling volume will pick up significantly leading into the summer. NB: My coach doesn’t give me my workouts beyond the current week, which frankly is in my best interest. We have broad conversations about what’s coming in the weeks and months down the road, but I largely just focus on the week that’s in front of me, lest I become overwhelmed.

I have registered to take an FTP (Functional Threshold Power) Test on March 9 through my triathlon club. Even though I don’t have a power meter of my own at the moment, it is useful data to have and we can measure improvement over time with subsequent testing. A power meter is definitely on my wish list, but it’s not a necessity at this level, especially as I have so many other cycling-related skills and concepts to get my head around.

I’ve read about the FTP test, and I’m scared shitless at the moment, to be perfectly honest. I tend to get worked up about things like this. Remind me to write about my first attempts at a Lactate Threshold running test someday. I really just need to cool it and realize that these are only ‘tests’ in the sense that they help me establish a base for training. Ultimately, nothing is riding on this (see what I did there?), and there’s no reason to make a big deal out of it. I’m trying not to think about it too much and build it up unnecessarily in my head. We’ll see how that works out over the next week. Ha.

I am also planning to attend a newbie skills clinic offered by my club in May. That will hopefully help me develop some bike handling skills and, most importantly, learn to ride outside clipped in. I currently have a set of pedals that allow both clipped and clipless riding, so I may learn one foot at a time. We’ll see. I’m riding clipped in to my trainer right now, so I hope that it’s giving me a feel for clipping in and out.

All of this is working towards me actually being able to go on some group rides with the club (and training friends outside the club) in the spring and summer. Much like my swimming started out, I’m a little too slow on the bike and lacking some important skills to just head out on a ride. Not only would I get dropped almost immediately, but I would be nervous and probably make things unsafe for myself and those around me. So I wait…


Any cycling tips for me as I get my bearings?

 

Training Recap Week 5

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Hi! This week of training was considerably better than last, although not without its challenges. I was away for the long weekend and I got in most of my workouts. The week started off a little shaky, but ended on a strong note. I’m a week away from my first race of the year and feeling better than I thought I would. I’ve got a couple of other posts in the works about the current state of my biking and my race plans for the upcoming season, but not before my weekly recap of training.

Here’s how the week went:

Monday

This is usually a swim day, but it was cancelled because of the Family Day holiday. I was also still in Ottawa for work, so I took this as an unintended rest day.

Tuesday

9km run: Womp.

40 minutes strength: Womp.

I was in a meeting all day, and then we made the 5 hour drive home. We ran into some rainy weather and, although I had the best of intentions, my run and strength did not get done when we made it home. No excuses. I just didn’t get it done.

Wednesday

1000m swim: After a fairly solid night of sleep, I was more than ready for swim practice. I was fully expecting to be uncomfortable after my weekend away, but it wasn’t too bad! We had a fun setup of stations and filming, so there wasn’t as much volume as normal. What a perfect way to ease back into training. We had two videos each taken, one from the side and one from the front. We’ll get some feedback in the coming weeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I need to work on. My coach watched them, and gave me some initial pointers.

29km bike: A steady cadence ride focused on gear changes. It was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. I was a sweaty mess by the end of it.

Thursday

40 minutes strength: I had a longer run on the schedule than I’m used to on the weekdays, so in order to make sure it got done, I got up early to do my strength workout before work. Nothing much to report.

13km run: Tonight’s run was the strongest hill workout I’ve had this training cycle, I think! All the worry about my previously missed hill workouts was put to bed quickly. I knocked out 7 hill repeats perhaps stronger than any of my other attempts, and finished the additional distance feeling pretty damn great. The weather was phenomenal, and the reminder that spring is inching closer was just what I needed to get through this longer run.

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

1550m swim: Wait, what?! Due to my two unintended, consecutive rest days this week, my normal rest day got switched for a swim. The workout consisted of several sets of 200m, focused on upper body strength to save my legs for Saturday’s long run and strength.

Saturday

26km run: My longest run of this training cycle! Sadly, I woke up with some pain in my foot. I haven’t had a plantar fasciitis relapse in a long time, but here we are. I waited around, stretched everything out and did some extra foam rolling, stretching, and icing before I left. I started the run with the intention of quitting the second that anything hurt. I had to see for myself, even though my decision to run may not have been the best one. Surprisingly, it was a great run! It was a little slower than I would have liked, but in the spirit of staying on track with the HR training, I took the slightly slower kms and finished my run STRONG. I had zero pain, and it was a perfectly executed effort, if I do say so myself.

40 minutes strength: I don’t often do strength after a long run (in fact, maybe never!). By some miracle, I had the energy to get it done. HR training for the win! I was fully warmed up, so I was able to dig a little deeper into my squats and push-ups and it was a nice feeling to be able to do this after a 3 hour run.

Sunday

1825m swim: As I have been doing for the last while, I did my swim before my bike ride. Today’s effort was a couple of 600m blocks, with one of them being a negative split. The first set was a mental slog and I really wasn’t sure how I would be able to pull off another set, let alone another set as a negative split. I keep proving myself wrong in the pool, because I was able to get the negative split set done and I finished my swim in a much better mood than when I started.

28.2km ride: A misadventure in technology! For some reason, I wasn’t able to get my cadence sensor to connect today. The speed sensor was fine, but no go for the cadence. I restarted my watch a few times, hoping that it was just being cranky. Nothing. I tried repairing the sensors and that also didn’t work. Rather than spend all day fussing with it and get angrier, I decided that I had done enough low cadence rides that I could get pretty close to my ranges riding by feel. That’s what I did, and I had a good ride to round out the week.

 

Swim: 4375m/1:47

Bike: 57.2km/2:25

Run: 39km/4:30

Strength: 1:16

Total Time: 9:58

 

The week definitely did not start out as I had intended. Before our trip to Ottawa, I carefully researched accommodations that would allow me to stay on track with training. What I didn’t account for was the Family Day long weekend. Our hotel was swarming with children, which made it hard to swim laps in the 10m pool. As soon as we got home, I was eager to dig back into training and I did pretty well for the remainder of the week.

The potential relapse of my plantar fasciitis is bugging me. Certainly, I am handling it better this year than last. I suppose I’ve got a little hindsight now and know what to expect. I’m also a lot more invested in my swimming and cycling than I was last year. If my upcoming races don’t go as planned, I will try my best not to dwell on it, but rather focus more on the other disciplines. I really have put in the work to make these races go well, but my long-term health and the upcoming triathlon season are more important to me right now. I’ve been taking all the steps to cut this off at the head, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Saturday morning’s episode was a one-off.

Although nowhere near perfect, I made an effort to eat and sleep better this week and that was definitely reflected in my workouts. There are always improvements to make, but I’m heading into this week feeling good. I’m doing everything to ensure that I’m rested for the Chilly Half next Sunday.

Control what you can control, I guess. Have a great week, everyone!


Have you ever had a recurring injury? How did you cope with it?

Training Recap Week 4

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After a rough few weeks, things started to come around. It’s a good thing I had a recovery week on the schedule. It was just what I needed to get myself back on track. I hit a major milestone this week with my swimming, which you probably already know if you saw it on Instagram. In any event, I’m feeling a lot better after this week and ready to dig back in before the Chilly Half in two weeks, and Around the Bay in five weeks.

Monday

1450m swim: We worked on our 200s today. It went fairly well, considering I had slept very poorly the night before.

Tuesday

7km run: A prescribed Zone 3 run that I thought would be a touch too high out of the zone, but the average worked out perfectly. I dragged my heels on this one and it was tough to get out the door, but I felt okay once I got moving. Isn’t that almost always the case?

40 minutes strength. Post-run strength was tough tonight. My coach said it’s quite normal to be tired on recovery week, which makes sense. I struggled with some of my circuit exercises, particularly my plank variations.

Wednesday

1775m swim: Our regular swim coach is still away and when I looked ahead at our workout, I immediately thought there was no way I was going to make it through without modifications. It said we were working on 800s. I had never been able to swim any more than 500m consecutively, and now we were to attempt 800? Guess what? I did it. And it was a little faster than prescribed. Had we not run out of time at practice, I would have completed not one, but two blocks of 800. It was a breakthrough practice for my swimming, and got me pumped for the weekend.

16.9km bike: The Type A in me cringed when the workout ended and I wasn’t able to get to the 17km mark. Really, Courtney?! Aside from that, though, the ride was fine.

Thursday

9km run: Today’s run took a lot out of me, both physically and mentally. The first 5km was to be in Zone 2 (long run pace), and the last 4km in Zone 3. I’m being really firm with myself and trying my very best to give HR training an honest effort. Over 9km, I ran the slowest I had ever run for a sustained period of time. At times, I was running so slowly that it hurt. I stuck to it, though, and ended with an average pace that was slower than when I walked/ran the Chicago Marathon in 2015. I won’t lie, it was a very deflating run and left me questioning whether or not my spring goals were too aggressive.

40 minutes strength: On the upside, my strength workout went considerably better tonight than it did on Tuesday. My planks were a lot stronger, and I was able to dig a bit deeper after my slow run.

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Saturday

21.4km ride: We came down to Ottawa for the long weekend, so I was up bright and early on Saturday to get in two workouts and get one of the dogs dropped off at boarding. Saturday is normally my long run day, but because of the timing with the dog drop-off and me wanting to do my long run on the Rideau Canal, we swapped my workouts. I did my low cadence ride really early, dropped off the dog, and headed to the pool for…

2012m swim: MY VERY FIRST 2KM SWIM!!! I was nervously looking forward to this ever since my coach added it to Training Peaks.

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2200 yds/2012m. Not excited at all.

Sunday

20km run: A sloppy run in Ottawa. We ran along the Rideau Canal and through Little Italy and back. It was sunny and warm, and I was able to run with Ryan, which is rare. He had 32km on his plan, and I really enjoyed being able to explore the city on foot with him. It is also worth noting that my splits were much faster today than on Thursday, which gave me a little more faith in HR training. It really hit home how much my HR can vary from day to day for a number of reasons, and helped me gain some perspective on Thursday’s run.

 

Swim: 5237m/2:18

Bike: 38.3km/1:40

Run: 36km/4:05

Strength: 1:19

Total Time: 9:42

 

Once again, the star of the show this week was the swim. After the confidence-boosting swim on Wednesday, I couldn’t wait to go for the 2km distance. I looked over the workout in Training Peaks at least once a day, and visualized it. I thought about how I would feel, and how I would regroup if it didn’t go according to plan. I broke apart the main set in my head and tried to anticipate how I would feel with each part. I went over strategies to negative split my last set. Mostly, I looked forward to the feeling of actually hitting the 2km mark. As I’ve written before, swimming has never come easily to me and being able to swim 2km in a single session really meant a lot to me. Don’t get me wrong; Saturday’s swim certainly hasn’t made things magically easy for me in the water. I’ve still got a ton of work to do with my swim, but this at least gave me some confidence in my long-term goals.

I know that I ultimately put in the hard work to make it happen, but I honestly don’t think it would have been possible without the encouragement of my swim group and having a coach that gives me that extra nudge. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: if it’s a possibility for you, find a swimming group.

With my runs getting longer for Around the Bay, and the extra swim, this may have been the most time I’ve ever spent working out in a single week! A recovery week was just what I needed to reset. I think I’m starting to regain some of the momentum that I was building before the end of January. As my work schedule challenged me, I also started to experience some of the winter blues. I normally struggle through the winter, so this was not surprising and I sort of anticipated it. This year has been a bit better, and having a new set of goals for training has made a big difference.

I’m looking forward to the final push before my goal races!


How did your week of training go? How do you set yourself up for success when you’ve got a milestone workout to complete?

 

Training Recap Week 3

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Monday

1300m swim: Lots of focus on shorter work today. I’d say that short, fast swim sets are not my forté, but I have a feeling it will be a while before I can claim that anything swimming-related is my forté. 😉

Tuesday

23.1km ride: This was a scheduled run day, but after an ice storm made the walk home treacherous and I didn’t even feel safe venturing out of the house to get to a treadmill, I opted for an episode of Game of Thrones and a low cadence ride.

40 minutes strength. After my ride, I did my circuit workout at home. I picked up a pair of 5 lbs. dumbbells at SportChek last weekend, so I’m able to kick my strength training up a notch without fancy gym machines and equipment. Ever try weighted wall sits? They’re a burner, for sure.

Wednesday

1372m swim: You might be thinking, “Hmmm…this isn’t a multiple of 25. How did she swim this distance in a 25m pool?” Actually, you’re probably not thinking that at all. You probably hadn’t even noticed. I digress. I slept poorly enough that I hit snooze and missed swim practice. I was able to hit the pool at lunch, which I’m rarely able to do, so I took advantage of a quiet lunch swim at the yard pool.

6km run: I had an evening meeting to wrap up that big conference that I talked about last week, so this run happened much later than I’m used to running. It was scheduled to be 8km, but I was feeling really run down, on the verge of sickness, and I wasn’t shaking that feeling on the run. My calves were tightening, as well, and since I live in fear of re-injuring myself, I cut it short.

Thursday

11km hill runNope.

40 minutes strength: Double nope.

That near-sick feeling had not subsided. By this point in the week, I was so exhausted that even getting out of bed was a challenge. I’m trying to listen to this old bod and honour it when it tells me to rest, so I did just that. I had a monster nap, a bath, stretched, and did some foam rolling.

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Saturday

23km long run: Longest run since the Chicago Marathon in October 2015!!! I was feeling human again and prayed to the run gods to let me pass this time. Success! At around the 5-6km mark, my foot started to hurt a bit. I immediately panicked, but the pain magically subsided and I finished my run without incident. I was feeling pretty great for most of the run, and I even felt a bit like my old running self.

Sunday

1900m swim: Endurance solo swim. This was my longest swim ever! I know I said that last week, but it’s true! You might have to relive this excitement with me again soon. It’s like Groundhog Day. 🙂

24.3km ride: For the second week in a row, I hit the pool before I did my ride. This order of events has been working well for me, and I think I’ll keep it up.

Swim: 4572m/1:51

Bike: 47.4km/2:00

Run: 29km/3:14

Strength: 0:37

Total Time: 7:44

 

Well, this was another week that didn’t go quite to plan. In retrospect, I probably dove back into my weekend workouts last weekend too quickly after the conference, which left me fatigued heading into the week. I’ve learned that lesson, and will definitely factor it into my game plan for the conference next year.

What is most troubling to me at this point is that I’ve missed my hill workout three weeks in a row. Since my goal race is quite hilly, I’m a little worried. I have not been secretive about the fact that of all my workouts, I’m the least motivated about running right now. Will I be able to run 30km on a challenging course in less than 6 weeks? We’ll see. I’m trying not to think too far ahead. This week, I’m trying to focus on keeping my diet (relatively) in check and making sure I’m getting enough sleep.

On we go, friends.

How was your training last week? Is anyone else running Around the Bay?

My Recently Rocky Relationship with Running

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Say that fives times fast.

All snarkiness aside, running and I haven’t really been getting along lately. For just about a year, in fact. Over the last couple of weeks, Facebook memories has been reminding me of that pesky little pain in my foot that I thought would be just fine after a few days of rest and stretching. I was mistaken. I spent the following six months downing tart cherry juice, stretching my calves six times a day, donning my beloved Strassburg sock every night, and enduring multiple rounds of shockwave therapy.

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Yes, it cost $49.99 for this sock. Not a pair. One sock.

Somewhere between the summer of 2011 and the winter of 2016, running became my life, for better or for worse. Not being able to run was debilitating, both mentally and physically.

Sure, I had been injured before, but plantar fasciitis seemed so much more severe than my other injuries. This was confirmed by the reactions of others when I told them why I was no longer logging miles in preparation for a fast spring half marathon. The contorted faces, and sympathetic “awwwww” that inevitably followed, along with tales of commiseration about that one time they knew another runner who had gotten plantar fasciitis, blah, blah, blah…To be honest, I stopped paying attention. To make matters worse, there was no timeline for a full recovery. My health care practitioners said that recovery time varies from several weeks, to months and years. In severe cases, surgery is required.

As the weeks ticked by and my goal races for the spring slipped further and further away, I settled into a winter-long funk. My plans changed from, “I want a marathon PB in the spring” to “Maybe I’ll do a fast half instead” to “I really just want to be able to finish a half pain-free” to “I give up.” I settled on the last one for a long, long time. In retrospect, I was pretty unbearable to be around most days, and my boyfriend deserves a freaking medal for putting up with me. Of course, I ate and drank my feelings until my clothes no longer fit. And so it goes.

Winter turned to spring, and before I knew it, I was running out of time to build for the SeaWheeze half marathon. My plantar fasciitis eventually calmed and I was able to rebuild my running. With the exception of one long run where I was slightly uncomfortable for the last 3 km, I was pain-free. I ran the race without incident, a painful 29 minutes slower than my PB.

My attitude towards running shifted. When I could no longer run, I appreciated it more, but I also realized how big a part of my life it was. At the same time, I hated it for this injury it had handed me. If I couldn’t run, what would I do with my time? Would my running friends still be my friends? What would happen to me if I couldn’t run marathons anymore? Note from current self with perspective: Running does not (or should not) define who you are and dictate your life. At least, that’s my new m.o.

As I was healing, my threshold for running was pain. I was only permitted to run when I had been pain-free the day before, had absolutely no pain upon waking in the morning, and I had to stop immediately if I had any pain whatsoever on the run. On days when I received shockwave therapy, I had to take two complete rest days afterwards. I had never known running to have so many rules. I knew it was all for the best to help me heal faster, but it was unsettling. How long was this going to take? There were no definitive answers.

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Sorry for the gratuitous foot shot. My foot felt best when it was taped at the end of my physiotherapy appointments.

Since I had no way of knowing whether or not I would wake in pain or develop pain mid-run, running became a complete wild card to me. Almost every night, I went to bed with a knot in my stomach. Would my foot hurt tomorrow? Would tomorrow be a running day? I wished hard every night to wake up pain-free.

I am someone who thrives on routine and structure, so you can imagine how awful this was for me. If I couldn’t plan my day-to-day training, what would a race schedule look like? I had already registered for several shorter distance races and completed most of them. They were mostly 5km races with an occasional 10km and a relay position. I posted some of my worst race times last winter and spring. I no longer enjoyed running, and it showed.

Now that I am trying to ramp up my triathlon training and things have been *mostly* all quiet on the plantar fasciitis front, I’ve got some perspective on my running. I recently came to the conclusion that running has become something I could no longer trust. Every ache in my calf or foot sends my mind into overdrive and worrying that I will wake up the next day in pain. Still, a year later. Maybe I will always be like this with running now. As I train for a 30km race (a distance that I’ve run many times and raced a couple of times), I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The difference this time around is, I’ve got two other disciplines to focus on, so if running goes down the tubes, I’ll spend more time in the pool and on my bike.

It’s taking more time than I would like, but I’m learning to fall in love with running again. Occasionally, I will feel a bit of my old running self emerge again, especially when I’m running long. Other days, I struggle to get out the door and get discouraged by slower paces. It’s going to be a slow burn for me to get back to where I was with my running. Maybe I’m not meant to get back to where I was? Maybe this is a whole new chapter in my running life.

Here’s hoping.


Have you ever had plantar fasciitis? What helped you heal?