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?   

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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!

 

Next Up…

Well, hello there! I didn’t intend for my absence here to have been so long. I honestly thought I would have more to say in the offseason, yet here I am. That’s not to say that things haven’t been happening behind the scenes. So, let’s play a little game of catch up, shall we?

When I last checked in, things were not going as spectacularly as I would have hoped. Granted, I was being patient. And still am, to be honest. Missing mojos can take a while to reappear. Mine has been making its appearance off and on. I’m still occasionally experiencing cases of the I-just-don’t-want-tos. Luckily, those are few and far between.

So, what *has* been happening?

Swim club has resumed. My club takes a four-week break at the middle-ish of August until mid-September. We have a new coach, which I was exceptionally anxious about before he arrived. Swimming is not my strong suit (har!), and I had really gotten into a groove with our old coach. Turns out, our new coach is great! The workouts so far have been challenging, and I think I’m going to see a lot of improvement working with him. I’ve already zoned in on a couple of technique points that I’m working on, and I seem to be making some headway with improving my kick. 4:45 wake-up calls are back on like Donkey Kong.

There isn’t much to report on the cycling front. The goal with my riding for the next little while is simply to get some time in on the saddle. I’ve been trying to ride 2-3 times a week, mostly easy stuff, occasionally some intervals to keep me honest. Keeping a decent cycling base is important, although it won’t be the main focus for the next little while because of my running.

My what?

Yes, my running. A couple of weeks back, I met my coach over a cold beer to talk about my goals for next year. This process of thinking so far ahead had been completely foreign to me. She sent an email late in the summer, asking what was on my mind for next year, and that I might want to start giving it some thought. Oy.

So, I did. I gave it a lot of thought, in fact. I waffled back and forth. I made my lists, as I often do when pondering decisions. Not only did I make myself write out those goals, I made myself attach a WHY to them. Not everything is about a PB these days (I need not remind you that I have not achieved a running PB since 2015), so I’m trying to really get at the root of why I’m setting certain goals.

Anyway, PK and I got together, and I threw my big scary goals at her. She was straight with me about what would be involved in meeting those goals (as she always is). Best of all, she was beyond excited for me. So, I wasn’t completely out to lunch when I started hatching these plans. The goals are big and scary. However, I am of the mindset that they should scare you at least a little.

So, barring any significant setbacks, here’s how 2018 is hopefully going to look:

  1. RUN A FREAKING MARATHON! In fact, I’ve already registered for the Paris Marathon in April! I’ve never run a spring marathon, so I’m eager to see how this will compare to my fall efforts. I usually do okay with winter running once I get going and am out there. As you know, I’ve got some unfinished business at Around the Bay and I had an amazing time at the Chilly Half, so I’m sure either one or both of those races will be on the tune-up schedule. I’m nervous about this one for a couple of reasons, one of them being that I generally don’t travel and race well. Hopefully not the case this time around. My marathon PB is from 2014 (4:17:35) and while I’m not heading in with hopes of beating that this time around, we will simply have to see how training progresses. My ultimate goal for this marathon is to make a return to strong distance running. I had a taste of that last winter, and I’m ready to dig back in.
  2. DO A 70.3! Well, we all knew this was coming, didn’t we? Some might argue that I should wait a little longer to take this on. I went back and forth on whether I would attempt this in the spring and leave the marathon for the fall. However, my coach reasoned that a fall 70.3 would be better for me right now, as it will give me a summer of training outside. I desperately need to work on my open water swimming and outside riding and it’s hard to do here in the winter because, well, Canadian weather. This is my stretch goal for next year. My BHAG, my way-out-of-my-comfort-zone goal. Much, much more to come on this! 🙂
  3. Rebuild strength and flexibility. You might have some trouble wrapping your head around the fact that I used to lovelovelove lifting weights and doing yoga. All of my strongest training cycles included yoga and weights as a non-negotiable part of my plan. When the going gets rough and I have to prioritize workouts, these are often the first to fall off the schedule when, really, they should be the last. Getting back to these things will not only make me a better athlete, I think they’ll help greatly with some of the mental struggles I experience around my training. 

Oof. It’s an ambitious list, isn’t it? It’s meant to be. Since I’ve been working with my coach over the last year, I’ve slowly been tapping back into any potential I have as an athlete and my ability to do hard things. I went through such. an. awful. time. in 2015 and 2016 with endurance sports and falling back into a terrible relationship with my body. I became almost unrecognizable to myself and convinced myself that my days of being driven enough to commit to endurance sports were behind me, that it had been just a phase I had gone through as I lost weight.

2017 has been a year of hard work and a demonstration that there is still at least some kick left in me. Even though there are still a few months left to this year, I’m already looking ahead.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.

xo

Missing Mojo Monday

Hello, friends! A very happy Monday to you all! I’m rebounding from a weekend of watching all of you badasses chase down BQs, play on the trails with your relay teams, and crush 70.3s. Usually, that makes me want to go out and run all the miles. However, as of late, I haven’t had much of an urge. Don’t get me wrong – I was still inspired as eff by all of you over the weekend, especially my coach, who gritted out a really tough race to land on the podium at the inaugural Ironman 70.3 at Lake Placid.

Lately, though, I’m having a lot of trouble connecting my mental motivation with the desire to get out the door and complete my workouts. I’m in the middle of an off-season of sorts, I suppose. There is little urgency in my workouts right now. All of my triathlons for this season are complete, and the only thing left on my schedule for this season is a half marathon on Sunday as part of a relay team at the Barrelman 70.3. My swim group is on its regular break and will resume next week, so my swimming has not been consistent. In fact, it’s been non-existent.

The post-race blues are a legit thing. After all my past marathons, I can confirm that I felt a little lost and slightly bummed in the days and weeks that immediately followed. I think I’m probably going through a little bit of that now, paired with a busy time at work. For the record, my day job is fairly predictable and I love it. I would say my profession is a relatively low-stress one, although it does get very busy at times like most jobs. Now is one of those times, with the academic year starting. My sleep quality and quantity has been horrific for the last week, especially during the weekdays. Save one day this weekend when I slept for 10 hours, I haven’t been getting good sleep at all, which has in turn affected my energy levels and desire/ability to work out.

All of this is further complicated by a huge tension I’m experiencing with high mental motivation. Hear me out on this one. Usually, it’s my brain that’s the source of negativity, with my body raring to go. This time, it’s vice versa, it seems.

I am so excited to start a fresh training cycle. I’m pretty sure that I’ve got at least one bigger event on my plan for next year, although the details and scheduling are foggy at this point. I’m eager to focus on some running goals after coming close-ish to my goal last year at Around the Bay. I’m excited to build on my triathlon fitness next year, too, and see how far that will take me. In short, I’m really eager for a fresh set of goals to pursue over the winter and spring.

That excitement and enthusiasm is not manifesting itself physically like I hoped it would at this point. I suspect my sleep woes, post-race blues, and hectic work responsibilities right now are all presenting a big mental and physical block that’s fighting it out with the enthusiastic part of my brain.

I am aiming for consistency in the off-season and I think I’ve got some time before I could potentially sabotage it, although that’s not an excuse to lay up and do nothing. I know it’s good to give oneself some time off mentally and physically after your big race/season. We’re just into week 3 post-Wasaga Beach, though, and my training mojo is nowhere to be found. While I’m certain it will return and I just have to wait it out, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.

In the interest of some consistency, though, I give you my (pathetic) training log from last week:

Monday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Tuesday

33.1km ride: Up bright and early at dark o’clock for an easy trainer ride. Although the first few minutes of this was rough, it turned out to be okay.

55 minute interval run: I was supposed to run intervals after work on Tuesday. I was looking forward to them, honestly I was. I haven’t run intervals since March, I believe? It’s been Brick City over here. 🙂 Once I finally got home and settled, Ryan wanted to go out for dinner together, since he was leaving for a work trip the next day. I didn’t get my run in, and I was out much later than planned. Nothing crazy, just up late after a super early morning.

Wednesday

2100m swim: After the late night on Tuesday, I was up early again to see Ryan off on his flight. Two nights in a row of poor sleep, and I was a zombie after work. I had intended to swim before work.

Thursday

45 minute run: The schedule originally called for a 45 minute Z3 run. After the debacle from the previous two days, my coach moved the interval run to Thursday. It didn’t happen then, either. 

Friday

1850m swim: Nope. I was just wiped at this point. You know the “I’ll start on Monday” mentality? Yeah, I was applying this to Saturday.

Saturday

15.8km run: I slept for a looooooooooong time on Friday night. Just about 10 hours, which is practically unheard of for me. There was a long ride on my schedule on Saturday. When I woke up, the weather was perfect for running. Absolutely perfect. I was spry as hell, and my legs were itching to run. I opted to lace up and get my long run done. This was definitely the right choice. For the first time in what felt like forever, every single minute of my long run was absolute bliss. I crushed some hills, and just generally felt great the entire time.

Sunday

1:30 ride: To be clear, my intentions yesterday were good. I had intended to do my ride on the trainer and track some friends and my coach who were racing, and meet up with a good friend for a belated birthday lunch, and to hit up the Vegetarian Food Festival. She messaged and asked if we could meet a little earlier than planned. I said yes.

 

Swim: 0m/0:00

Bike: 33.1km/1:00

Run: 15.8km/1:40

Strength: 0:00

Total Time: 2:40

So, there you have it. A crappy week on the workout front, to be sure. I’m certain that my desire to get back in the game is coming soon enough. Once I have something to sink my teeth into for next season, I think my weekly schedule of workouts will take on more meaning.

Am I nervous about the half marathon that I’ve got coming up on Sunday? You bet.

Do I regret giving myself some downtime? Maybe, that remains to be seen. Right now, I’m going to say no. It’s been nice not getting up at 4:45 to swim, and to go home from work and just enjoy a nice dinner and some TV and some crafting to take the edge off.

Do I wish I had made my friend wait and meet later in the afternoon so I could get in my bike ride? Absolutely not. I know the time will come soon when I no longer have that flexibility in my schedule, so I suppose I should just enjoy it now instead of giving myself a guilt trip.

More to come…

Have you ever lost your workout mojo? What did you do? Just ride out the storm and wait for motivation to return, or force yourself to work out when you just weren’t feeling it?

Wasaga Beach Olympic Triathlon Recap

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

Photo: Zoom Photo

Hi, friends! If you keep up with me on the socials, you probably saw that I made it through my first Olympic triathlon on August 26. I’m super happy to have made it through in one piece. Truthfully, I had a much harder time than I thought I would, so buckle up while I share my tale. 🙂

Race Day

We drove to Wasaga Beach after Ryan finished work on Friday evening. I’m so glad I took Friday off work to get everything sorted out because I actually spent the whole day packing and fussing with my bike.

Ryan and Heather were both racing the Sprint at 8:30, so they were up a little earlier than me to get ready. I had a pretty decent night of sleep before the race. When I woke up, I felt rested. Not too nervous, which was surprising to me. I got dressed, drank some water and ate a bagel with jam, hopped on my bike, and rode the 1.5km down to the race site. I got there at around 8:00, so I had enough time to see Heather and Ryan off to the start as I dropped my bike off in transition.

I had given myself lots of time, so as soon as the Sprint swimmers went off, I walked over to pick up my kit. As with all of the Multisport Canada events I’ve participated in this year, everything was a well-oiled machine. I had my kit picked up, body marked, and chip on in under 5 minutes.

I went back down near the water and hung out with Mark as we watched the swimmers come in. Once Heather and Ryan had both gone out on the bike course, I returned to transition and slowly started to set up my area.

There were so many people at the race that I knew. The race was also hosting the Club Championships, so everyone and their dog was there. I mean this literally, as Guinness came along for the ride. In addition to cheering and taking some really awesome photos of us on Saturday, Mark kindly brought Guinness around with him all day. I think they both had a good time. 😉

As I set up my transition, I noticed that I had left my pre-swim gel back at the cottage. Well, shit. I scurried over to the area where the vendors were set up. I normally train and race with Gu. My options there were either e-Load or Endurance Tap. I took my chances on the latter and finished setting up my transition area.

Rather than hang out in transition any longer, I went back to the swim finish and started the process of putting on my wetsuit. I took the Endurance Tap and chatted with some friends from the Toronto Triathlon Club. Many of the sprint racers were finishing by then, so there was no shortage of people around and I got a ton of encouragement before the start of my race.

I was in the last swim wave, which also meant that I would likely be last out of the water. I made peace with that and got in to warm up and see the other swimmers off. Then, it was 10:39, and it was time to go!

*All times and stats from my Garmin.*

Swim

I started the swim feeling okay, to be honest. In the beginning, I was breathing every other stroke, sighting every few breaths, and waiting to settle in. Sadly, that time never came. After a few hundred metres, many of the swimmers were already ahead of me and my body seemed to be rebelling.

Thankfully, my mind did not rebel.

I was mixing up breaststroke and breathing every other stroke by 400m, and I knew it would be a battle to the finish. I sang to myself, I counted strokes, I tried every breathing technique I knew, and nothing worked. A lifeguard stayed with me the entire time, and I was eternally grateful that she stayed. Although I never had to hold onto her board, she encouraged me the entire time. Like my very first sprint triathlon last summer, I’m not sure I would have finished the swim without the help of an amazing volunteer.

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Photo: Mark Gardner

Maintaining a positive state of mind was crucial to getting through the swim. At that point, my mental game was still strong enough to give myself a motivating talking-to. Every time I thought about quitting, I followed it with, “Not today. Not today.” I was not thinking about the rest of the race ahead at all. Just the swim. One discipline at a time.

Indeed, I was the last swimmer out of the water. My head was just reeling (not physically; I was not disoriented or dizzy at all), and I’m honestly not sure what my thoughts were at that point.

While I was fortunate to not have had anything cramp up, I was coughing A LOT during the swim. So much that my throat had become raw and in T1 I coughed up some red stuff, likely due to inflammation.

All things considered, this could have been much worse than it was. I swam 99m extra over 1500m, which is an improvement on my sprint efforts this summer, so I know my sighting has improved at least somewhat. Race day was my longest open water swim to date, and by quite a bit (about 550m).

1599m//52:55 (3:18/100m)

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Clearly happy the swim is over. Photo: Mark Gardner

T1

Once I had gotten out of the water and ran up to T1, I had sort of given up. Heather and Ryan were on the side of the fence by transition, checking in and encouraging me to keep going. Volunteers surrounded me in transition to make sure I was okay. That’s one benefit of being last out of the water, I suppose. 😉

The coughing continued in transition and that’s when I saw that I was coughing up red. I peeled my wetsuit off slowly and chewed away on a Clif bar while volunteers asked me question after question. Are you dizzy? No. Are you having trouble breathing? No. Are you too hot or too cold? No. Do you want to continue? Yes, although I didn’t know if I could. So much has been riding on this race and I’m afraid I won’t finish.

At that point, I put my arms across the racks in transition, and let myself cry a little bit.

Do you think it’s safe for you to continue? There are volunteers and support vehicles on course if at any time you think you can’t finish. Boom. Just what I needed – a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. For about the millionth time that day, I talked myself into continuing. Even if it was just for a little bit. As defeated as I felt, there was still a lot of fight left in me.

Putting on my helmet and shoes, I took my time and tried not to overthink things. Don’t think, just go.

T1: 8:48

Bike

Ah, the bike. It kinda broke me as a human there for a while, to be honest. Although I was able to clip into my bike much faster than last time, I started the bike in a mental state of uncertainty, leaning towards failure. Just past the mount line, the bike course took a turn up onto a bridge, and Mark was waiting there to cheer me on. I remember the feeling of riding past him, and having a pit in my stomach, almost sure I wouldn’t finish the bike course.

Oh, well, I thought. Here goes nothing.

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

BYEEEEEEEEE! Photo: Zoom Photo

And it really did feel like nothing. My legs were not turning over, and my energy levels felt like they were at rock bottom. I tried to focus on anything other than how crappy I was feeling. On the other side of the road, athletes were heading back towards T2. This wore me down a little bit at a time. Almost every athlete offered a friendly nod, or yelled out words of support.

As the kilometres slowly ticked by, I kept my eyes peeled for a volunteer or a race support vehicle. After 5-10km, I decided that I had had enough, and it was time to pack it in. Seeing no opportunity to call it a day other than actually getting off and walking my bike, I kept riding. At least that would get me to my DNF faster. My very first DNF. I rode, and I rode some more. I got to a hill that slowed me down to just under 10km/h. On the flat portions of the course, I could barely sustain 20km/h. My body was depleted, and I was beyond done.

Between the coughing that persisted in the first part of my bike ride and a few tears, I prepared myself for failure. I thought about what I would tell my coach. I thought about what I would tell Ryan and my friends who had come to watch me race. I thought about what I would share on social media. I started to mentally write this blog post. I’m glad this post looks much different than that initial brainstorming session. It was probably the darkest place I had ever been in during a race, though.

As always, my brain jumped about 20 steps ahead of where it actually needed to be. My logic shifted from that moment in an Olympic distance to the longer distances that I so badly want to take on someday. If I couldn’t finish a 40km ride, how would I do 90km? More importantly, how could I run 21km after riding 90km? I recognize that no good ever comes from that mindset, and I’m working really hard to change it.

By this time, I had passed the halfway point. As much as I had been mentally steeling myself to fail, I somehow managed to go through the motions of fueling. I had been drinking as scheduled, and I had even been taking my gels, so that’s something.

I felt angry and bitter. I was disappointed in myself. Even if I attempted the Olympic distance again on another day, I had spoiled this day. This would always be the memory of my first Olympic triathlon because you only get one first time.

You only get one first time.

I repeated that phrase over and over in my head, and something clicked. It’s true that I would only get one first time. I would make it count. It would be slow and painful, for sure. I would finish, though. Just like I finished my first sprint triathlon.

Having passed the halfway point already and heading back towards transition, I started to devise a strategy for the run. I struggle with running off the bike, and I am particularly prone to struggling while racing the 10km distance. If I started the run knowing that I would have to take some walk breaks and take it a bit at a time, I would get it done.

A few minutes after I took each turn, a police car would pass me. It was clear that I was the final cyclist on the course and the course marshals were packing up as I passed each checkpoint. Regular glances over my shoulder confirmed that a police car and event support vehicle were escorting me back to transition. While it’s difficult to deny how disheartening that felt, I was completely locked into my goal of getting this done that I tried to look at it as me having my own little entourage. 🙂

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Photo: Mark Gardner

When I rode back into transition, I was in considerably better spirits than when I left. My cough had all but cleared, and it was time to get down to business.

40km//1:47:18 (22.4 km/h/avg.)

T2

I rolled into T2 and quickly took off onto the run course. As I was running down the chute to start the run, Heather was there and yelled at me that another runner was just 7 minutes ahead of me. It was clear that she was giving me something to focus on for the run. If I could stay focused on catching at least one runner and closing the gap, it would give the run more meaning.

T2: 2:30

Run

In the first few hundred metres, I saw Ryan and he started to run beside me. I think he was relieved to see me motivated and in such good spirits, as it was certainly not how I started the bike. I explained my strategy to him, that I was planning to walk whenever I felt like I absolutely needed to, and that I was determined to finish this thing. Ryan let me go ahead, and told me he would be waiting near the 5km turnaround.

The run course was two loops of 5km, so I broke it down mentally into quarters. A few minutes walking, a few minutes running. Little bit at a time. Eat the elephant, one bite at a time.

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Locked in. Photo: Heather Gardner

I hit each of the aid stations. I poured a cup of water over my head, and drank a cup of electrolyte. Although it wasn’t particularly hot outside, it helped to keep me cool. I saw Ryan and Heather at the turnaround point. At this point, I saw the runner Heather had said was close to me. She was still a bit ahead of me. Catching her would take some focus and it wouldn’t happen instantly. By 6-7km, I had caught up to her, and noticed that she was in my age group. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and I wished her well on the rest of her race. Although I was feeling the need to walk, I decided to create some distance between us.

Sure enough, I was able to stay ahead of her. As I came into the last aid station, Ryan was waiting with the volunteers and came to run me into the finish. It was so special to share that with him. I talk a lot about how much he sacrifices for my racing, and it’s only fitting that he ran with me to the finish of my last race of the season. He hung back a couple hundred metres from the finish line to make sure I had my moment.

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

Photo: Zoom Photo

I was never so relieved to be finished a race in my life. I had to think hard to remember a time when I had fought so hard simply to finish.

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Photo: Heather Gardner

I’m so proud of how I was able to dig myself out of such a difficult place to finish the race. It’s motivating to have a finishing time to work towards beating next year. As usual, all of the doubts about my ability and desire to stick with triathlon that I experienced during the race have subsided and I’m already looking ahead to next year.

10.1km//1:11:56 (7:08/km)

4:03:29 (12/13 AG; 84/104 Gender; 271/322 Overall)

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Sweet, sweet victory. Photo: Heather Gardner

To say I’m ecstatic to have finished would be accurate. While I had lofty goals of finishing faster than I did, I’m glad I adjusted my expectations and ultimately had a great race. As with all of my races this year, I learned a ton. I also learned a lot about myself during this race. I’m tougher than I’ve been giving myself credit for. My mental training has been progressing nicely. Being patient with mental training and not expecting immediate perfection has allowed me to soak up the full benefits of my training.

With the exception of the run leg of the Barrelman relay in less than two weeks, that’s all I’ve got on tap for this season. A couple of weeks before Wasaga, my coach emailed me to ask if I’d given any thought to what I might want to my goals to be for next season. I threw out some super scary (for me) ideas that we’ll work through in the coming weeks to determine what’s best for me next season.

I’ve been enjoying some semi-structured training with lots of downtime. I am looking forward to easing back into a more targeted program, whatever that will look like. My goals for the off-season are to stay as consistent with my training as possible and to build some serious strength.

I’ll write a lot more about next season’s goals and races once we’ve fully established what it will look like. 🙂

So, that brings my triathlon season mostly to a close. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on my season as a whole that I will share later, once I’ve had some time to reflect a bit more. I’m sure whatever triathlon goals I set for next season will bring some clarity to the work I’ve put in this season.

Big love and thanks to my supportive friends and family, my coach, and Ryan for putting up with my occasional nonsense, and encouraging me to keep at it. The best is yet to come! xo

 

 

 

Ontario Women’s Triathlon Race Recap

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Yes, I am alive. I’m guessing you already knew that, though. I got halfway through a training recap post last week and didn’t get it finished, so I’ll take the bones of it and write about brick training very soon. I’ve been doing quite a bit of that lately, and it’s been serving me well, so watch for that soon!

Anyway, I raced the Ontario Women’s Triathlon on Toronto Island on Saturday. I haven’t been talking too much about that one because I had kinda, sorta forgotten about it. I have a little bit of tunnel vision about my first Olympic triathlon next weekend at Wasaga Beach, so that’s been occupying my thoughts as of late. On to the race.

Race Day

Even though it was a local race (it was held on Toronto Island at Hanlon’s Point), I had to get up at 4:00 to get myself downtown, my body marked, and on the ferry with time to spare before the 8:00 race start. I went with baked oatmeal as a pre-race breakfast this time and ate it just before I got on the ferry, about 2 hours before the race. I got to the island with more than enough time to spare. Once I got to transition, I set up my area and took my time with all my pre-race rituals.

I was milling about and casually half-listening to Steve Fleck doing his emcee thing and chatting with my transition neighbours, when Ryan came into transition and told me he had overheard that the swim was being pulled closer to shore and cut by 150m due to the wind and rough water conditions. I contorted my face a bit as I processed this. Cut by 150m? It was already only 500m to begin with, so I would be swimming 350m? Also, wind? What wind? Things felt perfectly sheltered here in transition, among all the trees, of course. I tried not to panic.

With my transition area completely set up, I grabbed my wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles, and we went down to the swim start to get a handle on what was going on. As soon as we got to the beach and got a glance at the water, I immediately understood why the swim was shortened. It was quite windy, and the water looked rough. Tons of whitecaps and fairly big waves.

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My first instinct was to silently freak the eff out, which I did for a hot second. The panic almost immediately subsided when I recalled that I had done a 1000m open water swim in Barbados in similar conditions. In the ocean, I might add. I had survived that (sans wetsuit and lifeguards, thankyouverymuch), so surely I would survive this.

We found a picnic table near the swim finish, and I started to put on my wetsuit as the lifeguards came to set up the swim finish chute. They informed us that the swim was not cut by 150m, rather it was cut to 150m. Just 150m in crazy choppy water? Woo hoo! What better way to ease into racing in tough swimming conditions than 150m hugging the shore? I was ecstatic! Not everyone was so excited about the shortened swim, though. While I understand the frustration of not being able to race the full distance you have trained for, I totally respect the decision to shorten the swim.

Sidebar: As I was putting on my wetsuit, I discovered that I had worn my only pair of socks down to the beach and there wasn’t enough time to return to transition with them. Having never raced the bike and run legs without socks, I decided today was not the day to experiment. I ended up having Ryan hand me my socks as I exited the swim. Ha.

I found Amber (the only other person I knew doing this race), kissed Ryan goodbye, and toddled off into the water. We listened to the pre-race announcements and before we knew it, the horn went off.

*All times and data from my Garmin.*

Swim

I was in the first swim wave. I immediately settled into a rhythm, which felt great. I had decided before the swim that, with the rough conditions, I would only breathe to my left to avoid getting tossed around and disoriented in the waves. I breathed every 2 strokes for the duration of the swim, and I am happy to report that I actually felt fantastic the entire time. I sighted every 3 breaths, so I was fairly in tune with where I was. I seemed to be fairly on track, although you couldn’t really tell.

Stop the presses: I did not look at my watch once during the swim. I did not stop once during the swim. Before I had a chance to even get in a panic, I was out of the water. Having not looked at my watch, I had no sense of my swim time. I grabbed my socks from Ryan and got running through T1. As always, my first thought out of the water was, “I can’t wait to get home and see my Strava map for this.”

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YOU GUYS. The irony is not lost on me here. Give me a calm lake with a straightforward swim course, and I panic. I have to stop every 75-100m, and I can’t sight for my life. I swim 100+ extra metres. Throw me in rough water with whitecaps and waves galore, and I swim in probably the only straight line I will ever swim in my life. Ha. Don’t get me wrong  here; I am so happy that I was able to have a really great swim in rough water (albeit a really short swim). I can’t help but shake my head here. Coach’s response? “Well now I know you can perform really well in less than ideal conditions.” 😐

147m//3:55 (2:39/100m)

T1

With my socks in hand, I scurried on up to transition. The run up was partially on grass, so most of the sand from the beach had already come off my feet. I must confess, though, I hardly ever take the time to actually dry my feet. With transition being in a grassy area, I put my cycling shoes on and ran to the mount line wearing them. My clipping in happened much quicker this time around. Although not in any way instant, I would say I struggled for less than half the time as at TTF. Winning.

5:03

 

Bike

The bike course was two loops of approximately 10km. It was a great bike course. Very flat, and scenic. My only complaint is that I passed a participant on the course who was WEARING HEADPHONES. It goes without saying how freaking dangerous this is, and my only regret was not having reported it to a volunteer or the series manager. I also didn’t say anything to her directly myself, although I doubt she would have heard me. It made me pretty mad, to be honest. I pedaled like a maniac trying to get away from her, and prayed that she wouldn’t catch me and luckily, she didn’t. I wanted her as far away from me as possible for safety reasons.

I had no problem drinking an adequate amount during the ride. I paid attention to make sure I was taking a generous swig from my bottle every 10 minutes. I took a gel with about 10 minutes left to my ride. I had a much easier time with bike nutrition this time around. My dismount was quick and smooth, and I felt pretty good about my ride overall.

19.5km//46:28 (25.2 km/h)

 

T2

My second transition was pretty quick. As soon as I took off my helmet and changed my shoes, I was off.

1:52

 

Run

With a few brick workouts under my belt over the last couple of weeks, I was feeling better heading into the run than I have in a while. The run started on grass, and I hate running on grass. It seems to instantly zap all my energy, so I was careful to keep the effort super easy until I reached the pavement.

Once there, we had to do four (yes, you read that correctly – FOUR) loops of just over 1km each. You all know how much I struggle with looped courses. I tried to put it out of my mind. It was also at the start of the paved course when I realized that I had forgotten a wristband to cover my watch. Well, shit. I resolved not to look, and to run by feel. I couldn’t resist looking when the kilometres beeped, although it didn’t negatively affect me on Saturday.

In my brick workouts lately, I’ve discovered that I’m much better off starting out slow for the run and ever-so-gradually picking things up, rather than starting off strong and trying to hang on. I concentrated on doing that, and I had a good run! The first kilometre was 5:45, which I was afraid was still too fast, so I just concentrated on staying consistent, and not walking.

Aside from the water stations (when I took a drink each time and dumped the rest over my head), I didn’t walk once during the run. That’s the first time I can say that in a triathlon. I was very proud of myself when I finished. Kilometres 2-4 were all bang on at 5:53, and I was able to pick it up to a 5:44 for the last bit, even on the grass. That seems to be a smart racing strategy for me right now, so I’ll stick with that. 🙂

Moar bricks! Moar bricks!

4.63km//27:02 (5:51/km)

Overall: 1:24:21 (16/25 AG; 71/145 Overall)

2017-08-19 | 2017 MultiSport Ontario Women's Triathlon

Finish photo courtesy of zoomphoto.ca

A very friendly face was waiting for me right at the finish line for sweaty hugs and high fives – Coach PK! She was the Honourary Race Director on Saturday and did an awesome job of welcoming us all across the finish line. She had a big day, and then went on to kick ass on Sunday at the co-ed sprint triathlon!

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Clearly not looking where we are supposed to. Photo: Phaedra Kennedy

I found Amber (4th in our AG, by the way! Fierce!) and Ryan, and we got some post-race snacks. It wasn’t quite 10:00 at that point, so I passed on the pizza. I ate some orange slices and pretzels instead. Multisport Canada has had pretzels at both events I’ve been at this year, and it’s been my favourite post-race snack. Can’t get enough of the pretzels. Moar pretzels!

Amber and I took advantage of the empty photo area, and went to take some shots of us with our medals. We hammed it up a bit on the podiums. The official race photographer came over, and took some glamour shots for us. A good time was had by all. We hung around for the awards and draw prizes before getting the ferry back to the mainland.

2017-08-19 | 2017 MultiSport Ontario Women's Triathlon

Photo courtesy of zoomphoto.ca

I have to be honest and say that when I saw the condition of the water, I was less than enthused about doing the race. I questioned why I was giving up yet another weekend to race when I should be resting and putting in quality workouts for Wasaga Beach. As usual, once I got going, I felt better about the whole thing. I know that practicing the motions of triathlon racing is helping me for the Olympic this weekend.

I really enjoyed this race. Like at Welland, things were organized and my race experience was a relaxing and positive one. Knowing it will be equally organized and well-resourced by Multisport Canada is putting me at ease for this weekend.

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Seriously, though, how awesome is this medal? Like Welland, the race shirt was also super nice. For the second time this season, I was kicking myself for not having opted in for the shirt and instead saving money on registration fees. I never thought I would say that. You should see the shirts, though. Some of the nicest race shirts I’ve seen! I’m on a mission to track one down, and I’ll definitely opt in for my shirts next year! Our race photos were free, as well, which is an added bonus. Another great event by Multisport Canada!

Once again, I’m ever grateful to Ryan for sacrificing his weekend and his own training for me. He had a long run on his schedule that day and ran 16km in the dead of the afternoon heat to be at my morning race. I returned the favour the best way I knew how – I rode Black Betty alongside him for his run and showed him a new-to-us trail a couple of kilometres from our house.

My coach, my family + friends, my run crew, triathlon club, and swim group have been more help to me than they know. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It truly does take a village.

Next up: Wasaga Beach!

 

Decompressing

Hi, friends!

I’ve been fairly absent lately. #noragrets. Once we left for Newfoundland, I went into full-on vacation mode. I had no desire to write or post much of anything while I was away, so I just went with it. I didn’t exercise nearly as much as I should have, either, and I feel zero guilt. I ate, drank, laughed, spent time with my family and friends, and worked out when I felt like it. I had a pretty solid open water swim, a hilly long run, and a nice pool swim. That was it. End of workout log.

Running has been my least favourite of all my workouts lately, likely because I’ve been struggling so much with running off the bike and the run legs of my triathlons. You’ll probably hear more about that next week, as I’ve got three brick workouts on my schedule this week! Anyway, on the first Saturday we were at home, I had a long run of 75 minutes on my schedule. I woke up feeling a little lethargic and not quite up for it, but determined to get it done. My mom’s birthday party was that night, so I knew the chances of my getting out the next day were slim.

Ryan joined me for the first 20 minutes or so and then turned back while I kept going. I wondered if I would even be able to finish my run. I slowed it down and managed to bang out the full 75 minutes. It was ever so slightly humid outside, although the temperatures were not high. I kept telling myself over and over to be thankful for the cool temperatures and to be running at home. That got me through.

Running in Newfoundland really is something to be experienced. I’m the first to admit that the hills may eat you alive. If you can set that aside, you really are rewarded with some of the most breath-taking scenery ever. When I did my run, it was foggy, which kept things cool. That weather would have annoyed me when I lived here, and it’s one of those things you definitely appreciate when you move away and come back to visit. The fog was perfect to keep me cool on the hills, despite the slight humidity.

We made sure to bring our wetsuits to get in an open water swim or two. We made a beach day of it. Ryan and I swam in our wetsuits, and my mom and niece also came along. My niece went for a swim too, and Mom played photographer and guarded the beach snacks.

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We swam just over a kilometre. It was a little choppy once you got out there because of the boats and Sea-Doos, and as usual, my sighting skills need some work. I had so much fun doing a swim workout in one of the ponds that I spent much of my childhood summers swimming/bobbing around in. Mom insisted on capturing a number of photos, and there were some outtakes. Thanks for the candid shots, Ma.

I seriously could have stayed in there all day. The weather has been quite warm in Newfoundland and they’re apparently having a fabulous summer (must be nice!), so the water temperature was great, too! I had forgotten how shallow the water is at Golden Sands and, even a few hundred metres offshore, the water was only up to your knees. The water was so crisp and clear. It’s definitely some of the cleanest water I’ve ever swam in. I suppose that doesn’t mean much when you’re surrounded by lakes littered with drinking straws and cigarette butts. 😉 Anyway…if you ever find yourself in Newfoundland while you’re training for a triathlon, it was worth the extra room my wetsuit took up in the suitcase. I wish I had gotten out more than once.

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Attack of the swunger.

Other than that, we really just enjoyed our time at home. My mom’s birthday party and cousin’s wedding kept us busy, and we enjoyed a couple of nights with my parents and niece at the cabin. We took an ATV ride up to a beautiful waterfall, which was a nice change.

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I was able to get to the local YMCA for a pool swim. The facility is fairly new, and it was my first time visiting. It is beautiful, and I will definitely be taking full advantage of it the next time I’m at home visiting. The pool there is 25m, so you can imagine what a change that was, now that I’ve gotten used to swimming long course. The laps felt so short! In a virtually empty pool, I enjoyed a 2400m swim.

That was the extent of my workouts! Perhaps not the best strategy leading up to the Wasaga Beach Olympic race on August 26. However, I’m feeling mentally rested and ready to dig back into training, which, as you know, is often the biggest hurdle for me. I’ve got my longest bike ride to date scheduled for this weekend (2 hours), followed by a 30 minute run off the bike. Should be interesting!

Do you stick to your training plan on vacation? How was your long weekend? 

A Place of Gratitude: Toronto Triathlon Festival Recap

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Hello, friends! Happy Monday Tuesday!

Well, it’s come and gone. On Sunday, I joined about 1,400 other athletes at my goal race for the season, the Toronto Triathlon Festival. Last week, I wrote about feeling relatively at ease about the race, knowing already that I had come leaps and bounds from last year’s first attempt. I headed into the weekend in a mostly ambivalent state of mind for this reason, although still ready to give it everything I could.

After talking with my coach last week, I ultimately decided against setting a specific time goal. Instead, I settled on three mini-goals for the race:

  1. Have a good swim (read: do not panic)
  2. Complete my ride clipped in (eep!)
  3. Cover my watch for the last part and run by feel

If you’re not interested in reading the incredibly long post ahead, here’s the skinny: check, check, and check. At the heart of this race for me was benchmarking, and I’m ready to get back down to business before my first Olympic race, which is just under five weeks away!

Anyhoo, here’s how things went…

The Day Before

Saturday morning was busy. We had friends coming from out of town to spend the night with us and race, so I was up early to clean the house and shuffle one of the dogs off for boarding. Then we headed straight to the expo so we could attend the in-person race briefing because we missed the boat on the online briefing. Poor life choices. We all make ‘em, people. After the in-person briefing was done, packet pick-up was very fast. Ryan did the swim familiarization while I waited. I didn’t want to risk my wetsuit not drying for the next morning, so I hung out while he swam.

From the moment we arrived at the expo, it was a completely different experience for me than last year. I felt at home, like I belonged there. I ran into so many people that I knew, and had a great time catching up with my Regent Park swim group friends. I miss them so much, and it was such a nice start to the weekend seeing so many smiling faces.  

We hung around a bit until our out-of-town friends arrived. I attended an event with Simon Whitfield, who talked to us about daily rituals. The expo had a great selection of vendors! Ryan had his sweat tested by Jason to see how much sodium he loses, which in turn, helps you develop an appropriate fuelling and hydration strategy. The solid black version of my tri shorts was at the expo for only $40, so I snapped them up and resisted the urge to buy more tri clothes. Other than the shorts, I picked up some gels, and a swim cap to match my sassy new swimsuit. I can’t wait to wear them both tomorrow at swim practice! Woo!

Before we exhausted ourselves too much at the expo, we went home to get our things organized, get dinner at senior-citizen-o’clock, and go to bed in anticipation of our 4:15 alarm. I ate some ginger teriyaki chicken rice bowl thing at a restaurant nearby for dinner, if that interests you. It was fine. Forgettable, and not too heavy. When we got home, I attached the stickers to my bike and helmet, taped a gel to the crossbar of my bike, and packed up the rest of my things. I was in bed by 10, and fell asleep almost immediately. I slept well and only woke up once before the alarm went off.

Race Morning

I had a cup of coffee and started in on a bottle of water. I made my breakfast of two gluten-free waffles with peanut butter and jam + banana to go. My race would not start until 10:00, so I didn’t want to eat 6 hours before and start the race hungry. Plus, I had hours to kill between the start of the Olympic race and my own race, so there was plenty of time to digest. We strapped all the bikes to the car and put our bags in the back and made the drive down to Ontario Place pretty quickly. Parking was simple, and there was a ton of it. Our parking spot was about a five minute walk from the transition area. Can’t ask for much better than that.

Like last year, I entered transition with the olympic athletes and got my area set up way early so I wouldn’t have to lug my bike and gear around while I watched the start of the olympic race. I did get a couple of looks from the volunteers that questioned my sanity of why I was there so early. The peace of mind of having my transition area set up so early was worth it. That’s the reward for a 4:15 wake-up, friends.

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Jess and I hung out and watched the start of the olympic swim, as both our Ryans were racing. I really enjoyed watching the swim, although I did see some heartbreaking DNFs in the water that made me want to cry. Once we spotted the guys and they appeared close to finishing, we moved over to the bike mount line to watch them start the ride. We missed her Ryan somehow, although managed to see my Ryan head out on the bike. By now, I had gotten a text from my coach saying she had arrived and it was close to time when I could (for real) enter transition, so I caught up with Phaedra briefly, said goodbye to Jess, and headed into the holding pen.

I really just had to double-check my set-up, and meander around transition being all social while everyone else set up their things. After one last trip to the porta-potty, I changed into my onesie and put my wetsuit on halfway, ate a banana, dropped my bag into bag check, and got out when transition closed at 9:00. We all headed down towards the swim start and started waiting out the near hour between transition closing and our swim wave, which was second to last. I took a gel 30 minutes before my wave left.

A few minutes before our start, we were allowed in a very enclosed area to “warm-up.” Due to the complexities of the venue, there really isn’t anywhere to do a proper, 15-20 minute warm-up. As I was easing myself into the water, I saw a straw from a juice pack, and a cigarette butt. Yum. I couldn’t wait to get into this cesspool and swallow a bunch of water. I took that as motivation to swim faster. Besides, Ryan helpfully pointed out that it’s the stuff you can’t see in the water that will really kill you. Duly noted.

Swim

(NB: All times and distances listed will be from my Garmin)

When the horn went off, I found myself starting in the middle of the group and to the left. Last year, I started the swim leg way at the back and off to the side. I had counted to five after the start and then got moving. Not this year. I eased into the swim very easily this time, and let people pass as they needed. My breathing settled very early on. I concentrated on sighting as well as I could, and fully extending in my stroke, while rotating my body. I was not kicking very much early on, so as not to expend all my energy. Every 100m or so, I would come up for a little breaststroke or side swimming. I really tried to keep moving the whole time.

Water conditions were perfect. Seriously. It was calm, and the water was warm. At over 17*C, it was much warmer than last year and subsequent years. Only slightly colder than Welland and Kincardine, which was nice. I was very comfortable in the (disgusting) water.

However, I admittedly did a little more watch gazing than I ought to have. I could have sworn that I saw the volunteer who saved my ass last year and paddled alongside me to the finish. That was motivation to get it done. I was eager to get out of the water and onto the bike. I felt good about my sighting, and remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to see the map when I got home.

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Before I knew it, the dock was right there. I came out of the water and popped my goggles up. I felt good. Not dizzy or otherwise disoriented, so I got moving. I tore my wetsuit down halfway, took off the goggles and cap, and ran. I passed my coach and the spectators smiling. Recalling that last year’s photo of me coming out of the water was more akin to Ursula the Sea Witch than a triathlete in transition, I was already making progress. Huzzah!

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Why, yes, I do have raccoon eyes. Photo: Finisherpix

832m//22:50 (2:44/100m)

T1 (Swim-to-bike)

As soon as I got to my area, I ripped off my wetsuit and put on my helmet. I heard cheers from the other side of the fence – it was Jess and our Ryans! They had already finished the Olympic race. I gave a thumbs up, and continued getting changed. I dabbed my feet on a towel, and put on my socks, sunglasses, and gloves. After a swig of water, I grabbed my shoes and bike and started the long run up to the bike mount line. Once you are out of the transition area, there is a short and fairly steep ramp up to a bridge that you run across and then mount your bike. The run up to the bridge wasn’t much fun. I took it easy. I was eager to try this clipping in business in a race, so as soon as I was past the orange mount line, I shuffled off to the side and put my shoes on. I struggled for a few minutes (seriously, a full few minutes) to get one of my shoes clipped in, and eventually got going without incident.

It is worth noting that the distance from my area to the bike mount line was 450m. Sportstats said my T1 was 3:23, so it looks like I spent 3:41 trying to get one of my feet clipped in. Sounds about right. I’ll definitely be working on practicing a faster start with my clips. I was across the bike mount line by this point, so all of this extra time was added to my bike split, even though I wasn’t actually moving. You live, you learn. How long can I play the newb card again?

T1: 7:04

Bike

I was excited to be on the bike. In fact, I think I was looking forward to the bike leg the most. The novelty of clipping in had me really jazzed to see how much of a difference I would see in my bike time. The first kilometre or so is weaving around side roads to get onto the highway. I immediately felt a difference in my legs with my shoes clipped in, so I was pumped to hit the road and get this party started. I briefly flirted with the idea of a 40-ish minute ride, and let the excitement set in.

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I’m having a good time! Photo: Finisherpix

Oh, HI, WIND! Where the hell did you come from?

The second I turned onto the highway, I was greeted by what seemed like a brick wall of wind coming from the east, which was the direction I was heading in for the first half of the ride. Naturally. I was not mentally prepared for the wind, and I am not an experienced rider in windy conditions. I spent so much time before the race bracing for rain. Wind? I hadn’t given the wind a second thought. Luckily, the bike course is relatively flat, with a few long and gentle ups and downs, although quite open. Sneaky. I was fighting the wind from the beginning and deflated (yes, yes. Let’s all enjoy these little puns now, hmmm?) to see I was, at times, unable to sustain more than 16 km/h.

Instead of getting into a dark place, I told myself to hang on because if the wind was this strong in my face now, surely it would push me on the way back and I could make up the time. Better to battle it now, than on the last half. Unless, the wind changed directions, which has been known to happen to me on long runs, so why not now? I digress. Ultimately, the weather is at the top of a list of things I can’t control, so I decided not to let it dictate my race. I stayed positive, encouraged riders as they passed and I passed, and smiled for the photographers. As it was an out-and-back course, I also used my distraction skills and tried to spot people I knew. I kept powering through until I got to the turnaround point, which is, of course, at the top of a hill. Bless the highway ramps. Har.

I turned around and let it rip with whatever energy I was willing to spend on the bike. I kicked my gears up so I wasn’t coasting the entire time and on some of the downhills, I was able to hit 45 km/h! That may be the fastest I had ever ridden outside. In fact, I’m certain that is the fastest I’ve ever ridden outside. Lots of adrenaline came with that. I decided then and there that I loved being clipped into my bike. How had I ridden in my running shoes before? It was a different world. Talk to me after I’ve had my first wipe-out, though, I guess. And now, I’m jinxed. My glutes and hamstrings were taking most of the work, and I totally agree that it saved a lot of energy and made for a more efficient ride.

You know what was not efficient? (Points for that segue? Thank you.) My hydration during my ride. I have practiced drinking on the bike quite a bit and my strategy is usually to drink every 10 minutes. Every time I grabbed my bottle on the ride, though, I fumbled and struggled to get it back quickly. With all the bumps and grooves on the highway and the high speeds I was hitting on the second half, I really struggled to take in more than a microsip. I know this will change as I get more comfortable riding and drinking. By the end of the ride, though, I had barely taken in 250ml of fluid. Oops. BTW: My drink of choice for longer workouts and races is Nuun Performance. Right now, I’m drinking the Orange Mango flavour.

On the other hand, taping my gel to the crossbar of my bike was positively genius. The plan was to take it roughly 10 minutes before I finished my ride, and I did so without crashing. I took the gel a little bit at a time and took the hairpin turn to come off the highway and finish the ride.

I clipped out just before the dismount line without issue, and jogged my bike back to transition. Coming down that hill after my ride with my bike and shoes in tow was no joke, and I had to take it super slow, lest I wipe out. Can you imagine how embarrassing that would have been? Ah, well.

It wasn’t quite the ride I had hoped for, and a good lesson in preparing for the unexpected. I am ever grateful that it didn’t rain, and I think I handled the wind very well.

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Look, Ma! Clipped in! Photo: Finisherpix

18km//43:41 (24.7 km/h)

T2 (Bike-to-run)

I scurried back to my area and racked my bike. I dropped my shoes instantly, and took off my gloves and helmet. I slipped into my running shoes and put on my hat, bib, and wristband to cover my watch. Jess and Ryans were still there cheering and I was so grateful to have them there for the confidence boost.

T2: 3:59

Run

To be honest, this was the part of the race I was looking forward to the least. I tried not to focus on the potential for disaster due to my poor hydration, and just got moving. Almost right out of the gate, Phaedra was there with her cowbell and I immediately perked up. I focused on running at 6-7 RPE and trying to start conservatively by feel.

The run course was a 5km out-and-back, so I broke things up mentally: first kilometre, turnaround point, 4km (when, if I was feeling good, I could drop the proverbial hammer.). The first kilometre seemed to last forever. When I finally felt my watch vibrate and beep, the temptation to look was high. I’m happy to report that I didn’t. Gold star, please. I also saw Damara a little before this point, one of my Ragnar teammates, which I had not been expecting. Yay for Ragnar reunions! Come to think of it, several of us raced at TTF on Sunday. Heh.

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Pact with self: Always smile for the photographers! Photo: Finisherpix

When I got to the first aid station, I took a cup of Nuun to drink and a cup of water. For the first time in my life, I dumped the water over my head. While it wasn’t particularly sweltering and there was some cloud cover, it helped keep my temperature in check. I repeated this at all 4 aid stations.

While I wouldn’t say the wheels ever completely came off, I struggled after the halfway point. There is a fairly challenging hill right after the halfway point, and I walked. Once I got moving again, I decided I would draw positivity from those around me, given I didn’t have my trusty sidekick with me this year. Three times, I saw people who had motivated me on the ride and I told them so. We all encouraged each other on the run to get it finished.

I saw my coach one last time in the final few hundred metres, and I was definitely ready to be finished. Spectators were great in the final stretch, and athletes who had already finished were on the sidelines cheering us all in, which I appreciated.

Just like last year, my friend Mark was near the finish cheering for the Tribe athletes. We occasionally joke about that final stretch last year, when I yelled at him, “I’m never f*cking doing this again!” I was in much better spirits this year, and yelled to him, “I can’t f*cking wait to do this again!”

I turned the corner and gunned it to the finish. By “gunned it,” I mean I ran a 5:16/km for about 50m. It was all I had left, and I dropped a victorious f bomb as I neared the finish.

5km//31:07 (6:12/km)  

Overall Time: 1:48:41 (27/34 AG, 154/191 Gender, 375/435 Overall)

After brief chats with everyone who was immediately at the finish line, I collected a Clif bar, and took a photo with Phaedra (and met a fellow athlete from Team PK – Hi, Charlotte!!!). After that, I hightailed it to the beer tent because #priorities.

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The Ryan Sandwich reunited! Photo: Phaedra Kennedy

The Benchmark

Let’s take a look at the numbers in comparison to last year, shall we? Drum roll, please.

Swim:

2016: 35:51

2017: 22:50

Difference: 13:01

T1:

2016: 5:16

2017: 7:04

Difference: +1:48

Bike:

2016: 51:38

2017:43:41

Difference: 7:57

T2:

2016: 2:38

2017: 3:59

Difference: +1:21

Run:

2016: 46:41

2017: 31:07

Difference: 15:34

Age Group Ranking:

2016: 30/31

2017: 27/34

Gender Ranking:

2016: 157/160

2017: 154/191

Overall Ranking:

2016: 323/330

2017: 375/435

Parts of my race didn’t go the way I had hoped, although I think I coped fairly well. It’s hard to argue with the numbers. There is no question that I’ve made a huge improvement over the last year, which was exactly what I wanted to measure on Sunday. As you can see, there is quite a bit of work to be done on improving my transitions. I fully expected them to be slower than Welland. I had much more distance to cover in transition at TTF, and my cycling shoe change added some time. Previously, I would change into my running shoes in T1, and keep them on for the remainder of the race, which made for a very fast T2. It’s extra time I’m more than willing to add for now because, in the long term, it will help me be a better cyclist.

The unexpected wind threw me for a loop. It felt too early in the race to let it wear me down, so I chose to save my suffering for the run. In all honesty, I had been hoping for a better bike split. I know it is coming and, like most parts of my triathlon training over the last 8 months, I’m trying hard to be patient.

Having a positive attitude while I’m racing is not something that comes easily to me. I surprised myself on Sunday with how nothing fazed me. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and it all comes down to gratitude.    

I know there has been a whole lot of whining from me throughout this process: I’m not ready, I’m not fit enough, I’m not sure I’m cut out for triathlon, I can’t swim well, I’ll never get it together on the run, and the list goes on. Having had such a successful race at Welland, I was seriously asking myself what I had left to race for, and the answer was staring me in the face on Sunday – it was all the people around me who help me silence my inner critic. My attitude went from ambivalence to immediate excitement with every hug, high five, and encouragement for a good race.

Having my coach there to cheer me on was very special, and I am so, so thankful. Week after week, she pushes me when I need it, and also gives me slack when I need it. There is absolutely no question that I wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without her, and I know that the best is yet to come. Right, PK? Right???

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Happy coach, happy athlete! Photo: Phaedra Kennedy

As my first triathlon, I’ll always have a soft spot for the Toronto Triathlon Festival, and I’m really glad it was on my race schedule this year. It was a great event with top-notch organizers and volunteers, a great venue (except the cesspool that is Lake Ontario), and truly the best community of people. I can now look ahead with trepidation for what lies ahead this summer, but some confidence that it is at least possible, which I would not have been able to say at this time last year. As a measurement of progress and improvement, I achieved all of my goals on Sunday.

Mission accomplished.

The biggest thanks go to Ryan, Phaedra, Tribe Fitness, Toronto Triathlon Club, North York Aquatic Club, and every single one of my amazing and supportive friends and family. You all make this little hobby of mine possible. Thanks for believing in me. xo   

    

I Hope You Like Red!

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Ah. The return of the generic training recap photo. I didn’t take many photos at all last week, to be honest. No reason, just not in a snapping mood. So, what’s with the cryptic title? Why do I even care if you like red? Confession: I don’t. Last week, I didn’t train quite the way I should have, so – you guessed it – there were a lot of red boxes in my Training Peaks account last week.

Normally, I’d just get frustrated with myself and eventually get over it, but I’m less than a week out from my A race for the season, and I shouldn’t have dicked around last week like I did, even though it was unintentional. Cue: a string of excuses. Once again, my Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Test did not go to plan. I was pretty crabby about that for the rest of the evening on Tuesday. Then, we had a friend over for dinner on Saturday. I slept in a little, and completely underestimated the amount of time it would take to clean the house and prep dinner. Dinner resulted in too much wine, which botched my workouts for Saturday (and Sunday, to some degree).

Skip my last big brick workout before my goal race? Sure! Why not? What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, you say? Fantastic.

Someone tell me a story about a time when their training was sub-optimal, but they executed their goal race perfectly. Don’t all come at me at once, now. Okay. Here’s the deal: I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be at this point. I talked to my coach today, and even she observed that I was pretty calm. Surely, that’s a good thing?

Anyway, here’s the half-assed week I just spent a couple hundred words going on about. Judge for yourselves. Or don’t.

Monday

2850m swim: A whole lot of 400s in today’s set! For some reason, my watch added 50m. Even withstanding that, this was a personal distance record for me!

Tuesday

Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Test: We meet again, old friend. While I got further this time than my last attempt, I wasn’t able to continue past 6.5 minutes. I’d like to blame the humid conditions outside, but I just barrelled off at a pace that was unsustainable and couldn’t keep up the required effort to finish the test. Womp.

Wednesday

3000m swim: YAHOO! This was unexpected. I was swimming right to the bitter end of practice, but I finished the entire workout for my second distance record in as many days. I completely surprised myself. I thought this would be a nice comeback to set myself up for a solid remainder of the week. Spoiler alert: Nope.

35.2km ride: In the evening, I did my interval workout. When I programmed my workout, I wondered why the power targets were so high. Ha. Zwift was working with my brand new FTP, and setting my power zones from it. Challenge accepted. My intervals were hard work. Duh. Really, Courtney? I was dripping sweat by the end of it, and was finally able to get my heart rate up on the bike. Winning!

Thursday

45 minute run: Me run fast someday. Kidding. But I did run fast. I was exhausted at the end, and was so pleased with my effort, in fact, that I decided to skip my strength work after because I was so damn tired and had a monster headache. You can see where this is going.

45 minutes strength

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day.

Saturday

1:45 ride

30 minute run off the bike

See bag of excuses above. I was slightly angry with myself on Saturday for skipping this. Then I thought I would do the brick the next day. Then I drank a whole bunch of wine and came close to writing Sunday off. Sometimes I’m not the brightest crayon in the box.

Sunday

75 minute run

30 minute open water swim

20km ride: In my delicate condition, I first had visions of doing my brick workout. Then I decided to just do the long ride. Then, when I started riding, I decided that I couldn’t go further than 20km. While still adjusting to my new power zones, I was working harder than my brown bottle flu could sustain. So, I called it quits at 20km. Better than no km, I suppose.

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Behold! Just a big ol’ rainbow going on up in here! I kid. That’s too much red. For real.

Swim: 5,850m/2:13

Bike: 55.4km/1:38

Run: 10.3km/0:56

Strength: 0:00

Total Time: 4:47

Tsk, tsk. As much as I’m tsk-ing myself, though, you gotta admire that swim mileage from me. 😉 My very first 3km swim, and I almost got to 6km for the week. That’s a huge amount of swimming for me. I plan to write all about my experience with long course swimming once I’ve fully settled into my new group, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s made a really big difference in a small amount of time.

Could I have done more last week? Absolutely. But I didn’t. While I admit that sounds rather flippant, I don’t really have time to keep beating myself up this week. There might be time for that next week after the race. Or the race might go really well, which might reinforce my lax attitude towards training. Just kidding.

In any event, the next time you’ll hear from me, it will be next week with a race recap after the Toronto Triathlon Festival. Have a great week, friends! Good luck to those of you racing at TTF and beyond!

Kincardine Women’s Triathlon Recap

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Welcome, friends! After a near perfect weekend away with some girlfriends, I am back and (mostly) settled into a new week. I’m just under 2 weeks out from my major goal race of the season. For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good.

Anyhoo, on with the recap of last week’s training, so I can tell you about my awesome weekend. It was a big week for me. I’ll try not to write you another novel. Try. I said try. Tri? Womp? Womp. Okay, on with it.

 

Monday

1887m swim: A perfectly executed workout at the 17m saltwater pool. I nailed the descending parts of my workout, and was able to negative splits my fast sets.

Tuesday

FTP Test: When I last took my FTP test in March at The Lab, it was 170W. If I lost you at FTP, this blog post gives a pretty good overview of it. I had been itching to retest, as I suspected I had gained some strength on the bike. I took my test last Tuesday using the pre-programmed test on Zwift (still using a 20-minute test like I did in March). I know there are some *slight* discrepancies between Zwift and a computrainer, but I was blown away when I was able to bring my FTP up to 300W. Even calculating for some inflation (or underestimating) in Zwift, that’s still a substantial improvement, and nothing to shake a stick at.

Wednesday

2200m swim: Hi there, distance record! I did a trial practice with a group at the pool close to our new house. The practice itself is longer, and it’s long course. I did surprisingly well, and I think practicing consistently in a 50m pool is going to help my swimming a lot.

Thursday

Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Test: Once again, I was not able to complete this test. I started and stopped, attempting it five times, but the humidity busted me almost instantly. I felt it in the warm-up, and hoped I would be able to work past it, but I couldn’t run fast for any longer than a minute. I tried not to dwell on it, and committed to trying again next week early in the morning before it gets too humid outside.

45 minute ride: Defeated by the LTHR test attempt, I did not do my recovery ride.

Friday

Rest. Glorious, glorious (scheduled) rest day. We drove to the cottage for the race and did a quick ride to make sure the bikes were in working order, but otherwise, I rested.

Saturday

Kincardine Women’s Triathlon: 375m swim – 12km bike – 3km run

Sunday

70 minute run: I woke up Sunday after the race having had a really great sleep, yet not wanting to run. Being at a cottage with friends who are all endurance athletes, though, gave me the nudge out the door. I did an out-and-back along the road near the cottage, and ended up on part of the bike course from Saturday. I stopped halfway to enjoy some beach views.

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Swim: 4,415m/1:55

Bike: 51km/1:41

Run: 13.8km/1:28

Strength: 0:00

Total Time: 5:04

Kincardine Women’s Triathlon Recap

We signed up for this race way back when registration opened on New Year’s Day. It sells out very fast, so we didn’t want to miss out. One of our friends has a family cottage near Kincardine, so we planned a girls weekend. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and stayed until Sunday afternoon.

Kat very kindly drove me, and we met Heather and Nancy up there. Once we all arrived and got settled, we drove over the race area to pick up our kits. We arrived right when it opened at 5:00. There were no lines, and everything went super fast. We stuck around for a few minutes to have a look at the transition area and the swim start, as well as check out a few of the expo vendors, but didn’t end up buying anything. We went back to the cottage and did a quick 20-30 minute bike ride to make sure everything was in order, ate a pasta dinner, chatted a bit, laid out our race gear, and tucked into bed by 10:30.

Race Morning

Since we were so close to the venue and it was a small race, we didn’t have to get up super early to get there. I got up, ate an English muffin with jam and got ready. We arrived at the race with close to an hour and a half to go. We weren’t the first to arrive, but we still had a good pick of transition areas. I chose the halfway point on my rack, and set up my transition area. We hung out until it was time to don Winnie (many people, including both Kat and Heather, chose to race without a wetsuit.). The water was 19 degrees, and I should have considered swimming without my suit, but having not tried it before, I decided to stick with what I knew.

Swim

Despite it being a short swim, it was the part of the race that I was most nervous about. The water was very rough and wavy. I did not go out for any open water practice since Welland, so I was worried that my sighting would once again be my Achilles heel.

Once the swim started, however, I settled in okay for a while. I knew I would only have to contend with the waves on the way to the first turn, stay steady coming across, and let the waves coast me in. That’s exactly what I did. There were a couple of panicked moments, but overall, not bad. As you can see, my sighting was *much* better this time around. My swim tracked short this time around, as it was supposed to be 375m.

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Swim time: 328m//9:15 (2:48/100m)

T1 (Swim-to-bike) – 4:10

As soon as I was out of the water, I ran up to the transition area and clipped on my helmet. I peeled off my wetsuit, put on my sunglasses, gloves, socks, and running shoes. I grabbed Waltzing Matilda and ran for the mount line.

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Photo: Nancy via Heather

Bike

The bike course started with a turn up a hill. It was a 6km out-and-back that allowed me to test my climbing skills a couple of times. It was pretty uneventful, although I have to say that, more often than not, people did not give any indication they were passing. Many times, I glanced to my left and saw people trying to get ahead of me. Maybe I am still new to racing, but I found this really unsafe, so I tried to keep an extra eye out. I definitely had to rely on my shoulder checks. I was hoping to ride the 12km course in 25:00-30:00. I finished in 28:09, so I was happy about that.

Bike time: 12.1km//28:04 (25.9km/h)

T2 (Bike-to-run) – 1:00

Even though I’m working towards riding clipped in (more on that after the race recap!), having my running shoes on already makes for a fast T2. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, flipped my bib around, put on my visor, and took off for the short run.

Run

I faded fast on the run again. I’m pleased to report that I did not look at my watch at all, so I didn’t let that get to me. However, I had to walk yet again on the run leg. I walked the water station at the halfway point, and two other times. During a 3km run. Part of me knows that my body will eventually get used to it, but it was still frustrating. I gave it all I had left as I headed towards the finish. Heather and Nancy were cheering me on, and Kat was waiting near the finish in the food tent, having come in a few minutes ahead.

Run time: 3:02km//17:35 (5:50/km)

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Photo: Nancy via Heather

Overall time: 1:00:04 <– Yep, you better believe that annoyed the hell out of me, especially after I walked on the run. I would have come in under an hour.

After I received my medal, I walked through the food tent. I was so hungry when I finished, so I grabbed a banana, Clif Builder’s Bar, a Kind bar, a bottle of water, and a chocolate milk. The post-race snacks were top notch! All the expo vendors, plus a few others, were near the finish area again.

We stuck around for a few minutes to snap some pictures and wait for transition to reopen, but went back to the cottage pretty quickly to relax for the rest of the day. We hung out at the beach and went into town for a delicious dinner. We got ice cream and watched/were part of a parade with bagpipers and a marching band, a Kincardine tradition.

On Sunday morning, we slept in and took our time having a lazy breakfast and I headed out for my long run. Once I got back and settled, it was time for me to learn to clip into my bike! Nancy, Heather, and Kat all had a few pieces of advice (Kat’s was probably the most sound, ha!), but ultimately assured me that, because I had been clipping in on my trainer, it would probably not be that difficult to get. Sure enough, I got it pretty much on the first try! I will still need some practice before TTF, but I’m so glad to be over that mental hurdle of doing it for the first time. I hope I’m not jinxing myself. I’m aiming to do my long ride this weekend clipped in, although I’m not sure what that will look like yet. Stay tuned!

We all agreed that the race was a lot of fun, and are already talking about making another trip out of it next year. I’ll definitely be registering for it again when the time comes. I recall it being a very inexpensive race, and I also have my Triathlon Ontario membership, so I saved on the one-time insurance fee. It was a great weekend away with my friends, and I came back Sunday evening feeling so relaxed and excited for the next couple of weeks leading up to TTF!