Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Canada RR: The Run & Finish

If you haven't read my swim and bike race report, click here. Read that before starting this post :)

I know you were on pins and needles after that first part ;) Sorry for the delay. I would have had the run section up Tuesday, but it was a long day of travel and no computer time. We left Summerland just after 7 a.m. and arrived in Seattle mid-afternoon, where we spent a few hours exploring and eating before our flight. Space Needle, Salumi's (omg - I ate a sandwich on good ol' fashion white bread; that's like against my religion haha), the Fish Market, and of course the original Starbucks. It was fun to check out the scene, but it wasn't so fun getting home to Laguna Beach at midnight.

Anyway... back to the race...

Run 4:31
My goal was 4:00. After I sort of regrouped in T2, I was "ready" but unsure. The mental battle was beginning. As I ran out, I heard Jordan Rapp's name being announced as the winner, and then I saw him run by me in transition, heading toward the lake to cool off. It was hot as can be out there, and he'd just run a 2:53 marathon. Holy crap. After that quick distraction, I came back to reality and the fact that I had 4, maybe more, hours ahead of me.

Within the first 1/2 mile, I was getting very emotional. Then I saw my family and John. I stopped briefly by them and started crying pretty hard, telling them my bonk situation. They all started tearing up seeing me so emotional. Seeing them emotional made me more emotional, and I knew it was time to make a decision: run away and go for it or give up right then and there. You know me... I could't quit.. it wasn't THAT bad. So I ran.

It wasn't just my family and John that inspired me at that point, it was everyone in my life -- my athletes I coach, friends, co-workers, family, everyone who's sent message on FB and Twitter, my grandma, etc. This Ironman was bigger than just me, lots of other people were involved and I wanted to show them that it's possible to carry on and FINISH even when it seems impossible. Erica, my athlete who was also racing, was especially on my mind. This was her third attempt at IMC, with the first two resulting in DNFs (issues out of her control, but nevertheless she had unfinished business). I was more than confident that she WOULD make it to the finish line on Sunday, and that alone was enough to get me there as well. (I'm crying just thinking about this now haha.) I wasn't dying and my legs were working, so I'd find a way to get through the run no matter what. Done deal.

I got going. It was HOT. I looked at my Garmin and saw I was running on pace (in the 9’s) so that helped boost my mood. However, I knew my nutrition had been severely disrupted, and that the lack of calories on the last part of the bike was probably going to affect my ability to reach my goal effort/intensity on the run -- just not physiologically possible. I'd have to stay in a low-intensity zone while trying to refuel if I wanted to survive and not completely bonk to death. That said, I settled on a goal of maintaining a running pace of 9:00-10:00 miles, and I'd walk the aid stations while trying to choke down any calories. That was realistic and the best idea at the time. In truth, that wasn't far off from my original plan of a 9:09 overall average.

The run course itself wasn't so bad, but the heat was. And when I hit Skaha Lake it seemed to go up another 10-15 degrees. It had to be 90-100 F out there, with little to no shade. I had the EXACT same thoughts as Jordan Rapp, according to what he wrote on his blog, "And on a day when Skaha Lake serves as nothing more than a continual tease, ceaselessly inviting you stop running and take a dip..."

People who lived along the marathon route were outside with hoses to spray down the runners -- what a relief that was! Thankfully that section was fairly flat, and because it was an out and back, it was a good distraction to watch runners going in the opposite direction. I had seen the top pros while still in town, which is always a treat, but watching AGers is something special in itself. I had so much respect for everyone who was so far in front of me and running strong. Like when I saw Rachel Ross whizz by looking like she was as fresh as being on the first mile. Amazing! Can I be like that one day????

I also saw my friend Christian who did the Epic5 this year, Kiet, Matt Q, and many others. I even had a runner, Mary, come up to me and say she reads my blog! That was super special for her to take the time to do that, and meant a lot to me :) Another special moment was running into PunkRockRacing Ron. It was our first time meeting in person -- fitting :) I told him my whole story of the issues on the bike. While talking with him, I think I had willed my way to feeling better on the run and was optimistic that I could stick to my plan.

But after I passed Ron, the reality was, I was still feeling nauseous and queezy. Nutrition-wise I wasn't doing well with calories, and I the exercise physiologist in me knew it was only a matter of time before that'd start really taking its toll. I attempted some pretzels, sips of cola every now and then, water and endurolytes. I tried my hardest to muster down a gel, but it wasn't happening, same thing with banana and sports drink -- wouldn't stay down. So pretty much pretzels and a little cola were the only calories I had on the entire marathon. Even at a low intensity, that was not enough AT ALL.

In attempt to not to get too wrapped up in how crappy I felt, I started thinking of everyone in my life again. And as I watched runners going in the other direction, heading home, the one person I was thinking of and waiting to see was Mike, my training partner. But no sign even as I got closer to the turnaround. Meanwhile, it was starting to get more hilly. I had to walk some of the hilly sections.

I was nearing the turnaround, and still hadn't seen Mike. Weird. I was praying he was OK. Mike had to get an emergency root canal on Friday before the race, and the procedure went fine, but it was still a "trauma" to the body, so who knew if it'd play into his performance on Sunday. I would later find out, it did take a toll. Then I saw him. He was maaaaybe a mile ahead of me, and walking :( There was a good chance I'd catch him.

At the turnaround I got a BIG surprise. My dad and John were there waiting for me. John ran with me a bit and said some things that not only brought (happy) tears to my eyes, but gave me a big burst of energy. I had reached the halfway point and was ready to head home, happy that I'd seen my boys!

Then ahead in the distance I saw Mike. My other boy! I caught up to him; he was walking. I made him start running again with me, and I told him my whole story of the swim and bike and the flats ughhhh, hoping that help distract him from the pain he was in (root canal aftermath was wreaking havoc). He was in shock to hear my story, and he felt so bad because he knows more than anyone how badly I wanted that 6-hour or faster bike split. While we ran together, it felt like "home" and was comfortable... I imagined it being just one of our regular training runs, and I was at peace.

Unfortunately it wouldn't last for the rest of the race. Mike had to stop and walk again, and I tried to keep running. But at around 18 miles, I was having to walk more than just aid stations and hills. It was during that time that I started walking/running next to random people, and we'd feed off each other's "energy." It's pretty intense to share moments like that with complete strangers. Some tough folks out there. Makes me tear up just reminiscing.

Toward the end, I was starting to fade and felt delirious. I had hit a wall big time, was feeling sick, and I was pretty much running on empty. At times, I felt like I do when I have the flu. The walking segments were increasing, but I refused to only walk. I had to keeping running. I knew my goal of 4:00 was out the door, but I could still make it in before 8 p.m. and definitely keep the marathon sub-5, so that was the new goal.

As I finally reached downtown Penticton, as expected, the energy of the crowd allowed me to find a way to run the last 2 miles at a 9-something pace. John later said I even looked OK at the point, but I don't believe him ;) The final stretch of the marathon was a blur, yet I remember it so well... every sight, sound, smell. I will hold that moment dear to me forever. You can never repeat your first Ironman, and, damn, is the finish a special moment. Despite having no energy to spare, I found a way to smile big down the finishing chute (I think).

I saw 12:45 on the clock, and thought, "Heck, after all I've been through today, and all that time spent on the side of the road during the bike, that ain't so bad. Mission accomplished."

But right after finishing, my body knew I was done, so it was done. I crashed. Headed to medical to chill out, hoping I'd score an IV but no such luck. Shoot! Barely choked down a cup of chicken broth, and then all I wanted to do was leave there to be with my crew at our home. I could barely stand up, but I wanted medical to release me, so I pretended I was feeling "great" again :) I peaced out, and my family took me home. I was still nauseous, but an hour or so later I was able to eat the better part of a couple pizzas, and I shared my story with loved ones, while I listened to the stories they had from the day.

I'll repeat what I said in my last post: In the end, my Ironman wasn't an ideal day "on paper," but to me it was a perfectly un-perfect day and one that I'll cherish forever. I wouldn't change a thing. I think it's the adverse moments that made it even more special for me. It was a challenge like none other, and I came out a stronger person.

I'm ready to do another one....

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ironman Canada RR: Swim & Bike

I started this blog at 4:30 a.m. Monday, but between all the eating, floating down a river and another mini wine tasting, I’m just getting to it again. That early morning wakeup was a result of post-Ironman insomnia and hunger. Yup, started the day with pasta, quinoa, eggs…. and shortly after a burger.

Onto IM Canada. What an amazing day! I loved it, the highs & lows -- all of it! On paper, you might think, “Oh man, that looks like it was a tough one.” But I’m glad everything didn’t go perfectly perfect. I learned a lot of lessons, and I’m definitely a stronger person because of it. No matter what happened, I carried on. I was determined to cross that finish line No. Matter. What. And I did, 12:45 after the gun went off. Man, was I a happy camper at the finish; although, it probably didn’t look like that… but more to come on that.

For now, just the swim and bike, the run portion will follow. And, sorry, no pics yet!

Swim -- 1:21
Surprisingly a highlight of the day! I really enjoyed the swim, honestly! I started middle back with Mike, and I probably started swimming close to a minute after the gun. (The mass start was insane and I had no place being more in the front.) The insanity remained that way until about 1,200 m. My goal was to stay calm and no freak despite getting beat up on in the sea of people. Goal achieved. I was able to keep my cool among the chaos, getting kicked, trampled on, punched, etc., probably because I was swimming with a HR of about 110 and was thinking happy thoughts lol.

About a mile in, I felt cramp potential in my calves. They were like ticking time bombs. I did everything I could to keep them from seizing, but at 1800, the left one cramped seized. It felt like a tennis ball in my calf and was debilitating. I had to stop and work on it. I thought of my grandma at that point, while I was wading out in the middle of the lake, and I felt a calmness. Soon after the cramp was gone. I worked through it, and was fine for the remainder of the swim! A first!!!

Overcoming the cramp was definitely motivating, and I was pumped to keep going. By 2k, I was pretty much alone in my area, and that’s when my shoulder started hurting. But it wasn’t that bad. Totally manageable. I think the trick to it feeling good on race day was lots of rest during taper, good pacing during the swim and positive thoughts.

I got out of the water happy to see 1:19 on my watch. With starting in the back, and lagging when I finally stood up and ran out, official time was 1:21.

T1 3:20
In and out pretty quickly. As I left on my bike I saw my family and John, along with thousands of others and I couldn’t help getting tears in my eyes, what a moment! I was thrilled!

Bike -- 6:39 official (6:05 of actual riding)
If there’s anything that could have killed my mojo for the day, it’s what I dealt with on the bike. That said, if there’s one thing I learned Sunday, it’s that Ironman will throw anything at you. It’s all about how you deal with it. In my case with the bike, I refused to let some bad blows get the best of me.

I actually had a great bike ride overall and enjoyed the course for all it had to offer (heat, hills, scenery, spectators, and all). But unfortunately, I was plagued with a reoccurring flat aka a tire that wouldn’t hold air. Without going into too much detail, I had a valve stem fiasco with my rear tire that caused major issues. Pre-race I had to go to bike tech because I couldn’t get it to fill. They fussed with it, and said they were pretty sure it’d be OK for the day. Unbeknownst to me, I would start the bike with very low pressure. It was flat by mile 10, right in the middle of the first hill. I saw a bike tech car and stopped to have them check it. They refilled it, air was holding, I left.

But then, next thing I know a race official was riding next to me giving me a penalty! Apparently, I didn’t merge back to the right lane quickly enough again. In my defense, I began riding after the tire got filled while still mid-hill (steep hill), so it wasn’t the easiest situation to maneuver, and my adrenaline was high so I wasn't working at my smoothest. Regardless, 4 minutes lost. Bust! That was frustrating, especially because the race official seemed to have an evil smirk on her face when she flashed the card at me, even when I told her my story. I said to myself, “I have two options: 1) whine and be a baby or 2) carry on with a smile.” I chose #2.

After that, the bike was going along fine, and I was pacing myself per everyone’s recommendations, yet still averaging 20 mph. That first part is fast! Around mile 20 I could sense the tire problem returning. Rear was flat again. No!!! That would be the theme for the first half of the ride: Rear tire went flat every 7-10 miles, at which point I’d stop and refill with CO2. I was still riding fast without too much effort in that first 40 or so, so I didn’t feel like I was losing too much time. But I was running low on CO2 (maybe 1/2 a cartridge left).

I served my penalty just before Richter Pass, where I chit-chatted with the officials, not acting like a whiner. Then I started the infamous climb, and it was scorching hot at that point, but no different than a hot day climbing the mountains where I live. Meanwhile, rear tire wasn’t doing well. When I was finally nearing top of Richter I waved down bike tech driving by because I knew I'd never last with the CO2 refill plan, and at that point I was riding on a virtually flat tire up a significant climb. Not good. So bike tech guys decided we had to fix it right or I’d be done for the day — they had to rip off my tubular and put a new one on. Took foreva! Probably over 20 min. I was determined to keep a smile on my face. I borrowed their phone and texted John to tell him my situation and that I was OK and ready to keep having fun. I can’t state it enough: The bike course was legit, and I wanted to enjoy it all.

That was the end of my bike issues. All in all it cost me about 35-40 min of being stopped on the side of the road. All things considered, I’m OK with that because that means I was pretty close to my planned bike split of 6 hours.

After Richter, we got the seven bitches, which I thought were hard but fun. They reminded me of some hills I do on PCH at home. Plus, at that point, the course had thinned out a lot and I was on my own. I was enjoying moving along through Canada country and my pace was decent. Part of me wanted to go faster to make up for lost time, but I had to stick to my plan to make it through the whole race. I knew Yellow Lake would be a toughie with the climbing.

The wind started to get bad, but that was the least of my worries. My tummy was starting to act up. At mile 80, I literally became ill. Could no longer take in and hold down calories; everything just kept coming up. It was gross. What was I having? Various gels, Clif bars (which I now realize were the culprit for the GI issues) and secret drink mix. I couldn’t stomach anything, not to mention the sweetness and sugary nature of everything I had was freaking terrible! And I was pissed! So I went without nutrition for the last 32 miles of the bike, only having water and endurolytes. That put me in a caloric deficit from which I was never able to fully recover. Bonk town USA. Dang it. *Update* Looking back I did some experimenting and realized I cannot handle many of the ingredients in Clif bars - those things cause me bloating, gas and clearly I don't digest them well. A little Clif bar here and there is fine, but taking them in like I was in Ironman and for that duration/intensity made my tummy a ticking time bomb. Mostly I think it's the soy.... yuck. I practiced/trained with Clif bars, but I was done with them after IMC.

I kept wondering when Yellow Lake was going to come because I knew that meant one more big climb then home free with descents lol. Finally I was nearing it. I think that may have been the hottest part of the day. I wasn’t really that amped to climb because I felt so sick and more depleted by the minute, but I was pretending that I was normal and this was just another training ride. That kinda helped. Then I got a surge of energy when I started Yellow Lake because *surprise* my crew was out there to cheer me on. It was great seeing them, as well as all the other peeps making it for a very Tour-de-France-like climb :) THe spectators at IMC really know how to do a good job throughout the whole course!

After that the rest of the climbing was a blur. I was bonky. Yellow Lake actually looked kind of yellow. Was that just me being crazy? As I approached mile 100, I won’t lie, I was ready to be off the bike so I could find some non-sweet, non-clif calories in T2. That said, it probably was not good that I bombed the downhills in a delirious state lol ;)

Last note on the bike: I wore my Garmin during the ride, which automatically stops at a certain speed. So I know that my real bike ride time was just over 6:00, and I was stoked on that! Officially my split was 6:39.

T2 9:50ish
I had to take my time to try and refuel so I could do a freakin marathon not completely depleted. There were non-sweet snacks in the changing tent, so I had some. Saltiness was good and what I needed. I was hoping that’d help bring me back from being without calories for so long. While I sat in T2, I had the demons in my head challenging my ability to go out and do 26.2, and part of me didn’t think it was possible. I was getting a little teary-eyed and unsure. I didn’t want to go there with my thoughts, but I couldn’t help it. I felt weak and emotional.... but not about to quit. No way.


OK, that's all for now... stay tuned for the run and finish! Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Canada, Day 5 & 6

Friday was pretty hilarious. I wanted to drive the bike course a bit, and my mom and sis wanted to do a hike, so we decided John and I would drop them off to do their thing, and we'd drive a portion of the bike course, then pick them up.

Well, little did we know, my sister chose a route in the boondocks! It wasn't so bad at first... we drove out east of P-town on Green Mountain Road (great for a bike ride, btw, a long gradual uphill going out). I was navigating with my iPhone GPS, and we finally found our turnoff... a dirt road, that we'd have to drive on for a looong time. Did I mention we're in a big ol' mini van, one not meant for offroading? Thank goodness John is a race car driver and knows how to handle any kind of vehicle. Or not? ;)

See where P-town is on the first screen shot, then check out the blue dot on the next one; that's where we went.

The dirt road was gnar! Miles of dry-stream ruts, rocks, rough terrain... all in a mini van?! It was so Griswald vacation-esque lol. Meanwhile, my mom and sis were starting to freak out about the potential of bears. I made the joke of, "hopefully neither of you are on your period" (Anchorman, anyone?). We finally got to a part of the dirt road that wasn't even on Google maps. Ha! In the end, the minivan offroading adventure took all afternoon, and the girls never hiked because it was kinda sketchy out there. On top of bears, it was very desolate and the bug situation was insane. They would have been eaten alive.

John moving rocks so we could pass...
In the middle of nowhere, BC....Badass minivan ;)Found the trail head for their hike eventually! But.... no hike haha

So no hike, and no course recon. But the best part? The whole adventure was a blast for all of us. Practically laughing the whole time (partly because it was funny as heck, partly because we were all a little nervous). It's those random unexpected things that make the best memories :)

Oh, there were no bears, but we did see cows. Weird...

Back to P-town for a few errands. I got a real treat when I randomly ran into Kiet and Matt in Whole Foods! I love how blog world can bring together athletes from all over the place. It was really nice chatting with them for a bit. And how fitting is it that we'd meet in a place like WF ;)

After some chill time, it was time to eat again. Man, lots of eatin going on around here! We decided to ditch the athlete meeting/dinner and head to The Local again. This time we were in good company with my Mike and his wife and daughter. The food was again amazing and we chatted it up for quite a while. Good times. The rest of the night was spent putting together all my bags and whatnot. I even had to call on Ron for some help on what I needed to get together for Saturday check in vs. what I could hold onto until race morning. He, being the veteran he is, had all the answers ;) Oh yea, I saw him cruisin P-town in a baller red convertible today... rock on Ron!! Did I mention how cool it is to have blogger friends?!

It's now mid-Saturday and I'm chillin, feet up and enjoying some down time. The bike and bags are checked in, work is done, now it's just about resting, eating and enjoying my loved ones until GO time manana!!!

Oh, I also met up with Ben Greenfield in town this morning to record a short little video about my first IM for our Endurance Planet podcast. Check it out. (Btw, I give my race time predictions for swim, bike and run in there!!!)

Peace out!

PS - I miss D :(

Friday, August 26, 2011

Canada, Day 3 & 4

Wait, I'm doing an Ironman Sunday? Cause it sure feels like I'm on a vacation doing my thing -- well at least that was the case on Wed/Thus (minus working, but that entailed writing an article on Rinny, so I can't complain lol). Granted, it's not like I've been out hiking in the mountains or doing extreme physical activity, but I'm not about to hide in our house for a week when I'm in beautiful British Columbia. It's been really nice getting here early to have time to chill rather than feel rushed and having it just be all about the race.

Yup, we are having a blast! Just another random evening in our yard....

On Wednesday, the day began with Mike, John and I going into P-town for a morning swim. Talk about a confidence booster/stress reliever! My shoulder actually felt pretty good, even in a wetsuit (thank you Zoot Prophet!), and the water felt amazing... not too cold at all, but chilly enough for it to be wetsuit legal. I felt fresh and mentally ready to tackle 2.4 miles! Unfortunately the shoulder was sore as heck later in the day so I decided to scratch any swims until race day.

After swim I did a short run and the legs were kickin. Maybe it was the rad scenery of wineries combined with some great tunes on my iPod and just general excitement, but I held myself back from going too hard and too far :)

Backing up a little... on Tuesday, we were going to attempt a "mini" wine tasting because we're staying along "Bottleneck Drive" wine country, but we headed out too late and everything was closed (figures), except for a fruit wine place, but that was weird (pumpkin pie wine is just too much, even for me). I was hesitant to go wine tasting on Wednesday with the race getting closer, but John had gone on a 40-mile bike ride around the lake and up the other side into a town called Naramata, and he came home raving about all the cool wineries he saw... and wanted to visit :) I decided it'd be nice to drive out there and check it out, and hitting up a couple wineries along the way wouldn't be detrimental. Not to mention, they give pretty small tastes here in Canada, and turned out I didn't even get a buzz, a good thing in this particular case lol. I even saw some other triathletes doing the same thing out there haha.

View from Laughing Stock Winery...Stopped at Hillside too...

While we were wine tasting, my mom and sister got a raft and floated down the river. For anyone who's in town, it seems like a great thing to do. I'll probably do it Monday post-race to soak my legs in cool water. My mom and sis later told us that the first half of the float is pretty awesome, but the second half gets really slow and they kicked most the way -- it was a 3-hour trip even with them kicking to go faster!

That night, we were all hungry so we hit up The Local Grille & Lounge in Summerland. Hands down some of the best food I've had in a long time, and we were all in agreement on that. Legit! I got the halibut with a potato-celery-root mash, asparagus, a corn sauce and some other stuff. Took pictures of the other dishes everyone else ordered, too...

Thursday was a mellow morning (aka I worked) so we eased into the day and eventually made it to the expo for check in and picking up my bike. The highlight was FINALLY meeting my athlete, Erica, who's doing the race too! She's just as sweet and awesome in person as she has been on the phone and email for the past year :) She's had some tough blows in her first two rounds at IMC, so I'm confident that third time is a charm. She's going to do great.
After getting my bike from Tri Bike Transport, Mike, John and I went out on a little ride along the 97 Highway. At 10 miles in, PPPFFFFFFF!!!!! I got a flat!!!! Ahhhh! Long story short, I got a whole new tubular put on and everything is taken care of. Just praying that was THE ONLY flat I'll be getting in Canada :)

Mike and I waiting for our sag wagon along Lake O (John was way ahead and didn't even know I flatted till later lol)...

That evening John and I went on a short jog at around the same time I hope to be finishing on Sunday. It was so nice out, and I felt very at peace. I could see myself getting more excited with every step. Then it was back to work on the Rinny article for the evening, while my crew cooked for me. Love them :)

There's been much more going on, but that's all I got time for now. Stay tuned for Friday's crazy adventures :)

Btw, BEST sweet potatoes EVER here...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Canada, Day 1 & 2

We're here!So it's been a whirlwind of events lately -- from a funeral to bridal shower and lots in between -- thus the emotions have been all over the place. That can be energy-zapping as you an imagine. But I can finally sigh with relief. I'm here in Canada with people I love getting ready to do the most epic thing I've ever done. Surprisingly, it's very easy for me to put my feet up and relax right now even with Sunday's 140.6 looming. I'm not nervous yet, and am pretty calm about the whole situation -- one of the reasons why I wanted to get here so early. Actually, I did get a wave of emotion and nerves when I drove by the athlete check-in today in P-town. After being to enough Ironmans as a spectator, it's weird to finally be on the other side as a participant, it feels good :) I like that P-town even has an Ironman wine for us :)

Anyways, Monday was a long day of travel. We left Orange County at 7ish, flew out of LAX at 10 and got to Seattle just after noon. It was raining. Surprise. From Seattle, we picked up a rental mini van, grabbed lunch at an all-you-can-eat salad/soup buffet place with all the fixins. We all stocked up on food as who know when we'd eat again. I even got one of these, which I haven't had in this form for ages....

Then we hit the road for a long drive. Thank goodness John was at the wheel so my mom, sis and I could just chill. The weather was pretty bad for a long time, well into Canada, as you can see.Btw, my dad was not going to be able to make it out in light of my grandma's death and how much work he's missed. That made me pretty sad, but I understood. Yet, I think when he saw me cry when he told me that news, he knew he'd have to pull some strings, and low and behold, he will still be coming out for the race... he gets into town this weekend :)

Once we crossed the Canadian border, the "eh" jokes began and they have yet to stop. They just don't get old. I picked up a crossword puzzle at a McDOnald's on a pee stop so we'd have something to occupy our time. I vaguely recall us joking about "who would eat at McDonald's." It hink the "Mickey-D" gods were listening on that convo (read on).

On the crossword puzzle, I found something where you say, "what are the freaking odds?!" In this case, it was my grandpa as 23 down....

I'm not gonna lie. It was a long drive, and although it was beautiful, I think I would have preferred to fly into Canada. Way back when we made the itinerary, we determined it'd be cheaper to do the fly/drive combo, but by how much I don't know? Next time, I'd probably dish out a few extra bucks for a more direct flight.

That said, it really wasn't that bad, it was just getting late and we were all tired and ready to eat and chill for the night. We arrived in Summerland (where we're staying, just 10 miles north of P-town) just after 9 p.m. And that was with a race car driver at the wheel so it's not like we were going at a snail's pace ;)

Our main thought at that point: GET FOOD. I had heard rumors that places close early here, and oh my is that true! We got into our house that we rented and immediately started reseraching where we could go. Long story short, EVERYTHING was closed, even grocery stores and our last hope was either Tim Horton's or McDOnald's. We decided to do authentic Canadian so went to Time Horton's, but they were closed too!! Ugh! Mickey D's it was! In truth, McDonald's has a pretty decent menu these days, and we were all fine with our orders of salads and sandwiches. (Although, I think anything would have been better than nothing at that point, which was the next option after MD's).

Today we awoke to our beautiful surroundings. Man, this place is gorgeous! Our house is up on a hill in Summerland... it's surrounded by apple trees and wineries, very peaceful, small and quaint with a big yard. We don't need anything more, anything less. Just want to keep it low key. Today we checked out Penticton Fun times. Ended that trip with some grocery shopping... first to Whole Foods, of course, then to a Costco-style place, which was actually really decent! After that I napped and worked. I will continue working this week because it has get done (especially my next article for 3/GO Magazine), but I'll be sure to take full advantage of this place while we're here. And I want to document this trip well, so tune in a lot this week with updates! How about a few pics....

Made brekkie this morning with oats, egg scramble, fruit (not seen) and of course Canadian bacon, eh?Part of the view from our yard. (Pre-race BBQ on Saturday!!!!)The breakfast nook. Small and quaint.

Last but not least, I was saving the "bad" news for last. My shoulder is not good. It hasn't been for weeks now. There's nothing much more I can do at this point rather than just tough it out on race day. I'm ok with that and I am confident that I will cross that finish line. That said, I've come to terms with my swim goals, and I'm realistically expecting to do it in 85-90 min. Not ideal, but I'm pretty sure I can pull that off. I'll let you know the rest of my race goals soon....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This One's For Grandma

I haven't had much time to blog, but I want to share a bit of what's going on as I get closer to Ironman Canada.

Last week, my grandma passed away peacefully in her bed. She was 87, and one of the most amazing women I've had the pleasure to know in my life. Although her health hasn't been ideal in the last year or so, her death was still very unexpected and has shocked my family, especially my dad, who's now lost both parents. Her death came just after the first anniversary of my grandpa's death, her husband (he died July 31, 2010). To me, it just goes to show how powerful the bond can be between two people after decades of a loving marriage and close companionship. In my opinion, after he passed, I don't think she was ever the same without him around and, thus, a "broken heart" played into her passing. I think this is the case with a lot of couples who've lived long, happy lives together.

As you can imagine, it's not been easy to mourn the death of a loved one with so much going on. The thought of Ironman seemed frivolous at first, let alone having my family trek up to Canada to watch me race when we're all still in a state of grieving. It sounded even selfish to some extent. But after some long talks with my parents and loved ones, we've all agreed that my grandma would want nothing more than for me to head to Canada and race my best... with my family by my side. So that's just what we're doing. And you better believe I'll be racing in the name of my Grandma Frances. She was such as strong-willed and driven woman, yet was still so warm and loving with a heart of gold. I want to carry on that spirit in the things I do.

Thankfully, we're having services for my grandma before we leave, so we'll all get a little closure before race week. Still, it kills me to know that I won't be able to call her after the race to tell her about it.

Btw, as you can imagine, this article by Charisa was beautiful, but it made me cry, pretty hard.


In the journey that lays ahead, I'll be thinking about these two each and every mile (picture with my grandparents from Mother's Day 2009)....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two Keys for Trustworthy Training

I'm coming off a really good run that I had today. Did a 20-miler. The longest I've ever run. Yup, my first marathon will be after a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike. That wasn't done by accident; I debated doing a marathon since signing up for IMC (key being: this debate was within one year of IMC). I got sound advice to avoid it. One person who said so was Bobby McGee, who's a brilliant triathlon/running coach. He didn't say it to me personally regarding my situation, but he did talk about it at a USAT coaching seminar I went to. I'll never forget it. Basically it came down to post-marathon recovery time for someone who would race the 26.2 hard, like I would. The recovery is not worth missing out on training you could be doing otherwise. Or worse, not recovering and going on with life like you didn't do 26.2. Note: this is not necessarily the case for seasoned marathon runners.

Anyways, so today was the biggest run I'll do before IMC later this month. Not gonna lie, I impressed myself. I set out to do it at an EZ sustainable pace. Emphasis on the "EZ" since 20 miles was new territory for more and I didn't want to bonk far from home lol. The run ended up being an 8:10 average pace, total time 2:43 and change, on a route full of rolling hills, but nothing too extreme, on a fairly hot day. That coming off a freaking HARD 58-mile hilly-ass tempo ride yesterday and a short swim this morning, and the training from Monday and the training from the weekend and... jk ;)

I don't run mega miles every week, and my long runs aren't always as long as one might expect for IM training, but I trust my training. My longest run to date is 15 miles. Today, I knew I could do the 20 without great concern with the training I've done. It was more of a mental hurdle I wanted to cross than a physical one going into IMC, which is arguably just as important. Point being, I believe most people can get away with fewer miles and still be effective at improving SBR skills. It's about how you run (or swim or bike) the miles you do that make a difference.

This is the philosophy I use with training plans for my athletes. There are two key components to make this work, which I'll get to.

But first, I have to mention the "social pressure" to log in extreme mileage and mega volume. Unfortunately, it seems many athletes are too concerned with "how many miles" they do each week or how "big" the week was. It's easy to get caught up in this, and sometimes I still do! It's fun to see that you laid down a gnarly week and logged in record-breaking miles. It's OK to be proud and brag a little even. Or how about when you see your friends saying how mega their workouts were via FB and Twitter; part of you wants to be right there with the same numbers, right? It's natural for us endurance athletes. And, yes, with 70.3 and Ironman training, on certain weeks, it should be about volume and logging in the miles.

But it's not all about that.

The questions that should be asked: What were the intensity levels, and how consistent was the training. I truly believe you can get away with as little training as possible (within reason) and still be a very good athlete, or, at the very least, achieve realistic goals if you stick to two main variables: 1) consistency and 2) intensity.

You're not going to get better at swimming, biking and running -- and remain injury-free -- unless you do it consistently every week. Some weeks do more than others. The idea is to make it "the norm" for your body. You become more efficient, and that brings an abundance of benefits. And when I say "injury free," I mean it's not smart to not SBR for days on end and then go attempt IM-distance sessions on a Saturday. No bueno. Be consistent. And don't mistake consistency as synonymous with volume.

The second part is intensity. Intensity is the king of variables. Studies show that if you take away volume, frequency and duration but maintain HIGH intensity, you can still maintain your fitness (good tip for taper weeks). So, yes, you'll have to build up some fitness by doing early-season base building and whatnot, i.e. high volume and low intensity, but as the season progresses and you're in the "competition" phase, don't feel like every week has to be mega volume if you're workouts are full of high-intensity work. It's an inverse relationship between volume and intensity, and the reason for that is: high-intensity work = more recovery time needed. More recovery means volume should not be skyrocketing. (With elite/pro athletes who recover freakishly fast or are used to high intensity and volume, this isn't always the case... but for the rest of us it is :) lol)

So one may ask, how does LSD fit into this? LSD workouts undoubtedly have their place in a training plan over the course of a season, for both the mental and physical reasons, but you could arguably cut some of those out if you're doing a lot of high-intensity work. One LSD sess a week for each sport is enough. You need to hit certain miles in training based on your race distance simply because you need to be specific to the race and develop those energy systems/familiarity. But more emphasis should be on intensity with adequate recovery. Try it. You'll see that a distance that was once designated to be an LSD sessions becomes faster with less effort.

Take my month of July, for example. It was NOT one of my highest volume months, despite what you may think having a Ironman in August. But I did a lot of high-intensity SBR that required more rest than when I'm only doing Z1-Z2 training. I raced and did race-simulation workouts, and I went HARD. Plus, for the most part I was very consistent with my training so my body was used to SBR no matter if I was going really long or short and quick. What ensured was a "less is more" month for me. Some coaches might argue that "more is more" no matter what, and that's the only way to get better. But I don't think it has to be like that.

This brings up the other key point: time management.

My month of July was also extremely busy outside of my training schedule. My days were not centered around training. School, work, new boyfriend, friends, family obligations, etc. A busy busy life outside of training is the case with most athletes I coach, as well. So when I sit down to create a training plan I try to make it about getting the most bang for your buck with every workout. Consistency and intensity become the biggest priorities. If that means more short hard runs because that's all there's time for and one long one, then so be it. It's better than no runs all week then a 20+ run once a week. Or whatever the situation.

Goals play into this. If you do have aspirations to be uber-elite or pro and training time is abundant, then I might take a different approach to some extent. There's more leeway to manipulate the training variables of volume, intensity, frequency, duration to achieve some crazy goals. But for most of us, to get results, just be consistent, get your dose of high-intensity work and don't worry so much about accumulating big numbers week after week, month after month.

And when all else fails, there's one factor that should dominate above all others: FUN. If you're not having fun, then why the F are you doing it?