Sunday, May 1, 2016

#OperationTop5 Week 17: Redefining My Limits

Well, this week wasn't what I had hoped for.   I had hoped that I would be toeing the line of another race with my friends but that didn't happen.  Instead, I was a spectator.  Which was fun in itself but definitely left me with a huge case of FOMO (fear of missing out).   However, I finally got to meet one of my out of town athletes who came to Toronto to run the Goodlife Marathon.   A bunch of us went out for a very early dinner on Saturday night.  It was great to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones!  
photo courtesy of Carmy Do
I had other athletes racing both Goodlife and Mississauga so I was checking Sports Stats regularly all morning.  All of my athletes that raced here had P.R's.  And a good friend of mine qualified for Boston.   So it was definitely a good weekend from that perspective.

Oh and we started our basement renovations so that was exciting.   And messy.  Our house looks like a bomb went off in it.  Everything that was in the basement has been moved to other areas of the house.  Needless to say I think I'm going to need to purge things after the reno is done.

After my appointment with Lauren last week, I had high hopes that I was getting better.  I actually felt really good after I saw her and then I felt even better after my massage that evening.  I thought for sure, I'd feel great by the time the weekend rolled around.  But alas, I did not.  And of course that has triggered an "It's the end of the world" mentality.  I have shed several tears this weekend.  Tears of frustration and worry.  I always go to the worst case scenario and in my mind that is, "I'm not going to be able to race in 8 weeks" because of this disc issue.  Health practitioners always say don't look at Dr. Google but most of us can't help ourselves.  Some of the things I've read have freaked me out and made me worry even more.   So I've promised myself to stop googling my symptoms.   Lauren said that nerves get irritated very easily and they have to be calmed down so that is what I'm going to focus on right now.  

I can swim without pain and I usually feel ok after a swim so that's a good thing.  Cycling is somewhat questionable.  I rode outside on Saturday and that might have been too much.  I think staying on the trainer might be a bit better so I'm not dealing with wind, hills, bumpy roads etc.  Running is completely out of the question.  I ran for 2 minutes today towards the finish line at Mississauga and I'm pretty sure that's probably why I'm having pins and needles all the way down my leg now.  So, no more running until I am cleared to do so.  And honestly I'm not terribly worried about missing out on my running, other than the fact that I love doing it.  I know that my speed is still there and it will come back.  I am worried about not being able to ride but I don't want to jump to any conclusions there just yet.

Moving forward, I really have to watch my training load.  I can't do hard workouts without adequate rest.  I can't strength train on hard days either.  My training now will have to be very finely balanced.  If this disc / nerve issue get sorted out fairly quickly, I'm going to have to be very diligent about taking rest when I need it, and looking after my body.  I'm going to have to learn to ignore my 25 year old brain that still thinks I can do anything.  I think that will be the hardest part of all this, ha ha.

Anyway, despite this setback, I still did get some workouts in this week.  So I'm linking up with the lovely Holly at HohoRuns and Tricia at Mississippi Piddlin for their Weekly Wrap.

Monday:  OFF

Tuesday:  25 minute run.  Leg still wasn't good.

Wednesday:  2650m swim

Thursday:  45 minute ride + a run around the block to test the leg.  Still not great.

Friday:  2650m swim

Saturday:  35km ride

Sunday:  2300m swim

Total time:  5h 31 minutes.  Better than nothing I say!

The goal this week will be about focusing on what I can do vs. what I cannot.   Easier said than done but I'm going to do my best.

Hope everyone had a great week!  Who raced this weekend?

Friday, April 29, 2016

DNS = The Theme for 2016

So, those of you that have been reading along know that I've had some leg issues.  More specifically nerve related issues.  My chiro thought it might have been my piriformis and we worked on that but I was still experiencing pain and range of motion issues even after two treatments.  I went to see Lauren yesterday for a "check in" appointment (that I almost canceled) and I filled her in on everything and she did an assessment and figured that I was having some disc issues.  Specifically my L5.  UGH.  So she did some work to release things and did some nerve tension work which made me feel a lot better.  Sore, but better.  And then she said those 6 dreaded words:  "I don't think you should race".

Cue sad face.

She said I could if I wanted to but I could risk doing more damage to my nerve / disc and advised me not to.  She's right.  I have to keep my eyes on the BIG prize, which is Tremblant in June.  That being said, I was really looking forward to racing on Sunday.  I have a couple of friends racing as well as one of my athletes so I figured it was going to be a blast.  Oh well, on more race fee down the toilet.  That will be number THREE this year.  I will be there at the finish line though.  And I'm not down for the count, so there's that.  I "should" be up and running (ha ha) hopefully by late next week.  I have a follow up next Tuesday to see where things are at.  If I'm ok, then I slowly work back into running and limit my really intense speed work to once a week.  Or, if I'm going to have a couple of speed work sessions, then ideally there's 3-4 days in between them that I'm NOT running.  I can't do a hard long run, have a day off and then do another speed work session.  I might have been able to do that 2 years ago but it turns out that my body doesn't like that any longer.

So, let's chalk that up to learning what my body can handle as it gets older and move on to some fun stuff.  Like this amazing outfit from Zoot.

I can't wait until it's warm enough to wear this!  Speaking of which, the temperature these days is KILLING ME.  It's downright COLD right now.  Mother Nature, get your shit straight, it's almost MAY.  I should be going sock less now!

But enough about the weather.  It's Friday.  That is reason enough to celebrate.  I'm not sure what my coach will have planned for me over the weekend now that I'm not racing.  IF there's a ride, it's going more than likely to have to be outside because our Pain Cave has been dismantled.  Yup.  G went nuts and cleaned out the basement because we have someone that is going to start working on it right away.

We now have a mini Pain Cave in one of the spare bedrooms upstairs.   Not really ideal but it's better than having nothing!  He even managed to set up the TV.  It only gets Netflix but that's ok.  There are plenty of things to watch on Netflix!  He was only able to set up one computrainer in there due to space so that means only one of us can ride at a time.

Oh well.  Now I get to live in chaos for 6 weeks.  I just have to keep telling myself Florida will be worth it, Florida will be worth it......ha!

Anyone else racing this weekend?  This seems to be THE weekend for racing in Toronto!

Monday, April 25, 2016

#OperationTop5 - Week 16: Things Were Good, Until They Weren't

OH hey Monday.  What a weekend.  It flew by so fast!  As did most of this month.  Yesterday was our 12 year wedding anniversary.  We spent it at a race, of course, ha ha.  G was racing Paris to Ancaster, this crazy off road bike race that he likes to do every year and I went along to be his Sherpa and cheerleader because that's how we roll.  Honestly, I don't know where the time has gone, all I know is that I wouldn't trade any of that time for the world.  G totally gets me, he's always 100% behind all my crazy plans and he's 100% supportive of everything I do.

Sans Make Up, Pre-Race Selfie!
To celebrate, we kept things low key and went out to dinner at a local restaurant.  We've eaten out every other night this weekend so we figured why not, ha ha.  We were out Friday night for a friend's 40th birthday, then we went out again on Saturday for another friend's 39th birthday and then we were out last night.  We're also out again tonight with one of G's co-workers from Europe.  4 nights out in a row, I think I'm going to need a day off after all that action!  Well, at least I'll probably get to sleep in a bit this week given that I don't have much in the way of training on my schedule.

My good friend David celebrated the big 4-0 this past week.  I picked out the saying for this shirt, haha.
After last week's stellar week of training, I had high hopes for this week.  I was looking forward to my big weekend ride and another long run.  But my body had other plans.   Seems to be the story of my life these days.  The older I get the more limits I seem to have.  Things that I could do 2 years ago, I can't do now because I end up with some kind of injury or tweak.  I'm trying not to get too frustrated with my body but it's hard not to, especially when I had gotten into such a good groove.   I'm hoping this little issue gets resolved with a few trips to my ART guy.   I had a day off on Monday and then on Tuesday I had an interval workout.  5x1km intervals.  My legs didn't feel great when I started but I had a good warm up so by the time that was done, I actually felt pretty good.  I hammered out my intervals and I felt really strong.  I was getting close to paces I was running 2 years ago (4:17km, 4:01km, 3:57km, 4:02km, 4:04km).  I felt great.  By the end of the workout, during my cool down, I could really feel tightness in my hamstrings, especially my left one.  I stretched well and didn't think anything of it.  I had a massage on Tuesday night at the massage school by my office.  I've been going there a couple of times a month, in addition to seeing my RMT as I feel I need that extra TLC.  The poor girl was so nervous because her supervisor was going to be sitting in on the session.  Needless to say, it wasn't much of a massage.  I swam the next day, hoping that would help my legs feel better.  They felt ok.  In the evening I had a ride and they felt so/so during the ride but not great.  Thursday morning I went out for an easy run and by the end of that run, my left leg was totally messed up.  I could barely walk due to the pain in my leg.  My sciatic nerve was being pinched.  I figured it was my piriformis again so off I went to see my ART guy.   He did a lot of digging around my glut and hamstring and said I'd probably be sore for a few days.  He wasn't kidding.  Friday I still hurt.  Saturday, I was a bit better but still tender in some places.  I managed a short ride.  Sunday I felt somewhat better and thought I'd try to go for a run while Gary was out racing.  I ran 1.5km and had to turn around I hurt so much.  I cried all the way back to the car.  That was not what I had hoped for and it really bummed me out.

I'm going back to see him this afternoon for some more work as I'm still sore and I can still feel a bit of pins and needles in my leg.  I really hope he can get this sorted out because I'm supposed to race the Mississauga half this weekend and I really DO NOT want to have another DNS this year.

I'm linking up a bit late with Holly & Tricia for their Weekly Wrap.  It's a chance for active women to connect and share their training and racing experiences.  Check it out!

Monday:  OFF

Tuesday: run with 5x1km intervals in a.m.  40 minute strength training session at lunch.  Mostly upper body & core.

Wednesday:  2600m swim.  I felt pretty good.  45 minute zone 2 ride in p.m.

Thursday:  8.5km easy run to test out my new Zoot Solanas.  Everything went to hell after this.

Friday:  1650m swim.  Still sore and very disinterested in swimming stroke work.

Saturday:  45 minute ride on the trainer.

Sunday:  NADA.

Total time:  5h 36 minutes.  I had 12h on the schedule but that never happened.  *Sigh*  One step forward two steps back.

On the plus side, this has helped me figure out what I CAN'T do so moving forward my coach has a better idea of how to schedule my workouts.  At least there's an upside, ha ha.

How was your week of workouts?  Who watched Game of Thrones last night????  I did not, but it's on the PVR so I will be tuning in as soon as possible!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Zoot Makai - Not Just for Triathletes!

I've been wearing Zoot products for as long as I've been doing triathlons, which is a long time.   Their products used to be geared 100% to triathletes but over the years they've really branched out embraced all 3 sports by creating top notch gear for each leg of the race.  Where they've really made some inroads is in their shoes.  For years, Zoot shoes were what were known as a "quick entry" shoe that had elastic laces and a seamless upper.  It was something you could literally just pull on and go.  No need to tie up laces.  Because transitions are where you find free speed!  You don't want to fuss with laces.

Some of their shoes do come with the option for regular laces and speed laces.  The old Ultra Kiawe was one of them.  Others, like the Solana and the Diego have regular laces.  The Solana was actually voted  Best Debut by Runner's World when it was launched back in 2015.  It's been my go to Zoot shoe since it came out.  I just replaced the regular laces with race laces and BOOM, I'm race ready.

I was content to continue training in my Solanas this year until I saw pictures of the new Zoot Makai.  Oh boy.  Now I know you're not supposed to pick a shoe based on how it looks.  But lets be real, good looks help, right???  Being a Zoot sponsored athlete, I get the opportunity to purchase items at a substantial discount so I thought, why not?  Let's give these puppies a go.

I'm a sucker for brightly coloured shoes so these ticked that box right off the bat.  

I slipped them on and adjusted the laces.  The first thing I noticed was the smoothness of the upper.  Zoot does seamless technology really well.  This shoe completely nails it.  There is not a single seam anywhere across the top and sides of the shoe.  Some other shoe brands do a seamless liner but there are still seams / detailing on the outside of the shoe and those can irritate your feet and cause hot spots.   Zoot kept it clean with this shoe.

Look Ma, no seams!!!

Secondly, the lacing system is really easy to use.  You just pull the toggle and adjust as required.

It is surprisingly secure without having to be done up too tightly.   I was a little concerned when I first put them on and started to walk around but with a few toggle adjustments, they were perfect.  The true test was when I went out for my first run in them.  They didn't budge.  And I didn't have a single blister.

Now let's talk about the things you DON'T see here, namely the technology in the shoe.  The shoe has a molded 3D heel counter for excellent heel support.  Zoot's seamless technology is called BareFit and it is one of the things that makes this shoe so good.  The shoe, like most Zoot shoes, fits like a glove.  It fits close to the foot and it feels supportive and stable while remaining light and responsive. It doesn't feel sloppy or soft.  My foot felt snug and secure, even through a 2 hour run.

Zoot's shoes have always felt very zippy and responsive and I'm chalking that up to the other proprietary technology in their shoes.  It's called Z-Bound and it's found in the sole of the shoe from the heel to the toe.  Z-Bound essentially rebounds a runner's energy reducing stress and fatigue.  I can honestly say this stuff works because I did my longest run in 2 years in these shoes and I thought for sure my legs would feel brutal.  They didn't.  I was especially surprised at how good my legs felt the next day.

A few other key features to note:  the mesh upper is incredibly breathable.  There is a medial post for some guidance and the shoe features an 8mm drop.   The shoe is geared towards a runner with neutral foot mechanics and a medium arch.   It also comes with regular laces if the quick lace system isn't your thing.

This is going to be my go to shoe for my A race in Tremblant this year.  I haven't tested it barefoot yet  but will do so once the weather gets better.  If my feet stay blister free when I go sock less, I'll be using it for my short course races as well.

Even if you don't swim or bike before you run, that doesn't mean that you should over look Zoot as a shoe option.   I can't say enough about their shoes (or their other products for that matter).  I've been wearing them since I started in triathlon over 10 years ago.  If you're in the market for a new pair of racing shoes, take a look at Zoot!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

#OperationTop5 - Spring is Finally Here!

Another weekend, gone...but never mind that, we are already halfway through April!!  Holy Moly, time is flying by like crazy this year.  I blink and the weekend is over.   What a glorious weekend it was though.  Spring finally showed up in Toronto.  Just in time for my longest run this year (and in the last two years as a matter of fact.)  Wooohooo!

This week was a flurry of activity.  Work has been busy and I had another full week of training.  This would have been my biggest volume week if I had managed to do all my workouts but I didn't.  A boiling hot pool (90 degrees!) on Wednesday made for a shortened swim workout and a splitting headache on Thursday kept me off my bike after work.  But other than that, it was a pretty successful week.  My coach has introduced speed work back in my life.  Holy smokes.  It's nice to open it up a bit, even if it is for shorter distances.

This weekend started with a visit to a townhouse that our real estate agent sent us.  We've also had two different contractors come by the house to give us an estimate to finish the basement.  So the Florida plans are kind of moving along.  The townhouse we saw was beautiful but priced a bit higher than we really want to be and we figured it would go for even more than what it was listed for.  We're happy to look around and see what's what for the next little while, until we at least get the basement sorted out.  Once that gets going, then I think we'll be in a better position to put an offer in on something.  But for now, we're just checking things out.  Going from a large detached home to a smaller town home will be a change that's for sure.  But if it means no more winter, then I'm ok with it!  As for Florida, Holly (Hoho Runs) asked where we were looking and we're aiming to be in the Clermont area.  Once we figure out how much we have to spend on a place down there, then we'll take a trip down and do some more exploring. about that training week???  I'm linking up with Holly (HoHo Runs) and Tricia (Mississippi Piddlin) for their Weekly Wrap.  This is how my week went down.

Monday:  OFF

Tuesday:  50 minute weight workout, 60 minutes of hills in the a.m.  60 minute ride in the p.m.

Wednesday:  1650m in a disgustingly hot pool.  I couldn't do the workout it was just too hot.  Our coach said we should just do what we could.  I had to get out every 200-250m to cool down it was just too much.   I did, however get this.  Yup, I finally hit 1 million metres since I started tracking my mileage back in 2012.

Thursday:  9.5km run with 20 minutes at tempo pace.  This was tough.  My legs were feeling Tuesday's workouts.  But I still managed a decent pace for the 20 minute section.   Thursday night I came home to this package of awesomeness from Zoot.

Friday:  2300m swim

Saturday:  89km ride with 2x10 minutes in zone 4,  followed by a 20 minute run off the bike.  Holy moly this was a tough day.

Sunday:  3000m swim, 2 hour run with the last 20 minutes at tempo effort.

Using the GoPro to check my form 
Total time:  11h 36 minutes vs. the 13h 35 minutes that was scheduled.   But I'm ok with that!

Next week is my last big week before my mini taper for the Mississauga half.  This coming weekend is going to be a big one, we've got 2 birthday celebrations and it's our 12 year wedding anniversary next Sunday.  ANNNNDDDD....Game of Thrones starts that day as well, ha ha ha.

Hope you guys had a great week!  What sort of fun did you get up to?  Did you have awesome weather?  It was sunny at 20 degrees in Toronto today!  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

#OperationtTop5 Week 14: Pump Up the Volume

I am exhausted.  This was a monster week.  The first of a few monster weeks to come.  It was so big,  I didn't have much time to do anything else.  These next two weeks will be much of the same.  But that's ok, this is what I've wanted.  My body finally feels ready for the volume.  Now if only I could sleep.....

It's funny how when I'm back home and back at work that my sleep patterns change.  I get up in the middle of the night more often and sometimes I have a hard time falling back asleep.  When we were away, I slept like a baby.  Probably from being outside all the time and not being stressed.  Stress is just as bad as sitting.  Combine the two and you have a recipe for disaster.  I'm working on the not sitting thing but the stress, well that's why I run.  

Anyway, we didn't get up to much this weekend as last weekend was totally jammed so it was nice to stick close to home.  I did some meal prep and puttered around but most of my weekend was spent training.  And looking at houses.   Yes, G and I are thinking about moving.  When we re-did the house we said we'd never move but after going to Florida and seeing how cheap places were down there, we started thinking, and more importantly, doing the math.   The housing market in Toronto is INSANE right now.   We could get a good chunk of change for our place.  Enough that we could afford to downsize into a townhouse and then have money left over to buy a place in Florida and have a very small mortgage.  G can work from anywhere, the US being the ideal spot as that's where all his work is.  So, if we can swing this, we'd essentially be Snowbirds.  We'd spend 4-5 months of the year in Florida and the rest of the time in Canada.  That would mean I'd have to quit my full time job and get a US work visa so I could work part time in the US.  It's pretty exciting to think about.  G is a bit like a dog with a bone when it comes to things so I've had to put the brakes on him a bit.  These next few months are going to be super busy with training and work and I don't want to add finishing the basement, cleaning out the house and listing it into the mix.  After Tremblant, would be better as we'll have the time and the housing market will be picking up as it always does in the summer.  Something to look forward to for sure!

So that's the exciting bit of news.  Now on to my crazy week of training.  I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap.

Monday:  OFF - I had thought about swimming but got up and looked outside to see snow so I went back to bed.  My coach had given me the option to do a recovery workout or sleep.  I chose sleep.  ATB did a bit of a number on me and I was still pretty tired.

Tuesday:  12km recovery run with my friend David.  It was freezing cold but it was nice to have the company.  

Wednesday:  2300m swim, 40 minute strength session in the a.m.  60 minute ride in the Pain Cave in the p.m.

I'm really tired of this view.  Thankfully I still have a whole season of Breaking Bad to watch!

Thursday:  Back on the bike at stupid o'clock in the a.m. for 75 minutes including 4x6 minute intervals in Zone 4.  I was SOAKED by the time I got off the bike to go do my 4km run.  My legs felt surprisingly good off the bike.  I was quite pleased.  I rewarded myself with a 90 minute massage that night, ha ha.

Friday:  2100m swim - and time to play with the GO PRO  :)

Saturday:  60 minute strength session with my trainer - all upper body and core, then 2h 45 minutes on the Computrainer in the basement, followed by 5km off the bike.  Followed by eating ALLTHEFOOD.

That face you make when you realize you're only halfway through your ride and your legs still feel like crap.

Longest trainer ride this year.  That was a test of my mental fortitude.

Sunday:  2600m swim,  directly followed by an 18km run (longest run this year!).  Never again.  I bonked so hard towards the end, it was a struggle to maintain my pace.  I needed real food in-between my swim and my run.  Next week, I'll go home and eat and then hit the road.  It was also FREEZING cold out.  I was completely frozen when I got back.  So much so that I had to sit in front of the fireplace and defrost.  It's APRIL for Pete's sake.  There should NOT be a WINDCHILL.  

Total time:  12h 45 minutes.  Second highest training week this year.   Boom. 

Swim:  6800m
Bike: 151km
Run: 39.4km 

Only 11 weeks left till Tremblant!

I'm bracing myself for a busy week at work.  The last couple of weeks have been fairly quiet but I've got 2 large projects on the go and another one that should come in tomorrow. Time for me to buckle up!

How was your week?  Did you do anything fun?  Don't forget to check out the other posts in the Weekly Wrap link up!

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Gong Show Goes Around The Bay

Fun Fact:  Around the Bay is North America's oldest road race.  True story!  I've run this race so many times as an individual participant and I have to say 30km is a perfect race distance.  It's longer than a half so it's still pretty challenging to train for and even more challenging to race well.  It doesn't beat me up as much as a marathon does.   That last 12km in the marathon is what does me in.

This year I decided to do the race as part of a two person relay and I convinced my friend Kiki to do it with me.  We called ourselves the Gong Show because that's usually the happens when we get together.  I took the back half of the race which is where most of the hills are as I figured it would be good prep for the run at Tremblant.  After all I went through in January and February I was genuinely concerned I might not be able to race this.  But when I banged out a pain free 16km run in Florida two weeks before, I knew I was good to go.   I texted Kiki when we got back from Florida to let her know I was 100% in.

My coach's instructions were to race it and to negative split it.  We settled on a goal of 1:10 for 15km.  I figured the hills would slow me down for sure and I wasn't 100% sure I'd be fully recovered from training camp.  So many doubts.  But I didn't let them get to me.  I filed them away and focused on the fact that this would be a test of where my running fitness was at.  Plain and simple.   Sometimes you have to take the emotion of out it because it can mess with your head.

I had an optional 2h and 30 minute ride on Saturday.  I opted to ride for 45 minutes just to spin my legs out.  I wanted to be as fresh as possible for Sunday.  We spent the afternoon at my parents having a belated Easter dinner and we drove home in a snow storm.  I hadn't figured out my race day ensemble yet so as soon as I got home I checked the forecast (again) and then checked Instagram to see what other people were wearing, ha ha.  I came up with this.

It was supposed to be cold and windy.  I had originally thought about wearing my Zoot wind tights but knew that I get really warm in them so I opted for my Zoot biowrap tights with another thin pair of tights underneath.  I wore a long sleeve with sleeves underneath it - I figured if I got warm, I could pull them off easily enough.  My vest is completely wind proof so I knew my core would be fine.  I brought my wool Buff along and wore another one to hold my hair back and cover my ears.  I hoped it would be warm enough.

Race morning, Kiki came by my house and we loaded up the car and headed off in search of coffee.  We hit Tim Horton's and when I tried to roll down my window, it was frozen shut.  So going through the drive through became a bit of a debacle.  But we managed.  Thankfully there wasn't anyone behind us.  I'm pretty sure there would have been some honking, ha ha.

We whipped along the QEW and made it out to the Hammer by just after 8:00 am.  We found some primo parking and sat in the car and stayed warm.  We were just down the road from our secret bathroom stop so we each had a washroom stop in the warmth before we had to head out to our respective spots.  I was carting all of Kiki's warm stuff with me as we'd do the hand off of everything at the relay exchange point.  That meant I got to keep my toasty warm jacket on and that she'd have it waiting for me after.

Around 9 we made our way over to the relay buses and Kiki got on for a few minutes to keep warm.  It was SUPER windy out and the wind was COLD.  She jumped off as it started to fill up and before I knew it, we were on our way.  I was chatting with a lovely woman from Brantford who was my seatmate.  We were at the exchange point in about 15-20 minutes.  The bus pulled over and we were able to stay in the warmth until we wanted to get out.  We sat there for a while, a bunch of us trying to figure out when the best time to get over to the exchange point would be.

We watched the leaders come flying by and eventually people started to trickle out.  I had wanted to do a warm up but didn't really have much opportunity to do so as I was wearing a heavy coat and carrying a knapsack.  And, I had to use the porta potty again.  So I got in the line up and hoped that I wouldn't miss Kiki.  I was watching for my friend David but I never saw him.  I can only assume he ran by when I was in the porta potty.  I got out and ran up the road, watching for Kiki's Boston jacket. A few minutes later I saw her and waved her down.  I grabbed the zip ties and toenail clipper to remove the chip from her shoe and transfer it to mine.  My hands were so cold, I couldn't get the zip ties on so she did that while I shed my layers.  I shoved my jacket into the knapsack and took off.  I booted it up that first hill and had to calm myself down.  I was passing people all over the place.  The wind was brutal through those first 2km but I knew as soon as I turned onto North Shore that it would be fine.

My legs felt a little rough, probably due to the lack of a proper warm up.  But once I got warmed up, I felt really good.  My first two km were sub 4:30.  My goal pace was 4:40.  But, this was about seeing what I was capable of.  So, I figured I'd aim to stay just below that for the first 10km.  And I did, with the exception of the climb just after the 20km mark, which is a long grinder of a climb.  That km was 4:45.  I was amazed at how strong I felt going up hills.  All that glute work paid off.  My form work has also paid off (for the most part).  Normally I'd over stride on the down hills and totally fry my quads but I didn't.  I focused on landing under my body and leaning forward.  There was so much form check chatter in my head the entire race it was crazy but in the best way possible.  I kept telling myself to keep my chest out and arms back.  I have a tendency to drop my right shoulder / arm out a bit so it's almost like a chicken wing, ha ha.  It wasn't hard for me to do at the start of the race but by the end, I was getting fatigued and I could feel my form starting to go.  You can see it in my race photos too.  It's crazy.  My entire right side just collapses.  But that's another post for another day.

This would be the first time I'd run the course without the big hill in it so I was looking forward to NOT having to run up that lung buster.  I figured that would also help me in terms of my negative split.  I am horrible at doing running math so but I figured if I picked up the pace in the last 2-3km I should be good.

I made it through the hills and rollers feeling pretty good.  My legs didn't feel sore or tired at all, which totally blew my mind.   The only thing that hurt were my feet.  I could feel blisters happening, which annoyed me as the socks I had on were ones I had worn multiple times before.  No matter, I was still catching people as I went along.  When we turned onto Plains Road, we had a fair bit of wind to deal with.  I draft hopped people as I went along.  I'd get up behind someone, sit behind them for a bit to break the wind, then pull out and move along to the next person.  The road started to change direction so the wind ended up being at my side, which is much better than running into it.  The big hill had been replaced by flat so I was really happy about that!  I kept checking my pace and doing the math.  I was definitely going to make it under 1:10, the question was, by how much?

I started to push the pace with about 4km left, gradually increasing my speed with every kilometer.  Of course I had to high five the Grim Reaper at the 28km mark as I flew by.  This year there were TWO of them!  I was starting to feel tired and I could feel my form falling apart.  I had to force my shoulders back as I was staring to slouch.  I could see the 29km mark and I really started to push.  I wanted that last km to be the fastest of the day.  I heard someone call my name as I ran towards the entrance to Copps Coliseum (or First Ontario Place as it's now called) but I didn't see who it was.  I took my sunglasses off as I made the turn onto the ramp.  I turned onto the finishing chute and as I came towards the finish line, I heard the announcer call out our team name which made me smile.  I hit stop and glanced at my watch:  1:07:55.  WOOHOO!  I booked it hard those last few hundred meters to try and get under 1:08 and I squeaked by.

I ran into my friend David as I left the arena area and we chatted for a while.  Kiki called me to find out where I was so I went to grab our medals and then went off to meet her.  I changed out of my sweaty shirt and bundled up in my nice warm jacket. Kiki was checking sports stats and said we finished 14th.  I thought that was pretty good.  I texted G to tell him we were leaving and he told me that we were 4th in the open female category and 14th overall.  We missed the podium by 32 seconds, ha ha ha.  If this race went by chip time we would have been on the podium but they use gun time (old school) and the 3rd place team beat us by 31 seconds.  Oh well.  I didn't have any expectations for that so it was a pleasant surprise!

After I downloaded my Garmin, I went back and checked my splits.  Sure enough, my last km was my fastest.  My 2nd last km was my 3rd fastest km.

I was beyond happy with my effort.  I feel like I actually raced smartly for a change instead of going out too fast like I normally do.  And, more importantly, it proved to me that these legs still have it.  There is nothing wrong with the engine, it just needs a bit more fine tuning and that will come.

I had a blast doing the relay and it's definitely something I'd consider doing again.  Especially that early in the season.   The bling ain't that bad either.

My next race will be the Mississauga Half on May 1st.  Can't wait for that one!

Monday, April 4, 2016

#OperationTop5 Week 13 - First Race of the Season!

Happy Monday!

I had every intention of writing this post yesterday but my weekend got away from me.  As did much of this week.  If life continues to be this crazy, I may have to look at taking a break from the blog for a while.  But we shall see.

This past week was pretty low key in terms of workouts.  I put in a huge amount of work the week before and I really needed to recover so I didn't have anything on the schedule until Wednesday.  I took full advantage of the no workouts and got as much sleep as possible.  My body needed it.  I slept really well almost every night last week.  No middle of the night wake ups.  It was solid, uninterrupted sleep.  SO good.  Wednesday I went back to my Masters swim and barely made 2100m.  It was pretty sucky.  I felt sluggish and slow.  I worked on my new stroke but that tired me out quite quickly so I had to really break it down and focus on ONE element (reaching forward).  I was pretty tired when I got out of the pool and I think I was in bed asleep by 9:00 pm that night, ha ha.  I had a brick scheduled for Thursday and I opted to do it in the morning.  I got on the bike and did my 60 minutes with 30 minutes at 80% of my FTP.  I'm not going to lie,  It was hard.  My legs still felt pretty heavy and it took them a while to warm up.  I had to work really hard to stay at that 80%. 

My Garmin has a feature called "Recovery advisor" and I do believe it uses the data from your heart rate / power to determine how long it will take you to recover from a workout.  It usually beeps about 10 minutes into a workout to alert you.  During my ride it beeped and it said "Recovery / Good".   Sometimes when it beeps good, I have to wonder what metrics it's measuring because there are times when it says good and I certainly don't feel it.  This ride was one of those times.  When I laced up my shoes to go out for my run, I started my watch in run mode and took off.  I actually felt really good on the run.  My heart rate felt a tiny bit high but not too bad.  10 minutes into my run, my Garmin beeps again and I look at my recovery advisor.  It says "Fair".  Ha.  Ok.  Clearly I wasn't recovered just yet.  Luckily I only had to run 20 minutes so it wasn't too taxing.  After uploading that workout in Training Peaks, I was given the option to skip my masters swim on Friday if I wanted to.  So I did.  I had a 2h 30 minute ride on the schedule for Saturday and my coach had said I could skip that too if I wanted to.  It was all about being healthy and fresh for Sunday.  I opted to ride 45 minutes just to spin my legs out.  That was about all I felt like doing.  After riding outside every day, being back inside on the trainer is horrible.   We had a belated Easter dinner at my parents in Guelph so we headed out there around 2:30.   We didn't plan on staying too late as I had to be up early and there happened to be a snow storm that rolled in.  Thank you Mother Nature.  We got dumped on again last night as well.  Seriously, it's APRIL.  Ugh.  Can I go back to Florida please????

Anyway, yesterday was my first race of 2016.  After 2 DNS, it was nice to finally get a race under my belt.  I did Around the Bay 30km as part of a two team relay.  What a blast.  There will be a race report later on this week but in short, it was EXACTLY what I needed.  I held a good solid pace, even on the hills.  My knees didn't hurt and I felt strong the entire time.  After everything I've been through with this injury nonsense, I was uncertain of what I'd be capable of, especially coming off of the massive week of training the week before.   Having the race I had, gave me a huge confidence boost.  So much so that I signed up for the Mississauga Half Marathon on May 1st.  I've done the 10km twice and the marathon once so I figure it's time to do the half!  And I have a bunch of friends racing as well as two of my athletes.  So it should be a blast for sure.

With all that, this is how my week actually went down - I'm linking up with Holly (HoHoRuns) and Tricia (Mississipi Piddlin) for their weekly wrap (a day late but hey, better late than never!)

Monday:  OFF
Tuesday:  OFF
Wednesday:  2100m swim
Thursday:  60 minute ride, 20 minute run

Testing out the remote control app on my phone for the GoPro - nice shot of the Pain Cave!

Friday: OFF
Saturday:  45 minute ride
Sunday: 15km race

Total time:  4h 8 minutes.  

I'm 99.9% sure I will not see a week this easy until my taper week for Tremblant.  My coach just updated my training plan for the next three weeks and it's massive and I have to admit, I'm excited.  I must be crazy but I can't wait to start tackling some bigger distances and some solid running mileage! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#Operation Top 5 Weeks 11 & 12: Playing Catch Up + Training Camp



I had every intention of blogging while we were away last week but it never happened.  I needed to take some time away from my computer.  The week leading up to our trip was one of the most stressful weeks I've had in a very long time.  I was mentally exhausted by the time I walked out the door on Friday night.  I didn't "catch up" on my rest until Monday.  Our flight out on Saturday was at 6:15 am which meant that I only got about 5 hours sleep.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The week leading up to our trip was a pretty easy week for me workout wise.  My coach wanted me to go into training camp rested.  Which I wasn't really, given the week of work I had.  I only had 4 hours and 20 minutes of workouts.  Had I done the Olympic race I signed up for, I would have been closer to 7 hours but I opted not to race.  I was feeling so worn out and my head wasn't even remotely in the game.  I just wanted to sleep.  I don't like to go into races feeling stressed or tired so as much I think that would have been a good benchmark race for me, I also didn't want to stress my body even further by pushing myself.  If it was a sprint race I probably would have done it as it would have been less than 1h 45 minutes but an Olympic distance race probably would have put me at 2h 40 minutes or so of going hard.  Given that I had a full week of training ahead of me that I wanted to feel good for, I opted to skip it and watch G instead.

When I got up race morning to pouring rain, I was REALLY happy with my decision.  The sun ended up coming out on the run, which made it smoking hot on the run course.  I certainly wasn't ready for that heat!  It was nice to spectate in though, ha ha.

After the race, the camp kicked off with an easy ride out to a town called Winter Garden.  It was beautiful and it had a local brewery so of course G and I made a mental note to go back there later on in the week and check it out.   The ride was pancake flat and we rode to this great little coffee shop to chat and get to know everyone.  We rode back nice and easy with a few sprints thrown in for those of us that were feeling energetic and then we regrouped for dinner at Sheri's house (the other coach who runs the camp).  G and I were staying at the Marriott nearby but ended up moving to a beautiful townhouse owned by one of Sheri's friends that was just around the corner from Sheri.  We had more room than we needed and a full kitchen.  It was perfect.

G and I taking a break in Winter Garden
 Monday was our first big day.   It started with stroke analysis in a lovely outdoor pool.  Unfortunately the temperature had dropped the night before due to the rain so it was quite chilly.  Still warmer than Toronto but chilly none the less.  We were in the water for a couple of hours and then it was on to the bike.  We were going to be riding on the Van Fleet Trail.  It was totally flat.  We had some rollers at the start but once we got on the trail it was pancake flat.  Paolina took myself, G and Dierdre (another one of her athletes) ahead of the group and told us we were going to be doing a tempo set.  So we essentially pace lined like you see in the team time trial at the Tour de France.  We'd take turns going super hard at the front for a couple of minutes each and then pull off and go to the back of the Pain Train.  We got up to 46 kph!  It was insane.

Deirdre and Paolina before the Pain Train started
I worked really hard for that section of the ride.  Thankfully the ride back was easy.  We even stopped to check out some gators.  Total mileage for the day was just over 100km on the bike.  Not a bad way to start off my week!

Tuesday was a 12km trail run in the morning followed by an easy ride to a bakery in the afternoon.  The temperature had started to rise and I was overdressed for the run.   It was pretty awesome and I was surprised at how good my legs felt after the previous days ride.

Wednesday we went out to the National Training Centre for more swim stroke work and an actual workout.  It was a 25 yard pool set up but I didn't care.  It was amazing to be outside in the sunshine.  I wore my Garmin but kept forgetting to turn it on so I think we ended up doing almost 4000m vs. the 2450m that it actually counted.  We were in the water for a very long time.  And of course I had to test out the underwater capabilities of my new toy.  After the swim, we did a quick upper body workout at the gym with Paolina.

Yup.  It's waterproof!
After the swim we headed out to the Clermont Hills.  By this point it was scorching hot.  We did loops of Buckhorn Road, which is a road filled with rollers and a couple of good steep climbs.  Then we circled around and climbed Sugarloaf Mountain Road.  By that point my legs were toast.  I squeaked up that hill.   We took the easy way back and I was very happy to be off my bike.  63km done that day. 

The next day (Thursday) was our long run of the week.  We were headed to the Orange Grove clay trail.  It was also a really early start (7:00 am).  The plan was to run 16km.  That would be my longest run this year.  I wasn't sure how my legs would feel given the beating they had been subjected to the day before but that's what my Zoot recovery tights + Vega recovery accelerator were for!  I slept in my recovery tights until about 3 am and then got up to take them off.  I swear they made a huge difference.
16km of this.  Plus some rollers for good measure.

Nothing beats running with the sunrise

I ran that 16km at a very comfortable pace.  I had no knee pain except for a few tweaks in the latter km's when I was running down hill.  My legs never felt tired or sore.  I was over the moon happy when I finished. I was even able to pick it up over the last km.   That was the best run I've had in ages.  I was expecting to be sore and tired but as the week progressed I started to feel better and stronger.  I'm chalking it up to not sitting all day.  I'm convinced the more you stand and move, the better you feel.

After the run we headed back home for a second breakfast and then made our way over to Lake Minneola to practice our open water swimming.  Both Sheri and Paolina gave me some instruction on what they wanted to see me change.  My body position is good as is my kick but my upper body isn't rolling and I'm very "delicate" when I enter the water.  I worked on my stroke when we were at the NTC and practiced the things they wanted me to practice when we were in open water.  This new technique has me using my shoulders way more.  I was so tired after swimming 50m like that, that I had to stop and take a break.  It's going to take me a while to get used to swimming this way and I'm definitely going to have to work on my shoulder strength.  I was actually a bit sore the next day.

Friday was our hardest day yet.  It was our brick day.  I thought it would be a long ride followed by a long run but boy was I mistaken.  We went to Lake Louisa State Park and practiced our transitions.  We set up our bikes and everything else we'd need to go from swim to bike to run.  We weren't going to actually swim, but we did practice running in bare feet to our bikes.  The park had a 13.5km beautifully paved loop and the plan was to ride that 3-4 times, with a 2km run after each loop.  Paolina had told me to build into it and that my 3rd lap should be the hardest.  We did a warm up lap to check out the course and then we were off.   I rode the first lap pretty hard.  Probably a bit too hard.  I came back in "racked" my bike, threw on my shoes and started running.  My knees were killing me, which was not good.  I ran on the trail which seemed to aggravate them a bit more so I quickly made my way out to the pavement where they seemed to settle down.  

Then I had a couple of minutes rest and it was back onto the bike.  I told Paolina that I had gone too hard on that first lap so I cruised the second lap.  I pushed on the flats and downhills but spun easy up the climbs.  I came back in and then went out on my second run.  I ran with Paolina and we were cranking out a pretty good pace.  I actually ran 2.6km for that brick.  We ran back, and I took another 2 minute break and then Paolina said it was go time.  This was going to be my hardest lap.  I hopped on my bike, and started chasing her.  Holy crap.  I was able to hang on to her until we got to any sort of incline and then I slowed down.  My legs and lungs were screaming at me.  I just don't have the leg strength to power up hills like she does.  I got into "transition" and almost barfed.  I racked my bike and pulled on my shoes.  I tried to pick up the pace but my legs were toast.  My Garmin will beep and tell me what my recovery is like and part way through my 2km run it beeped to tell me my recovery had gone from "Good" to "Fair".  Ha.  No kidding.  I was toast.  That last 2km run was the slowest of the day for me.  But I didn't care.  I had just done a triple brick.  I've never done anything like that before in my life.  It was hard.  It hurt.  But it was also AWESOME.  I've been told I'll be getting a few more workouts like that over the coming months.  Bring it on I say!

After that we went back to Sheri's and did about 40 minutes of yoga.  I really needed that.  We then went back home, showered refueled and chilled out before heading out to dinner with the group.  Some people were heading home early the next day so we thought it would be nice to have dinner together before people left.

Saturday was the last day of official camp activities and it started with a free 5km Park Run race.  They hold this free race every Saturday morning in Waterfront Park.  Paolina and I talked game plan the night before.  I wasn't sure what I'd be capable of since I've done ZERO speed work this year and I had just put quite the beatdown on my legs.  I figured somewhere between 21-22 minutes would be ideal.  She told me not to start out too fast but to build into it.

G and I ran to the park, it was roughly 2km from the condo so I had a nice little warm up run.  My knees were very sore when I started running.  They felt like they weren't tracking properly.  But once I got going, they were totally fine.  It was hot and muggy even at 7:30 am.  Thankfully it was also overcast.  There was a decent crowd of people ranging in age.  We all lined up and listened to announcements, had a round of applause for the volunteers and waited for the MC to yell GO.  Then we were off.  Of course I took off like a shot and had to dodge people because I didn't seed myself correctly.   My legs didn't fresh but they didn't feel awful either.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I pushed it through that first km and when my Garmin beeped I saw 4:09/km.  Oops.  That was too fast.  I tried to settle into a more sustainable pace.   I chugged along trying to keep the leaders in my sight.  One guy was pulling away from the group really quickly.  At the 2km mark the race had strung out.  I was the lead female and had no clue how close the second place woman was.  My 2nd km was 4:10.  Still too fast.  I figured I'd pay for that towards the end of the race.  We turned around and the first thing I noticed was the wind.  It was in my face.  That slowed me down a fair bit.  I really struggled running into it.  We were also running slightly uphill and I felt that.  My 3rd and 4th km were 4:17 and 4:19.  Ouch.  We ran out to another turn around so I knew I'd have the wind at my back on the way back in.  My goal was to pick it up over the last km.  I started reeling the guy in front of me in.  Had we had another 500m, I may have caught him but he rolled across the line about 5 seconds in front of me.  I ran down the chute and heard them call out 21:16.   After everything I put my body through that week and my lack of speed work, I was really happy with that time.

We walked back to our condo and got ourselves ready for our "recovery ride".  We were heading back to Winter Garden for a nice easy ride to spin out our legs and stop for a coffee and brunch.  The sun had started to come out and it was nice and warm.  It was the perfect morning for a ride.  We cruised along the bike path at a nice clip.  G and I had brunch and a cappuccino while the rest of the crew went out and checked out the local market.  We sat outside for an hour or so and then got on our bikes and rode back.  An easy 40km.  It was perfect.  

When we got back, G and I packed up our bikes, did some laundry and then packed up most of our stuff.  We were going to Sheri's for dinner so we grabbed all the leftovers from the fridge and brought them to her place.  The last supper was a mish mash of everyone's left overs.  It was pretty darn delicious.

Sunday was our day to explore so we slept in (finally!) then packed up the truck and hit the road.  We drove around the area, checking out small towns, we went to Daytona Beach and then by Cape Canaveral before heading to the airport.  It was a lovely way to end our "holiday".

I am amazed that my body withstood the volume that it did.  I felt better as the days went on.  This trip was exactly what I needed, mentally & physically.    I logged almost 20 hours of training.  This is how it broke out:

Swim:  5800m
Bike:  342km
Run:  41.6km

Lots of benchmarks for me in terms of mileage.  Longest run this year as well as longest ride (so far) this year.  I was on the fence about racing the Around the Bay Relay I had signed up for but now, I'm 100% in.  Bring it on.

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

And We Have A Winner(s)

Happy Hump Day Gang!  Only 3 more days till I'm off to Clermont, Florida for my first race of the year and a training camp.  I'm really looking forward to the camp.  The race, well, I don't know.  I always have a bit of pre-race anxiety, especially for the first race of the season.  It's also an Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10k run) and while I know my swimming and cycling are pretty good right now, my running is not.   This will be my first run off the bike.   Ideally you've done at least ONE brick leading up to a race but given the state of affairs with my glut, I didn't get a chance to do any brick work.  So, this should be interesting to say the least. 

I am really looking forward to the time away from work.  I haven't been sleeping well due to stress so once I"m away, I should be able to forget about work and recharge my batteries.  Training and not sleeping don't go hand in hand so I think I'll probably be dragging my butt for the first few days of training camp.  But that's ok.  At least I won't be working!  WOOOHOOO!

I'm really excited to bust out all the cute Zoot gear I just bought.  Not to mention these shoes.  I christened them yesterday on a rainy 9km run.  They are amazing.  They are Zoots latest triathlon shoe and they're pretty sweet.  I'll probably post a full review on them after I've logged some more miles in them. 

In the meantime, let's get down to business!  I've got 3 winners for my Endurance Tap giveaway and here they are!  Congrats Aileen, Prasert and Lily!

If you could send me a note (phaedrakennedy at sympatico dot ca)  with your details, I'll pass it along to the guys at Endurance Tap so they can ship you your product!  Thanks to everyone that entered!

Hope everyone has a fabulous day!