Thursday, October 8, 2015

Getting The Most Out of Your Gadgets

There's no denying the hold that technology has on us these days.  We can't seem to live without our phones and God forbid we do a run without our Garmin.  I'm just as guilty as the next person.  I can't believe how much things have changed since I started running over 15 years ago.  Running gadgets have evolved just as much as cell phones.  You can even use your cell phone to track your run now.  When I started running I used an old Timex Ironman watch and a pedometer.  My how times have changed.   Running watches these days are basically mini computers that can give you all sorts of feedback on your training, IF you use them to their full potential.

I love the fact that we have so much data at our finger tips.  For a data junkie like me it's amazing.  Since I've started coaching, I've come to realize that many people don't take full advantage of these incredible little machines.  Garmins, Polars and the like are basically very expensive pace keepers because many people only use them for pacing.  They don't bother with the additional features like heart rate.  They either don't wear the strap that the watch came with or they don't buy it as an option.  When I'm training for something,  I always wear my heart rate monitor.  I find it keeps me "honest" in terms of my effort level. Those little digits tell me to either back it off or pick it up. 

I'm not saying that you SHOULD train with heart rate but it is definitely a valuable tool that can help you improve, especially if you're just starting out.   There is a lot to be said for training on perceived effort as well but when I was starting out, heart rate training was THE thing so that's what I'm used to.  Now that I've got 15+ years of running under my belt, I've come to know what various efforts feel like and I can pretty much guess within a few beats per minute what my average heart rate would be for any given workout.  In fact, I wear my heart rate monitor for every run but I don't have the screen set to show heart rate.  It shows time, distance and pace.  I don't generally concern myself with pace unless it's specific to my workout.  Right now I'm training for a half marathon so I'm working with distance.  In the off season, I usually just run based on time.

I've been using Garmin products exclusively for the last 4 years and with the advent of Garmin Connect, I've had a whole slew of feedback available to me in regards to my training, especially wen using my heart rate monitor.  Garmin Connect has a feature called "Training Effect".   According to the Garmin website, training effect "measures the load applied to your body and displays the impact in relation to your current fitness level."   It is calculated based on your user profile, heart rate ranges and the difficulty of an activity.  It is measured on a scale of 1 to 5.
What I love about this is that you can actually SEE your improvements over the course of time.  For example if I've taken some time off of doing speed work and I go out and do a tempo run, I will likely end up in the 5.0 category that first time out.  If I go out the following week, I may end up in the high 4 range.  After a few weeks of regular speed work, I usually end up in the 3.0-3.9 range so then I know it's time to perhaps step it up a notch.  

As much as I find Garmin software to be somewhat frustrating, their devices offer some amazing features.  The 920xt actually has a recovery time indicator (Polar has something similar), which utilizes your heart rate data to give you an estimated recovery time for any given effort.  It will also beep at the start of a workout to tell you whether or not your recovery is "good" or "fair".  Sometimes I see "fair" on my second workout of a high volume weekend.  I've also seen it when I'm coming off being sick, which tells me that I probably should have taken one more day off.  I always check the recovery time after my workout because it can often indicate that I'm potentially more worn out than I feel.  For example, this week I did two run workouts, almost exactly the same distance (6km vs. 6.5km).  One was a progressive tempo and the other was a race pace workout 3x3 minutes at race pace with 90s recovery between each one.  I ran harder in the first 6km workout and my recovery time was 19 hours.  In the 3x3 minute workout, I ran slower but my recovery time was actually 21 hours.  So that tells me that I'm starting to get worn down.  I felt fine but I noticed my breathing felt a bit more laboured on my second run even though I was actually running slower.  Looks like I'm really going to need to focus on rest this next week if I want to be really well rested going into Scotia.

I rarely ever run without my Garmin & heart rate monitor, even in my off season, mostly just out of habit.  When I'm in my off season, I set my Garmin to time and average heart rate, that way I'm not thinking about pace.  I'm just running to run.  Most of the time, I don't even look at my watch, I just let it do it's thing.  

There are a few other great training tools out there that also use your heart rate data to help calculate training load and I will get into those in a future post. 

Do you train with heart rate or by feel / pacing?  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tri Talk Tuesday - OFF SEASON

 Welcome back Tri Talk Tuesday peeps!  We're now back to monthly posts since most of us are heading into our off season.  Which is why Courtney, Cynthia and I thought it would be great to chat about the Off Season.   So, that's what today's theme is!

The off season is different for everyone.  Some people take a few weeks off, some people take a few months off.  The length of time I take off depends on how much I've raced and when my first race of the following year is.  I haven't raced as much as normal this year and I have some things I need to work on before I start ramping things up for 2016 so, I'm going to walk you through my off season plans for this year.

I have one race left on the calendar this year and that is the Scotiabank Half Marathon.  Once that race is done, my off season officially starts.   Normally after a half marathon I'll take a week off running and then gradually ease back into regular running the week after.  This year, I plan on taking 3-4 weeks off running completely.  I had a lot of knee problems and other issues that I've been working through all year so I want to give my body a break from the pounding.

What am I going to do in it's place you may wonder?  This is what I've mapped out.

Week One Post Scotia:

Swimming, yoga, massage.   There will be some running on the Saturday after Scotia as I am a Mizuno Run bird at the Toronto Women's 8km.

Week Two Post Scotia:

Swimming, yoga, strength training & a re-introduction to my basement pain cave & computrainer.

Week Three Post Scotia:

Same as above with a focus on cycling drills.

Week Four Post Scotia:

Same as above with the re-introduction of running.  Short easy runs, focusing on form and drill work.  That will probably be what the majority of my off season looks like.  I'll start to build my volume up again in mid December but for a good two months, I'll be keeping things short, sweet and easy.

The off season is also a great time to reflect on your season and focus on things you would like to improve on for next season.   I have a few things I need to work on.

1) Improve my flexibility and my strength and really get that mind body connection when it comes to certain muscle groups that haven't been working the way they should be.  I've finally recruited my glutes for the most part but my hips still need a bit more stability.  My core is a lot stronger but I need loosen up my t-spine to help with my rotation when I'm swimming and I need to learn to engage my lats more.

2)  Find some more power on the bike.  I was catching glimpses of it this year so I know it's possible.   I think with a focus on some basic form and pedal stroke work, I can find that power.  I also need to tweak my bike fit a bit so that should help.

3) Work on my running form.  I did this at the start of the year and found it helpful.  Everything went sideways when I started training for Eagleman and my form work took a back seat.  This is the time of year to make that part of my routine.

4) Work on my mental game in the water.  I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable in open water.   A lot of it has to do with breathing and some of it has to do with the fact that I'm a bit of a headcase.  I think the two things kind of go hand in hand in terms of trying to fix.  I may actually enlist the help of a sports psychologist to start and go from there.

So that's what my 2015 Off Season looks like.  Head on over to the link up and check out all the other Off Season posts.  Next months topic will be cycling training.  I'll be talking about specific workouts you can do indoors to work building strength so come back for that on November 3rd!

Tell me what your off season looks like!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Changing of the Seasons

Monday again.  Another weekend that absolutely just FLEW by.   We spent it up north at our friend David's place in Huntsville.  The plan was to do a "fall colours" bike ride.  Mother Nature wasn't the most cooperative.  The colours were just starting to change which was nice but holy moly was it ever windy.  We had a tailwind on the way out and a BRUTAL headwind on the way back.  Needless to say that shortened our ride substantially, ha ha.  I had hoped to do about 60-70km but we pulled the pin at 41 minutes out and it took us about 55 minutes to get back!  It was still nice to get out.   We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Huntsville and when we got back we played Settlers of Catan while dinner was simmering away.  I'm normally not a fan of board games but I actually quiet enjoyed that one!

Sunday morning David and I hit the road and some trail to do 20km.  He took me over all the hills in Huntsville, ha ha.  My glutes were killing me by the end of that run.  And my knees were quite sore too.  I haven't felt that in a while.  Hills obviously still cause me problems.  It was a perfect day for a run though, overcast and slightly misty.  This is totally my favourite time of year to run.  The scenery wasn't too shabby either!

Sunday was my last long run before Scotia.  Now it's time to taper.   This will be the first time in a long time I've run this race without a goal.  I'm just going to RUN it.  It's kind of strange but kind of nice at the same time.  It's nice going into a race with no pressure or expectations.  Actually most of my races this year have been like that.  It's been mentally refreshing, ha ha. 

The weather this past week wasn't great and I actually wussed out and opted to skip my tempo run on Tuesday because it was raining.  Slightly.  I ended up doing in on Thursday morning and froze my butt off instead.  It was super windy and quite cold.  But I did it.  I think my legs were still unhappy from last Sunday's monster ride.

I've been gradually scaling back things so this week was a little less insane then last week workout wise:

Monday: 2500m swim
Tuesday:  50 minutes strength work
Wednesday:  2000m swim
Thursday:  16km run with 13km at tempo + 40 minute strength, core & stretching afterwards

Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  44.5km on the bike
Sunday:  20km run.

Total time:  7 hours 43 minutes.

One last parting image.  It's finally fall when I start wearing socks and have my first Pumpkin Spice Latte....Is it just me or has Starbucks been starting this whole #PSL thing WAY earlier than normal???

Don't forget, tomorrow is Tri Talk Tuesday and we're chatting about The OFF SEASON tomorrow so swing on by and join in the link up!

What's your favourite season to run in?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hump Day Musings + Another Recipe

Happy Hump Day!

Things are a little quiet around these parts lately so I'm taking the time to get myself organized at home and make sure that the freezer is stocked with good eats.  I finally purged my closet & dresser a couple of weeks ago and I'm almost down to the last bit of stuff that I have to get rid of.  Some things I've donated and other things that I actually spent decent money on, I took to the Kind Exchange to sell.  I've made myself a nice little stash of extra cash.   Some of it went to fund my stash of new running socks.  I'm totally overdue for some new ones. 

Tomorrow night I'm headed to the Running Room at Yonge & Wellington to chat with the marathon clinic about tapering and race strategies.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.  I've been working on my "chat'.  I don't like to get up in front of people and just wing it so I've got to have some notes to refer to.

I had planned on doing a long tempo run last night but it was pouring rain and I really didn't feel like getting soaked so I stayed in, did some laundry and watched a bit of mindless TV.  Sometimes I just need to turn my brain off.  I'll head out and do my run this evening since the sun decided to come out today.   I never used to be such a fairweather runner.   Maybe I'm getting less tolerant of inclement weather as I get older.  Time to move somewhere WARM.

I'm happy to report that I've gotten back into a solid routine.  I've been back at the gym on a regular basis and I've been really good about making sure we've got healthy food prepped.  These last two weekends have been quite productive and I've gotten back to my regularly scheduled Eggs For Breakfast routine.  Which leads me to the REAL reason for this post.   I posted my favourite go to breakfast on Instagram yesterday and promised the recipe today.   It's SUPER easy and that's one of the reasons I love cooking with eggs.  You can't really screw it up.

Sweet Potato, Spinach & Caramelized Onion Fritatta

1 medium sweet potato, cut into cubes & roasted
1 small vidalia or sweet onion, sliced fairly thin
2-3 cups of baby spinach
1 carton of egg whites (I used Burnbrae Farms)
3 eggs (I used Burnbrae Farms Omega 3)
1/4 cup of grated old (sharp) cheddar (I used P.C 2 year old white cheddar)
2-3 tbsp of Olive Oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Cast Iron Pan

Use 1 tbsp of oil to coat the pan so the eggs don't stick.  I usually pour it into the middle of the pan and spread it around with a paper towel.   I've also used coconut oil for this.

Toss sweet potatoes with a bit of the olive oil (enough to coat) and add a pinch of salt.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through until lightly browned.  Keep oven on.

While sweet potatoes are roasting,  heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil in a non stick pan.  Lower heat to medium - low and add onion slices.  Saute until golden brown.  Remove from pan and place in oiled cast iron pan.

Add the spinach and cook until wilted.   Add to the cast iron pan.

When the sweet potatoes are done, let them cool and then add them to the pan as well.

In a mixing bowl, whisk 3 eggs & the carton of egg whites together.  Grate cheese and add to the egg mixture.  Pour egg mixture over veggies.  Cook for 20-22 minutes at 400 degrees.  Slice up and store in an airtight container.  Keeps for up to a week.   Just reheat it in the microwave and you've got a delicious and nutritious breakfast in under a minute!

What's your go to breakfast?  

And a little reminder that Tri Talk Tuesday is back NEXT TUESDAY, October 6th and we're talking OFF SEASON.  So swing by and link up!

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Like Bike Rides and I Cannot Lie

Monday, you kill me.   It's always so hard getting back to work after a weekend as fabulous as this one was.  At least it's rainy and grey out today so I don't mind being inside.  But before I get into waxing poetic about the weekend, I wanted to take the time to thank you all for your comments & tweets regarding my post last week.   Sometimes I tend to gloss over things in an effort to just move along but that isn't always a good thing.  Getting it off my chest made me feel much better.  Thanks for listening.

Now on to the FUN stuff! 

This weekend was probably the perfect weekend to be outside.  It was sunny, with a slightly cool breeze but it was still warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt.  I took full advantage of the nice weather.  Saturday my friend David and I went for a lovely 10km jaunt through High Park and then went to visit a friend of ours who was in a bike crash last week.  Our cool down was a walk back to David's place and then we parted ways.  I spent the afternoon puttering around the house, cooking and working on plans.  Sunday G and I had signed up to do the 10th Annual Greg's Ride / Share the Road Ride.  It's a memorial ride for a OPP Sergeant Greg Stobbart who was killed in 2006 while riding his bike on Tremaine Road in Milton.  His wife, Eleanor McMahon founded the Share the Road Cycling coalition shortly after his death in an effort to promote cycling safety.  Since his passing, she has worked tirelessly to make cycling safer in and around the GTA.   She spoke at the start of the ride and then led the ride out to Greg's memorial where we had a moment of silence.  She came around and introduced herself and thanked us for coming out.  Such a lovely woman.  It was the absolute perfect day do be out on a bike and I couldn't think of a better cause either.

It was a picture perfect early fall day. 
 Because I am a bit crazy / obsessed, I was set on riding 120km so I could get the Strava Grand Fondo badge and access to purchase the fancy jersey.  Yes, I'm a nerd and I have a problem.   

Anyway, since the memorial ride was only 103km, G and I, and our pal Eamonn, arrived early and headed out in the "flatlands" to cover off 17km.  We actually ended up doing almost 19km so I had some padding.  We took it easy as we figured the ride itself was going to be quite challenging (it was).   The first 16km of the actual ride was done at a very leisurely pace as we were riding as a group out to Greg's memorial.  Once we got back to Kelso and the groups separated, that's where things picked up.  The route we were riding was very similar to the Epic Tour route I had ridden two weeks earlier so I knew what to expect.  There was a fair bit of climbing.  Once we got out on the road, Eamonn started hammering and G hopped on his wheel.  I hung on for all I was worth and told them that it would be great if they could slow down - crazy boys.  They did and we rode together for the entire ride.  There were two rest stops that had granola bars, jelly beans, bananas and water.  No Gatorade.  This was a problem because I was sweating buckets and only brought two bottles with Roctane in them, thinking there would be Gatorade.   I didn't bring any Nuun tablets either.  I totally paid the price for that when we hit the 100km mark.  My quads started to cramp on small climbs.  That last 20km was a sufferfest.  But with about 5km to go, my legs rebounded and I rode the last few km at a decent clip.   When all was said and done, I covered 122.23km.  My longest ride this year.  Actually my longest ride in SEVERAL years.  The last time I rode anything that long was in 2008 training for Ironman Switzerland.    I have to say, as much as I suffered, I also REALLY enjoyed myself.  What can I say, I really like riding my bike. 
Thank you Garmin for the trophy, ha ha.
I had a pretty high volume week, capped off with that ride.  I'm not ashamed to say I was in bed asleep by 8:30 pm last night, ha ha.

This is what my week looked like:

Monday: OFF
Tuesday:  25km ride with Morning Glory + 50 minute weight workout in a.m.  12.5km run with 10.5km at tempo pace in the pm.  I finally nailed a good run.  It felt SO GOOD!

Wednesday:  2250m swim
Thursday:  10km with 1 minute hard, 1minute easy + 45 minute weight workout.
Friday:  2100m swim
Saturday:  10km with my pal David.
Sunday:  122km ride, followed by eating all the things.  Including this burger.  My all time fave from Woody's.

Total time:  11 hours 31 minutes.

Things are going to be dialed back this week, especially on the bike.  We're headed up to Hunstville on Friday to do some more riding and to enjoy the fall colours.   That will probably be the only riding I do this week and I'm ok with that.

3 more weeks till Scotia!  This will be my last big week of running and then it's taper time.  After that, it's yoga, yoga and more yoga.  Looking forward to that!

Who else got out and enjoyed the weekend??

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Promise To Myself

I have a confession to make.  I haven't been very nice to myself lately.  There has been a lot of negative self talk in regards to my body.  A lot of poking and prodding at areas that have "gotten soft" (compared to what I'm used to) and a general overall dislike of my appearance.

Normally I try to stay focused on what my body is capable of rather than how it looks but over the last several months, I've noticed a change in how my clothes fit, or in some cases, don't fit.  I started to get preoccupied with the little bit of extra flab around my belly and the saddlebags that I thought were starting to appear.  It started to really wear on me.  Especially when bombarded with daily images of super fit people on Social Media.


When I actually get my head out of my a$$ and take the time to look at the last few months, I notice a couple of key things.

1.  My ability to perform didn't change regardless of my saddlebags or flabby midsection.  In fact, I set course PR's in 3 of my 4 triathlons this year.  That has nothing to do with how my body looks.

2.  And this is the bigger culprit....I haven't taken care of my self the way I normally would.  This summer was so insanely busy that meal prep went out the window.  We were away a lot so we were eating out and when we were home I hardly cooked so we'd get take out.  And I wondered why my body was changing!

After we came back from Tremblant, I made a promise to myself that I would stop the obsessing and   start to take care of myself.  I went to Costco and stocked up on fish, chicken breast, quinoa and a few other staples and then I spent a day prepping food.   On Sundays I've started to make meal plans for the week for lunch and dinner so I'm not left winging it and deciding that I don't feel like cooking.   A quick perusal of my cookbooks reminded me that making good food doesn't have to be complicated.

I am a creature of habit - my body thrives on routine and this year, especially this summer, has been anything BUT routine.  Yes, I work out a lot but I'm not 25 any more, so it doesn't take much for me to gain a few inches, especially if my diet is less than ideal.  I don't expect things to get any easier in the coming years either.  Next year I will be firmly entrenched in my mid 40's so I'm sure these next few years will bring a variety of interesting "challenges".  I'm going to have to get used to my body changing.

My body may not look like it did last year, or even the year before that but I've realized that doesn't matter.  It's gotten better at doing what it does best (swimming, biking and running) and ultimately that's what really matters to me in the end.

Monday, September 21, 2015

#STWM Number 6 and a Recipe

In just under 4 weeks, I will be toeing the line to run my 6th Scotiabank Half Marathon.  I've seen pretty much every incarnation of the course as the first one I ran was way back in 2001.  I ran it again 5 years later, in 2006.  I took a hiatus from running and then came back in 2011 to try to break 1:40.  Did that, ran it again in 2012 as part of my last long run leading up to the New York Marathon and then it was the scene of my #sub130orbust half in 2013.  To say that I love this race would be an understatement.  It's grown so much in the last 15 years, it's amazing.   It's really become a world class running event.  The current route is my favourite.  The goal was to give participants a good tour of the city and I think they've succeeded in this. 

I've been pretty lax with my training for this.  I don't even know if I should use the word training.  If you follow me on Strava, you'll see I've been spending more time on my bike than on my feet.  I've gotten a few quality long runs in, some shorter distance work on occasion during the week and the odd track and tempo workouts.  This will probably be the least prepared I've ever been for this race.  Normally I'd be really worried but if there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that just because I'm not running as much as normal, doesn't mean I can't run well, especially on a flat course.  I don't expect anything close to 2013's performance but I am hoping that I can land somewhere in the mid-1:30's.  I ran 21.3km yesterday just to see how my legs would feel and even though it was slow (for me) I felt alright.  Especially after coming off of a sinus infection and 10 days of no running.  I still have a few weeks to work on my speed so that's the plan for now.  I can thank the awesome gang at Burnbrae Farms for sponsoring me into the race this year and helping me fuel my training.

Speaking of fueling, I wanted to share a recipe for one of my go to pre-race / long run breakfasts:  Pumpkin Spice Protein Oatmeal!   Because it's almost fall and it's time for #allthepumpkin.  There's also a secret ingredient in it that makes it extra smooth and silky and gives you a boost of protein.  Yes, protein in oatmeal.  And it's not from what you'd expect.   Note:  The original recipe for this can be found in the Racing Weight cookbook.  The addition of egg whites was my two cents. 

yes, I put egg whites in my oatmeal!
Pumpkin Spice Protein Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP of Burnbrae Farms egg whites
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling as that has added sugar)
1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
maple syrup to taste
handful of chopped walnuts or pecans to garnish

Cook steel cut oats according the package directions.   Once the oats are cooked, remove from heat and let them cool a bit.  Whisk in egg whites.   Add pumpkin and spice and mix in well.   Add maple syrup to taste and garnish with walnuts.  Enjoy!  Makes 2 very generous servings.

I find getting a bit of protein in with my carbs makes me feel fuller longer, thus the addition of the egg whites.   Not only is pumpkin tasty but it's rich in fiber, antioxidants and minerals.   I usually make this oatmeal the day before my long run or ride, put it in a container and store it in the fridge.  When I'm ready to eat it, I re-heat it in the microwave.  If it's a little lumpy, add some liquid (I usually use almond milk) and mix it in, then re-heat.

This tasty breakfast was what fueled my long run and my swim this past weekend.  After feeling like crap since last week and then coming down with a sinus infection, I had done nothing since last Sunday.  On Thursday I started to feel better (thank you antibiotics) so I went to the gym.  I really wanted to go for a run Thursday night but it was really hot and muggy and I didn't want to push things.   I was feeling a lot better by the weekend so I figured I'd test the legs, thus my 21.3 km run.   Despite being sick, I still got in a few good workouts.

Monday:  OFF
Tuesday:  SICK
Wednesday: OFF
Thursday:   50 minute strength workout
Friday:  1800m swim
Saturday:  21.3km run
Sunday:  2750m swim

Total time 4h 30 minutes.

I'm now feeling pretty much 100%.  Today is my last day on antibiotics - YAY!   I haven't had too many side effects other than a really bad headache that first day and some taste bud issues.  After I take them, usually a couple of hours later, all I taste is a chemical after taste.  Yuck.

I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike this week.   G and I are going to be riding 100km on Sunday for the 10th Annual Greg's Ride.   Hopefully it doesn't rain!   I also really need to get some speed work in for Scotia.  I've done a few good track workouts but nothing consistent.  Time to dial that in a bit.  Especially if I want to squeak into the 1:30's.

How was your week?   Are you a fan of pumpkin?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Five - Workout Songs that PUMP YOU UP

TGIF!  I've been M.I.A. these last few days because I ended up getting sinus infection and that kind of pain makes it hard to focus on anything.  Clearly the bike ride on Sunday was a very bad idea.  I felt fine on Monday and then when I woke up Tuesday morning, things were not right.  I was dizzy and I had the worst sinus headache so off to the walk in clinic I went and left with a prescription for antibiotics and nasal spray.  FUN.   I'm feeling much better now that my head no longer feels like someone was trying to chisel it open.

Anyway, today I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta ladies (Courtney, Cynthia & Mar) for a little Friday 5 Action.  Speaking of Friday 5's, I also make an appearance on the Westside Studio blog chatting about my 5 favourite beers (of course).   Making that list was harder than any race I've done, ha ha. 

When I saw the topic for this week's Friday Five, I was all over it.   I love music and I work out and run with it regularly.  I find it especially helpful in the last few km's of a race when I need that extra boost.  I have an extensive playlist and I generally like most music but there are some genres I favour more than others.  If you were to get in my car and turn the radio on, you'd see that it's firmly planted on Alt Nation.  So yeah, I'm a little bit of an alternative music lover and have been since I was a teenager but I do enjoy other genres as evidenced by my running playlist that has everything from Prince, to Rush, to Bruce Springsteen, to The Arctic Monkeys and the Beastie Boys on it.

So without further ado, here are 5 of my current faves:

1) L.L. Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out

This song makes me push for that last rep, or that extra step.  You can't go wrong with a little LL on your playlist.

2)  Train Wreck 1979 - Death from Above 1979

I'm not sure what it is about this song but any time I hear it, especially when I'm running, I work that much harder.

3)  Jump Around - House of Pain

Another classic.  If this song doesn't get you going, then I think you might want to check yourself for a pulse, ha ha.

4) Right Action - Franz Ferdinand

This one motivates me specifically when I'm running.  There's something about the beat that gets me into a groove and pushes me.

5) Soundgarden - Rusty Cage

What can I say about this song.  That driving beat, Chris Cornell's amazing voice really kick things up a notch for me. 

Well there you have it.  5 of my current favourites. 

Tell me some of your favourite tunes and head over to the link up to check out other posts!

Happy Friday! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sometimes Things Don't Go The Way You Planned

Monday Schmonday.   I was having a fine weekend until you went and wrecked it.   I probably could have used today off.  I'm slowly recovering from a cold that snuck up on me Thursday afternoon.  I'm sure I didn't do myself any favours by spending 3 hours standing outside amongst 75,000 other people at Downsview Park to watch AC/DC but it was worth it.  They may be old but they can still rock.

I do know that I'm too old to spend 3 hours standing around though.  And I really don't have the patience for large crowds.  Especially large crowds of drunk / stoned people.  So, that was my first and last concert at Downsview Park.  This old broad needs to be able to sit down during a show, ha ha. 

Anyway, that cold knocked me sideways and I ended up sleeping in on Friday.  I left work a bit early and was in bed asleep by 8:30 on Friday night.  I had hoped to do a run on Saturday but was still feeling a bit rough so I spent the day on an organizational tear after popping an Advil Cold & Sinus.  I cleaned out all my dresser drawers, got rid of things I don't wear any more and cleaned out my closet as well.  I donated a large pile of clothes and have a few nice pieces that I'm going to hopefully sell at The Kind Exchange.   The next project I'm going to tackle will be my bathroom cabinet.  That's in need of some serious organization.  I also spent a few hours in the afternoon cooking.  This summer was so busy that meal prep time went right out the window.  Now that things are a bit quieter, I'm making an effort to cook more.   I felt a lot better by Saturday afternoon.  Not quite 100% but definitely better.  I hoped a good night sleep would put me at 100% because I was supposed to ride the Epic Tour of Halton 125km with the Double D's. 

I didn't sleep well.   And it was pouring rain and cold.  But the boys promised pastries and good company.  And, I had paid almost $200 to do the ride so I was going.  I also wanted to finally nail the Strava Grand Fondo badge as I SO want to get my hands on the jersey they're offering.  It's really cool. 

The boys arrived pastries in hand and we made our way out to Milton. 

The rain started to get heavier as we went along.  David B was only going to ride about 60km with us as he had plans for the afternoon so he found a place to park that was just off of the route.  We followed him there and he hopped in the car with us and we made our way to the Kelso Quarry.  We had a bit of a late start and by the time we got ourselves sorted out and on the road, we had missed the start of our leg.  It didn't seem to matter as there were a ton of people on the road.  We just didn't have a pack to ride with.   My legs didn't feel amazing and my feet were cold and wet.  I neglected to bring booties with me.  It poured rain for the first hour and a bit and then the rain let up and became a slight drizzle. 

While riding behind my buddy David L, I noticed what looked to be soap suds on his butt.  I got closer and realized I was right.  I started howling with laughter.  The wetter it got, the more soap suds appeared.  Obviously the chamois in his shorts didn't get rinsed out too well the last time they were washed.  Any downhill we hit, soap suds would fly off his butt and leave white splotches of suds on the road.  David B and I couldn't stop laughing.  It provided some welcome distraction from the crappy weather.   The sun tried to make an appearance but never actually managed to make it out completely.  The rain did stop for a while but the winds picked up.  Which made for a rather challenging ride.  Especially over all the hills. 

We lost David B at around 60km and he the one was doing the majority of the work at the front of our little paceline so David L became the leader.   I was falling off the back on every single climb so the boys had to wait for me.  I was ok on the flats but the minute I started climbing up anything remotely steep, I was screwed.  My legs just said NOPE.  NO. WAY.    While I may have felt ok, I clearly wasn't recovered from my cold.   And this route had no shortage of climbs. 

 At about 85km in David said  "I don't want to be a whiner but my achilles is really bothering me so can we do the 110km route?"  He had been having issues with his achilles for a while, since before Ironman and I felt bad making him ride longer than was necessary just so I could get to 125km.  I really wanted to get that badge / jersey but I was also struggling and didn't think I'd actually make the 125km without having to get off my bike and walk.   The next course marker we came to pointed us in two different directions, one way for the 125km and another way for the 110km.  We turned down the 110km way.  David asked again if I was ok with it and I said yes.  I was tired and cold and was mentally starting to check out.  Sometimes things don't go the way you planned.  I had a feeling I should have just ridden the extra 5km when we were in Tremblant.  But hindsight is always 20/20 right? 

I started to feel a bit better towards the end of the ride, maybe because I knew I was going to be getting off my bike, ha ha.   I was familiar with the roads we were on and I knew that we were going to have a pretty big climb to get back to the Quarry.  It was a climb I had done before and I really don't like it.  It's tough on a day where your legs feel good but when they don't, it's even tougher.  There were so many people walking up it, but David and I ground it out.  He passed me just before we got to the top.  I was happy to get to the car and get out of my cold wet clothes.  There was still one and half pastries left, which David and I devoured.  Thanks to the other David, he got us access to the V.I.P area so we got some real food and got to stand under a tent and out of the wind and rain.   We both wanted something salty so we stopped at McDonalds on our way home and each got some large fries.  So good.  Despite the crappy weather and my rather unhappy legs, I had fun.  I really enjoyed the company - the Double D's are great guys and the route is quite challenging.  It's definitely something I'd like to try riding again.  Sooner rather than later given that I really want that Grand Fondo badge, ha ha.  

Thanks to that lovely cold, my goal to get back in the pool twice last week, didn't happen.  Nor did meeting my weekly running goal.  But what can you do.  Shit happens.  I still managed a decent week none the less.

Monday:  18km long run in Tremblant
Tuesday:  OFF
Wednesday:  2250m swim in a.m. + 7km run with 4x400 m repeats in p.m.
Thursday:  34km ride with Morning Glory
Friday:  OFF
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: 107km of hills, hills, hills. 

This is how I ended my weekend.  Surprisingly, not a single beer was consumed this weekend either!

Best. Thing. Ever. 

Here's hoping this week things can get back to normal.   I should probably look at starting to get some regular run training in since Scotia is only about 5 weeks away, ha ha.

How was your week?  Who's counting down to a fall race?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Magnifique Mont Tremblant

This past weekend was the last long weekend of Summer so G and I figured we'd get out of Toronto, yet again and go on another adventure.   We planned this trip with the goal of checking out the Mont Tremblant 70.3 course, BEFORE we had actually registered for the race.  Registration hadn't opened when we planned the trip but we figured we'd probably get in if we registered right away, which we did.  So this weekend was a recon of sorts.  The plan was to ride, ride and ride.  And maybe run.  And definitely swim. Check, check and check.  Ok well maybe a half check on the swim part.  I got in the water but I didn't really swim much.

I'm not a skier so I've never been to Tremblant.  G told me it's like Blue Mountain on steroids.  He wasn't kidding.  We flew out on Porter vs spending 7 hours in the car on a long weekend.  Our flight was delayed an hour because of the airshow but once we got out it was smooth sailing.  Once we landed, I couldn't believe the terminal.  It looked like a cottage.

We hadn't arranged for any sort of transport from the Airport to the hotel but they had shuttle buses there that cost $35 round trip per person.  Our bulky bike boxes fit nicely in the back so all was good.  It was about a 40 minute drive to Tremblant from the airport along lovely country roads. 

As soon as we got to the hotel, G wanted to assemble the bikes.  We had planned on doing a run but given the delayed start to our trip, that kinda went out the window once we arrived.   We were both pretty hungry so as soon as G finished our bike assembly, we were off in search of food.  And a beer, because it was the Friday of a long weekend after all.

We were staying at the Marriott because that's where G always stays for business so we get points.  It was nice enough and the bed was comfy.  Best part was the massive complimentary breakfast they had.  None of this continental breakfast nonsense.  They had waffles, eggs, bacon, potatoes, sausages, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, a selection of cereals and a crazy amount of bagels, breads & english muffins.  I was kicking myself for shoving a box of oatmeal in my suitcase last minute.  Oh well.  We fueled up well Saturday morning as the plan was to ride at least 100km if not more on the Tremblant bike course.  The weather started off a bit cool but quickly warmed up.  We checked the bike course map online and headed out.  You start climbing pretty much right away but then it becomes somewhat flat.  Obviously I wasn't paying much attention to WHERE we were supposed to ride because G went to get on the highway and I freaked out.  This wasn't a little two lane highway like we're used to in Cottage Country.  It was more like the DVP.  But there was a HUGE shoulder and it was nicely paved.  We argued for a bit and missed the proper entrance but got on at the next one.   Yes, the race course goes onto one of the main highways.  Once I settled down, this was actually my favourite part.  There were a couple of long gradual climbs, followed by some good descents.  We weren't pushing too hard at all and we were cruising along around 29-30 kph.  My legs didn't feel awesome from the start and once we turned around, I struggled a bit coming back up a couple of the climbs.  My back started to really hurt and I felt like my seat needed to be adjusted.  So we stopped at the top of the one big climb and G fixed my seat.   That did the trick.

We were still cooking along fairly well and I kept thinking to myself, "Wow, if I get some solid bike training in, I can totally kill this course."  That was until we hit the last 20km.  The course is kind of shaped like a W so you come back towards Tremblant and then go back out in a different direction. 

By the time we got to this last section, I was cooked.  My legs hated every second of this and all I could do was just spin.  I had no power left.  Lesson learned.  I cannot go out guns ablazing on this course next year.  And I definitely need to work on my power, especially up short steep climbs because that's what the back 1/4 of this course is.  Short, steep climbs that break your rhythm.  On the plus side, when you turn around, it's not as bad as when you're heading out.  There are still a couple of good climbs but you can really hammer the descents. 

Both G and I were having bike issues so we figured we'd ride over to the bike shop in the Village, which was about 5km from the Tremblant resort area.  That 5km almost killed me.  More climbing was involved of course and I watched my average speed drop from 29.9.kph to 28kph.  I was also starving so thankfully this bike shop also had a sandwich / coffee shop in it.  We sat down and had lunch while the guys there looked over our bikes.  The place was hopping.  The guys there were super nice.  G's bike took a while.  I probably should have gone out on my bike and ridden a bit more but I was happy to sit on my ass in the sun.  90 minutes later we were back on the road.  My legs were sore at first but once we got going I was ok.  I made G stop on the way back so I could get this shot.

Lac Tremblant

We pulled into the resort area and I still had about 700m before I hit 115km.  Because I am a nerd, I rode around the parking lot area until my Garmin beeped 115km.  I promptly got off my bike and did a little dance.  That was my longest ride this year.  It wasn't pretty but I did it.  I'm kind of kicking myself for not riding the extra 5km so I could get the Strava Grand Fondo Badge....but I'll save that attempt for this weekend.

My insane hubby went for a 5km run after this while I lay on the floor of hotel room stretching.  Crazy man.  We cleaned ourselves up and went out and ate.  There was ice cream involved.  And more beer.  I slept like a baby that night and we got up a little later on Sunday to do it all over again.  I figured Sunday's ride wasn't going to be pretty.  We were going to explore the back end of the Tremblant course again and see where that road went.  As soon as we started climbing my legs said EFF YOU and I resigned myself to the fact that today was going to be slow going. 

We chugged through that last part of the course and followed that road along to where we turned around the day before.  That road led us into Mont Tremblant National Park.   We paid our admission fee and rode in.  It was beautiful. 

Mont Tremblant National Park
It was pretty busy but the speed limit on the road was only about 20kph so people weren't whizzing by us.  The riding was lovely but it felt tough.  Both G and I were not moving very quickly.  I think our average speed was just over 25 kph.   We finally came to some rollers and took advantage of every descent.  Eventually things flattened out again until all of a sudden they didn't.  The road started to pitch up, and then up and then up again.  My legs were having none of it.  I was having none of it.  The plan was to ride to 40km out and then turn around.  My Garmin was reading 37 and change so I forced myself up another climb.  When I rounded the bend and saw a descent I yelled to G, "I'm DONE, I'm turning around!  I didn't care that we hadn't hit 40km, I couldn't face doing another steep climb.   So I turned around.  The descent was a bit scary as there was no shoulder on the road and a lot of the turns were blind so I was thankful for my handy dandy disc brakes.  G passed me on the descent and rode ahead of me for a while.  We pulled into a little rest stop / gift shop and filled up our water bottles again.  It was another scorcher out and I don't think either one of us was drinking enough.  I was feeling pretty crappy, even though I had been eating fairly regularly (honey stinger waffles) so G gave me a Roctane.  That actually seemed to help boost my energy level and I managed to hang on to G's wheel.  The wind was now in our faces.  Despite that, the ride back somehow seemed easier.  We made our way back to Chemin Duplessis (that hard road) and started climbing again.  This time I had a bit more energy for those tough punchy climbs.   I followed G's lead and pushed it up one of the climbs.  We ended up passing another couple.  The guy caught me pretty quickly and blew by me, as did G.  The girl was intent on hammering the descent with me so I stayed out towards the middle of the road and gave it, hoping to drop her.  I eventually did as we got close to the bottom.  As soon as the next climb started, she was gone.  I actually caught and passed G, I had so much momentum going.  I used it to carry me over the climb and into the next descent.  I hammered down that one as well.  G caught me and passed me and then pushed the pace back to Tremblant.  I didn't hang on for long.  That little burst of energy took it's toll on me.  We got back to the hotel and I was tempted to make up the 4km I was missing but decided I'd rather have a shower instead.  I was curious to see what the gradient was on the climb we did in the park.  The average grade was 8.4% with some spots reaching 16%.  Yup.  I laughed out loud when I looked at the elevation profile.  That would be my legs flipping the bird right there. 

After the ride, we had a quick bite to eat and then headed over to Lac Tremblant.  We paid the $5 to get in to swim and suited up.  It was muggy and hot out so getting into my wetsuit proved to be a bit of a workout.  I had no desire to swim but I had to test out a product that I've been given to review.  So I went in the water and puttered around.  I felt horrible.  Swimming was tiring.  There's a reason the swim is the first thing you do in a triathlon.  Swimming after doing ANY sort of hard exercise is brutal.  I got a good sense of the water and the swim course though so that is a plus.  The lake is beautiful and it's fairly shallow at least for the first 400m or so - you can see the bottom.  You essentially swim around a peninsula so there will always be land close by, which always makes me feel better.  After that I G and I were still a bit hungry so while G was getting a soup and sandwich, I got this:

Not the healthiest choice but whatever.  I enjoyed it.

G was gung ho to ride again on Monday but my legs and my butt couldn't face another day in the saddle so I opted to check out the run course.  I am supposed to be training for a half marathon so I figured I should go do a long run.  I didn't expect great things from my legs but I was pleasantly surprised once I started running.  Yes, they were tired but they didn't hurt.  I had planned on doing 17km but ended up just over 18km.  It was hard to turn around when you're running on trails like this.

This may look flat but it wasn't.  I had the feeling that I was running slightly down hill on the way out.  Sure enough, when I turned around, things felt a little bit harder.  Looking at the elevation profile, I can see why.

Apparently you run up into the village and then run down the main road to finish so there are hills right to the bitter end.  I'm definitely going to have to do some hill work next year.  I hope my knees can handle it. 

It was a big weekend of workouts that pushed my week into the 11.5 hour range for workouts and that was with 2 days off and no swims!

Monday:  OFF - recovering from Iron Spectating
Tuesday:  a.m.:  39km on the bike with Morning Glory - Best Ride of the YEAR p.m. 20 minutes of core and physio work
Wednesday:  15km long run in a.m.  Worked late so missed the last swim at the outdoor pool. 
Thursday:  50 minute strength session at the gym in a.m 12.5km ride home.
Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  115km on the bike
Sunday:  76km on the bike + a 500m "swim"

Total time:  11 h 31 minutes.  

This weekend I'm riding the Epic Tour of Halton with the Double D's (Dave L & Dave B).  We're doing the 125km distance.  That will be my longest ride this year.  I'm actually looking forward to it. 

My how things have changed.....

It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend and I'm so glad we went.  It's an absolutely beautiful place and I am looking forward to going back next year.  Hopefully I'll see another lovely sunset, just like this one.