Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mud, Sweat and thankfully No Tears: St. George to Ancaster 40km Race Report

There is no doubt that the Paris to Ancaster bike race has become a spring classic in Canada.  It usually brings out all the heavy hitters in the local clubs.  From a spectator's point of view, I could see why.  The race organizers have everything down to a science.  It's an incredibly well oiled machine.  The volunteers are also awesome and the post race food and facilities are also excellent.  When I was approached by the race organizers in February to be an Ambassador, I was a little surprised.  I'm not really a cyclist per se.  At least I don't think of myself that way.  I can hold my own on two wheels, especially if there is a swim and a run after it but a cyclist in the purest sense of the term, I am not.  Looking back, I suppose that was the reason.  You don't HAVE to be a cyclist to participate and enjoy the race.  You just need to have a bike and be willing to suffer. 

Including this year, G has ridden the 70km four times and I have been his sherpa for three of those four times, so I would definitely consider myself a seasoned spectator.  Since it's a point to point race, you need to get to the start with your bike.  The race offers a shuttle service for yourself and your bike when you register for a nominal fee.  They also offer a free shuttle service for riders that drove to the start AFTER the race so they can pick up their cars.  Every year I've been there, I've witnessed mud covered grimaces of agony as people have climbed that last insanely steep hill to the finish line.  I always said there was no way I'd do it.  But then I got a mountain bike.  I knew there were shorter distances as well so when the race organizers approached me, it didn't take me too long to make up my mind.  I was going to ride the 40km on my mountain bike. 

Leading up to this race, I had exactly 3 rides on my mountain bike.  And they were all last year.  This is what happens when you sign up for a 70.3 in JUNE.  You spend all your time on your tri bike.  I took Freewill out for a spin on the Saturday to test out my new tires and get a feel for the gearing again.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  I felt grossly unprepared.  Not because of lack of fitness.  More because I was stepping way outside my comfort zone.  You give me two wheels and an open paved road and I'm good.  I'll hammer away with the best of them until my legs can't take anymore.  But you put me on single track with mud and other people and that's a whole other ball of wax.  I wouldn't say that I'm terrified, just lacking serious amounts of confidence.  But we all have to start somewhere.  And there's nothing like a 40km off road race with wicked mud chutes to whet your whistle.  Kinda like when I did my first triathlon.  I didn't bother with a sprint or try a tri.  I went and did a long course - 2km swim, 55km bike, 15km run.  Why?  Because that's just what I do when I don't let my head get in the way.

I went into this race knowing I had good cycling fitness but you need more than that to be even remotely competitive.   You need to be fearless.  You need to have good bike handling skills and you need to be willing to plow through mud on two wheels vs. two feet.  I have none of those things.   At least not right now.  But those things will come the more I practice.   I figured I could probably average around 17-18 kph on my mountain bike with the mix of trails and road.  So my goal was around 2:15-2:20.

My friend David had signed up to do the 70km but dropped down to the 40km as his big race is next weekend and he didn't want to put too much stress on his legs.  Which was perfect for me as I figured I'd be lolly gagging through the trail sections anyway.   We killed time at the start listening to the radio and chatting away.  Of course we had to take the matching sock selfie.  The Pain Cave socks were out in full effect.

Eventually it was almost Go time so we got suited up and took the obligatory BEFORE photos.

Look how clean we are!!!
We then rode over to the start.  I looked around at the wide variety of bikes and people.  There were lots of people on mountain bikes, a few on cross bikes and a bunch of people on fat bikes as well.  Just like at a marathon, there were all shapes and sizes too.  Such an awesome thing to see.  Apparently this was a record year for registration and the race was close to capacity.

We were in Wave 2.  I had thought about going up to the front but I was so nervous I stayed towards the middle / back.  That was a mistake.  I actually managed to get a lot of speed going on my mountain bike, once I managed to get clipped in.  We were barreling through people until we hit some gravel and had to slow down a bit.  Then we hit the first grassy, spongy section and I panicked.  I slowed down a lot and remembered the advice that Rol and David had given me:  Brakes cause accidents.  Keep up the speed.  So I resisted the urge to stop and I kept pedaling.  I made it through the first muddy, spongy section unscathed (i.e no wipeouts).  Shortly thereafter we hit single track and that's where things got a bit hairy for me.  It was narrow and undulating with some turns and a bit of mud and there were people everywhere so I stopped and got off my bike and ran through here.  David waited patiently for me up ahead.  Of course unclipping meant I had to try to clip in again.  That proved to be the bane of my existence all day.  I'm not used to the egg beater pedal system yet and because it's such a small surface in comparison to my Look system, I have a hell of a time figuring out where to put my foot.  I gave up trying at this point and rode unclipped.  Thankfully G had put the eggbeaters with the platform on my bike so I at least had a somewhat flat place to rest my foot.  Not being clipped in was fine given that we had all of a sudden come to a dead stop.  I wasn't sure what the issue was but we weren't moving.   We finally started moving a few minutes later, only to stop again.  It went on like that for at least 10 minutes.  Start, stop, start, stop.  Eventually we discovered why - we had come to our first little mud chute.  Of course, I ran down it.  I hopped back on my bike and tried to clip in again.  Eventually I managed to get one foot in.  So I rode partially clipped in for the next little while until I finally got my other foot clipped in.

On the rail trail and open roads, David and I made up some good time.  We were moving fairly well.  The minute we got off road or off the rail trail, I'd slow down.   But as we went along, my comfort level increased.  I started handling the spongy, mildly muddy sections a bit better.  Even David commented on that.  I was still having pedal issues and at several points, David, being the most excellent friend that he is, actually took my foot and guided it into my clip.  We motored along through farmers fields, rail trail and back onto the roads.  At about 28km in, my back started to ache.  I wasn't used to sitting up like that.  I was worried it would spasm when I had to start climbing, it felt so tight. I knew I was going to have to climb one monster of a hill at the end so I hoped it wouldn't get any worse.

We hit another mud chute which I walked down.  I managed to get really muddy here and was thrilled to see two guys with power washers offering to hose people down.  I went and got my shoes cleaned out and my bike hosed off.  Then I spent about 3 minutes trying to get my feet into the clips.  David offered to help so he got my left one in.  He then offered to do my right but I said no.  I'm stubborn and figured the best way for me to learn it to keep practicing.  A few minutes later I got the right clip in.  Victory!  It was just in time for us to start climbing again, ha.

Motoring along before the last big mud chute.  I'm still relatively clean!
 We climbed a few more rollers and then we were back onto rail trail and then back into the woods.  We were heading towards the last big mud chute.  I saw the sign, rode up over the crest, looked down and immediately got off my bike.  Holy crap.  It was like a river of mud that went straight down.   David rode down for a bit and then got off his bike.  He eventually got back on further down and rode the rest.  Impressive.  I shoved myself and my bike through the mud.  I was wishing I had a lighter bike so I could pick it up, put it over my shoulder and carry it.  But alas, I'm not the incredible hulk, my bike weighs at least 30lbs so there was no way I was carrying it anywhere.  So through the muck I waded.  I passed a photographer who actually caught me laughing.  There were plenty of us wading through here wondering out loud why we were doing this.  I got to the bottom without losing a shoe or twisting an ankle.  I was very glad I wore my PRO level socks, ha ha.

Awesome shot courtesy of Apex Photography
 Once I got to the bottom, I found David who handed me a stick and I proceeded to clean off my wheels and my shoes, which were completely caked in mud.  I spent a good five minutes doing this.  What a mess.  We hopped back on our bikes and soldiered on.  David reassured me that was the last of the mud.  But we still had The Climb.

We made our way out of the last mud chute area onto paved road.  As soon as I hit the pavement, I was immediately reminded that I still had a lot of mud in my tires.  Mud was being flung everywhere.  A chunk of mud got flung into my mouth and I spent the next few minutes spitting it out off to the side.  I went to wipe my face but realized I had mud all over my gloves.  So I used my sleeve.  A guy rode by me who was also flinging mud everywhere with his tires - he apologized profusely and I just laughed and told him not to worry.  This paved section of road had a nice steep down hill with a few twists and turns.  Had I been on my road bike I probably would have been petrified but the wider tires of my mountain bike made me feel safer.  I went barreling down the hill and turned onto a gravel path where I could feel my back wheel going out but I saved it and motored on.  Not without my heart pounding in my chest though.

 We were heading back into the woods.  The trail was wide in some spots and then there were some narrower more technical bits.   I got off and walked wherever I felt like I couldn't get the momentum to move forward safely.  There were a couple of short steep climbs, one of which I started to hammer up - I got into a good groove.  I came up behind a guy and was going to try to get around him when all of a sudden he stopped.  I was right on his wheel so there was a stream of oh sh**t oh s**t oh s**t as I unclipped and grabbed my brakes.  I almost crashed into him and then fell over.  My heart was pounding.  I was half way up the hill so there was no way I was getting back on my bike and riding up.  I walked to the top and got back on.  Once again having to fuss with my pedals. 

We rode along a flatter section and I was able to clip back in, which was good because the next thing I knew David said here comes the hill.  He wasn't kidding.  I looked up and saw the trail snaking up this hill.   I saw lots of people walking everywhere.  Riding up was going to be a challenge because we'd be dodging people.  I cleared my throat, switched gears and started hauling ass.  The hill starts to get steep almost immediately.  David tucked in behind me as I led the charge.  I was trying to take the path of least resistance.  Passing on the left was not possible in some instances so I would yell cyclists coming through the middle!  I only had to do that once and I said thank you and sorry as I went through.  The further up the hill I went, the less energy I had for niceties.  That last climb is on serious bugger.  I came up around the bend to see a whole bunch of people lining each side of the climb and I knew I was close to the top.  The last bit of the climb jacks up to about 12% (so says Strava).   My lungs were burning and my legs were spinning like mad.  Thank GOODNESS for all the gears on my bike.  I caught a woman as I neared the top and I yelled on your left.  She then veered to her left.  I had to yell passing on your left twice before she realized that I was coming up on her left.  Had she run into me, I probably would have fallen over into the gully at the side of the climb.  I felt bad about yelling so loudly but I know what my brain does when it's oxygen deprived.  I don't hear anything and my judgement is not always 100%.  So I find it's always better to err on the side of caution and be as loud as possible for as long as you can.

I passed her without incident and crested the hill shortly there after.  My lungs and legs were burning.  I rode like crazy into the finishing chute.  As I whizzed by I saw G and the other David and I heard them yell Go Phaedra!  I finished 40km of mud and trails in 2:28.  Not even remotely close to my goal.  I got my butt handed to me that's for sure.

We met up with G and David and G asked me how it was - he said you're still smiling so I'm guessing you didn't hate it.  I paused before answering.   "I didn't hate it...but it's not my kind of racing".  I mentioned my pedal issues and said that if David wasn't with me the entire time, I don't think I would have had as much fun.  Which is true.  I also said that I didn't think I'd do it again.  Now that I've had a few days to reflect on it, I think I'd be willing to give the 40km another go sometime.  After I've had some quality time on the trails and really learned how to handle my bike. 

A huge thanks to the folks at Paris to Ancaster for giving me the opportunity to ride.  You guys put on an incredible event.  I can see why people come back year after year.

I didn't manage to get a post race selfie but I did get this shot.  Thank goodness for power washers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Less Than 7 Weeks To Go

Yup. Just under 7 weeks left until Eagleman.  Geez.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I know I'm going to have to really dial things in over the next few weeks.  Especially my running.  I had grand plans of running 19km on Saturday but my legs had other ideas.  I think it was just as well since they would have been completely useless in Sunday's race.  Instead they were ok, it was my bike handling skills, or lack thereof, that were useless, ha.  But I'll save that for the recap.  I will tell you this, it took me way outside my comfort zone, and, surprisingly I didn't hate it. 

Once again, I sat around Sunday night, wondering what the heck happened to my weekend.  Friday night we went out for our anniversary dinner, Saturday morning we had a nice sleep in, which I followed up with 10km run and a wee spin on my mountain bike, then it was off to grocery shop, take my tri bike in for a tune up and pick up last minute things for Sunday's race.  The next thing I know it's 5:00 pm and we're just making our way back home.  WTH.  I didn't sleep well on Saturday night, probably because I was so nervous about Sunday.  Paris to Ancaster is almost always a full day affair so we didn't get home until almost 5:00 pm.   I had grand plans to cook dinner but I was so exhausted and hungry that all I wanted to do was eat and eat NOW.  So before I got a major case of the hangries, we stopped at Tim Horton's for a bagel to tie us over until we ate dinner.   When we got home, G called this in:

Yeah, I figured pizza and beer was the best way to celebrate my first off road race.   I think I made it through half the beer before I almost fell asleep, ha ha.

Looking back on my week, it's no wonder I was exhausted.  I didn't actually have a day off in terms of workouts.  This was my action packed week.

Monday:  Glorious 17km long run after work.  Clearly it was very humid, ha ha.
Tuesday:  a.m 60 minute strength workout with Justin at the Runner's Academy.  p.m.)  80 minute ride with power work.
Wednesday:  2300m swim in a.m. with an easy 60 minute spin on the bike in the p.m.
Thursday:  60 minute strength & physio work in a.m.  6.5km run in the p.m.
Friday:  Gut busting 2300m swim.  I was still sweating when I got into the car.
Saturday:  10km run followed by 8km on my mountain bike.  Of course I had to test out my anniversary gifts.
You know you have a supportive spouse when these are your anniversary gifts!!
Sunday:  Paris to Ancaster 40km.

No wonder I went to bed at 8:30 last night!

How was your weekend?  Did you race?  Would you ever try an off road bike race?

Friday, April 24, 2015

I'm Still Here!

Happy Friday PEOPLE!!!

This week just flew by.  I feel like I have sadly become a "sometimes" blogger now.  I have been so busy with work and cramming in training where I can that this wee bit of space has taken a back seat.  Le Sigh.  So, here's a little catch up post for you!

What's new in my world?  Well, today is our 11th wedding anniversary.  YAY, us!

Look at how young we are!!!
This weekend is Paris to Ancaster.  I'm kind of freaking out.  It will also be the first time I've ridden my mountain bike for any significant distance since I got it last year.  Sooo, this should be interesting.  Speaking of bikes, I have yet to take my new bike out for a spin.

Sad, right?

In other news, my knees seem to be getting better.  They barely bothered me at all this week and I did a long run on Monday and a weight workout and hard bike on Tuesday and I was totally fine after.  So, fingers crossed I'm FINALLY on the road to recovery.   I have to be diligent about my stretching and foam rolling routine. 

Speaking of foam rollers, I tried the Vyper foam roller out the other day.  If you haven't heard of this, let me fill you in.  It's a foam roller that VIBRATES.  I was kind of skeptical but holy crap.  I used it on my quads, which are always super tight and usually really hurt to foam roll.  It hardly hurt and afterwards, they felt so loose.  Apparently the vibration helps the muscles relax which in turn gives you a deeper massage.  The Runner's Academy will be selling them.  They ain't cheap though.  Be ready to cough up $300 if you want to get your hands one.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't seriously tempted.  I just don't know if I can justify the $300.  I'm sure at some point I'll probably cave.  Just not right now. 

I have another race next weekend - the Mississauga 10km.   I've done exactly ONE tempo run since the Harry's Spring Run off.  Not exactly the kind of speed work I was hoping to get in before the race but what can you do.  I don't have high expectations for this race time wise.  I'll be happy if I'm in around 42 minutes.  I'm hoping it's not windy and that there's no gnats.  Last time I raced this it was muggy and there were bugs everywhere.  I inhaled so many of them it was disgusting. 

Anyway, that's whats been happening in my world.  Tonight G and I are off to Boehmer for dinner.  We went there for my birthday and I had one of the best meals I've had in a long time so we're heading back again.  Good food, good wine and the best company a girl could ask for...I can't think of a more perfect way to celebrate 11 years. 

Happy Friday!  What are your weekend plans?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marathon Monday - Marathon Work Week.

Today is the Big Dance in Boston, 119th Boston Marathon.  I have one athlete and SO many IG friends racing it, I can hardly contain my excitement.  I love the atmosphere of that race.  It really is an incredibly special event.  Am I sad that I'm not there?  Most definitely.  But I think I made the right call.  I probably would have really ruined my knees had I kept going on the path I was on.   So instead I will obsessively track everyone on the BAA website and the app on my phone, ha ha. 

Speaking of running, things seem to be getting better with my knees.  I'm hoping I haven't jinxed it but this last week has been pretty good.  They were really sore after my bike ride on Saturday but by the end of the day they were fine.  Fingers crossed I'm finally on the path to 100%.  I would have liked to have tested them out yesterday on a long run but alas, I was working.  Yes, working.  Yes, it was Sunday.  Once and a while that happens.  I thought I'd be able to do my run AFTER work but that didn't happen.  I should know better.  I was totally exhausted and my feet hurt from standing on concrete all day.  I didn't really have much of a weekend so it's no surprise I'm wiped out.  We had a last minute job come in on Wednesday evening that had to shoot on Sunday.  So, my stress level was in the red zone for Thursday and Friday.  I was so busy on Friday I didn't even get out to pick up lunch.  So this is what I ate:

Yes, that's a chocolate eclair.  Looks kinda gross but it was delicious.

Friday night was my friend David's birthday celebration but before I headed out to that, the beer cart was out at WS and I hung out with these fine folks for a bit.

Crazy kids.

Friday night was a bit of a late one so Saturday morning was not great.  We had to be on the road ready to ride at 8 am so we could make it out to Guelph for 4 pm.  There was a small group of us that went out.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day other than the insane wind.  We had a headwind for almost the entire ride as well as some crazy crosswinds.  I worked my ass off just trying to hang on to my bike in some spots.  But, I wore shorts and the sun was shining so really, I can't complain too much.

Sunday I had 17km to run.  I figured I could probably do it after work.  BAD DECISION.   I should have sucked it up and done in the morning.  But I didn't.  I chose sleep.  Probably not a bad idea.  Anyway, this is how my week went down.

Monday:  2650m swim
Tuesday:  75 minutes strength & physio work in a.m.  7km run in p.m.
Wednesday:  2700m swim in a.m.,  80 minute trainer ride in p.m with power work.
Thursday:  75 minute strength & physio work in a.m. + 7km run, pm. 50 minute trainer ride + 3km run off the bike.
Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  3 hour ride. 
Sunday:  NADA

Total time 10h 59 minutes.  Imagine if I had actually gotten my long run + my Sunday swim in!  I'd be right where I should be for 70.3 training.  Here's hoping this week is better.  Paris to Ancaster is Sunday so THAT is going to be highly entertaining!

Who else got out and enjoyed the amazing weather on Saturday?  Did anyone race?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Running Strong Book Review

This book could not have come to me at a better time.  Those of you that read along know I've been struggling with knee problems for the last year.  They finally seem to be getting better but not without a lot of trial and error.  So when Runner's World gave me the opportunity to review Dr. Jordan Metzl's Running Strong, I took it.

Runner's World sent me a digital copy to review but I am going to buy a hard copy of it because I'm old school (and there's a cool app you can use with it).  There's so much great information in here that I'd like to be able to just pick the book up and flip through it.  I haven't quite embraced this whole e-book thing.  Never the less, that didn't detract from the plethora of information in the book.

If I'm going to be buying a book that can help me be an injury free runner, ideally it's written by someone who IS an athlete themselves.   Dr. Metzl is just that.  He's done 32 marathons and 12 Ironmans.  All AFTER tearing his ACL and developing arthritis in his knee.  So the man clearly knows his stuff.  I wish he practiced in Toronto. 

The book is divided into five different parts and has plenty of pictures as well as a very cool interactive feature.  If you have a hard copy of the book and a smart phone, you can download an app called Blippar that you use to scan any page that has this icon on it.  This will then bring up a video on your phone of whatever it listed in the blurb.  This one is a video guide on how to select the right running shoe.  How cool is that???   I do wish I had received a hard copy of the book so I could check this out.  The five sections are also colour coded for easy reference.  

In Part one, called Nuts and Bolts, Dr. Metzl gets into the kinetic chain and how it works and why it's so important to strength train.  He talks about the gait cycle, good running mechanics and has a couple of tests you can do at home to figure out if you have a muscle imbalance. 

Part two, called Uh Oh, What's that Pain, has 9 chapters, each devoted to a different body part and the various aches and pains you may experience.  Of course this is the first place I went to when I got the book, ha ha.   This section is incredibly well illustrated and informative.  He gets into what you should do if you feel pain in a certain area and what it may be and how to treat it.  He does stress that this is not a substitute for going to your sports doc if things don't get better.  The other amazing thing is this chapter is the foam rolling instructions he gives for each body part as well as strengthening exercises you can do.  It's like having your own desk top physiotherapist - I say that because many of the exercises in here are ones that have been given to me by a physiotherapist, ha ha.

Part three is called Getting the Most out of Your Machine.  This section covers everything from the science of running physiology (VO2 max, lactate threshold etc) to strength training to proper foam rolling technique.  Dr. Metzl has a workout that he calls the Iron Strength workout and he goes through it in this section.   A lot of these exercises are ones that I've recently started doing so I'm hoping they help!  There are Blippar icons everywhere in this section so you can see the proper way to do each exercise. He also devotes a chapter to the mental aspect of training which is something that many people don't even think about but is just as important as training your body, especially if you're looking to improve.

Part Four delves into the things runners love to talk about:  the Tools of the Trade.   In this section he discusses the importance of nutrition, not just during runs but pre and post run as well.  He also talks about clothing, socks and of course, shoes, and how to choose the right shoe.   There's a Blippar video for that too. 

Part Five is called His and Hers and it gets into some of the gender specific things that male and female athletes have to deal with or watch out for. 

As if all of that wasn't enough, there's an Appendix that has a variety of training plans from 5km to the marathon that are suited for all levels of ability.  They include days for cross training with his Iron Strength plan as well.   Bonus!

I found this book to be one of the most informative and useful resources I've come across in a while.  Whether you're just starting out in the sport or have been pounding the pavement for years, this book should be part of your running library. 

Link to buy the book:

Link to Dr. Metzl’s website:

You can also follow Dr. Metzl online:

Twitter (@drjordanmetzl):

Instagram (@drjordanmetzl):

Disclaimer:  I was given an electronic copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.   All opinions are my own.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring is Here...I think.

I think Spring has finally arrived.  This week's forecast is looking pretty darn sweet.   Other than today and Friday but it's Spring, of course there's going to be rain.  At least it's warm.

I was wondering where this warmth was on Saturday when we went out for our ride.  It was supposed to be 10 degrees and sunny but it wasn't.  It was more like 3 degrees, cloudy, freezing and insanely windy.   Which made me kinda cranky.  But I was outside and not on the trainer so really that's never a bad thing.  It COULD have been worse.  It could have been raining.  So there's that.

The reason we look so happy is because we're almost done.
 This weekend seemed particularly whirlwind-ish.  We were out for dinner with friends on Friday night so that was a late night.  Saturday we rode, then we went straight to our local bike shop so G could drop off his bike to have them fix the brakes.  I decided to wander around in the clothing section when G tells me to come out and look at some pedals as I'm going to need them for when my new bike arrives.  I walk out to the counter looking around, wondering where the pedals are that G is talking about when he says to me Oh look - and points to my right.  I turn to look and it takes me a minute to figure out what I'm looking at - then I realize that it's my new bike.  It FINALLY arrived. It had come in the day before so G wanted to surprise me.  I have to say I'm not totally in love with the way it looks - there's too much black on it, which is easily fixable with some bar tape and maybe a different saddle.  But, I really like the way everything feels.  The shifters and brakes are easily accessible for me and I like the way the hoods have a mini bar that pokes up a bit so you can rest your hands there.  Surprisingly I haven't ridden it yet.  I just didn't have the time this weekend but with the weather forecast looking like it does, I'm pretty sure it will get taken for a spin this week.  Of course, it has a name and of course it's named after another Rush song.

Ladies and Gents, meet Snow Dog.

It's a Specialized Ruby Elite Disc.  It's women's specific so everything seems to fit me just a bit better.  I have very small hands so braking on downhills was quite challenging.  I'm not the best descender so I'd be gripping the brakes so hard my hands would cramp.  With disc brakes I don't need to apply as much pressure. 

After the bike shop, we raced home, showered and then did a bit of shopping at a sample sale and then from there, I went to meet the lovely Irina for dinner and we ate all the sushi and gabbed our faces off.  That was so much fun.

Sunday was also a bit crazy between swimming, grocery shopping, plan writing, doing my long run, some meal prep and then going for a massage, I didn't really have much down time.  Now that we've committed to race in 8 freaking weeks, it's just going to get worse.  Speaking of which, I really need to up my training game.  I had grand plans for last week but the Meh's got the better of me and I bailed on a few of my workouts.  Very easy for me to do when I don't have a coach to report to.   This is how my last week looked.

Monday:  OFF
Tuesday:  am 1 hour workout with Justin.  He totally killed me.  pm - 9km shufflefest due to my incredibly sore legs.
Wednesday:  am: 2500m swim, pm: 40 minute ride with 3x1 min all out efforts.  My anaerobic threshold sucks right now.  I need to do some work there.
Thursday:   I was still so sore from Tuesday's workout I skipped the gym.  I did 20 minutes of physio work.  I didn't even feel like doing anything when I got home either.  Then I signed up for Eagleman.  Ha. ha.
Friday:  2300m swim
Saturday:  48km ride outside in the cold and wind
Sunday:  2450m swim followed by a 16.2km run in shorts and a short sleeve shirt.  FINALLY!

Total time:  8h 48 minutes.  

I need to get my butt in gear over the next 8 weeks.

How was your week of workouts?

Friday, April 10, 2015

How Do You Beat A Case of the Meh's?


Has anyone seen my mojo?  I seem to have misplaced it.

I don't know what is going on with me this week but I am feeling pretty crappy.  I'm unmotivated, tired of being sore, somewhat cranky and I only have one pair of pants that fits me well - everything else is too tight.  Most days I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle with this knee issue.  Some days are great but they seem to be few and far between.  I'm trying to work on building my mileage up but it's hard.  Because I'm using different muscles, my legs get tired faster.  Some runs feel like a struggle.  I have yet to have any recent runs feel truly amazing.  I long for that time to come. 

I'm also building strength training back in to my routine which has been tough on my body.  I did deadlifts with a 40lb kettlebell on Tuesday and I'm still having trouble walking.  40lbs.  I used to be able to deadlift 100lbs.  It's depressing to see how much strength I've lost in a year.  I know it will come back and I know it's not about how much weight I can deadlift but I kind of feel like Samson when he got all his hair cut off.

To top it all off, my body is changing.  My once lean, fairly shapely legs feel more like tree trunks now.  I know that's really not what people see but that's what it feels like to me.  I can tell by the way my jeans fit that things are different.   My hormones also seem to have lost their shit.  This might be TMI for any of the guys reading but I'm going to share anyway.  The minute I finish ovulating,  I bloat.  And it's not just a little bit of bloating.  I go from everything fitting me just fine to everything is swollen and sore within a 24 hour period and I stay like that for several days.  To add insult to injury, I'm breaking out in cystic acne.  Luckily they're only a few that show up but none the less, they are painful and unsightly.  I remember my Mom getting acne like this when she was in her 50's.  I seriously hope that this is not going to be the norm for me moving forward.  I had enough issues as a teenager, I really don't need them again in my 40's.

So, how do I beat the blahs?

Sign up for a half ironman of course.  Because that's just what I do.

I hinted at this a few weeks ago with the caveat that I was going to see how my running progressed.  Well, I"m still not even remotely close to where I'd like to be but the race was close to being sold out so G and I hopped on the bandwagon.  I purchased the injury insurance just to be safe so if my knees get worse and I can't run,  I won't be stupid and push myself just because I signed up.  The really exciting part about this is that I will actually get to meet my Tri Talk Tuesday co-host Cynthia as she is also racing.  So is Kristen from Sweat Courage as well as several folks I follow on Instagram so it's going to be a big social media par-tay weekend!  I'm pretty excited about that. 

This means that I have to buckle down and stick to my training plan.  With no coach to report to, I've found it easy to shorten workouts or skip them entirely.  I can't do that anymore.  There's roughly 2 months till race day so I've got my work cut out for me.  Nothing like a little challenge to light the fire, right?

Happy Friday gang! 

Who's racing this weekend?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tri Talk Tuesday: Improving on the Bike

I can't believe that APRIL is here already.  It only seems like yesterday that I celebrated my birthday.  Geez.  It's the first Tuesday of the month so you know what that means... It's time for Tri Talk Tuesday!  This month my lovely co-hosts, Courtney & Cynthia and I are chatting about how to improve on the bike.  Given it's the longest distance discipline of the three sports, this is where you stand to make the most in terms of time gains.

So, how can you get better on the bike?  There are some things you can do that will be costly and others that won't cost you anything.  Here are my 4 tips:

1.  Train with Power

This is the costliest option but it's also the most bang for your buck in my opinion.  The power you are able to generate on the bike is absolute - a watt is a watt.  It is not affected by things like temperature, dehydration etc, as heart rate is.  So even if you're racing on a super hot day, the power you are able to generate will stay the same, unlike your heart rate which will affected by the heat.  If you were training by heart rate and it was a hot day, your heart rate would more than likely be elevated so it wouldn't be an accurate reflection of your proper racing zones.

2.  Get properly Fit

This is probably the next costliest option.  A good bike fit will set you back anywhere between $300-$400.  If you're going to spend money on a tri bike, spend the money on getting fit properly so you get the most out of your bike.  A good fit makes all the difference on a tri bike.  A poor fit can cost you power and comfort.  Even being off by the slightest millimeter can make a difference in your comfort level and the amount of power you can generate on the bike.  I would also include getting an appropriate saddle as part of your bike fit.  I've never been comfortable on the stock saddles that have come on my various tri bikes.  You might be one of the lucky ones that is but if you're not, you may have to do some research.  Being comfortable on your bike, especially in your aero bars means that you'll get the most benefit out of it.  If you're not riding in your aero bars then why are you on a tri bike? 

3.  Ride with a Group

This may or may not cost you anything.  If you choose to join a tri club then obviously there are club dues.  Or maybe you just have a large group of triathlete friends that you like to ride with.  Either way, riding with a large group that has people that are faster than you in it, is another great way to improve your cycling.  You are more apt to work harder at keeping up with the group vs. if you rode on your own.  Riding in a group will also help you get more comfortable handling your bike with people around you. 

4.  Improve Your Pedaling Efficiency - Drills

Cheapest option going.  Look up cycling drills on you tube, get on your trainer, and work your butt off.  Seriously though, working on making your pedal stroke more efficient (i.e no dead spots) will translate to more power.  One of the best drills for improving your pedal stroke is the single leg drill.  I try to incorporate a few of them into my warm up while I'm on the trainer.  You can also do them outside if you're one of those lucky people that lives somewhere you can ride outside all year round. 

Do you have any tips you'd add to this list?  Head on over to the link up and check out some other posts!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hopping To It

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend.  To those of you that are off today...I'm jealous.  I could definitely have used another day off.  We had another fairly busy weekend, although we did take advantage of the holiday and had some good down time on Friday afternoon after our first OUTSIDE BIKE RIDE (woohooo!) but even then, there was always something to do - blogging, reading, plan updating.  Saturday G and I raced.  You can read about it here.  Sunday was my usual swim / bike day and then we were off to my in-law's for Easter dinner with the entire family - my folks come in from Guelph so when I say the entire family, I mean it, ha ha.  The only people missing were my sister and her boyfriend.  They live in London, ON so it's a bit of a hike and I know they had a busy weekend anyway. 

I had a crazy busy week at work and ended up missing the two swims that were scheduled on Monday and Wednesday.  Two back to back shoots with 6:30-7:00 am call times makes morning workouts a wee bit difficult.  Although I did get up at 4:00 am on Tuesday to go to the gym.  Yes, I'm crazy.  I really wanted to do Justin's workout and see how long it actually took me when I could focus.  I was done in 45 minutes and that was with some added bits from my physio routine.  That's my kind of workout!

Whatever my week lacked in volume I made up for in intensity.  At least that's what my Training Stress score shows in Training Peaks.  I guess that's what happens when you throw in a two hour ride followed by an 8km race.  This is what I got up to this past week.

Monday:  OFF - Had to be at work for 6:30 am.  So gross.
Tuesday:  a.m. - 45 minutes at the gym, p.m. 7.5km run
Wednesday:  40 minute trainer ride.  Was supposed to ride 80 minutes but really didn't feel like it. 
Thursday:  8.25km run
Friday:  51km ride OUTSIDE with G and the boys.  It was an absolutely PERFECT day. 
 The ride was followed by this, because well, sometimes you just have to.

Saturday:  5km warm up run, 8km race.  I had wanted to get 16km in that day but once I was finished the race, I didn't feel like running that extra 3km.  Celebrated that evening with this and some amazing pizza. 

Sunday:  3000m swim (the first in a week!) followed by an easy 60 minute spin on the trainer.  Followed by an Easter feast.  Needless to say I'm wearing my stretchy pants today and I'm going to be dialing my nutrition back in. 

Total time:  7h 44 minutes.  This week I'll get back to building up again.  I hope to hit that 16km mark for my long run on Saturday.  Seems so weird to say that but that's my new reality these days.   I'm building my running legs back up.  It's definitely not easy.

Tomorrow is Tri Talk Tuesday and we're discussing the Bike and how to improve so check back tomorrow and get in on the link up!

How was your Easter Weekend?  Are you off today?  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Wheezing - #HSROT 8km Race Report

This race wasn't on my radar at all for this year but then again, nothing really has been until recently.  I just decide to sign up for things.  At the time it seems like a good idea.  Come race day, not so much.  This race was much like that.  G opted to sign up for it and use his free race entry from working the WTP Scotia aid station.  I opted to use mine for the Scotia half but decided if G was going to do this then I might as well join him.  Running races aren't his thing.  He's a triathlete through and through.  But, it was a free entry and the race is close to home so he figured why not. 

The last time I ran this race was in 2011.  That day I ran 8km BEFORE the start of the race.  In fact, I think I actually ran from our house to the start of the race in High Park.  Since I'm working on building up my mileage, I figured I'd do something similar this time.  I had ridden 50km outside the day before so my legs were feeling a bit tired.  I didn't want to go into the race with 8km in my legs already so I got G to drop me off about 4km out from the park and I ran in.  I managed to add another km running to and from the car for a total of 5km.  I was definitely warmed up. 

We made our way over to the red corral and I saw a few familiar Instagram faces as well as some of my WTP crew.  I kissed G good luck and made my way up towards the front.  I situated myself a few rows back.  I was joined by one of my fellow WTP ladies, Nancy Catton.  We chatted for a bit, both kind of regretting our decision to race because we knew we were in for some serious hurt.  I for one wasn't ready for the hills in this race.  I've done ZERO hill work and ZERO speed work.  But I was there and I wasn't going to let my lack of quality training stop me from giving my all. 

The gun went off and I crossed the start line a few seconds later.  It was virtually impossible to not get swept up in the crowd.  I tried to tell myself to ease up but that didn't happen.  I hit the first km in 3:55.  I had to slow down or I was seriously going to pay for that.  I consciously tried to ease up a bit.  We were heading down Spring Road and I didn't let my legs fly on the downhill.  I tried to run controlled down that hill.  My Garmin beeped just as I hit the 2km mark and I looked down to see 4:10.  That was better.  I still felt like I was going too fast though.  My breathing was really labored.  When we got to the bottom of the hill I eased up some more.  People were passing me but I didn't care.  I didn't want to hammer through here.  I still had 6km to go and my legs already felt pretty crappy.  I was definitely feeling the previous days ride. 

I slowed down a bit more and ran at a more comfortable pace.  I was still working but I wasn't gasping.  I hit the 3km mark in 4:25.  A little slower than I would have liked.  I clearly still had to find my rhythm.  I knew the next km would be slower because we were heading up Centre Road.  The first hill we had to climb.  I focused on the road ahead, trying to keep my shoulders back and lean into the hill a bit.  That seemed to work.  I passed a few people on my way up.  I still felt like hurling when I got to the top of that hill but I recovered quickly.  Up until this point, I hadn't seen any women ahead of me.  The ones that were, were long gone.  As I crested the top of the hill, I saw a woman a few meters ahead of me.  I remembered seeing her at the start because she had beautiful long curly hair and these crazy patterned running tights.  Anyway, she was just head of me.  As usual, that fired me up and I started to push the pace.  A dude came up beside me and went to pass me so I ducked in behind him to draft.  Wow, did that ever make a difference.  It was actually quite windy out.  I tucked in behind him and we passed her.  There was a slight rise in the road and the dude accelerated.  I couldn't go with him.  He took off like a shot.  I held my pace.  I caught up to him again shortly after we rounded the top loop and were heading down into the bottom of the park.  I couldn't believe we were already at the 5km mark.  I had picked up the pace again.  That km was 4:11.

The race leaves the top of the park and goes down this incredibly steep downhill on a path that takes you around the bottom end of the park.  The last time I ran that downhill a few weeks ago I tried to hold back and my quads were a bit sore the next day.  But that could have been because I ran 14km, which was my longest run to date this year, ha.  This time I didn't hold back at all.  I just let 'er rip.  I caught the dude who passed me as well as another woman.   She didn't want to let me get ahead of her so she hung on for a while.  We passed the 6km mark and made our way back into the park.  She was still hanging on.  We crested a small hill and hit the winding path that makes its way towards the main road.  I rounded the bend and surged a bit.  The next thing I knew she was gone.

Up ahead I saw Andrew Chak, blogger for IRunNation.  We had been chatting over instagram the day before about all the hills and all the hurt.  I saw him blow by me when we were heading down Spring Road in the early km's so I was a bit surprised to see him just up ahead.  Once again it was like a carrot on a stick.  A good analogy given he was wearing orange, ha ha.  I kept him in my sights and gradually gained on him.  We got out to the main road and I was right behind him.  I passed him just as we were heading up a small hill.  He said nice run Phaedra as I passed him and I said Thanks, you can watch me blow up on the big hill.  He laughed at that.  I started to push the pace a bit more.  I just wanted to be done.  I was hurting but I wasn't totally dying.  I think slowing down in those mid km's was the smart thing to do.  I knew that the last hill here was awful.  It's also a long slow slight uphill all along the path leading up to that hill.

I pushed along, catching people as I went.  As I got to the bottom of the hill I came up on Steve, one of my WTP crew mates.  I passed him and said good run.  I charged up the hill, by the Tribe Fitness group who were yelling and waving signs.  That was some great motivation for sure.  The hill was absolutely packed with people.  I got about half way up and I felt like I was going to die.  I heard someone coming and glanced to my left to see Andrew again, he ran with me for a bit and encouraged me to push and go with him and I choked out between gasps, Go on, this is all I've got right now.  I was wheezing I was breathing so hard.  He pulled ahead of me and I tucked in behind him and followed him up the hill.  The last time I ran this race, I'm pretty sure the finish line was much farther away.  The Run CRS folks must have developed a soft spot for runners and moved the finish line closer to the top of the hill because as soon as I crested the hill and turned the corner, the finish line was right there. Thank Goodness.

I crossed the line right behind Andrew.  I looked down at my Garmin and saw 34:17.  Not a PR but a course PR by about 2.5 minutes. 

We congratulated each other on a great race, he went off to get some water and I waited for G.  As I was waiting, a bunch of WTP folks came in.  Steve finished right behind me, then Pete rolled in.  Then G, followed by Nancy, Wanda & Ken.  So of course it was time for a group shot.

We milled about for a bit and then wandered off to get some food and check the results.  I looked up my name and saw a 4 beside it.  No podium.  Then I looked up the overall winners and saw that the second place woman over all was in my AG.  And just like that, I was back on the podium.  SWEET.

Next up is the Mississauga 10km.  I think it's high time I added some weekly speed work into my mileage.  I have a score to settle at that race and I want to knock it out of the park.
Now it's time for me to get on the bike and spin out the soreness in my legs.  Then it's off to Bolton for Easter celebrations with the entire family.  Can't wait!

Happy Easter!  How are you celebrating today?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Random Thoughts on Saddle Shopping: It's Surprisingly A Lot Like Dating...

If you hang out with female triathletes long enough, you will eventually be subjected to various complaints about sore crotch areas, chafing and other things that most male triathletes don't really want to hear about.  I had this exact discussion with a male friend of mine last week who said that men had more to worry about because all their bits were external.  My argument was that women's external bits were just as sensitive, probably even more so due to the variety of "layers" women have.  Ahem.  All this was spurred on by a tube of chamois cream, ha ha.  

Of course many of these issues can be tempered with the right saddle, a proper fitting pair of shorts and some good chamois cream.   Shorts can be a tough one but I found that for me, finding the right saddle was even more challenging.   If I was to guess, I'd say that 90% of the time the saddle that comes on your bike is NOT going to be the one that you stick with. 

After spending fair bit of last year's off season testing out saddles, I've come to realize that finding the right saddle is much like finding Mr. Right.  It can be a long and sometimes frustrating quest.  Just like with dating, I'm sure you'll find your fair share of duds.  Then there might be a couple that make you think "Hmm...maybe this is it".  You test the waters for a while,  and eventually you realize that something just isn't right.  You learn what you like and what you don't as you go along.  The right saddle, much like Mr. Right, should be something you're comfortable with,  it shouldn't irritate you or rub you the wrong way and you shouldn't mind having it stuck between your legs for hours at a time.  You're going to have to test out several models but trust me when I say you'll know when you find The One.  There is a warm fuzzy feeling that takes over your body and you actually look forward to going for a ride.  You can't wait to get on your bike.  You think about riding all the time.  The thought of it may even give you butterflies.   Yes ladies, this can happen to you too.  It will require a bit of time, effort and research but it's worth it.  Thankfully there are more options now than there were 10 years ago when I started in the sport.

For years, I just dealt with the discomfort, mainly because there weren't many saddle options around for women and the ones that were available weren't great.  They were clearly designed by men that really didn't get the intricacies of the female body.   I did 2 Ironmans on saddles that were less than ideal.  Somehow I managed to suck it up and ride but it wasn't terribly pleasant.  I do think that it affected my performance to a certain extent.  I didn't use my aero bars to their full advantage because I wasn't comfortable in that position for extended periods of time.  What's the point of riding a triathlon specific bike if you're going to spend most of your time out of your aero bars?  Might as well ride a road bike.
This was the saddle I did my second Ironman on.  Not so comfortable.

So how do you find that elusive Crown for your Queen?   That oh so desirable Mr. Right?

My two cents?  Start with John Cobb.  This article explained SO much.  You've gotta love a man that tells you to "Go look at your crotch and make the call".   He has essentially classified women's genitalia in two categories:  an "innie" and an "outie".   The difference should be pretty self explanatory.   Outies have a bit more "business" going on and "innies" don't have much in comparison.   Outies are going to need more in terms of soft tissue pressure relief vs. an innie so a saddle that works for an outie, probably won't work for an innie.  Then I suggest trying out some of his saddles.  He has several models for both types of women.  These were a couple that I tried.

If you think about it, finding that perfect saddle really is a lot like dating.   Pick one that looks "suitable" and take it for a test spin.  Sometimes you'll know right away that it won't work.  Sometimes you'll have to test it out multiple times to really get a feel for it.  Most good bike shops will have test saddles that you can take for up to a month.  That means you're going to have to ride a few times a week to get a feel for whether or not it's the right one for you.  Practice makes perfect.  I suggest riding on the trainer as well as outside if possible.  The trainer is less forgiving because you're not really moving.  If you can survive for an hour on the trainer without any unusual discomfort then you have a keeper.  I say unusual because really, how often do you have something wedged between your legs for hours at a time? (No need to answer that, ha)  Of course there will be a general soreness from sitting on something that long.  I'm talking about hot spots, chafing and pressure in all the wrong places.  If you're feeling any of those things then you might need to move along and start looking for a different model.

The aha moment for me was when I got through a 90 minute trainer ride without having to move around on the saddle to find a comfortable spot.  I got on, situated myself, dropped into my aerobars and started riding.  That was it.  That's when I knew I found the one.  Angels started singing and my life in the saddle hasn't been the same since.   I think I even did a little happy dance. 

Now if only I could find the perfect pair of shorts, I may actually never get off my bike.

Speaking of cycling, tune in next Tuesday for our monthly edition of Tri Talk Tuesday - we're discussing how to improve on the bike!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Some Eggciting News!

Happy Good Friday!  Those of you that follow me on Instagram may have seen these pictures.

Well, I'm eggcited to announce that the wonderful folks at Burnbrae Farms have graciously sponsored me in to the Mississauga 10km on May 2nd.  That is my third race on the schedule and one I definitely want a re-do at.  I ran it in 2011 and due to some bad timing on my part, what would have been a PR and an age group win, didn't happen.  You can read all about that adventure here.

Burnbrae Farms is a Canadian business that has been in the Hudson family for over 120 years.  If you ask me, that's pretty impressive as far as family business legacies go.   When they approached me about this ambassador opportunity,  I jumped on it.  Eggs are a major part of my diet.   I eat eggs for breakfast pretty much every day and I often snack on hard boiled eggs.   So needless to say, this is a match made in heaven for me, ha ha.  I'll be cooking and baking up a storm this weekend thanks to the folks at Burnbrae! 

My pre-ride breakfast this morning!

I hope everyone is enjoying the start of their Easter weekend!  How are you celebrating?