Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miami 70.3

Going to Miami I only really had one goal...which I really didn’t tell anyone but myself. I wanted to rank among the professional female triathletes. I had already made the decision to turn Pro next year, but I wanted to prove that I really deserved to call myself a Professional. I am happy to say that I did accomplish my goal. There were 13 professional female triathletes. I placed 11th female over all and had the 7th fastest swim time and the 5th fastest run time. Now I can say that I AM as good as the Pros! Read on if you want to hear the whole story of my Miami Adventure.

I flew down to Miami with my parents on Friday and we arrived at the hotel at around 4pm. I immediately unpacked my bike and set it up so that I could get in a 45 minute ride to loosen up my legs. Unfortunately, my ride happened to be right in the middle of rush hour and I spent the entire ride focusing all my attention on staying on the road and not getting hit by a car. I did notice that my balance was a bit off and I was even more shaky than usual on my bike. I have never been a confident rider, but this was worse than usual. It was quite possibly due to the fact that it had been 3 weeks since I actually rode outside. Half-way through the ride I did find a parking lot and practiced some figure 8s and my transitions to help me with my balance. This actually seemed to help a little bit and I was a bit more confident on the bike ride back to the hotel. Once back, I quickly unpacked the rest of my gear and I headed out with my parents to find a nice Italian restaurant so I could begin my carb loading. I was determined to eat A LOT of carbs before my race this time so as to prevent a repeat of Vegas where I completely just ran out of energy 70K into the bike. I chose Lasagna for dinner, took advantage of the never ending bread rolls that Ludo (the owner/waiter) brought to the table and polished off about 2 bottles (or 1.5 litres) of water. My parents enjoyed the equivalent amount of fluid, only their beverage of choice was red wine :) After dinner I headed to bed.

I was up at 7:30am the next morning to blue sky!!! Considering the predicted forecast was heavy rain from Saturday – Monday I was quite excited about this. I decided to take advantage of the time day and the weather and go for a 30 minute bike ride traffic-free, followed by a 15 minute run. The bike felt better than yesterday, but I was still a little shaky. My cadence was around 90rpm and holding 180W for 5 minutes felt pretty easy. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hold that for 2-3hrs though. The run felt pretty good and during my 5 minutes at “race pace” I looked down at my Garmin and saw a 3:55/km pace and was in shock. It didn’t feel like I was working that hard. This made me happy. However, I did notice that the air was wet and breathing was a bit harder then I was used too. Not to mention the fact that by the time I got back to the hotel it looked more like I had gone for a swim than a bike-run. I knew I was not good in the heat and this worried me. After a big breakfast of cereal, yogurt, strawberries, coffee, 3 muffins, a piece of coffee cake and a few slices of turkey cold cuts and a few glasses of water, we headed to the race expo to pick up my race kit, attend the pre-race meeting and check in my bike. During the pre-race meeting I started to panic. Water temperature was hovering between 76-77 I wear a wetsuit? Fears about dehydration set in. What was the plan for nutrition and fluids, again? There was no swim warm-up allowed, so what do I do for warm-up? Luckily, I have a great coach who had all the answers and the pre-race panic was gone. After I checked my bike I went back to the hotel, did a 20-minute swim in the pool (I am not sure that the other hotel guests in the pool appreciated my flip-turns) and had lunch. Lunch was a yummy Panini with grilled veggies, olive oil and mozzarella cheese and more water. After lunch my parents needed to walk off some of the wine they had drunk so we walked the 1.6 miles to Publix and back to stock up on plain bagels, peanut butter, bananas for my pre-race breakfast and a bottle of Santa Margherita for after the race! Then it was dinner time and I had a big bowl of spaghetti, more water and then went to bed nice and early.

I woke up on race morning at 4:30am after 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I made coffee and had my breakfast of a plain bagel with peanut butter and banana and a coffee. On the drive over to the race site it started to rain. This was not good. It was pretty light rain while I set up my transition area and did my warm-up (a 15-minute run, some running drills and 4x10” sprints) and then by the time I headed over to the swim start it was pouring rain and windy. People were sitting under truck-beds, lying under cars and standing under trees to try to stay dry. The start of the race was delayed by about 15 minutes while we waited for the sun to rise. Even with the sun up it was still pretty dark. The water temperature was 77 degrees and non-wetsuit so I didn’t even have a wet-suit to keep me warm. Despite my best efforts to keep warm (arm swings, leg swings, dryland simulated swimming) my teeth were chattering uncontrollably by the time my wave was on deck. For the first time ever I couldn’t wait for the race to just start! After the wave ahead of me started, our wave jumped off the dock into the water. It was warm and I felt the added buoyancy of being in salt water. I tried to position myself so that I would have a clean start, but once the horn blew I was out-sprinted by a few girls who then slowed down and formed a wall that I couldn’t get by! I was very frustrated as I watched the lead swimmer take off towards the first buoy and I was helplessly stuck behind a slow pack of swimmers. After I managed to get by them it was too late and the lead girl was out of sight. I pushed on, swam through the wave ahead of us, but I was on my own for the rest of the swim. The first half of the swim I was with the current and felt great. I kept my head down, sighting every three breaths and still keeping on course. However, after turning a buoy I felt the cross-current and I had to make sure that I was swimming 45 degrees to the current so that I would stay on course.  When I turned at the next buoy I was heading straight into the current. This was tough as the waves crashed into me and it was impossible to find any rhythm to my stroke. I made a technical error going into the swim exit since I wasn’t sure whether to swim directly towards it or whether I had to first head towards the buoy on my right and then to the swim exit. Worried about a possible DQ I took the long route around the buoy and then into the swim exit, which I later learned was wrong, but oh well. I exited the water in 29’16. The run to transition was long, but I was happy to see my parents cheering and waving me on.

I took my time in T1 and made sure I had all my nutrition with me for the bike. The rain had let up a little, which I was thankful for. The first 10km of the bike course was very technical and there were a lot of turns and the road was not smooth. As I approached a set of train tracks the volunteers were screaming, “SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! YOU WILL CRASH IF YOU DON’T SLOW DOWN” so I did just that...I watched my speed slow to about 5km/hr as I crossed the tracks. Just as I did this I noticed a man passing me on the left crash AND at the same time a man trying to pass on the right crashed. I came to the following conclusion, “men on bikes can be idiots” and “oh god, I am so happy I slowed down”. This still made me quite nervous for the rest of the ride and I was happy that I reached Highway 27 safely. I would stay on this road till the turnaround. Unfortunately, I still had to battle cross-winds and rough road that nearly had me falling off my bike at some points. Highway 27 turned toward the north during the last 10km before the turnaround and so I was met with a strong head-wind. I knew this would turn into a tail-wind at the turnaround so I fought through it knowing it would soon be easier. After the turnaround was my favourite part of the race. I watched my power meter show my watts around 180-190W, my speed above 40km/hr and my cadence between 90-95rpm. I felt comfortable and strong and this made me happy. Then I passed a couple Pros and was even happier!  As I hit the 1hr 45min mark into the bike I started to feel the discomfort of riding in aero position. Even though I had made sure to get up out of the saddle every 5 miles and stand-up for a few peddle strokes my hip flexors were screaming, especially on my left side, and I could no longer stand the pressure that the saddle was placing on my crotch area. I started shifting my position so that I was to the left and then the right of the nose of my saddle and this seemed to help. My left hip flexor was getting tighter and tighter though and I was riding on the uprights more and more often to relieve it. I hit a bump about 10km out of T2 that caused my left aerobar to shift a bit to the left so that it was no longer tight and was slipping around when I was aero position. This was annoying as it meant I had to ride in the uprights for the last 10km. Also, at this point the wind had picked up so much so that if there wasn’t a head wind then there was a crosswind that was causing me to drift all over the road. I no longer cared about keeping my power up, I just wanted to make it to T2 in one piece and without suffering a strained hip flexor! The wind in the final stretch into T2 was like nothing I had ever experienced. You could hear it howling, you could see the palm trees swaying and when I stopped pedalling to slip my feet out of my shoes in preparation for my dismount, my bike almost came to a dead stop. I was so happy when I racked my bike! I didn’t care that my bike split was only a 2:38, because I had survived the most brutal ride I had ever experienced in a 70.3 event.

Heading out onto the run I was still in second in my age group. I had no idea how far back I was from the first place girl in my age group, but I felt pretty good. The hip flexor issue failed to bother me on the run and I was extremely thankful. The run course was two loops and involved running north, then east across the Causeway and then back. The wind was coming pretty strong out of the North and the headwind coming out of T2 was pretty brutal. I still posted my first few kms in 4’10 per km pace though so I was happy. Once I reached the Causeway though the combination of uphill + brutal crosswind + rain was very demoralizing. I knew that the faster I ran the faster it would be over with! That kept me going through that first loop. At the start of the second loop, when many of the athletes were starting their first loop, I used the additional number of people on the course to my advantage and tucked in behind some of the faster athletes so that they would block the wind a bit for me. Once I was at the top of the Causeway on my second loop I knew that the rest of the run would be easy in comparison. I picked up the pace and raced my way into the finish. I passed a bunch of female 25 – 29 age groupers on the way, but I had no idea if any of them were on their first or second loop. When I saw my parents faces as I entered the finishing shoot I knew I had done it and was the first female non-professional to cross the finish line (and I had beat some Pros)! I had made up 11-minutes on the first place 25 - 29 female during my run.

I was very excited to finish my last race of the season so successfully! In the process of achieving my race goal I also achieved my long term goal of running a sub-1:30 half-marathon in a half ironman distance event. I would not have been able to do this without the amazing support of my family (my parents, Rikki, my sisters and Rikki’s parents) who have always been there for me and put up with me, my RMT, Craig Dow (from Athlete’s Care King & Yonge), who was the main reason I got through the 2011 season un-injured, Bill Wells (my chiropractor from Urban Athlete), Dave Bialkowski for fixing my bike last minute for the race and for going out of his way to get me my race wheel, and especially my coach, who put up with my complaining and arguing all season, because there is no way I could have accomplished anything without his coaching. I also appreciate all the advice and support from Bill Durrant, the U of T Swim Team Coaches (Byron McDonald and Linda Keifer), Peter Oyler, Scott Judges (my bike fitter from Fitt 1st) and all my friends and fellow riders from WattsUp for their words of encouragement! Last, I want to thank my sponsors for this season: Turner-Tomenson & Associates, National Bank Financial,
Lululemon, Bialkowski Trysport and WattsUp Cycling.

I can’t wait for the adventures that next season brings!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coaching Certification & Training Adventures in Huntsville

It has been awhile since I have blogged. It hasn’t been due to the fact that nothing is going on, but more due to the fact that so much has been going on! Quick summary: I was second female 25-29 at the World Ironman 70.3 Championships, got a Shimano sponsorship and a National Bank sponsorship and have been training super hard for the upcoming Miami Ironman 70.3 on October 30th!!!

Anyway, I finally have a chance to sit down (while Rikki drives!) after a whirlwind weekend in Huntsville. The purpose of the trip was for me to become a certified triathlon coach by attending a weekend workshop in Huntsville (and get my bike tuned up in Parry Sound, and fit in a quality 20 minute 5km run workout!).

Highlights of the trip include:

Talking about Muscle biochemistry and weightlifting with Rikki
A 5km run (within a 13km run) in 20’35 in the pitch black morning
Finding Monte Antico Red Wine in an LCBO in Huntsville (can’t even find this wine in Toronto!)
Getting my bike tuned up by Dave Bialkowski (the only bike mechanic I trust)
Talking about getting a Cervelo P5 Road Bike and Rikki not arguing (yet!)
FREE breakfast buffet at the hotel
Finding a copy of the Bhagavagita in the hotel
Getting to drive on winding Muskoka Rd 3 way too fast
BULK BARN Caramel Popcorn
Shasta Cola
Finding a $1 cork screw, breaking corkscrew, watching Rikki open wine with this broken cork screw
Realizing I either order chicken or salmon whenever I go out for dinner...and deciding that next time Rikki should order my food for me so I don’t do this again

Top 3 things I learned about triathlon training that I didn’t know before:

Don’t underestimate the importance of transitions! These should be practiced and scheduled into training like bike, run and swim workouts are
Deliberate practice is important. Don’t do things in practice that you wouldn’t do in a race.
Training is most ieffective when there is a social component (riding/training with others), a self-direction component (technique of freestyle stroke), a success related component (a timed swim) and a sensory component (scenery while riding a bike).

Hope to blog again soon! Happy training :)