Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Staying Injury Free and Training over 20hrs a week

How do professional triathletes train over 20hrs a week and stay free from injury? This is a question I often asked myself when I was an age-group level triathlete, training less than 10 hours a week and still getting injured! Part of this is due to the fact that most pro athletes are able to recover properly, because we don't have to run off to the office after a workout. We can sit on the couch or take ice-baths to allow our bodies to heal after a hard training session. However, the other reason we are able to get through our training without getting injured is the fact that we have the best possible team of health care practitioners making sure that the smallest little "niggle" doesn't progress to a full blown injury. My team of health care practitioners includes my amazing Chiropractor, Bill Wells at Urban Athlete.

The guy who referred me to Bill said that he knew a Chiropractor who could tell your injury just by looking at you and cure you just as fast. I had a race in 3 weeks and was not able to run at all due to a knee injury, so I booked an appointment with this Chiropractor ASAP. Sure enough, on my first visit I was in awe at what Bill could tell by just looking at me! Among many things, he knew that I had been a swimmer and that I must have specialized in breast stroke without me even mentioning this fact. Not only this, but I was back to running within a week, which allowed me to compete in the race that qualified me for the World Championships. Since then I have struggled with MANY injuries: strained muscles, IT band syndrome, a bruised tailbone, a stuck fibula...you name it! All of these injuries might have kept me from training and even racing, but Bill didn't only keep my on my feet, but he kept me in the pool, on the bike and in my running shoes throughout all of these injuries!

The team at Urban Athlete also includes physiotherapists, massage therapists, naturopaths, personal trainers (check out: www.urbanathlete.ca for a complete list or their services). When Bill is away I see Greg Lehman (chiropractor/physiotherapist), who helped me fight an adductor magnus strain right before I raced Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant!

Thanks, Urban Athlete, for all your support!

Monday, July 9, 2012

3rd Pro race and 3rd place!

Well, my third Pro race has come and gone. I really can't believe that the first few races of my season are over, but what is more unbelievable is that I exceeded my expectations for all 3 races! I started this season with one goal in mind: Not to come last of the Professionals. This would justify my decision to turn Pro. Once I had a few Pro races under my belt I would work on making the podium in my last few races of the season. Now, I guess the pressure is off!!! Sort of ;) The following is a little report of my Rhode Island adventure.

This trip started off as usual, with a long car ride. I am becoming an expert at packing the car: wheel bag for my ZIPP404s (thanks Sara, Bee, Kevy and Thatcher!), everything in compartmentalized bags (no loose stuff!), cooler filled with avocado, bagels, strawberries, bananas, cheese , various cold meats...all healthy (and boring) for the few days pre-race. We left Toronto Thursday afternoon and drove to NY's capital, Albany where we decided to spend the night. Friday morning we were back on the road for the final stretch of driving. We got to drive on the MASS. PIKE (clearly the best name for an Interstate....don't ask why I think so).

Once in Rhode Island we drove/I road part of the race's bike course that takes you through rural and beautiful rural R.I. This proved to be a very good pre-race idea, considering its a point-to-point bike route that has many tricky turns. It was pre-race routine as usual from that point...race registration, swim, bike, run warm-ups, intimidating Pro pre-race meeting. This race had some big names, former World Championship competitors: Cait Snow, Nina Kraft, Dede Griesbauer. I was a bit excited to see how I stacked up against the World's best.

Since the location of the race is right in downtown Providence, beside a shopping mall, we did get to do some shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond...we picked up some sweet shoe organizers that you can store under the bed! And they seal so as to keep in the smell of smelly bike or running shoes. Very exciting. Also, got some Chip Clips for Mamma and some other knick-knacks. For our pre-race dinner, Rikki and I decided to head to Bristol, RI (which is right on the water and beautiful). Although the service was horrible at Leo's Restaurante (our food took over an hour!), the food was good so at least I knew I would be well fueled for the race :)

Race morning began at 3:55am on the Sunday. Rikki and I were both showered, the car was packed up and we were driving to the race site by 4:30am. Despite a little confusion about where Rikki was supposed to drop me off (which resulted in him almost not making it to the start of my race) all went smoothly. I had my transition all set-up, swim warm-up in just in time for the start of the race. It was a non-wetsuit swim which would be an advantage for me as it is for most strong swimmers. Plus, I would get to wear my Blue Seventy PZ3TX Swim Skin, which I love because it makes me feel so streamlined in the water. It's fabric is specially made of hydrophobic (water-retarding) materials to reduce drag. I wouldn't wear anything else. Since, Dede, Nina and Cait are well known super-star swimmers, my goal for the swim was to stay with the lead pack!

At 6:02 the race was underway. Nina, Cait and Dede were off like lighting (fellow Pro from Toronto, Suzanne Zelazo, had warned me they go out fast!). I lack speed, but make up for it with endurance so I wasn't too concerned when I was still a bit behind them as we approached the first buoy. I put in a few surges at around the 200-300m mark that put me about 5m behind Nina and Cait (Dede was way up ahead). I thought once I was near their feet I could cruise, but this was not the case! If I let up just a bit they would take off on me. After rounding the last buoy my left hip flexor really started to aggravate me. I couldn't really kick hard with my left leg and not wanting to aggravate it further I didn't try. This put me about 10s behind Nina and Cait exiting the water, but still 2:00 faster than last year's swim time (27:36 vs 29:19). Luckily my hip flexor stopped bothering me as soon as I was out of the water and was not an issue for the rest of the race. T1 went rather smoothly, unfortunately my sunglasses broke and I would have to ride the whole bike course with only one stem. Lol!

The first 10 miles of the bike my legs felt super heavy from the tough swim. I was worried I had worked to hard to keep up with the lead girls and that now I would pay for it on the bike. However, this fear became a distant memory as I started to find my momentum on the bike. Gradually my legs started to feel better and better, maybe that's the magic of riding a Cervelo. I just felt super comfortable on the bike and that made it easier to go fast. It seemed just as I found my groove I approached an intersection with a police officer directing traffic. He was pointing to the right and I assumed he wanted me to turn right! I made the right hand turn only to hear him behind me yelling "Come back! Come back!". Oops. I had to wait until traffic was clear and then made my way back into the course. Oh well...if this was the worst that was going to happen on the bike then no big deal. A few minutes later Suzanne passed me, cheering me on as she went. I was happy she was having a good day on the bike. I didn't want to let her out of my sight, though. I really started to push hard on the bike, probably a little beyond my comfort zone, but surprisingly I still felt good. I passed Suzanne again at around Mile 40 and we stayed pretty close to one another until the final 5 mile stretch of the bike course that led us into downtown. I was worried about all the turns in this last section so I kept a safe distance back from Suzanne and proceeded cautiously, probably a little too cautiously. I did manage to catch up to Nina with a few miles to go. I couldn't believe I had actually caught someone on the bike. This was a first for me and it was exciting!

Coming into T2 I still felt pretty good and I was ready for the run. Perhaps I wasn't thinking enough about my bike dismount, because one moment I was upright and the next I was toppling over my bike. Not my proudest moment! Luckily enough I managed to avoid getting any scrapes or bruises and was back on my feet in no time. Still a bit shaken from my tumble I ran into T2 right past my bike rack spot. Then I made the mistake of racking my bike in the wrong spot so had to unrack and then put it in the right place. Usually my T2 is my best transition, but this goes to show you that you can't get too complacent about the things you think you do well. Practice is important and I should have practiced my transitions pre-race. Had I have not made this errors I could have earned some extra seconds and every second counts!

Heading out on the run I actually felt really really good! Starting the run in Mont Tremblant I thought I might puke, but this race was different. I felt light on my feet almost immediately and this made me happy. I was about 1 minute behind Suzanne at this point with Nina hot on my heels. At the start of the first 1.5 mile climb (1 mile into the race) Nina and I were neck and neck. I managed get ahead of her on the hill (thank you to my coach for those treadmill hill repeats you had me do in practice) and at the top I caught Suzanne. For the first time in the race I was in 3rd place. However, this scenario was very reminiscent of last year when I ran my way into 1st in my age group at this very same point on the run...and then died later in the race. I was very aware that the good feeling I had at this point in the race may not last. On the downhill I definitely felt the heat. I made sure to grab 2 sponges at every aid station, stuffed ice into my bra, poured water on my head. I couldn't take in much fuel, except for 1 Peanut Butter GU pack during the whole run, because it was so hot. Mile 3 - 5 on the run was pretty flat and Nina had caught back up to me at this point. We ran together until the big hill started again (it was a 2 loop run course) and at this point I dropped her for good. At the top of the climb I still felt really good and I knew that I could push the pace for the last 4 miles. I saw Annie Gervais (super fast runner from Quebec) only 30s behind me and I knew that I would have to work hard to stay ahead of her. I pushed my limits on the run for the next 3 miles, but couldn't hold off Annie. Once she caught me we ran together for a bit, but then she surged on ahead. Close to the finish line I saw Dede up ahead and I knew that I could catch her if I tried. I found one more gear and was able to run her down just before the finish shoot. I crossed the line with a new personal best 1:27:28 run split and a 3rd place finish. I was ecstatic. I even got shuttled over to the media booth for an interview with the winner, Cait and second place female, Annie. So cool!

After my race I also learned that my sister, Sara, in her second year of doing triathlons, came 7/24 in her new age group (25-29) and made a personal best time in the sprint distance triathlon by 4 minutes! What a day for us Tomensons!!! woohoo. Look for my other sister, Bianca, dominating in the Scotia Half Marathon in the fall!

So now, 3 races are done, 4 more to go! I would again like to thank everyone who has helped make the first part of the season such a success:

- My title sponsor, Turner-Tomenson and Associates, for helping to cover some of the costs associated with training and racing.
- WattsUp Cycling, for providing the best training facility for cyclists trying to live and bike in Toronto.
- My coach, for tolerating my crazyness and for his amazing training program.
- Cervelo, for such a strong and fast bike! (As I was leaving transition with my bike yesterday a volunteer said "that's the smallest bike i've ever seen". I replied "it may be small, but it's powerful and speedy!")
- Enduro Sport, for always making sure I get the equipment I need and for always being so friendly every time I am in the store.
- Steve, for his amazing eBars and making sure I am well fueled!
- My parents, sisters, family and friends for showing such support all of the time. You have no idea how your emails, comments on facebook/twitter/etc. have helped to motivate me. I am forever in your debt!
- Rikki, for driving over 60 hours total for my three races and for his patience, love and support.

I will be racing at Timberman 70.3 in New Hampshire in about 6 weeks. I am taking this week nice and easy and then it is right back into the heavy training with 3 a day workouts!

A few more photos: