Monday, August 20, 2012

TImberman 70.3 - Overcoming obstacles

Every once in awhile, for reasons you can't control, you find yourself in a situation in less than ideal conditions. Whether the situation is a crucial business meeting, a huge presentation, a daily chore, or a race, sometimes things come up that pose a significant risk to your well planned intentions for that event. Maybe you can't find a crucial document in time, have deleted part of your powerpoint presentation, bought the wrong mutual fund for the wrong client, gotten a flat tire or the stomach flu. We've all been there. What do you do in these circumstances? Of course your first reaction is to panic, then you try to get yourself out of the situation (postpone it?), then your brain kicks in (hopefully) and you find a way to deal with the problem and carry on so to make the best out of the bad situation. Of course, the outcome may not be what you wanted or hoped for, but no matter what, you learn something and are better prepared for the next time you are faced with such circumstances. I was faced with an "unfortunate circumstance" during my race this Sunday.

On Friday we drove down to New Hampshire. I wasn't feeling too great, but I thought that was just the effects of the long drive. It was 10 hours to get there, plus more driving once we got there: running errands, picking up the race kit, driving the wrong bike course (there are two Laconia Roads!). It was almost 12 hrs after starting our journey that we had finally settled into the very nice hotel (Hampton Inn and Suites, Tilton, NH - they had free coffee and cookies all day long!). I must thank my title sponsor, Turner-Tomenson and Asssociates, for helping to offset the cost of such comfy accommodations. After unpacking, I went for a run on the treadmill (it was thunder and lightning outside) and then lounged a bit in the hot tub. I had a small dinner (still wasn't feeling great) and then we were asleep by 8pm!

I woke up Saturday feeling refreshed after an 11 hour sleep! Yes, that was exactly what I thought I needed. However, after only being awake for 5 minutes I realized that I did not feel better, much worse actually. I will spare you the details, but basically I felt the effects of some type of stomach illness. Later in the morning, I was able to get on my bike to ride the last 25km of the bike course (thanks Enduro Sport, my bike was perfectly tuned up!) and did a short run and then a swim (I actually felt OK, but it was just zone 2 stuff). Then more "stomach issues" hit during the pre-race Pro meeting :( After that I did start to feel better, maybe I still had a bit of a weak stomach, but I didn't know if that was nerves or not. I ate regularly and tried to eat a lot for the rest of the day. Although my stomach felt completely fine by the evening I felt an odd sort of feeling, that I really did not want to do this race. That is usually not the case. I am usually eager to race and tackle an event. Nonetheless, I had a good sleep - except had a dream that my bike seat was not tightened properly and kept falling down on me! haha.

Race morning started at 4:45am (a bit of a sleep in compared to Rhode Island!) and I woke up feeling really hungry. I literally scarfed down my usual pre-race breakfast of bagel with peanut butter and banana, coffee in record time. Unfortunately, my breakfast made it's way back up later that morning :( Usually the morning of a race I feel slightly full, and I find comfort in that. I know I will have plenty of fuel for the swim and bike and will feel good by the run. I definitely didn't feel that way today. I felt empty.

I did manage to get in a good swim warm-up and take in an energy gel, and to my surprise, at the start of the race I felt super ready to go. The pace seemed to start off slow compared to other races and I was actually in the lead off the start, before Cait Snow and Heather Wurtele pulled ahead. The three of us swam together for a bit, and then we dropped Heather at some point and I stayed right behind Cait for the next 1500m of the race. This was great! Even better, was that I had no hip flexor issues like in my previous 3 races this year. I must thank my Chiropractor, Bill Wells, at Urban Athlete for that (he treated me for this issue a few days before the race. Unfortunately, with about 300-500m to go I just felt all of my energy go. It was a struggle to pull myself through the water and my legs felt super heavy - especially my quads. By the time I exited the water (I still managed to come out of the water seconds behind Cait and in 2nd) all I wanted was to sit down for a steak dinner. Not a good sign for the rest of the race (not to mention the fact that is was only 7:30am)!

I had a super quick transition (the 2012 full-sleeve blue seventy helix is a breeze to take off!) and was off on my bike, still in second place. I knew on the first climb that I did not have the amount of energy in me that I would have liked. My quads were still burning from the swim and it was taking all my strength just to pedal, let alone pedal with any sort of power. I was overtaken by 1,2,3,4...7 girls in the first 5 miles and another at mile 10. I was in an "unfortunate situation" that I really didn't have any control over - under-fueled, heavy legs, low self-confidence. My first thoughts were to just pull over and pull out of the race, but then I thought back to the pre-race article I had read about Timberman. In that article, Joe Gambles (who actually won the men's race) had mentioned something about the best sort of training coming from racing, because it pushes you to a level that you can't get to on your own. This is actually what kept me going. It didn't matter anymore whether I was going to have a good race or not - I didn't want to lose out on a potential training session. So I sucked it up, fought through the pain, biked to the best of my ability on the day and not one person passed me from mile 10 to mile 56.

I had no idea what to expect from the run part of the race. I knew the course was hilly and if my legs were burning during the bike, there was no saying how they would do on the hills on the run. The first 2 miles of the run I think I did way too easy - my heart rate was in Zone 2 territory (and it was uphill). I didn't feel too bad so I pushed a little harder after that. I don't really remember much of my thoughts during the run. I know that I was hungry, but not for gels - for steak! I remember the volunteers being incredibly friendly, I remember Ming cheering me on from his bike, I remember being inspired by seeing Cait Snow's incredibly fast run pace and I remember moving into 7th. All the rest is a blur.

I finished the run in 1:28:55 (the 5th fastest female run split) and completed the race in a personal best time for the year - 2:38:56. I was happy. It wasn't the podium finish that I would have liked, but I had pushed through an "unfortunate situation" and I think I came out a stronger triathlete. I did the best I could, which is sometimes all you can do in such a situation. If you misplace an important document before a crucial meeting or delete part of a presentation, maybe have co-workers help find the missing document while you continue the meeting, improv the missing part of the presentation, etc. It may not be the ideal way to do it, but it gets the job done and you learn from it.

I am not sure whether my poor bike split was due to low energy (it certainly didn't effect my run too bad) or too many hours in the car on the Friday, but I hope to get to the bottom of it and be at top form for my next race in Muskoka on September 9th!

Thanks again to all my family, friends and sponsors for your words of encouragement. You guys are what keep me going in the best of it and in the worst of it!

Monday, August 6, 2012

August Long Weekend: K-town Tri & Mississauga Wedding

After 4 weeks off racing, I took part in the K-town triathlon weekend. This was a last minute decision to get me prepped for Timberman 70.3 coming up in New Hampshire on August 19th. This local race began in 1984 and has been going strong every year since then. I was very happy to be a part of it!

This was going to be a particularly hectic weekend. A wedding to go to on Saturday morning, the drive to Kingston, race Sunday morning, drive home to Toronto and then the wedding reception on Sunday night. I also knew that I wouldn't be at my freshest as I had just finished a HUGE block of training (more than I had ever done before). Consequently, my only goal for the race was to have fun and just get some racing in.

Luckily my sisters decided to join me for this particular trip and we began our road trip to Kingston at 2pm on Saturday. Highlights of the drive were the playlist that included songs that went all the way back to high school, seeing some pretty trucks (an F-350 that would look very nice in Bee and Thatcher's garage ;) ), making fun of/trying to avoid the MANY bad drivers, my outfit of a sari and baseball cap to match!

The hotel was very nice (we had a suite) and once we checked in both me and my sisters were on a mission. I needed to check-in, get my race kit and find bagels and they had to find an LCBO! We headed out in the CRAZY heat and humidity to get our errands done. I was also able to pick up my new Tri suit for the race from Olivier at Kiwami.

We then got to relax at the hotel. We were joined by Annalisa who decided at the last minute to come to Kingston to watch the race. My coach also decided to make the trek to Kingston to watch the race! He had almost his whole team of athletes, Faye, Tim it was great that they were able to come.

Bianca made an amazing pasta for my pre-race dinner and we all ate dinner watching a re-run of the Women's Olympic triathlon...not much better motivation for a race than that!

Race morning I woke up at 6am for my usual pre-race routine...shower, coffee, breakfast, coffee. As soon as I stepped out of the hotel with my bike (and almost got blown over!) I knew there was going to be race day trouble. I rode my bike cautiously over to the transition area, careful to not get blown over in the process. As soon as I reached the race site I saw the HUGE white caps in Lake Ontario, where the swim was supposed to be. Oh no! I remember seeing this in New Orleans last year when they cancelled the swim. My heart sank...out of all three sports I felt I was most prepared for the swim portion of this race. I have been swimming all summer with Bob Hayes at Summerville Pool and had noticed huge improvements since I started. Sure enough, the call was made that the swim would be cancelled and we would run a 7.2km run instead of a 2km swim. I was not mentally prepared for a 22km run and had no idea how a run before the bike would effect me. Obviously I was upset, but nothing could be done, so I just tried to reset my brain and get it ready for a duathlon. It helped that Bill and the team at Urban Athlete was keeping me injury-free, so I knew my body would be able to handle the extra mileage.

Before the start of the run I lined up next to Canadian super-star triathlete, Beth Primrose, who was a Canadian champion about 20 years ago and is still a super strong triathlete. She had beat me the two times I had raced her last year so I knew that I could use her to pace myself for the first run. Before I knew it we were off, running into a heavy cross-wind/head wind. At first there were 3 of us running together, but by the 2km mark there was just Beth and I. She led for the first half of the run, but I was right on her feet. I had no idea how to pace this run so I decided I would let her, the more experienced triathlete, do it :) I ended up beating her back into transition by a hair and was out of transition and off on my bike 10s ahead. A sub-4:00/km run to start off was a good sign.

A few kms into the bike we had to dismount our bikes to cross the Causeway because the cross wind was so strong it was deemed to dangerous to ride our bikes across. We had to cross single file with our bikes across the bridge. I was caught behind an amputee, which is so awesome that he was racing, but meant I had to cross the bridge at a very slow pace and about 10 people caught up with me (including Beth) as a result. After the bridge I hopped on my bike and tried to make up for lost time. The only bike legs seemed to have decided that they were not going to wake up. Not only this, but the cross-wind was incredibly intense and it was taking a lot of energy just to stay upright and in a straight line as the wind pushed me all over the road. These conditions definitely made me happy I had got by biked tuned recently (thanks Enduro Sport). Beth passed me at the 10km mark, but I made it my goal to not let her out of my sight. My legs were burning and my heart rate soared if I pushed any higher than zone 2...but I did manage to pass Beth at the turnaround and I think that this was also the point when my legs decided to wake up. I pushed hard for the next 10km and then it started to rain. HARD. Cross-wind + downpour + trucks passing you made me so mad! I think I was swearing out loud. I wanted to get back to transition as fast as possible just to tell my coach how much I hated this race and how mad I was. I'm not sure if that's why I was able to find a harder gear to go hard back into transition, but the last 15km was definitely my strongest leg of the race!

I came into transition a little shaky from my windy and stormy ride, but I was greeted by the smiling faces of my sisters, Annalisa and Coach. Soon I was out on the run, running back into the strong cross/head-wind! Coach was on his bike as I ran, telling me I was doing great and at least 2 minutes ahead of second place. I relaxed at this news, until I heard my coach say that I still had to push relaxing for me. At 7.5km I reached the turnaround and I couldn't believe I would have to run another 7.5km. It really did make it easier that I had the wind at my back on the way back. I would see guys running in front of me and made it my goal to catch and pass them. I ended up crossing the line with the second fastest 15km time overall - including the men! And first female by about 15 minutes. I guess the race didn't turn out too bad after all - despite the crazy weather and a cancelled swim :)

All WattsUp athletes had excellent results. Faye was 2nd in her age group, Tim was 3rd in his age group, Claire came 1st in her AG, Claudia was 2nd in her AG, Irene was 1st in her AG! Awesome job to all the athletes!

Thanks again to Sara, Bee, Annalisa and my coach.