Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Miami Race Report and a BIG Thank-you

Who would have thought that the end of the season would come so quickly? I have completed 8 races in my first season as a Pro and I learned things about myself from each one of them. It has been a fabulous season of racing. I ended it off with a new personal best time, here at Ironman 70.3 Miami :)

The adventure to Florida began on Thursday morning as my parents, Rikki and I boarded our West Jet flight to Miami. The trip down went very smoothly, and before we knew it we were checking into the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove, about a 20 minute drive south of where the race would be. I much prefer staying a little bit farther away from the race hotel as I find I get super nervous when I am surrounded by fellow triathletes. Staying a little further away meant I could be a little more relaxed before the race. This hotel also happens to be just gorgeous. I won't even try to describe it - just take a look at the pictures below.

Friday morning I got in a swim in the balcony pool and a quick bike in the gusty winds and rain. I desperately tried to stay upright on my bike amidst the crazy Miami traffic and bad weather - very challenging. Of course the weather improved very quickly after my ride. With the arrival of the sun we decided to take a trip to South Beach. We went to lunch at Joe's Crab Shack and had the best stone crabs! And, of course, I followed coach's instructions and drank heavily...water, that is :) Afterwards we wandered along the beach and through some souvenir shops and I got a pedicure and foot massage! The drive back to the hotel was an adventure as the combination of high winds and high tide had caused some serious flooding on the roads that led in and out of South Beach. We were all glad we had rented an Expedition, because the streets had become seriously river-like, and the smaller cars were at an increased risk of stalling. Luckily we made it home OK.

Saturday morning I got up early to get in a brick workout before traffic. However, the traffic in Miami is already heavy at sunrise! I biked about 25km including the first/last 6 miles of the bike course (the most technical part) which took me over an hour! I was cursing the stop lights that were constantly turning red on me :( It was also very windy, and the gusts were strong enough to almost knock me off the bike several times. Conclusion: the city of Miami is not a great place to ride a bike. The rest of Saturday I relaxed on the balcony by the pool, stayed hydrated and loaded up on carbs. I felt ready to race!

Sunday (Race day!) I was up at 4:45am. I didn't have a great sleep though and, in fact, I'm not even sure whether I did sleep between 2am and 4:45am ... it felt more like a daydream type sleep...if that makes sense. Very light sleep with lots of weird dreams and I remember looking at the clock at 2:30, 3:15 and 3:45am. Oh well. So I showered, had my pre-race meal of a bagel with peanut butter and banana and then we headed to the race site. I set up my transition area, went for a short jog through transition, did some arm and leg swings and my usual swim tubing exercises. They made the call that morning that the swim would be wetsuit legal (water temp was 75.5 degrees), which was a little disappointing for me, since I prefer non-wetsuit swims. However, if I have to wear a wetsuit I couldn't ask for a better one than my Blue Seventy Helix! We were allowed to jump in the water for a short swim warm-up about 5 minutes before the race start. I managed to get in a bit of a swimming before we were lined up and waiting for the start.

At 7:27 the professional women were off! There were about 17 of us, which is the largest field I have raced against so far. This made the start a bit like a washing machine. We raced as a group toward the first buoy (~250m) before we had to make a sharp right turn around the first buoy. I was with the lead group as we neared this buoy, but somehow, as the leaders in the group made their turn, the buoy got knocked into me and I ended up in a sort of punching war with this HUGE buoy. I kept trying to get around it and it would somehow end up right in my path. By the time I managed to get passed it I was no longer with the lead group. I had to swim the rest of the race about 15m behind a small group of girls who I used to keep me on course. I felt really good in the water though and, unlike in previous races, where I feel a bit dead by the end...I felt strong through the whole swim segment (thank you 20x100@1'20!). I exited the water in 25:56, which is a new swim PB (if you don't count the Pocono swim, which was a couple 100m short).

I had a smooth first transition, which quickly got me onto the bike course. It was windy, but definitely not as windy as the few days prior. The first 10km were through the city and took you along some winding roads, but nothing too technical. My legs felt pretty good, but I was careful not to let my power climb too high during the first part of the course. I was passed by two people, but also passed two people! I love passing people on the bike, it helps build a little bit of confidence, since it doesn't happen too often :) (At least not this season...but the combination of my cervelo + what coach has planned for me when training resumes and I will be quite the force next year!) As I turned onto the highway 27 I was faced with a BRUTAL head wind. This reminded me of one of the reasons I train with power. No matter what the conditions, be it a headwind, tailwind, uphill, downhill - your power output should remain relatively constant. So even though my speed was slow (hah - when did 31kph become slow for me!?! Thanks, Cervelo!), my power was right where it should be so my confidence wasn't shaken. As the highway turned north I got a bit of relief from the north west wind. I reached the turnaround in about 1hr20min and I knew it would be a fast return, with the wind at my back for the next 45km. Sure enough, heading south I was averaging about 40kph at the same power output. That speed turned to 50kph as the road turned to the south east and I just flew. I was in my hardest gear and my cadence hovering around 95rpm (high for me). Jessie Donavan passed me during this stretch on the bike and I moved into 8th. It was just after this that I started to feel the tightness in my hip flexors. Two hours in aero position will do that to you when you aren't used to it! So at this point I started cursing the terrain in Ontario for not being flat enough to allow for proper training (usually I am cursing the fact that it's not hilly enough!). The last 10km of the bike I was in agony as I tried to will myself to forget the pain. I was definitely up out of aero for a lot of the final stretch and I think I could have been a couple minutes faster had my hip flexors cooperated with me. The bike dismount didn't come fast enough, but when it did come it was a welcoming sight! I finished the bike in 2:26:32 (a whole 12 minutes faster than the previous year!)

I had a smooth transition and was off on the run! My hip flexors were still pretty tight, but seemed to loosen up with every stride. I crossed the first mile marker in 6:00. That's 3:45 per km pace! I didn't even feel like I was pushing that hard. The run course was pretty tough. It is 2 loops of an out and back course, which involves running up and over the causeway a total of 4 times. The wind was at your back on the way out and you had a headwind on the return. I was feeling pretty good until around the 11km mark. At 11km I had been averaging about 4:05/km but it was at just about that point my legs started to feel heavy. I always have a hard time taking in nutrition on the run and I hadn't taken in anything but water up to that point (rookie mistake!). So I started to play catch up with my nutrition and took in a gel, some gatorade and coke at the next aid station. I think that the damage had been done though, because it kept getting harder and harder to pick up my legs. As I headed up over the causeway for the last time, right into the wind, it took all my strength to keep moving forward. The last 2 miles were a blur, but I got passed by two more female pros and fell back into 10th. I kept pushing, hoping for a top ten finish. I did get my tenth place, after running a 1:31. The run was a lot slower than the 1:26 I was hoping for, but my overall time of 4:27 made me happy enough to make up for that.

The past couple of days I have been enjoying the off-season. I have had lots of yummy seafood, good wine, great desserts and I will continue to enjoy the next few weeks break before I resume training. My first race of 2013 will be Texas Ironman 70.3 in Galveston, Texas on April 7th!

I would also like to take this opportunity to the very special people who have helped to make my season so successful:

Turner-Tomenson Family Wealth Management - There is no question that a professional athlete needs some financial support when they start out in their "career". I wouldn't have been able to compete in so many races and get in the best training without the support of Turner-Tomenson. And I am so proud to call such a great Wealth Management Team my top supporter! Read some of the words of praise from their clients here.

WattsUp Cycling - In Toronto it is very hard to get in good quality bike training - the traffic is similar to what I described in Miami, and it takes at least 30 minutes to drive to an area conducive to cycling outdoors. WattsUp is a very short drive away and has provided me with 1000s of hours worth of quality bike training. There is no doubt that I would not be the athlete I am without having access to their great facility.

Bill Wells at Urban Athlete - This was the first season I had where I was completely injury free. Yes, I did get a few "niggles" here and there, but because of Bill nothing progressed to full blown injury. Not only that, but he provided above and beyond help that included a strength program to help with injury prevention and even biomechanical analysis of my running stride. I am so so lucky to have such an amazing Chiropractor.

Chris Basti, Dan Rishworth and all the staff at Enduro Sport - They helped me with almost everything. They got me set up with my Cervelos, tuned up my bike before every race, ensured I had all the best triathlon gear and answered all my questions quickly. I am so lucky to have such a great all-around triathlon shop behind me.

Lesley Loughlin at Cervelo - There are a few reasons that my bike improved more than any other leg of my triathlon this season...and one of them is the fact that I am now riding a P3 Cervelo. Lesley was a huge help with this and, not only did she get me my bikes, but offered many words of encouragement and congratulations to keep me motivated throughout the season.

Blue Seventy - A last minute e-mail to Blue Seventy and I got a brand new Helix and sleeveless wetsuit within a couple of weeks! My next race in my new Helix and I had a new swim personal best! The material is light in the shoulders and thick in the legs, which allows for great shoulder movement while keeping my buoyant.

My RMTs Brad Wilson, Craig Dow and Diego Ricetto - In addition to seeing Bill, I also was able to get regular massages throughout the season. There is no doubt that I was able to recover much quicker after hard training sessions and was better prepared for races because of my RMTs!

My fellow athletes, family and friends, especially Rikki, Mamma, Papa, Sara, Kevin, Bianca, Thatcher, Jewen, Surinder, Alka, Jason, Ronni, Bronwen, the Fellas, the Canellas, Faye, Pete K, Scott Judges, Ed Veal, my co-workers at the Granite Club, and all the athletes and staff at WattsUp, - They have all been amazing! Many people know that a job can get tough and even lonely, but you have to keep pushing through if you want to succeed at it. It's the same thing with triathlon training and, lucky for me, I always knew that I could count on all of my friends and family to motivate me and help get me though the tough times.

My coach, mentor and friend. He spent hours and hours, both early in the morning and late at night, perfecting my training program. When he didn't know the answer to something, he would confide in others like Scott Judges, Pete Oyler, Bill Wells, Ed Veal, Tereza Macel, to make sure that I got the best coaching possible. I am so excited that I get to work with such an amazing coach. I am also very excited that he will continue to put up with me and coach me through the 2013 season and hopefully much longer!

A few more pictures:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Some last minute adjustments!

As most people know, an athlete does not become successful on their own. Rather, they have a huge support team that works with them to help them achieve success. In my case, this support team includes my husband, Rikki (first and foremost), my parents, sisters, brothers, friends, my chiropractor, RMTs, sponsors and coaching team. It's amazing how everyone is always trying to help me :)

My coaching team (my coach and bike fitter, Scott Judges) are a perfect example of this. Recently, they both took time out of their busy schedules to sit down and discuss how to improve my cycling. While not many changes can be made at this point in the season, they did think of one. They made a little adjustment on my bike position to get me lower on the front end (...and raised my seat post back up to where it was at the start of the season - apparently seatposts tend to slip during the season, just like mine did!).

Anyway, the result..



1. A position that is more aerodynamic (I'm no physicist, but being lower on the front end decreases my frontal surface area and this results in way less air resistance and I go faster).

2. A more powerful position (My back is less "hunched over" which allows me to engage the glutes, hamstrings and quads much better! ...think of the difference between doing a squat with a rounded back versus a straight get way more power with a straight back)

3. More comfort (not sure how, but for some reason I am way more comfortable in this position!!!)

Thank-you to Scott and Adam!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pocono Mountains 70.3: Getting stronger on the bike!

WOW! Race number seven of eight is complete! Even though I didn't place as well as I would have hoped, the race was a huge success. I am also much more settled into the "Pro lifestyle" now: I have found out that home-stays are a great way to cut down on the cost of travel and an awesome way to meet new people, I have gotten used to the not-so-intimidating-anymore Pro pre-race meeting, I can now position myself toward to front at the swim start, it is somewhat difficult for others to pass me on the bike, I'm even getting used to people wanting me to give them high fives (that's awesome!). It's been a great first year of professional racing so far.

I initially chose to race Pocono Mountains 70.3 so that I didn't go "stale" between Muskoka and Miami 70.3, which are 7 weeks apart. September is usually a difficult month to train, because most athletes are finishing up their racing season and are taking it easy during this time. This race was a great way to keep myself focused on training. We drove down to the race on Friday morning at 5am! Only this time, instead of staying at a hotel with free chocolate chip cookies, we heading to the Nicholls' home in a beautiful town near Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They had generously offered to host Rikki and I over the race weekend. I had only just heard of a home stay through volunteers at Muskoka 70.3 and thought that I would try it out for this race. Rhonda, her husband Jeff, their dog (Madison), and their cats (Penelope, Mittens, Socks, Lizzy, Amber, Midnight, ?), were terrific hosts! They made sure we had everything we needed, and more. Rikki even got to eat a nice chicken dinner instead of my gluten free pasta on Saturday night! Rhonda is a terrific runner and we got to hear many tales of her own running adventures in the Boston Marathon and other races! Rhonda and Madison were even there to welcome me at the finish line!

The race started almost as soon as the sun rose, which was just after 7am. All the Pro women and men started together. We had 4 minutes after entering the water to get to the start line. No one really knew exactly which buoy we were supposed to swim too (the closer buoy was way left and the far buoy was straight ahead), one of the men called out for all the fast swimmers to "lead the way". I positioned myself at the front, thinking to myself "ya, that's me!" (even though I didn't know which buoy to head to, either). Soon enough, we were off. It was a pretty clean start for me and I wasn't toppled over at all. After rounding the first buoy (which every one decided was the far buoy). I saw another Pro, Amber, close by, and we took turns swimming on top of each other as we tried to get a draft of the pack of male swimmers in front of us. Eventually I must have made it in front of her, because soon it was just me and 4 or 5 male swimmers in a group. I couldn't pull ahead of them so I knew I was swimming at the appropriate pace. I was liking this situation, because it meant I didn't have to kick as hard and I could save a bit of energy for the bike. I would need it - there were some super strong cyclists in the Pro field!

After exiting the swim (24:00!) I was in 2nd. I headed up a hill to T1, put on knee warmers and my warm cycling top over my trisuit, then my helmet, and I was off (considering having all that gear to put on, a 2:22 transition was not bad!). Amber and Christine Fletcher were just behind me though. Next was the 7km descent down the mountain - this was so much fun, especially on my speedy Cervelo! I was in aero the whole time and I am sure I reached a new max speed! Ed Veal, who has helped me with my bike technical skills (, would have been proud! The next 31km was a section of flat and very sightly rolling hills. This was my favourite part of the bike course. I was alternating between being 2nd, 3rd and 4th female, but we were all staying pretty close. To avoid drafting we would pass one another, drop back, get passed, etc. I knew both Amber and Christine have posted much faster bike times than me in the past so the fact that we were all biking at around the same speed made me happy. I was hoping this would last through the last 52km - but as soon as we hit the hilly section of the course they took off. I cursed my small and weak glutes, which I maintain is the reason for my lack of climbing ability, and just did the best that I could. I definitely was up out of the saddle a lot more during this race than in the past and I stayed aero more often on the steep, winding descents. After cursing the last few hills I ended up finishing the bike 6th, in a time of 2:37:36. My best bike split compared to the other Pro females so far. Woohoo!

Once in T2 I racked my bike, stripped off my warm top, put on my Mizunos and was off! Like Muskoka, I couldn't feel my feet, so I was super paranoid about tripping and falling. I was also aware that right behind me was Jessie Donavan (winner of 2 IMs!) and Jennie Hansen. It would be really tough to stay ahead of them on the run. I just tried to focus on what I could control: my own run, my own pace. For starters, this meant regaining the feeling in my feet. So, while running, I curled my toes up and down desperately willing the blood to flow to my toes. Co-incidentally I noticed the feeling back in my feet just as Jessie passed me. I was able to stay close for about half a mile, but my heart rate was soaring and I knew that I wouldn't be able to complete the full 21km at that pace. So again, I tried to refocus on my own pace, until I saw another female Pro up ahead who I was gaining on! Sweet. New goal: catch-her. So I went for it and caught her at mile 4. There was another female up ahead of her, 1:00 ahead, and that became my next target. At the turnaround I was about 30s away, but she must have seen me gaining and picked up her pace, because I would remain about 45s-1:00 behind her the rest of the race. This run course was particularly difficult, it was gradual uphill until the turnaround, which included some steep ascents and small descents the whole way up. There were no flat sections. However, that meant that the last half of the run was downhill, but those short ascents on the way back were what killed me. With 3 miles to go I was barely hanging on, my legs were heavy, I was getting chilled, and it took a lot of willpower to get my feet to lift off the ground. Sure enough, Jennie Hansen passed me at Mile 11. I looked back and didn't see anyone else coming, which was a relief. I managed to put one foot in front of the other for the next couple miles and ran my way to the finish with a run time of 1:30:07 and a new PB of the season (4:35:03)!

I also wanted to say that this race had some of the most friendly volunteers I have ever come across. Not only that, but they cheered for you, and they cheered LOUD!, and wanted to give you high-fives! At each aid station they made sure that you got the fluid that you needed. There was one water station, where the volunteers were dressed all in pink and wearing tutus! I didn't catch the name on their shirt, but I thought that was pretty awesome.

Anyway, up next, this "seasoned pro" will be conquering nice and flat, Miami 70.3. No hills to worry about there!