Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why I Turned Pro

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. The reasons why I decided to quit my full-time job, which offered a stable source of income and a defined career path, to pursue the life of a professional triathlete. So here is what I have come up with:

1. I want to motivate others by example. I started out in the sport of triathlon no different than any one else. Yes, I guess I had a swim background and had done some running for fitness, but everything else about the sport was new to me, especially cycling. In my first triathlon, my time for a 55km cycle was 1hr slower than most of the professional females in the same race (that's over a 1 minute slower per km). I think it is accurate to say that I did not have a natural talent on the bike. However, through hard work, dedication, figuring out my weaknesses, focusing my training on my weaknesses and not my strengths (even though that's harder and not as fun), I have have been able to improve (almost) to the level of the other female pros. I want others to see that, to realize that natural talent is not necessary when you are starting out. You can still excel at whatever you have chosen to do. So, every time I improve my bike split in a race, I want it to serve as evidence of what you can achieve if you work hard and work smart at it.

2. I'm addicted. Yup, definitely not as good a reason as above, but just as true. I am the type of person that finds something that they like and wants as much of it as she can. Ask anyone about my eating habits and you will know this is true. This also happened to be the case with swimming, biking and running. There is something about swimming... something about putting your face down into the water and swimming back and forth in a pool, 100s and 100s of times. For that time, you have escaped the world, you are weightless, deaf to whatever is going on around you, and experiencing the rush of endorphins that you get when you exercise. Cycling was the hardest for me to enjoy. But since finding WattsUp that has changed. Pete and Adam gave me confidence on the bike, which meant I could find the fun in it. Now...I hate going a day without getting in the saddle. Every ride is a new adventure, whether it's up a mountain in California or on the trainer. Running is probably my biggest addiction. No matter what the run, an easy recovery run or a hard intense interval run, the high I get afterwards is unmatched by any other feeling I've ever had (almost). So not a day goes by (even when I'm tired) that I don't want to swim, bike or run...I actually have to discipline myself to NOT exercise.

3. Travel. Like most professional sports, triathlon involves A LOT of traveling. Even when I was just competing in Ontario, I went to places I had never seen or even heard of before. In the past few years I have gotten to see: Australia, Vancouver, New Orleans, Arizona, California, New Hampshire, Miami, North Carolina, Las Vegas, Clearwater just because of triathlon. I have unforgettable memories from each of these places and I never would have had them if I didn't do a triathlon or training camp there.

4. Because I want to spend my life involved with the triathlon community. I think of my status as professional triathlete almost like I think of being a student in a triathlon school. I am learning so much at this stage, as an athlete. When I am finished competing I will have acquired so much knowledge about training, equipment, nutrition, etc. Which all complements my background in biological sciences. So, when I am done competing I hope to have laid a solid foundation for myself so that I can continue in the sport as a coach, race director, training facility owner, sport scientist ... who knows!

5. Because others believe in me. There is no question that if my friends, family and sponsors did not support me, I would not have been able to choose this path. My parents are my biggest fans and do whatever they can to help me on my journey. My husband put his own dreams on hold, and does everything he can to help me achieve mine. My family and friends understand when I have to go to bed at 8pm (or 6:30!) and miss important events (that I really want to be at, but can't). My coach spends endless hours perfecting my training plan, he leaves me notes of motivation when he can't attend a hard training session, ... (and that's just the start). My fellow cyclists at WattsUp show interest in my races or camps and offer their best wishes. My team of health care practitioners go out of their way to fit me in for last-minute appointments. My sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management, Raymond James, WattsUp, Urban Athlete, Eload, Cervelo, and Enduro Sport, want to see me as an ambassador for their brand.

6. I wouldn't be happier doing anything else. No explanation needed.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Time Trial Day!

Today, after my successful time trial up Mount Lemmon (yay!), I happened to have another epiphany. I started thinking about how far I have come in just 4 years...In January of 2010, my max 20 minute power was 182W or 3.1W/kg... and today, March 2013, I held 210W or 4.0W/kg for 50 minutes. I started thinking about the reasons that could have led to such an improvement..was it dedication and motivation on my part? maybe, but I had always been dedicated to my training. Was it that I am training more? yes, that might be a factor...but training more is only beneficial if you are training smarter, as well. I came to the realization that there was one main reason for my improvement that led to all the others. That reason is WattsUp Cycling.

So, my epiphany today, was about why WattsUp is so great. Some people think it's too "hard-core" and others think it's not "hard-core" enough. But the truth is that any person, beginner cyclist to professional athlete, can go there to realize their true potential as an athlete, and, in some cases, as a person. If you don't believe me, look around the studio the next time you there. You will see all sorts of people who exemplify what I am talking about.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Arizona Training Camp Day 9, 10 and 11

You may have been wondering...what has Miranda been doing these past 3 days? Has she been slacking off? Did she give in to tacos and tequila and stop training? Do not worry - I promise you that hasn't been the case.

Swimming has been going very well. I have continued to swim with the University of Arizona Masters group this past week. Monday we had an aerobic workout of 4700 yards as I mentioned in the Day 8 post and Wednesday was a speed workout of about 3700 yards. However, my speed and aerobic pace seem to be quite similar when I am tired. Nonetheless, I think I was able to have a bit of speed over a distance of 12.5 to 25 yards, which was a big part of the workout on that was OK. Today I swam on my own at the Golf Course pool...I did a lot of technique, easy swimming and some swim specific core work. My new favourite core strengthening exercise involve swimming freestyle with the pull buoy around your ankles (use a band tied around both so that the pull buoy doesn't slip off during flip turns). In the past 4 days I think I have completed 11,600 yards in just 3hrs.

Cycling has been a bit of a struggle this week, but I am pushing through. Tuesday (Day 9) I completed a set of 7x1' all out on the computrainer. The plus of this workout was that this week I didn't feel like puking and I pushed higher power than last week so that was a good sign! The rest of the cycling has been mostly aerobic, outdoors, on the TT bike. I climbed Mount Lemmon at a controlled effort on Tuesday and then toured the Saguaro National Park during my 4hr ride on Wednesday. Today I did 5x10' intervals at race pace on the TT bike within a 95km ride. Although, today race pace seemed like VO2max pace! I even cried during the last interval :( So there I was on Sabino Canyon Road, bouncing over top of potholes, crying, sweating and still trying to stay focused on maintaining the appropriate power. And guess what? I ended up being 3 Watts above race pace for that interval. Emotional Miranda can still be tough!

Running is going well...I say that because I am still able to run at this point. If all continues to go well (meaning I stay injury free), I think I am on pace for record mileage this week. However, when I crammed for the Marathon in 2009 I think I did 3x 25-30km runs in a week, so maybe not (obviously that was before I had a coach, I don't recommend that type of training, ever!). Tuesday was just an easy 30' run off the bike, Wednesday I finished off a 6hr day with a 13.1km run and today was 4km at 4'/km pace right after my 95km ride. run mileage for the week is at 46km with a 6km run tomorrow and a 28km run on Saturday. Hopefully I make it.

Alright...that pretty much sums up training for the past 3 days! Off to bed!


Mount Lemmon on Tuesday

Saguaro National Park on Wednesday

Broken Forerunner 210 :(

Before this morning's swim

I am so going to miss these mountains!

I could eat them all right now

The mountains at night

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

6 hours of Zone 2 gets you thinking...

Today I decided to try a new cycling route, here in Tucson. I had found a few routes already that I liked, with wide bike lanes, little traffic, few stop lights, and I was very happy riding them. However, I decided that today I would take a chance and try some new roads. And, guess what? I managed to find the best route yet...along the Old Spanish Trail. Nicely paved, barely any other cars, and it went on for miles and miles. I was having such an enjoyable time while riding that I started thinking. I was so happy I had decided to take a chance on a new and unknown route, just like I am so happy with some of the changes I have made about myself recently.

I have always been a stubborn person. For the longest time, I was convinced that I knew the right decisions to make when it came to my life. I rarely took other people's advice in this matter, because I was always sure that I knew what I needed better than anyone else could. However, very recently, I decided to become more open to listening to the guidance of others. And I honestly believe that, because of this change, I have grown more as a person in the past few months than I had in the previous few years before. Yes, there is something to wanting to make all your own decisions that gives you the sense that you are in control, which is satisfying. But it can also close you off to good suggestions and ideas from others who may have more experience than you. Since I have actually started listening and taking people's advice I think I have become a better athlete and a better person.

Promise to have a more training related blog post tomorrow :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Arizona Training Camp Day 8

Today was the 8th day of my Arizona Training Camp. Of course it was another great day! I had a great swim in the morning - even though the body was feeling a little heavy. The people in the lane I swim in are awesome. They are all super supportive and always encouraging. It's really amazing how much you can push yourself when you surround yourself with other motivated people. Today, there was even a new addition to the lane: a fellow female Pro triathlete and Kona top 10 finisher (yes, I was a bit star-struck. lol). I chose a bit of a hilly and scenic route for my 2hr ride on the road bike - I much prefer to tackle the hilly and not as nicely paved roads with Tej than Veloce. Later during the day, I did my i-feel-like-i'm-going-to-puke treadmill interval run, which wasn't as bad as last week.

I am starting to feel the effects of the cumulative stress that I am putting on my body. During my swim I started to feel some tightness in my right calf, which started to bother me a little bit more on my bike ride. Luckily, my calves felt fine on the run, but my left quad started getting tight. It's usually around this point during heavy training, when you are feeling a bit worn down, that you really have to listen to your body. It becomes a difficult balance between stressing your body in a good way and stressing it in a bad way. You need to know what the key workouts are and which ones can be cut a little bit short if a muscle is tight or you are super low on energy. At the end of most of your workouts during this phase of training I believe that you should still have a little bit left in you. This means that your muscles should not feel heavy, tight or sore by the end. You could have gone for longer or harder if you wanted to. Don't get me wrong, it is important to push yourself during a session, but you do need to be a bit more careful when you are already tired from accumulated heavy training.

Sorry, no pictures to post! Hopefully I will have some for tomorrow :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Arizona Training Camp Day 6 & 7

The weekend has come and gone and it was a fabulous one! The highlights: my 26km run along the sunny Tucson roads, a relaxing hour and half massage, spending some quality time with Mamma and Papa and just enjoying being some place warm.

I was pretty exhausted when I woke up on Saturday morning. I guess I was getting used to the feeling though, because I still hopped out of bed at 6am to do a round of my core routine. Then I made some coffee, had a small pre-run breakfast and relaxed for a little bit. Before too long, I was on the computrainer for a 30' easy spin at high cadence/low power to get my legs ready for my long run. I can't say I was too excited for this particular workout. Past run injuries still haunt me and I still get nervous before a long run. I started out nice and easy and under control. I hadn't run this distance in the past few years so I didn't want to burn out too early. The first 13.5km were a net downhill, but still included a few ups and downs. My legs did not like the ups that's for sure, but I did get rewarded on the downhills. From km 13.5 to 17 it was pretty flat and along a nice path that ran parallel to the used-to-be-river-turned-sandbox at the base of the Catalina Mountains. A few of the cyclists that went by me even commented on my "fast pace" and this helped to motivate me :) When I got to km 17 I knew that the rest of the way was pretty much uphill. There would be a few downhills, but I had to climb about 200m in the next 9km. At least the route was scenic :) As I approached the last 4kms I was on pace for a 2hr run (4'38/km) which is a little slower than my base pace, but considering all the hills and how tired I was this made me happy. Soon enough I was back home and eating a big post-run breakfast. I was officially in "recovery mode"... with no training till Monday!


How did I start of my recovery? With a nice 90 minute massage...I found a massage place about 2km away that offered deep tissue massage. This was just perfect. I guess I needed it, because the RMT said I should have booked 2hrs! However, he was able to get the tightness out of the most crucial spots: low back and the legs. I felt so good afterwards: nice and light. Next on the agenda was some relaxing at homee. I made a caeser (with extra celery salt) and some lunch and played Dominoes with Mamma and Papa. After just 2 rounds I was losing by about 50 points :( I did make a bit of a comeback, but Papa was the overall winner. The rest of the day continued with some champagne, watching the sunset and a nice dinner.


Water (to rehydrate) & a ceaser (for the anti-oxidants!)

Bunny came for a visit

Walking to dinner

Sunset in Tucson

Me enjoying the sunset in Tucson

Sunday morning I was up to say goodbye to Papa...and a few hours I was saying hello again! Papa's flight had been cancelled and he wouldn't be able to leave Tucson until the next day. I can't say I was disappointed :) This meant another day to spend relaxing with him and Mamma...and, even better, was that this called for a sushi lunch. After some sashimi and spicy salmon rolls we headed back to the house and just relaxed all afternoon. I read for a bit, wrote this blog and now I might have a nap. Tomorrow begins with a early swim, a bike and then all out efforts on the treadmill!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Arizona Training Camp Day 5

Day 5 of training camp began with an early morning swim. I found my way into the correct pace lane today for a nice long, aerobic set. It was a really cool freestyle set of a mix of 100s, 200s and 400s and some descending. Then, once the arms were already tired, it was time to put the paddles and pull buoy on to really fatigue those arms! You don't get stronger if you don't work hard. Now, I have two days off swimming to allow the muscles to repair and don't get stronger if you don't rest and recover, either. After practice I made a Starbucks stop...and brought home a triple grande latte, a dry triple cappuccino and an americano for Mamma, Papa and me :)


I had a few hours of relaxing. I took a short nap outside under the Tucson sun and performed some minor bike surgery (Tej, my S5, needed new brake pads, some cleaning and a fully charged battery). I was prepped and ready to go for my second attempt at Mount Lemmon...only today I would tackle the hill with Tej instead of my tri bike...and it would be a timed 15km TT up the hill! Ouch. I hoped I could ascend fast to limit the amount of time I had to spend suffering.

Nap time (guess the coffee wasn't too effective)

As soon as I hopped on my bike I knew that today would be a bit of a struggle. The legs were heavy, stiff and burned with every turn of the pedal. "OK", I thought to myself..."I need to find some mental tricks to cope with this"... I didn't have any...I had used them all up in the previous days! haha. Luckily the legs did start to loosen up a little bit on the ride to the mountain...they started feeling better and better and at the 1 hour mark they were much more ready to climb. So, today I learned how important a long warm-up is when you are feeling sluggish! Now, I definitely didn't feel fresh...but who does near the end of the bike leg during a half-ironman? Hopefully, no one or they didn't work hard enough. So that's how I approached the climb...I just wanted to do my best with low energy levels, like at the end of a race. And, before I knew it, I was off...I kept the cadence around 80rpm, power around 4W/kg and counted down: 1km, 2km...oh my god I was only at 3km! 12 more to go...what!?! but I just kept pedaling. I focused on my breathing, keeping my cadence high, engaging my glutes, relaxed elbows and shoulders...I needed to have perfect cycling technique, because I needed any extra Watt it would give me. Every 2km, if the hill was steep enough, I would get up out of the saddle for 30" and push, hard! At 4km to go Mamma and Papa arrived in the car...they were cheering and waving (I later found out that the entire time Papa was nearly having a panic attack because he's afraid of heights!). This gave me a bit of extra energy...I was at an average power of 3.9W/kg (my absolute power number isn't as impressive. lol) and I just wanted to maintain that for the rest of the climb. I don't know how I made it, but I did! 15km, 48:26, 3.9W/kg! Yay! I took a few pictures with Mamma and Papa near the top and then it was time for the descent. I am VERY happy to report that I did not touch the brakes on the way down. In fact, I was on the drops for most of the climb :) I had a nice relaxing ride back to the house and then an easy 6.5km run. Training was done for the day!


More Climbing (my swimmer shoulders just won't stay relaxed!)

At the top with Mamma

Mamma and Papa

The Descent

Next, we headed out to lunch at La Cocina. We got to sit outside on the patio and I was very excited to order a cheeseburger and an extra-thick milkshake! I am STILL full 4hrs later. If anyone every visits Tucson I would highly recommend this place. On the drive home we scouted out a good route for my 26km run tomorrow. Ugh, my legs start to hurt again just thinking about it! BUT...Sunday is an OFF day!!!

With Papa

With Mamma


Didn't last long


Mamma and Papa