Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Utah Training Camp: The Day I Questioned Everything

Today was one of those days. You know, those days when something happens that makes you really question the direction you have taken with you life. This used to happen a lot when I was in school: a few bad tests and I would question whether I was taking the right courses. It happened when I was a waitress: a few bad tips and I would worry that I wasn't cut out for the job. It happened when I was doing research: a failed experiment (for the 5th time in a row) and I would question whether I was really cut out to be a scientist. Etc, etc. I'm sure everyone has these days, when they question whether they are good enough at their job, and they worry that they made the wrong decision to pursue that particular field. It is scary to think that you are not good enough at something that you have made so many sacrifices for. Today, I had one of those days on the bike.

The day started out pretty well as I had a pretty good swim. I had done some all-out 50s, 100s and 200s the night before so I was lacking my speed, but I felt like the energizer bunny in the water. I could just keep going and going at pace just below threshold. I finished my swim and I was happy. I knew I was on track to be as fast or faster than the previous year.

A few hours later I was on my bike. I had a nice and easy 30km ride to Sand Hollow Park. Yes, there was a bit of a headwind, but nothing too crazy. In fact, there was an awesome tailwind for the last little stretch which was quite fun. However, as soon as I turned a corner I was in for a shock. I guess because Sand Hollow is nothing but open sand fields and farms, the wind gets pretty crazy there. I had never felt such a huge cross-wind/head wind. I was going up the first 5km climb at a snails pace as I gripped my bike to avoid being swept off the road. As I approached the top of the climb I thought it would be over soon, but I was wrong. I couldn't even descend the hill in my big chain ring! And going into aero position was out of the question as the wind was tossing me all over the road. This sort of hanging-on-for-dear-life type of cycling went on for about an hour (or 15km) as I desperately tried to make it out of the Sand Hollow alive. Once I was out I had a nice tailwind that took me about 35km, but still, some nasty wind gusts made for a few, very scary, close calls. From 75km - 100km I was back into a headwind and crosswind. At this point I was already pretty tired, just from focusing on staying upright, and this little stretch was very demoralizing as I grinded away in my easiest gear, barely moving forward. Finally I was in the last hard 8km, which involved the crazy ascent up Snow Canyon Drive, with the 18% grades and a 40kph headwind. Just before I approached the climb, another triathlete caught up to me and said "don't worry this is as bad as it gets" ... I had a moment where I thought "oh, thank god", but then the next moment I saw the triathlete speeding away from me up the hill making it look easy. Wow, one second happy and the next back to feeling completely useless. I cried as I ascended the hill, I wondered what the hell I had been thinking signing up for St. George and worrying that I was just not good enough to be a pro triathlete. I questioned all the sacrifices I had made, all the money I had invested and all the hard work I had put in...I could barely make it up this stupid hill! I'm sure some of the other female Pros would have passed me like I was a beginner. I got back to the hotel after 4hrs40minutes of riding and headed out for my 15 minute run. When I was back home I collapsed on the bed and let the tears flow.

After I collected myself and my thoughts (and had the best avocado I have ever eaten in my life, no joke, it was the perfect texture!), I realized that I even after today I can't stop now. I have come this far, worked so hard and I wouldn't have gotten here if I wasn't good enough. This is just a hurdle that I have to figure out how to get through, like so many of the other hurdles I have overcome to get where I am. So...I'm going to keep going...just like I did in the past when I questioned myself...and hope for the best.

(I also happened to read this as soon as I opened my computer to type this blog: "Don’t get demoralised riding your bike on a windy day!" from How to Ride Your Bike Into the Wind) HAHAHA

Friday, April 5, 2013

Utah Day 4 & 5: The Ironman 70.3 Bike Course

The last two days of training have been pretty intense. Yesterday was a 5.5hr training day and today was a 6.5hr training day. Both included riding the Ironman 70.3 St George bike course, which, like the run, is beautiful but deadly.

Yesterday, I had some great company on my ride. I was lucky to meet a fellow triathlete, Charity, who is a super strong cyclist and so nice. We rode the first 60km of the bike course together. We did it at a fairly aerobic pace, with the exception of a few of the climbs. This was nice as we got to take in the gorgeous views on the route, of which there are plenty! The hills in this first section aren't too steep, mostly rolling with a few gradual long climbs. It reminded me a bit of the Tremblant course. We met up with a friend of Charity's, and a Pro triathete, Matt, on the ride. Both Charity and Matt (and Charity's husband, Kirk) run a triathlon team here, DarkHorse (www.dh313.com). Matt rode the rest of the route with me. It was his easy day so I could keep up, barely :) The last part of the course involves a very steep 4km climb up Snow Canyon Drive. During this climb you are surrounded on all sides by the red mountains (they are that colour because of the iron oxide), so at least there is something nice to look at as you are suffering on grades that approach 18%. Once at the top of the climb I breathed a huge sigh of relief, because I knew the rest of the way was downhill! I enjoyed the final stretch of the course as best I could, while making sure I avoided the rumble strips while descending at over 50kph. Scary!

At the start of the bike course

View from the start of the bike course

Today I tackled the bike course AGAIN. Only today I was by myself and I had to include 9x through: 4km at lactate threshold pace then 6km aerobic. I rode 30km out to the start of the course, nice and easy. Then the fun began! Of course, the first 4km was flat and then the next 5km were up hill, then the next 4km were downhill! Blah! At least that meant the 4km were over quicker, but it is tough to ride hard downhill! Anyway, probably good practice. This set actually made the ride seem to go by quite quick, even though I had a headwind today so the actual ride was not much faster than yesterday. By the last 25km I was hurting pretty badly though. My bum hurt, my legs hurt, I was sick of the wind and I just wanted to be back at the hotel. I knew I had the toughest 4km of the course just ahead, but then it was all downhill. I used this knowledge to push myself through the steep climb. I pictured my competitors coming after me and forced myself to keep pushing. I also found that swearing out loud at my coach helped too :) Even though he wasn't around to hear me. Finally, I reached the summit and then coasted back home.

View of the swim course from the 5km mark on the bike course

View from the top of Highland Pkwy on the bike course

Once back at the hotel I changed into my run gear and was quickly off on my run. Of course, my run was not a nice recovery run, but involved 6.5km at race pace on the run course and then an easy 6.5km back. Now, that does not sound so bad until I tell you that the first 6.5km involve 180m of elevation gain! All that after 120km of cycling. I was hurting. I did make it through. I am not quite sure how (I think I actually turned my brain off during the run, somehow).

Next, I ate an embarrassing amount of food and now I'm typing this blog :) Tomorrow, just a swim, and exploring the area. I wish I had the energy to go see Zion National Park, but I am not sure that I will :(

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Utah Day 3: The St. George 70.3 Run Course

I was another beautiful day in St. George today! I woke up to another beautiful sunrise among the pink and orange mountains. The day started off with a swim, then a short bike and then a run on the St. George 70.3 run course.

I had a pretty good swim today. Two sets of 10x100, the first on 1'20/100yd pace and the next on 1'15/100yd pace. The goal being to try and hold 70.3 pace... which is about 1'18/100m in a pool. If I can do that then I will be able to swim in the chase group in the St. George race... amongst some of the top female pros. So...that is my focus for the next month :) I spent the winter working on my technique, developing strength with lots of pull paddles and core work, plus, I worked on getting my top speed a bit quicker (31.5" for a 50m free!). Now I have this new focus, 1'18/100m for 2000m

View from the pool

Next workout was a short bike, which I did on the run course, and then I ran the course itself. Wow, either I am lucky that I know what I'm getting myself into on race day or I'm an idiot for knowing what's coming and being scared by it. I will let you know after the race! The run course is beautiful, but deadly. It starts off with a nice, gradual uphill for about 4km, then, just when your legs are really starting to feel it, there is about 1km of 8-10% grade of uphill. Nice! Then there are some rollers (not gentle rollers, steep rollers!) until a nice downhill to the turnaround, but then you have to run up again. Anyway, I'm sure you get the picture. I managed to run it under control, a nice Zone 2 heart rate got me a time of 1:39. Going to have to be about 10 minutes faster on race day.

The next adventure of my day was a trip to the local tri shop in St. George, High Knees. I met the super friendly people working at the shop and I got to sign the Pro shirt alongside names like Trevor and Heather Wurtele and Angela Naeth. So cool! The shop had some pretty awesome Lazer helmets and other cool gear.

Now, I am at Starbucks, typing my blog because I have no internet access at my hotel. The staff told me it was because they have so many people staying with them. Nice. I guess that's what you get for $60/night :(

Pictures today:

View of St. George from the run course

More of St. George from the run course

And...more of St. George from the run course

The other side of the run course

Pinkish-orange rocks

Pro shirt at HK

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More Training Adventures: Utah Day 1 & 2

As many of you may know, I will be racing the Ironman 70.3 St. George on May 4th. This race is the US Pro Championships, so I will be up against the best triathletes in North America... including multiple ironman and 70.3 winners, Kona champions, Olympians...etc. Most of the females I will be racing have already competed one, two or three races this year. I will have not.

The reason for this is simple. I am still a "beginner" compared to these other girls, so I need a longer off-season (as in off-racing season) in order to make progress in the sport. Having a long period of time dedicated to just training has allowed me to take the time to improve in the areas where I am weaker. You can't do this and race at the same time. A lot of the seasoned and successful pros have already fixed their weaknesses, so, now they focus more on trying to improve their strengths. The best way to do this is to race. So they race and I do not and that's OK.

My point... if I can't race to prepare for the St. George 70.3, then I can do the next best thing: train in St. George! So that is what has brought me to the south west corner of the US this time :)

I flew into Las Vegas, Nevada yesterday. I was in the row right behind first class and there was no one in the middle seat of my row. So, basically, it was the next best thing to first class. I got to sprawl out during the flight, watch movies...(Life of Pi and then Twilight *LOL*) and I was one of the first off the plane :) I had no issues getting my bike, no problems getting the rental car (I even got a free upgrade!) and no problems getting on the I-15 North to St. George. It was a beautiful 1.5hr drive. Especially once I got to the Northwest corner of Arizone ... I got to go right through the mountains. I attempted to take a few photos while driving, but they really don't do the scenery any justice. Probably a good thing, since if I had paid more attention to the photos I might have ended up crashing into the mountains. haha.

Once I arrived, I threw everything into the hotel room and headed out for my run. Wow, I felt super sluggish and it was very very windy! I barely managed to keep a semi-decent pace, but in the end I put in a 6.5km run in 30 minutes. Not too bad. Next I headed to get groceries. I also found out that Utah doesn't have the same laws as California and Arizona...you can't get wine in the the grocery store! So guess where I headed next? :) A Pro triathlete still likes to enjoy a little wine and chocolate for dessert after a hard training day. Back at the hotel I made dinner, unpacked, watched an episode of Revenge and headed to bed. I was exhausted.

I woke up today still feeling a little bit stiff. I had been going non-stop since Thursday getting ready for the trip, training, preparing for Easter, running errands, so this didn't surprise me. Nevertheless, I was still excited for my morning swim. I grabbed some coffee from the hotel lobby and headed to the pool. I even got to admire a beautiful sunrise on my drive. The colours in the sky and the clay soil on the mountains made everything a blend of orange, pink and red. It was breathtaking.

The pool here is indoors, but still beautiful. I had a good 4800 yard swim and I even met a super nice triathlete who I may ride with later this week. Her husband even called me to tell me a good route for my 2hr easy ride today! And they invited me to dinner on Saturday! Trip was definitely off to a good start.

The bike route that I was told about was amazing. A few steep hills to start and finish the route, but most of the ride was rolling. There was little to no traffic and I was surrounded by pink and orange mountains on all sides. To be honest though, even though the route was great, the ride wasn't all enjoyable...there was a killer crosswind, my legs were sluggish, and I was sooo thirsty! I finished off 1500mL of eLoad in less than an hour and a half, which left me without fluid for the last 30 minutes of the ride. Oh well, getting used to the weather in St. George and how to properly hydrate for it is why I'm here!

After my ride it was time for some relaxing. This meant food (english muffin with peanut butter and banana, a box of blueberries and a cliff bar) and water...then me lying in bed realizing I ate too fast! Would I pay for it on my run? Surprisingly, a couple hours later I was feeling fine and I headed out for my hour run. Legs felt heavy at first, but they seemed to get lighter with every km. The wind was lightening up a little bit too, which was nice, and I actually had quite an enjoyable first 35 minutes. Then I got back to the hotel and hopped on the treadmill for my sprints...but the treadmill maxed out at 3mph! HAHA. So much for treadmill sprints! I ran to a nice bike path that had zero traffic on it and did my 30" sprints there. A PERFECT solution...I was pleased :) A nice way to end Day 2 of training camp.

Tomorrow I get to tackle a 70.3 specific swim set in the pool, and a brick that involves tackling the super tough St. George run course!

*Unfortunately I am unable to post photos, for some reason :( Ill be posting them on twitter, though :)