Monday, October 28, 2013

St. George Update: Detour to California!

This weekend I decided to take a quick break from Utah to go watch Janet finish a 200 mile bike race in Furnace Creek! She did AMAZING in the event, climbing thousands of meters and finishing in under 13 hours. I thought I would post some pictures from beautiful Furnace Creek:

Friday, October 25, 2013

St. George Training: Update #4

It has been 4.5 weeks since I left Toronto to begin my training adventure in the US! A brief stop in Georgia for Ironman 70.3 August, followed by a cross-country road trip to Utah, then some epic training here, unlike I have ever done before. I have successfully completed 2 of 4 training blocks. And, in just over 4 weeks, I will arriving back home to Toronto, for a much needed break. Then, I will start training for my 2014 season in December!

This training block included 3 easy days then 8 days of hard training...95km of running, 450km of cycling and 20km of swimming. The training block finished today with a 37.3km run. You can imagine how I felt this morning, already feeling beat up from my biggest ever training week, knowing that I had to complete a marathon (almost!). To add insult to injury, I had to get in a bike workout just prior to the run, of supra-maximal intervals. Ouch! However, the workout was a success...I followed coach's orders and descended each 12.4km section. I was definitely hurting at the end, but not as much as I expected. I think I'm getting used to these super long workouts. I am sure that it helps that I have also worked on increasing the number of calories, and, especially fluid that I take in during these sessions. Don't underestimate nutrition!!

Tomorrow, after a short swim, I will head to California to watch one of WattsUp's superstar cyclists, Janet Wilson, compete in the Death Valley Double Century (200 mile road cycling event). You don't see many people with the work ethic and determination as this woman. No doubt she has spent hours suffering in WattsUp's hot box and probably gone on 100 - 200 mile rides in the cold weather of northern Ontario to prepare herself. She is one of the people that truly inspires me. And I am so excited to get to cheer her in at the finish line, with fellow WattsUp athlete, and another superstar cyclist, Julie Toole. View more information about Janet's race here

Another exciting bit of news is that Kirk and Charity (my hosts in St. George) opened up their bike shop this week! They specialize in building and fitting bikes, Argon 18 and Felt. AND they ship to check them out here.

That's it for today's post...bedtime :) Photos:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

St. George Training: Update #3

The past three weeks I have been living in some sort of dream. It's been eat, then train, then eat, then write training programs for my athletes and do work, then train, then eat, then Skype, then sleep, repeat...for some people this might sound much to boring, or lonely, or both. But I love it. There are definitely days when I think it would have been easier, less risky and much more profitable to work in a regular day job. But so long as I can scrape by doing something I love, I am going to do it. I just don't want to have any regrets.

So, now onto the important lessons I have learned during this training block so far:

(1) It is possible to get faster for each repeat when you are doing a set of 4 x 1000 in the pool, or to negative split a 30km run, or to hold a higher power in the last 90km of a 180km bike than in the first 90km. How? It's called pacing. Many people go out too hard, thinking "this is gonna be the breakthrough workout I've been hoping for, and I'm going to be able to hold 50W higher than my previous long ride". This is not the mindset to have...I would suggest starting out holding the same power that you averaged on your last ride of a similar distance, then, push the pace in the last half or last third of the workout. A lot of my long workouts have had this focus...I have started easy, then gradually increased the pace or the power as the workout goes on. It is extremely important to get a feel for proper pacing when doing long workouts, to prevent burning out later on.

(2) Always have a growth mindset in training, because, just like life has its ups and down, so does a swim, bike or run! Having a growth mindset means being an optimist, searching for the positives, thinking of how take control and improve the situation. So that is the approach I have taken during this training block. If you just don't have the swimming arms in the pool, you can seize the opportunity to switch the focus to technique and drills...if you feel your legs are too heavy to run, you think about what good training it is to run when you don't feel good (assuming you can keep proper technique)...if your forgot your sunglasses on a bike ride, well, your sunglasses might fall off in a race, so you use it as a new experience! :)

(3) A 7.5hr training day doesn't feel quite as bad the second time around! After last week's longest ride ever, which I barely managed to descend (from low zone 2 in the first half to high zone 2 in the second half), I felt like death. I could barely muster up the energy to head out for a run afterwards. The run was less than epic at 8 minutes/mile pace...However, yesterday I nailed my power targets on the bike (which was 20km longer) and then ran at a 7:23/mile pace off the bike! I was still pretty dead at the end, but I heard this quote from fellow WattsUp athlete, "It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster". And it's true!

(4) A random epiphany (there's going to be those during endless hours of training!): The bad decisions you make have more weight than the right decisions you make and the things that go wrong have more weight than the things that go right. And it's the same thing with could put in a million hours of training and preparation, but a moment or one poor decision can end it all. If you mess up your taper or nutrition, get sick or you suffer a mechanical problem or you ends your race.

Well...that's all for now :)

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

St. George Training: Update #2

I have completed my first block of training here in St. George. From October 7th to the 14th, I ran 80km, rode 400km, swam 20 kms and did some core/strength training, for a total of 28 hours of training! Before I comment more I just want to thank the many people who have been supporting me, especially while I've been here - so far away. In the past few days I have received texts, emails, Skype calls and even a letter in the mail(!), from people telling me that they believe that I really can become the triathlete that I strive to be, one day. I have never had so much support for something in my life. Your kind words of encouragement help more than I can describe. On those long rides, in the cold weather, when my legs feel like they can't turn another pedal stroke or I can't run another step, your words are with me and getting me through. So, thank you.

Since my last post (October 7th) I have had some epic swim sets, my longest ride ever and my longest run of the year and I have learned a lot (bypass the first two if you don't like sciency details!):

1. Nutrition is more important than ever on long training sessions. I learned an important lesson this past week: you don't eat during a long training session => your don't have fuel at the end of your session => you can't go fast => you get discouraged! A person can store about 1400 - 2000 calories as glycogen in your liver and muscles (leaner and stronger and well trained athletes can store more) and you have almost an endless supply of fat supplying calories. But you need glycogen to provide glucose as a quick source of energy & to help utilize fat for energy (I won't get into the biochemistry!!) Since I am used to training sessions never being more than a few hours I have never needed to worry too much about fuel. I could rely on my previous meal and eLoad during my sessions. However, since I am burning 3000 or more calories during these recent multi-hour training sessions, I need to eat during, and eat a lot! Digestion and exercise are not easy to do at the same time and, I have realized, require training! So that is what I need to work on next time.

2. Drinking is also important during any training session, regardless of duration. More science for you: you lose lots of fluid during exercise, mostly as sweat (even in the pool!) and when you lose fluid, your blood volume goes down and your heart rate increases as a result (not good). So how much do you need to drink? There are all sorts of experts out there with contradicting opinions and they will tell you different things. Everyone is unique and, if you can afford it, can do a sweat test to figure out your own needs. I am taking the approach that I need as much fluid as my stomach will allow...about 500 - 750mL per hour (apparently there are some elite ironman athletes that drink close to 1L per hour!). Important to keep in mind that "fluid" does not mean water. I add about 2 Zone Caps (salt tablets by eLoad) per 750mL and about 1 scoop eLoad and 1 scoop eLoad FLY to water (salt and glucose improve fluid absorption into the gut and help regulate electrolyte balance and provide calories, respectively). On my most recent long run I made some miscalculations which resulted in my only taking in 300mL per hour and a HUGE side cramp in the last 40 minutes of the run and a HUGE loss in weight. Not good for performance (or my attempt to negative split a 33km run)!

3. WattsUp socks can also double as cycling gloves. Night before my long ride, 2 gloves go into washer and dryer and only 1 comes out...I could do my ride with one glove (Micheal Jackson style?) or wear socks on my hands and have a matching set. I chose the latter, with the spot for the heel in the sock doubling as the spot for my thumb. Perfectly functional: I had no trouble shifting gears, braking and my hands stayed toasty warm!

4. When you are desperate, a city block in Ivins, Utah can double as a running track for 1km intervals! Track meet on the nearby track meant I had to improvise and find a city block to do my 1km repeats on. Not only did it work, but I had my fastest times for 1K intervals ever!

5. There are so many friendly people who live in St. George, from the clerk at the grocery store, to the barista at Starbucks to people I meet in the pool and out walking their dog. I don't know whether it's the nice weather or scenery or the outdoorsy lifestyle out here, but everyone is super friendly. Especially the family I have been living with: Kirk, Charity, their daughter Selah, two dogs and two cats! I have never been treated so well. Charity even cooked me an AMAZING thanksgiving dinner (even though US thanksgiving isn't until November).

6. If you choose to pursue a crazy dream, one that is risky and one that has the potential of setting you back further than when you started it, you can't have any hesitations once you are on that path. You can't listen to the voices of doubt inside your head, you can't listen to the people who don't believe in you, you can't look have to keep on going, keep on thinking positively, repeating the words of support that you do get. Keep setting little milestones for yourself on your path toward that big milestone. That is the only way you have a chance of reaching that seemingly impossible dream.

Next training block is set to bring 40 hours of training in 8 days...I will be checking in again soon.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

St. George Training: Update #1

Well, I have finally settled in St. George, Utah, where I will be until November 10th! The plan is to get in some epic training to build a solid base for next season and maybe do a race at the end of it all.

My mom and I began the adventure from Augusta, Georgia to St. George on September 30th. It was an epic drive...full of the usual silliness during the day and the desperate need for wine at the end of it. It was a long 3 days of driving, way too many trucks, sketchy rest stops, bad roadside food, and lots of taking apart and putting my bikes back together, etc. etc. However, luckily, the last day of driving was mostly through the Grand Canyon area and it was absolutely beautiful. New Mexico, Arizona and Utah are gorgeous states to drive through...the terrain is always changing from pink and red rock, to rolling desert, to mountains with pine trees all around. On October 2, we finally arrived at our destination! Mamma left the next day (by plane) and I started my triathlon training adventure.

My triathlon training started out with 3 rest days. Yup, rest days! You might be confused my this, but you shouldn't be. Most triathletes underestimate the need for rest and keep pounding out the miles, day after day, wondering why they don't get stronger. I have said this before, your muscles only get stronger if you let them rest. Training tears down the muscles and depletes them of glycogen and other such nutrients. Resting allows the muscles to rebuild themselves, to stock themselves full of glyocogen and allow you to go further and faster the next time you need too. If you don't rest, then the muscles never get the chance to rebuild and you actually get weaker. No only that, but constant hard training lowers your testosterone levels and you can't build muscle without testosterone! So, yes, I started out my training with rest days to ensure that I was ready for the training to come.

I eased back into training on the weekend. Saturday started out with an easy swim and an easy brick workout later in the day. It was definitely a "brushing out the cobwebs" type of day. My swim was just an easy/medium effort with no pace times and lots of drills and technique work, just to get my feel for the water back. The bike started out a bit sluggish, but after not too long I was feeling good again and strong. I had to watch that I didn't get my power too high on some of the climbs. The run off the bike felt dogs to chase me here and I was holding a good pace at a low heart rate. Sunday was another short run and a bike. Energy was soaring at this point and I was anxious to get back into some harder training. Patience has never been a strength of mine and it was definitely being tested. But I held back, knowing that the hard training was just around the corner.

Today, the day I would get to start my hard training again, FINALLY arrived. I pretty much hopped out of bed at 5:30am, had a coffee and was off to the pool. The pool was even set up to meters instead of yards so that got me extra excited (oh, the things that make a triathlete happy...). Today was a sprint workout three sets of 8x50 on 1:00 as fast as possible, followed by a 200 at above race pace. I was a bit worried that I would be way slower, given that I hadn't done a real workout in a week...but it didn't go too badly. I had good energy throughout and, while my times were a bit slower than usual, I know that my feel for the water will be back soon. After my swim I came home for some breakfast and then I made a recipe from Allen Lin's cookbook: coconut chocolate chip rice cakes. I need to practice taking in some solid food on my rides and so this cookbook offers a bunch of alternatives to the usual Clif bars and other such packaged foods. My homestay host, Charity, also got motivated to make some healthy energy bars...don't be fooled by the photo - they actually tasted pretty good :) Charity is an AWESOME cook and has been feeding me very well. Later on in the day I hopped on my road bike for a 2 hour ride. The time passed way too quickly as I was so distracted by the beautiful scenery! I will never get sick of the red mountains.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from my trip :)

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