Friday, November 7, 2014

Week 7: More set backs

I wish that I could report that training has been going well and consistently for the past 7 weeks. However, I can't report on that yet. I had been training for 5 weeks relatively pain free, with the exceptions of some muscle spasms in my left leg. Then 2 weeks ago I hit another major set-back. My knee pain came back and worse than ever. It hurt to swim, bike and run. What does a triathlete do when that happens? Cry? YUP! Question life as they know it? YUP! Want to give up on the sport entirely? YUP! Eat a lot of sugar to feel better? YUP! Watch 10 episodes in a row of Friday Night Lights? YUP!

Successful pro athletes have to give up A LOT for the sport. They have to be inherently selfish to do well, because EVERYTHING they do matters to their performance. To be the best I strongly believe you don't just complete you training. You also have to eat the right foods, get the right amount of sleep, do your best to limit any "outside stresses", etc. It's not easy to do and requires tons of sacrifice. When training is going well and your performance is improving, it is a lot easier to cope with the sacrifices you are making. When you aren't doing well or you are injured, it isn't as easy. If you are like me you feel useless because you don't have anything to identify with if it's not your sport...the time you have spent neglecting friendships becomes evident as you scroll through Facebook to see photos of events you were left out of, because you have declined them every time in the try to take control by coming up with injury prevention plans and strategies for distracting yourself from the look for a part-time job online to fill the time that you would have otherwise spent training. It's not a fun place to be!

Luckily, in these past few days I think that I have accepted the situation. I can't run right now. That's that. The swimming has come back a little bit. I have joined the Kim Lumsdon Swim and Triathlon Club and I LOVE IT! Kim has swum across Lake Ontario many times and is an inspirational lady and a great coach. I am VERY out of shape, but Kim has put me in the fast lane with some super star swimmers and said that I'll get faster. Here's hoping! The biking I can do at a very low power. Luckily I can use my altitude machine to stimulate riding at 12,500 feet and I can ride at really high cadences (like 120-130rpm!) so I can still get my heart rate up with very little load on the legs. I am also proud to say that I can do 3 complete chin-ups in a row (chin-ups are great for your core!). I am not optimistic yet and my 2015 season is definitely undecided for now, but at least I have accepted the "one day at a time" approach and am much less negative these days!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 1: Getting Back Into Things

It's been about 1 week since I was able to start training again! So far things are OK, but far from ideal. When you first get back into things after injury it's not easy! No doubt every athlete has been in my situation at one time or another. It's a mix of emotions, including an anxiousness to resume training, fear of re-injury, frustration about not being fit and maybe some worry about gaining weight!

So, what is my "game plan" for my return to training? Well, I have decided to follow Adam's recommendations (which are rarely the same as what I would recommend for myself!), but usually correct. He's a smart guy. So, I will go 2 months without very much intensity at all. Swimming, biking and running frequently, but never for a long time at once. And all of it in Zone 1 or 2. Especially the running. I will increase the volume gradually each week. I will add in strength training in a couple of weeks. The best time to get stronger is during a time of light aerobic training.

How do I plan to prevent re-injury? I am regularly checking in with a sports doctor and getting treated regularly by my chiropractor, Bill Wells at Urban Athlete. I am also trying to take extra care to self-massage, stretch and strengthen the muscles that were weakened during the injury. I won't run with music either so that I can pay extra attention to any niggles that come up. My runs are mostly on the treadmill, so that I can stop if needed. Or I plan a looped route so that I am never too far from home if I'm running outside.

It is a huge mental battle when you are in this state. I know I am not fit and that is stressful. But stress results in the production of cortisol and cortisol is a hormone that "breaks down" the body. So, I don't want to be stressed! I HAVE to remain positive, despite the situation. I do this by reminding myself that at least I AM able to train right now and, so long as I am patient and don't try to do more training than my body is capable of, I will get a little bit fitter every day. My race season won't start till next spring, so I have lots of time to get fit again. I also get confidence from the fact that I am building a solid base that will prevent re-injury in the future.

Like most competitive athletes, especially female endurance athletes (not all, but some), I am worried about getting fat with so little training! My "natural" self is about 10 pounds heavier than when I am in heavy training and in race shape. So, I know that if I eat normally and don't exercise that is the direction my weight will drift. I need to remind myself that this is OK. Any weight gain will just be used as fuel for when the training ramps up again. I have never had any issues putting on muscle or getting "race fit" (in fact, I tend to lose weight too quickly with training), so a few extra pounds is probably good for me.

Stay tuned for an update in the next couple of weeks!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When it's time to stop fighting.

Some days are bright, some days are grey. Today is a very grey day. I have made the difficult decision to cut my 2014 season short and pull out of Ironman 70.3 Miami and Ironman Arizona.

I take pride in the fact that I am a planner. Right after Ironman last year I had my entire year planned out. I knew what training I would be doing, what races I would be doing and what I should expect from myself in my third year as a professional triathlete. I had made HUGE gains last year. I swam consistently, and was always one of the top girls out of the water. My bike leg was improving, and I was biking about 5 - 10 minutes faster than in 2012. My run hadn't seen many gains from 2012, so that was to be my focus in 2014. Unfortunately, that plan had to be re-worked when I battled an ITB/Hamstring issue that impacted my training from November to February. Which was the time when I expected to make most of my fitness gains. I wasn't pain free until mid-February, and only started running consistently again in March. This gave me 8 weeks to get ready for St. George Ironman 70.3. I think I did well in St. George, all things considered. But I was definitely not making the gains I had hoped for. The running was going well until Syracuse Ironman 70.3 and I was doing it with consistency. In the last mile of Syracuse I landed forcefully on a downhill with a hyperextended knee. This was what has caused the ultimate end to my season. I ran through the knee issues for the rest of the summer, but inconsistently and not without pain. I still managed to fit in two half ironmans in August. I am now paying for those small successes, because I will no longer be able to complete the rest of my season. The diagnosis is a fat pad impingement in my left knee, but I am also getting spasms in the muscles surrounding the knee. The treatment is rest. So I have decided to stop fighting it and for my season, because at this point, fighting won't do a thing. My only plan now is to let myself get healthy again.

This injury combined with other issues I have experienced this year has taught me many lessons. I warn you now, before you continue reading this paragraph, that I am an emotional person. If you don't want to hear me rant on in this manner, then I suggest you stop reading now :) As I grow up, (and yes, I still have a lot of growing up to do!) I have realized that life is not the easy path that you picture it to be. It is full of difficult decisions that you never think you will have to make. You can't be carefree and do things that make you happy without thought, because actions have consequences. What feels good at the time could effect you for the rest of your life. You can't take on too many commitments that you end up spreading your time too thin. And you can't rely on anyone or anything for happiness. In order to be truly happy you have to be able to rely only on yourself. All things that I have learned in the past year and have helped me grow as a person and triathlete.

Thank you very much to my supporters for everything they did this season. I apologize if I let you down.

Special thanks too...

My sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial continue to make my life as a Pro triathlete possible, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Bill Wells (Chiro) at Urban Athlete, Brad Wilson (RMT), all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto, Perfect Fuel Chocolate, Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM, Champion System, X-1 Audio.

The important people in my life: My parents, my sisters, Adam, fellow triathletes and friends.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Steelhead ironman 70.3 - A Mental Battle!

Race one of two 70.3s in two weekends has come and gone. As with every race that lasts as long as a half ironman, it was a mix of many ups and downs. Every time I race I want it to be the perfect day, but it's never going to happen with so many uncontrollable variables. The sport alone consists of 3 disciplines. It's one thing to aim for a peak performance in one on a given day, but for 3? That's even harder. Then there's everything else that could go wrong: losing a water bottle, mechanical issues on the bike, someone racking their bike on yours in transition, blisters, wind, heat, rain, etc. But there is one thing that you can always control if your try, and that's your mindset. Having a positive attitude no matter what happens (because no race is perfect) can turn your day around and lead to a successful race. This is what I learned in Steelhead.

Leading up to this race, Adam and I decided on an easier than normal taper. This was due to the fact that I was a bit more fatigued than usual a week away from the race and the fact that my knee was STILL somewhat painful. So I did very little biking and no running. Usually the week leading up to the race has 3 hour long bike sessions with intensity mixed in, and lots of brick runs. Out of necessity that was not possible this time.

The Swim:

Steelhead is a beach start, which puts me at somewhat of a disadvantage (as most short people will understand!). It is just much harder to run in water when it's up to your quads and not your shins! I had a choice: dolphin dive in very shallow water or TRY to run! I opted for running at first and was quickly in last place. Dolphin dives it was! Or, I should say, face plant into the sand it was! Oops! I finally found something that worked: just swim. I was still at the back of the pack when we reached deeper water. But, luckily, fellow Pro Cait Snow was also close by at that point. So I used her to guide me back to the front of the pack. The swim was pretty uneventful after that. I stuck on Cait's feet the whole swim. I did try to pass her, but I would just ended up swimming beside her and not ahead, so I decided to save some energy and draft. It was comforting to know that I could swim with her, as she was over a minute ahead of me after the swim in Eagleman. I felt my swim had improved since I started training with Bob Hayes at Somerville, in combination with the U of T tri club. This was proof of that. My knee did start to bother me about 3/4 of the way through the swim, however. So I stopped kicking very hard with the left leg. A bit awkward and worrisome. Once we hit the sand at the swim exit I knew it would test the knee. I was able to run just fine through 200m of beach though so that gave me good piece of mind.

The Bike:

After what felt like a long transition I was finally off and on my bike. I expected the legs to feel great and refreshed after such an easy week. Normally they feel pretty good at the start of a race. This didn't seem to be the case today. I felt like I was cycling through sludge from the very beginning. I did my best to stay positive, but it was hard. I couldn't help but think, "if it's this hard right now, how hard is it going to be at 60,70,80 and 90k?" The next series of events didn't help: getting passed quite easily by two other girls early on, my power meter reading wrong (it said I was at around 20-40W throughout most of the course, but I didn't feel THAT bad), the super bumpy Hagar Shore Rd, a calf cramp that forced me to stop pedaling and stand up on my bike to stretch it out several times in the last 30km...getting passed again at 85km and feeling deflated enough to ride the last 5km easy into transition. I had never felt so tired at the end of a ride and I thought about giving up. I just didn't understand how I could have felt so weak. How could my ride be almost 10 minutes slower than in last year's race? I questioned everything: my training, my equipment, my nutrition, my attitude leading up to the race. Mentally I was diving into a dark and unpleasant place.

The run:

A combination of seeing my parents and having a pretty quick transition boosted my spirits a little at the start of the run. This was enough to get me out of my dark hole. That, and I could see the fifth place female just up the road. It looked like she was gaining on me, but I refused to let her. I pushed hard up the 3km uphill run right out of transition always looking down the road at the "carrot" ahead of me. The race operations director, Tom (an awesome guy!), was at aid station one telling me I looked good and relaxed. Then I saw my parents at the top of the hill ringing their cowbells and cheering loudly. I can never smile at the start of the run, though. It's still too soon to tell whether it's going to be an ok run or a complete sufferfest. I acknowledged they were there but kept focused on my goal to make it into fifth. Sooner than expected, I did! The race wasn't over though. I had 16km to go. And I couldn't even run downhill properly because my knee had started to bother me. So, I cautiously ran the rest of the race. I managed to find a good rhythm at km 8, I smiled at my parents when I saw them on the second loop of the run, took in my water and nutrition (it was a HOT day!) and counted down the kms. After what seemed like forever I crossed the finish line in the final podium spot.

I am still unsure of why I had such a tough day on the bike. I had slept and ate well in the 3 days prior to the race, I felt completely at home at my homestay with Loretta, Mike and the dogs and I had an awesome cheering section. My conclusion was that my taper must've been TOO EASY. Probably good to ensure that I had topped up glycogen stores and was injury free for the race, but since it lacked intensity it's possible that my legs were just not primed for a 200W 90km ride. It will be interesting to see how next week's Ironman 70.3 in New Hampshire will go!

Special thank you to:

1. The family I stayed with in Benton Harbor. Loretta and Mike and their dogs made me feel right at home.

2. My parents, who were able to make it down for the race, again! I don't know what I would do without them. (Sorry for making you cry with worry when I passed during the run, Mamma!)

3. My friends, family and fellow triathletes for your ongoing messages of support! And Triathlon Magazine Canada for the write up in their post-race recap! And coaches Adam and Kevin for helping me to get me back on track with my running after my knee injury.

3. My sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial continue to make my life as a Pro triathlete possible, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Bill Wells (Chiro) at Urban Athlete, Brad Wilson (RMT), all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto, Perfect Fuel Chocolate, Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM for my power, Champion System, X-1 Audio.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Managing your injuries

Just when I thought that I was finding my stride after the Syracuse Ironman 70.3, I hit another obstacle! Within the last mile of that race I landed awkwardly on the grassy downhill. I knew that my knee took quite the blow at the time, but still was able to run strong to the finish line. Soon after the race I knew that something was not right. I hoped and wished that the pain would go away. After the race I took about a week off running, thinking that would do the trick. It definitely helped, but I decided to jump right back into hard training on the following Monday. Although I was conscious of the fact that my knee didn't feel quite right, I continued to press on. This was a mistake. Overcompensating for my knee I developed strains in the surrounding muscles and the inflammation in my knee worsened to the point where it hurt to even walk. This forced me to take a necessary break from training at the beginning of this week. You can't really train when it hurts to swim, bike and run :(

My initial reaction to my injury was to sit on the couch, sulk, freak out reading research online for ALL the possible causes of my injury and EAT ALL THE FOOD. Three bowls of ice cream later I re-evaluated the situation. I decided that the best thing to do was to figure out the best way to promote my recovery. Obviously eating tons of sugar wasn't a good start, but here are a few things that I did afterwards:

1) Iced my knee. Probably the obvious thing to do to reduce inflammation. I don't typically take NSAIDs to reduce inflammation, because they can DELAY healing if there is an injury. The inflammation brings in the cells needed to repair the tissue damage. Applying cold stimulates blood flow to the area to bring in those "repair cells". So does elevating the knee above the heart.

2) Made appointments with my awesome chiropractor, Bill Wells, and to get acupuncture. Many people make the mistake of JUST resting, but that can lead to scar tissue forming at the site of injury. Chiropractic techniques and acupuncture help expedite the healing process and reduce the chance of scar tissue forming. These specialists can also help to determine the underlying cause of the pain.

3) Use the foam roller on the surrounding muscles (hamstrings, quads, glutes) to make sure they were all nice and loose. If tight muscles surrounding the knee are the actual cause of the pain then this will help.

4) Booked an ultrasound to rule out anything serious (like a torn ligament, etc.). The worst thing to do is be left guessing what your injury is. Knowing exactly what you are dealing with allows you to better treat the injury and not take any chances rushing back into activity too soon.

5) Rested. Well, tried to. I suffer from a sort of "I can't sit still for more than 10 minutes" type of syndrome. Probably familiar to many triathletes. Some things that helped me rest: fuse beads, solitaire, Netflix...

6) Shifted my mindset from a negative one to a positive one: the extra time I would save by not running meant I would have extra time for stretching, swimming and biking and other things that I enjoy (like going to the zoo with Maddycake!).

7) Tried to eat healthy! You need vitamins and other nutrients for the injury to heal. So, when you are injured it is extremely important to avoid junk foods.

I am happy to report that today I have been PAIN-FREE for a few days AND my ultrasound showed no structural damage to the knee, just a bit of excess fluid (inflammation). I should be ready to run soon :)

This post is dedicated to Pete Miles. Because he was the one who emailed me asking why I hadn't been blogging recently! When I responded that being injured doesn't inspire creativity, I instantly realized what I could blog about.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Syracuse Ironman 70.3: 5th! Slowly making a comeback

I crossed the finish line after Sunday's race, held my hands high, and cried and cried into my parents arms. Not because I was sad, but because I was happy. I didn't win and I didn't have my best performance, but nonetheless, the race was a huge step forward after a tough winter.


I drove down to Syracuse on Friday with fellow triathlete, and new Pro, Mikael Staar Nathan. We arrived at our homestay just before noon and were welcomed by our hosts. Lindsay, another competitor in the race, and her lovely family opened their home to us for the weekend. To compete well you need to be comfortable and that we were! We had all the bagels, peanut butter, bananas and coffee we could want!

From our arrival to race morning it was the usual pre-race routine: Eat (lots of Perfect Fuel Chocolate!), easy swim/bike/run, sleep, repeat until race day. Unlike previous races it was really nice to have company! And be the vet Pro to give guidance to rookie Pro, Mikael! He didn't even criticize my driving too much :)

Oh, one thing of note that happened prior to the race start was that I was having trouble with my rear brake. It was rubbing against the wheel. I took it to Jamie, the AWESOME mechanic at Bike Loft North and he fixed the issue so that I could ride the bike as it was on race day, and informed me I would have to get the rear brake cable replaced as soon as possible! So, a HUGE thanks to Jamie for helping me with my last minute mechanical issues. (My QR is currently in the caring hands of The Bike Zone.)

THE SWIM: 27:20

The swim started off with the usual craziness of a swim start. Unfortunately, I was feeling quite sluggish at the start, despite getting in a decent warm-up. There was just no "zip" at the start so I didn't get a good position after the gun. The result was that I found myself blocked in behind two slower swimmers and had to actually stop swimming to let them get ahead of me so I could swim around them. Once I was able to do that, I pushed hard to catch up to fellow Canadian triathlete, Jenny Fletcher. We swam side by side for awhile and I thought, "OK, let's be strategic here." So I thought, I'll sit on her feet for awhile and then I'll surge ahead and go fast and drag her along and we could do this and work together to be faster. It's hard to communicate this plan to someone while swimming though, so it ended up that we just swam side by side to the swim finish. I exited the water tied for 3rd.

THE BIKE: 2:38:13

The bike started out really well. I was out of transition in 3rd place and had a smooth mount onto my bike at the start of the ride. I was feeling strong and my power was high. Unfortunately, this feeling lasted only about 10 minutes. Jenny passed me at around Mile 5 and I tried to stay with her, but just couldn't. I was watching my power meter and it I knew I couldn't push it to keep up. The first 15km of the Syracuse course is a grind as it's almost all uphill. I knew this beforehand though, so I was prepared. It's always good to know a course prior to the race. Perhaps not every detail, but whether the course is hilly or flat, technical or not, etc. And not just in general, but where it is hilly or technical helps too. This just allows you to be a bit more prepared. Anyway, somewhere in the first 30km the super speedy Beth Shutt passed me like I was riding backwards! Quite demoralizing, but I still saw that my power was where it should be, and that kept me optimistic. It wasn't until the last 20km of the bike that my legs really started to hurt and my power numbers took a bit of a nose dive. My nutrition had been right on and I was well rested for the race, but I hadn't biked over 90km in a month due to all the racing I had been doing and I was certainly paying for it! In the last 10km, I was passed by Heather Leiggi and moved into 6th place. I really had nothing in the legs to get me to race her into transition. This was the hardest part of the race for me and I was so happy when I finally dismounted into T2.

THE RUN: 1:31:14

Still feeling the effects of a tough final leg of the bike, I started my run feeling quite tired. It didn't help that the first mile was uphill and mostly on grass! I really did feel like I had bricks for legs. I saw my parents at the end of that first torturous segment of the run and I was not happy...I had a feeling that the run would be a repeat of my run at Eagleman. I did start to settle in and found my legs once I hit the paved roads. I had about 1.5 miles of flat/rolling road before we would hit the infamous hill that is about a mile long with grades of about 8-10% the whole way. The hill was just as painful as it sounds, and I felt like I was running at a snails pace. But what pushed me along was the fact that I could see Jenny just up ahead. Catching her became my motivation to go strong up that hill. Oh, that and the fact that someone had written on the road "BEAST MODE" (I had this image of myself running like a beast up that hill that almost made me laugh out loud!). And I did manage to catch Jenny and move into 5th just after the turnaround at the top of the hill. I also saw how far back my competitors were...400m, 1.2km, etc. etc. I would have to continue to stay strong if I wanted to hold on to a podium spot. And I was hurting. So I started to focus on what I could control: taking in my nutrition, staying cool by pouring water over my head at the aid stations, taking water and coke as I needed, and focusing on my run form and my breathing. I thought of Adam telling me to "take the shortest line" on the turns and heard him saying "use the downhill" as I descended the steep hill and then the grassy part of the run. Once I reached the turnaround at the halfway point I started assessing how far back the rest of the girls looked like I was actually gaining ground on them and not losing it! How this was possible I didn't know...but it gave me just the boost I needed. The next time I saw my parents I was in good spirits and waved and smiled. I knew I could do this. The rest of the run is a blur as I was so focused on maintaining my speed that I didn't notice anything around me. Even fellow competitors who saw me commented on how focused I looked! Before I knew it I was in the last (and longest!) mile of the course. I pushed as hard as I could and crossed that line and waved my hands in the air. I didn't finish first, but it was a huge personal victory for me.

FINISH TIME: 4:40:20 As I always say, I couldn't have achieved this result by myself. This is especially true this time. Last winter, I suffered through the emotional damage caused by November's "cyberbully" attack and a run injury, among other personal matters. And I was easily at my lowest point. Giving up on the sport seemed so much easier than continuing to go on. Racing and training for an event that lasts as long as a half-ironman doesn't just take physical strength, but emotional and mental strength as well. When you go through personal stress, training can become an outlet, an escape. But at the level that I want to compete at, that much stress is detrimental to everything: training, performance and recovery. But with each word of love and support I receive, which continues to sometimes surprise me (do I really deserve it?), that stress is lifted a little bit. And the road I am travelling on as I pursue my triathlon journey becomes smoother and less lonely. So, a very sincere thank you to everyone for lifting that stress enough for me to put together a solid result in Syracuse.

Special thank you to:

1. The family I stayed with in Syracuse. Lindsay and her family were absolutely wonderful and I couldn't have asked for anything more from them.

2. My parents, who were able to make it down for the race, again! And for ringing their cowbells super loud and dealing with my emotional ups and downs during and after the race.

3. My sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial continue to make my life as a Pro triathlete possible, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Bill Wells (Chiro) at Urban Athlete, Brad Wilson (RMT), all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto, Perfect Fuel Chocolate, Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM for my power, Champion System for the most amazingly comfortable race kit, X-1 Audio for allowing me to train to music (in the rain or pool too) !!!

4. My fellow friends/competitors from Toronto who raced! Mikael - who was 17th male pro in his debut race, Kevin - who had a World Championship qualifying performance, Jessica - who also qualified for Worlds (and cheered me on during the run SUPER loud, no less!), Janet - who PB'd on that crazy tough course! You are all inspiring!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Eagleman: Learning the hard way

Unfortunately, the past weekend did not go so well for me. I had a strong swim, a strong bike (despite what the results say I biked a 2:27:01 - explained below) and then fell apart on the run. Rather than dissect the race in detail I have listed all the things that I learned below:

1. It is not a wise decision to race an Olympic distance in another time zone, 7 days prior to a key race. I did LOVE the OC triathlon last weekend, but the legs had not fully recovered for Eagleman. However, I'm sure I got a good training stimulus so all was not lost!

2. I should not drive 11 hours straight 2 days before a half-ironman event. It is one thing to be the passenger when you go for a long drive - you can put your feet up, sleep, etc., but quite another to be the driver...During the drive I got calf cramps, hamstring cramps, witnessed a jack knifed car two ahead of me on the highway and then there was the fact that I was afraid to hydrate because I didn't want to pee every 5 minutes!

3. While racing, the next time I catch up to a group of girls on the bike, I have to find the energy to pass all of them to avoid getting a drafting penalty. Yup, the extra 4 minutes tacked onto my bike split was because I was called for drafting. From my point of view: I caught up to a group of girls on the bike, and then went to pass them, but biked too hard to pass the first two and then didn't have the legs to pass the rest. I thought that I was still the legal distance from the girl in front of me so I tucked in. Wrong thing to do. Ref gave me a red card :( At least I've learned!! I did try to make the most of it and stay positive about the situation, but I was deflated. I spent the rest of the race about 30s to a minute back of the pack, keeping them in my sights but not taking any chances.

4. Sleep is important! The week before my race I neglected the most important part of a taper: SLEEP. I took the red eye home from LA on Sunday night, then had long days where I didn't get home till after 8pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then a short sleep on Thursday so I could wake up early on Friday to start my drive. THAT was a recipe for disaster in itself. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

Now, it wasn't ALL negative and there were definitely some highlights of the race: 1. I nailed my NUTRITION plan for the first time ever! Thanks to eLoad, zone caps and eGels I was well fuelled on race day and well hydrated - no cramping!

2. I posted my highest ever normalized power on the bike! Thanks to a combination of a good position and an awesome ride.

3. I didn't have burning feet and have to heel strike at all on the run. A constant source of frustration in all my long runs prior to this year.

4. I had SUPER FAST transitions!

5. Most importantly, it was another chance to do what I love most! I race because I love it, not because I love to win. If I can win then it's an added bonus.

I would like to again thank all of my supporters. Firstly, the family I stayed with in Cambridge was amazing - I was so comfy and they were so kind! And of course, my parents, who were able to make it down for the race. Especially my sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial continue to make my life as a Pro triathlete possible, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Bill Wells (Chiro) at Urban Athlete, Brad Wilson (RMT), all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto (love my multisport GPS watch!), Perfect Fuel Chocolate (best recovery food, ever!), Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM for my power, Champion System for the most amazingly comfortable race kit, X-1 Audio for allowing me to train to music!!! Oh, and again, THANK YOU SO MUCH Peter Karmaszin for letting me borrow your front wheel for the race! I do now have my new front GRAY wheel to debut the next time I race :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Race Report: Orange County Tri Series Olympic Distance Triathlon

Orange County, California - what a great location for a race! I arrived here on Thursday afternoon and I know that I could live here. The roads are just made for cyclists, the outdoor pools are GORGEOUS and the running is perfect. Rather than go in to too much detail about the pre-race events, I thought I would highlight my top 5 pre-race events:

5. Thai food on Friday night!
4. Seeing the Oakley Headquarters

3. My set of 9x400 in the pool on Friday. Not really a taper swim, huh?
2. The king size bed and fluffy pillows in my hotel room
1. Meeting the awesome owner of One Capital, Don and his wife, Teresa, and their friends Tim and Marty (Thanks for making me feel like family!)

Now...the race report:

WARM-UP: At around 6:30am the entire swim course was in a FOG! You literally couldn't even see the first swim buoy. Of course, I had spent the night before defogging my mirrored swim goggles. Haha - wouldn't even be using them! I did a quick round of swim tubing exercises to warm-up. **special note to the athletes I coach - see, the coach does her swim tubing! why don't you!?! ;)** Then I got in the water for my in-water warmup that included about 20 minutes of easy swimming with a few pickups of about 40 strokes hard. The water was the perfect temperature (around 76F) and I was feeling half decent. I had lots of energy for the event ahead!

SWIM: It was a beach start and I was only one of 2 Elite females starting amongst a HUGE group of men in the first wave. Talk about intimidating!!! However, I put on my *be tough* face and started in the most aggressive position. Closest to the first buoy (we could see it slightly, by now) and closest to the water. The horn went and I ran as fast as I could into the water, determined not to get toppled by the big men (luckily male triathletes are usually not that 'big'). I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't get sucked into the washing machine that is typically a swim start. I had my own water and a good view of a pack ahead that I was going to catch. And catch I did. I swam my super hardest for about 200m and caught a very nice pair of feet - which I drafted off of the rest of the way. Not that I was swimming easy! I was still working hard to stay on those feet and even a moment of daydreaming and I would find myself scrambling to catch them again. I was pleasantly surprised to exit the water in 18:40 (a new PB for a 1500m swim).

T1: Uneventful and all uphill...don't need to say much more! :)

BIKE: I started out on the ride (the first 10km are uphill) feeling great. I had brief moments where I thought I might be superwoman. I passed a male athlete within the first few kms, I was holding power in the 250s, I felt like I was just cruising along...Reality struck at the 6th km though and my legs got heavy. I realized, no, I am just Miranda and I can't hold Zone 5 for an entire 40km ride and I should probably not try! I still had a super fun ride. Well, other than the fact that my SRM cadence magnet was barely stuck on the frame (it fell off in the morning and I had to scramble to get it back on). So, every bump I had to look down and make sure it was still there. It stayed on the whole way, thank you sticky tack! I also wanted to note that, even on the hilly course, I found I was rarely ever out of aero position (a combination of being on an awesome Quintana Roo bike, having an awesome Xlab aero drink system filled with my eLoad and Zone caps, my Rotor QXL rings and being perfectly fit by Scott Judges, and the fact that I wanted to look good for the camera which was filming me as I rode - cool!). There was a small section of the course near the turnaround that was super bumpy, with lots of debris on the road, which I don't like as a hesitant cyclist. After that was over it was super fast back into T2. Before I knew it I was at the dismount line. Literally, that line came up way too fast and I nearly went over the handlebars! I'm sorry to the volunteers that I scared. I finished the ride in 1:07:22, which is another PB for this distance.

T2: Smooth (thanks to my Xtenex speed laces) and uneventful. Oh, but my feet were numb (I really need to get men's cycling shoes to fit my SUPER wide feet).

RUN: I started out on the run feeling half decent, but not great. My feet were still numb from the ride and that made it hard to find a rhythm. The first 3.5km were a net downhill though so that was a nice way for the run to start. I was also passing a number of people from the duathlon (who had started before us) so that gave me some momentum. By the end of this section my pace was solid at 3:50/km and my feet had finally started feeling normal. However, the next 3.5km were on hilly trails including wood chips and loose dirt. Most people loved this and said if reminded them of their cross country days, but I never did cross country and I was very bad at running through the stuff! Finally, at the 7km mark we were back on the pavement and I started to feel my best. I finally felt warmed up by this point and ready to go. My last 1km split was a 3'36 for a final 10K time of 39:47! If only the race had kept going :)

All in all I am very pleased with the race. Not just my performance, but the course itself, the race director - Scott Davis of P5 Racing, the lead sponsor - One Capital, the volunteers, the weather, the location, the awards (I got a HUGE bear!), the post-race food (I ate way too many cranberry oatmeal cookies!), the camera crew (look for me on TV in a few weeks!), the spectators and the other racers! What a spectacular event. I hope to be back.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me! Especially my sponsors: One Capital who invited me to this event, Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial continue to make my life as a Pro triathlete possible, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Bill Wells (Chiro) at Urban Athlete, Brad Wilson (RMT), all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto (love my multisport GPS watch!), Perfect Fuel Chocolate (best recovery food, ever!), Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM for my power, Champion System for the most amazingly comfortable race kit, X-1 Audio for allowing me to train to music!!! Oh, and THANK YOU SO MUCH Peter Karmaszin for letting me borrow your front wheel last minute for the race!

More pictures:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Training Update: Back in Toronto and LOVING every minute

It has been awhile since my last update and I thought I would write a little bit about my training back home, these past couple of weeks...

While it was AMAZING to be living and training in the southwestern US, there were a few things missing: training partners, family (like Maddy!), friends and familiarity. When I originally made plans to spend the winter away, I underestimated how important these are to me. The last few weeks I was away I was as lonely as I had ever been. Even though Kirk and Charity were amazing and offered me a comfy room and great food at their house, there really is no place like home.

So, you may wonder what makes Toronto such an AMAZING place to be a professional triathlete? Let me tell you what the highlights of living and training here really are:

1. The University of Toronto Triathlon Club! This group of athletes range from beginners to elites. The camaraderie among the club is amazing. The elites have no problem offering advice to the beginners and the beginners gain an advantage from training with those with more experience. I started out as a beginner in this club in 2008 and look at where it brought me! What I love are the 2 hour swims in the 50m U of T pool, offered 3 times a week with awesome and experienced coaches, who REALLY do care about us athletes. I have found two awesome swimmer mates to push me and the difference it has made in my swimming in two short weeks is very exciting! There are 2 organized outdoor bike rides, 2 organized runs and a brick workout offered each week. As well as unofficial long rides and long runs coordinated by members of the club.

2. The run routes! No matter where in the city you are, you can always find a trail to run on with no stop lights. There are tons of hidden trails through parks and the lakeshore path goes on forever with a beautiful view of the city. Usually there are water fountains and washrooms along the way. So you don't need to worry about bringing fluids with you or what you have to do if you have to pee :) I have lived in almost every part of the city, from North Toronto to the Annex to downtown to the Beach to the west end. I think my favourite run route is through Taylor Creek Park and the Don Valley Trail system.

3. The secret in-city biking! Being a coach with the U of T triathlon club and being a past member of the Morning Glory group meant that I have learned some of the best places to ride right from your doorstep - if you live in Toronto. I have never been an advocate of riding in Toronto and I only recommend it during the early morning hours (when there is enough light out) or other times when traffic is light. The best spots for hill repeats/hard efforts: Ellis Ave (west end/high park), Brimley Hill (east end/scarborough bluffs), through the Bridle Path (North York) and Poplar Plains is OK (for the downtown Torontonians) and the best spots for flat intervals is probably the Direct Energy Center loop (be aware of the stop signs though!) I also have to mention here that it is so important to obey traffic signals and keep your head up for cars and other obstacles when riding in the city.

4. The north of the city biking! The best part about living in Toronto is that on weekends and even weekdays there are always tons of cyclists out on the roads in King City, Aurora, all the way north to Lake Simcoe. There is an unspoken companionship between cyclists and triathletes. Even though you don't know another rider you may pass on the road, you always wave or nod your head to each other to acknowledge and appreciate the other person on the road. I don't know about other riders, but this always helps me to push myself a little bit harder.

5. The indoor cycling possibility! Right now my basement is set up with 2 computrainers, a top of the line treadmill, 2 high powered fans, a stereo system and a flat screen TV. I can ride or run anytime, even when it's thunder storming, rush hour, freezing rain, snowstorms, etc. For those not fortunate to have such a set up, WattsUp Cycling has tons of classes each week, 24 computrainers and 6 sets of rollers. Oh, and even if you do have a trainer at home - but lack the motivation to use it, WattsUp also offers a HomeCycling program, that can help with that problem. The HomeCycling offers 1 to 4 different workouts a week (as part of a 52-week structured program) for you to do on your own trainer.

6. The triathlon/cycling/running/swimming community is SO small! For such a big city, everyone seems to know everyone in the endurance community in some way or another. And everyone is so friendly - willing to lend equipment or advice or introduce you to a knew training partner or find you someone to carpool to races with. And the talent among these athletes is incredibly motivating. It always feels special to be among this part of the Toronto community.

6. My RMTs (Brad and Diego), chiropractor (Bill Wells) and doctors are here! It always helps to know that I can push myself and my body to the limit, when there are people around to fix me/keep me healthy.

7. The Food. First, my Mamma's cooking is here: lasagna, homemade pizza, pasta with meat sauce, sausages & frico (with or without potato...), etc. Second, the world's best muffins (I think) are here. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not go ONE day without indulging in my favourite food, muffins - preferably chocolate chip. So far, I have not found a place that tops the Pickle Barrel for Chocolate Chip Muffins or Sanremo Bakery.

8. Last, but most important, what makes me love training in Toronto more than anywhere else is my family.

My amazing parents with Maddy

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ironman 70.3 St George Race Report

I just want to start off by saying that 5 weeks before the race, I wasn't completely sure that I would even be able to compete in Ironman 70.3 St George this year. So, the fact that I did, and completed it injury free is something that I am ecstatic about! It wasn't the performance that I hoped for when I originally added this to my race calendar last year, but sometimes things happen and you have to adjust your goals. Another thing I learned from this race, was that I can't hide from my weakness on this course!

I thought I had gotten pretty used to all the pre-race nerves, as this will be my third year racing in the Pro category, but that wasn't the case before St George. Maybe it was because this race was a bit different, in that I would be racing a stellar field of athletes. On the start list, there were about 12 girls who were either Ironman or Ironman 70.3 champions. That is always a little bit intimidating. Add that to the fact that I knew my run fitness wasn't at the same level as it had been last year and had been feeling quite homesick the past 2 weeks. Perhaps all these factors combined weren't good for a strong mental state. And, despite all the well wishes family and friends, I couldn't find my usual pre-race excitement. Instead, there was just a lot of pre-race worry! That, unfortunately, led to the mindset of: "I just can't wait for it to just be over, so I can get home."

The race started out according to plan. I swam hard at the beginning to get out ahead with the girls and then hung in strong with the pack. There was a bit of confusion on the last loop of the swim, with some girls cutting inside the buoys, when we were clearly told to stay outside of them. I debated whether to follow the rules or stay with the girls and I chose to follow the rules, so perhaps lost a little bit of time on them in the final few hundred metres of the swim. Overall, I was happy with my swim that got me 10th out of the water (I was 11th last year).

It was a long run to our bikes from the swim exit, but that went relatively smoothly. I was out on my bike still in a good position. Within the first couple of km, superstars Mel McQuaid and Linsey Corbin had caught me. I had planned to stay with them, but my power numbers and heart rate were a bit outside my comfort zone so I let them get away. Then, fellow Canadian Angela Naeth, then Sarah Piampiano and Emma Kate passed me shortly after. I did try to keep them in my sight, but I didn't want to risk going out too hard. In the past, like in Florida 70.3 last year and Timberman, I have taken this risk and it turned out well. But, with my run fitness being where it was, I just couldn't do that this time. I maintained that position and biked alone for most of the rest of the race. I found myself quite intimidated by the technical parts of the course. I had never practice them at high speed in training, mostly owing to the fact that it would have been too risky when traffic wasn't being controlled for. Also, I wasn't used to the new wheels I was riding, and, although they were fast, I didn't feel comfortable going fast with them. I did a lot of the fast descents on the uprights and not in aero! I think this cost me some valuable extra minutes. All in all, I maintained a high normalized power, the highest I have ever held over that distance. But the technical nature of the course prevented me from achieving my time goals. Now, at least I know what I have to work on! I finished the bike in 17th (compared to 21st last year).

Now, it was onto the scariest part of the day...the run! I had very little expectations. My longest run had been 13.5 miles and, although I had done lots of hills in training, there was only so much preparation I could do while still ensuring I remained injury free. My knee still gets tight, so I have had to be pretty conservative in my training. I chose to only monitor my heart rate and not pace throughout the run. I kept it around 165bpm for the first half of the course, and even though it was tough, I didn't respond when I was passed. When everything was still feeling good at the 7 mile mark, I pushed the pace and my heart rate a bit. I was still feeling good near the last 3 miles, which I knew were a net downhill. That's when I took off the brakes and just gave it my everything. Unfortunately, I was still passed by 2 girls in the last mile. I held off the others though and finished in 20th. Dropping only 3 spots from last year, given the circumstances, had to be a win for me.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me while I have been away! Especially my sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management and Raymond James Financial who made the trip possible, Fitt1st for getting me comfy and aero on my new bike, Bill Wells at Urban Athlete (who cured my injuries), Troy Davis (chiro) and Susan (RMT) in St George for keeping me healthy and able to train, all my equipment sponsors: Quintana Roo, ISM Saddles, Gray wheels, Rudy Project, Karhu Running Shoes, eLoad sports nutrition, IBB Cyclery in Utah, The Bike Zone in Toronto, Swiftwick socks, Suunto (love my multisport GPS watch!), Perfect Fuel Chocolate (best recovery food, ever!), Funkita/Funky Trunks swim wear, SRM for my power, Champion System for the most amazingly comfortable race kit, X-1 Audio for allowing me to train to music!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Recovery days

Do pro triathletes take an "off" day??? I do!!

Does this mean I simply take the day off training and load up with non-triathlon related chores? No, it does not! (Although this wasn't always the case!) And I do witness this behaviour in a lot of athletes. Like I did, they view an off-day as the perfect time to get caught up on anything and everything that they have been putting off while training has been a priority. But this is a HUGE mistake. Even though this is still giving your body a break from physical activity, you aren't actually going to recover properly. This isn't just my philosophy, there is some science behind it to! If you are loading up on non-training related chores, then you are going to be somewhat stressed. And stress is known to cause the release of hormones that actually cause muscles to breakdown. So, this is why I am as lazy as possible on my recovery days!

Here are my top 4 tips to ensure that you are getting the most out of your recovery day:

1. Eat healthy foods. Before or after a workout is the best time to eat simple sugars, but on recovery days, try to limit your consumption of processed and junk foods. Instead, load up on dark green leafy veggies, complex carbs, protein, healthy fats, etc.

2. Relax. Do things that are low-stress and enjoyable. I like to sleep-in, read, watch movies or TV shows, take a PJ day, write a blog post :), grab lunch or coffee with friends (sometimes in my PJs!). If this isn't possible, because of other commitments like work or family - then try to schedule your recovery days so that they coincide with a low-stress work day or on a day when the whole family can relax with you (does that ever happen!?).

3. Actively recover. Do all the things you are supposed to do to promote recovery: wear compression socks (like Swiftwick compression socks!), get a massage or see your chiropractor for an adjustment, drink lots of fluids (water, not beer!), go for a short walk to get the blood flowing in your legs, spend at least 30 to 45 minutes stretching or doing a type of restorative yoga.

4. Get a good night's sleep. When you are sleeping your body produces hormones that help to rebuild the muscles that you have just broken down as part of the training process. Getting enough sleep is probably the most important thing you can do to facilitate recovery. So if you can't do anything else, try to make sleep a priority.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

People who inspire me

Lately, with all the hard training that I've been doing, I've had to dig deep. I've had to find inspiration to keep myself going in tough workouts, on long training days and in times of high stress. In order to train to the best of my ability I have found motivation in the qualities of others. Who are the people that inspire me?

1. Other athletes. These athletes are of all ages and abilities, beginners to elites and kids to adults. Anyone who has gotten off the couch to train. For some people it's harder to be an athlete than others. Those are the people who race to finish. Then there are those who have a natural talent for sports. Those are the people who race to win. Everyone who is an athlete has their own story, and all of them are inspiring.

2. People who are genuinely kind. These are the people that do favours for you, without expecting anything in return. The people that go out of their way to help you for no apparent reason, but to be nice. This could be another athlete competing in the same race as you, who cheers you on while they, too, are fatigued. This could be the person who returns your cell phone after you've dropped it in the parking lot. A lot of the people who have opened their homes to me, when I am in a city to race or train would fall into this category. In general, kindness inspires me to be a better person.

3. People who have it rough. We all know the type. The person who, seemingly, has to overcome endless obstacles in order to succeed. It could be the athlete who keeps getting injured or sick, but pulls through it and still races. The athletes with prosthetic limbs who STILL compete. The person who went through so many of life's struggles, but managed to find happiness in the end. My life seems so easy compared to many others and people who don't have it so easy, but still achieve their goals, inspire me.

4. People who are real. I have spent my whole life trying to fit in, so I always notice those people who stand out. These people are true individuals. They don't hide their imperfections, they don't hide their flaws. Somehow, they can sometimes manage to turn their inadequacies into their strengths, because it's those same inadequacies that make them unique.

5. My sisters. I am the oldest of 3, but sometimes I feel like the baby. I am constantly looking up to my sisters. One of my sisters is 2 years younger than me. She is one of the most optimistic people I know. She knows she excels in situations that she is comfortable in, but she doesn't know how well she does in situations that are new and quite unknown to her. She was on the podium in her second ever triathlon. She embraced her pregnancy and the few months that have followed and not complained once. She has been the definition of a "natural mum". Her positivism and attitude are qualities that greatly inspire. My other sister is a goal getter. When she sets her sights on something, she gets it done. Unlike me, she is better at weighing the pros and cons of the outcome of her decisions before making them. She won't set her sights on achieving something unless she has a very detailed plan in place. A very admirable quality. There's no wonder she has been so successful working in the financial industry.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

What have I been up to?

After another rocky start to my triathlon season, I think that I may have finally found my groove! So, what have I been up to in the past few months? Well, here's the short version:

I've been swimming...

I've been biking here...

and here...

I've been running...

I've been eating...

I've been recovering...

I've gotten presents...

I've had visitors...

I've seen cacti...

And here's the longer (but not too long) version:

I have been in the southwestern US now for about 5 of 8 weeks. I escaped the Toronto winter at the beginning of March to train in Arizona and Utah. I am so lucky that I have my coaching, my parents and my sponsors, which allow me to actually get away to train somewhere warm for this long.

The first 3 weeks I got to spend in Arizona. I swam with the University of Arizona Masters team almost every morning. I met some awesome, nice, super-fast swimmers there. No doubt my swimming got a huge boost of fitness from having such a great group to train with. I also did A LOT of biking...up Mount Lemmon, through the Catalina Foothills, along the Old Spanish Trail, through Saguaro Canyon. It was absolutely amazing. My running even started to come around as I escaped the treadmill and ventured outside in the Arizona heat and wind and even tackled some real hills! It wasn't all hard work - my mum was with me for the duration of my time there and my dad joined us the last week. Even a fellow triathlete, Faye, and her fiancee, Marty came and spent a few days! After about 80 hours of training in the Arizona desert I was ready for a rest week and to venture north to Utah. I dropped my parents off at the Phoenix airport and we said our goodbyes. Then I was on the highway, driving through the Hoover Dam, past Vegas and headed north on the I-15 to St. George.

My first week in St. George was an easy week. I settled back in, did some short swims, bikes and runs to keep the legs moving, but mostly I just relaxed and recovered. My second week here, this past week, was when the real training began again! I got re-aquainted with the St. George bike and run course - wow, are there ever a lot of hills! I met some cows who looked scary, but were pretty harmless. Had some good sets in the pool. Brought my run fitness a little closer to where it was pre-injury. All in all, a good week! The next two weeks I will be repeating this past week of training, only each week gets a little bit harder. Then I will have an easy week before I race in the US 70.3 Pro Championships :) After being inspired by fellow pro triathletes who have already started racing, I am getting excited to compete again!

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