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 When I originally made plans to spend the winter away, I underestimated how important these are to me.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!!!