Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Training like an age-group athlete, Racing like a pro!

I have done a lot of reading on stress and recovery. In summary, I have read that you can only manage a certain amount stress. Typically your age, gender, fitness level, general health, and genetics (among other things) dictate just how much stress you can handle. This includes both physical and psychological stress. So, when psychological stress is high (for example: handling a big project at work, being in a tough academic program at school, dealing with an emotional situation) it means that you just can't handle a large amount of physical stress (high training volume or intensity). If you are constantly exceeding your, let's call it "stress threshold," you will eventually break down. If you are an athlete, this means you could be at risk of over-training and chronic fatigue. Keep in mind what I said earlier: that stress is both training stress AND non-training stress. So, if you are spending your off days overloading yourself with other chores, work, social outings this is NOT recovery. In summary:


The aforementioned is the reason that I knew my training and competing as a triathlete would be compromised when I decided to go back to school. Other commitments, managing kid schedules and coaching were pretty time consuming already, but adding school to the mix would be a whole new challenge. The timing was actually good though, since I had to back off the training anyway to properly recover from my surgery. However, come July, when my knee was feeling good, I was pretty anxious to ramp up the training. I told Adam I could still fit in 20-30 hours of training and school pretty easily. As usual he reminded me that I was being over ambitious. As a coach myself, I knew he was right. Sure enough, once school started, I realized that getting in 15 hours of training with enough energy would be my max. And this didn't mean I just had to cut out my recovery sessions, it meant that I would have to cut some of my intensity sessions too.

Specifically, the most obvious effects of the stress associated with going back to school were:

1. Recovery from tough sessions was longer.
2. My ability to push myself was diminished.
3. Training was often the second most important thing on my mind.

However, I still managed a fairly successful triathlon season training like a "full-time working age group triathlete." So, how did I do it?

A weekday in the life of a student triathlete:

5am: Wake-up, coffee
5:30 - 7am: Workout #1 (Bike or Swim)
7 - 9am: Breakfast, prep time for school, sometimes kids, commuting
9am - 12pm: Class
12pm - 1:00pm: Run at lunch or study
1pm - 5pm (or 7pm): Class/commuting
5pm (or 7pm) to 9pm: Make dinner, sometimes kids' lunches, eat, clean, study
9 - 10pm: Relax. Stretch. Self-massage. Very important!

Obviously that didn't leave much time for social interaction during the week. Luckily, I am OK to save that for the weekends. Anyway, of the above, what I feel was the most important and KEY for those people with a busy work schedule:

1. Workout in the morning. This prevents things from coming up later in the day that might prevent a workout (and the stress associated with worrying about when to fit in the workout). This also leaves you re-charged. If I had a morning off I felt sluggish and less motivated for the rest of the day.

2. Workout at lunch if possible. This really helped to break up the day. I found it broke up the sitting around and left me more energized for my afternoons. It was also an escape from learning and working, which helped me de-stress.

3. Leave 1 hour or more of downtime before bed. If I went right from study mode or go-go-go mode into bed then my night of sleep was very restless. And I really do feel that this helped to diminish the overall stress that I would have otherwise experienced throughout the day. So, watch TV, read, self massage, stretch, cuddle...or whatever helps you relax.

Keep in mind that, if you are a night person, my schedule will NOT work for you. However, if you have a similar schedule then I hope that these tips help you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Season Recap and Lakeside Tri: Now I feel ready for anything :)

And just like that the 2015 triathlon season is over! I feel like I blinked and it was all done. I don't think that it could have gone much better. 5 races, 5 wins, no knee pain! :)

Lakeside had been in my race calendar for awhile. I wanted to complete an Olympic Distance race this season. I wanted to know that I could finish a longer distance triathlon. More specifically, complete the 10km run at race pace with no pain. When I accidentally left my lucky Kask helmet in Guelph the weekend before and knew that I would have to race without it, I almost changed my mind. When I learned that it wasn't going to be competitive (the Pro race was in Georgina), I almost changed my mind. When I learned the weather was going to be a frigid 10C with 30kph winds, I almost changed my mind. When I knew I would have to miss part of celebrating my sister's birthday, I almost changed my mind. When I got sick on Monday last week and was still sick on Saturday, I almost changed my mind. Adam often tells me that, too often, I try to "fit a square peg in a round hole." I admit, that trying to fit this race in was me doing just that. However, I chose to ignore that fact this time. I raced, I suffered, but I'm happy I did it!

I woke up early on Sunday morning, got all my gear packed, said goodbye to Adam, got my McDonald's coffee and muffin, and drove to Lakeside. I would be alone at this race, with no sherpa and no friends/family watching. Not because they didn't want to be there, but busy schedules kept them away. I wasn't too bothered by this as I knew they would be following my results. What was more bothersome was the pouring rain I encountered during the drive, the wind and the cold temperatures. Luckily, the rain didn't follow me to the race site, but it got colder and windier as I got closer to my destination. Even though the race was a late start (10am) it didn't look to be warming up much. So, I sucked it up and tried to get excited about the race. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

SWIM: Water temp 19C, Air temp 10C (with wind making it feel like 7C). The water temperature wasn't too cold actually. However, even with a good swim warmup, the few minutes standing around in the waist deep water waiting for the swim start was long enough to get me chilled again. I started the swim as fast as I could, but with no circulation in my arms and legs it was very difficult to go fast. I did have my own space of water though and there was no being kicked or swum over. Always nice to start a race like that. Eventually I warmed up and I swam very comfortably to a 21:46. I think this put me about 3rd out of the water.

BIKE: I spent a lot of time in transition getting on a Craft base layer and Outwet Vest. This was an excellent decision. I was completely comfortable on the bike and not chilled at all. However, I think the time spent being chilled to the bone (between warmup and the start of the race ) had taken its toll. I was flat on the bike. Anything near threshold was incredibly painful. So, I stopped looking at my power meter and started looking up the road. I made it a mission to not lose sight of the triathletes up ahead. The crazy wind gusts almost knocked me off my bike a few times and it rained at various points, but other than that the course was great. I loved the rolling hills (totally my strength!) and the smooth roads. Before I knew it I was back in transition. I clocked a time of 1:08 for the bike - with an average speed close to 36kph. Not so bad for the conditions!

RUN: This was the only part of the course that I didn't like. Normally, I love running in colder windy weather. But this course was on a loose gravel when I tried to push off the rocks moved under my feet and I just couldn't get a good grip underfoot. I tried to run on the more firmly packed areas, but that wasn't always possible. I was a bit worried about how the uneven terrain would effect my unstable knee, but my wide Altra running shoes ensured that my feet were able to spread out on impact with the ground and keep me stable. Near the end of the race it was hard to stay motivated, but I knew I was quite far ahead of the next female and I was passing a lot of the guys ahead of me, so that kept me strong. I was hoping to run a bit closer to 40 minutes, but I'll take a time of 41:12. Overall, I finished first female (4th overall) in a time of 2:13:56.

Clearly from the photos you can tell I was tired. My eyes are closed in all of them! Hopefully, not the bike photo :) So, despite having to race while sick, tired and battling harsh conditions I am happy I did it. I made the square peg fit in the round hole, like I have done many times before. It wasn't ideal, but I have so much more confidence after having successfully raced an Olympic distance tri. I'm looking forward to finishing school in June next year and being able to train a lot more next summer :) My plans for 2016 involve some local racing on the MultiSport circuit, some late season half-ironmans (I hear great things about Barrelman) and a winter Ironman (or 2?). But for now, I have two weeks of off season! Where's my pinot grigio? :)

A special thank you goes out to:

- All my readers for their support and for following me in my triathlon endeavours.
- The volunteers, officials and race organizers (especially on that cold day)
- Kim Lumsdon, my swim coach
- Adam and the kids for being my inspiration and for letting me use the car on Sunday!
- Spectators and fellow racers for being there to cheer me on
- My classmate, Gary, for the pre-race massage
- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guelph Lake 2 Race Report

This past weekend I raced in the Subaru Series Guelph Lake 2 Triathlon. This race was the very first triathlon that I was first female across the finish line (back in 2008). This made it very special for me. I had a few goals: get a personal best in the swim, to hold an average power of 200W for the bike (about 4W/kg) and run under 28 minutes. Well, I was one for three of those (I PB'd the swim!). Nonetheless, it was still a great day! I finished first female overall and Adam took the title in the Swim-Bike.

Now, this blog will take on a different format than previous ones...rather than give a detailed analysis on the day I have decided to try something a little different.

1. The following is a list of a few take-aways from the race, in the form of a little Q and A (corny, yes, I know!).

Q: What went wrong?
A: Getting kicked in the swim in the left hip really hard during the initial 100m of the swim.

Q: How did you deal with this?
A: At first I panicked and thought "OMG, my race is over, this hurts so much!" Then, I practiced my "thought stopping" that I learned in psychology class and only let myself think positive thoughts, like "oh, my arms feel good today" and "that swimmer is not too far up ahead, I can catch him." Before I knew it I was running up the big hill to transition and the hip pain was a distant memory.

Q: When you found yourself slipping below your goal race power on the bike, and your legs started hurting, how did you continue to push yourself?
A: I hit LAP on my bike computer and focused on keeping my power at goal effort for as long as I could. A fresh start always helps :) I kept my goal power for almost the rest of the race (just until the super bumpy last few km of the course, when my focus then became staying upright).

Q: How did I stay cool on the super-hot run?
A: When at an aid station I dumped water on my head (first), drank water (second), dumped another water on my head (third). Keeping your body cool with water/ice is the most effective method.

Q: Is there anything you would do differently?
A: Try to run just 10 seconds faster so that I could have broken 28 minutes!

2. A little comparison on my times in Guelph 2 over the years to give you a snap-shot of my fitness (note: 2008 it was a slightly different course)

Swim - 12:31 (2008), 12:19 (2011), 11:41 (2015)
Bike - 53:29 (2008), 49:56 (2011), 50:21 (2015)
Run - 28:14 (2008), 27:49 (2011), 28:09 (2015)
Final - 1:34:14 (2008), 1:32:22 (2011), 1:32:36 (2015)

2008-I raced almost all the races in the Subaru Tri Series beforehand. I was in school/working (30-40hrs/week).
2011-I quit my full time job in May of that year and was training full time all summer.
2015-Knee surgery in February and no runs longer than 14km in 6 months. In school/working all summer long (40-45hrs/week).

I will leave it to you to draw conclusions about my fitness, but I am proud that my reduced training volume this summer hasn't effected my fitness over the short distance :) Look for a blog upcoming about how I've balanced, school, work, training and family.

3. Thanks to FinisherPix, I can re-cap the race for you in pictures:

Into T1

Adam in T1

Taking a corner on the bike

Adam looking strong

Out on the run thinking "this is harder than I remember"

Close up of my hurting face

Breaking the tape!


A special thank you goes out to:

- The volunteers, officials and race organizers
- Kim Lumsdon, my swim coach
- Adam, you are the reason I never stop pushing
- Spectators and fellow racers for being there to cheer me on
- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dedicated to Papa

Today is my Papa's birthday. I owe so much to this amazing individual So, I decided that I would dedicate this blog post to him. Behind every athlete, and every person for that matter, are the people who influenced them. My Papa is probably one of the most influential people in my life.

From a very early age he had me enrolled in sports programs. Papa firmly believed that athletics is good for developing the skills that would be useful throughout life. He was an avid hockey and football player, himself. He played top level hockey and varsity football at Western University. Undoubtedly, he used some of the skills he developed as an athlete when he went on to become quite successful working in the finance industry. First, as a bond trader and now as a co-owner of his own company, High Rock Capital Management. Without that introduction to sports at an early age (and the early development of discipline and the experience of hard work yielding rewards) I wouldn't have achieved what I have and be who I am.

Papa pushed me to achieve perfection. I remember receiving a graded book report in 5th grade marked "B+" and Papa told me to go to my teacher and ask that teacher what I needed to do to get an "A+". I did just that and learned what I had to do and did it. From then on, I didn't get less than an A on anything, test or assignment, that I completed the rest of the year. If I got less than 100%, Papa's classic line was "what happened to the missing %?" Although he was being sarcastic, I took it literally and did everything I could to get that perfect grade. New schools, new sports, new anything, was always overwhelming at first. I wouldn't do too well off the bat, but Papa's words stuck with me "figure out what you need to do to do better" and I did. Even when a subject at school didn't come naturally to me (history class!) or a task was challenging, I worked hard at it and I got better! The same was true with triathlon.

Papa is my biggest fan. He drove to and from the cottage on Wednesdays and Saturdays for soccer practice and games when I was 10, he (and Mamma) drove me to early morning swim practices twice or more a week for 5 years, watched almost every swim meet, soccer game, cross country race that I was at during school. Since I started doing triathlon he has been at every major race. He has dedicated time, money and love towards what I am doing in this sport. He was behind me when I quit my full-time job. His support keeps me going when I feel like giving up.

Papa, I wish you a very Happy Birthday! Love, Moke